When Green and Black’s was launched in 1991 they marketed it as the world’s very first organic chocolate. Green and Black’s gave chocolate lovers a way to indulge their tastebuds without having an environmental impact. Conventionally grown cacao is still one of the most heavily sprayed food crops in the world. Organic was just beginning to be a buzzword at that time, so people were intrigued enough to buy and try it. Its sheer deliciousness brought them back for more. At Green and Black’s they like to think that they’ve helped change the world – one bar of chocolate at a time! They weren’t just the world’s first organic chocolate, in 1993 their orange-and-spice Maya Gold became the very first product to carry the Fairtrade Mark – the shopper’s guarantee that the farmers and growers who produce the cacao get a fairer price for their crops. This was a shopping revolution. The day of Maya Gold’s launch, Green and Black’s had a total of eight minutes’ of news coverage on primetime TV. Because Maya Gold’s debut coincided with an independent campaign for fair trade, they discovered to their astonishment that thousands of Young Methodists were actually running from town to town carrying flaming torches and button-holing supermarket managers to stock this ground-breaking Fairtrade-marked product. One supermarket buyer complained that he’d even been getting phone calls from vicars, badgering him to stock Maya Gold because of its ethical integrity. “Nothing to do with us, though we were secretly thrilled to have that unexpected boost to our sales drive!” – says Jo Fairley. But that buyer still placed an order - and today, awareness of fair trade issues means that most global coffee-shop empires even offer a Fairtrade-marked cappuccino on their menus, while shoppers can fill shopping baskets not only with fairly traded chocolate and cocoa powder, but tea, coffee, bananas and more. Unlike many of the opportunistic companies who jumped on the organic and fair-trade bandwagon as soon as it became fashionable, Green and Black’s didn’t have to do anything special to get that Fairtrade Mark: it was how they naturally did business. It was only later that they realised that they had established a blueprint for socially responsible business which many big companies are striving towards, today. Green and Black’s already paid a higher price than the world price – because they offered a premium for organic beans. They gave the farmers the security of long term contracts – because they desperately needed that security, at a time when organic cocoa wasn’t traded anywhere on the world markets. This ensured a reliable supply for Green and Black’s. The other bonus is the incredible impact that fair trade has on a community. When Green and Black’s first starting buying cacao from the Maya Indians in Belize, children left school at eleven because their parents couldn’t pay for their board during the week at the secondary school in Punta Gorda, or even afford their essential secondary school books. Now, as a result of the secure income, a whole generation of children from the hillside villages where their chocolate grows is being educated to the age of eighteen; some are even attending university and at least one plans to study medicine. As Cayetano Ico, the former chairman of the co-operative of cacao farmers who produce the cacao for Maya Gold once said: ‘When you buy a bar of Green and Black’s, you’re sending a child to school’. Shopping ethically really does change lives and communities for the better. But fairly traded products must also be yummy or shoppers won’t buy something more than once. I often wondered and now I know how Green and Black’s got its name. In fact, it was dreamed up one rainy Saturday night by Jo Fairley and her husband Craig Sams, Whole Earth Foods founder (and now Chairman of the Soil Association), when they were searching for a name for the chocolate they planned to launch together. “There was never a Mr. Green and a Mr Black, I’m afraid; just a couple sitting in bed with a notepad and pen, having terrific fun brainstorming. As a lifelong sweet-lover, I remembered confectionery brands from my childhood, that had stayed in my mind: Callard & Bowser, Barker & Dobson - and so Green (because it was organic) and Black’s (because the chocolate was such a dark brown, it was almost black) was born. If we’d stuck to some of the names we originally batted back and forth – like ‘Eco-Choc’ or ‘Bio-Choc’ – that very same dark chocolate would simply have gathered dust on the shelves, and very few people would have discovered its tastebud-caressing deliciousness”, says Jo Fairley. The other important ‘first’ was that Green and Black’s was the first 70% cocoa solids chocolate available in the UK and Ireland. On the Continent, chocolate aficionados have long enjoyed the rich, bitter intensity of really dark chocolate. Here, the ‘dark’ chocolate we all grew up with actually contained as little as 30% cocoa. But since Green and Black’s was launched, 70% dark chocolate has become the magic figure quoted by cookery writers and super chefs when they publish a recipe that uses chocolate: quite simply, for the ultimate in chocolatiness, there’s nothing better. So if you’re a milk chocolate fan try a dark chocolate one of these days. Any recipe made with good-quality chocolate will taste dramatically different if made with an inferior chocolate, so choose your chocolate carefully. For most of the recipes, we use dark chocolate, which contains 70% coca solids and very little sugar. It is generally the best chocolate to use for cooking because its intense flavour is not easily overpowered by competing flavours or other ingredients. Avoid dark chocolates that have less than 60% cocoa solids and are not made with natural vanilla. Vanillin, which is an artificial flavouring, and vegetable fat, gives the chocolate a very different flavour and texture from chocolate that contains natural vanilla and cocoa butter. Where milk chocolate is specified, try to use milk chocolate that has at least 34% cocoa solids. White chocolate only contains cocoa butter from the cacao bean, not the dark solids. If white chocolate does not declare a percentage of cocoa solids, it will not contain cocoa butter. It will probably also not have natural vanilla in it, which gives Green and Black’s its unique flavour. An unsweetened cocoa powder is best for baking. Over the years Jo Fairley and her friends at Green & Black’s have been collecting recipes from friends, chefs and celebrities, they had amassed a truly yummy collection which they have at last published in the Green & Black’s Cookbook, rarely have I found so many tempting recipes under one cover. So if you need a little treat to cheer at this dreary time of the year order a copy of Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipes published by Kyle Cathie Publishers, edited by Caroline Jeremy. Caroline gives an insight into how chocolate is made and lots of really practical tips on how to temper chocolate. Back to Top Here are some delicious recipes from the book.
Chocolate Biscuit Cake
Makes 10 large, very rich slices 125g (4½ oz) unsalted butter 75g (3oz) golden syrup 200g (7oz) dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids, broken into pieces 1 egg 50g (2oz) digestive biscuits 50g (2oz) whole walnuts 50g (2oz) sultanas 50g (2oz) glacé cherries, reserving a few for decoration 20 x 8cm (8x3 in) loaf tin Line the loaf tin with greaseproof paper or baking parchment and set aside. Melt the butter and syrup together in a small saucepan over a gentle heat until they begin to boil. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over a saucepan of barely simmering water, then mix thoroughly with the butter and golden syrup. Pasteurise the egg by beating it slowly and continuously into the hot chocolate mixture. Break up the biscuits into large chunks; remember they will be broken further when mixed, so don’t make them too small. Add the walnuts, sultanas and most of the cherries. Pour the chocolate mixture on to the dry ingredients and mix together with a spatula or wooden spoon. Press the mixture into the tin and decorate with the reserved glacé cherries. Leave to set in the fridge for about 4 hours. Remove from the fridge, peel off the paper and cut into slices or cubes. Serve chilled. Hint: To make this recipe more appealing to children why not replace 100g of dark chocolate with milk chocolate?
White Chocolate , Walnut and Banana Loaf
Makes one large loaf
125g (4½ oz) unsalted butter, melted 175g (6oz) plain flour 2 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda ½ teaspoon of salt 150g (5oz) caster sugar 2 large eggs 4 small, ripe bananas, mashed 100g (3½ oz) good-quality white chocolate, chopped into large chunks 60g (2½ oz) walnuts, chopped 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 x 900g (2lb) loaf tin Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Brush the inside of the loaf tin with a little melted butter, then dust with flour. Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk the melted butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then whisk in the mashed bananas. Add the white chocolate, walnuts and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three stages, stirring after each addition. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 1-1¼ hours. Slide a spatula around the edge of the loaf and leave in the tin to cool.
Italian Venison – Agrodolce
Marinade 400ml (14 fl.oz) red wine 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 carrot, chopped 1 large onion, sliced 1 celery stalk, including the head, chopped 3 cloves garlic, crushed sprig rosemary sprig thyme 4 sage leaves 3 bay leaves 1 teaspoon juniper berries, crushed ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil 100g (3½ oz) pancetta or dry cure streaky bacon, diced 1 medium onion, very thinly sliced 1 tablespoon plain flour 1 tablespoon raisins 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg salt and pepper 1-2 tablespoons pine nuts 2-3 squares dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids Put all the marinade ingredients into a large bowl and stir well. Add the prepared venison and stir, then leave in a cool place overnight, or preferably two nights. Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen paper. Strain the marinade and set aside. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/ gas mark 3 Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole dish and gently fry the pancetta until the fat runs and it browns a little. Remove and set aside. In the same oil, brown the venison, in batches, to avoid overcrowding the pan. Remove and set aside. Add the onion, season lightly and cook until soft. Sprinkle in the flour until it absorbs some of the fat, scraping up the caramelised bits. Add the reserved marinade and the raisins, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and stir until the sauce thickens and no longer smells of alcohol. Return the pancetta and venison to the casserole, leave it to bubble up, then add the spices, the salt and the pepper. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes, until the meat is soft enough to cut with a spoon. Add a little hot water every now and then if it looks as though it is drying out. Toss the pine nuts in a dry pan over a low heat to toast. When the meat is tender, stir in the dark chocolate and leave it to bubble up again until the sauce is thick and shiny. Back to Top Foolproof Food:
A mouth-watering variation on the usual flapjack recipes – these contain Muscovado sugar which Caroline says take the edge off the usual sweetness inherent in flapjacks.
Makes 20 350g (12oz) unsalted butter 3 tablespoons golden syrup 175g (6oz) soft brown sugar 175g (6oz) muscovado sugar 175g (6oz) good-quality oats (oat flakes) 275g (10oz) processed oats (rolled or porridge oats) 6 tablespoons good-quality cocoa powder Use a baking tray 17x28cm (7x11 in) or roasting tin. Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/gas mark 2. Butter the baking tray. Melt the butter, syrup and both sugars in a saucepan. Do not allow them to bubble. Mix in the oats and the cocoa. Use a fork to press the mixture into the baking tray and bake for 18-20 minutes. The flapjacks need to cook in the centre but you don’t want them to bubble, otherwise they will be too toffee-like. They should stay moist. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 20 minutes before slicing up. Leave to cool completely before removing from the tray. Hint: These flapjacks are delicious with 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut, or a handful of sultanas added with the oats. Back to Top Hot tips 1. Always store chocolate in a cool, dry place and do not expose to direct light. Chocolate that has been exposed to extremes in temperature or light will ‘bloom’, or have whitish-grey streaks on it. These streaks indicate that the cocoa butter on the chocolate has changed its structure and crystallised on the surface. This does not affect the flavour though and once melted, the chocolate will be fine to use for cooking. 2. Careful not to store chocolate near other household items or foods that have a strong scent. Chocolate absorbs odours easily and will soon taste of other flavours if stored close to them. This is especially true of mint, citrus fruit, perfumes and chemicals, so be careful how you pack your shopping basket. 3. To melt chocolate, break or chop it up into even-sized pieces. Put it in a dry Pyrex bowl and suspend over a saucepan of hot water, bring to the boil – turn off the heat immediately. Never allow steam or water to come into direct contact with the chocolate and make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. This is especially important if you are melting white chocolate which is particularly sensitive to over-heating. Leave the bowl over the saucepan of hot water while the chocolate slowly melts. Stir gently when most of the chocolate has melted and remove the bowl from the heat. 4. Chocolate that has been over-heated may ‘seize’ or become very thick and lumpy and impossible to use. If this does happen you can try whisking in a knob of butter or a little vegetable oil, but you may not be able to save it if it has gone too far. 5. Green and Black’s chocolate is available in most good food shops and many health food shops.