Someone at home was hooked on making hot chocolate but wasn’t happy with what mixes were available at the shops. Most of the hot chocolate mixes at the supermarket were too sweet or too powdery. I ended up buying Blai a bar of Lindt dark chocolate for him to make it himself but he couldn’t be fussed to actually prep it and ate the entire bar instead. Huh.

When the opportunity arose to try Hans Sloane drinking chocolate, I jumped at it. This would make our nightly hot chocolate ritual actually happen! Yes, the company is named for the eminent physician and botanist who, in addition to the rest of his work and collecting, developed a way of mixing cocoa with milk to make a drink and pioneered drinking chocolate in Europe.

The company were kind enough to send me a pack each of their milk and dark chocolate beads and also a Christmas special, a single serving dark chocolate bauble filled with more dark chocolate beads. That last little Christmas ball was the first thing we tried.

Hans Sloane Hot Chocolates

Christmas Bauble

Into a mug it went…

Christmas Bauble in Mug

…and we poured hot milk over. Stir, stir, stir and we had a mug of hot chocolate. (OK, we made a bit of a mess.)

Hot Chocolate

What I was particularly impressed with was hot smooth the hot chocolate was – when I’ve made hot chocolate from scratch before, I’ve always had to whisk the mixture but here we only used a spoon. The flavour was excellent – the dark chocolate was rich and coated the mouth nicely. If there was a problem, it was just a teeny bit too sweet but it was still much better than anything available at our local supermarkets. It certainly deserved its Great Taste Awards! We’ll be working our way through the other packs through the winter.

The bauble retails for £2 (it would make a nice stocking stuffer) and the bags of beads are £4.99 each (270g each). Hans Sloane hot chocolate can be purchased at Tesco, Waitrose, some independent shops and through their website.

A friend of mine went on a last minute trip to the Dominican Republic last year and brought back a most interesting jar of cocoa balls for me. After a lot of questioning on Twitter, it turned out that this wasn’t for hot chocolate but for a Caribbean chocolate drink they call cocoa tea.

Cacao Balls from the Dominican Republic

I believe this is pure processed cacao, complete with cacao butter, in ball form. From what I gather online, they also come in sticks, which, though less aesthetically pleasing, are easier to grate.

Cacao Balls

Well, after many months of procrastination, I finally thought about making us some cocoa tea and opened the jar. I cobbled together a set of instructions based on what I found online and what was on the side of the jar. In a small pot, I placed half a stick of cinnamon, a bay leaf and grated in about 1/8 of a nutmeg. In went 500ml of semi-skimmed milk and the whole pot was set on a medium heat to simmer.


Meanwhile, I grated up one of the cocoa balls (each is about the size of a walnut). When the milk was simmering, the grated cocoa was added and whisked in until well combined. As there’s no sweetening in these balls of cacao, some sugar was also added to taste (about 1-2 tbsps, I think).

A Grated Cocao Ball

Finally, a little bit of cornstarch slurry gave the thin mixture a little thickness.

Cocoa Tea

The result was delicious! Not too sweet, a bit bitter, very deeply chocolaty but not in a cloying way. I might try to grate the cocoa ball a little finer as we were chewing a little on the larger cocoa nibs but this was not unpleasant. If you do manage to find cacao like this, do try it!

While at the market in Catalonia, my eyes became somewhat fixated by a little bag of shrivelled looking nuts at a dried fruit and nut stall. Upon inquiry, I learned that they were xufes (or xufles or tigernuts in English or chufas in Spanish), the little tubers from which the milky drink orxata is made. Lucky for me, the stall had also posted a selection of recipes on their wall, one of them being for orxata so quicker than you could blink, I had my money on the counter and the little package of xufes in my handbag.

Dried Tigernuts

Back home in London, one night I set them soaking in cold water, to be processed into orxata the following night.

Soaked Tigernuts

The next night, I ground those xufes down using my mini chopper (in batches) and then mixed them with water and sugar (the tubers are already a little sweet). I then went to town on that mixture with my stick blender. Afterwards, I strained and bottled the mixture and let it chill in the fridge for a bit.

Straining the Orxata

I was extremely happy with the outcome! It was thick and milky and just as fresh as those I drink at the orxateries in Barcelona. Sure you could buy a bottle of the stuff from shops like Garcia and Sons on Portobello Road but they don’t taste fresh and you can’t control the amount of sugar in the drink. Of course, I can go on and on but the reality is that I have no idea where to buy dried tigernuts in London. Has anyone come across them here?

The Final Drink

This will make around a litre. The recipe can be scaled easily.

200g dried xufles
water for soaking
800-1000ml water
100-150g powdered sugar
zest from 1/5 of a lemon (optional)
a little sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)

Soak the dried xufles in cold water overnight.

The next day, drain the xufles and then grind them together with the new water (800ml – 1000ml depending on how thick you like it). A stick blender isn’t going to do it – you either need a powerful blender or do it in batches like me in the stick blender mini food chopped attachment. Once you have all of it grinded to a paste, you can then continue with a stick blender. Add in the sugar (to taste) and the lemon and cinnamon and continue blending.

Strain through at least 2 layers of muslin and chill the resulting mixture for at least an hour (or even better, overnight). Serve!

Nine ladies dancing!


That’s the day of the 12 days of Christmas assigned to me by Innocent Drinks – the 9th day…which happens to be today. I was one of the 12 bloggers invited to develop a mocktail (that’s a non-alcoholic cocktail if you’ve never come across it before!) using one or more of their juice range. To help, they even sent over a very nice box of mocktail making goodies for inspiration and a supermarket voucher to go get my ingredients.

Innocent Drinks Inspiration Box

I had nine ladies dancing to use as inspiration. Immediately, I thought of Christmas parties and after dinner discos and the need of a refreshing drink to quench one’s thirst. And how appropriate for me too – I don’t drink alcohol and much prefer a mocktail!

Christmas, Christmas, I love Christmas markets! A drink I associate with Germany, land of amazing Christmas markets, is apfelschorle – a 50:50 mixture of apple juice and sparkling water. I reckon it would be just what nine ladies dancing require to wet their whistle.

It was time to jazz up apfelschorle into something a bit more festive though – a bit of rosemary and lime would do the trick. And here’s the mocktail I ended up with after lots of happy testing: An Apple-Rosemary Refresher.

Innocent has turned it into a beautiful recipe card (pdf) that can be downloaded by clicking on the photo below.


Otherwise, here’s the recipe again:

An Apple-Rosemary Refresher
serves 1-2.

For the rosemary syrup:
125ml water
60ml sugar
3-4 sprigs rosemary

100ml Innocent apple juice
100ml sparkling water
5ml lime juice

First make the rosemary syrup. Put the syrup ingredients in a small pot and place over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring slowly to a boil and then turn off the heat and let cool.

Mix together 30ml of the syrup with the rest of the ingredients (except the ice). Pour over ice and serve.

All 12 days of Christmas mocktails will be made into a pdf booklet and I’ll link to it here after all days are complete. Thank you very much, Innocent Drinks, for this – it was fun to come up with a new mocktail recipe!

We’re obviously very dedicated to the Christmas market. Last weekend saw my friend and I take a train to Birmingham to check out their Frankfurt Christmas Market. We arrived at about 1pm and left by a 7pm train (times are approximate!). It was quite easy to find – it’s all located at the centre of the city, just outside the Bullring. We encountered stall upon stall upon stall of German food, drink, and Christmas gifts and decorations.

Giant Christmas Pyramid

The eating started as soon as we saw a stand selling freshly fried potato pancakes. We opted for a dollop of oniony sour cream on the side and munch away we did. I was surprised by the addition of some kind of grain to the potato base but it added a good crunch to the fried fritter.

Potato Pancake

As soon as the last bite went down, we queued for bratwursts – one white and one red, both to share. I love both – the milder white and the punchier smoked red.


Gluhwein for Roxanne and hot chocolate for me. And yes, we kept our mugs as souvenirs (you pay a deposit for it).

Hot Chocolate

There was room for a shared pretzel…


…and two kinds of fried doughnuts too. The quarkbällchen was made with quark, the German fresh cheese, and a paper cone of schmalzkuchen was freshly fried and dusted with lots of powdered sugar.



They all went down much too easily.

Schmalzkuchen with Powdered Sugar

Schokokuss (chocolate kisses) were purchased to take home. While everyone was queuing to buy packs of 10 or 12, I’m glad I showed restraint and only purchased a couple (they’re filled with marshmallow inside…soft, sticky, intensely sweet marshmallow).


It was with a little difficulty that we put down our final savoury bites for the day – they had to be frankfurters! That photo below shows mine – I swear there’s a frankfurter underneath all those pickles and crispy fried onions.


Overall, a most successful eating day!

At Night

Other edibles to look out for are the 1/2 metre long bratwursts, the cheese skewers that are battered and fried, hot chocolate spoons, roast pork shanks, huge roasting hams, cream cakes, and a huge variety of Haribo.

It’s a long journey on a slow train on a Sunday and is probably more manageable on a weekday or Saturday. If you’re utterly in love with Christmas markets, then it’s possibly worth the travel but otherwise I’d recommend visiting if you’re in the region!

All my photos from the day can be found in this Flickr photoset.