Let's Shakshuka

Let's talk Shakshuka.  Being "issued from immigration," in other words second generation onwards generates a lot of soul searching about identity.

I grew up in France. My parents' marriage were a mixed one. In the late 20's, my maternal family immigrated to France from Essaouira, Morocco, a modern tourists resort

and an ancient fishing port

I am fourth generation. As a child I would never introduce my friends to my mum's family. I was too afraid of being marked for my differences. So I hid them away. 

Then I immigrated and this bought a new set of situations. Three decades in the UK, I now write for the local newspaper and I am still talk to very slowly or in a poor primary school French probably to make sure I understand.
All this was running through my mind when Margot of Coffee 'n Vanilla and I talked about the new "Inheritance Recipes" Challenge. We are both in a different way proud of our roots and equally proud of being active citizens in the country of our choosing. There is a lot to celebrate:

When I think back to my grand-father's kitchen, I can smell the aroma of chargrilled peppers, see honeyed cakes and colourful plates and hear a little chorus of cousins singing "On y va, c'est d'la Shakshuka d'Essaouira".

Shakshuka is traditionally served with eggs. At Pebble Soup HQ we like it with spicy sausages which is a lesser know version.


  • a little olive oil
  • 1 or 2 onions, peeled and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 medium green or red bell pepper, chopped, grilled and skin removed
  • 6 medium ripe diced tomatoes peel and deseeded, or 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp chili powder or 1 tsp of harissa
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika (optional)
  • 1 tsp of tomato paste (for extra colour)
  • 1 big pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 spicy sausages (or merguez) per person
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley (optional, to look pretty)
Step 1 is to peel the peppers, this doesn't have to be done but the result is nicer with skinless peppers.
           put the peppers on a grill, when the skin has blackened seal them in a plastic freezer bags until cool or run them under the water. When cool enough to handle, peel
In a frying pan or skillet if you have one, add the spices (cumin and chili or harissa) to hot olive oil and cook the onions and garlic gently until the onions are transparent.
Grill the sausages
Add the peeled tomatoes, the peppers, the sugar reduce and cook until it's all thick and shiny. Add the tomato paste if you want to add colour.
Combine the sausages and the base.
Shakshuka base can also be served cold as a salad


I'm submitting this recipe to the Inheritance Recipes challenge that we have just stared together with Margot at Coffee and Vanilla. This month theme is Cool Recipes so please come and join us, share your inherited Summer recipes!

Inheritance Recipes : Cool Recipes - August Challenge -

Welcome to the first Inheritance Recipes Challenge
Inheritance Recipes is a challenge celebrating dishes that food bloggers cherish. Recipes which have been passed down by a family member, a friend, through an ancestral culture and dishes which you would like to bestow to future generations.

August theme is Cool Recipes. We would love to see your summer recipes. Cool recipes, easy to prepare or/and don't need cooking.

Choose recipe(s) you've inherited from friends or family or one you would love to pass down to the next generation. To say thank you for entering we have a prize for you.

Janice as in farmersgirl.blogspot.com and long standing food-blogger will be our friendly judge.  The lucky winner will be sent a Cake Pans Set  by Lakeland our prize provider this month  -Postage restricted to UK only-
About Lakeland
Lakeland is a household name. a chain of kitchenware stores and online which celebrated their 50th anniversary, last year.  It is still based where it was founded in Windermere in the Lake District and has not lost its family business approach. Personally, I love Lakeland products, for me the brand name is a sign of quality moreover the people working at Lakeland are genuine and highly professional so it was a delight when they agreed to be  our first challenge's prize provider.

About Layer cakes
  are show stoppers, mille-feuille, sandwich cakes and black forest gateaux often make as layer cakes. Did you know that the first layered cake was recorded in 1872, of course we don't expect your recipes to date back to the 19th century.
  Please, Link your recipe back to Pebble Soup and Coffee 'n Vanilla - Grab one of the  pretty Inheritance Recipes badges, display it on your post, 

Up to two recipe links accepted per blogger, so long as each one fits the month’s theme. Feel free to link up to past posts but please add the links to our websites and the Inheritance Recipes badge too.

If we are using the linky
Add your recipe via the linky provided on the host page
          if not
Send your recipe URL to the host email address (in August pebblesoup at gmail dot com) including your own email address, the name of you recipe and the blog-post link. Closing date is the 24th of each month

If you feel like sharing via Twitter to promote your recipe, please add @solangeweb  and @coffeenvanilla #InheritanceRecipes and we will retweet. 

The winner will be announced at the end of the month via Twitter and on the host post. Entries from bloggers all around the world are accepted but  but unfortunately the prize can only be shipped to a UK address.
And if you have not done so yet, have a look at terms and conditions here
We can't wait to see your Inheritance Recipes.
Reminder The theme for the first Inheritance Recipe challenge is Cool Recipes, deadline 24th August, we would love to see your summer recipes and recipes which are easy to prepare.
Link and have fun


'Tales From the Meadow’ A Giant Cake

Certain initiatives take your breath away. A giant cake measuring  10 metre squared cake, weighing over half a tonne which took It took over 168 hours to create, definitely enters that category.

 Irish butter producer, Kerrygold partnered with renowned sugar artist, Michelle Wibowo, to bring the luscious rolling hills of Ireland to London city centre. why?
A national research revealed some incredible facts
  • four out of ten Brits have never been to the countryside in the last ten years, which is in itself  a mind-boggling stats.
  • If you add  that 10% of Brits admit they have never heard a cockerel ‘cock-a-doodle-do’ in real life.  More than seven per cent has no idea that corn grows in a field.
It was time to do something, the renowned butter cie decided to bring the country side to London. Hopefully, the next survey won't reveal that people believe real meadows are made out of sugar paste.
But for the time being passer-by in  Finsbury Avenue Square were stunned to see and Irish meadow complete with grass, rolling hills, hedgerows, a pond, farm house and barn, meadow flowers and  even Irish dairy cows – all hand crafted from cake and sugar icing. 

Take a look at the making of the cake and Londoners enjoying a ’slice of the meadow’ here

Some publicity stunts are just amazing, let's hope this one will hit the mark and we will take more to the country side, after all if we don't know where our food grows what chance do we stand to eat healthily?

Go to Twitter copy "RT to #win 1 of 10 limited illustrated edition of ‘Tales From the Meadow’ @solangeweb" and paste.

This post is sponsored by Kerrygold.

Wine -Destination : Niagara, Ontario

About an hour and half away from Toronto, the Niagara region once only known for its magnificent waterfalls is now a prime destination for a wine lovers. With nearly 100 wineries spread across the area there is enough to keep you busy for days. If you get bored with wine-tasting which is very unlikely, there is always the distilleries, the craft beer breweries and of course the falls.

The winecountryontaria.ca has a wine route planner to custom your own wine tour itinerary. You can cycle the trails, Segway the vineyards or even fly over in an helicopter. At Pebble Soup, we only had to hop in the car with our designated a driver. We are very lucky to have friends who immigrated to the area and though we miss them a lot, while we were dithering about visiting Canada, it gave them years to conduct applied research which they did with a thorough dedication for which we are grateful.
Niagara region

Somehow, I'd like to start with our last stop in Beamsville and a holding belonging to friends of our friends. The reason I want to do so is that meeting the proprietors of these vineyards has been refreshing experience. Their openness, fresh marketing drive, uncomplicated approach and readiness to approach organic viniculture is in stark contraction with the French Vignerons' way imbued in the notion of "terroir".
Ontario Wine - wine tasting - Niagaria area

But first, a tasting stop at the recently re-opened Kew vineyards with its incredibly beautiful mansion, its tasting patio, its crisp Riesling, soft Chardonnay, two of the original wines grown in the area and my favourite: a seductive sparking blanc de noir with tiny bubbles, hints of summer fruits and citrus.
Ontario Wine - wine tasting - Niagaria area

Then, our party trotted next door where a South-African couple hires out their vines to a major local winery. To my utter surprised I was told, "A few years back, "ceps de vignes" in Bordeaux suffered a plague which devastated the harvest. Beamsville sent vine replacements and saved the day".

By contrast, we visited a winery which is part of a larger estate: 13th Street in St Catherines where their, "Very first vines were planted in 1976. In the years since, they' ve planted Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Gris and now have amassed more than 40 acres of estate vineyards in the VQA Creek Shores appellation of Niagara". It was interesting to see that here again, the first impression was, the hospitality, the openness.

13th Street is a well-oiled business. For $5 you get a flight of 3 tasting wine of your choosing. The wine is not pretentious, I rather liked the Riesling which has got such a bad reputation in Europe but somehow in Canada seems to have drop its "Nun habit" turned dryer and much much more robust.

More stops, a little tasting here, another there and we needed food which took us to a must visit  the Brewery in Silversmith, set in a beautiful, restored, old church.

Ontario craft beer movement has certainly grown fast over the past decade or so: according to Beer Canada, the number of licensed breweries in rose almost by 50% between 2008 and 2013.
The craft beers got the thumb up from him. And the pickle watermelon rind had me lost for words for a little while, a rare occasion indeed.

We had only one last stop to make on our way back: Dillon's distillery who produces a number of gins, vodkas, white whiskies, absinth..... and bitters. Alcoholic ingredients mixed with herbal essences, with the renaissance of cocktails' recipes, bitters are growing in popularity.

In my opinion, Ontario wine is much more adapted to the modernity of our lives. Generally refined by technology, wines produced in the area are better drunk young. In general, they didn't wow me, the way some Californian wine did, but it was a very pleasant experience so bring it on, export.... but leave ice wine behind please.

Next we crossed Canada from East to West by train. Read all about it soon in Trip Reporter.

Summer Soup: Coco Beans & Chorizo - Cold Soup-

First of all, I'd like to thank Pebble Soup readers for their patience. I disappeared without a word for a month but I promise if was for a good cause. I came back with loads of material and a few surprises in my bag and I look forward to reading your comments and reactions.
It all started in June when he solemnly declared that we needed a holiday NOW. So we hoped on a plane, direction Vienne. Not the Austrian capital, the Roman town, south of Lyon, on the way to the Riviera.
In spite of its regional importance, being the second largest county (department) town after Grenoble and all that, Vienne is off the tourists' radar. Its roman past left substantial remains still visible in the modern town, every year a jazz festival is held in the roman circus. From its association with the kingdom of Provence, there is a medieval castle but what draws me to the area is food and friends. Today, Vienne specialises in the food industry. Is it cause to effect? I know not, but there are numerous lovely restaurants in the area.
This time round, we were introduced to Le Brocard in Serpaize where Julien Taurant delights his clientele with subtle and tasty dishes. The place looks like a cafĂ© but don't be fooled, the menu is on a par with the best in Lyon, capital of French gastronomy. All without the price tag  nor the pretentiousness attached to "haute cuisine."  
When we visited for lunch the menu was already wearing its summer clothes and I started with a cold soup. The dynamic chef would not reveal its secret so back home, I tried my hand at Coco Beans and Chorizo soup, the colour was different, the taste too but this is a keeper for the summer.
Coco Beans and Chorizo -Cold Soup-
      • 2 tins of cannellini
      • 2 pints of bouillon (I use my trusty marigold powder in hot water)
      • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
      • 2 garlic cloves
      • 1 large fresh rosemary sprig
      • 1 bay leaf
      • 1/2 a chorizo or 150g
      • 5tsp thick cream (optional)
      • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
      • 2 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
      • Small cubes of white bread (optional)
Place the drained cans in  the broth with salt and pepper and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer.

In the meantime, in a frying pan add 1 tb of olive oil. When the oil is hot add the onion, smashed garlic rosemary and bay leaf. When a lovely smell tickles your nostrils and the garlic has slightly coloured add the chorizo.

Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Puree the beans in a blender with some of the liquid, the proportion is entirely up to you and how you like the consistency of your soup.

Sieving gives a smoother finish. Return puree to pot. Stir thyme, chorizo, and cream. Can be made 1 day ahead.

Chill uncovered until cold. Cover and keep chilled.
Before serving fry the croutons if using, salt and pepper.

What's New in the Kitchen #11 : On the Go

When hunger strikes, snacks and bite-size are handy. At Pebble Soup we have tried new products and here is what we think:

Nature Valley -Two New protein bars -  RRP £2.89 for 5 I am a fan of Nature Valley range. Their two new bars at 140 calories are available in multi-packs of 5 or individual bars. Both peanuts flavoured one with chocolate the other with seeds.
          When I tried them out, at first, I loved them, soft and tasty, the chocolate one looks really indulgent with its chocolate base. Then came along another brand to taste. Was it enough to change my mind to which is the best bar?

Yes, Tracker's Crunchy peanut bars RRP 1.99 for 5 with 127 calories at first glance looks smaller but the salted peanut taste comes through much stronger and therefore is more satisfying, so you would have thought that the winner had been found.
It was without counting on the Fabulous Bakers' bars RRP 1.50 for 5

The bars are unusual as they are thick and you can really taste all the ingredients. They are soft and not too sugary but they are not all equal in taste, in my opinion some work better than others. Mango and Pineapple tastes really fresh. This bar was my favourite. Between 130 and 150 calories per bar.

Each of the three brands had they own qualities: Nature Valley's looks indulgent and sometimes a little "pick me up and makes me feel naughty" is required. Tracker's taste indulgent with all the salty and peanut taste as for the Fabulous bakers bar they are scrumptious, even if snacking is not very healthy, these bars will give you the impression that it is.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the brands for sending their new products over. I was not requested to write a positive review.

Medieval Glamping at Warwick Castle

When I was a teenager, I came over on an exchange and stayed in Leamington Spa, a few miles away from Warwick Castle.
From 1000 miles away, my parents had selected Leamington, only as the blurb indicated that the town was right in the center of England. 

My host family took me everywhere. We travelled the length of the country. We, even, tripped down to Cornwall for  one day but never did we explore the surrounding area. 
Mind you, Warwick Castle back then, was probably a far cry from its present incarnation. Run by Merlin which is the same company looking after famous British tourist attractions like Alton Towers, the London Eye, Madame Tussauds and Thorpe Park, Warwick castle is much more that a boring medieval attraction. It's a whole experience which includes glamping in the beautiful castle grounds.

The Glamping site has 38 large tents, a couple of extra large one by the river, a banqueting/bar  tents, ample loos  and showers facilities. The tents are divided in houses, ours was in the house of Plessis. 

Though I was a little dismayed when reading in the Glamping pack that our Lord knight was the one who lost this magnificent castle to its enemies.

The tents are very comfortable. Each sleeps two adults and two children in wooden-framed beds. Bed linen is provided. This is far cry from a normal camping experience. Be aware, it gets a little chilly at night, but then nights in May are never very warm. 

The glamping experience includes two days Priority Castle tickets. My favourite attraction was the Time tower. A 15 minutes history of the castle recounted by framed portrait which jump from one frame to the next. The characters interacting as history rolls from one century to the next.
My least favourite was the Castle Dungeon which saw us herded in the bowels of the castle to listen to actors re-enacting tortures and trials. it's a long and dark 45 minutes filled with plague, rats and misery.

Then, there are the views from the castle ramparts walk, nothing breaks the view as far as the eyes can see. When up high looking down it's not hard to comprehend why in Warwick, all roads lead to the castle.
What is included in the price?

Glamping starts from £200 per night. It includes
an overnight stay for 4 with two days priority castle tickets, cooked or continental breakfast served in the Medieval tent.
VIP parking for two days

Free evening entertainment Jester’s School,  Knight’s School and have-a-go archery


Would I recommend it?
Absolutely, it makes for a fun packed week-end in an amazing setting. Where else would you have a go at archery, fly birds of prey and pretend you are a knight or a princess and be treated like one?

For more information see www.warwick-castle.com/glamping/ and to book call the
Glamping Hotline on 0871 663 1676 (lines open Monday – Friday 9am-5pm).

Read more about Glamping at Warwick

Disclaimer: we spent a week-end glamping at Warwick courtesy of Merlin Experience. My thanks to the staff of Warwick Castle and the White Tiger PR for making us so welcome and facilitating this post

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Of gardening, I don't know very much. This being my first ever visit to Chelsea Flower Show. The floristry impressed me more than the garden did. Elaborates scenes made out of flower arrangements, of which some where truly incredible.  


Related Posts with Thumbnails