Just six months on from opening her boutique handmade chocolate business, former Euro-Toques young chef of the year Gráinne Mullins has expanded the business into a micro-factory.
"My family and neighbours all helped in the construction of the factory. It was a huge team effort and was completed in less than a month," Mullins says. She purchased specialised equipment in Belgium to make her Grá chocolates, with a grant from her Local Enterprise Office in Galway.
Each of her chocolates is made with locally and ethically sourced ingredients and handpainted, in a process that takes three days to complete. For Christmas, in addition to her mixed box of 10 large chocolates (€20), she is making beautiful limited edition chocolate baubles (€30 for three).
The fillings are inspired by “the flavours of an Irish Christmas”, she says. Ginger Bell Rock has milk chocolate embedded with gold leaf and sprinkled with crunchy gingerbread pieces. Christmas Spirit is a dark chocolate bauble painted green with smoky Connemara Whiskey fudge and candied orange pieces. Berry Christmas is a white chocolate bauble filled with cranberry pâté de fruit perfumed with star anise.
To order online, see grachocolates.com, and they will also be going on sale in Brown Thomas, Dublin and Cork.
Sharpen your knife-carving skills
For a Zoom with a difference, book a spoon-carving, knife-carving or knife-sharpening class with Éamonn O'Sullivan of Hewn in Ennistymon, Co Clare. O'Sullivan's wooden spoons and knives are used in some of Ireland's top restaurants including Aniar, Aimsir and Ichigo Ichie.
There are a variety of classes available to join, as well as private tuition, and prices start from €25. The butter knife carving class is a good place to start and in 90 minutes you’ll learn how to turn a block of wood into a beautiful implement. You order the prepared wood (€15) and carving knife (€25) for delivery when you book the class.
Knife-sharpening classes are available too, and after a two-hour tutorial (€30) your knives will be shipshape. If you'd prefer to have someone else sharpen your knives, drop them into The Village Butcher in Ranelagh, Dublin 6 on or before Wednesday December 2nd, and they will be sent out to be professionally sharpened for just €5.