So It Was Christmas

Slightly marred by the fact that my parents could not cross the Channel as Eursotar discovered that snow had flakes and these little flakes seemed to have ruined more than one christmas.

However the tree was lit and sparkly, the table runner was up and running, the goose confite, a word of advice to anybody out there who would like to cook a goose in its fat, in a pressure cooker time it between 8 and 10 hours on low heat.

Presents were lovely and in 2009 and Father Xmas spoiled me. I got hat, scarf, gloves and boots and the middle bit will be taken care of by the most gorgeous dressing gown with a hoodie. Brilliant and many many more presents but I am here today to talk about decorations.
This Christmas, I concentrated on decorations, I used a company new to new to me called the last details, I love their range and I chose to liven up the party with Party poopers. what I don't like about poppers in general is the mess they leave behind, but not these which release a cloud of elegant silver slivers easily picked up .
Then there was the Silver star sparklers, I love these, they seem to last for ever so really good value for money, but the star of the show was the After dark fountains which were position on Phil's Christmas pudding and were like indoor fireworks.
As you know this household rates everything, so we took a vote and rated the decorations
  • After Dark Fountain Candles got a magnificient 9 out of 10
  • Posh poppers 8 out of 10
  • Silver Star Sparklers 6.5 only because they take some time to lit.
I am going to leave you with a bang and a picture of the sparklers until next year......

Ostrich for Christmas Dinner

Ostrich is the new bird on my block. The meat is just delicious, the preparation is so easy, and it has the wow factor. What else could you ask for when you are looking for a stress-free idea to feed the masses.

Every year, Wees (that He and I) have a Xmas party before Xmas. Traditionally it is lunch with friends, this year wees were missing the younger generation which is refusing to attend any longer. Tough, they just don't know what they missed:

Home made chicken liver pâté
Ostrich with roasted potatoes and parsnips, celeriac purée
Cheese board
Chocolate fudge/meringue with whipped cream, mascarpone topped with raspberries

Never having cooked ostrich before, I decided to start the kitchen festivities with the celeriac purée then went on to heat the oil for the potatoes and proceeded to drop the all of the oil on the kitchen floor. However if you are cooking roasted tatties this Christmas, the dropping of the oil is optional. Nearer the time, I seared the ostrich tenderloins, sat them on a bed of cooked onions and cooked in a 200C oven for 20 minutes. As easy as that.

I got the meat from Gamstonwood Farm at Borough market, I will definitely serve it again.
top picture from Gamston Wood Farm website

Food Blogger Connect 09

I am telling you next time somebody tells me "blogging is for nerds who are scared about meeting others in real life", or "blogging is a silly activity for sad people" or "there is no point in blogging", or any variation of the three, I will get my designer handbag out and will inflict some real damage.

Blogging is a real pleasure, meeting bloggers via the net is great but meeting 50, or so, food bloggers in a restaurant is paradise.

Last Saturday paradise was organised (somebody has to organise paradise otherwise it would be hell) by Beth from Dirty Kitchen Secrets, Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry, Mowie of Mowielicious and Jamie of Life's a feast. I have always been a tat jealous of the Food-Bloggers Conference in the States, and now we have got our very own, hurray. An array of talented bloggers arrived to the Levant by plane, train, tube (that was not easy) from France, Germany, Holland and of course the UK, I am sure I have missed a few places in-betweeny.

You immediately know when you meet like minded people, it does not matter where you start the conversation, they are there with you, we talked about things that matter to us, I met well I was going to say new people but are these people new to me, I already knew some, I had read their blog.
The Lebanese mezze was awesome: hummus, falafel, tomatoes topped with haloumi, chicken and lamb skewers, meat ball, warm pittas and of course that splendid dish (pictured) with pinenuts and things which name I don't remember, so if anybody out there recognises it, I would not mind being informed of its denomination. Wine was from the Beeka valley, next time you are in a supermarket go for Lebanese red wine, it never disappoint.

Then we paid attention, we were told about photography by Meeta and Kang, finding your voice by Jamie and Jeanne, copyright sorry...time was up for me, I had to leave. It was already getting near time to go to another event about which I will tell you next.

Can't wait for Food Blogger Connect 2010

Taleggio Recipe

I can't believe it, the result of a recent survey has revealed that mothers rotate 9 recipes to feed their families. 9! what does that mean?
At first I thought that is never enough for 365 days then I projected myself back to my childhood. I can't recall my mum having more than ....5 recipes to her repertoire and she was not working outside, she worked hard looking after me, she is not lazy, she is very dynamic. So what does it mean?
Without analysing the stuff too carefully it seems to me that people are not confident using new ingredients. They may have 9 only because they are confident cooking them, these 9 are quick, easy and well rehearsed and they will never hear "I am not eating that". But what about trying out all these ingredients which are out there? what about the pleasure of discovery?
Let's take Taleggio, never contemplated cooking with it before last month and then as I was hoping in the cheese alley, there it was, I grab a paquet. It is good in salads but I opted for the potato and onion gratin. Dead fast.
Take one large onion, one garlic clove, peel, chop, fry in a little olive oil, salt and pepper
Preheat oven to a high 205 in the meantime peel 3 large baking potatoes (about 800g), cut into thin slices.
slice 250 g of taleggio
In a baking dish, layer potato, onion, taleggio in what ever order and fashion. Finish with taleggio
Cook for 30 minutes at 200.
link to the nine recipes story

Interflora Christmas Hamper Has Arrived.......

Interflora! hampers! nooo, everybody knows that Interflora's job is to deliver flowers.... wrong. Well, right, they do but the companie has diversified, they also "do" champagne & balloons, personalised gifts and hampers for special occasions and when it comes down to hampers, there is no "specialer" occasion than Xmas.

Let me tell you something else: I love my job. Sometime ago, I wrote a recipe for Interflora, in return, I was highly delighted when I received one of their Christmas hamper. What a treat. If you were looking for brilliant present to distant (in geographic terms) friends, have a look their hampers Christmas collection.

First of all, you get the thrill of the delivery. My hamper arrived in a black box, classy. Then, on opening, you get the excitment of "this is all mine and this is very nice", tightly snug in the black box was a wicker basket. Followed by "wow".... look at all these Christmas treats! Being really well presented, this hamper has 3 levels, 3 times the pleasure of discovery.

Would you like to know what was in my hamper then here is a quick peep

but for the real professional run down of all the goodies have a look at the video

Partridge Breasts with Chilli, Chocolate Sauce

Background: Serge and Pat: She is a very good cook and he is almost always hungry. All they eat is locally produced, organically grown etc etc, and when you have friends of the sort, it gets a little tricky to plan menus. Not that they would not eat any thing and every thing because they would, but when they come over I am so very pleased that I go the extra mile.

So it was time for game, not the playing kind of game, the bird kind of game, I plump for Partridge and whom better to order my organic food from but Abel and Cole, they tell you exactly where their products come from. I ordered a pack 5 breasts, a total of 250g which cost £ 3.75, this is fantastic value for money. It arrived in a cool box, perfectly pack and delivered with a smile.

Partriges are in season from September to February. The big problem with this kind of bird is that it has a tendency to dry out when cooking it but not if you are extra vigilant. And of course I was....not.

The meat was just delicious, I don't think I ever ate partridge before and honestly you should give it a go, it was firm, tasty just like it should be.
As for the recipe, He picked it and what may have sounded a little crazy worked really well. It is a Sophie Grigson's recipe adapted to our French guests.
Partridge with Chilli Chocolate Sauce
5 Partridge breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5-8 garlic cloves, peeled but whole
2 cloves
1tsp chilli (make it half if you like it less hot)
1 bay leaf
300 ml (10fl oz) dry white wine
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt and fresly ground black pepper
Served with roasted sweet potatoes, tomatoes, potatoes.
Brown the breasts in 2 tablespoon of oil in a frying-pan over a high heat.
Transfer to a casserole.
Fry the onion in the same oil, adding a little more if needed, then transfer to the casserole.
Add all the remaining ingredients except the chocolate and potatoes.
Bring up to a gently simmer.
Cover tightly and continue simmering for about 10 minutes, until the partridges are tender. Transfer to a warm serving dish, surround with cooked vegetables and keep warm while you finish the sauce.
Stir the chocolate and the chilli into the remaining liquid in the pan and simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
Rub the contents of the pan through a sieve, pushing through as much of the onion and garlic as you can to thicken and flavour the sauce.
Stir, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the partridges and potatoes and serve.
When I was in Mexico, one evening, in a restaurant, I ordered chicken with a chocolate sauce. Next to our table were a couple of French people, when the dish arrived the guy commented assertively, very loudly, in this kind of unmistakable French direct elegance. "Look at this it looks like Shit" so one piece of advice do not cover the breast completly with the sauce.

I am delighted to add this recipe to :
A monthly challenge on Bangers and Mash

Does a Potato Count as One of Your 5 a Day?

The answer is no. Potato is carb., on the other end Sweet potato is a vegetable and counts in "5 a day".
Sometimes I get asked food questions, I am always happy to do the research for you, so don't hesitate to use pebblesoup's email address which you will find on the left hand-side.
Now pay attention here are some guidelines for your 5 a day
1/2 a very large fruit such as mango, melon but avocado too
A whole medium size fruit : apple, peach
A couple of little specimen: figs, plums
A handful of smaller ones blueberries etc
A small bowl of mixed salad/ soup
A wine glass.........of fruit juice
A handful of veg including beans, lentils, chickpeas and .....sweet potato
the picture is a repro of Van Gogh's potato eaters

The BloggerAid Cook Book is Here

Earlier this year, when I joined "BloggerAid Changing the Face of Famine", I had made up my mind: I was going to make a small difference. You see, I don't join very often. The result has exceeded my expectations. This is what happens when 140 determined food blooggers from 60 different countries come together with one goal in mind " to help alleviating hunger".

A Cookbook of original recipes from bloggers around the world. Each recipe has been created/adapted/tried/tasted/ especially for this one marvellous project. BloggerAid CFW supports the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations frontline agency and one of WFP’s largest areas of assistance is called School Meals. 100% of the profits generated by the sale of "The BloggerAid Cook Book" will go to the School Meal project.

So you can see why I am very proud to have a recipe in this book. “The BloggerAid Cook Book” is available for purchase online only, through the Create Space estore. The estore is a connection of Amazon. You will not find the book on the site – royalties for the School Meals Program are much higher through the estore. And these kids need all the help we can give them.
If you would like to purchase the book click here, thank you.
The venture does not end there, BloggerAid changing the face of famine is looking for new ideas to continue the work, if you would like to join, click on the icon on the top left of this blog.

Perfect Posset

Posset: I love this 15th century word. I love it even more now that I know it has several spellings: poshote, poshotte, cute isn't it? Further more it can be used as a verb when a baby brings up curdled milk: he,she possets, much nicer than puke don't you think?
The original posset was a drink of hot milk, spices curdled with wine, beer or vinegar used to cure colds. It moved on from the original spicy custard with strong alchol content to sweet dessert.
Mine is a LIME POSSET RECIPE found in the free ASDA Magazine.
Put the grated zest of 3 limes , 125ml freshly squeezed lime juice and 3 tbsp lime cordial in a bowl and chill 15 minutes to let the flavours infuse. Put a 397g can condensed milk and 150ml double cream in a bowl and whip for about 3 minutes or until it thickens slightly. Add the lime mixture and whisk for 1-2 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Spoon into six glasses and chill. serves 6

The answer is Chicken, Mushroom & Leek Pie

Our very own George -who is not always camera shy- recently had a problem.

Sadly his pie provider is no more. So I offered to look for the perfect chicken pie to replace his loss. Abel&Cole came to the rescue with their chicken, mushroom & leek pie.

What did George think?: "good, this pie is good" indeed it has all the necessary ingredients, chunky chicken pieces, smooth sauce and lots and lots of vegetables. The only problem is the crust, though very nice too it is rather thick. We marked it out of 10, it scored a magnificent 7.

But let me tell you what: in my tasting box along with my order of wild partridge (more of this later), there was a little gem which I would recommend to all to try it is the Savoury Seed Oatcakes Village Bakery. In their little individually portioned pack, they are just flavoursome enough not to overpower the topping. Definitely 10 out of 10.

Special Offer
To try Abel & Cole for yourself, take advantage of this special offer. Sign up for a weekly delivery of £15 or more including a fruit and veg box, then after 4 consecutive weekly deliveries you will receive a £50 voucher to spend with them.
Terms & Conditions: To take advantage of this offer, add code NOVEMBERSUB50 in the special offer codes section when you place your first order before 21st December 2009. No cash alternative. Subject to availability. Prices correct at time of going to press and subject to change without notice. Not valid in conjunction with any other offer, except selected price discounts.

What is in the Box.

Let me give you a clue, it is an Abel & Cole product.

Abel & Cole are famous for their organic fruit and vegetable boxes. Did you know that they have diversified? The company is working with various selected providers, their catalogue is covering a lot of our needs: meat, fish, breakfast food, even eco-friendly household products have been added to their range.

but what is in the box?

Pebble Soup Will Be There

So many things have been going on, I don't know where to start. Will you forgive me for disappearing if I am telling you that I was product tasting, eating Ethiopian food, preparing my menus for my best friends' visit and last but not least I turned ghost.
Yes I signed a contract to write a book and as if one good news was not enough my mate Michelle at Greedy Gourmet pointed out a first. Food bloggers are meeting in London at the end of the month. I am very excited, Bethany from Dirty Kitchen tells me that people are coming from everywhere. I know it says reply before the 23rd October but if you want to join us try the site never the less.

See you on Monday for What Is In the Box?

Fish & Healthier Diet - part 3 -

So, I am doing 5 portions of fruits and veg a day, I should had "with great difficulties", I am contemplating enjoying 100g of dark chocolate (that should not be too hard) to lower my blood pressure -as it is a source of antioxidant- the next step is fish.

According to medical research one portion (115g) of fish, 4 times a week will provide you (& me) with enough Omega-3 to reduce significantly blood stickiness consequently preventing clotting

Will any fish do? this is where things get blurry, really it should be oily fish but my understanding is that 2 portions of oily fish out of the 4 should do the trick.

The other day He cooked a delicious fish meal, seemed to take very little time once all the ingredients where assembled and certainly had a very pleasant impact on the taste buds.

Amazing Apples

he and I went to an apple festival at the week end. There are hundreds at this time of the year, being there, I realised that supermarkets are really not helping .
The number of variety is mind boggling, fresh, sharp, sweet, it is all there, so could someone tell me why I can get one type only of cooking apple at my local supermarket and 3 or 4 types of eating apples among which, the right disgusting golden delicious.
Back home with my little bag of all sorts, I contemplated what I will do, and today I turned my bramleys into Apple and ginger Jam.
yummy, so here is the recipe straight from my old favourite: Marguerite Pattern's basic basics
450g/1b cooking apples, weight when peeled and cored (but retain peel and cores)
450g/1 lb sugar
4 tablespoons dices preserved ginger
1tablespoon water

Cut the apples into 1.5cm dice, put into the preserving pan with the sugar, ginger and water. Tie the peel and cores in a price of muslin and add to the pan. Allow to stand for several hours. During this time some juice will flow from the apples. Simmer the fruit over a low heat, stirring regularly until all the sugar has dissolved; raise the heat and boil steadily, rather than rapidly, until setting point is reached. Remove the bag of peel and cores. Spoon into the hot jars and seal down.

I used 1 and half teaspoon of ground ginger instead of diced preserved ginger.

The result is rather sweet but hey, it is a jam. Any how it is delicious.

Why Was I Kept In the Dark?

It's chocolate week. How could something like this escape my attention, I will never know? I would call this a tragic oversight. Especially since in my bid to be more healthy, I have been reading all about the virtues of dark chocolate: 100g (a small bar) per day can lower your blood pressure even more than vegetables.
No kidding, scientists have poured sweat and blood .......and possibly some wine too over their research publishing the results in 2004 in the British Medical journal. There is a group of 7 superfoods which helps lowering cholesterol: Fruits and Vegetables 400g daily, dark chocolate, so will you excuse me while I disappear for a little while in search of chocolate as I have not been very good with vegetables today

5 a Day Starring the Sweet Potato

I thought that my diet was relatively healthy, I thought it included 5 fruits and veg a day.

Confident, I started counting. day in, day out, I was missing ONE. I can see you smiling but have you counting yours? and what does 5 a day mean.............?

Pay attention here are some guidelines:
1/2 a very large fruit such as mango, melon but avocado too
A whole medium size fruit : apple, peach
A couple of little specimen figs, plums
A handful of smaller ones blueberries etc
A small bowl of mixed salad/ soup
A wine glass.........of fruit or vegetable soup
A handful of veg including beans, lentils, chickpeas and .....sweet potato
As far as I can see my only option is to add fruits to my breakfast or make sure there are 2 veg at dinner time, hence I am looking for easy veg recipes & came across this one in the free Asda magazine.
Cook and mash sweet potatoes, add a 2tsp of honey, a little milk or a spoon of cream, I put it to the taste, delicious.

Bye Bye Cherry Tomatoes

It is time to say good bye to cherry tomatoes. They should be fading away from gardens, markets and supermarkets' shelves until next year.
On Saturday, We (that's he, his mum and I) trotted to the opening of the East Greenwich Pleasaunce Market, I hope this one is to keep and won't be a flash in the pan like so many others.
It is a jolly nice affair, not too big, not too small, The marketing is a little weird though the cliffhanger -so to speak- is "All products made, grown or reared within 100 miles of the market" which they'd better be because if they don't they will be many farmers ploughing the seas and pigs will have to learn to swim!
So there we were, greeting our wonderful local Councillor, when I spotted a flash of ruby bright, cherry tomatoes and suddenly remembered that my friend Pat trusted in my hand a crumble recipe as I was on my way to board the plane in Lyon. So I will do what she did and leave you with the recipe, sorry no photo, once again, it did not linger around long enough for me to get the camera.

If you have some cherry tomatoes left why not try cherry tomatoes and mozzarella skewers ?

Cherry Tomato crumble
2 lbs cherry tomatoes
5 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces goat's cheese (firm or soft)
2 ounces pine nuts
4 ounces breadcrumbs
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tsp mixed herbs
salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F, 190 C/ gas mark 5.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan, add the cherry tomatoes, season cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened; remove from the heat.Fill an oven proof dish with the tomatoes and crumble the goat’s cheese on top. Heat remaining olive oil in a frying pan and lightly fry the pine nuts and breadcrumbs;
Scatter breadcrumb mix over the tomatoes and cheese, then top with the the Parmesan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden.

Book review : Tapas Bar By The Australian Women's Weekly

Before my holidays I briefly mentioned "Tapas Bar : easy snacks form the Mediterranean". I received this book, courtesy of the Australian Women's Weekly, to review on behalf of Blogger Aid Changing the Face of Famine.
I now have had time to leaf through "Tapas Bar" thoroughly. Traditionally Tapas come from Spain but the Aussies have put a new spin on the concept. In Australia Tapas is a generic word of snacks and finger food, this book gathers over 100 recipes of tasty little morsels from all around the Mediterranee.
On the plus side:
  • £6.99 is real good value for book which is packed with so many ideas.
  • Each recipe is triple tested so there can't be any mishap though....
  • Recipes are for all abilities some are dead-easy, others require a little more skill.
  • It suits vegetarian, fish lovers, meat eaters there is something for every body.
I have now used Tapas Bar twice, once during the week when I packed up for the day rather late and had no idea what to cook for diner, and last Saturday at the annual friends and neighbours picnic.
I like the choice of countries
  • Tapas from Spain antipasto from Italy and mezze from the Middle East.
  • There is a useful glossary and a conversion chart at the end of the book
  • Each recipe has got a photo so that you can see what the outcome should look like.
For each country there is at least one double page with several versions of the same recipe for example From Italy there are 5 recipes for Carpaccio.
My only problem with it was my attempts did not quite work, the skewers were over cooked and the dip too runny. This is possibly my doing so don't let this stop you buying the book.

Lemon and chilli chicken skewers
  • 400g chicken breast fillets, cut into 2 cm pieces
  • 340g chorizo, cut into 2 cm pieces
  • 1 medium yellow capsicum (200g), cut into 2 cm pieces
  • 12 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 1 tapblespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. Combine ingredients in large bowl, cover, refrigerate 30 minutes
  2. Thread chicken chorizo, capsicum and bay leaves, alternately, onto skewers
  3. Cook skewers on heated oiled grill plate (or grill or barbecue) until chicken is cooked through and chorizo browned lightly
prep + cook time 30 minutes / makes 12
tip soak 12 bamboo skewers in water for at least an hour before using to prevent them from scorching during cooking
recipe copied straight from Tapas Bar.

Goo for You: Mushroom and beans casserole

When life is hectic, there is little time to ponder over meals and as a result I tend to cook "Goos".
Definition of a Goo: take what ever (usually left overs) is the fridge/ pantry/else place throw the ingredients together in a pan or a gratin dish, cook or bake. Tip for a good Goo: cross fingers.

Now there is another strata to Goo: the sophisticated Goos where by I get a recipe off the net and eliminate all the ingredients which I don't have replacing them with left overs.

It is what happened to the Black-eyed bean Bourguignonne (picture from the wonderful Mushroom bureau).

It is a very tasty recipe and I would recommend that you give it a go when you don't want to spend too much time in the kitchen, the cooking time is rather long but that does not need you.

My version had no carrots, black eyed beans were replaced by white chili beans, sadly no red wine either, ah and I forgot the bay leaves but I don't think that the particular omission was noticed.

Problem with goos they are very shy as they know that they are not photogenic after all they may taste fantastic but they are only humble and ugly goos.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible

After three great weeks in Kerala, it is back to the daily non-routine, because it is a little difficult to slide back in the box, I have plugged out a book review for you. It appeared on the now defunct Paper Palate.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible is a book of best. Best curry recipes from India but also best selection for best curries from around the world. And because of that (+ an untimely computer crash) my review almost did not see the light of the day. Let me explain: my partner got hold of this book and it has been a battle to get it back. Yes, yes I hear you think: “Lucky her, he must have cooked lovely curries nonstop.” Well, wrong. He was reading it from cover to cover. Now you are as puzzled as I was, so let me enlighten you over the reason for this infatuation.

Madhur Jaffrey is a legend, an authority in the world of Indian food. Her books spell quality, her research is meticulous, her recipes are tried and tested many, many times. In this book she traces the origins and history of curry. There are as many curries as there have been destinations for generations of Indian immigrants. “This curry trail” leads us from Fiji to Trinidad via England, Kenya, the whole of South East Asia, and Japan.

But curries are not alone here, mouthwatering rice, breads, chutneys, relishes, and sweets recipes interwoven with pages of history, old illustrations and modern photographs and much more make for the 6 pages of the index. That explains why I could not put my hands on it when I wanted it most and also why this comprehensive book made the top 50 best.

Let me leave you with a taste of a Pakistani recipe and its introductory paragraph: Red Lentils from the Khyber Pass:

“In the brown hills of the Khyber Pass, Saika, the woman of the house, cooked red lentils, round squash and wholemeal breads for lunch. It was the once-a-week “no meat” day, declared so by the Pakistani government worried buy the nation’s excessive meat-eating habits. While butchers are not allowed to sell meat that day, most families get around the restriction by buying their meat a day in advance and freezing it. Not so Saika. She was an observer.”

180g/ 6 oz red lentils
half to one teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons ghee or corn oil
1-2 whole dried hot red chillies
2 gloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
Put the lentils in a lidded pan with 1 litre water and bring to the boil. Do not let the pot boil over. Skim off the scum that comes to the surface with a slotted spoon. Partially cover with the lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 40-50 minutes or until tender. Sir in the cayenne pepper and about 1 teaspoon salt. Taste, adding more salt as needed.

In a small pan, heat the ghee or oil until very hot. Put in the red chillies. As soon as they darken, put in the garlic. When the garlic pieces turn golden-brown on both sides, pour the oil and seasonings int the pan of lentils. Cover the pan quickly to trap the aromas.

Puff Pastry Dough, a Daring Bakers' September Challenge

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

following the instructions here are my efforts, sorry I did not make it as far as the Vols au vent just yet as I was interrupted

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:
Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:
Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.
Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Kerrymaid Garlic Butter Competition

To launch their new Garlic Butter, Kerrymaid has opened a competition. Best recipe idea using garlic butter will win this rather desirable hamper.

It is open to everyone why not try your luck by posting a comment on Kitchen Delights.
This competition is quite opportune, really so I can tell you about a whole meal plan which I concocted just before going away. Next door neighbour has a false acacia in their garden. This kind of tree grows big, sometimes bigger than a house. In fact, this one is bigger than our house, it is an overshadowing monstrosity.

To confront the neighbour with the reality of living with their tree so near to our windows, I invited her for dinner and cooked new potatoes with Garlic butter and pork fillet in puff pastry. Cunning plan? we don't know, maybe there is magic in garlic butter.

New Potatoes with Garlic Butter

Cook Time: 15 mins
175g (6oz) per person
2 sachets of garlic butter

For the potatoes choose one of the following variety either

•Maris Bard

New potatoes are delicious cooked in their skins, scrub them gently, place them in a pan and cover with boiling water. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for approximately 15-20 minutes until just tender. Once cooked, drain immediately, using a coring knife make a hole in the middle without getting through the spud.
Place a dollop of garlic butter in the centre and bake in a hot oven for 5 minutes serve pipping hot.

Tapas Bar & Arancini

I came back from France, full of cooking ideas , but for these recipes, you will have to wait a little as I am off on holidays for 3 weeks.
However it is not all play and no work. On my return from Lyon , a parcel was awaiting: a book to review for Bloggeraids: "Tapas Bar" by the Australian Women's Weekly.
First impression: this book is crammed with recipes and if you entertain a lot this is a book for you. Tapas, aperitifs, mezze, does not matter how you call them when it comes to prepare nibbles to serve with drinks, let's face it, it is more impressif to have a homemade snack rather than a packet of crisps.
The book is divided in 3:
Tapas straight from Spain with empanadas, little bites and others. Grilled mussels with prosciutto is one that I will definitly try.

Antipasto recipes from Italy. If you have ever wondered how to prepare capaccios, there are several recipes there.

Last but not least Mezze with all the wonders from around the meditteranne, brillant.
These easy snacks can also provide novel ideas for the lunch box. All the recipes are tested 3 times so there are no surprises.

Copied straight from the Australian Women's weekly Tapas Bar is one I chose for you, to give you an idea of how well devised are the recipes.

Cuisine type: Italian
Cooking time: Less than 60 minutes
Course: Entree

Ingredients :
2½ cups (625ml) salt-reduced chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small (80g) onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup (200g) arborio rice
½ cup (125ml) dry white wine
½ cup (60g) frozen peas
40g ham, chopped finely
½ cup (40g) finely grated parmesan cheese
100g mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten lightly
plain flour
1 egg, beaten lightly, extra
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup (100g) packaged dry breadcrumbs
vegetable oil, for deep-frying

NOTE: This recipe makes 18 arancini. Arancini, which means "little oranges" in Italian, make an excellent finger food or light lunch with salad. The risotto mixture can be made a day ahead. Arancini can be fried several hours ahead of serving and reheated in a slow oven.

Bring the stock to the boil in a medium pan. Reduce the heat to low and keep hot.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring, until the onion is soft but not coloured. Add the rice; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine, then cook, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated.

Add about 1/3 cup (80ml) of the hot stock; cook, stirring, over a low-medium heat until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until all the stock is used. Total cooking time will be about 25 minutes.

Stir in the peas, ham and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat, stir in the parmesan cheese. Transfer the risotto to a bowl; cool.

Chop the mozzarella into 18 pieces.

Stir the egg into the risotto. Roll 2 level tablespoons of risotto into a ball; press a piece of mozzarella into the centre of each ball; roll to enclose. Toss balls in flour, shake away excess. Dip into the combined extra egg and milk, then coat in breadcrumbs.

Heat vegetable oil in a deep saucepan; deep-fry the arancini in batches until they are browned and heated through.

Drain on absorbent paper. Serve hot with lemon wedges, if desired.

Suitable to freeze. Not suitable to microwave.

Cook's note
Don't have the oil too hot as the arancini will burn before the cheese is melted inside. After deep-frying, they can be kept warm in a slow oven

Easy Bakewell tarts

Let me share with you a really easy recipe, I will not bore you with the history of the Bakewell tarts nor, or, and puddings.

I will not tell you how I got to make this recipe and why neighbour Barbara took a couple home.

I'll give you the recipe straight, surprised, watch:

The case(s):

Buy 6 ready made shortcrust pastry cases or a sheet of short crust pastry to roll out to the size of your pie dish.

Spread the strawberry jam, or another filling of your choosing, on the shortcut pastry case make sure that it is about 1.5 cm.


can be done by hand, much faster in a food processor

•125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
•125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
•3 (3) eggs
•2.5ml (½ tsp) almond extract
•125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
•30g (1oz) all purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy.

Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Cover with the frangipane up to the top of the case.

Bake in preheated oven at 200C/400F for 30 minutes. In the last 5 minutes check that the top is not browning too much if it is terminate the cooking then.

The Aroma while cooking is fantastic.

This recipe is an adaption of the Daring Bakers'

Fun Day at the Park: Thai Festival

The Second Thai festival took place this week-end at Greenwich Park, as you can see it was well attended, a melting pot of nationalities enjoying "the best Thailand has to offer"

Of course, I was there mainly for the food. There are 2 things I love about Thai food: number one, the presentation, and on that score I was not disappointed, there was a guy whom I can only describe as a food sculptor mading georgous lolly pops out of colored sugar. He runs courses as well as carves food for parties etc... if you are interested have a look at his website :
Thing number 2, I love is watching people cooking with a wok and a grill, the speed of cooking fascinates me.
So I was really looking forward to the cooking demonstration which should have been led by the Mango Tree Thai Restaurant chef and though she was there, the spark was not. No electricity for the cooking demo tent. Therefore No demo.

I had to console myself with "Thailand's got Talent contest" which was not as bad as I first feared. It was even rather entertaining when the crowd went made for Vivian "the lady boy". Oh yes! all what Thailand has to offer was there. He did not win instead "single lady and single man" with their dance act, took away a long list of prizes.

The event was slightly marred by a bout of pickpocketing.

After a more subtle and elegant show of Thai dancing and a demonstration of Thai boxing, the afternoon drew to a close, there was time to do some grocery shopping, Thai curry paste that sort of thing.
I missed out on my free press-massage, silly me. If you would like to see the photo album here it is.

The Basic Basics Jams, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook, by Marguerite Patten

A month ago, I heard that Paper Palate. net where I write a lot of cookbooks reviews had gone down, some kind of virus.

I had not back up the reviews thinking that such a solid site was forever. A month later, it is back on line so I decided that the best thing to do, was to share the reviews with Pebble Soup readers.

On Paper Palate, I had a weekly series called Top 50 Fridays, Featuring....... and here is how it all started..........

With an innocent review of the Independent “50 Best Cookbooks.” After writing it, I put the subject aside. As far as I was concerned, that was it, period, end of story. But I kept thinking about the list, wondering, ”How did these books make it to the top 50?” “Do they have something in common?”

Oh, yes, we were entering dangerous but familiar territory - that of compulsive curiosity. I tried very hard to forget about it, but nothing worked. There was only one way to find out: yep, I was going to have to investigate.

First thoughts: the list is randomly arranged, so I was going to randomly explore it, starting with The Basic Basics Jams, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook, by Marguerite Patten, published by Grub Street.

So who do you have to be to make it to the top 50? I assumed that it was not about the writer but about the content, but that was a silly assumption as the two can’t really be separated. Marguerite Patten is an authority in cookery writing. In 2007 at 93 she received “the woman of the year award.” If that was not impressive enough, she is said to have paved the way for today’s celebrity chefs. Earlier in her career, during WWII, she worked for the Ministry of Food, whose advice is being resurrected by Jamie Oliver, who is currently trying to get the nation cooking healthy, nourishing, tasty food - but that is another story.

What did I expect from such an influential food writer? A lot, and a lot I got. Jams for most of the letters of the alphabet; I mean fruits in all seasons. Did you know you could make banana jam? Marmalade with marrow, dill jelly, and curd with fruits other than lemon? But all is not exotica; most indeed is basic basics. Chutneys and pickles, ketchup and vinegars do feature here too. There are also answers to most technical questions, starting with essential information on tools.

Personally I love making jams, but I tend to stay clear of the pot because of its sugar content. Well, little did I know, I can now reduce the sugar content by half and use a freezing or sterilizing method as the issue with low-sugar jam is the preservation rather than anything else. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Are all the top 50 complete guides of tried-and-tested recipes written by distinguished professionals? Have no fear; I shall continue my quest and let you know.

Onion Tart

I am appalled a bunch of vandals broke into our car and torn the ignition out, damaging it badly. It is a 15 years old vehicle which resemble more a shopping trolley than a set of wheels good for joy riding. What were they thinking of? mindless, brainless yobs.

So I did not need the onions to cry my eyes out and when this lovely scrumptious tart sprung to mind, I decided that it will be the blog of day.

I love a good onion tart, the trick is to chop the onions finely and to cook them until really soft so that the end result is creamy and velvety.

Onion Tart

For the filling:
1½ lb (700 g) onions, chopped fairly small
2 oz (50 g) butter
2 large eggs, beaten
4 fl oz (110 ml) double cream
salt and freshly milled black pepper a little ground nutmeg
For the pastry:
4 oz (100 g) self-raising flour
pinch of salt
2 oz (50 g) butter
1½ oz (40 g) Cheddar cheese, grated
Pre-heat the oven, and a baking sheet, to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C).


First make the pastry by sifting the flour, salt into a mixing bowl, then rubbing in the fat until the mixture becomes crumbly. Then stir enough cold water to make a dough that leaves the bowl clean.

keep in in the fridge while you deal with the rest.

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, then add the chopped onions, stir to get them well coated in the butter, and cook them (uncovered) over a slow/medium heat for about half an hour until they have reduced and turned a deep brown. Give them a stir from time to time to prevent them catching on the bottom of the pan.

Then roll out the pastry to line the tart tin, prick the base with a fork, place it on the pre-heated baking sheet, and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes.

Then spread the onions all over the base of the tart, whisk the beaten eggs together with the cream and some seasoning, and pour this mixture over the onions, pack the pastry as much as you possible can.

Return the tart to the oven and bake for 30 minutes till the filling is puffy and golden brown.

Quesadillas all sorts

If you need an idea for a quick and easy lunch/dinner or even breakfast think "quesadilla". I you have got leftovers and not too sure what would liven them up. Quesadilla will do the trick nicely and you are in for a treat. I made mine with butter-squash, sweet potatoes, mozzarella and blue cheese. I got the recipe from Jill Dupleix, I knoooow, she seems to inhabit my kitchen. I might have to look in the pantry to make sure she has not set up camp in there.


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