It was an Ulsterman who discovered what we now know as hot chocolate

A generic photo of dark chocolate with cocoa beans. See PA Feature TOPICAL Health Brain Foods. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TOPICAL Health Brain Foods.
A generic photo of dark chocolate with cocoa beans. See PA Feature TOPICAL Health Brain Foods. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TOPICAL Health Brain Foods.

Tomorrow is National Chocolate Day and a chance to celebrate this wonderful treat.

There’s archaeological evidence that the Olmec tribe in Mexico were eating chocolate around 1900BC.

The ground beans are bitter and unpleasant in their natural state and need fat and sugar to make them delicious and palatable.

It was a man from Northern Ireland who was the first to discover that adding the dark chocolate to milk transformed it into a drink that could be enjoyed.

Hans Sloane, from Killyleagh, was physician to the governor of Jamaica, the 2nd Duke of Albemarle, from 1685.

He noticed that the Jamaican people drank the beans with hot water but the liquid was nauseating.

We have him to thank that he had the good sense to add it to sweet milk and the hot chocolate drink was born.

The Quaker families, Cadbury and Fry were the first to introduce chocolate bars in the mix in the 19th century.

Nowadays we enjoy 605,000 tonnes annually in the UK.

While sugar laden milk chocolate isn’t exactly nutritious, dark chocolate with a cocoa percentage of over 70% is actually good for you. The great news is that a 100g bar contains 67% of the daily recommended intake of iron, 58% of magnesium and plenty of potassium, zinc and selenium – vital for mental health and immune system boosters.

Chocolate has a deep affinity with rum and especially a spiced one.

Darren Nugent has recently launched a range of spirits he distils in Carrickmore in Co Tyrone.

He’s producing a great spicy rum delicately flavoured with ginger, citrus, cassia and kola nut with notes of caramel, vanilla and toffee. For my first recipe the rum is added to a classic chocolate pot – good chocolate is melted with rum infused cream and an egg whisked in at the end. The rich, unctuous pot is then topped with a light toasted coconut cream and some shortcake on the side. It’s the perfect make ahead dessert.

It also works well with strawberries and raspberries. Leave out the rum if you want a non-alcoholic version.

Apricots are in the greengrocers now and at their pristine best.

They’re only around for a short time so make the most of them.

Apricots and white chocolate work well together.

The creamy chocolate and the fragrant zing of the fruit are a harmonious combination.

The other recipe this week takes these two ingredients to make a cheesecake.

Some of the apricots are suspended in the cheesecake cream with the white chocolate and the rest are roasted with honey and lemon for the top.

A celebration of National Chocolate Day and the essence of summer fruit all in one dessert.