Monday, 14 April 2014

Ploughman with Maple Caramelised Onion Mini Quiches

Can't think of any english sound more difficult to pronounce than "ough". It's a nightmare.
"Through" sounds like "flew", "cough" like "off", "though" like "so" and what about "plough" why should it sound the way it does? For years, a group of us met at The Plough and for years, the jokes were on me. There would be all sort of references and invitations for me to say the name of the pub which I kept pronouncing "The Ploof".
For my defence, I had no reason to know how to pronounce that word, one doesn't use a ploof in suburbia. Of course when it came to order a "ploofman" so called friends chuckled in their beers. Eventually, I worked it out and The Plough never saw my custom again.
quiche, ploughman, maple caramelised onions.

A couple of weeks back, Sue bought a wonderful food parcel back from Canada. It contained a jar of "Maple Caramelised Onions" which yesterday became a dinner saver. Shortcrust pastry, a spoon of the wonder jar, covered with guiche filling (egg + cream) and topped with grated cheddar, this is a must try recipe, Ploughman made into a quiche. My little revenge on The Ploofman and it was delicious cold too.
Camilla Stephens' Cheddar Ploughman Tartlets, seen in Higgidy Cookbook were the inspiration.
 Ploughman Mini Quiches
Makes 4
Preheat oven 190C/fan 170C/gas mark 5
1/2 pack of Shortcrust pastry (bought commercially)
1 onion finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of maple syrup
1/2 spoon of balsamic vinegar
1 egg
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
salt and pepper
60g mature cheddar grated
3 cherry tomatoes (optional)
To caramalise the onion
in a small saucepan
heat the oil
add the onion (2 is small)
leave it to soften and when it's translucid add the syrup and the vinegar (make sure the heat is low)
cook 5 minutes to coat the onion. have water ready on the side in case onion catches
For the quiches' egg mixture
in a bowl beat 1 egg and 2 tablespoon of creme fraiche (thick cream is required), season well.

Assembling and Baking
Use single tartlets tins.and a bowl larger that each shape to cut out the pastry
Roll the pastry out as thin as you can 0.5cm
cut 4 shapes
place the circles in the tins and layer thinly with onion, add the cream mixture, then the cheddar and top with half a cherry tomato
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes
Serve hot or cold

As I want a maximum people to know about this new recipe, I've shared it with

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Salmon Verrine with Dill & Lime Mustard and Fennel Mousse, A Maille Culinary Challenge

Salmon Verrine with Dill and Lime Mustard and Fennel Mousse, A Maille Culinary Challenge

Here is an experiment for you: take a French person, preferably over 12, look at this person and say the magic words, "moutarde Maille". Without fail your person will reply "Il n'y a que Maille qui m'aille". Very few brands have managed to hypnotise a whole nation with a motto.
La maison Maille created by Antoine Maille in 1747 did. Soon after he'd opened its first shop in Paris, Maille became King Louis XV's official supplier of vinegar and mustard.
267 years later, Maille opens its first shop abroad (Picadilly, London) and launches a new "collection", subtil flavours favoured by Louis XV's entourage (that's Mme de Pompadour) aptly name Le Potager du Roy.

Why am I giving you an history lesson? because the other day, I got an email from the company asking if I wanted to take up a recipe challenge. The idea is to incorporate product(s) from their exclusive online boutique and creating a unique recipe. 
French mustard can be rather strong compared to its sweet mild counterpart, here I chose to work with Moutarde Aneth et Citron Vert a zingy, fresh tasting condiment, picked for its medium strengh.
To get the taste of the mustard through the dish, the recipe needed to be delicately balanced. To complement Aneth (Dill), I chose salmon and salmon chose fennel, which in my opinion was a good choice as the fennel mousse ended up being of a very similar colour to the aneth and lime mustard. 
The slightly coarse texture of the salmon and finely chopped shallot contrasted perfectly with the silkiness of the fennel mousse. All the flavours could be picked up individually and married ever so well. As you can see, I am very proud of my recipe and will do it again, though next time, I'll used butter on the top rather than gelatine and will serve it with asparagus topped with Dijonnaise.

This verrine, in spite of its long title is extremely simple and fast to make, it will serve four and could be set in individual glasses or in a terrine.

 Salmon Verrine with Dill and Lime Mustard and Fennel Mousse

10 min. cooking time, assemblage time 10 min.
Serves 4.

20 g butter (+ 5g to use to cover the verrine)
160 g salmon fillets
1 fennel chopped in slices (keep the leaves for decoration)
1 lemon cut in half & reserve 1 slice for decoration
1 shallot finely sliced
3 tsp Maille Mustard - Aneth and Citron
3 heaped tbsp of creme fraiche (alternatively use 100g of cream cheese)
milk (might be necessary if the mixture is too thick)
Salt and pepper to season to taste
5g butter or 1/2 leaf gelatine to seal

  1. Add 10 gr butter to a skillet and pan fry salmon fillets both side for a total of 6 minutes, it could still be slightly pink in the middle. 
          Note : When using frozen salmon make sure it's well cooked (not pink in the middle) cooking time might be slightly longer.

    2. In the meantime, gently melt 10g of butter in a saucepan and add the chopped fennel, squeeze lemon lightly over the top (the equivalent of 2tbs), cover and leave fennel to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the fennel is very soft. Turn heat of and leave to cool until it's needed

           Note :There is no need to season at this stage.

     3. While this is doing chop the shallot as finely as you can.

     4. When the salmon is cooked, take off the hob and let it cool for a few minutes. Skin the fillet(s) and place them with the juices in a small food processor.
     5.Season and add 3 heaped tablespoons of creme fraiche.

     6. Process, it's done when it reaches a firm and smooth consistency with very little pieces of salmon. If the mixture turns into a thick ball add a little milk.

      7. Put the mixture in a bowl, add 3 teaspoons of Aneth and Lime Mustard and  the finely chopped shallot, mix well with a fork.

      8. Rinse the equipment clean and process the fennel until it gets smooth, season generously and mix a little more.

Choose a serving dish, either a tumbler glass or four small glasses or a terrine dish, layer half the salmon first, press as much as you can to get the air out, then spread out the whole of the fennel mixture, press to get the air bubbles out, top with the rest of the salmon, press again.

If you use butter to seal, melt 5g of butter, leave it to cool slightly and pour on the top, decorate with fennel leaves and a slice of lemon, if you use gelatine, melt 1/2 leaf according to the instruction and proceed the same way as with butter.

Store in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour, verrines can be prepared several hours in advance or even the day before. Serve with toasts.

Disclaimer: thank you to Maille for sending me Aneth et Citron vert Mustard in order to create the recipe.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies


People often have an incredulous look when they hear that bloggers meet in real life. Oooh no! we are not always glued to our computer-screen far from that but without new technologies we would probably have never met.
As it is we share projects, meet up at various events, call one-another and help when we can. Generally we do whatever people do in their respective community.
And that generates trust. When I want a recipe, I'll tend to search the work of bloggers I know then I cross reference with recipe books or Chefs' sites.
Since lately, baking has been on the agenda and as we know, I am not the greatest of bakers, help was required.
Part 1, the background: Antoine was coming back from his travels, 8 months in South America, it was time to get the peanut butter out and make his favorite. Which in this case was extremely general: anything with peanut butter.
That's when I spotted that Emma MT at Cakes, Bakes and Cookies had published her childhood recipe. After cross referencing it with Baking Mad, it was time to bake.

Cross referencing allows to adapt the recipe to your own requirements but it also add to the general knowledge. Here for example tell us that "apparently the traditional criss cross pattern on top of peanut butter cookies is so you can distinguish them from other cookies" really quite useful for allergy sufferers.

Recipe-wise : Emma uses self raising flour, easier than having to make your own and 1/2 the amount of peanut butter.

The result couldn't have been better an empty biscuit tin by the time Antoine flew back to his beloved Savoie.
Part 2, the background: Antoine's girl friend is a Nutella Cake fan but that is another recipe coming up soon.
peanut butter, cookies, biscuits
  • 125g                    Butter (unsalted)
  • 140g                    Unrefined light muscovado sugar       
  • 1                          Egg (free range)       
  • 150g                    Self raising white flour
  • 125g                    Peanut butter (crunchy)
Preheat oven to 180C or 150 fan oven - Line two baking sheets with baking paper
In a bowl or a food processor, beat the peanut butter with sugar add the butter and process until smooth, gradually add the egg and the flour
When this is done, using a tablespoon take enough dough to fill the spoon and roll into ball, place on the baking sheet leaving a gap. 
Press with a fork until you get the desired thickness usually 1cm. Bake for
15 minutes.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

How to Taste Olive Oil

In January, The NY Times published an infographic put together by illustrator Nicholas Belcham. Its title? Extra Virgin Suicide: the Alduration of Italian Olive Oil.

It's a great  visual piece detailing the not so Italian olive oil food chain. We learn that much Italian Olive Oil doesn't come from Italy but from countries like Spain, Tunisia and Morocco and it's only the start, it gets much much worse. I leave you to have a look at it,
A couple of months later, in sunny Greenwich, I received a couple of tiny samples of Greek olive oil to raise awareness of D.O.P (Protected Designation of Origin) a label connected with a specific geographical area that define the quality, taste and other singular characteristics of a product.
Cause to effect, may be not and let's not be sinycal but if I were in the very lucrative olive oil business or liquid gold, as a mate of mine, himself a producer, calls it, I would definitely get worried about the bad press on the subject .
A point of interest in the infographic was that "to combat the fraud, the Italian Carabinieri relied on smell as lab test can be easily faked". Which brings us neatly to how to do a bit of Olive Oil tasting which was the subject of a previous post: Know Your Olive Oils.
 But in short, here is how to taste olive oil:

First place 15-20ml of oil in a small glass
Cut your hands around to glass to warm the liquid
Smell. Good olive oil should have a pleasant aroma
Then take on a piece of white bread and dip it in the oil, you should detect spiciness and fruitiness

"Spiciness is a peppery sensation at the back of the throat and a slight "burning"on the throat"

"Fuitiness is a sensation of freshly cut olive fruits and leaves when smelling the oil" there will also be a bit of bitterness

Tasting olive oil neat, without the bread is a revelation, only use a minute quantity, less than a teaspoon. I would be rather curious to know how it went, leave me a comment.

disclaimer: some of the tasting notes are from Olive Oil World a current, generic ,campaign to raise awarness about olive oil, some are from my own experience.



Friday, 28 March 2014

Slow Braised Shank of Lamb

Today could have been very different. For various reasons, I turned down a day visit to The Foxhunter; a restaurant said to be one of the most exciting in Wales; owned by television chef Matt Tebbutt and located in Nant-y-derry, bet you that is an adorable village too. If I had gone, I would have learned about  PGI Welsh Lamb.

As it goes, I am still slightly ignorant about Welsh Lamb and its PGI status which doesn't stop me having an opinion on the subject and here it goes:
We probably have some of the best lamb on earth, the PGI badge recognises its quality and acknowledges farming good practices. It also means that only sheep  born and raised in Wales and slaughtered in approved abattoirs can legally be described as Welsh Lamb.

It's soon lambing season, remember that lamb meat keeps in the freezer for up to nine months. If sometimes lamb might look expensive, there is no reason to ignore the less expensive cuts which are excellent braised, casseroled, stewed and slow-cooked.
At Pebble Soup HQ, there is no slow cooker, all is done in the oven, it may provide less control but it works very well too, that's how this recipe was done.
Slow Braised Shank of Lamb
1 Lamb shanks (per person, though I use one for two)
15ml (1tbsp) olive oil  
3 or 4 Onion, peeled and quatered  
1 Red and 1 green chilli, sliced
5 unpeeled garlic cloves
1/4 pint Lamb stock (or vegetable bouillon)
Rosemary sprigs, sage and bay leaves to flavour 
2 tbs tomato paste 
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2 use an oven-proof casserole if unavailable use an oven tray with high sides and aluminium foil to cover tightly

Place the lamb in a big casserole pot and season with salt and pepper be generous with the seasoning and drizzle the oil over.

Cut the onions into quarters, add to the pot with (unpeeled) garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs, sage and bay leaves.

Mix the bouillon with the tomato paste

Pour over the lamb, place the lot in the oven and let it cook for 2h1/2.

Serve with roasted potatoes and vegetables

More Lamb Recipes on Pebble Soup
Great British Chef's Slow  Cooked Lamb Shank

and the ultimate
7 Hour Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb by Greedy Gourmet

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Give-Away #24 : Brioche Pasquier Hamper: a Selection from the Traditional and Pitch range

Breakfast in France can be a bit of a miserable affair, contrary to popular belief, croissants, pains au chocolat, brioches and the likes  are often kept for the week-end or reserved for guests and special occasions. However when the hour for goûter strikes, around 4 o'clock when children get out of school, the French will stop their activities and snack but that is not snacking as we know it, no greasy chips eaten out of carboard boxes, Non, non, non. That's when pains au chocolat, brioches etc play their role.
 Brioche Pasquier which uses traditional recipes and an authentic process to create its "breakfast  and gouter favourites” kindly offers one lucky Pebble Soup reader a hamper from their traditional and pitch ranges.

Give away description although it won’t necessarily be all of these, but a mix:
From the traditional range,
·         Pains au lait: Based on a traditional recipe, using the finest butter, milk and levain
·         Pains au chocolat: Made with brioche dough that is worked into a light puff pastry and filled with a dark cacao-butter chocolate
·         Croissants: Light buttery croissant made using processes authentic to the original French bakery
From the Pitch:  Perfect for a lunchbox treat or for snacking on the go, soft brioches, individually wrapped and filled with a number of flavours:
·         Chocolate: A chocolate flavour filling with a hint of hazelnut
·         Choc Chip: Light brioche filled with chocolate chips
·         Strawberry: Brioche filled with a light strawberry centre
·         Lemon: Brioche filled with a tangy lemon curd

How to Enter

  • Complete the Rafflecopter form below, unlock bonus entries by answering a question in the comment box.
  • Closing date: 30th March 2014.
  • Read the “Terms and Conditions” link at bottom of Rafflecopter form.
  • Winner will be contacting by email and announced on the Rafflecopter form.
Good luck

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Vienna : A Whistle-Stop Tour

The capital with the best quality of life in the entire world* - An imperial past with enduring grandeur - Excellent public transport with a cheap option for tourists - a place of classical culture with impressive thematic museums - Even a glorious food market and a specific cuisine and yet 

In spite of it all, Vienna isn't one of the most popular tourist destination when it comes to European capitals. Though everyone who has been will tell you that they loved it. Our excuse to go (if we ever need one) was that it's only 5 hours away from Prague by train and the journey cost less than £30.
From a sightseeing point of view Vienna is compact with an impressive stock of Art Nouveau buildings amidst elegant (but heavy) architecture from the mid 19th century.

Exploring Vienna

Spending time in the Austrian capital needs forward planning and a selective mind, it's a case of too much to see and too little time to see it. The incompressible are Vienna’s landmark Gothic cathedral Stephansdom (St Stephen’s Cathedral), Schönbrunn Palace the imperial rococo style summer residence favoured by the iconic Empress Sisi and Ringstrass, walking along the boulevard will give you a strong understanding of Vienna before the fall of the empire in 1918 (a yellow tram with personal headphones will avoid blisters), these seen, your Tailor-made itinerary can be "activated".
Note that a "72 hours Vienna" travel card at 20 euros is a must.
Taking a look at the food scene
It won't be earth-shattering to read that Vienna is big on pastries however the Austo-Hungarian monarchy didn't only unite Hugary, Bohemia and Moravia as territories it also bought the cuisines in a large melting pot; contributing to goulash, strudels, various pancakes and the famous Wiener Schnitzel which is rumoured to have reached the Austrian capital from Istanbul. The hot dog came later but don't leave without having tried one of the sausage stands which dots the city.
Note that strangely it's not that easy to find a restaurant open in the evenings on a week-end and every thing bar night-clubs seems to close earlier that in the UK.

May be not surprisingly, Naschmarkt, Vienna food market was my first stop, a long string of food stands and restaurants which doubles up with the flea market on Saturdays, the whole of Naschmarkt is closed on Sundays. when there don't can't miss the eye catching vinegars stand, may be not great for tasting though but rather impressive for its varieties.
Recommended by locals:
Xocolat Manufaktur, as a writer at, I have tasted my share of chocolates, these are some of the finest. The shop doubles up with the factory so that customers can see the fabrication process, I am told that there are workshops too.

Pay attention: it's the cultural bit 

Music and Visual arts are closely associated with the Vienna, if you are interested in classical music, it would not be too difficult to design a walk dedicated to all the musicians who live in Vienna at one point or another, Beethoven, Strauss, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms to name but a few.
Themed museums are really well conceived, I still groan at not catching The Third Man museum (as in O. Welles). Sigmund Freud's place of work is a museum too and I am told by my neurotic friend that it's an excellent place to see.
As for the visual arts, a choice has to be made thought most are situated in a compact quarter, each one is huge and one can take only so much in. The Leopold Museum which owns the world's largest collection of works by Egon Schiele and a number of master pieces by Klimt is fascinating.

Vienna's Lodging Options

This is where Vienna comes undone, at the time of research, all the options were deemed expensive. With a Vienna (travel) card, it might be worth considering staying outside from the main center, there is so much to see and do that it is unlikely you'll spend much time indoors. We opted to stay in the center at Pension Lerner as Hotel Daniel, our 1st choice was so popular it was fully booked 
Pebble Soup's best experience in Vienna : PolaWalk,  a company recently founded by two cool photographers who take customers and vintage Polaroid cameras on an activity walk, the latter can be Tailor-made or generic. It's a completely different approach to photography. In a world where frankly too many pictures are taken, this gives a chance to focus on the essential as the cartridge contains only 8 pictures, it's a very different way to look at Vienna and you get to take your oldie-worldly pictures home.

Useful address: 
Food Market
between Karlsplatz and Kettenbrückengasse
U4: Station Kettenbrückengasse
U1, U2, U4: Station Karlsplatz

My thanks to the staff at the tourism office for providing me with information and two complimentary travel card.

 *the latest global survey from consultant group Mercer which uses 39 factors such as political stability, health care, education, crime and transport.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Spinach Pie Olga

Reminder: You have until Sunday to win a personalised apron for messy mums
Spinach Pie Olga
Hands up these of you who recall the Scardale Diet. It's a 14 days diet with strict meal plans, minimum alcohol and a couple of very low calories days per week.  
Does it work? yes, it does, the first time, the weight loss can be spectacular then like all these diets, the second time round the loss is lesser and in between you've possibly gone back to your old habits, your body is now storing fat faster and you have created vicious circle which is going to be hard to break.
Having said this, Scardale contains a couple of cracking recipes, Spinach Pie Olga is one of the delicious ones at 75cal and less than 5g of fat per portion, it's a good addition to a meal.
Now for the murder: Dr. Herman Tarnower, cardiologist and author of The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet died age 70 murdered by his lover who was 20 years younger than him.
Nothing to do with the diet.
The man was a womaniser and after a 14 years relationship, one day she blew a fuse, grabbed a gun, got to his place, found underwear belonging to another and blew his brains, she was convicted of murder. I'll let you draw your own conclusions mine is that crash diet don't work.
Back to :
Spinach Cheese Pie Olga
500g frozen chopped spinach
3 eggs, beaten 
170g cottage cheese ( you might as well make it low fat ) 
2 slices bread, dipped in water and then squeezed out
20g grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Thaw spinach, add salt and squeeze out water, let it cool
In a bowl add other ingredients, mix it all up, add the cooled spinach
Press lightly into bottom of 9-inch pie pan (use nonstick pan or coat well with no-stick vegetable spray).
Bake approximately 40 - 45 minutes.
Serves 4

As this recipe is great to add vegetable to a pack lunch or as a veg starter to dinner, I enter it in Extra Veg a challenge with a prize run by Helen and Michelle of respectively Fuss Free Flavour and Utterly Scrummy


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