The chocolate tree — Theobroma cacao — has grown wild in tropical Central America since prehistoric times. The chocolate tree probably developed in the headwaters of the Amazon Basin and spread throughout Central America. The Latin name Theobroma actually means “food of the Gods”.
Now, chocolate lovers worldwide consume more than a million tonnes of processed chocolate each year. And this chocolate boom shows no signs of cooling off; in fact, it is fuelled by scientific research that shows how chocolate can have a beneficial impact on our health. From being shunned as an unhealthy and fattening snack, chocolate has today reclaimed its true status as a revitalising medicine for the body as well as the mind — a gift from the Gods indeed.
Buoyed by strong evidence of cocoa's cardiovascular health benefits, researchers are examining its effect on a wide range of ailments in the hopes of confirming what the Mayans knew long ago — cocoa has medicinal value. The areas under study include everything from improving memory to fighting cancer.
What's driving the interest in cocoa and dark chocolate is its rich concentration of antioxidants and natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables that may help protect cells and reduce the risk of disease.
Dark chocolate and cocoa are particularly rich in antioxidants called flavanols, which are also found in green tea and red wine.
Scientific advances have meant that researchers are now able to isolate and identify these key compounds.
Chocolate also acts as an antiseptic, diuretic, parasiticide, and pilatory. It is used to treat burns, cough, listlessness, pregnancy, and snake bite.
Cocoa has theobromine that has an effect similar to caffeine. It stimulates the muscles, heart, and kidneys. In fact, it can relieve congestion during colds by simply opening the bronchial passages in the lungs.
Now, for a recipe.
Chocolate Avacado Terrine – Eggless
Preparation time: 30 min
Dark bitter chocolate: 250 grams
Double cream: 125 + 50 ml
Orange zest: 5 grams
Avocado pulp-well ripped: 100 grams
Vanilla bean/ extract: 2 grams
Sugar: 30 grams
In a heavy-bottomed pan, add 125 ml of cream and bring to a boil.
Add the chopped chocolate and mix thoroughly. Cool to room temperature.
Chill the remaining 50 ml of cream and whip until thick.
Gently fold the cream to the chocolate mix.
Add the sugar, vanilla and zest to the avocado pulp, and blend thoroughly.
Layer the dessert glass with alternate layers of chocolate and avocado mousse, and chill for at least two hours.
Chef's note: One can substitute the avocado pulp with a pulpy fruit puree or fruit chunks. Or, use only the chocolate mix with coffee or nutella for flavour, for a rich chocolate dessert.