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Hot from Mexico
FLAVOURFUL PODS Vanilla
Fragrant vanilla beans are the pods or fruits obtained from a tropical climbing orchid. This prized bean is native to the tropical rain forests of Central America and was spread to other tropical regions by the Spanish explorers.
Selection and storage
Vanilla beans are available in herbs and spices stores year round. One may also find vanilla essence and vanilla sugar in these stores. Vanilla beans are usually available either singly or in small bundles, packed in a long glass tube or jar.
Alternatively, store whole vanilla beans in a jar of castor sugar and allow it to remain for 3-4 weeks so that the flavour permeates the sugar. This fragrant vanilla sugar can be used in cakes, puddings, pies and ice-creams.
In addition to its culinary uses, vanilla has a number of health benefits.
Vanilla is drunk as an infusion for increasing male potency.
It is believed to help prevent cancer.
The oil is used to improve digestion.
It can be used to manufacture medicines that help boost the body's immunity.
It is said to help prevent memory loss.
Now, for a recipe.
Mexican Hot Chocolate with Chilli Pepper
Milk: three-and-a-quarter cups
Vanilla bean: 1
Dark chocolate tablets (single origin preferred), crushed: 9 oz
Water: 1 cup
Chillies, seeds removed: Half
Wild honey: 3 tbsp
A pinch of salt
Bring the milk to a simmer with the vanilla bean and infuse for 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and slit it lengthwise.
Scrape out the contents and stir it into the chocolate with water.
Using a whisk, stir it into the hot milk, whisking briskly till the chocolate has melted completely. Chop the chilli very finely. Stir it into the drink with the honey and salt. Serve hot.
Executive Sous Chef
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