There's few weeks that I love more than National Chocolate Week. I don't need much of an excuse to eat chocolate at the best of times but during National Chocolate Week, it's almost the law, right?! Seven whole days dedicated to the sweet stuff? That's a dream come true! One of my earliest memories is lying in bed with my grandmother, electric blanket on high, watching Elvis films and nibbling on mint Matchmakers. And yes, not a whole lot has changed. I might be without the electric blanket and while Elvis will always have a special place in my heart, I tend to favour my men more rugged now (basically, the entire Game of Thrones cast), but lying around and eating Matchmakers?! Yes, that's my idea of heaven!
To help celebrate National Chocolate Week, Waitrose kindly popped some wine in the post for me along with a voucher to purchase chocolate treats, and invited me to host my very own wine and chocolate tasting evening. How thoroughly decent of them! But. To know me, is to know that I like to keep things relatively simple. And separate. I like wine. And I like chocolate. Together, though?! I was yet to be convinced. It's much like my love of puddings and fruit. I love puddings and I love fruit. I do not love them together. No pudding should contain fruit. Pudding should only contain chocolate, vanilla, custard, more chocolate, and maybe a few crushed nuts. Putting fruit in pudding is cheating me out of chocolate. It does not impress me.
But back to wine and chocolate, a combination designed to bring out the best flavours in both. On Waitrose's advice, we paired:
- Cockburn's Special Reserve Port with white chocolate
- Campbells Rutherglen Muscat with milk chocolate
- Terre di Faiano Primitivo Appassimento with dark chocolate.
I really wanted to be wowed, I really, really did. But, true to form, I liked the wine and I liked the chocolate. But together? Not so much. Of all the combinations, the Muscat and the milk chocolate was the best together. In fact, the Muscat was a revelation. It's the first pudding wine that I've come across that's been refreshingly delicious as opposed to heavy and more like pudding in itself rather than a drink. And Waitrose's own brand milk chocolate is up there with the best too. It's definitely worth a try rather than opting for more expensive varieties. Those two will be appearing on my shopping list in the future.
While the wine and chocolate tasting may not have been the biggest success, it was such a fun evening, and I also had enough chocolate left over to make the world's very best sea salt fudge brownies EVER. Waitrose has the most amazing chocolate recipes on its website, but this one is simply incredible. You have to try it.
180g sea salt fudge (chopped in to small 1cm cubes)
250g plain chocolate (chopped)
175g unsalted butter
225g light muscovado sugar
75g self raising flour
half a teaspoon baking powder
100g roasted salted peanuts (chopped)
1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees celsius and line a tin with baking paper (I used a 30 x 20 cm one and it was perfect).
2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in the bowl. You can do this either over a saucepan of simmering water or, the easier method, in a microwave for two minutes (keep and eye on it so it doesn't bubble up and burn, though).
3. In a second bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture turns thicker and starts to froth slightly (I did this by hand as opposed to in a mixer and it took just a few minutes). By this time, the chocolate should have cooled sufficiently so you can slowly stir it in to the eggs/sugar mixture. Then add the flour and baking powder (both sifted) and again, stir slowly in to the mixture.
4. Next, gently stir in half of the fudge and half of the nuts and then pour the mixture in to the tin and even out. Scatter the reaming fudge and nuts over the top and pop the tin in the oven to bake for 30 minutes. When you take it out of the oven, the brownie mixture will still be a little wobbly. This is the PERFCT consistency, don't be worried. It means that your brownies will have that deliciously gooey interior. Irresistible!
5. Once the brownie has cooled completely, lift it out of the tin and cut it in to pieces (24 is the suggested amount but I'd personally opt for 16 - go greedy!).
6. Enjoy! I'd be astounded if you didn't think these brownies are amazing.
Waitrose, you may not have converted me to the delights of a wine and chocolate tasting evening, but your brownie recipe is the best out there. Thank you!