The Little Island Kitchen – Chocolate

December is chocolate month here in The Little Island Kitchen, and what fun it was developing these recipes! From the awesome chocolatiers that I was able to source from to the last little spoonful of the final product, every moment has been a joy. I think that is part of the magic of chocolate – its power to delight and create warmth.

And while we may often think of chocolate as only a sweet ingredient, there is a wonderful fruity earthiness that lends itself perfectly to rich savoury dishes as well. Here I’ve created recipes that celebrate both sides of chocolate’s complex flavours. First up, a practically guilt-free Vegan Chocolate Mousse that will satisfy even the most committed chocoholic’s cravings, followed by a Cacao Beef Stew that packs real depth of flavour and a bit of fiery heat.

When it comes to sourcing chocolate, I try to make sustainable and conscientious choices. We are so lucky on Prince Edward Island to have some great small-scale chocolatiers who use only the finest and ethically sourced chocolate. Pamela Good of Choc Full of Good Chocolatier uses professional-grade Belgian and French chocolate for her modern and creative chocolate truffles, pralines and bars. For the mousse, Good recommended I try an 80% Kumabo, a blend of East and West African cocoas that features beautiful notes of dark fruits and a satisfying bitterness, which stands out among the other ingredients with ease.


The chocolate, or should I say “cacao”, for my beef stew came from Catlin Doyle of Nurturing Essence Raw Chocolate. Cacao is the purest form of chocolate, and you can get it conveniently in a cacao paste which looks a bit like irregular chocolate buttons. Doyle sources the finest cacao and creates beautiful raw cacao treats exclusively with natural ingredients, including brownies, energy balls, and Dream Cake. This cacao provided the perfect finishing notes for my rich and warming beef stew.

There is nothing like the silky texture and fruity taste of good chocolate. Of course, I don’t need to tell you that.



Cacao Beef Stew

Serves 6 / 1 hr 5 mins
1lb beef shin, cut in 1-2″ chunks
2 tbsp flour
1⁄2 tsp each salt and pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
4 strips bacon, chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs/1 heaped tsp thyme
1 sprig/1 tsp rosemary leaves
1 tsp dried sage
2 tsp cayenne
1⁄2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock
1⁄2 cup cacao, chopped
Extra salt and pepper to taste
Coat beef chunks in flour, salt, pepper, cayenne and cloves. Brown the beef and spicy flour mixture in the olive oil on medium heat in a Dutch oven or large stew pot. Do this in batches if you have to so the beef isn’t too crowded to brown. Once all sides are browned, remove from the pot and set aside.
Add the bacon pieces and cook until just crispy. Then add the onions, carrots, garlic and herbs and cook on medium-low heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium and cook off the boozy vapours for about 3 minutes.
Return the browned beef to the pot and pour in the beef stock. Turn the heat down to low and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes until the liquid has reduced to a nice gravy and the beef is tender.
Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped cacao. The heat of the gravy will melt it and the rich cacao flavours will swirl into the stew. Test the flavour for seasoning and chili heat and adjust to your liking with a bit more salt, pepper, or chilli flakes.
Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and root vegetables, or pour over gnocchi with some garlicky spinach on the side.
Recipe created by Paige Matthie
Vegan Chocolate Mousse
Makes 4-6 servings / 20 minutes plus 20 mins chilling
250g dark chocolate (I like 80% with some fruity notes)
2 avocados, ripe
1⁄3 cup coconut milk
1⁄3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp sea salt (flakes, or fine)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Optional: add a measure of your favourite liqueur for a grown up treat or experiment with chilli heat or a sprinkle of crunchy nuts
Mash the avocados in a large mixing bowl with a fork until smooth and then blend with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender with a whisk attachment. This will help lighten the texture.
Add the maple syrup, coconut milk, vanilla and salt to the blended avocados and whisk again until fully incorporated and whippy in texture, about a couple of minutes.
Break up the chocolate into small pieces and melt it in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water until smooth and silky (the steam from the water gently melts the chocolate without burning it).
Add the melted chocolate to the avocado mixture and whisk until fully blended and you’ve beaten as much air into it as possible.
Spoon the mixture into serving bowls and chill. I like to use teacups, or even mason jars with lids to make it portable.
Recipe created by Paige Matthie.