Festive Chocolate

Rich, dark chocolate with fruit and nuts — the colours of the festive season. This simple recipe is suitable for most diets including Dairy Free, Fodmap, Gluten Free and Vegan.

Unsurprisingly, I have found that making chocolate in Zambia is more difficult than it is in ‘cool’ London. When I arrived in July, I bought some coconut oil for baking and making chocolate. What remains is no longer a jar of solid white fat but a liquid oil that has melted in the heat. It is good for frying but not for making chocolate.

So, in this recipes I have used a solid vegetable oil which gives a firmer chocolate. You could use butter when not catering for Vegan or Dairy Free diets; or, of course, stick with coconut oil if you are living in a cooler climate.

Another adaptation to my chocolate recipe has been the use of honey as a sweetener. Maple syrup is not readily available and local honey (not for Vegan diets) or a corn syrup are good alternatives. The honey does not overwhelm the strong chocolate flavour.

Festive cheer comes with the addition of pomegranate, which bursts with sweetness and moisture, and pistachio nuts (toasted sunflower seeds for Nut Free diet), which provide the vibrant green colour and crunch. The intensity of these flavours is enhanced with a little salt and orange zest.

In this hot climate, good quality chocolate must be stored in the refrigerator, something I would previously not have recommended because it quickly discolours. The lessons are not tough to follow, ie: (a) chocolate is a winter food; and (b) it must be eaten quickly!

I have made this in a small, lined quiche dish, cutting slices to serve like a cake. Alternatives are a chocolate mould or a lined small tin from which you can slice or break off small pieces.

Diets for which Festive Chocolate is suitable:

Dairy Free, Diabetic, Egg Free, Fodmap, Gluten Free, Nut Free, Paleo, Vegetarian and Vegan


Preparation: 15 mins | Cook: 5 mins | Serves: 300 gm (approximately)
140 gm (1 cup) cocoa powder (or cacao), sifted
140 gm (5 oz) vegetable margarine *
1/3 cup honey (not Vegan or Diabetic, see notes)**
1 cup whole pistachios (not Nut Free, see notes)***
1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
2 tsp fresh clementine zest
1/4 tsp sea salt


SHELL the pistachios and remove the skin to reveal the vibrant green colour. (Slice the nuts in half if the skin cannot easily be removed.)
MELT margarine in a saucepan or in a microwave.
WHISK sifted cocoa, salt and honey into the oil.
FOLD in the pomegranate, pistachio nuts and orange zest.
POUR the mix onto a lined tray or quiche pan; or into silicon chocolate mounds. (Use greaseproof paper or cling film to line the tray or pan.)****
SET in the freezer for 30 minutes or at room temperature for a few hours. (In a hot climate the chocolate must be set and stored in the refrigerator.)
SLICE or break the chocolate into small portions to serve.


— As a sweet treat over the festive period.


* In a hot climate use a vegetable margarine or butter (not Vegan or Dairy Free); or coconut oil when it is solid at room temperature.
** Use maple syrup, corn syrup or agave for Vegan diets. For Diabetics, use liquid Stevia in the quantity recommended as a substitute for syrup.
*** Nut Free diet replace pistachio nuts with toasted sunflower seeds.

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