Welcome to my chocolate factory! I must admit, making a slab of fruit and nut dark chocolate so deliriously big was excessive even for me. It was the super-scrummy product of wonderful, mix it all up and see what happens, little bit of this, little bit of that and OH-MY-GOD-THAT’S-SO-GOOD gusto! Needless to say, we ate it all within a few days. But really, a massive dark chocolate slab was called for.
I think I am finding things more difficult recently because of the lack of sunshine. At this time of year, after the clocks go back, you feel you are just being tipped towards Christmas. The rate of change is alarming. I feel I have had summer whipped from under me, and before I could really enjoy the glories of Autumn, have had my face slammed against the crass commercialism of Christmas and the financial and existential anxiety (a terrible combination) that it involves. Time has literally sped up. Cue suppressing panicky thoughts of mortality.
Today I overslept and when I woke it was so dark, and so fearfully dark all afternoon, like living on the edge of Mordor when trouble is brewing, or something slightly less dramatic, sure, but it can get pretty grim up North. I do live in the Dark Peak (isn’t that the most wonderful name? I so much like things that are descriptively straight to the point and yet poetic).
I adore the drama of the landscape on a wild day, the Peaks belong to the wind and the rain, to a brooding sky, as much as they come alive with the sunshine, and outside, in the wilds, I would be arms outstretched, breathing in the fresh air. But stuck inside the small, crowded space that is my home it can feel very different. Short days have a definite sapping effect. Today I feel trapped in body and mind, frayed and sad. And that’s what they call it don’t they, S.A.D. I feel it’s mean edges. It must be so difficult living in countries that experience long periods of darkness. Imagine an Arctic winter. A Polar night that feels like it will never end. What a tough mind, what wisdom and self-control you must possess to endure the primal emotional reaction to such an experience.
I have been learning about the Nenet people of Siberia, who live on the Yamal Penisula, which in their language they call the end of the world. They live at the end of the world, through nights of -50C. They live on a knife edge, having faced so many degrading threats to their culture and migratory way of life before, and now still, not least as the Arctic permafrost is melting. Their life, their cosmology, relies completely on the reindeer. They deeply respect and love them. They need their meat and skins to survive. That is a tough life. Harsh doesn’t even begin to cover it.
I feel I am lucky to have so many choices, even if my cultural identity may be more diluted, less finite as a result, less rich in local wisdom. I have the whole world’s wisdom at my fingertips, to try to understand. And I think this is an advantage. In the modern age we see less through the lens of local culture, we can to some extent choose who we want to be. We are as such vulnerable to outside narratives (government propaganda, commercial agenda…) that prey on us constantly, as our minds long to latch onto simple meaning (without us even realising it’s happening mostly), but maybe one day this freedom from a culturally heavily prescribed world reality will bear wisdom-fruit for everyone to share. Just see how many people are turning to a plant-based diet, showing that we can choose a compassionate life, a healthier, more mindful, kinder life. I was raised a lacto-vegetarian and, thankfully, never had to make that choice, and I have such respect for those that do. I understand the challenges of changing your relationship to food.
despite such pressing darkness, it is a hopeful world.
And so as I sit in my comfortable home, I must endeavor to dig a little deeper and root out some lasting grace. I couldn’t survive as a Nenet, being a type 1 diabetic it wouldn’t be possible. But in reality this makes me even more lucky to have been born as me. Which is not a life of luxury in terms of the Western world, or one of much stability, the future, near and far, can be a somewhat scary place from where I sit, and yet I have so much, and so very much to be thankful for.
why is being thankful so difficult?!
I don’t think we should feel miserable or not enjoy what we have because we are privileged (which, considering that some people are born and raised in rubbish dumps, I think we can safely say we are), but I think we should strive for awareness, for a true grasp on reality, and recognise ourselves as so. The world is all smokescreens and mirrors, all mind, subjectivity, perspective, ego, sensation and emotion, it is a fight to search for the truth through this maze, a fight to recognise it, and an even greater fight to both find and listen to your inner wisdom and to understand what it is saying. Those who don’t know they must be fighting, well, they are at a disadvantage. We must fight as hard as we can, as mistakes, in thought or action, are so easy to make and so difficult to avoid. But then, life begins anew in every moment and is not as predictable as we often imagine. (Imagination being a keyword to human worldly existence, as far as I can see). The most educated person can be the most ignorant and vice versa. An experience can arise as though out of nothing that may transform the way you view life and your experiences thus far, and you have no idea it is going to happen…
And as for dark chocolate with fruit and nuts, it is a delicious, nutritious treat to ward off the wintery blues and to reach out to those we love and make them smile, and to appreciate for what it is, a hard-earned treat, bounty of the world.
Make it as a slab (I’m not the daintiest of souls!) and cut into which ever shapes please you. Or roll into balls and leave to dry – I recommend leaving them in the fridge as the texture only improves, and exposed to the elements it becomes flakier and suits the almond. Also in the cool the raisins harden (put it in the freezer and the raisins go like toffee!).
I recommend eating them with a cup of coconut milk hot chocolate whilst reading T.S. Eliot’s Macavity the Mystery Cat, and if that doesn’t cheer you up, you need tickling ♥
- 3/4 cup of cocoa
- 1/4 cup cacao powder
- 7 tbsp coconut oil
- 20 drops of stevia
- 1 cup of seedless raisins
- 1 cup roasted crushed almonds/ whole almonds
- 3 tbsp vanilla essence
- 5 tbsp agave syrup, or natural syrup/ sweetener of your choice
- 4 tbsp cacao nibs
- 8 tbsp coconut cream (solid, less if more liquid)
Toast the almonds in a hot thick pan on a medium heat being careful not to burn. When lightly browning remove them from the pan mix in 2 tbsp of agave syrup, stir and remove from heat when has become sticky, stirring constantly.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, bar the coconut oil, nuts, nibs and raisins. Gently melt the coconut oil on a low heat, do not leave once melted but immediately remove from the heat and pour into the chocolate mixture, stirring. If you stir too much it will lose its shine. (I don't personally mind this, especially if I am making it for me and it won't have much shine anyway). Break up the nuts and add them, the raisins, and the cacao nibs to the mixture. Line a tray with baking parchment paper and pour on the mixture, as thickly or as thinly as you like.
Refrigerate, or freeze, to set hard fast.
When the chocolate starts to harden, score into squares. Or alternatively shape into balls or leave as a sheet.
This is a rich, sweet dark chocolate. Adjust the sweetness to your taste; the raisins give a wonderful sweetness themselves, and most of the sweetness comes from the natural stevia extract, which is alkaline, and great for a no refined sugar, low sugar diet.
I have used quite a lot of vanilla extract, which gives it an extra rich booziness that I enjoy (being a non-drinker, if that makes sense?), but if you like you can tone it down, 2 tbsp is plenty.
I've used a mixture of cacao and cocoa as I think it gives the best balance between flavour and nutrition, you can vary the ratio as you please. Do let me know what you come up with! Dutch cocoa is good for me as it isn't acidic, though it isn't nearly as nutritious as cacao, which is why I've added cacao to the mix.
Cacao nibs give such a wonderfully crisp crunch, I love using them in sweets and nice-cream they're just delicious, and so good for you too. For this recipe I used cacao paste pieces which I smashed, giving more irregular shapes than bought cacao nibs, which I enjoy as you can get an extra big bit!
I sprinkled coconut sugar on top for one batch, but it went wet so I do not recommend this! However coconut sugar would add beautifully to the flavour.
Crystalised ginger would be a beautiful addition to this chocolate, I can't eat it as it is too sweet and also usually refined sugar (though I may experiment and get back to you on this with a natural sugar and stevia alternative...).
Crushed or whole toasted hazelnuts would be delicious alternative to the almonds.
You can make it with less coconut oil, which is less smooth but still very delicious. It's entirely up to you.
You can also used toasted flaked almonds, which I originally included in the recipe but I have omitted them now as I think the crunch of crushed or whole almonds is better.
I have been listening to… Latyrx ‘Latyrx’
I have been reading… T.S. Eliot ‘Macavity – the Mystery Cat’
I have been watching… Alice in Wonderland 1951