Peanut Butter Cookies


Everyone who has followed my food column in the Greenwich local newspaper will know that I am mad about the food calendar - check 2020 list of National days here. National days always spur me on and National Peanut Butter Day is no different (24th January 2020).

This time around, I have another reason to take to baking: Antoine is coming back from his travels, 8 months in South America, it is time to get the peanut butter out and make his favourite, basically anything with peanut butter.

Sadly as you also know, I am not the greatest of bakers, help is often required. When I want a recipe, I tend to search in the blogosphere, then I cross-reference with recipe books or Chefs' sites.

I like Emma MT's blog: Cakes, Bakes and Cookies. Luck will have it that she had published one of her childhood-memory-recipes, all about peanut butter. After cross-referencing her instructions, it was time to bake.

Cross-referencing allows to adapt the recipe to your own requirements but it also adds to the general knowledge. Here, for example, the reference site explains 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.

peanut butter, cookies, biscuits

Ingredients
  • 125g                    Butter (unsalted)
  • 140g                    Unrefined light muscovado sugar       
  • 1                          Egg (free range)       
  • 150g                    Self raising white flour
  • 125g                    Peanut butter (crunchy)
Method
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.

Pay attention here are the eco-facts:

Each time you eat a PB&J for lunch instead of red meat, like a burger or a ham sandwich, you’re shrinking your carbon footprint by almost 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. You’ll also save 133 gallons of water and 24 square feet of land per each peanut butter and jelly lunch.


Crispy Potato & Lamb Hotpot



Have you noticed how much attention we pay to the first...the first...anything, really. But in this context, the first blogpost of the year. Like a needy person, it demands your entire attention. It is important to get it right, to make sure that it will keep the readers entertained. It needs to reflect the correct trend and set the tone for the rest of the year.

On the other hand, the last post of the year could be ....whatever, nobody would notice as long as it ends with a resounding Happy New Year. Though in the case of the Crispy Potato & Lamb hotpot, to ignore it, would be a mistake. Take it as a Lancashire Hotpot which has had a make-over, with its potato swirl, it is very pretty. One of the most succulent dishes, I made this year. And last but not least it is very easy to make....so here we go.

Crispy Potato and Lamb Hotpot
Ingredients
700g lamb leg steaks
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, sliced
225g carrots, diced
1 celery stick, diced
800g potatoes, not peeled and evenly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (plus extra sprigs)
50g black pudding, cut into chunks
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
500-600ml hot lamb stock
25g butter, melted

Method
Heat a tbsp of the oil in a lidded casserole. Add the onions, carrots and lamb, fry for no more than 10 minutes until the meat turns brown and the onions are soft.
Season with black pepper and stir through the flour.

Add the bay leaves and Worcestershire sauce to the pan, stirring to catch any bits sticking to the bottom. Add the stock, bring to simmer then cook with the lid on for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.

Meanwhile, slice the potatoes as thinly as you can.

Take the casserole dish off the heat and arrange the potato slices upright on top, your slices will need to be in small stacks, don't bother to separate. Create a few swirls. Drizzle with the remaining oil, season with pepper and top with 2 sprigs of thyme.

Cover the dish and cook in the oven for 1h30 mins. Remove the lid and cook for another 45 minutes. The potatoes will turn brown. Sprinkle with thyme and parsley before serving.

Happy New year - Thank you so much for visiting in your thousands to read this blog in 2019 - Just last month there was just over 21 000 of you popping in, and that is a lot of people...Thank you again. Hope to see you soon



Review : The Bay Tree Hotel - Broadstairs

A 10 metres tall, magnificent bay tree standing in a gorgeous patio, inspired the name of this newly refurbished Broadstairs' Hotel. The tree is said to be the oldest, the largest of its kind in Kent....and I managed to blank it out. I swear, I never saw that beauty. Was I sick? yes, I was harbouring a nasty flu. But, there was no way I would pass the opportunity to re-visit Broadstairs where I was told a fabulous hotel had recently opened: The Bay Tree Hotel.

The Bay Tree Hotel - Broadstairs

The story starts in 2016, when owners Alistair Dixon and Robert Stone bought their dream Victorian house overlooking Stone Bay, a few minutes walk from Broadstairs' centre. Three years and a considerable financial investment later, the pair have got their hotel the way they imagined it: furnished with repurposed antiques, impeccably decorated, with 'a sprinkle of magic', but more about this later.



As we arrived, we were greeted by Ben standing on a stunning Minton floor. Ben is the couple's Bedlington Terrier, fast becoming a little star on social media.

Bedlington Terrier

The Rooms:
The hotel is comprised of 10 rooms, each named after British woods and many feature colours that reflect the sea and its surroundings. The balcony sea view room, English Oak, incorporates pastel blues to reflect the colours of the sea.


Alistair showed us to the Walnut Room which has a partial view of the sea through an Oriel window. The palette is grey, light aubergine with accents of yellow. My foggy brain refuses to register the connection between the colours and the named wood but my body almost flies to a comfortable, oh! so comfortable bed.

A visit to the en suite wet room later with its toiletry specifically designed for the Bay Tree and I'm as good as new. Down the 'magic staircase' again towards the library and the restaurant where Head Chef, Volodymyr Slobodyan is waiting for us. But, before meeting him let's pause for a minute.

The Magical Art Collection:


The hotel has partnered with Mina Lima, the official graphic prop designers of the Harry Potter films, to create a gallery of the artwork featured in the films.     Graphic designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima met on the set of Harry Potter in 2001 and have worked together ever since to produce all the artwork and props for the Harry Potter and more recently, the Fantastic Beasts films.      The owners of the Bay Tree Hotel have purchased 132 limited edition prints of Lima’s  Harry Potter artwork. The limited-edition prints are on display in the staircase, lobby and hotel’s library, with the collection rotating throughout the year.   
The Restaurant:
Back to Head Chef who comes to think of has a name worthy of a J.K. Rowling's character and infectious energy. At the start, Vlod is slightly concerned about my ability to eat a 3-course meal. I quickly reassure him, 'It will take more than the flu to keep me away from my food...and I do intend to be cremated with a knife and fork, just in case.....'. He looks half-convinced before presenting us with a ramekin of olive which he cures himself. Trained by Angela Hartnett, he joined The Bay Tree restaurant in Summer 2018.



Our starters, a Parsnip and Apple Soup for my partner and Scallops on Butternut Squash and Pumpkin for me had a hint of sweetness and both dishes were pleasant. My dish took another dimension thanks to the Homemade Seed Pesto. That was genius

Scallops

Our mains Dover Sole and Pan-Seared Cod followed the same pattern, classic English dishes with seasonal ingredients and an innovative side dish. In my case, the chunky piece of cod with freshly picked samphire was almost enough, its tagine although I understand why it was there and was extremely well executed didn't add much.

Each dish was paired specifically. But, I'll let you discover the pairings for yourself, the restaurant does a 5-course tasting menu with wine pairing. Moreover, one doesn't have to be a guest to enjoy the restaurant. It is open to all.

Next morning after a restorative porridge for me and a full English for him, it was time to say our good-byes to Ben with the secret promise to meet again, after all, I still have to see 'The Tree'.

Extras:

Want to know more about Broadstairs? click here: www.enjoybroadstairs.co.ukWhy not planning a visit to Ramsgate too? Click here

The Bay Tree Hotel at 12 Eastern Esplanade, Broadstairs. Call 01843 862 502 or click here for the website Twitter: @baytreehotel - Facebook: Bay Tree Hotel Broadstairs Instagram: Baytreebroastairs 
Disclaimer : I would like to thank the owners and Head Chef for their hospitality. Accommodation and dinners were provided in order to write this review. Opinions expressed are entirely my own.

St Agur and Parsley Sauce


I first arrived in London roughly at the same time as Raymond Blanc emigrated to England. I grant it to you, emigrating the same year is a tenuous connection. However, when I was asked to write about one of Chef Blanc's St Agur Blue recipes I couldn't resist. On reflection, it might have been the opportunity to cook with St Agur which made me come out of blog-posting retirement. Whichever of the two, I am glad I did.

St Agur looks a little like Roquefort with its coloured mould veins, though the end product is far less salty and much creamier. It comes from the same area, L' Auvergne, the Velay mountains to be precise. But, if Roquefort goes back to 1411, cheese lovers had to wait for a little over 550 years to enjoy St Agur. This relatively new cheese was developed in 1988 a little after Raymond and I moved to England.

Cooking with blue cheese is not easy, one has to judge perfectly how much to add to the dish or the cheese will quickly overcome the other flavours. I thought a versatile Parsley Sauce would be a good bet for those who would like to jazz up their menu. Sorry, Raymond, your recipe was a tat too strong for our taste but it's easy to tweak.

For the vegetarian version think endives, as the slightly bitter taste will be mellowed by the strong flavour of the cheese

Here we go, and as a treat, I have added some of Chef Raymond Blanc's other suggestions


St Agur and Parsley sauce


Ingredients:
25g butter, unsalted
25g plain flour
250ml whole milk
100g St Agur Blue Cheese (personally I would go for 70g and add more if necessary)
1 bunch parsley chopped finely

Method:
Melt the butter in a saucepan, 
Remove from the heat and stir in the flour, add the milk and whisk until the butter and flour have evenly dispersed.
Back on the heat and bring to boil, stirring all the time
Simmer for 2 minutes 
Take off the heat, whisk in the St Agur blue cheese and chopped parsley and place in a sauceboat ready to serve with ham.

More recipes on Pebble Soup with Blue Cheese
Pork Burger with Blue Cheese 

Disclaimer: I was contacted by St Agur's PR to review the recipes. I received samples for the trial, no money was exchanged, views are my own.

Venison Meatballs with Molten Paté Centres

venison, meatballs


There are already two recipes for meatballs on Pebble Soup. One called Tzirani Gololig which is an Armenian recipe with an apricot sauce, and a family meatballs recipe straight from Morroco. Both are made with lamb. The one, I'd like to share today was provided by Wild and Game a not-for-profit company on a mission to boost game consumption.

What a week to choose to talk about game-meat, just as grouse shooting for sport is making the headlines. I'm not going to re-open the controversy with this post, primarily because I'm fairly ambivalent about shooting wild animals. I am among those who dislike the idea but, coming from a family of farm-hands whose hobby was hunting, I can't bring myself to condemn the activity irrevocably.

Having said this, introducing diversity in a meat-based diet seems to be a good idea. All of which leads me to venison. It contains about half the calories of beef and is high in protein. Funny enough, the term comes from the Latin verb venari meaning "to hunt".


And here is the recipe courtesy of Wild and Game

Meatballs with molten Wild and Game pate centres
 It makes a great starter or tapas dish and works beautifully as a sauce with pasta.
  
Makes 16-18 meatballs (feeds 4-6)

Ingredients

For the meatballs

3 slices (about 120g) white bread
500g pork mince and 500g beef mince – or for a richer version use venison for a leaner version use turkey or chicken
2 tsp mixed Italian herbs
1 tsp garlic granules
3 medium eggs
Salt and pepper – a couple of pinches of each
1 x 120 g tub of Wild and Game Pheasant, apple and Calvados pate, the centre can be substituted too with chicken liver paté
A generous glug of olive oil
  
For the tomato sauce (double this if you like a lot of sauce, or if you are serving with pasta)

1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
1 pinch chilli powder
2 pinches ground cumin
1 pinch ground coriander
2 tins tomato
A glug of olive oil
Salt and pepper
  
Method

First, make the meatballs:

  1. Pre-heat the over to 200 degrees centigrade/gas mark 6.
  2. Tear the bread into pieces and place it in a food processor and whizz until you have fairly fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Add all the other ingredients except for the oil, whizzing between additions, until they are all finely chopped and fully mixed.
  4. Using a dessert spoon, measure out a spoonful of the mixture, make an indentation in it with your thumb, and pop in about a third of a teaspoon of pate. Take another spoonful of the mix, place this on top, and roll in your hands until you have a ball. Place on a plate and repeat until all the mixture is used up.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a wok or large frying pan, and cook the meatballs, turning regularly, until well browned. As each one if browned, remove it and place it on a greased baking tray.
  6. Place all the browned meatballs in the oven for about 10 minutes until cooked through. Serve with the sauce.

To make the sauce:

  1. Chop the onion and crush the garlic.
  2. Fry in the olive oil until soft.
  3. Add the spices and cook for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 20 minutes.
  5. Season to taste.


Organic Coconut Milk Powder Review & Rice Pudding Recipe

Organic Coconut Milk Powder Review

What is Indigo Nutrition's Organic Coconut Milk Powder? It's an evaporated coconut milk in powder form which doesn't contain casein, therefore, perfect for vegans

How does it work? The powder can be made into coconut milk or cream, by adding hot water to the ratio of 3/4 tablespoons for 250ml of water.

How organic is it? As we now know, when considering how organic a product is, not only do we have to consider the origin but, also the packaging. This product comes in a pouch which we hope is recyclable. Although, nothing indicates this on the packaging. The coconut powder is 100% organic. 

Pay attention, here come the stats. (from BBC News)
A quarter of British people are now drinking non-dairy milks, according to market research firm Mintel, who spoke to 2,000 people.
The biggest users of non-dairy milk are 16-24 year olds - 33% are drinking them.
But plant-based milks make up just 4% of the milk market, with 96% of milk sales in 2018 being for cow's milk. "Concerns around health, ethics and the environment" are driving sales of plant-based milks, says Emma Clifford, who looks after food and drink research at Mintel.
Health was the reason why 37% of 16-24 year olds said they'd reduced how much cow's milk they've been drinking in the last 12 months. The impact on the environment was also a concern among that group - with 36% saying dairy farming isn't good for the environment. 

So plant-based kinds of milk are on the up and quite rightly so. 

At Pebble Soup HQ, we have been using coconut milk a lot, added to curries or dahl such as this Prawn Sambal recipe. But it has always been coconut milk in a tin.

curries, prawn, coconut milk

How does the powder differ from the tin?

The first thing I noticed was the waste management. This resealable airtight foil pouch eliminates the leftover half tins problem. It's easy to control the amount required. Tin milk appears richer but only because it is more concentrated. The powdered milk is light and doesn't overpower the other ingredients in the dish. However, for my taster recipe, I would add desiccated coconut to the dish next time to showcase the coconut taste.


Rice Pudding with Coconut Milk 
In India, rice pudding is flavoured with cardamon, in France with vanilla, For classical rice pudding, nutmeg is the spice of choice. Using Arborio rice didn't add to the taste but it baked as it absorbs more of the milk better than ordinary rice.

Rice Pudding, Coconut Milk

Ingredients
500ml of reconstituted coconut milk
70g of Arborio rice
1 tbs of sugar
a little coconut oil to grease the oven-dish
nutmeg (optional) see other options above

Oven temperature 160C

Method
Simmer the milk until hot, add the sugar.
Then the rice, let it cook for a minute
Prepare the ovenproof dish by lightly greasing the sides and bottom
Transfer the content of the pan to the dish
Slide the dish in the oven, after half an hour, take it out and give the mixture a swirl with a tablespoon.
Put back in the oven and let it cook for 45 minutes to an hour.
Serves with compote or jam.

Can be eaten hot or cold.
Rice Pudding, Coconut Milk


Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. The words are my own and this post reflects my opinion.













The Rosemary - Organic - Hungarian - Restaurant Review -

Would you believe it, if I told you London has only one Hungarian restaurant? By luck, The Rosemary is situated in New Cross Gate, an area of South London near me, but very likely unchartered territory for visitors and Londoners alike.

The Rosemary Organic Hungarian Restaurant interior

New Cross Gate is rather drab and dreary, unlike its neighbours the up and coming Deptford that has attracted a lot of food-critics' attention lately, or even New Cross, home to the famous Goldsmith University and a vibrant club-culture. In this unremarkable environment, you can't miss The Rosemary's frontage with its riot of colours, all flowering window boxes blazing.

The Rosemary Organic Hungarian Restaurant Exterior

#Farm to Table
On arrival, Mihaly Herczeg was on-hand to give us a quick tour and go through his restaurant's ethics. Mihaly comes from a long line of Hungarian farmers. The fruits and vegetables served at the Rosemary are either grown in Mihaly's organic farm in Kent or sourced organically and locally.

The Rosemary Organic Hungarian Blueberrry sauce & pancakes

#Sustainability
Having eaten in a fair number of restaurants claiming to be ecologically friendly, I've learnt that a '20 miles radius menu', though very nice, doesn't make a place sustainable.

Sustainability is a package. At the Rosemary, the furniture, wooden chairs, booths, tables have been hand-built by Mihaly's son. Not only does this give such large premises a warm feeling, but it also cuts down on carbon footprints.

To complete the rustic decor, the plates are made and fired on the kiln at the back, and at the front of the house, there is an aquaponic system. Now, this is sustainability.
The Rosemary -Hungarian Restaurant -Organic Wines


#Organic
Most things are made from scratch, from bread to cottage cheese, soups and sauces, noodles and pancakes. The menu comes complete with an extensive selection of organic wines curated by the sought-after sommelier, Roland Szimeiszter. Prices start at £12 for a bottle of white wine, a little more for the reds. We started with a glass of crisp Szóló, Frivolo from the Tokaj area. I was probably asking too many questions, as with the next glass, I was presented with an encyclopedia of Hungarian wine areas. I can now tell you that Hungary has 20 different wine regions...... There is definitely a good-natured atmosphere at The Rosemary


#Hungarian



You'll be hard pushed to argue that Eastern European cuisine is best sampled in the summer. Therefore, visiting The Rosemary on the warmest day of a very hot  June might have been a mistake. An oversight that 20 odd other people were happy to make. Not bad attendance on a weekday.


The service was friendly and smooth, it did cross my mind that on a busy musical winter weekend day, more staff would be required to maintain this level of interaction.

Brie Strudel with blueberry jam
The Rosemary Organic Hungarian Restaurant London Goulash
Hungarian Starter, paprika sauce

We were happy to let Mihaly choose provided that anything cabbagy would remain in the cubby hole. He picked from the list of authentic Hungarian specialities such goulash, stuffed pancakes, brie strudel with blueberry sauce. 


Let's press the pause button for a minute, and let me tell you, how delightful blueberry jam/sauce is. It might be due to the blueberries purpleness which contains terpenes also found in cinnamon, good for the immune system. In my opinion, we don't eat enough blue food. Health is another important factor in this restaurant. Regulars will have noticed a profound change in the menu which now doesn't offer anymore fried food.



The Rosemary -Hungarian Restaurant - slow cooked Lamb Shank
 Chicken in paprika sauce with dumplings

A new ingredient is always a pleasure. Next to the familiar orangy paprika sauce, there were little creamy worm-like things. These are Nokedlies, egg dumplings, delicate and soft. There was little room left for dessert but here it is another tradition, 'Don't dare to leave without eating your pudding'.


The way Mihaly Herczeg presents us with a whole sustainable package anchored in tradition is noteworthy. His genuine bonhomie, his love for music, food and good company is obvious. And if happiness is a full tummy, then The Rosemary makes a lot of clients very very happy.


The Rosemary
178 New Cross Road
London
SE14 5AA


Tel 020 7998 6922
email: info@therosemary.london

If you'd like to read more about this restaurant head to Cook Sister where Jeanne interviewed the owner.

Disclaimer: I was invited with a guest to review The Rosemary. Words and opinions are my own. 








No Bother Borek


Spinach and Feta borek


Not long ago, I decided to try my hand at home-made cheese. My first attempt worked but was not very tasty. As I can't stand waste, I looked for a recipe which would take care of my cheese creation.

That's when I came across Borek.



Home made cheese

I always thought anything to do with filo pastry was rather fiddly, as it goes, I was wrong. Now, I won't claim to have made filo from scratch, that would be a step too far, unnecessary too, as commercially bought filo is perfectly acceptable. Please note that a 'proper' borek should be made out of yufka: a large round pastry only slightly different from filo. However, this recipe is for 'No bother borek' and sourcing fresh yufka is not easy.
Borek can be made in several shapes, pies, triangles, small cylinders looking like cigars, or rolled into as a sausage which sometimes wound around itself. I used spinach, dill, chives and parsley but, any greens in season such as cavolo nero will do fine.
Spinach and Feta Borek
Ingredients 

250g spinach
25g dill, chopped
25g chives, chopped
25g flat-leaf parsley, chopped
500g cheese, feta or ricotta -any similar variation will do fine-
2 medium eggs, beaten
1tsp ground nutmeg
400g filo pastry
100g unsalted butter, melted - don't be tempted to skip on the butter-
1tsp nigella seeds optional but these little black seeds make the borek authentic

Method


  • Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7. Line a baking tray with nonstick baking paper.
  • Put the spinach and herbs in a large bowl. Add the cheese, eggs and nutmeg and season with black pepper and salt. Take your time of mixing the ingredients
  • lay 3 sheets of filo on your work station, brush with the butter one at the time and layer together. Put a handful of the feta mixture near one of the short ends of the pastry and roll up. Squeeze the ends of the roll together to seal. Twist the pastry roll into a snail shape and put on the baking tray. Repeat until you run out of mixture.
  • Brush the pastries with butter and scatter over the nigella seeds. Bake for 25-30 mins or until golden brown.
  • If you fancy more recipes along the same lines
  • Try this Greek recipe: Spanakopita
  • For those of you who are watching the calories, why not giving Olga Pie a go
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