Katrina’s Website

 I’ve been writing this blog for a few months and have been delighted by the positive response that I’ve received from colleagues, friends, family and complete strangers. I’ve now consolidated what I like doing with this space, and what I want this blog to be, so I’ve decided to rename it:

Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes

Here’s what the title Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes means to me:

Flavour of the Month

Food, Health and Well Being

Good Cooking 

Politics of Food

Writing and Literature

Breaking Bread with Loved Ones

 Chocolate and Chilli is flavour of the month. It’s springing up everywhere. A blog I wrote a few months back, the first Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes, has had by far my highest strike rate. There’s even a new crisp, one of the Walker’s ‘do us a flavour’ packs, which tastes of Chilli Chocolate. (FYI I think these crisps are good but the addition of vinegar, which is necessary to keep them crisp-like, does rather skew the delicate juxtaposition of the chocolate and chilli notes or am I over analysing?) So hopefully Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes shows that this blog is about the zeitgeist of food and wine.

Secondly chocolate and chilli has a neurological effect. Here I shamelessly plagiarise one of my earlier postings:

The chocolate releases seratonins in the brain creating a happy feeling. As seratonins are used to counteract depression they are a singularly potent ingredient, combine them with  chilli, which also releases natural mood enhancing endorphins and these fairycakes give a sense of physical and mental well-being that is truly uplifting.

OK while I’m sure that narcotics investigators never made a dawn raid to seize a batch of cupcakes, but this does demonstrate that there is a clear link between food, health and well being. This blog takes nutrition seriously.

In the kitchen chocolate and chilli is not an easy relationship, it takes some good cooking to execute it properly. First the chocolate melts on the palate, then a moment later the chilli kicks in with a pleasing burn. However this can mean that this is a flavour sensation in two halves which can be disjointed unless other spices are judiciously used to bridge the gap.

I was recently chatting with Micah Carr-Hill, head of taste at Green and Black chocolate, who told me that he didn’t like any of the commercially available chocolate chilli bars and is working on a recipe for Green and Black. (I actually rather like Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Chilli Chocolate, but I guess Carr-Hill would be out of a job if he didn’t think he could improve on the competition. I’m sure we all await his creation with anticipation.) What Carr-Hill’s criticism proves is that chocolate and chilli is a difficult blend to get right, unlike the easy marriage of chocolate and ginger for example.

So hopefully the title Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes shows that this blog is about rising to culinary challenges for the sheer pleasure of good cooking.

Raw Cocoa Beans

Raw Cocoa Beans

 The next important point is both chocolate and chilli are cash crops which are mostly grown in the developing world and so are subject to the vagaries of international trade. Both products raise issues around sustainability, biodiversity, farming and fair trade practices. My Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes blog will not shy away from the tough issue surrounding the politics of food.

 Then I like the name Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes because it is alliterative and trips off the tongue. I like words and literature and I like using food and wine as a metaphor in my creative writing. (Check out my earlier Like Meat Loves Salt short story). I hope this blog will include some good writing.

Plus nobody ever baked a batch of cupcakes just for themselves. This blog is as much about people as it is about food and wine. It is about breaking bread with loved ones. 

So while the title Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes may seem incongruous I believe that it is actually very pertinent. I hope that you’ve been amused reading this and that once in a while you will return to see what I’ve posted. I mean to have fun writing it and I look forward to seeing your comments. I intend to update Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes every Friday. This Friday’s  posting will be a short extract from my new play The Prince and Culinette.

 So that’s enough blog-analysis. Now have a Chocolate Chilli Cupcake:


Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes 

My thanks to Mark Whitfield for his photography and endless patience.

My thanks to Mark Whitfield markwhitfieldphotography.com for his photography and endless patience.









Makes12 cupcakes.

100g SR Flour

50g Cocoa Powder

0.5 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Chilli Powder

1 tsp Cinnamon

0.5 tsp Cardamom

0.5 tsp Nutmeg

Pinch Salt

100g Butter

100g Sugar

2 Eggs

2 Tablespoons Strong Black Coffee

0.5 tsp Vanilla Essence

2 Tablespoons Milk if Required


Paper cupcake wrappers


To Decorate


100g Dark Chocolate


Sift the flour, cocoa, spices and salt.

In another bowl beat the eggs and combine with coffee and vanilla

In a food processor cream the butter and sugar.

Then blend in the egg and coffee mixture.

Fold through the dry ingredients.

Add milk if required to make a soft texture.

Put 12 cupcake wrappers on a tray and drop a large spoon of mixture into each one.

Bake for 12-15mins at 180°c.


When cool decorate with melted chocolate, hundreds and thousands, green and red icing or whatever you think makes your fairies look as devilish as possible. 


The poor relation, bitter loses out to easy to please sweet, robust salt and even mean and lean sour. But as cooks are we also losing out by not consciously including bitter in our dishes? Is being bitter really such a crime?

‘Delicious, this is really bitter.’ Why does that sound so wrong? The other tastes don’t get such a bad press. No one curls up their lip at the phrase ‘lovely and sweet’ or a proffered salty crisp or even the prospect of a salvia-smacking sour grapefruit segment, but bitter never raises a smile.

Of course, the palate does have a natural aversion to bitter, because this is how many poisons taste, as do many medicines. For example quinine, used to treat malaria, is also a flavour component of tonic water and bitter lemon. But if we ignore the potential of bitter are we missing a culinary trick?

I have a recipe from the Cantinetta Antinori in Florence, a restaurant which always receives rave reviews, for crostini cavalo nero, or black cabbage on toast. I have never cooked it. Partially because I suspect it is a dish that needs to be tried in situ and would get lost in translation away from Tuscany, but also such a show of bitterness seems less than appealing compared with say sweet tomato or salty cheese or even tangy leaves laced with vinaigrette.

Still there are plenty of home grown examples where bitter is an essential component to a dish: bitter/sweet Oxford marmalade, carrot and walnut cake, endive salad with Roquefort and walnuts. But these are ‘homeopathic’ portions; they tease the bitter appreciating papillae on the tongue without causing them alarm. Even bitter dark chocolate with 70% cocoa solids is off set with fats and sweeteners and a few hardy souls may knock back a sugar-free espresso but most of us succumb to a cube of sugar, milk or diluting hot water rather than take a shot unadulterated.

But as a cook I can’t help but wonder if I shouldn’t be making a more conscious effort to include bitter flavours into my repertoire. After all as a wine lover one of my favourite grape varieties is Chenin Blanc which comes in many styles but even in its dessert wine guise it usually distinguishes itself with a bitter taste of pithy grapefruit. Fish Hoek, Chenin Blanc 2007 from the Western Cape (£6.99 in Tesco) is a good example and if you would like to upscale then Jacky Blot, Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, Remus, Montlouis Sec, Loire, 2006 at £101.52 for six bottles on www.everywine.co.uk is fantastic.

So should I come out and proclaim: I love bitter! Surely it is better to be a maverick than ignore one of the most exciting primary tastes? To live with meals only three-quarters enjoyed? Yes! I will no longer neglect my bitter taste buds. They will no longer cry out for attention only to be chastised with a spoon of medicine. I shall include radicchio and endives in my salads, I will braise brassicaceae, add coffee grinds to anything that they might possibly enhance, I will make bitter chocolate sauces and serve them with roast meats but will I make cabbage on toast for lunch? No. That one will have to wait for a visit to Tuscany. After all if it all goes wrong it could leave a worryingly bitter taste in my mouth.

To see Katrina’s webpage visit http://www.katrinaalloway.co.uk/