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Chocolate: A Superfood?

As Easter approaches, Diane explores the health benefits of one of the nation’s favourite foods…

Chocolate … Love it or hate it?

We… Share it with loved ones at Christmas… Resolve to deny it at New Year!

Share it with loved ones at Valentines… Resolve to deny it at Lent!

Share it with loved ones at Easter… Got the message?

Recent interest in the health benefits of chocolate was sparked by studies on the cocoa-drinking peoples of Central America. Researchers observed that the Kuna Indians of Panama, who drank cocoa with water as their main beverage, had very low blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. It has also been shown that cocoa contains antioxidants and is a good source of iron, magnesium and zinc: hence its ‘superfood’ status.

Chocolate on the other hand is the processed and sweetened food produced from cocoa. There have been suggestions that chocolate provides health benefits in protection against cancer & cardiovascular diseases, for the relief of stress and as a mood enhancer.

But, it’s important to remember that studies on the potential health benefits of chocolate have focussed on cocoa extracts, not on chocolate. While some compounds in chocolate have potential health benefits, this has to be weighed against the fact that to make chocolate, cocoa is combined with sugar and fat, making it an energy-dense food that could contribute to weight gain and a higher risk of disease. Whilst chocolate should not be eaten too frequently, as an occasional treat it can be part of a healthy diet.

With Easter being just around the corner, as a ‘foodie’ I, along with countless others, will be keeping this ingredient in my sights in the coming weeks. A visit to the Chocolate Festival in London (Business Design Centre) is calling me, which runs for 3 delicious days from 27-29 March. I shall also be planning ahead for the Chocolate show at Olympia in October 2015!

Hopefully, you too are re-discovering ‘real chocolate’ for use in cooking; and if you are a connoisseur you can readily buy chocolate with its own distinctive characteristics from single-estate cocoa plantations. For use in cooking it is best to use chocolate containing at least 70 per cent cocoa solids where you will find just three ingredients listed: cocoa, sugar and cocoa butter.

We at Cookery Studio Kent have been pleased to discover recently, that cooking grade chocolate is being manufactured locally in East Kent by The Kent Dark Chocolate Company. How wonderful to have this lovely product on our doorstep. As Easter approaches we offer an unctuous chocolate recipe for you to try. This is the ultimate recipe for a really high quality chocolate, as the bitterness of the chocolate contrasts well with either a passion fruit purée or raspberry coulis. If you like this mousse-like dessert a little sweeter, you can add one level tablespoon of glucose syrup to the recipe; but I favour the more bitter flavour.

About Diane

Diane and her husband Robert run Cookery Studio Kent – a new & innovative cookery school in Badlesmere, just ten minute’s drive from Faversham. They run regular classes in a variety of cuisines & techniques (one of which we tried ourselves!) with an emphasis on provenance and responsibly sourced and seasonal foods. Find out more about Cookery Studio Kent here.

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