Real hot chocolate, something to look forward to on cold January days. Especially after the first day back at school!
An 06.15 start in the dark this morning. A shock to the system after the two-week Christmas hols. By 4pm then, when J was back from a mercifully painless first day of term despite his fears in the gloomy early hours, we were both ready for a pick-me-up. A couple of left-over deep, dark chocolate bars in the store cupboard from Christmas melted in milk and cream with a grating of cinammon, not to mention a heap load of marshmallows, and we were heartened enough to tackle homework. Interestingly, one task was a comprehension on a Maltese poem about the seasons. A question went along the lines of ‘what month is it we feel the cold in Malta?’. ‘After Christmas’ was the poem’s response. It’s true. Up to January, we can get by in our houses, chill staved off. But now, well, it’s a whole different matter! However many logs or gas bottles I heave, nothing, but nothing really warms me up. Except for this hot chocolate that is.
Chocolate isn’t very Mediterranean an ingredient.. Not true, if you look to history. While on holiday in Sicily last autumn (one harks back fondly to warmer times right now, sorry!), I discovered that Modica in the south-eastern corner has deep-rooted chocolate-making links. From Aztec South America to Spain and onwards, the Spanish introduced the cocoa bean. It arrived in Sicily under their rule of the island in the 16th century, and Modica took readily to chocolate production. From there, it would undoubtedly have come to Malta given the trade between the two islands and the Spanish knights’ influence here. I like to think then of my real hot chocolate as deserving of a place in Malta’s culinary annals!
- per person
- 225ml whole milk
- 50g of quality dark chocolate – at least 70% cocoa
- 30ml single cream
- a pinch of cinnamon or a grating of nutmeg (optional)
- a pinch of salt
- chocolate gratings and/or marshmallows to top
- Start by chopping up the chocolate into smallish pieces. Gently heat the milk in a pan over a medium heat.
- When steaming a little, add the chocolate and reduce the heat slightly to ensure the milk doesn’t boil over. Stir in the chocolate as it melts.
- Add the cream and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth and all the chocolate combined.
- Finally, add the spice(s) if using and the pinch of salt. Whisk one more time vigorously before pouring into serving beakers.
- Top with whipped cream, marshmallows and chocolate curls if desired.
- You can add a nip of brandy or strong espresso if you like. There’s almost no limit to what flavours you can add – dried chili or Irish Whisky, whatever takes your fancy and warms you up! Modica chocolates have some weird combos to trial in hot chocolate.
All images © Liz Ayling 2013