Spiced chilli hot chocolate is an idea as old as well, hot chocolate! The earliest traces of hot chocolate, found in Mayan tombs in Guatamala dating back to 460 A.D, had been made from a paste ground from cocoa seeds mixed with cornmeal and chillis. I like this spicy hot chocolate as an occasional mid afternoon pick me up when I am struggling to concentrate on something complicated – there’s definitely something in the research from Nottingham University showing that a cocoa rich drink can improve blood flow to the brain. Chilli is also well known for improving blood flow all over your body so this would be equally welcome to warm you up after a bracing winter walk outside.
Sadly chocolate is not the health food that some clever marketing people would like us to believe (or that we would like to believe perhaps?), but for an occasional sweet treat a mug of hot spicy drinking chocolate is not such a bad thing. Two tips to keep it on the healthy side; first, use good quality plain chocolate rather than a sweetened milk chocolate or chocolate powder and second, use semi-skimmed or skimmed milk to keep this on the low fat side. All chocolate is high in sugar and fat (dark chocolate just has a little bit less fat and a little bit more sugar) and so the health gain in choosing dark (plain chocolate) is not really about fat but is because dark chocolate contains more cocoa solids, usually around the 70%. It is the cocoa solids in chocolate that have been associated with having heart health benefits and that contain valuable anti-oxidants.
If you’ve ever heard nutritionists talking about sugary and sweet foods being empty calories they mean that these foods provide calories but bugger all else of nutritional usefulness. Happily this hot chocolate is well away from being empty calories with those 70% cocoa solids and a good helping of bone healthy calcium in the milk. If you don’t drink cows milk just go for whatever alternative you normally use but try to choose one that has been fortified with calcium.
And now to the all important third tip – for a super enjoyable, guilt-free beverage experience make your drink from tasty fairly traded dark chocolate! Rachel who makes and bakes many lovely things over at Rkhooks is gathering together all of our best chocolate recipes to promote the chocolate campaign from Stop the Traffik. The chocolate campaign is there to draw attention to the shocking practice of using trafficked child slave labour to harvest cocoa beans on the Cote D’Ivoire. The chocolate campaign web site has some information about where to buy your traffik-free chocolate from but essentially for a chocolate to be awarded Fairtrade status it must be guaranteed not to have involved any trafficked labour in its production so you can just look out for fairtrade chocolate.
Recipe for Spiced chilli hot chocolate
Enough of your milk of choice to fill two mugs (I use semi skimmed organic cows milk)
1 fresh red chilli
50g of fairtrade dark chocolate
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp honey
1 pinch ground ginger
Entirely optional – a pinch of vanilla infused sea salt
If you have one now is the time to dig out that little battery-powered aerolatte whisk languishing at the back of your cupboard. If you don’t have a microwave to melt the chocolate and don’t fancy messing about with water baths just grate the chocolate and chuck it straight into the warm milk (it will just take a little bit longer to dissolve). I have included two methods here – one for chilli fiends and one that is a little more restrained.
Method 1 - delicately warming
Make two incisions down the sides of your red chilli but not enough to cut it in half or expose the seeds. Put the chilli, milk and spices into a pan and warm gently for five minutes. Melt the chocolate in the microwave on a low heat. Add the honey and melted chocolate to the milk and heat gently for another ten minutes until the milk thickens slightly. Remove the chilli before serving.
Method 2 – seriously spicy
Cut the chilli in half and remove the seeds. Put one chilli half and all of the milk and spices into a pan and warm gently for five minutes. Melt the chocolate in the microwave on a low heat. Remove the chilli from the milk. Add in the honey and melted chocolate and heat gently for another ten minutes until the milk thickens slightly.