Several weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a Green & Blacks event. For those of you who haven’t heard of Green & Blacks - where have you been??! (Kidding.) The event was held at the gorgeous Miele showroom, which is so well equipped I seriously wished I could move in.
I did ponder whether or not I should blog about this (seeing as it happened so long ago), but decided to as I honestly had an amazing time that evening. Plus, it’s always nice to blog about something you love (=chocolate).
I’ve always been a massive fan of G&B chocolates (both their eating and cooking range is fantastic) – in fact you would be slightly alarmed at the number of G&B products I have stashed in my kitchen. From the 150g chocolate bars to their cocoa powder, I have it all. In fact, I have multiples of each. What can I say? I’m Chinese, and I’m “kiasu” (roughly translated as “afraid to lose”, or in this case “afraid to be without chocolate”).
The event was aptly called “Taste of Green & Blacks“, and was held in conjunction with their search for an assistant to Head of Taste Micah Carr-Hill. Yes, they are hiring! So if you think you’ve got what it takes, apply here to be in the running to become Green & Blacks Taste Assistant. Or, if you’re not particularly looking for a new job, you could apply to be part of the Taste Panel which will be made up of 30 people who are passionate about Green & Black’s chocolate. Winners will receive a copy of their new cookbook “Ultimate” and complimentary chocolate to be reviewed in their own time.
The lovely Gail, who coordinated the entire event beautifully.
G&B Head of Taste Micah Carr-Hill, explaining how the evening would unfold. The main event would be 15:15, where contestants had to cook a meal of their choosing in 15 minutes… with a budget of £15! The grand prize for being declared the winner of this challenge was a shiny new red KitchenAid mixer – certainly motivation indeed!
But before the excitement of 15:15, we were given a short talk by Matthew Stokes, who spoke about the science of taste. He briefly spoke of the five basic tastes (bitter, salty, sweet, sour and umami), and also talked about the flavourings (both natural and artificial) that are used in chocolate. He emphasised the importance of the sense of smell when it comes to tasting food and drink, and then passed out some smells – from the very pleasant vanillin, to the slightly unpleasant “smelly feet” scent of butyric acid.
Edd Kimber of He Eats having a sniff of one of the smells that were handed out – he doesn’t look too upset, so I bet this was the vanillin…
And then it was time for the 15:15 challenge, where nine brave souls battled it out for the glory (and the KitchenAid). It was interesting to walk around and see them hard at work during the course of the challenge, and I must say I was very impressed with how calm they seemed! I suspect I would have been in a complete flap if it had been me cooking.
Luiz of The London Foodie doing his thing – he even managed to sneak in some G&B cocoa powder in his savoury dish (you will be amazed to see what he managed to cook in 15 minutes, trust me).
Kavey of Kavey Eats carefully prepping the pears for her chutney.
MiMi of Meemalee’s Kitchen still managed to have a huge grin on her face despite waiting anxiously for her water to reach a boil…
In the midst of the 15:15 madness, we were invited to guess the ingredients used in the two “mystery ganaches“. Mystery ganache #1 was a white chocolate ganache with a very strong taste of lemon and vanilla… as well as a very familiar taste I just could not put my finger on. It turned out to be white tea and lime – no wonder I felt it was familiar, bearing in mind my obsession with tea!
Mystery ganache #2 completely stumped me. Apart from identifying the dark chocolate (which anyone would be able to do just by looking at the photo), I simply could not figure out what Micah had put into it. Turns out everyone felt the same, as Micah revealed at the end of the night that no one had got the ingredients right for ganache #2 – which contained coriander and coriander seeds! I would have honestly never guessed that in a million years, good job I’m not trying to apply to work for G&B as I would fail miserably at the whole selection process.
There were also two mystery cocktails (specially created for the night by Drinks Fusion), and we were again asked to guess which spirits/other ingredients they contained. Now I don’t drink very much at all, so I was honestly at a complete loss with this.
Drinks and nibbles were also served throughout the night, and whilst they look teeny – don’t be fooled. Have one too many and you will be stuffed….
But let me get back to the 15:15 challenge. Here are some of the dishes that were put forward…
Luiz’s dish of grilled quail with rose petals and dark chocolate. This was my favourite dish of the night – for one, it looked very impressive, and the scattering of rose petals really elevated ‘wow’ factor of the dish. The quail was cooked beautifully, and was tender, juicy and flavoursome. I’m so glad I’ve found his recipe, as I’ll have to try it out. Plus now I know it can be done in 15 minutes, i.e. can be cooked on a weekday night!
Jack’s dish of pan fried scallops wrapped in pancetta, with pesto and capers. Doesn’t it look absolutely amazing? Those who did had very satisfied looks on their faces though. This looked very good, and I was upset that I didn’t get to try it – you snooze, you lose.
MiMi‘s dish of shimeji shiso pasta – basically linguini, shimeji mushrooms, salmon roe (ikura) and shiso leaf. Now, I’m a massive fan of both shimeji mushrooms and ikura, so this was a no brainer really. Loved the combination of flavours in her dish, and I’m sure I’ll be making something similar at some point!
Simon’s dish of duck with a quince and peppercorn sauce, served with a cassoulet, and edamame with green beans in a basil emulsion. Phew. Even the name of the dish is enough to tell you that he accomplished an astounding amount of cooking in 15 minutes. Unfortunately this was another one of those ‘snooze/lose’ moments, as I didn’t get to try any of it.
Micah tasting MiMi’s dish. He was a perfect judge, and had a completely straight face when tasting the dishes. There was no indication whatsoever of whether or not he liked or disliked a dish. He’d be a good poker player I reckon…
And then it was time to end the night by announcing the winners of the various competitions that had been held over the course of the event. First up was the winner of the “mystery cocktail” challenge – Jennifer of Chocolate Ecstasy Tours won this, and walked away with her prize of some Riedel glassware. The cocktails turned out to be an Orange & Ginger Alexander (Cognac shaken with melted Green & Black’s chocolate and fresh cream, seasoned with ginger and orange served straight up with a dust of dark chocolate), and a Moth Flower (Black Moth Truffle Vodka, crème de mure, Noilly Prat dry vermouth and a of touch lavender eaux de vie shaken with fresh lemon and sugar, served straight up with violet foam).
Then for the winner of the ‘mystery ganache’ challenge – Micah said that he might have to make it easier next time around, as no one really got the right answers for them! (Phew, maybe my tastebuds aren’t too shot then). But, there was one person who had gotten fairly close at guessing the ingredients in ganache #2 -and that person was the lovely MiMi! She had correctly guessed that there was tea in the white chocolate ganache, and although she guessed green instead of white tea, it was still enough to see her walk away with her prize of Kyle Cathie cookbooks.
But really, we were all the most interested to hear who had won the shiny red KitchenAid. After telling us how impressed he was at the quality of the dishes on offer, Micah revealed that MiMi was the winner of the 15:15 challenge! She was completely flabbergasted, bless her. Just check out that massive grin on her face!
And now, in the spirit of all things chocolate – I’d like to share one of my favourite chocolate cake recipes. It’s a recipe from Ree (that’s Ree the Pioneer Woman), and it’s absolutely scrumptious. I’ve made it countless times, and everyone always loves it (and they usually ask for the recipe as well!). Another plus is that it’s very simple to whip up, and takes less than an hour from start to finish. Now, that’s what I call satisfying baking. A word of warning though, there is a LOT of butter in this… (and I’ve already cut down on some, haha).
Chocolate sheet cake
Slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman’s recipe
For the cake:
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup caster sugar
- ¼ teaspoons salt
- 4 tablespoons cocoa (I used Green & Blacks)
- 230g butter
- 1 cup boiling water
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the frosting:
- ½ cup finely chopped nuts (e.g. pecans, walnuts)
- 80g butter
- 4 tablespoons cocoa
- 6 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 5 tablespoons icing sugar
1. Preheat oven to 175′C.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan/pot over medium high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the cocoa and stir until combined.
4. Add the boiling water to the saucepan/pot, allow mixture to the boil for 30 seconds, then turn off the heat. Leave to cool for 1-2 minutes.
5. Pour the butter/cocoa/water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
6. In a small bowl, mix the buttermilk, beaten eggs, baking soda and vanilla.
7. Stir the buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture, and mix until well combined.
8. Pour into a sheet cake pan, and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
9. While the cake is baking, make the icing.
10. Melt the butter in a saucepan/pot (I usually use the same pot from before). Add the cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off the heat.
11. Add the milk, vanilla and icing sugar, and stir well.
12. Lastly, add the nuts to the icing mixture, stir well, and leave aside until the cake comes out of the oven.
13. Once the cake is baked, pour the icing over the warm cake and leave it to set. Or if you prefer, you can eat it whilst it’s all warm and gooey – you pick!