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  • Writer's pictureMartin Castle


Updated: Apr 25, 2020

This week we have spent time in the garden using the willow rods we cut last week. Having decided to create a new piece of garden, some of the lawn has been 'sacrificed' to create a bed for pollinators. This has been inspired by Katayoun's work in Alexandra Park in Hoole, Chester. Sadly that installation is currently on hold. Having provided some standing deadwood in the form of birch trunks, there will also be deadwood on the ground and the planting will encourage pollinators. In addition we are going to plant bulbs to give some spring colour. We are just awaiting some extra soil - watch this space to see how it turns out.

Research sits at the centre of much of Katayoun's artwork for the public realm and today I have a research task for you, dear reader.

A friend has a lifetime supply of cocoa powder and is wanting recipes that use more than the odd teaspoonful! Below are some of the results of my research but I fear this needs a 'hive-mind' approach. Please feel free to trial any of the recipes below - I know that Kathy (the Santa Fe version) produced a lovely chicken mole. Lots of recipes today to keep you busy over the weekend - I hope it is a good one for you wherever you are and if you do have the answer please let me know and I will pass it on.

Do you know your chocolate? Cacao vs. Cocoa

When my geography teacher, Mr Nicholls, showed a picture of the 'chocolate tree' in a lesson about crops grown in Ghana we thought he was mad! Brilliant teacher he was - mad he was not. The botanical name for the tree that chocolate comes from is Theobroma Cacao

The word cacao comes from the Olmec people who inhabited what is now Mexico, and it is believed to be the closest pronunciation to the original name of the plant. History shows that chocolate then changed hands from the Olmec to the Mayans to the Spanish. The word cacao is the only word ever used in any of the Hispanic languages to describe what English speakers think of as cocoa. It is actually widely believed that the word cocoa has its origins in a spelling mistake - a mistake which was never corrected, and perhaps found easier to pronounce.

In one sense, the two words mean the same thing but there are also important distinctions between the two. While cacao refers to cacao beans that have not been roasted, what is called cocoa is made of beans that have been roasted. So, in turn, a product that is labeled cacao is the raw bean and is often packaged as vegan chocolate that has been minimally processed with no additives. Cocoa, on the other hand, is a processed chocolate product, such as chocolate bars and powder.

Illustration: Ashley Nicole DeLeon.


Chocolate Cannoli (rapeseed oil) Cake


1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cold brewed coffee

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

for the batter:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup cold brewed coffee

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup orange juice

1 large egg, room temperature

1 large egg white, room temperature

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup plain flour

1/2 cup wholemeal flour

1/3 cup baking cocoa

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt


1. In a small bowl, combine the egg white, ricotta cheese, sugar, coffee and orange zest. Stir in chocolate chips; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the first 8 batter ingredients; beat until well blended. Combine the flours, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually beat into sugar mixture until blended.

3. Transfer to a greased 13x9-in. baking dish. Top with heaping tbsp of ricotta mixture; cut through batter with a knife to swirl.

4. Bake at 180°c/gas mark 4 for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate leftovers.

Brownie Bourbon Bites

Chocolate and chopped pecans flavour these simple, spirited treats – ‘spirited treats is such a fantastic thought & creates some amazing images in one’s head. Make a double batch so you can give some as gifts and savour the rest! – a recipe from New Jersey


1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup bourbons

1 cup plain flour

3 tablespoons baking cocoa

1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans


1. In a small bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in bourbons.

2. Combine flour and cocoa; gradually add to creamed mixture, beating until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

3. Shape into 1-in. balls; roll in pecans.

4. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet at 180°c/gasmark 4 until cookies are set, 8-10 minutes.

5. Cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

6. Store in an airtight container or eat them in a glorious binge with a cup of tea whilst watching the sun go down.

This recipe was a finalist in the Michigan State cooking contest!

Easy Chicken Mole

A deep, spicy, chocolaty, Mexican style sauce, wrapped around tender chicken and served as tacos with all the trimmings, this Easy Chicken Mole feels like a real treat, yet takes very little effort and is ready in just 45 minutes, making it perfect for midweek or the weekend or any bloomin’ time you fancy it!


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion diced

4 cloves garlic crushed or grated

1 teaspoon chilli flakes or to taste

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

600 g chicken thigh fillets skin off, bone out – hence a fillet!

400 g tin chopped tomatoes

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey or to taste

Juice of ½ lime plus extra for serving

2 tablespoons coriander, plus extra to serve

Pickled onions (optional – for garnish)

1 red onion sliced thinly

Juice of 1 lime

To serve

Sour Cream

Mini (taco sized) tortillas or rice or potatoes or chips.


1. Place the oil and the onion in a medium sized saucepan over a low heat. Fry gently for 3 minutes with the lid on.

2. Remove the lid and add the garlic, chilli and spices, together with the cocoa and a splash of water to stop things getting too dry. Fry for 2 minutes.

3. Add the chicken, tomatoes, bay leaves, maple syrup, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and cook for 25 minutes.

4. After 25 minutes remove the chicken from the pan and shred using 2 forks. Return the chicken to the pan and add the lime juice and coriander. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

5. While the chicken is cooking you can make some quick pickled onions by putting the sliced onion in a bowl and covering with the juice of 1 lime. Stir to combine, and stir the pickle occasionally while the chicken is cooking.

6. Serve the Chicken Mole on the mini tortillas with a blob of sour cream, the quick pickled onions and some extra fresh coriander.

7. Alternatively serve the Chicken Mole with rice or crusty bread.

I love the pickled onion garnish – but disappointed that they aren’t out of a jar of vinegar that’s sat in the back of the cupboard since Jesus was a boy!

Exfoliating face scrub

1. Mix a tablespoon of cocoa powder with equal parts coconut oil, honey and sugar until a paste forms. 2. Ensure no one is visiting in the next 45 minutes. 3. Apply the blend to your face, and allow it to set for approximately 20 minutes. 4. Gently massage your skin while you rinse off this delicious DIY mask, and kiss those dead skin cells goodbye!

Smell it

Trying to stave off your sweet tooth? According to, taking a quick whiff of cocoa powder may help you combat cravings for sweet treats. That’s because the scent of the stuff activates the same neurotransmitters that are stimulated during chocolate consumption.

Robert Macfarlane's Word of the Day is ...

"nightingale–lit. night-singer; Luscinia megarhynchos, tiny bird of exquisite voice; the sound of hope in the dark".
In Greek mythology Philomela was turned into a nightingale.

Photo: Bernard Dupont -

ps: there's an amazing story about nightingales at

pps: Katayoun tells me that her nephew & neice's Mexican family were chocolate farmers.


"For all those people finding it difficult at the moment, the sun will shine again and the clouds will go away." - Capt Tom Moore.
"When everything seems to be against you, remember the aeroplane takes off against the wind, not with it" - Henry Ford
and I rose up, and knew that I was tired, and continued my journey” - Edward Thomas.
"Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - St. Francis of Assisi
“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”. - Julian of Norwich

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Apr 24, 2020

Thanks for all of the recipes!

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