It’s the time of the year to indulge so here’s a delicious and easy table decoration for your Easter lunch… chocolate nests filled with yummy treats!
Easter eggs in a nest!
1 packet of fried noodles
250g good quality milk or dark cooking chocolate
Your choice of eggs, chocolate, almond, nougat, yoghurt covered nuts or whatever takes your family’s fancy.
Melt chocolate in a bowl over a water-filled pot at low temperature. Stir often to avoid burning the bottom. Pour noodles into melted chocolate and stir until fully coated. Line another bowl with baking paper and transfer chocolate covered noodles to this bowl. Then place another piece of baking paper on top of this and press into the centre of the chocolate noodles to form a well.
Place in the refrigerator for around half an hour to harden. Remove noodles from bowl and fill the nest with colourful eggs.
400g sultanas 4 tablespoons brandy (or orange juice) 200g self raising flour 1/2 a nutmeg finely grated 150g soft dark sugar 150g butter 200g walnuts, chopped apart from a few for decoration 200g glacier cherries 3 large eggs, beaten
Put the sultanas to soak in the brandy for a few hours. Heat oven to 180 C Line the base of a 20cm round, lose bottomed cake tin with greaseproof paper and butter. Put the flour, nutmeg and sugar in a large mixing bowl, chop butter in to lumps and mix together using finger tips to produce a bread crumb consistency. Add the soaked sultanas with any remaining liquid, walnuts (apart from a few for the top) cherries and beaten egg. Carefully mix and combine. Put the mixture in the cake tin, smooth to give a slight hollow in the middle. Arrange whole walnuts on the top. Wet finger tips with a little water and lightly dampen the cake surface to avoid it becoming too dry. Place in the middle of the oven for half and hour. Lower the temperature to 150 C, cook for a further hour. Check after thirty minutes and if the top looks too brown, cover with a piece of greaseproof paper. Use a fine skewer inserted deep into the cake to see if the mixture is cooked through. The skewer should be clean if the cake is cooked, allow a further 15 minutes and check again. Leave in the tin to cool. Remove when cold. Double-wrap in greaseproof paper and store in a cool, dry place.
The sweet taste. The coating of our taste buds as it dissolves in our mouth. The rich and delicious flavour that can also be a complex bitter/sweet mixture. And for those with a chocolate habit, the feeling can seem addictive.
Only in moderation?
The health enhancing Mediterranean diet includes a few squares of dark chocolate daily! However, caution is advised.Milk chocolate contains around 30% fat and 52% sugar so this is definitely a treat food. But, it does have some nutritionally redeeming features. A 50g serve of milk choc provides around 10% of our daily iron and calcium needs, some choline and useful amounts of riboflavin and B12.
It also contains variable amounts of the flavanol theobromine, the concentration increasing with the quantity of cocoa solids. This unusual substance acts on the nervous system to reduce the inactivation of some processes controlled by neurotransmitters and hormones. The effects can be to stimulate the heart, cause vaso dilation, reduce blood pressure plus have diuretic properties. These effects can be beneficial but not for people with heart burn where the relaxation of sphincters can cause reflux. The oxalate in chocolate may also increase the risk of kidney stones in those whose intake is high. The theobromine in 50g can be enough to poison a small dog.
The best pleasure comes from the best quality and the range is enormous, but moderation is still the recommendation. Also, be aware that cocoa farming has been linked to the use of child labour, the situation is complex but finding a product we trust is a good start. Some ethical chocolate brands are found here.