A few weeks ago I was very excited to receive a large parcel from Hotel Chocolat which contained one of their amazing hampers from their Cocoa Cuisine range. This particular hamper is their Adventurous Chef's Collection and contains a range of both sweet and savoury products beautifully presented in a large white box bound with black ribbon.
The first, and most intriguing, product I tried was their Penne Cocoa Pasta. This is just traditional penne with unsweetened cocoa powder added to it and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. The uncooked pasta had a lovely chocolatey smell but when cooked I found the flavour a bit more subtle than I expected, hence the addition of the chocolate chips to the recipe below.
Not surprisingly I decided to use it in a sweet dish rather than savoury and created a dessert version of a pasta bake, inspired by a favourite Cheesecake Brownie recipe. This turned out really well and the chocolate pasta worked really well with the rich cheesecake topping and sharply sweet raspberries.
Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Pasta Bake
125g penne cocoa pasta
handful chocolate chips
200g cream cheese
75g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Handful of raspberries
1) Preheat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4. Cook the pasta as normal until cooked then drain and empty into a small oven-proof dish. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
2) Beat the cream cheese, egg and icing sugar together until smooth then pour over the pasta.
3) Top with the raspberries and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until just firm.
Next up was a packet of Pure Cocoa Bean Shavings. This is just pure cocoa, with nothing else added to it, and it can be used in sweet or savoury dishes.
These are ideal for adding to savoury dishes to add some depth of flavour or to sweet dishes for an extra chocolatey kick and were perfect for a smoothie recipe I tried out recently. Have a look here for the recipe. I also added some to a chicken marinade I made using another of the products from the hamper and the recipe for that will appear in my next post.
The third and final sweet item was a packet of 70% Dark Chocolate Drops. I've used these before and they are definitely one of my favourite Hotel Chocolate products, mostly because the chocolate drops are so practical for cooking with and they come in a generous 400g bag so will usually last for two or three recipes.
Most of this particular pack were used to create a fantastic marmalade version of the classic chocolate brownie. Have a look here for the recipe - this is definitely one of my favourite recipes so far this year!
As I mentioned above, the hamper also contained three products designed for savoury dishes and the details of these items will follow in a separate post in the next couple of days.