Slow Cook Lamb

2010 is on its way out and as far as I am concerned it is good riddance. I do not want to see another like it. I had almost forgotten what it was like to do battle with ill, loss and demons with my guard down.
I am, certainly, not grateful for the reminder. Falling hurts bad. But at least I have been reminded that every moment is precious and if treated well, there is fun in each and every of these moment.
So good-bye 2010 bring the next one on, I am focused and this time, I am not loosing sight of what is important, frivolities included.

2010 was also a year when I got much more involved in the world of food, I hope you have enjoyed reading my posts as much I have enjoyed researching and writing them.

There has been many recipes which stood out and delighted my taste buds but the  one which got my vote is "Slow Cook Lamb". I first saw it on Greedy Gourmet. Michelle describes it as a memorable meal, spot on. The first thing, my friend Anne said, after Wow was : "this is a memorable dish." Don't be put off by the cooking time, there is nothing for the cook to do whilst the lamb seats in the oven,  here is the link to the recipe.

Only one thing left to do and that is to wish you and you and you, a great 2011.

Short of a Present or Two, Turn to Baking Cherry Shortbread

If like me you were prevented to get out and about  today, prevented by snowflakes as large a flying saucers then you might not get all your presents on time. One suggestion is to have a quick look in your kitchen cupboard to see if you had the ingredients for this shortbread recipe which will make a nice present too

Cherry shortbread

Makes 10 fingers
Ready in 1 hour 10 minutes
This will keep for two weeks in an airtight container,

115g unsalted butter
55g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting (optional)
Few drops vanilla extract
175g plain flour
75g glacé cherries, quartered

1.Preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/Gas 3. Line the base of a 20cm shallow, square cake tin with a sheet of baking paper.
2.Cut the butter into squares and put in a mixing bowl with the sugar and vanilla. Stir with a wooden spoon until evenly mixed.
3.Sift in the flour and mix with your fingertips until the dough starts to come together. Gather into a ball, then roll out to a 20cm square.4.Put in the prepared tin and prick with a fork
5.Arrange the cherries on top to make six lines, pressing them in lightly. Bake for about 35-40 minutes
6.Mark into fingers while hot, then leave to cool for 20 minutes. Remove from the tin to finish cooling on a rack
7.Dust lightly with caster sugar, if liked, then gift wrap or store in an airtight container.

recipe and top picture from Asda Magazine

Golden Basmati Rice with Apricots

It is panic time, the gas stove is kaput, yet again, the gas man isn't answering my calls and the manufacturer is giving me the runaround (music: click on link before continuing). I have a pressing deadline for the London Guide for Expatriates. No presents are bought, no cards sent and it is soon Xmas. My head is in a mess and I can't find the picture for today's post, probably because it never existed and the dish was gulped even before the camera came out. I bet you one day this household will be in such a hurry to get tucked in the food that the camera might get eaten too. 
There is only one recipe for this kind of feeling and that is basmati rice.

I love this recipe with its crisp apple and soft apricots. It also contains saffron which is a curious ingredient we should talk about one day, when I am not in a panic :) but you can skip the saffron you will not the golden colour but the recipe will still be good.

Though it is based on a Persian dish, this takes me back to the rice paddies of Indonesia, to the endless bus trips picking sticky rice out of bamboo canes, to the smily faces and the warm sun on my face.

So need a bit of Zen in your life, try this out

Golden Basmati Rice with Apricots


serves 8 prep time 30 min Total time 1h30
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup salted roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 6 dried apricots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Freshly ground pepper

1.Preheat the oven to 375°. In a small bowl, crumble the saffron over the warm water and let stand for 5 minutes.

2.In a large skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, 7 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon, then add the rice and stir to coat. Add the stock, saffron and its soaking liquid and the salt and bring to a boil. Transfer the rice and liquid to a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until the stock is absorbed and the rice is tender.

3.In a large skillet, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the scallions and cook over moderately high heat for 30 seconds. Add the almonds and apricots and cook until the apricots start to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the apple and cook, stirring, just until warmed, about 1 minute. Stir the mixture into the rice, season with pepper and serve hot.

recipe from food& 

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Where Was I ?

"Where Was I?" does indeed start to sound a little bit like a recurring theme on this blog, may be I should call it "Where Was I, This Week?". It is such fun to scour new places. Though this time, very unusually, the place was not new to us, and yes before you get startled at the use of "us" instead of the usual "he" & I, it is not a typo, it is called for as we went back to the place we first met in celebration of decadesss. The word that comes to mind is "allegory", the past week was an allegory of these years.

A familiar starting point:

A strange ride through the night:

Reaching one of the most romantic city in......... here are some culinary clues,

Give it a go, have a guess, "in which country did we meet?" 

Leave a comment, I will put your name in the randomiser, the winner will receive a cookery book from my collection.

don't hesitate to tweet and retweet this post, the more the merrier.
No rules apply, you can comment from anywhere in the world.

Xmas Pudding: It's Feeding Time

 Mid-April, Sue surprised me (and possibly the airport security) by flying from Toronto with a Xmas pudding neatly sealed in plastic. She took a mysterious and mischievous air and said: "Keep this in your freezer until such a time when you will get instructions by email." A couple of days ago, the instructions arrived: it is feeding time.

This morning as snow flakes where dancing outside the kitchen window I took the pudding out of the plastic.  Liberated, it generated an unmistakable sweet aroma which floated in the kitchen. Next I got Ann's flask, oh! yes this is a friends' affair, everyone is participating. Poked some holes in the pudding and started pouring cognac, wrapped it is in its cloth, it is now ready for its next feed next week.........

If you are not familiar with Xmas pud, traditionally it is made 4 to 5 weeks before Christmas. This pudding contains very little flour, lots and lots of rich dried fruits and spices. It is common practice to include a coin or a charm in the pudding during it's making. A couple of weeks before, it needs to be fed with cognac or rum and left its cloth until the day when it is steamed for 3 to 4 hours, it should darken deeply, served with cream and I was told yesterday that any leftovers could be fried the next day.

In Season: Chestnut and Chocolate Mousse Cake

There is definitely more to chestnuts than stuffing however one of the problem is the preparation of the nuts, so fiddly, just impossible. This is why I was delighted when the Merchant Gourmet PR approached me and asked if I could come up with a Christmas chestnuts recipe. They offered to send me one of their Chestnut product. Whole Chestnuts are roasted, peeled and vacuum pack so ready to use and when you think about it, this is a little marvel.

I agreed to enter their Blogger Chestnut Challenge which will be judged by chef Alex MacKay and I have got my big brown eyes on the prize: a hamper.

Choosing the recipe was not a problem. Every Christmas, my friend Pat make this perfect Chestnut and Chocolate Mousse Cake. It is light, moist and just the kind of thing you can't help eating even after a 10 courses, so delicious it is.
It is as easy as  one, two, three therefore takes the stress out of the cook on a busy day.

  • 200g (7 oz) dark chocolate
  • 200g (7 oz) unsalted butter
  • 200g (7 oz) peeled cooked chestnuts
  • 200ml (7 fl oz) milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 150g (3.5 oz) caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 170°c/Gas Mark 3 and grease and line a 23cm-diameter springform cake tin.

1. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a pan over a very gentle heat. In another pan, heat the chestnuts with the milk until just boiling, then mash thoroughly with a potato masher (or process to a rough purée in a machine).

2. Put the egg yolks in a bowl and mix with the caster sugar. Stir in the chocolate mixture and the chestnut purée until you have a smooth, blended batter. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold them carefully into the batter. 

3. Transfer the mixture to the greased, lined tin and bake for 25–30 minutes, or until the cake is just set but still has a slight wobble.

Serve hot or cold with or without double cream

Swedeaphobia Cure

People talk about their favorite food but you ever heard somebody say "I could live on swedes only"....likely not. And if someone came up with this line ever, you would possibly turn on your heels as fast as you could and leave that quidam standing there without further ado.

I never bothered with that ugly root until I found a traditional Finnish recipe in The Able & Cole Cookbook and that day, I felt really adventurous, so I went for it. It is described in the cookbook as creamy, slightly spicy and delicious, promise it is exactly that. It might not make you one of the weirdos wanting to live on swedes but it will brilliant dish to add to the house menu. The dish keeps in the fridge so it can be made in advance and only 30 minutes to reheat. 

 Swedeaphobia Cure
◦1 big swede
◦1 mug of dried breadcrumbs
◦1½ mugs of cream (or a mixture of cream and milk)
◦45ml (3 tbsp) golden syrup, maple syrup or honey
◦½ tsp white pepper
◦1 tsp ground ginger
◦½ tsp grated nutmeg
◦Salt and freshly ground black pepper
◦2-3 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan 160°C/356°F/gas 4).

2. Cut the swede into large chunks and boil in lightly salted water until just tender, about 15 minutes. Pour half the breadcrumbs into the cream and set aside. When the swede is ready, drain it, reserving the water, and mash it roughly with a fork or potato masher. Add about half a mug of the cooking water to get a slightly smoother texture. Now add all the ingredients except the potatoes and remaining breadcrumbs to the mashed swede and mix well, seasoning with salt to taste.

3. Grease a large baking dish and line the bottom and sides with the sliced potato. Gently add the swede mixture to the baking dish, taking care to spread it evenly. Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs over the top and bake for 1 – 1½ hours, until the potatoes are tender and the breadcrumb topping is golden brown.

Guess where I was ?

After 30 years travelling, I still look at places in awe and amazement, I love the feeling of discovery, meeting new people, elliciting their stories. But I have to say that the element of surprise is thin on the ground.

Last week, he and I took a week away. A week is such a short time so he looked for a place where there is sun, wine, swimming and came up with Tenerife. Wooow far flung from the Yemen or Mongolia but why not? Afterall it is one of the most popular tourist destination; there bound be something in it. So we flew to Tenerife South and immediately took a couple of buses to the middle of nowhere.
Yes, the middle of nowhere exists on Tenerife and the very next day we experienced the most fantastic 3 hours trek from the perched village of Masca through stunning scenery down a gorge to a small bay on the coast reputed to have been a Pirate hideaway, only accesible by boat onto another bus back to the middle of nowhere and the most gorgeous restaurant experience, I have had in a long time.

To cut it short. The local wine is very palatable, the fish croquettes were superb, the turned over pizza looked great but what stroke me was the dish without a name, the house speciality which I recreated for you, it is just a delight, it is so good, amazing.

Description: A filo tartelette lined with crushed sweet pepper & palm honey at the bottom, topped with beef meat and a bechamel.

You will need individual ramekins or any small dish, tart mould whatever you can find
sheets of filo pastry cut and stacked to fill the ramequins
Sweet peppers
palm honey but since we don't have that treacle or honey will do
200 grs of mince meat
1 chopped onion
make a bechamel with butter, flour and milk


  • Cut your peppers in stripes and sweat them in a table spoon of oil, when they are soft, blend them and add a good teaspoon of honey
  • Cut your filo and line the ramequins or tartelettes moulds. Spread the pepper mixture onto the filo.
  • Do not wash your pan, you are going to cook the onion until soft and the mince until brown when this is done top the pepper mixture.
  • Make a bechamel and top the lot with it
  • Now 20 minutes in an oven mark 180 and enjoy

And the next day we left for La Gomera, an even smaller island to experience more food, sun, sea.

Haricot de Mouton or the Power of Twitter

How long does it take to become addicted to a new form of communication?
answer: in my case no-time.
Never thought about twitting until "the book" pre-launch. I was offered a Westwood Rocks necklace for a twitty. A fortnight later, I am cooking by twitter.
Not knowing how to use twitter, I mistakenly joined Jamie Oliver, who twits a recipe a day. Haricot de mouton was on the menu a couple of days back. Straight away, I spotted the grammatical mistake, shouldn't it be Mouton aux Haricots?. You see, Jamie is an alumni of my ex-place of work and as we know teachers talk so I knew that French studies were not well attended....However, I was intrigued by the fact that there were 2 mistakes in a 3 words sentence and blow me with the kitchen torch.

Haricot derives from an ancient word "halicoter"which means cutting in pieces so this was right. 20 out of 20 Jamie. But there is a twist in my twit, traditionally "le haricot aux mouton" is prepared with potatoes and turnips no haricots in the pot.

As we know, eating words is not palatable when Haricot de Mouton was simply a huge win- pot left clean- time in the kitchen 30 minutes. brilliant.

here is my take on the recipe Haricot de Mouton
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 1 lamb shoulder or breast (500g) cut in roughly in cubes
  • 2 tins of white beans
  • salt, pepper, parsley
  • little bit of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbs of flour
and wait for it....... 3 sausages (very optional)
In the pressure cooker, heat oil throw in onions and garlic, cook until soft
Add the lamb and cook until brownish, add salt, pepper, parsley
Add flour, 2 or 3 tumbles of water, stir
Put the lid on high heat until the pressure starts to come out turn the heat down and cook for 15 minutes.
Let the steam off, open, add the beans and cook under pressure for a further 10 minutes.

Week-End Pictures: Kent on Bonfire Night

I wish upon falling stars, I wished upon fireworks' bright stars too. On Bonfire night, I wished for more, I wished my time wasn't counted, I wished I knew the speed of dark so that I would know when light will sparkle bright.

He took these great photos at the Tenterden Bonfire and Fireworks. 2010 marked the 50 year anniversary of the 2nd Tenterden Scout Group and it was really a family affair with lots of little heads turned to the sky, their faces warmed up by the biggest bonfire I have ever seen.

We stayed in really nice B&B if you are looking for a great place to stay, I would highly recommand Bishopsdale Oast. Coincidence have it that the owner's daughter is a cookery writer so I may have a give-away for you soon.
One could do worse than getting a pint and some nice though a little pricy food at the three chimneys, an old pub full of character .

Is Purple the New Green?

One would think that the colour purple at the dinner table is rather unconventional. Let's see: grapes, blueberries, blackberries, plums and aubergines are possibly the only fruits and vegs, I could have named before this summer when out of the blue, the food he and I were consuming had a sudden mystic and royal air, qualities attached to the colour purple.

In the space of no time, I came across two new (to me) purple vegetables. I harvested purple potatoes from the planter in the garden and bought a purple cauliflower at the local farmers' market. So would purple be the new green on the menu?

Now pay attention, this is the scientific bit: what does make food, purple?
answer: flavonoids. They are natural chemicals which make blood vessels healthier, help with memory loss and might be useful in the first stages of cancer. So all together rather friendly thingies.
But is purple food popular? Certainly not with kids, judging by the reaction of the 7 years old who lives next door. She looked disapprovingly at my purple cauliflower and refused point blank to taste it. In France and in Thailand, that hue is associated with death sooo, may be not exactly what you would like to see in your plate.

Taste verdict: the Arran Victory potatoes once cooked turned normal potato colour and were not very different from any other potatoes. The cauliflower's flavour was much more delicate than its creamy-white counterpart.
Next year, I will not be considering planting purple carrots.
Now for the purple song .

In Season: Pumpkin Soup

When I was a child, how many times, did I hear : "tais-toi, mange ta soupe et tu grandiras?." It may have been a combination of talking too much, not eating enough soup -I was never keen on dehydrated food and my mum's culinary skills don't extend much further than boiling water- anyhow I never grew much and at 5'2 I stopped. But I never stop eating soup and the arrival of autumn and winter is always a delight as it signals the start of warm, flagrant bowls of delicious vegetable offerings.

The first of the season, appropriately is the traditional hand warming pumpkin soup, by the way, the recipe was send to me by Loseley butter's PR. I did not expect much from a tub of butter which calls itself summer meadow, but this is really a good product so if you come across it, don't hesitate to buy it; downside it makes this soup a little on the fattening side and you might end up growing larger rather than taller.



Loseley Butter 25g (1oz)
Onion 1, peeled and chopped
Carrot 1, peeled and chopped
Peeled Pumpkin 350g (12oz), roughly chopped
Milk 750ml (1 ¼ pints)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Natural Yoghourt 150g (5oz)
Dried Pumpkin Seeds to garnish (optional)
Melt the Loseley butter in a large, lidded saucepan and add the onion and carrot. Cook gently to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft but not brown.
Add the pumpkin, milk and seasoning and bring gently to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.
Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth, in batches if necessary. Return to the saucepan, reheat gently and serve swirled with yoghourt and garnished with pumpkin seeds. Accompany with hunks of warmed bread.

10 minutes preparation time
40 minutes cooking time
183 Kcal per portion
8.8g fat per portion of which
5.4g is saturated
4 servings

Loseley Summer Meadow Butter is packed in a 250grm tub and costs £1.19p. Loseley has a give-away on their site, if you would like to give it a go :

Give Away #3 : and the winner is

Congratulations to Kate.
Kate, to join the party send me your postal address by clicking on the contact me direct button,
really looking forward to it, not long to go now.......

Give Away #3: A Free Ticket to "Writers in Black & White" Pre-Launch Event

Roll the drums. Open the curtains. Let's the party begin. The book on which I worked with Alanna Lynott and Anne Mortensen will hit the shelves on the 1st November and we are going to celebrate with a pre-launch party at Waterstone's Picadilly -London- on the 27th October from 6.30.
As Pebble Soup's readers are never far from my mind, I have saved you one complementary ticket. It will allow you free entry to the Champagne bar at Waterstone (inc. free drinks and canapes) You will be able to mingle with all who contributed to the book, most of the writers will be there minus these on holidays or on other life quest.
All you need to do is :

  • Post a comment to tell us the title or the author of the latest book you have read.
You could double up your chances by joining Pebble Soup followers. Each follower's name will be entered separately.
Now, for these who have not been paying attention, yes, these reading quietly at the back of the blog, near the stove, not far from the food. Let me tell you what the book is about. Alanna and I set out to interview 30 contemporary authors, some are really famous, some are less so. We tried to cover as many genre as we could. We ask them about their writing life while Anne took black and white pictures. The aims was to collate as much advice as we could and the targeted audience was to be budding writers. It soon became apparent that the content of the interviews was much much more than that.
We are so proud of the end product. It is a beautiful book full of rather moving, enthralling testimonies about what it means to be a contemporary writer. Readers and/or writers will find that there is a lot of food for thought in this book. To read a little more about it drop by its website.
Some of the authors will be at the party. Good luck, I am looking forward to meet one of the readers and ah! the dead line has got to be rather tight so that I can post the ticket in plenty of time. Last entry Friday 22nd @12.00 GMT
Terms & Conditions
◦Only one entry per comment.
+Each follower will be entered separately as an individual entry
◦The winner will be randomly chosen by putting all the comments numbers and followers' name in a bag, shake the bag and draw an entry.
◦The prize is for one pre-launch ticket only
◦As there will be drinks at the pre-launch, entrants must be 18 or over unless accompanied by an adult
◦Ticket will be posted immediately.

The Gun - Public House- in The Docklands

"The Gun" gastropub in the Docklands is indeed a rare place. With several awards attached to its name, its has a fascinating and tangible history. It was Nelson's local, won the best dining pub title by the Good Pub Guide 2010 editor, beating about 6,000 venues; in 2005 it got the Time Out's best gastropub award and has recently re-re-opened after a muted and classy refurbishment. Last Friday, it offered us a once in a "some-time" experience. The first impression was that for all its history, uniqueness and awards, The Gun remains a local pub and a good one too.

The Gun's fascinating history.

There has been a public house on the site of The Gun for over 250 years. The pub dates back to the early 18th century. It took its current name from the cannon which was fired to celebrate the opening of the West India Import Docks in 1802.
In the late 18th century, Lord Horatio Nelson acquired a property just up the road (still known as Nelson’s House) Lord Nelson would frequent The Gun and regularly meet Lady Emma Hamilton in an upstairs room (now called The River Room) for their secret assignations.

The Maitre d'ho opened the River Room for me, it has recently been restaured to its former grandeur. Engulfed by the smell of wood and beeswax I had no difficulties to let my imagination run. I was on the deck of a boat with the sea around me, it even had an imperceptable sway that it because this room with its high ceilings is high up above the river so one get the impression to be at sea. In the river room you really are "at the captain's table."

In 2001, a terrible fire destroyed much of the interior of the old building and the pub remained closed for 3 years. Then, current owners and brothers Tom and Ed Martin acquired the premises and spent about 9 months painstakingly restoring the magnificent Grade II listed building in close consultation with English Heritage. And they have done a really good job of it.

Though now delicately painte white with its wood stacks in the walls enclosure, as a designer statement, but also as a practical way to feed the various rooms' open-fires, it has an air of repectability. But it has not always been the case.

The Gun has a long association with smugglers landing contraband on the site and distributing it via a hidden tunnel. To this day there is still a spy-hole in the secret circular staircase to watch out for “The Revenue Men”. The air of secrecy lives on.

In one of the room I was shown a conceled panel, with a small tape on the joint, the wood creaked and dropped to reveal ...........a portrait of one of its alumni.

As the docks on the Isle of Docks flourished so did the pub, becoming the local for dockers, stevedores and boatmen. Remaining very popular today. On Friday evening, the restaurant room was full, nicely busing. We were shown to a table for 2, snuggly placed at the back where we had a good view of the diners and yes the table wobbled but I am yet to visit a restaurant where tables do not quaver.

The Gun - a food experience

The waitress brought plain and rosemary square rolls, I am telling you square rolls are all the trend. That or it is a small clue telling you "Not only a pub but a gastro pub." In pubs, you normally don't get square rolls. Too often, you don't get any bread of any description, outside that in your sandwich. Pubs do not offer you bread, you have to ask for it....if you are brave enough.

I agonised over the choice of starters. I wanted Pig’s head terrine & Smoked eel. Of course these 2 traditional pub dishes don't really go together, I needed to choose. Decision, decision.

This is when I remembered that my neighbourg -Mrs Taylor- not long ago entertained me with the tales of the 40's, when she grew up. They (people in general) had only 2 delicacies to perk up the boiled vegetables, eel and pig.
By the look on his face, he possibly would have starved if he had been of a previous generation. The Gun's menu which offers game broth, ox tongue, snails, potted shrimps, oysters possibly feed his nightmares. However, on the specials board there were filet of venison with mushroom, shallots, girolles and onions that solved the crisis.

My terrine was slightly too "loose" but very, very tasty and he liked his venison. Though pulled a funny face when he realised the elegant starter was a carpaccio version and each thin slices had barely spent more than 30 seconds in a searing hot frying pan. It may well have been a first for my partner but I am sure that he liked it: "But not as an every day dish, you understand".

Quiet right as this is not every day's food, and in my humble opinion it deserves its Time Out’s Best Gastropub title.
Break/Onto the main, that gave us a little time to observe the service which was variable but definitely pleasant. On the main courses list, besides the fishcakes and the risotto reminiscent of pub food (at least in names), the rest of the offerings are more like restaurant food. I opted for Roast Swinton Moor (Yorkshire) red leg partridge, braised legs, choux farci, salsify, game jus which was definetly the best cooked partridge, I ever had, moist to perfection, certainly a satisfaying generous portion, the presence of salsify rejoiced me no end. He chose Mallard on a bed of mash vegetable with chips and extra chips from the specials. The wild duck was liked too.

By then, we were both full so we opted for the cheese to finish our Gigondas (as the expression goes in France: un petit peu de fromage pour finir ton vin? or if you are lucky, un petit peu de vin pour finir ton fromage.) In this case we also had a glass of aged Port.
The plateau was composed of
Golden Cross, East Sussex (soft, goat’s milk, unpasteurised)
Montgomery Cheddar, Somerset (extra mature, hard, cow’s milk, unpasteurised)
Fourme d’Ambert, Auvergne, France (creamy blue, cow’s milk, unpasteurised)

The bill for would have come up £128 for two including drinks and coffees.
It was time for our verdict in digits. The Gun scored a high 8.5.

"Proper" beer on the terrace with a view of the dome and the river added to the pleasure of an evening in a historical place which cleverly combines traditional British pub food and the restaurant experience.

Reservations: 020 7515 5222
Coldharbour, London E14 9NS

May not be the easiest place to get to but having said that it is not that difficult if you are prepared to walk more than 5 minutes and less than 10 from a tube station- buses are almost just outside-
Canary Wharf (DLR)
Blackwall (DLR)
South Quay (DLR)

The Gun has private dining rooms for 14, 22 or 70 people and we can host parties for up to 200
More Gun's reviews on

Fish & Fennel

First rule of writing: find a thread and keep to it. I am afraid this is not going to work today 'cause I have plenty of things to share and they are not inter-connected.

Thing number 1: Would like to say "hi" to my only Indian reader, you may well be the only person to read Pebble Soup out of 1,139,964,932 Indian dwellers but I like you even better for spending a incredible 23 minutes reading it at each visit and if you and anybody else out there wanted to join the group of followers, do not hesitate to click on the left hand-side button.

Thing number 2: Tried to cook fennel for the very first time, last night. I thought I did not like fennel, I have a thing about aniseed. Strangely the aniseedy taste is very mild. This might be because as I learnt this morning, there are 2 kinds of fennels: the wilder kind which is stalky and which I remember from the south of France stuffed in fish.

And the bulbous kind which looks like..........well like the picture:

I do not know many people that cook fennel at home, may be some of you add it to the bouillon when making a stock. It could almost belong to the "curious ingredient" section. It goes really well with citrus which leads me to

Thing number 3: cooking in a bag or "en papillote" as we call it in French. Papillote is a Christmas chocolate treat, wrapped in a colourful paper containing a joke. A speciality from Lyon worth looking for.
As a cooking method it produces a light dish. Light as in healthy-light as it is steamed. It also reduces the kitchen or preparation time, which can only be good. The flavours blend together giving a certain homogeneity to the taste. In this case, fennel and orange which leads me to
Thing number 4: today's recipe or rather last night's but you know what I mean.
Fish in a bag with fennel, orange and olives
Ingredients1 large fennel bulb, trimmed
4 white fish fillets, snapper, flathead or bream
Sea salt and pepper
1 small orange, sliced
4 bay leaves
2 tbsp small whole black olives
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp flat parsley leaves, chopped
Preheat oven to 220C. Cut out four 36cm square sheets of kitchen foil or baking paper. Finely shave the fennel lengthwise.

Scatter the fennel in the centre of each square and place the fish on top. Season well. Arrange a slice of orange and a bay leaf on each fish and scatter with olives. Drizzle with olive oil and orange juice. Bring the two opposing sides of the foil up and seal as tightly as you can with a crimping pattern, forming a half-moon bag. Crimp the edges twice if you can.

Bake thin fillets for 10 minutes and thick fillets for up to 15 minutes. Remove from oven, open and drain the bag juices into a jug.

To serve
Transfer the fish and fennel to warm dinner plates, drizzle with the juices and scatter with parsley.
Recipe from Jill Dupleix' lighten up

A Meatballs Recipe

What is this a picture of? humble meatballs. Look again. These are geopolitical statements. All based on the same idea but each so very very different from their neighbours.
I used to think that my grandfather's Moroccan fatty lamb meatballs filled with breadcrumbs, harissa, spices all sorts and a hint of mint were the best and only kind. Then, I discovered that my college friend Myriam Andreoletti, nowadays better known as clown "Julietta" and co-founder of the Bataclown, had beef and pork meatballs as staple-food on her spaghetti, .
Travelling on, I enjoyed many Bakso breakfasts, Indonesian floating meatballs made of beancurd as next door in the Philippines Bola-Bolas are really crackling pork. And now I am told that New-York meatballs, possibly yet another version of Myriam's nana's recipe are all the rage.
Unable to write down my childhood meatballs recipe so much it changed throughout the years. Here is the closest I found, in taste if not in location: Greek meatballs as described by Jill Dupleix recipe book "Lighten up".
Ingredients3 thick slices white bread, crusts removed and torn into pieces
125ml red wine
500g minced lamb
1 small onion, grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 medium egg, beaten
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus extra to garnish
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
For the tomato sauce
500ml tomato passata
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Put the bread in a bowl and soak in the wine for 5 minutes. Lightly squeeze out the wine – reserving it for the sauce – and put the bread pieces into a bowl with the lamb, onion, garlic, egg, parsley, cumin and cinnamon. Season and mix well.
2. Shape the mixture into 12 medium-sized balls, each slightly bigger than a golf ball. Put on a large, non-stick baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes, until golden.
3. Meanwhile, combine the reserved wine with all the sauce ingredients in a wide saucepan. Put over a medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until thickened. Season. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for a further 10 minutes, turning halfway to coat. Discard the bay leaf.
4. Divide the meatballs and sauce between serving plates. Serve with mashed potato and garnish with extra parsley.
Nutritional info
Per serving: 418kcals, 21.1g fat (8.5g saturated), 29.2g protein, 24.4g carbs, 11.5g sugar, 1.2g salt

Picture Perfect : Anjum Anand's Tomato Rice

How often does it happen that a dish you have just cooked looks exactly like its recipe-book picture? hmmm? I am asking you.
Well in my case, hardly ever. I am too scattered brain to follow a recipe step by step from beginning to end. Easily distracted and generally full of "that seemed like a good idea at the time" type of additions.

But this time, I stuck my little tongue out, and paid attention and look at the result. Credit must be given where credit is due, though, Anjum Anand's recipes work. This is why in the foodie-blogosphere we like her recipe books.

Anjum describes this recipe as: "more rice, less pilaff and normally made with southern rice which is often thicker and shorter whilst no less delicious. However you can use any white rice" so I did, used any old white rice.

I can't remember what was the accompaniment for this tomato rice but I can remember the taste, one word : delicious. One drawback, it took me rather a long time to cook but that is possibly because I was trying to remember which line I had read last.

Tomato Rice
Serves 4

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
4 cloves
2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick
1 black cardamon pod
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
3 green chillies, left whole
1/2 tsp tumeric
3/4 tsp garam masala
1tbsp fennel seeds, poedered
salt, to taste
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
200g rice, washed until the water runs clear and soaked while you cook the masala
3 tbsp fresh or frozen grated coconut.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan.
Add the whole spices and, once the mustard seeds splutter, add the onion and cook over a moderate heat until golden>
Stir in the garlic, and chillies, and cook over a low heat for 1 minute or until the garlic smells cooked.
Add the powdered spices and salt; cook for another 20 seconds, stirring
Add the tomatoes and turn the heat up.
Cover and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened.
Taste- there should be nor harsh elements.
Add the drained rice and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
Pour in 430 ml water and the coconut, give it a good stir and taste.
Adjust the salt at this stage.
Bring to boil, then cover with a tight lid, turn the heat to its lowest setting and cook for 8 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Turn off the heat, remove the cover and let any excess moisture evaporate.
Serve hot or warm.

A Meal With a View

Review of The Kitchen at Lusty Glaze beach near Newquay

If you live in London you would be forgiven for not going around Britain with a fork. There is are lot of bars and restaurants to try out in the metropolis. But you would miss out big time.
Last week-end past , he & I loosened our belts a couple of notches and took the night train direction: Cornwall and the sea. I was seduced by a call, not that of the sirens but of the mobile phone company Orange which named the popular "The Kitchen" beach bar and restaurant at Lusty Glaze Beach near Newquay as one of Europe's top finest ten.

All booked for 19.00 with high expectations of a spectacular sunset, we started up on a 20 minutes lovely walk from our Newquay hotel across greens and along the coastal path, down 133 steps, beneath a cliff to a horse-shoe shape cove to get to the restaurant which is located right on the beach.
I was almost blown over by the beauty of the location. A spectacular sunset was at our rendez-vous and with a pre-diner drink in hand, we sat down next to couple of chimeneas chatting away with the Lusty Glaze first aider and co as we had known one another for decades. My first impression was that this whole place is certainly very cool.

The restaurant was full but did not feel crammed nor crowed in anyways. Recently refurbished, inside most of the tables are near the window so most diners can take in the spectacular views while eating.
The menu makes the most of local products featuring moules, crabs as expected but also duck and steak. There is a wide range of prices to accommodate all budgets. You can shell out £2.95 for a salad or £15.45 for a steak.

For starters, he chose oven-baked Camembert in its box with caramelized red onion and garlic bread and I went for Cornish Crab on a garlic bruschetta with mixed leaves.
When in the South of France and 19, I went on regular crab-fishing expeditions in the dead of night. These involved a bucket, a fork, a torch and a lot of laughter. clambering on wet rocks, the idea was to flash the torch at any cancroid shapes to startle the "beasts" so that they stopped dead in their tracks. That was the moment we chose to impale the marine crustaceans with the fork and quickly through them in the bucket. My friend Monique worked her magic immediately on return so the next day, lunch was a fresh and zingy crab concoction of which I can still remember the taste but have never experienced again until Saturday at The Kitchen.

The restaurant buys crabs from a local fisherman, I did not asked if he too went on night-expeditions but when I enquired about the crabs, the waitress smiled widely joined her 2 thumbs together, did the same with her indexes to show me how big the spider-crabs are.
This is what I liked about the place, it is not pretentious, there is a laid back atmosphere, you can feel that everybody is working hard and working together in an unobtrusive manner, focused on one aim: to make the guests feel good.
For main course, we went with the recommendation one steak -well-done- and chips & one sea-bass on a bed of risotto with dried tomatoes.

His steak was slightly too cooked but he (who is a bit of a steak expert) thought that the meat was really good and the fact that he did not put his fork down one minute, all the while his plate had something on it, says a lot.
The sea-bass was perfectly cooked, personally I would have put it on a bed of "just" rice, in my opinion the risotto didn't add very much to it but still this was a good main course. The price per head would have been just under £20 + drinks which is really good value for money as the portions are no-nonsense, generous portions.

On the way back we were so contented that we forgot all about giving our nice experience a grade but definitely my recommendation is: when in Newquay, make sure you pay a visit to The Kitchen :
As well as The Kitchen bar and restaurant, the beach is home to The Adventure Centre which provides many exciting activities for visitors including surfing, coasteering, rock climbing, zip wire rides and jetski safaris.

Product Tasting : Dr Oetker's Casa di Mama Pizzas

Dr Oetker's Casa di Mama Pizzas : Quatro Formaggi (picture) & Diavola

Tasting a product for review is an exercise which can get a little complicated. Last Dr Oetker's product I tasted, a fruity mousse, I did not like that at all. I found it too engineered, not spontaneous enough and indeed with 4000 tasters going through the testing lab, the company puts a lot of emphasis on giving the public exactly what they like.

But could I resist pizza, no! Let me explain, I don't like pizzas very much however he makes the best pizzas in the world added to that, I never bought a frozen pizza in my life so this was the opportunity to give it a go. I had to call on my very own and very special testing team to make for my like of likes.

Here they are:
The team arrived promptly at 19.00, I had not started yet as I thought that I just had to slide the pizzas (without the cardboard box) in the oven. I was in for a surprise: The pizza which promised to be ‘just as good as any homemade pizza ‘Mama used to make’ has a fresh dough base which needs a hot baking tray for the dough to rise before your eyes.
That small technical detail sorted we moved on to the tasting.

First, team inspects and smells:
Then, team eats
Finally, team grades Now for the scientific bit:

  • 238 000 tonnes of frozen pizzas were consumed in 2008 throughout the world
  • Dr Oetker produces 400 million pizzas a year that's 1.7 million a day
  • Each country has its preferences, in Italy the house pizza is a salami pizza, in Germany it is a variant of the salami which is the favorite, in Poland the best buy is a rather heavy pizza with a thick mushroom stuffing instead of the light tomato paste, as for the Brits, Restaurante mozzarella comes up top.
  • It is a Norway that the most pizzas are sold.

Our verdict:

Casa di Mama's Diavola with Calabrese salami, 2 cheeses, red onions and hot chillies scored 6.5 out of 10- the base was light and crispy. It was described as better than the other frozen kinds but may be not as good as the good corner shop's.

Quatro Fromaggi scored 7 out of 10, edam, mozzarella, emmental and blue cheese were judged a tasty combo and remember these are connoisseurs of very few words.

Going by the reaction, I would get them again but I had problems to locate a supermarket which stores them, only 1 out of the 3 I visited, carried the brand and not the toppings which were my first choice.



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