Thursday, 13 September 2012

Chocolate Utopia Nottingham - chocolate tasting.

In  a seemingly inconspicuous building on a main Nottingham bus route in the city centre, is the chocoholics dream Chocolate Utopia....  (The clue is in the name!)  It's a cafe, chocolate shop and chocolate factory all rolled into one. I've been lucky enough to have two trips there over the years once for their lovely hot chocolate many moons ago and more recently for a chocolate tasting session.

The first thing you notice when you enter the premises is the gorgeous aroma and of the chocolate filled cabinets.

Normally  Chocolate Utopia functions as a cafe with tables scattered around and throne like chairs available for customers to sit on; however, they prepared for their chocolate tasting session by arranging all their tables into one large table.

When  the chocolate tasting started we were offered a non-alcoholic beverage of our choice were given a chocolate menu to decide on a chocolate to accompany the drink.  Then once everyone had arrived and were comfortable the owners introduced themselves and explained the history of their business and got pictures, examples and samples out to demonstrate how chocolate is made.

As they explained this process we passed around a sample of a cocoa bean pod, crunched a smaller cocoa bean and sampled cocoa nibs and cocoa butter. Then we moved on to how chocolate is manufactured and we tried chocolate buttons with various levels of coco solids in them.

After we had tried these we had a little breather to stretch our legs then we went down stairs to see where the magic happens. (Or the place the chocolate is made to non-chocoholics!)  We gazed on the chocolate making machinery and were brought our choice of melted milk or dark chocolate in chocolate cups.  Then they brought out strawberries that had been dipped in milk chocolate and had then set.  These were lovely, I had a couple of them.

Once we were ready we ascended the stairs and had a quick breather before we were brought yet more chocolates to try! There was a variety from liquers to dark chocolates to truffles.  There were exotic flavours such as a thai food inspired chocolate and more conventional ones like milk chocolate truffles. We were even asked to try their works in progress such as the cheese chocolate which featured mature cheddar and dark chocolate.

There was lots of chocolates to sample and thankfully the owners gave us an option to save some of it and take it home with us in a doggy bag later.  We also had the option to take a few of the chocolate covered strawberries home with us which we were happy to do.

As we were leaving I tried to take a group photograph and one of the owners came out of the shop and kindly offered to take the picture for us.

It was a great night and I would recommend a visit to Chocolate Utopia to any chocoholic.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Home made tortillas!

The other day I accidentally tried a new recipe.  This recipe was a tortilla recipe in one of my cook books (Sam Stern's Real Food Real Fast) which had intrigued me for years but I never dared try... until now!  (We'll pretend that this was a moment of bravery rather than because all my local shops had run out of tortillas for some reason.)

To make them I used: 

225g plain white flour
1 tsp salt
25g butter
150ml warm water ( this is a rough estimate as I started off with the 125ml in the recipe but needed more...)
A sprinkle of herbs, I used oregano and basil.

I started off by measuring out my flour, then sifting it into my bowl and adding the salt and herbs to it.
Once I had done that I added weighed the butter and rubbed the butter into the flour mix until I couldn't see or feel it anymore. When I had rubbed the butter in I dug out my measuring jug and measured 125ml of warm water for the mix.

I then got a fork and stirred the mix with the fork as I added the water slowly until it wasn't really stirring very easily and at that point I tried to combine it all together with my hands.  It still seemed very dry and not very flexible so I added a bit more water and this made it easier to knead, however I probably put too much in and it got a bit sticky.  When I got it to a point where I was happy with it I covered it with clingfilm and left it for about 15 minutes.

After the 15 minutes were up I dusted my kitchen side with flour and got the dough out of the bowl, then I divided it into 10 uneven balls.  I took one of the balls and rolled it for what seemed like an age until it seemed the right size for a tortilla, by this point it was incredibly thin... When I had rolled out my first tortilla I got the frying pan out and heated it for a few minutes before putting the tortilla on it.

As the first tortilla cooked I set about re-dusting my side with flour and rolling out the second one.  I did my first couple of tortillas like this and they became quite crispy but didn't brown. The third one ripped as I was rolling it, which caused a bit of cursing...  this was about the point where Paul came downstairs to help. 

I tasked Paul with keeping an eye on the cooking tortillas for me which helped make them a bit less brittle but we worked out that the dough was too dry after we had done a few more.  So Paul got the last remaining balls of dough added a bit more water to them, then helped me divide them equally before I rolled them out and finished cooking them. In the end a few of them even got a bit of colour on them! (Not many mind...)

Once done we put them aside whilst Paul made a vegetable fajita mix to fill them with, the more brittle ones made large quesadillas. All in all it was very tasty and I got to take the left overs with me to work for lunch the next day!

Obviously it is a lot easier and less frustrating time consuming to buy them but making yourself them does make them that bit tastier!  I can see these being on the special meal favourites list along with home made pizza and chocolate chip cookies.