Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Daisy James is touring with Sunshine and Secrets and popped by to say hi

I'm incredibly lucky to be part of this amazing tour for Daisy, who is a fabulous writer.

Over to you Daisy...

The Paradise Cookery School - Sunshine & Secrets is set on the spectacular Caribbean island of St Lucia. The story centres on Millie Harper as she attempts to oversee the renovations of a dilapidated villa situated on a disused cocoa plantation, high on the hillside overlooking the town of Soufrière in the south of the island, before a group of discerning foodies descend for a week’s tutorial.
Not only is Millie in charge of making sure the laid-back builders install the kitchen sink in the right place and the precious Italian marble units don’t get cracked, she is also responsible, along with her friend and Caribbean chef Ella Johnson, for triple-testing every recipe that will feature on the course which turns out to be a massive undertaking.
In order to make sure the story was as authentic as possible, I did a great deal of research into the food of St Lucia. Caribbean cuisine is a blend of African, European, Indian, Arab and Chinese influences, a real melting pot of flavours, textures and aromas. For the savoury dishes there is a heavy emphasis on spicy jerk flavours and marinades using what is know as the Holy Trinity of Ingredients – Scotch Bonnet peppers, spring onions and fresh thyme. Desserts are varied; from myriad tropical fruits such as mangoes, passionfruit, guava, breadfruit and sapodilla, to baked goods such as Caribbean rum cake or truffle pie, not to mention chocolate and coconut cookies.
As the Paradise Cookery School is situated on a cocoa plantation that the owner, Claudia Croft, hopes one day to bring back to life, many of the recipes featured in Sunshine & Secrets contain chocolate or cocoa. When I was researching the recipes for Millie and Ella to showcase to their students, I set about baking my own chocolate-inspired creations. My family were overjoyed. The kitchen became infused with delicious aromas of chocolate brownies – which to everyone’s surprise revealed a generous sprinkle of chilli which goes really well with chocolate. I baked chocolate cheesecakes, chocolate cookies, chocolate cupcakes, we even had grilled salmon in a chocolate and ginger sauce.

Here’s my recipes for chilli chocolate brownies. You can add as much or as little chilli as you like, depending on your preference, but we like them to have a bit of a kick.

The Paradise Cookery School’s Chilli Chocolate Brownies
125g butter
275g caster sugar
2 eggs
50g self-raising flour
25g plain flour
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
100g of plain chocolate
1 teaspoon of chilli powder
Half teaspoon of vanilla essence
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Put the butter, sugar, vanilla essence and chilli powder into a bowl and beat until fluffy. Break the eggs into a small bowl, beat then add, a little at a time to the buttery mixture. Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and beat well then dd the melted chocolate. Spoon the mixture into a lined tin (20cm square) and bake for 35 minues at 180C of Gas Mark 4. They are ready when a crust has formed on the top.  Cut into squares and dust with icing sugar. Delicious!

Mind you...
 St Lucia isn’t just about sun, sea, sand and sailing. The island has a wealth of attractions and activities on offer. Millie meets up with the cocoa plantation’s prickly estate manager, Zach, who suggests a trip to the open-air market in the island’s capital Castries - a veritable treasure trove for a professional chef - where she can sniff, squeeze and taste all the local produce available. Castries market doesn’t only sell fresh fruit and vegetable and that day’s catch, but also hand-made crafts and souvenirs like pottery, carved masks, woven hats and brightly coloured head scarves. However, the best thing to do at the market is sit with a drink, inhale the spice-infused aromas and soak up the atmosphere.
There are plenty of activities to enjoy too, so it’s not all sitting around taste-testing the rum. Zach took Millie on a zip-wire ride through the tropical rainforest which, eventually, she loved.
So, if it’s cold, rainy and dull in your part of the world, why not take a virtual trip to the Caribbean and attend one of Millie Harper’s Paradise Cookery School courses? You won’t be disappointed!

So if you want to go and but the book you can do it, just by clicking here 

Now excuse me I'm off to try out those cookies.

Happy reading,

love Raven x

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