I didn’t have anything substantial and relevant to post this week, so I thought I’d head off the beaten track. Again.
As I generally feel cold even in temperate climes, I found the recent change in weather quite unbearable, especially at night. As Autumn merges into Winter in the Southern Hemisphere, I pity those with “real jobs” who have to get up early on a really chilly morning.
There is one big consolation in having to endure cold weather however: an excuse to make a huge mug of hot chocolate and sit by the heater (or fire) with a good book and a nice, warm blankie wrapped around you.
What is it about hot chocolate and chocolate in general that makes life worthwhile? Whether you like it dark, white or just plain milk, chocolate is the ultimate comfort food and hot chocolate is just the thing to, to use a favourite expression I learnt from my mum, “warm the cockles of your heart” on a chilly winter’s night. I dare any health freak to challenge me on the benefits of chocolate. Our ancestors picked up on its therapeutic properties centuries ago.
If you sensed a history lesson coming on, then you know me too well. No tribute would be complete without turning back the clock a bit…
The Mayans and Aztecs began cultivating cocoa trees from as early as 600 CE. They believed that the tree was a gift from the god Quetzacoatl and that its beans and fruit contained magical powers. These ancient South Americans roasted and grounded the cocoa beans into a paste; they would add water and spices (no sugar) to make a thick nourishing beverage that the Aztecs called “chocolatl”.
I’ve noticed that many restaurants are now going back to the roots of chocolate and making very similar concoctions by adding spices and using actual chocolate instead of cocoa powder (when cocoa beans are reduced to a powder, the cocoa butter fat is extracted from it. This butter fat is what gives real chocolate a fuller taste). A few places I’ve been to, serve what I like to call chocolate “soup”. It’s labeled ‘hot chocolate’ on their menus but theirs has the consistency of custard- it’s thick and rich and could be served as a dessert by itself. As much as I love this sinfully richer type of hot chocolate, I would not recommend this late at night as its full-flavoured decadence will send you into a chocolate high that’s worse than a caffeine rush.
Sometimes a simple hot chocolate using good old-fashioned cocoa powder is all you need when you snuggling up in bed. So what makes the perfect cup of hot chocolate? It’s all down to personal tastes really. But here’s MY recipe for what I think constitutes a simple but delicious drink:
1. In a big mug add 3 teaspoons of Trumps Cocoa. Trumps is usually found in the baking aisle of most South African supermarkets, but I think it’s the best as it uses pure ground cacao beans which gives it a stronger taste and darker colour than the other popular brands of drinking cocoa.
2. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar. Add boiling water- fill to a third of the cup and stir until cocoa is dissolved.
3. Top up with hot milk. If you can froth the milk first, even better.
4. Stir in 2 teaspoons coffee creamer for a smooth velvety texture and there you have a simple but delicious cup of choccie goodness.
If this is too boring for you and you want to splash out a bit, add a tot of chocolate liqueur to the drink, then top it off with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce, and sprinkle with loads of chocolate vermicelli or choc chips. Now that’s death by chocolate.
What does all of this have to do with writing a book? Absolutely nothing, but it keeps me sane and happy and that’s what truly matters in the end, doesn’t it?
Have a warm and happy winter, good people. Snuggle up and make the most of it!