Friday, 12 September 2014

Butternut Walnut and Sage Gratin

It's getting colder and days are noticeably shorter, time for comfort food. In my books, nothing says. "Comfort food" better than butternut. Starting with peeling, when most cucurbita are knobbly and so hard to peel, butternut is as smooth as an apple. Then there is the nutty taste and the creamy texture of the jolly bright orange flesh.
With such a distinctive taste, it's not too hard to pair butternut with other food, almost a given really. For this gratin, I chose walnuts though the original recipe indicates hazelnuts. Sage provides an earthy addition, use sage sparingly as too much will overpower the whole dish.
150ml double cream 150 ml milk
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 to 4 large sage leaves
40g melting cheese, grated, I used Wensleydale, parmesan or cheddar are also an option
750g butternut squash, peeled, cube and steam to soft
30g walnut, roughly chopped
20g breadcrumbs

Tip: The butternut will absorb a lot of liquid while cooking so don't worry if it starts by looking very wet.

Preheat the oven to 190C.
Peel, cube and steam to soft the butternut squash
Mash when cooked
Meanwhile, mix in a large bowl all the other ingredients except the breadcrumbs and cheese.
Mix mash and creamy mixture, season well
Transfer to gratin dish, cover with breadcrumbs and cheese, top with foil
Cook for 30 minutes coved, uncover and cook for another 30 minutes.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Tall Ships Event - Greenwich -

Greenwich and Woolwich have been buzzing for the past four days. More than 600,000 visitors so far have flocked to the borough to take in this year's tall ships event. 
With the last tea-clipper on dry dock at Greenwich, the borough was the natural place for such a festival to take place. And, a festival it was, there was a real party atmosphere. It was incredible to see so many (50) majestic boats gliding on the Thames.
He and I were among the privileged press members to board the Iris on Sunday morning. Though the weather was overcast, it was slightly surreal to see familiar sights from a very unfamiliar angle.

The final parade was spectacular. If you have missed the festival do not despair, I am being told that the event will reoccur in 2017.

Latest, an update on the event from the Greenwich media team: The final figures show that there were 1.1m visits to our event sites. People truly voted with their feet and turned up to the event in huge numbers but we have also heard from many local businesses who have said that they had their busiest ever days on record!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Give-Away #27 : A Lifelong Membership to Eat Your Books (EYB)

For my birthday, I so was spoiled that in return, I wanted to present you with one of the best give-aways Pebble Soup has ever run. 
Amazingly the fabulous owners of Eat Your Books have offered a lucky reader a Lifelong membership to Eat Your Books.
Not long ago, I read that as an average, we use only three recipes per cookbook. If you have more than 5 books it get very complicated to find the right recipe quickly. Not anymore.......

Eat Your Books is a website that searches for recipes in your cookbooks, food magazines and blogs. It's user friendly. All you have to do is catalogue your books, favourite website and magazine collections. Once that's done, there is a sophisticated search tools which will do the rest. Take a look here.

To win a lifetime membership, answer a quick question in the comment box via the rafflecopter, it will unlock several bonuses. Good Luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Risonitto - Quick Dinner -

Orzo looks like rice, its name means "barley" but in reality it's a small pasta which makes Orzo, a master of disguise. Boil it for 9 minutes, accommodate it, the way you would pasta, alternatively bulk soups with it and you have got yourself a quick meal.
However if something looks like rice, you should expect to treat it like so. Because of its chameleon properties when I first cooked orzo, I boiled it. As a result, he, who is very sensitive to textures, defined it as "slimy". Though, I quickly add that there is nothing slimy about orzo.
Next time round, I wasn't going to take any chances and went for risotto, or in this case, risonitto. Now, hang on to your seats, in Italian, orzotto is a pearl barley dish; risotto is rice based. So what do you call an orzo-pasta-risotto?

Risonitto, as our master of disguise has an alias: Risoni.
Technically when an ingredient is sealed in hot oil it will keep its shape while cooking. That is why French ratatouille doesn't look like mush. Each vegetable is being fried before it goes to the pot.
The same principle applies to most things. Cooked this way orzo is full of flavour, a great option for weekday meals.

serves 4
250g orzo
1 chopped shallot or onion
600ml bouillon (I use marigold) to which 1 tbs. tomato paste
 1 chopped red or green pepper 
 2tbs d'huile d'olive
Sel, poivre
Do not hesitate to add anything else you fancy
In a large frying pan, heat the oil and fry onion and pepper until soft.
When this is done, retrieve the vegetable and place them in a bowl for later use. Keep the oil.
Heat the oil again and add the orzo, stir, when it start to turn white carefully add a little bouillon, keep adding until orzo is soft.
Return the vegetable to the pan, stir and serve
 Other recipe : Orzo

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Beetroot & Chocolate Muffins

There is little doubt that chipping in to help in the Queen's Orchard, a 17th century favourite in Greenwich Park, has changed the way I approach vegetables.
From my favourite meal time sing song, "Everything green in my plate is evil", a mantra that many parents will recognise, to watching vegetables grow with pride, it was a long journey but there is no words to describe how satisfying the finishing line is.
Each fortnight, I bring home a small collection of fresh veggies which I scrubbed lovingly and pay special attention to when it comes to cook. Beetroots were a challenge, there are so many salads, cold soups and pasta/beetroot dish one can muster.
But what if beetroot was used at the "hidden ingredient", when the flavour disappear subtly to allow the texture to shine. This is exactly what happens with this muffins.
Beetroot hides behind chocolate but gives the muffin an extra moist texture. Gorgeous.
Beetroot & Chocolate Muffin
Makes 6
the recipe recommended cocoa powder but I used 40g drinking chocolate powder. If you use cocoa powder increase the sugar.
90g plain flour,
2 teaspoons baking powder,
100g golden caster sugar,
200g peeled and diced cooked beetroot, has to be fresh beetroot, no beetroot in vinegar
2 large beaten eggs
100ml corn oil
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract (optional)
icing sugar for dusting (optional) 
Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade/gas 5
Sieve all flour, baking powder in a bowl and add sugar
Whisk beetroot, eggs in a food processor until smooth
Add the beetroot mixture, oil, vanilla (if using) to the flour mixture
Mix well.
Prepare muffin tray: place paper case in each hole
Pour equal mixture in each
Bake in oven for 25 minutes. After 20 minutes check with a knife if ready
I entered this recipe in Extra Veg a Helen and Michelle challenge hosted by Sarah as in Maison Cupcake

More beetroot recipe
BelleauKitchen included beetroot in a bread with pecan nuts and cheddar

Monday, 25 August 2014


It's the end of August, let's all try very hard to hang on to the summer feeling, don't bring the stews just yet, let's have something sunny, one more time. What about une pissaladière?

Pissaladières originate from Nice; the base of the dish is a bread dough, slightly thicker than a pizza. It derives its name from piscis (fish). 
It is a caramelised onion tart with anchovies and olives topping, usually eaten cold with a pre-dinner drink (un aperitif). Add a few kids giggling at the mention of the name, a sprinkle of the sea-spray and the trick is done. It's summer again.
Things to know before starting: 
  • To serve, it is recommended to cut a Pissaladière into rectangular pieces rather than wedges.
  • To caramelise the onions thoroughly will take at least a couple of hours. Don't worry if they burn a little, it's part of the flavour.
  • All the elements can be prepared in advance, even the night before.
  • Do wash the anchovies as directed in the recipe as otherwise the pissaladiere will be far too salted. Here white large onions are recommended however yellow ones will be work too.
1kg of large white onions
1/2 bunch of thyme, washed and picked 
salt black pepper
extra virgin olive oil, for frying 
50g of anchovy fillet, salted
50g of black olives, pitted, kept in brine
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil 
2g of dried yeast
120ml of warm water
250g of plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp of salt 
1. To begin the pissaladière, start with the topping. Peel, cut in half and slice the onions roughly.
2. In a large pan, drop in some olive oil and then add the onions and thyme Caramelising onions An alternate way of caramelising onions is by cooking them in a pressure cooker for 45 minutes, then draining the water and gently caramelising the onions in a pan
3. Cook the onions on a very gentle heat until all of the water evaporates and the onions caramelise and turn a golden colour - this could take up to 3 hours. Be very careful as the onions tend to stick to the pan when the water has evaporated
4. When the onions have caramelised, season with salt and pepper to taste - bearing in mind that you will be adding some salted anchovies and olives kept in brine. Allow to cool before reserving in the fridge
5. Mix in a bowl the olive oil with the dried yeast and warm water. Once mixed, add the flour and salt and work by hand until it forms a ball
6. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and start to knead vigorously, as you would do for a bread dough, until you obtain a very smooth round ball
7. Reserve the dough in a large floured bowl, cover with cling film and allow to rise for an hour at room temperature. Once risen, refrigerate for another hour
8. Knead the dough once more, then return to the fridge until ready to use
9. When ready to assemble the pissaladière, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6 and place a baking tray inside to heat. Remove the excess salt from the anchovy fillets by rinsing them under cold water for few seconds
10. Roll out the dough, dusting generously with flour down to 3 to 4mm. Spread the caramelised onions, the anchovy fillets and the pitted olives on top
11. Place on the hot baking tray and bake for about 5-8 minutes, until the dough crisps and darkens.
Serve and drizzle with a little olive oil and some freshly ground pepper -
Disclaimer: this is a Pascal Aussignac's recipe reproduced with the agreement of Great British Chefs


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Broad Bean & Mozzarella Salad - Seasonal Food -

We are reaching the end of broad-bean season. it started in April, with small, green and sweet beans, it's nearly September and we have nearly come to the last of the season.

An ancient staple, broad beans are eaten green in Europe but fully grown and dried in North Africa and the Middle East. Where broad beans are called by their Arabic name : ful.
Ful Medames is a hearty warm breakfast of mushed beans, garlic, olive oil and spices, often enjoyed throughout the day, at least by be who can never get enough. I associate it with the sound of the muezzin, the frisson and the excited anticipation of a new day of discovery.
Tragically, these peaceful times are no more and though I can't cook Ful Medames the way the Syrians or the Egyptians do, it was the inspiration this colourful salad.
Broad Bean and Mozzarella Salad
1 mug of cooked broad beans
8 to 10 small Mozzarella balls
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
a small handful of basil torn
As many small tomatoes as you like
a slash of lemon juice
a couple of tbsp. of olive oil
Place the lot in a bowl
toss well
refrigerate for 1/2h or more
serve with toasted sourdough bread.

I enter this inspired recipe to Simple and in Season a Ren Behan challenge hosted by Elizabeth Kitchen Diary 


Friday, 15 August 2014

Life-Style Article & Basil Pesto

Eat Travel Live offered me the opportunity to have a shot at my first life-style article. Being rather pleased with the result *smug face* I wanted to share.

Click here and all will be revealed.

From the start, I knew that life-style articles needed to be visual and direct what I didn't realise was that "keeping it simple" is a rather complicated business.

I was inspired by Butter Basil and Pesto post and the need for a bit of class when growing herbs in the kitchen.

The experience was made much easier by Sophie Conran's team who provided the images and all the help I needed. It will take me a bit of time to become an expert and hopefully there will be more opportunities in the future.

For the time being I cling to lesson number 1 : What matters is how it looks like on the page, because after all, that is what will remain.


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