Thursday, 20 November 2014

Soya Yogurt 5 Ways

If Maison Cupcake first soya experience was in the 80's in the form of "bean feast" a recurring dish at her mum's table, ours at Pebble Soup happened about at the same time while trekking in the Golden Triangle.
We camped outside villages. In the evening we used people's open fire to cook our meals. One night our Burmese guide magicked tofu, that night, we went to bed persuaded to have eaten a delicious wild animal. That's what happens when you taste blind something you never had before.
Soya has keep a little magic, I am very partial to "soya and horseradish cheese", Alpro Soya Yogurt are not far behind. The texture is much lighted than conventional yogurt and the scientific blurb tells us that they are:
  • Naturally low in saturated fat, low in sugars: 50cal, 2.3g fat. 2.5sugar per 100g
  • Naturally lactose free 'n gluten free
  • Contains calcium, vitamins B12 and D

  • Alpro is running an Inspiration Campaign which is bloggers led and opened to all to participate, have a peep at #Alprotops and see what you can magic.

    In the meantime here are my suggestions:

    Intrigued by the many Alpro tops
    I made a beeline for goji berries which were known, until the naughties, as wolfberries, when marketing hooked on their nutrient value and rebranded them as super-fruit. Don't they look attractive? on the top of this Lemon 'n Lime Soya Yogurt Milkshake
    Next day happened to be the week-end and that often means cocktail time. His face was a picture when presented with Vanilla 'n Whirl Maple Syrup Whirl topped with chocolate shavings
    Next came Muffins - Strawberry soya yogurt, chia seeds a new one on me. Chia seeds are tiny black seeds from the plant Salvia Hispanica, another one with  nutrients galore.

     Left with Alpro simply plain and now well in my stride, breakfast muesli got the treatment and how nice it was and last but not least, armed myself with a large spoon and polished the pot.
     disclaimer: my thanks to Alpro for including Pebble Soup in their campaign
    more information on the products used on Alpro Website

    Monday, 10 November 2014

    Challenges and Fochabers Gingerbread recipe

    Food blogging is many things. It's likely that there are as many reasons to write a food blog as there are food bloggers. Primarily it's a record, an electronic diary but even that differs from a blog to another. The question is "what are we recording"?
    In the complex tapestry of the food blogosphere, challenges have a prime place. they started mainly as a way of creating dishes around a theme, of having a big "party" and some challenges are still doing just that.
    Sadly, other food challenges exist only to provide backlinks for the hosting blogs. The focus disappeared, rules and regulation got longer, three sometimes four links are requested with the addition of as many badges and god knows what else. Honestly, these challenges are rubbish.
    Which is not the case for Belleau Kitchen's Random Recipe that has remained true to its starting principle: pick a recipe at random and cook it without cheating. This month, the theme is magazine clippings.

    A opportunity for me to display (once more but I am so proud of it) the small bookcase, I built from scratch in order to keep handy all most cookbooks
    When building it, no provision was made for magazines. So a year later, a magazine rack was added and hidden in the pantry with the tall books. Time to get it out.
    There was a little bit of cheating in the process, only on grounds of strong dislikes and out of season recipes. On the second attempt, BBC Good Food October 2000 came to the fore (things we keep, it's unbelievable). Page 41 offered two possibilities, parsnips pancake or Fochabers gingerbread.
    No prize for guessing which one won. This gingerbread is a traditional recipe from Scotland. It incorporates mixed peel which is unusual, beer and black treacle. A bit of research reveal that gingerbread recipes varies according to the regions as explained in The Curious Tale of the Gingerbread.
    Fochabers Gingerbread
    100g butter
    100g sugar 
    100g black treacle (molasses), slightly warmed 
    2tsp ground ginger 
    pinch of ground cloves  
    2tsp mixed spice
    1/2tsp cinnamon 
    1 eggs  
    250g plain flour  
    50g currants  
    50g sultanas 
    1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda   
    25g mixed peel chopped 
    150ml beer (which I replaced with water)
    1- Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 3/fan 140C. Grease a (2 pint) loaf tin. Using a food processor or an electric whisk, beat the butter together with the sugar and treacle until light and creamy. beat in the egg
    2- Measure the bicarbonate of soda into the beer, stir it and set aside. Stir all the remaining ingredients into the creamed mixture. Stir the beer mixture then pour it into the cake mixture, beating well until thoroughly incorporated.
    3- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour. When the cake is cooked, a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes then turn out on to a cooling rack and leave until completely cold.

    Friday, 7 November 2014

    Give-Away #28 : A beautiful Hotel Chocolat Advent Calendar

    Last minute announcement: the winner is Nia Wyn Dunn
    Some cultures are luckier than others when it comes to Christmas traditions. Growing up in France the only calendar we  looked forward to was l'Almanach des Postes. A piece of cardboard with an old-fashion picture in the center.
    Children have the privilege to choose which picture will adorn the wall in the kitchen or the loo. The choice is limited, sweating donkeys with heavy loads on their back, young 19th century lady in négligée, that was my dad's choice if I happened to be at school when the postman pop in for his annual tip and the sale of the horrid calendar.
    First time I heard about an advent calendar was through a friend from Lille. Allegedly the advent tradition was strong in the north. Almost enough to make me pack my baby rucksack and move.
    I have since made up  for lost time and it's with glee that this year, I am sharing the advent calendar good fortune with one Pebble Soup reader.  The countdown to Christmas begins with this beautiful Hotel Chocolat advent calendar. Featuring 24 fabulous Christmas sculptures, including reindeer, snowmen, penguins and enchanted Christmas trees, to name just a few.
    The winner will have the choice of one milk, dark or white chocolates.
    Three ways to win
     1 – Comment on the blog Leave a comment below, sharing your favourite Christmas chocolates. Mine is definitely orange peel.
    2 – Twitter Follow @solangeweb on Twitter. If you already follow, it goes without saying that you are welcome too. Then tweet the following:
    I've entered @HotelChocolat Advent Calendars #giveaway from Pebble Soup #PebbleSoupAdvent

    Cut and paste is safer. I'll track your entry with the Twitter handle   

    3- Facebook Like Pebble Soup page   

    Entries will close on Tuesday 17th November at midday (12.00GMT). Hotel Chocolat will dispatch the calendar to the winner shortly after the 21st so that it can be enjoyed on the 1st of December

    Terms and conditions:
    One Winner will be selected via digital Randomiser shortly after closing date and announced on Twitter and on this page.
    Only one entry per category per person, (1 comment, 1 twitter, 1 facebook) all entries will be verified.
    This give-away is open to UK residents only.
    There is no cash alternative. 
    The prize will have to be claimed within 3 days so please make sure you check your account for notification.
    HC calendar retail at £12.50, my thanks to Hotel Chocolat for providing one complementary for the purpose of this post.

    Wednesday, 29 October 2014

    Low Calorie Pumpkin Pie Tartlets

    Usually, people and magazines talk about calories when spring approaches and it's time to get T-shirts and skinny dresses out. I, on the other hand, dread the coming months. An endless string of comfort food and celebrations. So, with Halloween opening the party days, this year marks a radical change for me.
    I have decided to go guilt free, build-in near regular swimming sessions and whenever I can reduce the calories, do so, starting with Halloween celebrations.

    Here is a piece I wrote for Great British Chefs, it includes a recipe for these lovely treats

    Pumpkin Pie, Halloween

    Thursday, 23 October 2014

    Spiced Halloumi & Courgette Skewers

    Up to very recently, we used to have a "friends pre-Christmas "thing"" where small presents were exchanged, big dinner enjoyed by all. On one of these occasion J. aged 6 shyly came to me with a bunch of magic wands. "These are for you" she said, squinting at me and wiggling her nose in the process.

    I kept my wands for years, each rod of wood topped with a sparkling star either gold or silver. It's difficult to recall how many times, I wished for my wands to be magic, to sort out small problems. I don't think I would let magic sort out the bigger issues.

    Last week, as I was scouring the shelves looking for dinner inspiration, I spotted a packet of Santa Maria enchilada seasoning mix and skewers. Plain sticks of wood, no star, neither gold nor silver, as I picked one up, the halloumi packet floated in front of my eyes.

    Halloumi is  one of these ingredients which is easily overlooked. We are not really used to it and very often we don't know what to do with it.  It's a semi hard/ewe or goat/ cooking cheese from Cyprus. Springy more than chewy, it's also rather salted. So would I dare mixing Mexican spices and Cypriot cheese. Yes was the answer after all it was mid-week and I needed a speedy meal with a bit of magic.

    Spiced Halloumi & Courgettes Skewers
    1/2 packet of seasoning mix
    1 slab Halloumi diced
    1 courgette slices
    2 tbs oil
    Don't use salt that's provided by the cheese
    In a large bowl mix the oil and seasoning mix
    Add the halloumi and the courgettes
    Alternate one halloumi cube with one slice of courgette on a skewer (will take 4/5 pieces
    Grill for 10 minutes
    Serve with green salad or rice

    because it's nice to share I am entering this recipe in Maison Cupcake and Feeding Boys' monthly challenge


    Wednesday, 15 October 2014

    Turkey Osso Buco

    This recipe is the kind of substitution recipe which is going to infuriate the purists: Osso Buco is an Italian recipe; the name means bone with a hole and the taste is partly provided by the bone marrow.
    I could say that this recipe has been adapted to suit our modern taste, as bone marrow is not regarded the same way as it once was, but that would be a lie.
    The truth is that, veal is difficult and expensive to source. At the time of shopping substitution made sense. I couldn't see myself axing through beef bones therefore I opted for leg of turkey .....and wait, the worse it to come.........
    Once home......I deboned it. This is the point where purists will throw their hands in the air and do a Milanese chef's impersonation complete with sound.
    Apart from that snicky substitution, a traditional Osso Buco recipe was followed to the letter....well almost. One of the important thing to remember with an Osso Buco is that it's essential to flour the meat so that it doesn't caramelise when browning. The flouring process will keep the dish as white, soft and tender as possible.
    Then, there is the white wine. When cooking with wine always use a wine you would choose to drink. When it comes to the vegetables, carrots, celery and onions are recommended, if you substitute any, best remember that the dish is going to slow cook therefore any vegetable which tend to "mush" is not a must. On the other hand omission bar the onions is perfectly OK.
    Turkey Osso Buco
    Olive oil enough to brown the turkey
    Flour to dust the pieces
    1 leg of Turkey will make 3/4 persons - deboned and chopped in pieces (or cut 4 pieces through the bone)
    50g butter
    1 onion, finely chopped
    1 carrot, finely chopped
    1 celery stick, finely chopped
    1 head of garlic, cut horizontally
    1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
    4 sage leaves (can't be replaced by a tsp of thyme)
    200ml white wine
    200ml  chicken stock
    salt and pepper
    This dish is mostly slow cooked therefore will require a casserole with a lid adequate for oven cooking
    Preheat the oven to 170C/340F/Gas 4
    Place the turkey pieces in a plate and dust them with flour until well coated. heat the oil is the casserole and cook the pieces until they are sealed but not browned. Remove the turkey, add the butter and cook the onion, carrot and celery golden, then add the garlic, thyme or sage, season.
    Turn the heat up, add the wine and return the turkey pieces. Let it all bubble until the wine has reduced by half then add the stock bring to boil and place the casserole in the oven for 2 hours.
    The meat should be tender enough to cut with a fork. Serve on a bed of tagliatelle.
    Another substitution: due to the circumstances, I didn't have the opportunity to photograph the dish so instead I included a picture taken while visiting Kellybronze turkey farm.

    For more atypical recipes have a look at my Melon de Dinde (complete with video)

    Thursday, 9 October 2014

    What's New in the Kitchen #9 : New For Old

    Since, the last post in this series dates from May (#8 : "That's Weird"), a new one is long due. "New for Old" is all about the new generation of familiar products.
    Take Appletiser, a soft drink originating from South Africa and distributed by Coca-Cola. Probably, not the kind of beverage you and I are drinking routinely though we may have tried it on occasion. With no added preservatives, here comes the latest flavour: Apple 'n Pomegranate.
    I took a sample to our hide-away in the New Forest. It's a clean drink with a great flavour. If the devil is seating on your shoulder, make sure that she/he can't read the next sentence.
    Apple 'n Pomegranate Appletiser is a super base for cocktails. 750ml bottle RRP £2.49

    Here comes the box.  The Ryvita Company was established in 1925, this year it has undertook some radical changes and to go along with the new range, the company asked fashion designer Ben De Lisi to create a celebratory Tin. Available on line at 7.49RRP 
    If you are looking for a snack the Ryvita fruit-crunch is filling and very very tasty.
    If you were thinking of swapping your same-old, same-old breakfast cereals for a new brand, you could do much worse than picking Lizi's  low sugar granola.
    Most granolas are classified "high in sugar" often with 12g + per 100g (our recommended daily allowance is 90g) . Lizi's granola contains 1/3 of the sugar added to  conventional products. It's still crisp thanks to the black treacle.
    The problem is in the amount of fat which is  superior than granolas I compared it with.
    It could be that granola , in general, is not as healthy as we think.
    New Covent Garden Soups changes its flavours with the seasons. This is a dynamic company which doesn't hesitate to involve the public in its creative process.  Kale 'n Nutmeg is one of five great new varieties launching this month.

    I was sent a sample to try it out, it looks very healthy and there is a lot of Kale in this soup so no worries when it comes to "five a day". Kale is an acquired taste and I hope that this soup will be a crowd pleaser, I liked it but he made sure not to be at home when Kale 'n Nutmeg soup was on the menu.
    I had a bit of trouble with its texture, it's stringy however it made a very welcomed change and probably not a soup that I would make from scratch. Others in the new range include Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Seeds, Vegetable and Soupergrain, Mild Curried Sweet Potato and Sweetcorn 'n Chilli.
    disclaimer: I was sent a sample for each product reviewed in this post. Words are my own and I was not asked to write a positive review.

    Thursday, 2 October 2014

    Le Restaurant de Paul - Review -

    Paul is the biggest bakery in France. Today 4.6 million customers walk through the doors each month and it has a presence in 29 other countries across the world.
    Since opening its first bakery in London in 2000, the chain has been the object of a few criticisms. Forums talk about unhelpful service. I, for one find it difficult to reconcile "artisan bakery" with such a large company. But as the wise woman says the proof of the pud is in the eating.
    A few weeks ago, the family-run artisan bakery and patisserie opened its first London-based restaurant in the heart of Covent-Garden. When we visited, early one evening, last week, the place was packed with theatre goers, the waiters were welcoming and they were taking their time with each and everyone.
    We decided that the décor was very "troisieme empire", I am not certain either what that means other than here, murals, fitting and furniture are unmistakably vieille France, the atmosphere is very continental with tables close to one another and Gallic music in the background. 

    He liked his Pastis so much that he succumbed to another round. I wasn't a great fan of my Kir which was warm and too sweet.

    The small plates of charcuterie were generous and the ingredients high quality. Being so close to the bakery....I'll rephrase this: being in the bakery, a baker's basket of freshly made bread would have been more than welcome.
    The front of the house was working hard, theatre goers had gone and a new wave of punters were perusing the menu. Nevertheless our waiter took time to choose the correct wine to suit equally our main course. The wine list is succinct but sufficient and affordable, I started to understand why people patronised Paul's restaurant.
    All the main courses are French classics; Slow cooked duck leg, Saucisses de Toulouse, Coq au Vin........Loup de Mer and veal which doesn't appear very often on  restaurant menus; I opted for Blanquette de Veau which I particularly like. His steak was "delicious".
    Paul's chefs are dab hands at cooking simple home-made-style dishes and the quality of the ingredients is really good. Prices are reasonable, with the mains starting at £7.50 up to £13.50 the price of the entrecote and the small starters to share are maximum £4.00.
    I liked the food for its honesty and the service for its friendliness. I wish I hadn't glanced at the desert menu because from that moment my liking dwindled, beside the nice patisseries which I had already opted against, there it was, "The Bread".
    Yes, au restaurant de Paul, a basket of assorted bread cost £1.75. One could argue that the price is fair but this issue is my main pet-hate. If I've said it once I’ve said it a thousand times one million times, "Bread should be complimentary with meals".
    disclaimer : My thanks to Le restaurant de Paul for their hospitality and the complementary dinners which have been reviewed in this post. Words are my own. I was under no obligation to write a positive review. copyright for top image : Paul's website the others are my own
     Le Restaurant de PAUL
    29 Bedford St,
    London WC2E 9ED 
    Le Restaurant de Paul on Urbanspoon


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