Thursday, 17 July 2014

Beef Thai-Style

I don't know what other people do with their spice collection but with mine it's a constant battle. The number of little phials is growing every time I look and it seems impossible to keep it down. Not unlike books and music tracks which I suspect are reproducing when left alone.
You start with a few, next thing you know, you spend hours trying to organise them in a sensible (to you) manner, blink and there is thousands of them, of course each as important as the next.
When spice-blends appeared on the market, I wasn't too sure if they should be applauded or loaded. Take tandoori: that's not an every day dish, therefore having a little pot, all nicely labelled "tandoori", ready to use, with the correct proportion for each individual spice has to be an advantage, right?

Weeelll, may be, that's if you overlook the threat of an spice invasion.

For the following recipe, individual herbs and spices are listed however Bart does a blend called "Aromatic Thai" which fits perfectly

Beef Thai-Style

Serves 4
2 rib-eye steaks, about 400g
1 tsp sesame oil
3 red shallots, finely sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tbs lime juice
2 tbs Thai fish sauce or soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 lime quartered

Herbs & Spices:
2 lemongrass stalks
1 small red chilli, finely sliced  
3 tbs basil leaves
3 tbs coriander leaves

Prepare the seasoning by trimming and slicing the lemon grass.
Chop the shallots and chilli
Tear the basil
Mince the mint and the coriander
Mix the lot in a medium bowl

On the other hand, use 3 tablespoon of Bart Aromatic Thai Blend

Smear the steaks with the spices, keep a quarter in the bowl

Use a grill or a non-stick pan brushed with sesame oil and fry the steaks to your liking. Slice the steaks. Transfer the slices to a serving plate

Add the tomatoes, lime juice, fish sauce and sauce to the bowl. Toss well and tip on the top of the steaks


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Le Bouchon - A True Bar à Vin - Review -

What was The Curry Garden in Blackheath (SE3) is now Le Bouchon, owned by wine expert Jean-Philippe Tessier. 

First things first, if you think that "un bouchon" is type of restaurant in Lyon offering traditional Lyonnaise cuisine such as tripes, quenelles and coq au vin, you are perfectly right.

 Now it's where it becomes confusing: Le bouchon is Blackheath is not "un bouchon", it's a bar à vin but not a wine-bar as we know them in London.

To start with in this bouchon, there is no cooking going on, food is delivered to the premises once a week, by cheese and meat specialists. In view of the fact that bouchons lyonnais pride themselves on their cuisine, we have a misnomer. Once you've realised that, you are fine.
Le Bouchon though not Lyonnais has a typical French feel: wooden tables inside and outside. The tables "en terrasse" are a vivid reminder of bar-cafés. There are large windows opening on the pavement, slate board with "les vins du jour", lots of wood in the décor and it's all very pleasant.

Le Bouchon offers a selection of amuse-bouches priced between £2 and £5, Charcuteries and Cheeses at £15 for 5 pieces, desserts made by "la fromagerie Beillevaire" and gorgeous, gorgeous bread baked next door by Boulangerie Jade.

La piece the resistance is the wine. With over 120 different wines on offer there is a glass, a carafe or a bottle for everybody. I like the idea of a carafe, usually a pint or so, common in France, less so this side of "La Manche". The staff are all experts and will advise according to your preferences.

All the food is of excellent quality. Personally, I discovered saucisson au Comté which I didn't even know existed. If you want a natter after work over a perfect glass of wine accompanied by a snack or three  or you are meeting friends up before heading somewhere else, if you have a romantic "rendez-vous", this is a good place to stop by.

Le Bouchon
72 Tranquil Vale
Blackheath Village

Le Bouchon on Urbanspoon

Read what bloggers thinks of Le Bouchon on
Franglaise Cooking

Disclaimer: I enjoyed the hospitality of Le Bouchon and was treated to the Blogger's menu.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Redcurrant Tart

Food writing has changed my life in more ways than one. When I used to write for the blog, people didn't pay much attention, dinner invitations where coming loosely and freely.

Enter the magazines. It was a little bit more difficult to get invited. Sort of "shall we invite her or not? Will the food be good enough or not?". Needless to say it didn't make any difference to me, good or disastrous, I am always happy to be invited.
Then came the books and now my face is being scrutinised at every mouthful. One of my friends, cleverly got round the problem. Having invited us, she emailed her main ingredient for pudding and asked for the best recipe I could think of.  
The onus was on me, if it all went wrong then it would be my fault. As cooking with redcurrants is not something I do everyday, I had a moment of panic. I almost suggested that she used bananas instead and make my famous Banoffee tartlets. But I knew that there were no banana growing in her Cambridge's allotment.
Red currants are indeed very pretty. They are also incredibly tart which makes these shiny little berries  rather difficult to accommodate. At the end, I opted for couple recipes of the same dessert. The pudding was a triumph, declared by her partner, "As good as the Banoffee pie" which I would have shared with you if it hadn't been devoured before I had time to grab my camera.
Redcurrant Tart
For the sweet pastry 
  • 200g  plain flour
  • 100g  butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
In a mixer add flour, butter and sugar until it resembles breadcrumbs, add the egg when you get a dough stop mixing. Roll it up in a Clingfilm. Leave it in the fridge to rest until you are ready to use it, minimum 30 minutes.

Tip: don't use a roller on sweet pastry, you are going to end up with a mess. Use the palm of your hand to flatten it and push it with your thumbs. Repeat.

For the filling:

  • 340g  almond paste or marzipan (ideally 50 per cent almonds if available)
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g  plain flour
  • 6 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 300g • 11oz redcurrants, rinsed and de-stalked

  • Stalk the redcurrants, reserve
    Put all the ingredients in the mixer bowl and blitz until smooth, transfer to a bow and add the currants without breaking them

    arrange the pastry into tart mould, bake blind for 15 minutes 200C/180C fan/gas 6. 
    Remove from oven, leave it to cool add the mixture and cook for 25 minutes, it will rise. Leave it to cool before sieving icing sugar (optional) 



    Thursday, 26 June 2014

    Pappardelle with Broad Beans, Peas Topped with Watercress & Emozioni Pacchieri Review

    Trying out new products is part of the job and yesterday, I realised how easy it was loose  sight of reality. Yesterday, I got caught.

    It happened when we joined, his brother and brother's friends' pub quiz team. This pub is old, the wall paper peels off the walls, all in all it's rather decrepit but so full of atmosphere. Deco-wise the piece de resistance is a massive crystal chandelier for which Del Boy would have sold his grand-dad (and possibly would have found a buyer in this very pub).

    During the quiz, we were asked, "What's the name for a  long tubed pasta with ridges". All eyes were on me. I don't do music, I am appalling at questions of  sport, so the least I can do, is to answer spontaneously foodie questions.
    But I drew a blank. Nothing sprang to mind. The only thing I could think of, was the exquisite white box I had received the week before, sent for review by an Italian Gourmet specialist "Emozioni". It contained dried, large, short tubes of pasta which I was told, "Were favourite amongst celebrities and designers in Italy and New York."

    And though the packaging was beautiful and classy, the content disappointed. Not for the quality of pasta, far from that, Emozioni's Paccheri Pasta are delicate and of very high standard but at three times the price of  dried pasta, I can't help thinking that customers pay for the packaging, to put it blankly, in my opinion, it's not value for money. At £5.90 for 250g, I would rather opt for fresh pasta. 

    To come back to the quiz, penne was put forward, cannelloni was the answer and Paccheri has nothing to do with it.

    In the words of Ursula Ferrigno "to learn about Italian food is to understand Italian people" and it looks like I have a bit of learning to do. But as usual, this will have to be done in style,
    So I enter a Parppadelle recipe in #TuscanyNowCookOff cooked with fresh broad beans, peas and topped with Watercess, this is a perfect dish for summer.  Having won the quiz, in spite of my knowledge gap, would I be on a roll and would this  blog spot will be a winner of the competition organised by Tuscany Now ?
    Parppadelle with Broad Beans, Peas Topped with Watercress
    Ingredients for 2 people
    • 200g papardelle
    • 2 big handfuls each of peas and broad beans (outer skins removed) + any greens you have in the fridge (in proportion)
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • Juice of 1/2 lemon + salt and pepper
    • Small bunch of watercress (keep a handful to chop finely for decoration)
    Cook the pasta in 2.5l of boiling salted water for 10-12 minutes.
    In the meantime in a small saucepan boil the peas, broad beans and greens(optional) for 3 minutes. Drain and remove the skin of the broad beans.
    Drain the pasta. Quickly return to the empty saucepan (no heat needed) add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and veggies (not the rocket) toss and served on warm plate.
    Top with watercress and sprinkle chopped cress on the pasta.

    Tuesday, 17 June 2014

    Apricot Mousse ....of Course

    Dreams are stuff made of an improbable wishlists. When I was in Pakistan, I dreamt of going to the Hunza valley (Northern Pakistan). The appeal of the remoteness, the majestic Himalayan scenery, the apricots and cherry orchards was great. So were the geopolitical threats.
    I still dream of eating fresh apricots in the Hunza valley but I fear that it might be in another life  and for the time being I make do with Lewisham market (South-East London). Which gives it credits, sells apricots too.
    However instead of the juicy, velvety, golden fruits of my dreams, the local market apricots are of unknown origins (as in "wher' from? don't know luv") and have been picked too early. They are hard-ish, bitter-sweet with an emphasis on bitter.
    Never to grudge a pleasure, it has to be said that out of the lot, some are juicy and between you and me dreams are powerful and irresistible. So I bought a bowl for a pound, ate of few and the what do I do with the remaining apricots?........
    Apricot Mousse ....of course
    • 500g apricots
    • 4 eggs
    • 40 g icing sugar
    • 20 g caster sugar
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
     1- stone and wash the fruits. Place them in the food processor with icing sugar, lemon and mix to obtain till fine (not bits).
    2- Turn your attention to the eggs, separate whites and yolks. Mix the yolks with sugar and add to the apricot mixture.
    3- Wisk the whites until firm and add to the mixture, a table spoon at the time.
    4- Place in serving bowls and in the fridge for 30 minutes.
    More Apricot Recipes
    Amazing bakes, Hamantaschen from Cakes, Bakes, Cookies

    Savoury apricot recipe  Grilled Apricot Hoisin Glazed Prawns from Greedy Gourmet
    If you are a Yummly user here is your button

    Friday, 13 June 2014

    Coconut and Strawberry Loaf Cake

    Pebble Soup has a distinct pink colour lately, after reporting on an evening of Rosé D'Anjou here is pink cake. For someone who "doesn't do sweet after a meal", I came to realise that there is a lot of dessert recipes on my blog.
    Would I be a repressed cake eater? probably.
    My parents cheap and mad reversed-psychology treatment may have worked after all. Like most kids I was addicted to sugar. My mother after conceding that I didn't have the aptitude for the ballet, set her goals on me becoming a model.
    Therefore, I had to be dissuaded to eat cakes and to that effect my cousin and I (age 7), were let loose in a patisserie. This is where the reversed psychology treatment was going to take place.

    There we were allowed to pick all the cakes we wanted, no lesser than five, under the proviso that we would eat them all......
    The "treatment" worked with my cousin, she felt sick after four, was forced to eat the rest and stopped pestering people for eat cakes for a very long time. On the other hand, I had whale of a time. I ate many petit choux, eclairs and tartlets and I even wrote an essay at school about my experience. A blogger was born. 
    On the other hand, my parents felt sick to hear me ask for more  after that gargantuest feast. On that day, in different ways, we all learnt the value of "what you wish for".

    In honour of one of my mum rare visits, I wanted to show off my recent mastery of cake making so I made the most moist, delicious and girly cake I could think of and I jested that she couldn't go home until the whole cake was finished......
    Coconut and Strawberry Jam Loaf cake

    250g self-raising flour
    150g unsalted butter softened
    150g caster sugar
    3 free-range eggs
    100g desiccated coconut
    4tsp semi skimmed milk
    6 tsp quality strawberry jam
    100g/7oz desiccated coconut, toasted
    For the icing
    80g icing sugar
    2tsp strawberry jam
    2 tsp hot water
    + 2 tbsp dessicated coconut for the topping
    Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a large loaf tin (900g) I used my bread tin.
    In the food processor or in a large bowl beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy, beat the eggs one at the time and add the flour, a little at the time
    Add the coconut and the milk.
    Spoon 3/4 of the mixture in the tin, spread the jam on the top (having done this once, next time, I'll heat the jam up so that it gets runny)
    cover with the rest of the mixture
    Bake for 35 minutes, cover and return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes until cooked.
    Leave to cool and turn your attention to the icing: in a small bowl mix all the ingredients bar the coconut. When the cake is cold enough spread the icing with a knife and sprinkle the coconut on the top. 

    Friday, 6 June 2014

    How to Shoot Food Like a Pro: a Tutorial by Top Photographer

    In the noughties, "things" happened in basements, nowdays "things" have migrated to roof-tops. Which I suppose, is a blessing when it comes to a food photography tutorial as roof-top = Light.
    On my way to a promising evening of Rosé D'Anjou tasting and food photography tutorial on the Queen Hoxton's roof garden, I wasn't expecting much more than talk of light.

    You see in my experience, professional photographers always start a talk with, "The light" followed by "more light". Instinctively, you'll know it's the end of the seminar when you hear "....and don't forget the light."
    I, for one, often have more interest in the origin and make up of a subject than in the light on it. For this event, put together by Douglas Blyde, a man with many strings to his blow, sommelier and food writer among other talents the subject or rather the object of interest was Rosé D'Anjou.

    The evening started pleasantly with canapés under the canopy as June had began with a downpour. A glass of rosé d'Anjou in hand we gathered to hear what Paul Winch-Furness, one of the best known food photographers on the scene had to tell us. Not wanting to appear rude I stayed at the back, I knew I was going to retreat to my imaginery world at the first evocation of the L-word.

    Looking a little shy, our fame photographer broke in with "L..ove", he told us, "You have to love what you do otherwise it will show in your pictures".

    By the time I had registered, that the man actually had something interesting to say,  I was making furious mental notes and here is what I recall of

    Paul Winch-Furness' advice:
    -A dish doesn't live in isolation. Your picture needs to tell the whole story, capture the atmosphere. don't hesitate to use your phone it keeps it real.

    -Don't tinker with your pictures. People will easily spot when a picture had been touched up in photoshop and will associate it to fake.

    -To publish on the web, landscape is a better format than portrait.

    -Get close to your subject, a dish has many sides, capture its best side.

    -Kill the flash or the flash will kill your food-picture. If it's very dark use a white source behind the dish: white paper, plate.

    -Stage your dish a little but not too much, keep it simple. Don't shoot pictures on a dirty work top.

    And don't forget the light........get it from the side or shoot into it.

    For More information:

    drop by  Paul Winch-Furness portfolio.
    There was a lot of talent around that night, read an account of the evening by Being Erica: Heaven is a Rooftop Rosé Garden
    Amy laughinghouse reveals How to Taste Wine Like a Pro.

    About Rosé D'Anjou.

    Credit: He attended the evening, all photos on this post are his

    Monday, 2 June 2014

    Round up - Vanilla Recipes for the Spice Trail Challenge

    There were high hopes for the Wow Vanilla!  we were not disappointed. Recipes are mouthwatering. Let's have a look in details at your entries showcasing vanilla. 
    Round Up ( winner is announced at the end of this post :)
    As the host, I opened the festivities with a recipe from the archives. Ricotta and Vanilla is a tasty combination and never better than in a bun filled with  blueberries.

    The buns were quickly followed by Margot's from Coffee 'n Vanilla Chocolate Chip and Vanilla Babka. A Bundt-style cake inspired by her traditional Polish roots. Babkas are baked in Poland for Christmas and Easter but if you ask me this recipe looks yummy for any day of the year.

    Linsy joined in, not with one but three sweet recipes. Her Egg-less Tutti Frutti and her quick Brazilian Coconut Rice Pudding are both inspired by recipes she had bookmarked. My favourite of the three has to be her Carrot and Zucchini Cake Bars with Citrus Icing; who can resist a slice of moist carrot cake?

    With Camilla's Fab Food 4 All entry we learn that, "Every tin of Danish Butter Cookies has a Vanilla Wreath" so vanilla is not only a favourite of ours it also appears to be a favourite in Denmark too. 

    The following entry arrived rather earlier one morning, around breakfast time to be precise. Sent from Elizabeth's Kitchen it was really hard not to bite into the screen. Don't these Boston Doughnuts look fantastic.

    Ness at Jibber Jabber UK told us that, "Bundt Cakes are addictive". She and her daughter had a choice of cocktail or mocktail flavours for the Clandestine Club Cake they regularly attend and they came up with a Fruit Cocktail Bundt Cake. Imperial looking cake - alcohol free -

    Dairy-free bites from Helen at Family-Friends-Food full of vanilla, almond, apricots and white chocolate what a treat. Great if you are looking for a new snack idea. 

    If it was slightly bizarre for Vanester of Bangers-and-Mash to enter her own challenge on somebody else's blog, that didn't reflect in her deliciously creamy Old Fashion Vanilla Ice Cream

    While at Food Glorious Food, Charlene was playing with her food and vanilla essence with success. Just look at the result, her Sweetie Spectacular Cake is a joyous explosion of sweets.
    Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog opted for a Rapsberry, White Chocolate and Poppy Seeds Muffins. When I met her at a Lactose free products event where this breakfast beauties where prepared by a Michelin Star Chef, she promised to enter The Spice Trail with a fresh recipe. I wasn't counting on one straight from the oven.

    Cooking a cake in a rice-cooker is not ordinary so it took me a little while to comprehend what was going on here. What a good idea Nasifret of By The Way...had and what a lovely result: Lemon Sponge Cake

    The excitement mounted up at the sight of this Vanilla Spiced Fig Relish by Lapin D'Or, full of savoury goodness, dried figs soaked in red wine enhanced by vanilla. But was it to be the last of our savoury recipes?
    Shaheen at Alloment to Kitchen (A2K) offered a teaser. Her Vegan Rhubarb, Vanilla and Pomegranate Tart, a Creamy vanilla tofu with pomegranate which sparkle like jewels was at the time of publication a work in progress. To see the recipe ....forward to early June on A2K.

     For some reason, it never occured to me that Vanilla Extract could be made at home. But of course, it can. Sarah Jane shows us how from The Tales of the Kitchen Shed.
    It's only fitting that Vanesther closed the round up. A lovely surprise recipe. A savoury dish with Vanilla: Beef and Guinness pie

    Time to hand the baton back to Vanester. But not before thanking everyone who took part in this month's Spice trail and to swing by our sponsors and announce their decision on the winning entry.
    And the winner of Wow Vanilla is:
    Naturally Good Food had a bit of a task. Choosing a winner was not easy. After much deliberations, in the end the staff picked the Fruit Cocktail Bundt Cake posted on Jibber-Jabber UK by Ness. Naturally Good Food told us, The Bundt Cake "looked slightly unusual and inspired (them) to download the recipe to have a go" what better result can you get?
    Congratulations to Ness who will be receiving a gift of organic essences, we want to see what she and her daughter will come up using them.


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