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 : http://www.topcarving.com/index.html
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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