New after dinner combo is a cracker

Forget the cheese, how about chocolate and crackers? The unusual after dinner delicacy is being launched by an award-winning North Wales chocolate maker. The spreadable chocolate will be unveiled at Hamper Llangollen 2012, the annual food festival that’s celebrating its 15th anniversary on October 20-21.

The chocolate and crackers combo is the brainchild of chocolatier Jo Edwards, whose company, Aballu, is based in Rossett, near Wrexham, A long-time supporter of the Llangollen festival, Jo has also just won Gold in the Great Taste awards for her Chilli, Ginger and Lime flavoured truffle.

She said: “For the first time at Llangollen I will be taking my chocolate truckles which are a sweet alternative to the cheeseboard.

“This is a chocolate that you can spread on crackers and several cheese companies have already shown an interest in it because it would make a great addition to a Christmas hamper.

“It’s a nice alternative to cheese and not too sweet. Someone asked me if I could make a chocolate cheese and I know people make chocolates to go with cheese and some cheese is produced with lumps of chocolate in, but I wanted to come up with something different.

“It took about 18 months to get it right and to develop the right packaging and the initial response has been good so we will see at Llangollen what the public thinks. Among the cheeseboard selection is a Spiced Port flavoured chocolate, a Praline, made with a Welsh praline liqueur from Condessa, and Lemon & Ginger.

“Llangollen is my favourite show of the year. If I was not there people might think I had gone out of business because they come looking for me at the show.

“It’s very important to me because it is the last show I do in the year and the last chance to get people to think about me and my business when they think about Christmas presents.”

This year’s festival is being supported by the rural development agency, Cadwyn Clwyd. Cadwyn Clwyd’s contribution came via the Rural Development Fund for Wales 2007-2013, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government.

Robert Price, Cadwyn Clwyd’s agri-food project officer, said: “The chocolate and crackers combination sounds like a fantastic idea, I can’t wait to give it a try!”

Jo, who began Aballu in 1998, has just wowed an international audience when she spent three days at the Speciality and Fine Food Fair at the Olympia exhibition centre with some of Wales’ best artisan food producers as one of the ‘Wales The True Taste’ exhibitors.

She said: “It was absolutely incredible in London and I’ve met some interesting contacts and have a lot of leads to follow up.”

Jo has also just become a Welsh Government “Dynamo Role Model” – business people who inspire youngsters to start up their own business. As a Dynamo role model Jo has started going into schools to talk to students about setting up in business, but she has also just gained her teaching certificate and is hoping she might be able to start a night class for budding chocolatiers at Yale college in Wrexham. Jo’s business mentor was Lorraine Whinn from Rural Foodies, a Powys-based organisation which helps promote quality artisan food producers in Wales.

The company’s not-for-profit sister organisation is Going Home that’s based in Mid-Wales. She has come up with some unusual flavours for a Christmas range to help organisation re-home and rehabilitate horses that would otherwise not have a future. She’ll be showcasing the range – which includes Christmas Tree flavoured chocolate drops, along with Winter Spice and Bucks Fizz – at Hamper Llangollen 2012.

Jo said: “The Winter Spice is a dark chocolate with a fresh range of winter spices and Bucks Fizz, a creamy white chocolate with orange oils and a fizz of popping candy.”

She also hopes to encourage more visitors to attend courses at her base in The Cocoa Rooms in Station Road, Rossett.

Built in 1881 The Cocoa Rooms were meant as an alternative to pubs, part of the temperance movement of the day and a reflection of the growing opposition to alcohol in the late 19th Century.

“It meant that during opening night here I could not offer guests any champagne or wine because it would breach the covenant on the building which was a little bit restrictive but it’s such a nice place to be,” said Jo.

Also starring at Hamper Llangollen 2012 will be a trio of Wales’s top chefs. Graham Tinsley, the star of ITV’s Taste the Nation and a former captain of the Welsh Culinary Team, will be joined in the show kitchen by S4C favourite Dudley Newberry. Completing the hat-trick will be the ever popular Dai Chef, who is returning to the event after an absence of several years.

Robert Price added: “Thanks to a whole host of indigenous companies, North East Wales is rapidly establishing a reputation as a centre of excellence for high quality cuisine.

“The food festival is a perfect shop window for the companies who form the backbone of our rural economy.

“The location of the Pavilion is absolutely spectacular – I can’t imagine that any other food festival in the UK has a more beautiful setting.”

For more information about Aballu go to