Asparagus Soup

Asparagus soup #nationalvegetarianweek

I have written over 600 posts for Pebble Soup. With time, it would be pleasing to think that I know the recipe to write recipes.  That would imply that no blank screen is "scary" and by enlarge it is true.

Except when it comes to asparagus. Pretty much everything has been said about this spring vegetable. Comments have been passed on the increased UK production, now grown all the year round, soon we will not depend on Peruvian spears.

Even the Guardian devoted space to mercaptan, the sulphurous component which will make some people's pee smell, depending on the genes.

You see, there is little I could add to all this therefore I will let this much loved vegetable do the talking with a soup recipe. One word of warning though the amazing fresh spring green colour will depend very much on the asparagus cooking time, don't be tempted to overcook them and always salt the water before dropping the asparagus in.

Asparagus soup
Ingredients
400g of asparagus (cut off the woody bit a the end)
salt
600ml vegetable or chicken stock
pinch of salt
a squeeze of lemon
ground pepper
 
Method
To get the right consistency keep the proportions
 
Bring the stock ( personally, I favour chicken stock) to boil, add the salt, drop the asparagus in for 5 minutes
 
Liquidise transfer back to the saucepan add the lemon, the pepper, warm the soup for a little longer and serve.

The Londonaise & The Cochonette at the Angelus

"The Londonaise", a three days Pétanque tournament, now in its second year, is becoming a ‘hipster’ event. On the afternoon of Saturday 6 June a free Doubles Melee competition will take place in Barnard Park, Islington and you will be taking part. Mais oui! oui!
 
What's Pétanque?  
Pétanque is that funny boules game, old men play wherever you look when you holiday in the South of France. It involves a lots of hand gestures, near arguments resolved with another dose of Ricard and  another round of throwing hollow silver boules as close as possible to a tiny wooden ball called the cochonnet. 

Who would have thought that this oldfangled game was popular in London? As it happens among the "fana" of the game there is  the Angelus’ owner Thierry Tomasin.
 
He is so passionate about French boules that he put his mind to organising the UK’s largest public entry International Petanque tournament and  call it the ‘The Londonaise’ .....
 
It was an instant hit. This year, the festival will run over 3 days and host 128 teams.  It’s open to absolutely anyone from novices to experts with lots of prizes on offer.
 
The angelus Hyde Park LondonEveryone is invited to play on the 6th and if the day is anything like the evening he and I spent in the Angelus, Thierry Thomasin's restaurant. An art nouveau-style brasserie with fixed-price options and a lengthy, Franco-centric wine list, the event is going to be the friendliest, warmest sporting event of the year.
 
To promote the event The Angelus'  kitchen team have created a special dish entitled ‘The Cochonette’, which will be served as part of the restaurant’s set lunch menu for the whole of June.

Thierry explains, "Each element of this dish draws on the subtle nuances of the game of Petanque  for ‘A Sud de France’, experience that is savoured in the colours, textures and smell of the dish, all in honour of the Londonaise.”

‘The Cochonette’ special consists of braised shoulder of Provençal lamb encased in a golden, round case of pastry that represents the boule, and pulled pork rolled in crisp breadcrumbs to represent the cochonette. Both are accompanied by a Mediterranean vegetable tian and rich and moreish Champagne sauce, and balanced by fresh cos lettuce purée and charred herbs.
Angelus cochonnette menu preview Pebble Soup Petanque Londonaise

The Angelus' team was kind enough to make this dish especially for Pebble Soup to preview. We spend a cosy 2 hours eating boules and cochonnet and never before, the petanque looked so amazing nor tasted so good. It was a real wow moment. The lamb melting in its soft pastry case was a pure delight.

There was a moment when I regretted that the game is not played with more cochonets but as it was the portions were perfect, leaving us to dream about coming back to play, sorry eat some more.


Angelus cochonnette menu preview Pebble Soup Petanque Londonaise

Now for the practical details:
 The Londonaise Pétanque festival will see a 128 teams take part, as well as ‘Artisan British and French food stalls’. The festival also aims to raise funds for its associated charity ‘The Mercury Phoenix Trust’ which was set up in memory of Freddie Mercury and is responsible for raising awareness and funding charities globally in the worldwide fight against AIDS.
For more information and to enter, visit:  http://www.thelondonaise.co
The Angelus
Address: 4 Bathurst Street, London W2 2SD
Phone:020 7402 0083
open from 10.00 for breakfast/brunch until 11.00
 Disclaimer: my grateful thanks to the kitchen team at the Angelus for re-creating the cochonette menu especially for us. This is not a paid post, words are my own.
Angelus on Urbanspoon

Give Away #30 : Lakeland's Picnic Party Cool Bag

Time to think picnic. At Pebble Soup HQ, we love picnics, for many years we organised a yearly friends and family event where by we tried to get as many people as we could to join us on One Tree Hill in Greenwich park. We stopped doing so 5 years ago but the event is due for a revival.


To make your picnic more enjoyable, the lovely Lakeland team is teaming up with Pebble Soup to offer a lucky reader this bright, family-sized cool bag which has a showerproof outer, terrific insulation and reflective, wipe-clean lining to keep contents cool. Worth £24.99
29.5 x 24.5 x 28cm. 15 litre. 


To be in with a chance to win enter via the rafflecopter below -Last entries Tuesday 19th May at midday - Good Luck

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Hispaniola : Review - Restaurant- Ship-

I was invited on board The Hispaniola to review the new spring menu when I got distracted by the cocktails.


I do have a fickle mind but usually it doesn't interfere with work but then again, he and I never got a cocktail prepared by Chris Filipek, Barista Extordinaire with stunning and romantic views of London as a background.
 
View London Eye Hispaniola restaurant

The Hispaniola an old London favourite. She has been bobbing and rocking gently opposite the embankment station since time immemorial. She would have continued to do so if it hadn't been for James Bueno, General Manager – formerly of Café Boheme + Perritt and Perritt – and his team.  Together, they create  seasonal menus with a range of dishes to suit all palates.


But first, let get back to my favourite string of words: The cocktail list. With name like Ginger Bison or Hurricane Laura, you would be forgiven to think that it's all about frivolity. Far from the truth, this is serious business, the flavours are well balanced and perfectly mixed.


Take Ginger Bison for example, Chris explained that he got his aspiration from the way people drink Żubrówka in his native Poland. Żubrówka which by the way is pronounced  'Zoo-Broov-Ka' is drunk with apple juice and lots of ice. Here the genial extras are crushed fresh ginger, lime and gomme (that's sugar and water for you and me). 
 
Show me the food, I hear you say.
 
pigeon salad hispaniola

 My starter of warm wood pigeon salad balsamic berries, celery cress croutons gave me a flavour of things to come. It was going to be luscious principal ingredients accompanied by unlikely pairing. Though when his was brought to our table by our friendly waiter, I mellowed my judgement.


hispaniola spring menu wild mushroom with stilton cream
Wild mushrooms, stilton cream, lemon, parsley toasted ciabatta was a little traditional though more often than not there is no mention of Stilton in the cream.

Portions are very generous so we took a break, happily chatting to one of the waitress according to whom the recent success of the restaurant is down to, "A new chefs, the menu is bolder. Diners like it better, word of mouth is the best publicity" she said before adding with a mischievous smile "The views and the waitressing staff play a large role too....."
 
Roast Halibut, piperade, fingering potatoes hispaniola dinner Thames
Starters range between  £7 till £11.50. Had we stopped here, this review would have dithyrambic. Our mains Confit Duck Leg, Chorizo, Chickpea cassoulet for him and Roast Halibut, piperade, fingering potatoes for me, reflects the enthusiasm of a youth.
hispaniola Confit Duck Leg, Chorizo, Chickpea cassoulet

At 23, Head Chef, Barry White, puts together some great flavours which are not obvious companions.  My halibut was cooked to perfection but my pigeon earlier had been overcooked, that didn't really matter as the pairing of pigeon and fruits of the forest was surprising, fun and added sharpest to the gamy taste of the meat. The mains were slightly over-spiced were over-spiced. Not by much, certainly not enough to take away the pleasure of all the flavours street dancing on the papillae.

hispaniola thames restaurant menu

The Spring menu is priced at £28 for 3 courses which is good value for large portions and impeccable ingredients, attentive waitressing and..... these views.

Cocktail hispaniola london eye
The Hispaniola spring menu is very popular so book early. It's worth a punt.

Details:
R.S. Hispaniola Bar & Restaurant
Victoria Embankment
London
WC2N 5DJ

Call: +44 (0)20 7839 3011
http://hispaniola.co.uk/
Disclaimer : My thanks to City-cruises head-office for inviting us to try out the spring menu. I was not requested to write a positive review, words  and pictures are my own.
 
RS Hispaniola on Urbanspoon

Spaghetti Fritters -


It's election night when we need a fast, easy, tasty recipe to cook and plenty of carbs will be required later on for all that jumping up and down when the results will be announced.
 
Tips
Shallow fry.
Don't cook more than and couple of minutes, each side or the fritters will be rubbery.
Break the spaghetti in half they will be easy to handle
No spaghetti, noodles will do
 
Ingredients
Serves 4 makes about 20 fritters should not take longer than 30 minutes
  • 200g spaghetti
  • 2 egg
  • 1 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 shallot
  • 10 finely chopped fresh chives
  • ½ tablespoon tarragon (optional)
  • 100g dried tomatoes chopped finely
  • 80g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 tps oil for shallow frying
  • 30g flour
  • salt
Method
  1. Boil pasta for about 8 minutes in salted water.
  2. While the pasta are cooking prepare the coating in a large salad bowl
  3. Crack the eggs in a bowl, press in the garlic, chopped and add the herbs, then all the rest shallot, Parmesan cheese, flour, pepper, dried tomatoes and whisk
  4. Sieve the pasta add them to the bowl and give it a mix using a fork or your hands
  5. Pour two tablespoons of oil in a pan, heat
  6. Roll the spaghetti around a fork, drop the fritter in the pan if you have not caught enough "bits" add them on the top. Fry no more than 2 minutes each side 
 
Serve hot or warm with tomato chutney
 
Now you are ready to shout at the TV.

Cooking Basmati Rice

basmati rice cooking method rice cooker open pan
Cooking rice is not as easy as it looks - I for one struggled for years to get fluffy, separated grains, the way it should be. Out of desperation, I worked out my own method. But first, let's have a look at the conventional method:

The Open Pan where rice is cooked in lots of water just like potatoes or pasta, then drained in a colander. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt (optional). When boiling, tip in 250g/300ml (for 4 servings) of rice. Return the water to the boil then stir well. Lower the heat to a fast simmer and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain in a colander and allow to stand for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork and adding a little butter or oil (optional).
 
Should you rinse or soak the rice prior to cooking? it's not necessary but rinsing rice make the grains of rice "fluffier". Though soaking, make things much more complicated as the cooking time has to be reduced accordingly.
 
A few years back, a friend visited with his Thai-lady-friend, she was appalled that nobody, she had visited in London, had a rice-cooker. Allegedly, in Thailand that's the first thing one would get when starting a home. A rice cooker works on the same principle as a pressure cooker, it's electrical and it turns itself off when the rice all the water is absorb. The rice keeps for a hours.
 
My full proof cooking method
 60 to 80g per service. Get a large frying pan, we are going to fry the rice first in a little oil.
When the rice turns white and "pop-corn like" add the liquid broth or bouillon, a glass at the time. Stir. Repeat until the rice is cooked which takes about 15 minutes.
 
The advantages of using this method are:
  • The grains stay separated
  • Spices can be added before the rice
  • Rice is cooked in a bouillon which gives it a nice flavour ( I use organic Marigold)
  • You are in charge of the cooking, it is not going to go mushy or overcook as you will stay around to add water.
 

Silver Screen Cuisine - The Hundred Foot Journey -

#silverscreencuisine GBC event
The Screen on the Green in Islington is a grand old cinema, an institution, a rare thing, dating back from the beginning of the last century. And now, This very old venue is breaking the cardinal rule of movie-theatres with ingenuity, it's hosting Silver Screen Cuisine - Film and Food from the comfort of your seat - A first: for as much as £35, during the past week, filmgoers were treated to an open bar and canapés on arrival, a film and a full menu plus wine. 

Immediate immersion with a "franco-indian" décor.

The scheme is the brain child of the enfant terrible of food websites and multi-media cie, namely Great British Chefs in association with Celebrity Cruises. Au diable vauvert the "no eating in cinemas" dogma. This was a feast. No wander that the question on everyone lips as we left was, "When is the next screening?
#silverscreencuisine

The Mumbai Masala -Ketel One Vodka-based-

At the interval Pascal Aussignac of the infamous Club Gascon and Alfred Prasad both Michelin star chefs created a "fran-dia" menu for us, inspired by the Hundred Foot Journey.

Pascal Aussignac alfred prasad #silverscreencuisine
Hundred Foot Journey is sweet and fluffy film which retraces the journey of an Indian family who fled India when their restaurant was burned down to the ground during a political riot. When they arrived in France, the head of the family recreates his beloved "Maison Mumbai" across the road (100 feet away) from a Michelin-starred establishment. It's a tearjerker and my serviette came in very handy at times.
white asparagus emulsion, foie gras flan sea urchin jus, trout confit with verjus, chicken tikka, Kadhai paneer, veal onglet

 
The dishes based on the film included foie gras flan with sea urchin jus, herb-wrapped veal onglet with ‘Baingan bharta’ ratatouille, Kadahi paneer with pulao rice and my favourite fusion dish Mess on Mumbai cranberry coulis, rose Chantilly, sweet bondi. Just to mention a few to give you an idea of the feast that was.
 
The spiced dessert was a triumph of fusion, the mains taken individually were stunning, put together, it was a little overwhelming. Fusion yes anytime, but it might have been good to leave some classic out of it. Ratatouille is a great dish add spices and then it is still a great dish but it's not a ratatouille any longer, it's a baigan barta with many vegetables.
 
At the end of the film and as the event folded we were presented with fran-dia petits fours.
 
This was a truly fantastic event.
 
Read more about:
Club Gascon reviewed by the talented Cook Sister! My turn to visit and review next ;)
 
Alfred Prasad is passionate about food poverty and is an ambassador to charities such as Action Against Hunger. Do you remember the blogger-aid cookbook?
 
Disclaimer : I was invited by GBC- I have not be ask to write a positive review- all the words are my own, photos from GBC photobank -

Lamb ragù

Chez Pebble Soup, we have a word to define leftovers thrown together mixed in with beans, usually serve on toast. The ultimate comfort food: a gù. 
lamb gu ragu casserole leftover comfort food recipe Romanian wine Recas’s Sole Shiraz
There is no amount of sophistication in the kitchen which will beat a good gù.

However to turn a gù  into a recipe which can be replicated and photographed nicely, we might need at the very least to get rid of the toast, probably replace the baked beans by fresh vegetables, turn the dish into a casserole or to give it, its proper name a ragù serve with a good glass (or two) of wine.
 
If you are still contemplating what to do with the lamb left over from Easter. Look no further, I found this recipe in Waitrose magazine. It needed adapting for pecuniary reasons.
 
Notes on adapting this recipe and red wine sauces
When I grew up, in France, wine was used a lot in cooking to produce rich red wine sauces, such as in this Beef Guardiane
But in the UK cooking with wine is an expensive business. The common mistake, one I made when I first arrived was to use cheap wine, don't bother. When you cook with wine, it has to be a decent wine as the taste of the wine is the basic flavour. My solution is to forget about the wine and replace  the light stock with a heavier, richer one.
 
Lamb ragù
 
Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, cut into 0.5cm pieces
2 leeks, trimmed and cut into 0.5cm pieces
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ x 20g pack rosemary, leaves finely chopped
½ x 15g pack oregano, leaves roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
or replace the three herbs above by a good dose of mixed herbs
2 tbsp tomato purée
500ml beef or lamb stock
400-500g leftover lamb cut into 0.5cm pieces, or raw lamb cubes if you don't have any leftvovers
Salt ( only a little if the stock is already salted), pepper to taste
 
Method
In a large sauce pan, add the olive oil, cook the leeks and carrots for 10 minutes, medium heat.
Add the herbs, the garlic, the lamb and let it sweat for a further 10 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients bring it to boil and slow the heat down, cook for a further hour.
 
This dish was paired with a Romanian Recas’s Sole Shiraz, it's a medium bodied wine, very fruity, a rare combination of Shiraz, Fetească Neagră. It's a rather complex wine, lighter than the Romanian wines we tend to get normally in supermarkets and well worth getting a bottle if you like smooth red wine or if you feel a little adventurous (retailed at Waitrose)

Though I liked Reca's Sole for its complexity, I was not impressed at all by my pairing. It's only a few days later whilst reading this very interesting piece in the Guardian about Bulgarian and Romanian wines that I understood why - I had just done a big faux pas .
 
Disclaimer: the wine was sent to us for review
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