Bia Sasta's own hot chocolate creatio

Have you had a ‘real’ hot chocolate?

Of course I love hot chocolate and yes, I do add those little cute marshmallows on top (you only live once).

Now, I am not talking about the sweetened powder stuff you get – most of the hot chocolate powder products are bulked up with whey powder (nothing wrong with it – whey is a good source of protein), flavourings, palm oil, anti-caking agents etc. Not my favourite ingredients to be honest.

So, let’s talk about ‘proper’ hot chocolate. Chocolate drinks were around as early as 500BC when Mayans mixed ground-up cocoa beans with water, cornmeal and chilli (they knew how to add a punch). Chocolate only made its way to Europe when explorers brought cocoa beans and the equipment used by Mexican natives home after their travels.

The original drink was a rather bitter affair and we have to thank Spain for heating the drink up to become more like the hot chocolate we know now by omitting the chilli and adding sugar to the drink.

But it was British chocolate houses who adapted using milk instead of water to create our now popular hot chocolate drink. You can get hot chocolate on almost any hot drink menu but most of the time it is a brown milk with hardly any substance or flavour other than the cream on top and if you are lucky with a few meagre marshmallows.

I was introduced to ‘proper’ hot chocolate through a Turkish friend many moons ago who used actual chocolate melting slowly in milk and adding cinnamon and nutmeg and just a tiny amount of sugar. The result was a rich, creamy dream of chocolate heaven – it smelled like I assume Willy Wonka’s factory must have smelled and the velvety texture warmed and tickled you on the way from the mouth to your very happy tummy.

My friend never added cream but there’s nothing stopping us from adding that extra little luxury and let’s not forget the marshmallows.

Here’s my very simple recipe for hot chocolate: 100ml milk, 50ml cream (or 150ml milk), 100g chocolate (if you like a more bitter flavour, go for darker chocolate with min 53% cocoa solids or milk chocolate with 30% cocoa solids for a more sweeter version).

Place the milk, cream and broken chunks of chocolate into a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a gentle boil over a medium heat (you don’t want a rapid boil which might spoil the milk but gently melt the chocolate).

When all is nicely melted, you could add some cinnamon, ginger and/or nutmeg and for a more boozy version, why not add some good whiskey to the mix?

You can also use white chocolate instead of the milk or dark one and add vanilla and for a little kick add some Malibu and coconut flakes.

Your imagination is the only limit with regard to flavourings. Now imagine sitting in front of the fire with your fingers wrapped around a mug of beautiful hot chocolate, feet in woolly socks and a good book on your lap – I call that a perfect night in!