My First Award

I was as proud a Punch, Pebble Soup got its first award, and not least it is a peer-award, its own little, gorgeous, blue "rosette" : Comfort Food Post of the Week Award from Thank you, thank you Chef JP. Riding my blue cloud 9, I decided to enter the clafoutis competition, I can't wait to see which recipes appear on the list, that should be really inspiring. Last week, Pebble Soup got spotted once more, I am afraid I started a small controversy with the marmalade cookies. Never a dull moment.

"A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness"

When I tucked into this dish, it reminded me of a little piece of fortune cookie wisdom which found its way to my hand not very long ago : "A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness".

When it came to share this delicious recipe with you, I thought I'd better investigate the cook who bought that recipe to my table and what I found truly gobsmacked me. Why was not I told? how come I did not know, had never heard of her? have I been living with a paper bag over my head for the past many years? Well No, I did not know Angela Hartnett and now I read that she is THE UK leading female chef. Earlier on in her career she got a job in Gordon Ramsay's kitchen. She lasted 12 years, that in itself seems to me like a feat. Her restaurant has its very own Michelin star, she received a MBE from the Queen for services to the Hospitality Industry.
Last year, she published her first book of recipes "Cucina", which was acclaimed by its readers and the pros alike and if that was not enough she has been taught her skills by a Italian grand-mother, though the latter is just for me to cleverly link her biography to the stuffed onions recipe which seems to be a little bit like a family signature dish.

Stuffed onions


splash of red wine
4 large onions
2 shallots
1 carrot
1 finely diced celery stick ( that I did not used as there is a serious case of celeryphobia at home)
100g breadcrumbs
100g parmesan,
10 g of dried porcini mushrooms which will have to be pre-soakedin 1/4 litre of hot water according to the paquet instruction.
parsley & a little bit of tomato puree
olive oil and butter

To make the sauce, heat some oil and butter in a pan and add two finely chopped shallots, one finely diced carrot, and one finely diced celery stick and cook for a few minutes until translucent. Add 10g of dried porcini mushrooms (pre-soaked in about 250ml of hot water for 5 mins) and cook for a further 2-3 mins.
Add a squirt of tomato puree and a splash of red wine and bubble until completely reduced. Finally, add the strained mushroom liquid, reduce the heat and simmer for up to 1 hour. Though my sauce took less longer to reduce
Keep a little bit of the liquid, you will need it later on
Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil, add 4 peeled whole onions and boil for 3 mins. Drain and cut them in half and scoop out the centre with a spoon until you're left with just 2-3 layers of skin.
Chop the scooped out centre of the onions finely and add these to a bowl of 100g breadcrumbs and 100g grated parmesan cheese and a splash of the mushroom water (enough to bind the stuffing together).
Add parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Finally, put the onions in an overproof dish, drizzle with olive oil, stuff them with the parmesan breadcrumbs and spoon over the mushroom sauce.
Cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes at 200C (gas mark 6).
I admit this is not the fastest stuffed recipe in the world but it is well worth the effort.
If you wonder why there is a picture of a still life by Vincent uploading at the front of thsi post, it is because mine looked like this:

Borough Market: The Book

This market is much more than hidden gem, it is a treasure trove. Like in an adventure story you step sideways from one of the most frequented commuters’ bridge, leave the crowd of grey-suited City workers behind, venture down down down some stairs, trot around the cathedral and enter THE place of food celebration: Borough Market. Dating back to Roman time in one form or another, on the very same site for 250 years, it is the capital’s oldest market. For a long time wholesale only, it opened to the public 7 years ago, growing from 6 stalls in 1998 to over a hundred; every single one displays fine quality produce, a lot of them organic. Last year, it received a gold award and was voted “London’s best shopping experience,” which in London is not an easy feat.
This unique gastronomic haven is a brilliant place to meet up with friends. Here you can get “the Best Breakfast in London.” There is an array of places, from sole traders to larger firms. From Konditor & Cook with their most delicious funnily named sponge cake, to the tea-stall inside the market itself which serves coffee on rickety tables and chairs in such a friendly manner that you almost forget the winter weather. On your way out, make sure to get the ultimate chocolate brownies, unless you are in Ines company and, then you will also whirl around each of the world class bakers/patissiers’ stalls, delighting equally in tartes au citron, cheesecakes and pasteis: lovely small custard tart like they have the secret in Belem (Lisbon). Oh! but why, are you wondering, am I raving & rattling on about a market? Here is your answer:
The Borough Market Cookbook: Meat & Fish. This new book “is not the work of a single individual but a collective effort that reflects the market its collaborative and community driven ethos”. Sixteen traders give us a fascinating insight into their livelihood and their passion. Packed with information, it tracks the market products down to their origins. It guides you through the choice process, e.g., how NOT to ask for cod, but instead buy sustainably fished species such as bream, gurnard or herring. Next it tells you all about preparation and finally offers recipes which I must say will be rather handy if you were to step out of your comfort zone. Even if you are unlikely to visit Borough, buying and cooking with this book will appeal to your sense of discovery. It is part of a series and I can’t wait for the next installment, just hoping that it might cover cheeses as my French friends are often gasping in disbelief at the quality of English cheeses.
Some months ago, I went to what I would describe as a “beer restaurant.” I ordered Mussels in cider, which I never had before. I cursed myself for months afterwards for neither taking a picture nor asking for the recipe, therefore I was delighted to find it in the book.


Mussels are one of the easiest weeknight suppers. They are sweet tasty morsels from the sea that are made for sharing, which always results in a convivial meal to be had by all. A few years ago a customer mentioned to me that they were her favourite dish for Boxing Day every year. She said it was a quick and easy ‘hot’ option to have on hand for those who didn’t want turkey and bacon sandwiches. I couldn’t agree more. To many people’s surprise mussels can be purchased well ahead oftime. They keep very well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. However, they do like a very specific environment: they must be kept moist with a damp tea towel or wet newspaper. They should be left un-cleaned with their ‘beards’ intact in a sieve resting in a bowl with a few ice cubes, rather than stored in an air-tight container or water. Finally, they must be kept well chilled. The less they are disturbed the longer they will keep quite happily. This has to be one of my favourite recipes in the book. The combination of sweet-salty mussels with deliciously dry New Forest Cider is my idea of heaven. Even though I do love the small threads of shallots dotted throughout the mussel broth, I have at a pinch gone without. I have also substituted basil for thyme and parsley with similar success.

Preparation time 45 minutes for cleaning and soaking the musselsCooking time 10–12 minutes, 10–12 minutes, 10–12 minutes
Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as a starter

Season Mussels are at their best September through December but are reasonably available throughout the year

1kg mussels
2 tblsp sea salt, for soaking the mussels,
plus additional for the broth
60g unsalted butter
6 shallots
3 garlic cloves
3 large sprigs fresh thyme
1⁄4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
400ml tomato passata
480ml cider
1 level tblsp Dijon mustard
2 rounded tblsp crème fraîche
15g fresh parsley leaves

Clean the mussels under cold running water. Leave them to soak for half an hour in a large bowl with plenty of salted water. Scrape off barnacles and pull off the hairy beards. Discard any mussels with broken shells. Most of them will be closed: if any are open, give them a squeeze. If they don’t close shut, then throw them away.
Heat the butter in a wide deep saucepan with a tight fitting lid over moderately high heat until foaming subsides. Peel and cut the shallot in half. Then chop the shallot into thin slices. Peel and crush the garlic with a little salt in a mortar. Then add, along with the shallots, to the hot butter. Stir to coat in the warm butter and cook gently until the shallots start to soften and become translucent. Wash the sprigs of thyme and blot dry with kitchen paper. Pull off the leaves and give them a rough chop to release their flavour. Then add to the pan along with a pinch of sea salt and the black pepper, stirring to coat. Slowly pour in the tomato passata and cider and bring to a gentle boil.
Add the cleaned mussels and cook; covered, stirring occasionally, until mussels open, 4–6 minutes. Remove from the heat. Discard any mussels that remain unopened after 6 minutes.
Wash the parsley and blot dry with kitchen paper. Chop the leaves and fine stems of the parsley and set aside. Stir together the mustard and crème fraîche in a small bowl. Then add, along with the chopped parsley, to the hot tomato broth and whisk until combined.
Divide the mussels amongst warm bowls and ladle the sauce over them.
Serve with a leafy green salad and lots of crusty bread.
The Borough Market Cookbook

recipe reproduced with the authorisation of the publisher.

Big Thank You to Libby for trotting down the market in the spirit of research, yes that way round, not the research of spirit.

Well, Good Bye Cauliflower

So you are off, going away from our menus for a little while. Not that Cauli ever really disappear from the shelves but right now is the end of the season.
I can't make up my mind if I like cauliflower or not, I suppose I do. But then I get to cook it, and the smell..... though I use the old tip* , the smell puts me off. To make matters worse sometimes I love how it tastes in that recipe, at other times I dislike it strongly in an another recipe.
Anyway with the Arctic wind forecast for this week-end, thought it was perfect timing for a sumptuous soup: great taste. Downside : lots of ingredients. But you know how it works: You decide what main ingredients are, you don't have to use every single one, make this recipe your own.
tip: put a slice of bread in the water, it is suppose to soak up the smell

Cauliflower soup

serves 5
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 onion -- chopped fine
1 large carrot -- diced
1/2 pound cauliflower florets
1 cooking apple -- peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin -- ground
1/2 teaspoon coriander -- ground
1/2 teaspoon turmeric -- ground
1/2 teaspoon ginger -- ground
1/4 teaspoon chili powder or Tabasco -- to taste
1 litre vegetable stock -- I use Marigold
2 ounces creamed coconut -- grated or not I don't
3 tablespoons coriander leaves -- chopped or parsley
1 can borlotti beans -- drained
salt and pepper -- to taste

Fry onion and carrot in oil for 5 mins.

Add cauliflower, apple and spices, stir well and cook for 1 - 2 mins.

Add stock, bring to boil, then cover and simmer for 20 mins.

Stir in rest of ingredients and simmer until the coconut has melted. Serve hot.
Recipe exported from for the purpose of this post. but I think I first saw it in the Cranks' book

April Fool’s Recipe

My theory is twofold: If hoaxes are judged by the number of people duped, how many people have slaved over these little biscuits, the recipe for which was published in a weekend broadsheet? Answer: possibly more than one. How many people thought they had poisoned their boss? OK, OK, I might be the only one. Therefore, if the aim of an April fool’s prank is to embarrass the gullible, then I have got the perfect recipe for the day.
Let me start from the beginning, then you could try to bake these little cookies. They take no time to bake, and if they taste like what you think they should, I shall eat my baking tray. Oops, mistake, dropped the “h,” I shall heat my baking tray. I know, I know, it does not conjure the same fun, but I was tricked once already.
Let me tell you how: I spotted this recipe over a weekend. Since I had my induction meeting with the network the following Monday, I thought, ”What better gesture than to bake these lovely ‘marmalade buttons’?” I used ground rice. I displayed them on a presentation plate. I put my offering in the middle of the meeting table, only to observe all participants crunching away while their noses twitched. Next thing I knew, the boss had disappeared. Had I poisoned her?
I contacted a baker friend of mine, who advised me to use semolina or, even better, crushed almonds instead of ground rice. Then the boss reappeared. I tried once more, this time with semolina. They still did not taste how I thought they should — though I hasten to add that they always tasted nice. Slightly too soft on retrial.
So, will you give it a go and try Dan Lepard’s Marmalade Buttons on April Fool’s Day?

Marmalade Buttons100g unsalted butter
50g caster sugar
50g good marmalade
100g mixed peel
100g plain flour
100g ground rice or semolina
Demerara sugar

Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth, then add the marmalade and mixed peel and beat until combined. Stir in the flour and ground rice; knead in the bowl until you have a smooth dough, then roll into a cylinder about 25 cm long. Wrap in clingfilm and chill until firm.

Heat the oven to 170 degrees C (150 degrees C fan-assisted)/325 degrees F/gas mark 3. Line a baking sheet with nonstick baking parchment. Unwrap the dough and rub with a little water to moisten. Tip some demerara sugar onto a plate and roll the dough in it to form a crust.
Slice the dough into 0.75 cm discs, lay them a few centimeters apart on the tray, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until pale golden brown.


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