Now that's what I call chocolate!

Women and chocolate: a marriage made in heaven! Of course I'm not talking about any old chocolate but the high cocoa solids variety. Due to relatively high anti-oxidant levels chocolate of this kind has many health benefits for the older woman. So good for you as well as yummy. On a cold winter's night  it surely doesn't get much better than musing over a few squares of Green and Black's sea salt or cupping your hands round a mug of steaming hot chocolate drink.

Earlier this year I discovered the joys of Hasslacher's  solid chocolate drinking bars. Produced in Columbia since 1906 this ethically produced chocolate  is 100% cacao, 100% natural with no added sugar. Also, because of it's naturally high anti-oxidant level, it has all the health benefits that we can expect from  a quality chocolate of this kind. The Hasslacher's Company works in an ethical sustainable way with local cacao growers. The beans are responsibly cultivated under a natural canopy of trees, which helps to preserve the forest and only the finest beans are used.

For me though the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Although branded as drinking chocolate I actually use the chocolate to make a warm inviting porridge - such a wonderful way to start a cold winter's day. Here's my (free-from) recipe for chocolate and spiced apple porridge -

Ingredients (for 2 greedy people!) - 
x1 cooking apple
100 grammes Gluten free Scottish porridge oats
600 mls water/spiced tea
Spices - 1/2 tsp mace and  ground cinnamon, x2 star anise
Pinch of sea salt - preferably Hebridean
Runny honey
A few fresh blueberries (optional)

Method  -
For the apple mix -
Peel and chop apple. Place in a saucepan with spices - mace and star anise. Cook down to a puree adding a little spiced chai/water to prevent burning.

For the porridge -
Place  porridge oats in a small non-stick saucepan. (I have a specially dedicated saucepan for porridge making to ensure a pristine flavour.)
Add   600 mls water/spiced chai. Then bring to the boil stirring continuously. (I use a Scottish spurtle.)
Whilst simmering add x2 squares of Hasslacher's chocolate, Cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt. (The chocolate will just dissolve and melt into the porridge.) Simmer for 5 mins.

Take 2 deep warm bowls and place two tablespoons of apple puree mix into the bowels. Drizzle in a teaspoon of runny honey. Then pour in the porridge. If desired and for extra health benefits  decorate with a few blueberries. Then take a spoon and enjoy!

There you have it. A bowl of heavenly loveliness!

Before I sign off though let's throw a spotlight on some of the politics behind the beauty. Because  it runs to the heart of world capitalism chocolate production is very political. Critical issues affecting local growers, livelihoods and ancient forests are involved. For me this is one area of food production where the people/planet versus profits argument can get really ugly. Fortunately, there are effective global movements like Fair-Trade around who work with growers and marginalised communities around the world to help secure fair prices, better working conditions and dignity for all.

Finally, just to make it clear, I have no commercial or personal interest in FairTrade, the Hasslacher's Hot Drinking Chocolate Company, Green and Black's or any other chocolate maker producing high cocoa solids chocolate. I just want to show my gratitude to those who are working to give us a quality product that also makes a stand for fairness and an end to exploitation of people and planet.