Chocolate feast (+recipes)

By Grant Allen

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Chantelle Naraine as a human chocolate pastry at the Chocolate Festival in Wellington. Photo / Jason Burgess
Chantelle Naraine as a human chocolate pastry at the Chocolate Festival in Wellington. Photo / Jason Burgess

The history of chocolate is as dark and rich as the cacao nibs from which it is made. Native to the rainforests of Central and South America, the cocoa tree produces beans which were initially roasted, mixed with red peppers, vanilla and water and drunk.

It was taken by Spanish conquistadors from Mexico to Africa and plantations were established. The Spanish added sugar to the drink and it became the height of fashion among Europe's privileged. You had to be rich to drink it, sugar and cocoa were expensive imports.

It continued to be consumed in liquid form until mechanical and technological developments in the 1800s saw the beginning of solid chocolate production on a scale that enabled a wider distribution.

Its desirability and value led to some gruesome exploitation and violence as chocolate made its way around the globe. Even today you will still pay a pretty penny for the world's finest.

Frank Stoltenberg and Iva Sajdl, founders of the New Zealand Chocolate Festival, celebrated the event's first birthday in August. It warranted a mayoral opening. Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown cut a birthday cake and declared this celebration of all things chocolate open.

Held in the chocolate-coloured atrium of Wellington's Intercontinental Hotel, the festival saw demonstrations by professional chocolatiers and hands-on workshops. Numerous exhibitors espoused the taste, health, spiritual and sensual benefits of their various products. While such claims have yet to be scientifically proved, it is known that true chocolate addiction is not actually possible. You can no longer claim that as an excuse for over consumption, but you can still enjoy chocolate in recipes like these.

* Renaissance choc oatmeal stout beef and black beans

* Frozen minted chocolate souffle

* Chocolate nut tart

The perfect hot chocolate

Kokako Organic Drinking Chocolate is as exotic in origin as it is PC. Its cocoa ingredient is from the Dominican Republic, and its cane sugar is from Paraguay. Both are certified organic and fair trade.

You can even buy a cool Kokako chocolate cup to drink it out of.

Unless your tooth is extra sweet, it doesn't need more sugar.

Dissolve three teaspoons per serve in a mug of hot water and then whisk in some hot milk.

This would be great in summer made with cold milk and ice cubes for an iced chocolate hit. Top with whipped cream and a grate of fresh nutmeg if you must.

Contacts

* Schoc Chocolate

* Renaissance Brewing Company

* Kokako

* Props by One Stop Prop Shop

See more from Grant on his Facebook page.

Grant Allen and photographer Jason Burgess stayed at the Intercontinental Wellington and were guests of the NZ Chocolate Festival, with assistance from Wellington on a Plate and Wellington Tourism.

- Herald on Sunday

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