Secrets from the Walled Garden – beauty workshop bookings open

Botanical alchemy – plant inspired beauty

Hi there,

I am running a morning workshop with Fulham Palace in November, its a beautiful place with a fascinating history and a secret oasis in the metropolis.  Join me for some ‘kitchen alchemy’, drawing inspiration from the Palace Gardens and my treasury of organic essential oils to  create gorgeous potions for health + beauty, ideal as seasonal gifts and take home tips on natural recipes for seasonal beauty.  Here’s the lowdown, hope to see you there:

Saturday 24 November 2012, 10am – 1pm

Botanical oils workshop

Inspired by the history of the Walled Garden and its use not only as a kitchen garden but also a sensory haven filled with fragrant herbs and flowers, clinical aromatherapist Tanya Moulding will draw on its botanical bounty to show you how to create two generous sized, natural products to take home; an infused, herbal culinary oil and a beautifying bath and body oil, perfect for Christmas gifts. She will also give you some recipes to take away and try at home. £30 per person, booking essential. Call 020 7751 2432 or email to book.

or click here for information on the venue.


Posted in Botanical ingredients, Culinary, Fragrance themes, Gardens, history, London events, Nature | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shop, Read, Eat Chocolate

The History of Chocolate – Henry Stubbs (late 17c)
(pic credit:

Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power. It is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.”

 Baron Justus von Liebig

A little retail therapy might just be in order with the Autumn nights drawing in; the lure of a good book and the siren call of the confectioners’ art is all too tempting.  So,  lets finish off ‘Chocolate Week’ with a few suggestions so that you can pursue some ‘choc-lit’ therapy.   I have read some of these books, others I covet and are on my wish list, a few I have no idea and literally just did a random search on Google, so I cannot vouch for their content – so it’s rather like a blind tasting when someone steals the chocolate box ‘menu’!

  • Chocolat – Joanne Harris  The story of Vianne Rocher, who bewitches the people of a small, french village with her magical, artisan chocolate skills.  Fabulous and different from the movie, so if you haven’t-read it, then watch the movie!
  • and her sequel ‘The Lollipop Shoes‘ – I have not yet read this, it is on my wish list.  The story of Vianne and her daughter Anouk continues, but this time there is a spiteful cuckoo in the nest (or a fly in the chocolate!).

    Chestnut confection wrapper from French company Ardeche
    (photo credit:

  •  Like Water For Chocolate – Laura Esquivel.One of my favourite books and a real gem.  It was one of the first novels that I read where the heroine literally transfers all her unexpressed passion + love into her cooking with surreal, magical and surprising results.  You will never beat an egg in anger again!
  • The Chocolate Lovers ClubCarole Matthews  Check out the website too (link below), it has chocolate recipes and she recommends the following chocolate-themed books**:
  • Bread and Chocolate – Philippa Gregory, This short story anthology is a mix of contemporary and historical tales.  There’s only one story with chocolate as the mainstay – Bread and Chocolate. **

A bit of fluffier, ‘chic-choc-lit’, I’ve never heard of or read any Trisha Ashley, but Jenny Colgan is always a light, fun read .. a chocolate mousse centre-equivalent.

  • Chocolate WishesTrisha Ashley
  • The loveliest Chocolate Shop in ParisJenny Colgan

    The oldest sweet shop in Paris, 1761 – could it be the loveliest too??
    (photo credit:

  •  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald DahlCaptivating and inventive, with mad-cap confectionery. Love it, great for kids and adults alike!

    Never mind about 1066 William the Conqueror, 1087 William the Second. Such things are not going to affect one’s life … but 1932 the Mars Bar and 1936 Maltesers and 1937 the Kit Kat – these dates are milestones in history and should be seared into the memory of every child in the country.”Roald Dahl

    A bonkers, ‘Wonka’ inspired room made of chocolate!!!
    (photo credit:

  • Willie’s chocolate BibleWillie Harcourt-Cooze  Yes, I deliberately listed it after ‘Wonka Factory’.  This is a fantasmagorical recipe book from the Devon kitchen of this cacao maestro.  It is on my covet list, I’ve only leafed through some pages in a bookshop, but it’s immediate choclust!
  • The True History of ChocolateSophie D Coe
  • The Discovery of Chocolate – Jamie Runcie **
  • The Chocolate ConnoisseurFor everyone with a passion for chocolate – Chloe Doutre-Roussel.  

Chloe is the chocolate buyer at Fortnum + Mason and I found this book on the internet, with mixed reviews.  Still, it seems to contain lots of interesting info to dip into.

but this one with RECIPES (a lumbering title thought!) got lots of rave reviews:

The New Taste of Chocolate: a cultural and natural history of cacao, Maricel Presilla

It’s chocolate o’clock

  • The Whizz Pop Chocolate ShopKate SaundersThis is really a children’s book about a family who take over an old confectionery shop, only to find it is haunted and all kinds of mayhem, magic + chocolate chaos ensues.

A step back in time … magic awaits
The evocative interior of A lamere de famille,
(pic credit:

Ok, books sorted, now take a leisurely amble to choose your chocolate sin of choice.  There are many independent purveyor’s of tongue-tempting chocolatey-ness worth visiting, preferably in person for a complete olfactory and gustatory experience!

William Curley, Belgravia

William Curley shop

Demarquette, Fulham Road

Rococo, Kings Road

Rococo shop front

Coco maya, Paddington

Melt, Notting Hill

La Maison du Chocolat, Piccadilly

Artisan du Chocolat, Chelsea

Artisan du Chocolat shop – I like their sea-salt caramels and single estate bars
(picture credit:

Paul A Young, Islington

Montezumas – Spitalfields,

Pierre Herme Paris, Belgravia

The food halls of Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Masons, Selfridges & Harrods are also heaven sent for chocolate delectables and Fair Trade selections.  ENJOY!

Further info:

Carole Matthews  check her website for info on chocolate + books mentioned here** – a blog on books, set out in themes

A final thought (and its on ‘doctor’s orders!):

“Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.”

Geronimo Piperni

Quoted by Antonio Lavedán, Spanish army surgeon, 1796.

Posted in Candy, Chocolate, Fragrance themes, Literature, London events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Her Dark Material – Cacao absolute

Aromatic cacao flowers

Cacao flowers were ingredients in perfumed baths, and thought to cure fatigue in government officials and others who held public office,”

says the Badianus Codex, published in 1552

The Cacao tree flowers’ bloom in 2 cycles of 6 months the whole year round, thousands of 5-petalled tiny flowers adorn the stem and branches.   Only a few will be fertilised, either naturally by flies (!) or by hand and no more than forty will develop into cocao pods.


close up image of a Cacao flower

It is from the amazing Cacao plant that we get the aromatic Cacao absolute.  I have some here on a tester strip as I write, initially it is dark – like raw cocao nibs and dark chocolate (70-85%), a little bitter and spicy with an alcoholic liqueur note to it.   The deep, warm quality to it is enveloping and intriguing, I noted that after about an hour it gets deeper, venturing almost into a woody territory – reminiscent of an empty grinding barrel after coffee or cacao beans have been pulverised – there’s that trace of a burnt, bitter darkness.

Cacao (chocolate) is ruled by Venus the goddess of love, romance, sensual pleasures and fertility;  on a therapeutic and esoteric level, the aroma of Cacao absolute soothes the heart chakra and encourages self-expression, it is relaxing and may help to increase creativity…(I always find after a few squares of 70% I am raring to hit my to do list!)

Feminine, voluptuous goddess of Love –
Venus Enthroned

It appears that smelling the chocolate aroma seems to awaken in us that same pleasure  we experience in eating it – but without the calories!  It may be said that inhaling the aroma can reduce stress, anxiety and can reduce cravings.  Women who drew a deep breath of the aroma of dark chocolate encountered a considerable drop in appetite, according to the journal ‘Regulatory Peptides‘.  It works because ghrelin levels (which stimulate appetite) nosedive.  So we may summise that it deceives the brain into believing the cravings are appeased.  However, for some, inhaling food aromas may have the opposite effect!!   I must admit though that smelling my natural Cacao absolute has not made me crave any food or chocolate; so it works for me..bring on Christmas, I shall remain a size 10!

I would suggest, that for perfumery+ fragrancing, you can use Cacao absolute to add a sensual enhancement to your blends.  Its rich middle note is quite tenacious and would be a superb ingredient for erotic formulations; not only in perfume, but in diffuser blends, candles, bath soaks and oils.

Its heady deliciousness marries well with the following oils, but I think it works well with more adventurous pairings such as Angelica, Violet, Orris, Vetiver, Cepes absolute? Its interesting to enhance Cacao’s earthiness + greener notes – too easy to take it too far down Hansel + Gretels’ candy house territory!

  • Rose otto/absolute
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Patchouli
  • Tuberose
  • Tonka bean
  • Coffee absolute
  • Benzoin
  • Mint absolute
  • Sandalwood
  • Orange
  • Orange Flower Absolute
  • Jasmine
  • Ylang ylang

I particularly fancy a sprinkle of Cacao in a chypre combination with Vetiver, alternatively, a hint of it with an opulent, white  floral, such as Jasmine and/or Tuberose – heady, decadent stuff!

This material is not for the shrinking violet, but for the indulgent ‘Volupte’ among you;   those who enjoy hedonistic pleasures and abandoned indulgence.  Cacao is a popular ingredient in many gourmand fragrances, and here are a few if you wish to indulge in a spray or two:

I can only vouch for Coco, Chanel** as it is one of my all time favourite orientals, and I usually receive compliments when I wear it  – its familiarity never breeds contempt.  I have also worn Angel** – in fact, I had the WHOLE range at one time; bath, body and spray perfume products!  I must have suffocated everyone within a 5ft radius in a (delicious) gourmet cloud of candy floss, caramel and chocolate!!  I do find it too obvious now, as it is so instantly recognisable .. but I still secretly like it.

I have smelt ‘Kokorico’ on a smell strip and although its a ‘male’ fragrance, I might wear it.  It was quite dark, like a leathery/cocoa so I’d need to test on my skin just to be sure it doesn’t end up smelling like burnt tar on me!  I am tempted to try Jo Malone’s Blue Agava + Cacao, I am not ordinarily tempted by JM due to her price vs scent longevity, but I may be swayed!!

Do you have favourite chocolate or ‘gourmand’ perfume?  Do share! ..  

I have a natural concoction of cacao/tobacco/tuberose blend brewing at the moment and shall report more when I have tweaked and reviewed it.  I am sorely tempted to add a soupcon of recently received Mushroom absolute (Cepes) to the brew.  Decisions, decisions.. …..

My next and final post for ‘Chocolate Week’ will be on Chocolate Literature and some Artisan chocolatiere shops; what better way to pass a chilly, dark autumn evening than with a good book and curled up with some chocolate – liquid or solid!  Join me…cashmere socks optional!

Posted in Aphrodisiac, Chocolate, Culinary, Fragrance themes, Goddesses, Love, Perfume Notes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For the lust of Chocolate

“I know of nothing that stimulates my stomach and excites my mind  more voluptuously than the aromas of the these delicious dishes as they caress the imagination and arouse feelings of desire”   La Nouvelle Justine ou les Malheurs de la Vertu

A chocolate rose – a match made in sensory heaven

The Mayans and Aztecs of Central and South America drank chocolate to give them virility and stamina prizing its powers as an aphrodisiac, it was considered by the Aztec and Mayan people to be sacred to ‘Xochiquetzal‘, the goddess of fertility.   This reputation has not dimmed as Cacao is still commonly listed in the canon of reputed natural aphrodisiacs (alongside oysters, asparagus, avocados etc).  How much this is due to a history of cultural and psychological conditioning – who knows?

What we do know, is that Cacao is a powerhouse of compounds including anandamide, the psyochoactive feel-good chemical, and PEA (phenylethylamine), the “love chemical,” which releases dopamine in the pleasure centers of the brain and peaks during orgasm. PEA is said to help induce feelings of excitement, attraction and euphoria. Cacao also contains tryptophan, a key component of the neurotransmitter serotonin known to promote a sense of well-being and relaxation.   Dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants, but I do not think you will get the same effect from the milky, sweet confections that are so popular in helping you ‘to work rest and play’ or ‘have a break’ – no naming and shaming here!

If you are a chocolate lover, you are in good company as famous lovers such as Casanova and Madame de Pompadour (mistress of King XV of France) took chocolate as a stimulant before lovemaking.

Giacomo Casanova: He said of himself, “I’m not an attractive man; I simply have an unbridled belief that I am capable of anything.”

With such illustrious connections and extravagant, nebulous claims aside, the aroma of (dark) chocolate in any form is in itself a sensual pleasure, a relaxation trigger – especially if it is in liquid form!  Now that Autumnal evenings are drawing in, why not try this sinful, indulgent concoction:

Recipe from ‘The Seven Deadly Sins of Chocolate” – Lust

Spiced Hot Chocolate (serves 4)

Hot chocolate – soul comfort in a mug

  • 90z bittersweet chocolate chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 vanilla bean, split open
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  1. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Put the milk, cream, cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean in a pan and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat, set aside to infuse for 10 minutes, and then bring back to a boil.
  3. Remove the cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean .  Pour the milk carefully onto the chocolate, whisking briskly.  Stir in the brown sugar and serve piping hot.

For  a finishing touch, top with a swirl of Chantilly cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder.

If you desire a more hedonistic, party recipe to celebrate National Cocktail week, then tryout this Cocktail, from

Casanova’s Chocolate Passion   Makes 1 cocktail

  • 1 ounce Dark Crème de Cacao liqueur
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Chambord raspberry liqueur
  • 1 1/2 ounces half and half
  • Ice, for cocktail shaker
  • 1 cranberry, raspberry, or cherry
  1. Combine crème de cacao, vodka, raspberry liqueur, and half and half in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake thoroughly and pour into a chilled martini glass.
  3. Drop in one cranberry, raspberry, or cherry to active Casanova’s passionate love spell. This cocktail is delicious when paired with dessert or even as dessert!
  1. Chocolate Cocktail – A liquid elixir
    (image from + Divine Chocolate cocktail)

Posted in Aphrodisiac, Botanical ingredients, Chocolate, Culinary, Goddesses, smell and the senses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Secrets from a Walled Garden

Create botanically-inspired products at my new Autumn Workshop

Fulham Palace is wonderful horticultural haven in West London, the historical home to the Bishops of London and with a rich botanical history.

The site has been the home to a long line of Bishops dating back to 700 AD.   From late-16th century the gardens were renowned for their botanical diversity, the first Tamarisk tree was planted and cultivated here by Bishop Grindal (1559-1570). However, the gardens gained world significance due to the horticultural zeal of Bishop Compton (1675-1713) who imported many rare species and was responsible for the first Magnolia in Europe to be grown here at the Palace.

the lush beauty of a Magnolia tree

On Saturday, 24th November, I will be running a morning workshop (10am -1pm) creating beautiful botanical products both culinary and cosmetic; drawing on the history of  the walled garden and its original plants as inspiration.

Booking details will be available soon, in the meantime check out the link to Fulham Palace to get a peek at the lovely grounds and cafe, which you can explore after the workshop!

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Bite sized chocolate info ..

A cornucopia of cacao pods
They sooo look like autumnal squashes!!

… some low down on the ‘Food of the Gods’

A recent piece of research from New England Journal of Medicine compares the number of  Nobel Laureates per a country’s capita to that of its chocolate consumption, no surprises they found that Switzerland has the highest number of Nobel Laureates and the highest chocolate consumption.  Hmmm, but did ALL of these Nobel Laureates consume 50 cups of “xocoatl” (bitter water), a day like Montezuma or was it their Lindt equivalent in choc bars?

you can read more here on this link:

This is in no way justification for that sneaky Family Size (insert your weakness here!) bar you just ate.

The fruit, called a cacao pod, is ovoid, 15–30 cm (5.9–12 in) long and 8–10 cm (3.1–3.9 in) wide, ripening yellow to orange, and weighs about 500 g (1.1 lb) when ripe.  The pod contains 20 to 60 seeds, usually called “beans”, embedded in a white pulp. The seeds are the main ingredient of chocolate, while the pulp is used in some countries to prepare a refreshing juice. Each seed contains a significant amount of fat (40–50%) as cocoa butter. Their most noted active constituent is theobromine, a compound similar to caffeine.

Cacao seeds within the fruit
(picture: Wikipedia)

Cacao was first probably discovered by monkeys – who actually only ate the fruity pulp and discarded the seeds, the sweet pulp of the cacao pod tasted like apricots or melons.  The beans—or seeds—were bitter and seemingly inedible, the monkeys would eat the pulp and spit out the beans; no wonder there were plentiful cacao trees in South and Central America, this must have definitely assisted their evolution!  It seems humans likewise only ate the pulp, until by some (lucky) happenstance the qualities of the cacao beans were discovered… perhaps some beans were thrown on a fire and the aromatic smoke produced a ‘Eureka’ moment!?

Click here for a picture of a Pocket Monkey eating cacao ….awwwwwwww!!

This ‘dark gold’ botanical was so highly prized by the Aztecs that they used it as a form of currency.  The approximate exchange rate would be 1 cacoa bean = 1 tomato and 30 cacao beans = 1 small rabbit!  The bean also was still used as money in Central American markets long after the Aztecs were gone, as late as 1858.

‘Dark gold’ currency of the Aztecs – milk chocolate gold coins
picture credit:

As you may know, the Aztecs and Mayans consumed chocolate in liquid form (the famed Montezuma and his 50 cups a day!).  The beans were ground into a coarse paste and water added and would have been a spicy, bitter, thin tasting brew, unlike the creamy, sugary confection of today!

It was served hot or cold, and frothy, as the foam was believed to hold chocolate’s fundamental essence.   The chocolate would be poured vertically from one vessel to another – perhaps the forerunners of (cocktail) mixologists  – back and forth to make it froth and foam.

The resulting paste would sometimes have spices, chilli and corn added for further flavouring to the liquid chocolate, the beans would also be mixed with corn and flavourings to make porridge-like meals – kind of puts your morning ready-brek/granola into perspective!

In 1828 a Dutch chemist,Casparus Van Houten, (Johannes his son is mis-credited as having created this invention) patented a method of extracting the bitter tasting fat or “cocoa butter” from the roasted ground beans.  The resulting cocoa ‘cake’ could then be pulverised into cocoa powder to give a more pleasant, smoother drink.   Of course this then led to creating chocolate, by mixing it back in with cocoa fat and adding sugar and other flavourings, such as vanilla.  The path was paved for chocolate bars as we know it!

In 1847, the Fry’s chocolate factory, located in Union Street, Bristol, England, moulded the first ever chocolate bar suitable for widespread consumption.

Today, most of the world’s cacao beans are grown in Africa, ironically while much of the world’s coffee, an African crop, is grown in Latin America.

The largest producers of cacao: Ivory Coast, Ghana + Indonesia

There are three main types of cocoa tree:

Forastero – the most common and produces the most cocoa beans, it accounts for approx 95% of the global production.; these are generally perceived to be of a poorer quality.

The best cocoa beans come from the Criollo tree, a fragile tree with a small yield.  Its fragrant, high quality  beans are mainly grown in Latin America and are rated as producing the best flavour.

Trinitario – is a hybrid between Criollo and Forastero beans.  A robust tree with fairly good beans and a healthy yield.

Cacao beans

The Mayans and Aztecs of Central and South america drank chocolate to give them virility and stamina prizing its powers as an aphrodisiac.  When this ‘food of the gods’ was brought to Europe by  Spanish explorer, Hernan Cortes  we sweetened it up with milk and sugar and a new health- giving elixir was born; wrote Dr. William Hughes, an English physician in 1672:

“Chocolate nourishes and preserves health entire, yet causes a pleasant and natural sleep and rest,”

 “Drunk twice a day, a man may very well subsist therewith, not taking anything else at all.”

Even to this day, chocolate is a symbol of love, romance, comfort, luxury and a quick energy fix!

Further reading:


Watch this, the first one is a bit dry, and is quite a dated style (1990/80’s?), but gives you a 15-minute whistle stop tour through the history and processing of chocolate:

This is quite a short 3-minute, but succinct clip of a Peruvian cacao farm

And if you are a Cadbury’s fan, then here is a 5 minute clip from their archives, great peek into history


Posted in Aphrodisiac, Botanical ingredients, Chocolate, Culinary, Fragrance themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty Secrets Workshop

A beauty ideal: luscious locks, luminous skin and a tinted pout

Creating natural products inspired by the Renaissance beauties of the Stuart court.


Here is a belated write up of my morning workshop in August at Hampton Court Palace, as part of the events to run alongside their ‘The Wild,  the Beautiful and the Damned’ exhibition.

So, if you have read my other Renaissance Beauty posts on some of the gruesome ingredients women applied in the name of beauty, and want to find a less dangerous and more pleasant option for natural cosmetics, then channel that lily-white complexion and read up on some simple recipes here


(pic: Veronica Veronese – DG Rossetti, a favourite painting of mine)

Posted in Fragrance themes, history, London events, Renaissance, Renaissance Beauty, Scent inspirations | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment