At our local markets here in France there are a few producers that grow a lot of unusual varieties of fruits and vegetables. A few weeks back one of the producers had a big bag of these strange looking fruits we had never seen before. She had grown them but wasn’t sure exactly what to do with them and she asked us if we’d like to do some research on them and try out some recipes. Obviously we jumped at the chance and dove into the weird world of the kiwano.
Kiwano, also known as horned melon or horned cucumber, is native to the Kalahari dessert where it is a great source of moisture and nutrition during the dry season. It is high in vitamin A and vitamin E, making it good for cognitive function ­and eyesight. It looks stunning when ripe and is often used simply for decorative purposes. The skin is spiky and tough and definitely not suitable for eating. The flesh is a bright green and tastes somewhere between a kiwi and a cucumber. It is refreshing, slightly citric and right on the line between a sweet and a savoury.

Kiwano is great to eat fresh out of the skin. You can chop the fruit in half then squeeze it, if it’s ripe the seeds and flesh will start to pop out. Some people eat the seeds but we found them too tough, it is the flesh around the seeds that tastes good. The challenge is separating the flesh from the tough seeds. If you are eating the fruit straight with your hands you can put the seed in the front of your teeth and suck the flesh from the seeds between your teeth, like you would with a seeded grape. The best way we found is to cut them in half lengthways to scoop out the flesh and the seeds, blend it all with a food blender and then put that through a sieve to remove the seed chunks. You will then be left with a delicious thick green juice.

We did try and cook the flesh to make a jam or compot, that was a mistake, it lost all of its flavor and the colour and texture was like something for a Halloween party. By far our favourite way to eat kiwano is as a sorbet. We simply took the juice of one kiwano, added two tablespoons of sugar and put it in an ice cream maker. It makes an ideal mid meal palate cleanser and would also work fantastically for a ‘trou normand’.
Another favourite way to use it is in a salad dressing, where the refreshing, slightly citrus flavor works really well. We used 1 part kiwano juice to 1 part mayonnaise, half part of natural yoghurt and a pinch of salt.
The flavours of kiwano work very well with yoghurt and it makes a pretty good cucumber substitute for a riatta (but there is a lot of liquid). It would work really well in smoothies and next on our list to try are some kiwano cocktails.

So if you come across this strange and beautiful fruit we hope you pick it up and try it out. Otherwise, maybe we can have it when you come to eat with us at La Maison Bleue.



As the festive season is fast approaching, we are all planning and preparing to cook, eat and share the most wonderful foods. So what could be a more appropriate time to talk about one of the most eaten delicacies, the food everybody loves, the ‘food of gods’ : chocolate. We English are the biggest consumers of chocolate per capita, eating an average of 11.5kg a year each.
From the fine dark chocolates to the mass produced confectionaries, chocolate is very much taken for granted in the western world and there is little appreciation for the lengthy process and complexities involved in creating a bar of chocolate.

The cacao beans come from the cacao trees ‘Theobroma cacao’ which is Greek for ‘food of the gods’. The cacao trees originate from South America where they were first cultivated by the Mayans around 600 BC. They then traded them with the Aztecs who roasted and ground the beans to make it into a drink used for religious ceremonies. The Aztecs valued the cacao beans enough to use them as a form of currency.
Nowadays most cacao is grown by the 2.5 million cacao farmers on smallholdings in West Africa (Ivory Coast being the largest producer).
The cacao trees need to be planted in hot and damp climates next to tall trees in order to protect them from direct sunlight often amongst papaya and mango trees. It takes 3 to 5 years before the cacao tree bears fruits and once mature each tree produces around 1,000 beans a year, which may seem like a lot but it is only enough to make 1kg of chocolate.
The trees bear large fruit pods from its trunk each containing 20 to 40 seeds or cacao beans which are embedded in a white pulp. When the fruits are ripe the farmers break open the pods and put the pulp and the beans in a large pile to ferment in the tropical heat for anything between 2 to 8 days. During this period the sugars in the pulp ferment and the bacteria penetrates into the beans breaking down the astringent particles and creating a wide variety of desirable flavours and flavour precursors that will be developed in roasting. This is one of the least controlled parts of the chocolate making process but it has a massive impact on the taste of the final product. Poorly fermented beans will give the final chocolate unpleasant aromas. Sometimes if the beans are left too long they will go mouldy and sometimes the fermentation process is skipped entirely. It is up to the buyer to determine which beans have been well fermented and select them for their flavour potential.
Once the beans have fermented they will be dried to preserve them. The main method of drying is still to lay out the beans in the sunshine for several days, although sometimes they are dried over stoves or heaters to speed up the process. At this stage the beans are still very far from being anything like the chocolate we know and love, they are bitter, dry and astringent. The transformation from these beans into a chocolate bar is complex and very rarely happens in the same place as the beans are grown, instead they are shipped to Europe and America where the beans are made into chocolate in large factories. To get an idea of how far removed the growers are from the end product watch this video showing cacao growers in the Ivory Coast trying chocolate for the first time.

On arrival at the chocolate manufacturer the cacao beans will be gently roasted to develop their flavours further. The beans are then cracked open and the ‘nibs’ are extracted and the husks are discarded. To transform the nibs into a solid bar of chocolate which is glossy, smooth and with a good ‘snap’, they have to be put through various stages of milling, refining and tempering. The reason chocolate is so appealing to us is that it is one of the few food products that melts at body temperature so it literally melts in your mouth. Also after the roasting and refining it has an extraordinary 550 flavonoids (a carrot typically has 96), it is literally a flavour explosion. The industrial processing of cacao was first developed by a Dutchman called Conrad van Houten in 1828. The chocolate manufacturers Fry and Sons in Bristol then made the very first chocolate bar in 1848. By the end of the 19th Century the Swiss company Nestle had developed methods for creating ultra smooth chocolate and incorporating powdered milk. The milk chocolate bar as we know it was born.


A fine quality dark chocolate will contain around 70% cocoa solids the remaining 30% is sugar. Mass produced chocolate is made with a minimum amount of cocoa solids and the maximum amount of sugar and milk, in fact most ‘chocolate’ in the UK contains less than 1% cocoa solids. The reason chocolate gets such a bad reputation for health is simply because of the large amounts of added sugars. In fact cocoa itself is really exceptionally good for you. Although it is high in saturated fats it is a specific fat that does not raise your cholesterol. It is high in potassium and is number one for magnesium after seaweed. It also contains phosphorus and calcium, which build bones, tissues and nerves in the body. If you eat cocoa in it’s raw form (ie not roasted) the nutritional benefits are massively increased. Like all seeds cacao beans contain all the nutrients and fatty acids for the seed to germinate and grow into a tree. Cocoa has an incredibly high amount of antioxidants it has been linked with anti ageing and it has at least seven phenathalamines, which are the ‘love chemicals’ or aphrodisiacs. However these get destroyed in the roasting process and then if you add milk in, it binds itself to the antioxidants and prevents us from absorbing them. It is getting easier to buy raw chocolate from health food stores, Mu has recently been on a workshop learning how to make our very own raw chocolate with The Raw Health Bar in Brighton.


A friend of ours recently moved to Ecuador and has been working directly with the cacao farmers there and he has kindly shared some of his knowledge and experience of the industry with us.

Growing cacao does not require huge amounts of space and most of it is done on small scale farms but the farmers are not paid enough for their beans so more often than not they use logging of the rainforest to subsidise their income. Unless it is a protected reserve, if you own the land you can log as much as you like on the property. The logging companies know that cacao producers earn very little and they put pressure on them to sell the trees and the land.
The second main problem is that the buyers and intermediaries will not discern between good and poor quality beans and they will offer the same price for them. This has a knock on affect where there is no incentive for farmers to grow a high quality product. For organic producers in particular, the certification is often tedious and long with many trainings and a lot of paperwork. To then have to sell the beans at the same price as non organic means it is often simply not worthwhile for the farmers. But times are changing with the US and some parts of Europe (mainly in the UK) consuming more organic chocolate. Hopefully if the market for organic chocolate keeps growing, it will then encourage the producers to turn to organic certification.
Fair Trade chocolate also faces similar issues. Even though small producers have benefited from Fairtrade International’s support: gender equality, training on the organic certification, knowledge on climate change, better livelihoods, offering educational opportunities to children in the communities, access to health, etc, the impact is still too little and the Fairtade minimum price is often not much higher than the market price. As of 2014, less than 1 % of the chocolate market was Fair trade.
It is us as consumers that can change this, by buying organic and Fairtrade, it will boost the market and encourage a more sustainable industry where farmers can provide for themselves and their families.
Our friend Martin is working on a new project in Ecuador in the Choco rainforest where the cacao producers are making a very high quality cacao and asking for a high price. The extra money is then re invested in conservation and research and also saving one of the most endangered species on our planet, the brown headed spider monkeys. Here’s a little video that Badj helped to create that explains the project and a link to the fundraiser, please support it.

 By spending a little extra on your chocolate you will not only get a much better tasting chocolate but you will be helping the farmers that grow the cacao to make a sustainable living, so they don’t have to destroy the environment and hopefully they too can enjoy the delights of the ‘food of the gods’.

Raw Chocolate Recipe

Ingredients (makes around 16 chocolates):

    • 40g of organic raw cocoa butter
    • 20g of organic raw cacao powder
    • 20g of carob powder
    • 20g of lucuma powder
    • 1 to 2 tbsp of organic coconut oil melted
    • 1 to 1.5 tsp of maple syrup or raw honey or coconut sugar
    • Toppings: goji berries, almonds, seeds, vanilla powder, orange oil, cayenne pepper or anything you fancy


  1. Melt the cacao butter over a bain-marie. The water needs to be no higher that 50C
  2. Once melted add the cacao powder and stir. Then add the carob and lucuma still stirring over the bain-marie.The chocolate mixture should reach a temperature of no more than 31C. If it gets too cold and stiff, discard some of the cold water in the bain-marie and replace with hot.
  3. Add some of the coconut oil to the mixture so you have a silky and shiny chocolate. Keep stirring. When the chocolate looses its shine you will know that the chocolate has gone out of temper. You could then add more hot water to the
  4. When you have reached a shiny and runny consistency, you are then ready to pour the chocolate into the silicone molds.
    You can then add your favourite ingredients either in the chocolate or directly in the molds.
  5. Place in the fridge until the chocolate have set.
    When ready take out of the molds and store in the fridge.


Honey is one of the staples we always have around the kitchen. We use it frequently in our baking and our boys really enjoy the sweetness and the many flavours honey has to offer. It is part of our lives as friends and family have hives and often treat us with this sweet natural syrup. The harvest season is in full effect and local markets and autumnal festivals show an abundance of colours, flavours and textures. It has been a pleasure sampling all the different local raw honeys and we thought this was the perfect time to learn and find out more about this delicious natural treat.

A few interesting facts show that people have been eating and collecting honey for at least 10,000 years and we have been domesticating honey bees for at least 4,000, according to ancient hieroglyphs. Honey has had countless mentions in literature and songs throughout the years. It was one of the first sweet and luxurious foods before the discovery of sugar cane so it is not surprising that it was referred to as ‘a little piece of heaven fallen to earth’.

honey pots

To understand what honey is we first had to learn a little bit about sugars. There are 3 main types of sugars: glucose, fructose and sucrose. Glucose is one of the simplest and most common sugars and it is what plants use to make starch chains. Fructose is also found in plants, particularly fruits, it is almost exactly the same as glucose in terms of chemical make up but the atoms are just arranged differently. Fructose is the sweetest of all sugars. Sucrose is what we commonly call sugar, it is one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose joined together. Plants naturally produce sucrose in photosynthesis.

Honey is made from sucrose in the form of nectar that the bees collect, they then use enzymes to separate the sucrose into its component glucose and fructose elements. This is what is known as an invert sugar and can be highly concentrated without crystallizing, which is why honey is runny in it’s natural state. Once they have split up the sugars, the bees will spend several weeks fanning the honey with their wings to reduce the water content and get it as concentrated as possible before storing it away in the waxy comb.

honey comb

From a nutritional point of view, honey is really not very different from standard table sugar, it has the same amount of calories as sugar and so if you are dieting or diabetic it shouldn’t be used as an alternative. Raw unfiltered honey does have some vitamins, minerals and enzymes but these are negligible compared to the amount of sugar you would need to eat. Mass produced honey is pasteurized and filtered which kills any enzymes and strips it of its minerals, so buying unfiltered raw honey is a must. For us one of the best things about honey is it’s flavour, each honey is unique to it’s location and the flowers and fruits that are grown in the area. The colour of the honey is determined by the source of the nectar and the mineral content of the flowers. Generally the lighter the colour the milder the flavour.

honey types2

There is however another food made by bees which is very nutritious; bee pollen. Bee pollen is commonly referred to as nature’s most complete food. It has everything a human needs for survival. It is high in complete proteins, half of which are in the form of amino acids which can be absorbed directly into the body. In addition, bee pollen provides more than a dozen vitamins, 28 minerals, 11 enzymes or co-enzymes, 14 beneficial fatty acids, 11 carbohydrates and it is low in calories. This is truly a superfood, but it is also food for the bees so, like with honey, beekeepers must be very careful as to how much pollen they take. Eating bee pollen regularly has many benefits, it aids digestion, boosts energy and can also stimulates ovarian function thus can help with infertility problems. Bee pollen is best eaten at mealtimes especially with fruit as it helps to cleanse the intestinal flora.

bee pollen

Royal jelly is another food found in the hive which is also very nutritious. Royal Jelly is released from the top of a bee’s head and is used in the nutrition of larva as well as adult queens. In fact, queen larvae are put into these special queen cells and are surrounded by royal jelly. This is what helps them to develop their “queen morphology”, including the fully developed ovaries needed to lay eggs.  A queen bee lays over 1,000 eggs a day.  Like bee pollen, royal jelly contains a rich variety of nutrients and essential amino acids. Royal jelly has been proven to lower cholesterol, is good for blood pressure and like bee pollen has been proven to increase fertility among many other things.

All these products made by bees can also reduce seasonal allergies like hay fever. In laboratory tests, honey has been proven to have strong antibacterial properties particularly Manuka honey. It is one of the best thing in treating wounds because of its ability to absorb water. Honey also has anti-inflammatory qualities and is known to soothe coughs and sore throats (especially buckwheat honey).

Honey is truly an amazing food and it is even more marvelous when we consider the way it’s made. While its sugar content is high and should be used in moderation, the minerals, vitamins and amino acids make honey a unique produce. It is a treat and a joy, ‘a little slice of heaven.’

Slice of gold2

In the UK, we only produce 15% of the honey we consume, so most commercial honeys are imported. However, there is a thriving community of small scale beekeepers in the UK. There are 24,000 registered members of the British Beekeeping Society with most of them just owning one or two hives. Organic honey is very hard to certify as the bees can get their nectar from such a large area. With most commercial honeys, it’s highly likely the bees are feeding off flowers with pesticides on them and the hives are being given veterinary medications. This is another reason why you should find locally produced honey and get to know your local beekeeper .

Have a look at this video we made of our friend Darren Hougham and his son Leo collecting their first honey harvest.

Also here is a video we made of us making Dutch honey cake while visiting Badj’s mum in Devon using honey she collected from the bee hives in her garden



  • 1 1/2 cups plain white flour
  • 1 1/2 cups rye flour
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup runny honey
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tbl yoghurt


Set the oven to 170º C. Combine all the dry ingredients on a large mixing bowl. The spices are just guides and you can really add whatever spices you like and have to hand. Add all the wet ingredients and beat well. Line a 5″ x 9″ bread loaf tin with baking parchment. Pour in the batter and bake in the oven for 1 hour. You may want to check it before the hour depending on your oven. If you can put a knife in and it comes out clean, your cake is ready. It will keep fine for several days but by far is best while warm from the oven with lashings of butter.  Enjoy


RESOURCES: Here’s where we got our information from and some useful links:

McGee on Food & Cooking – Harold McGee

Healing With Whole Foods – Paul Pitchford