Chard in its Environment

My my, hasn't Chard grown this past couple of weeks? A month ago, this corner in St Alfrege park was in a real state. Now, thanks to the determination of one person, few volunteers and Community Service People on an alternative sentence there is a greenhouse where pumpkins are growing, 2 raised beds, Chard was the first resident of bed one, rows of tomatoes, potatoes, beans around a tipi, beetroots popping out of ground.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a collage of Chard's environment

Home-Made Dark Chocolate Ice-Cream

There is only one remedy for the sweltering heat which has fallen upon us and that's Ice-Cream. 
I am not going to bore you with the details of my extensive research, since I took delivery of my new ice-cream maker but here are just a few facts on the object of our burning desire.
  • Average ice-cream contains 16% of fat
  • Most consumed flavours are strawberry, vanilla and chocolate. 
As I am on a mission testing Lakeland's ice-cream maker, I have been working non-stop. In  the first instance I concocted a strawberry ice-cream. I had problems with closing the lid of the machine. The next attempt, mint and chocolate ice-cream was technically perfect.
However for the chocolate one, I could not work the lid out and I found the instruction booklet more concern with health and safety rather than explaining what short sighted users could easily miss - and that is to align the little black triangles which for some reason are not both obvious-

This being sorted, I am still working on my speed. As a friend of mine put it if the maker could make the mixture, I would get one now- indeed it still takes me a while to do the prep but then it takes only 25 minutes in the machine which is very good going.
The recipe, I am about to share with you comes from Ice-Cream! by Pippa Cuthbert and Lindsay Cameron Wilson- an excellent book which will be the object of my next post. "This recipe was inspired by Italian food writer Macella Hazan's Chocolate Gelato" it is indeed "Divine"
Dark Chocolate Ice Cream by Pippa Cuthbert  Lindsay Cameron Wilson,
Makes 600ml (1 pt)
4 large egg yolks
125g caster sugar 
100g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids) broken into pieces I used Butlers' dark chocolate
500ml full cream milk/whole milk
45g cocoa powder  

In a heat proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar till creamy.
Gently heat the milk to near-boiling point, then pour into the bowl of egg mixture, beating well.
Beat the melted chocolate into the egg mixture, followed by the cocoa.
Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir with a wooden spoon until the bubbles deflate and the mixture coats the back of the spoon. remove from heat
 Cover the surface with cling film & let it cool.
Leave in the fridge for at least an hour, then churn in an ice cream maker. if you don’t have one, whisk every hour to break down crystals. Serve or transfer to a freezer container, cover the surface with foil & put in the freezer.

Chard on P-Day

Chard is gathering some followers and I thought I would report on its progress though you may have to wait a little for the photos as I am chained to my desk.
Chard lives on bed 1 in St Alfrege Park, where I volunteered to work on a communal allotment - part of Boris' (Mayor Boris) incentive for people to grow their own -Capital Growth-  funny enough I was put in charge of the gardening on the account of turning up.

Last week, using Freecycle - a recycling e-venture-  I was offered some celery plants and peas- On Wednesday, under the pouring rain and the amiable gaze of Chard which seems to be doing rather well- we had a "P-Day". I erected a tipi structure and planted some peas. Sadly the celery plants have turned very yellow and I am yet to find out why.
Most extraordinary the park is hosting the Greenwich and Dockland festival and Chard will be in the front row to watch a Beckett play.

And the Winner is...........

Lucky comment number 13, I am personally very pleased though I do not know this lovely reader, she has been following Pebble Soup for a long time, so well done You- use contact me on the left bar to send me your postal address.

Thank you to everybody who took the trouble to comment and please keep watching and spread the word as the July Give-Away is just around the corner and is offered by Interflora.

Last but not least, my gratitude to Mark and Quadrille Publishing for giving-away a copy of James Ramsden's book.

Week-End Picture: BBQ in the rain

If "making your own sausages" was not exactly my favourite passe-time - Watching them cook on the barbecue all snugged up under their little makeshift cardboard box was a delight. I used to think that English excentricities were out of the world; quarter of a century later, I find barbecuing in the rain perfectly acceptable - must have gone native -

Chard and Friends

Greenwich has an allotment waiting list as long as 120 years, fat little chance of getting one, then. The fact that St Alfrege park is being "rehabilitated" and part  of it turned into a communal allotment was extremely welcomed news. I began to volunteer a month ago, dug up tonnes of broken bottles, a red heel and an hypodermic needle. A few weeks ago, I planted Chard. Chard and I post spurred a few emails from Pebble Soup readers, so I thought that today I should write a bulletin to tell you about its progress.

Chard is doing fine, though I might have to move it to a sunnier bed in the interest of publicity. I have found out that it is not good to have a lot of trees over looking your plot. Community Service People have removed some of the tombstones (park was a cemetery in Victorian times) and bed number 2 was raised, so Chard might soon move to a new home .

Chard was joined by Tomato plant of unknown species, second early Potatoes and Broccoli. Watch this space for fresh news next week.

Give Away #7 : A Copy of Small Adventures in Cooking by James Ramsden

The moment you have been awaiting for has arrived. It's June give-away, this month you can win a copy of James Ramsden's, awaited book, Small Adventures in Cooking published last week. Be one of the first to read it.

All across Europe, savvy amateur cooks have set up 'restaurant' in their homes. If you want to secure a table in one of these Supper Clubs, you will often have to book, up to, two months in advance or pray for a cancellation.
Attracting their clientele by word of mouth, these pop up places are extremely popular. They tap into our basic needs to socialise, they are cosier and friendly than a restaurant where you would be looked at bizarrely if you started to entertain unknown convives with your tales and stories. Supper clubs often give people the impression that they have been to a special evening, a dinner party.

"James Ramsden's was recently selected as one of the top 10 underground supper clubs by the Evening Standard and one of the top 10 pop-up restaurants by Square Meal.
James Ramsden is a 24-year old food writer, blogger, vlogger and supper club proprietor. He was selected by The Times as one of the 40 bloggers everyone is talking about, and hailed as 'one of the best new food writers' by Rose Prince.

James has cooked for family and friends since he was four years old, and went on to train with Rachel and Darina Allen at the famous Ballymaloe cookery school. After working as a private chef in France he moved to London and launched the Secret Larder Supper Club."

Quadrille publishing is kindly offering Pebble Soup's readers a copy of Small Adventures in Cooking. The book was launched last week and cost £8.49, if you would like a copy,
Method #1: tell me in the comment box the name of  your favorite restaurant.
Method #2 : Tweet this competition, copy and paste the text below and leave another comment to let me know.
@ Solangeweb Win a copy of James Ramsden's book on ,
You can do either/or, both is best.

Competition closes on the 21st June at 17.00 results will be announced the next day

Making Your Own Sausages

Last week-end we made sausages. Oh yes, there is no stopping the spirit of adventure is this house. When at the Hampton court foodie festival, he spotted a kit for sausages making. It's only after buying it that we realised a machine was needed to feed the meat into the casing.

For £7.99 the kit contained a mixture of spices/herbs and breadcrumbs, a plastic funnel "thingy", a serious long length of casing, probably collagen but not sure as the content description was scarce. The idea is to get fresh meat and here my trouble started, for some unknown reason I got 2/3 pork 1/3 beef which does not seem to be common place in sausages, mixed beef and pork sausages are somewhat a bit of an aberration.

In a bowl you mix the aromatic mixture with the meat and a little cold water once that is done you put the meat in the machine, if that is missing then you start feeding the plastic funnel, engage the casing in the end of the funnel and squeeze, squeeze as hard as you can.

Yes, the casing did split in occasion and it was really messy. On the enjoyment level we were divided 50/50 but ended up with 20 sausages which taste OK and cost £0.75p per.

The kit comes in several "flavours" Linconshire is the one we used, no I would not recommend it but there are far worse things to do and at times it was a giggle.

Lakeland Ice-Cream Maker

Lakeland is a household name, a home shopping company which has been operating for half a century or so. You, often, hear about it, in passing. If somebody has a new "never-seen- before" thing-a-magic, when you enquire about the provenance, the reply will often be "oh, found it on the Lakeland catalogue" which indeed is an Ali-Baba cavern, full of treasures and practical answers to daily dilemmas.

After last year's fiasco with my mum antic ice-cream maker which  had to be  left plugged in while churning in the freezer and a recent trip to the three local supermarkets to find out that they had not bettered their sorbet offers. If I did not want to put back on the two stones I had lost over the winter, I had to find a solution.

It was time for a new kitchen-gadget. After a few email exchanges Lakeland offered me to test their home brand ice-cream maker if I reported to you so it is how last week I open the door to a delightful pink and cream box containing a clean-lined machine in the same gorgeous color-scheme.

 "Do you need one of these" the answer is a loud : yes
  Why? the final product's texture is perfectly smooth, the taste is nothing like a commercial brand, it tastes of fruits and cream, my first attempt was just gorgeous.

Step by Step

Puree the strawberries with the lemon juice and milk, using a hand blender.

 Beat together the egg yolk and sugar.

Whip the cream.

Set the timer on your ice cream maker for 25 minutes. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the paddle running and leave to freezechurn.

If you prefer a firmer consistency, place the bowl of ice cream in your freezer for a further 30 minutes or so.


It took me over 20 minutes which is what the notice indicates but I am hoping to reduce the preparation time. Though he has already told me to ease off on the planned mountain of ice-cream making. Got lots of flavours I want to try, you see, so I have a cunning plan, every time I am going to be invited this summer forget about jam or flowers, you'll get ice-cream just because I thoroughly enjoyed the process.
Ease of use: It is dead-easy though on my first attempt, it took me a little while to fiddle with the lid the paddles were not turning as it was not locked properly.

Price: of ice-cream I reckon it costs me £1.70 for 500ml which is twice a home-brand supermarket and one fifth of a posh brand.

Price of maker : at £39.99 Lakeland's is middle of the range.

Look: It is very compact and fresh looking.

Quality now this is the cherry on the cake, perfect - bring on the summer- I am ready.

Ingredients for the
Makes 500ml
220g fresh strawberries
3⁄4 tablespoon lemon juice
220ml full-cream milk
1 egg yolk
90g caster sugar
100ml whipping cream

Chard and I

If the NHS ever needed a picture to support the claim that growing your own can help depression, they just have to look at this one.

Not that I am prone to this terrible affliction and quite honestly even tiny little things make me smile. Proof...... here is a picture of "Chard and I" on Saturday morning. Look closely, there is a vegetable. You might have to click on the picture though.

Thanks to he who took the picture. Interesting read on the subject here.

Chickpeas with Date Masala

When and if you run out of inspiration on opening the fridge-door what do you do? go to the kitchen cupboard (or the pantry if you want to call it so). What if there is no inspiration lurking behind the bag of flour? then, what, I, do is pick an ingredient, dash upstairs to the desk and consult the Internet.

The first time I did so in 2007, I stumbled open Desert Candy, I immediately warmed to that blogger and her tales of food, her interpretation of middle-eastern meals so, every now and then when inspiration is nowhere to be found, I visit Mercedes' blog.

I did this tonight as the fridge is bear after 2 horrid weeks of work, editing and deadlines + a lovely, lovely long week-end away. The kitchen-cupboard is not any healthier than the fridge but strangely enough there seems to be 2 whole packets of dates. Do dates reproduce in dark corners?

But what do you cook with dates? well, once again Desert Candy came up trump with a recipe she found in the New York Times which in turn had found it in the Sunday Magazine and we all amended it, I removed the two whole star anise.

This is a gorgeous dish, not sweet at all. The flavours melt into one another beautifully  so thumbs up for 
Chickpeas with Date Masala
Recipe copied and ever so lightly amended from Desert CandyServes two very hungry people for lunch, or 4 as a side dish.
3 cups cooked chickpeas (from 2 15-oz cans or cooked from scratch)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
2½ tablespoons tomato paste
12 medjool dates, pitted and chopped (or another soft sweet variety, like deglet noor)
1/4 teaspoon ground black cardamom
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons  salt
1 teaspoon  pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1. Drain chickpeas and set aside. Combine all spices (cardamom through ground ginger) in a small bowl.

2. In a medium pot set over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it begins to shimmer. Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes, until they have softened and started to brown. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the tomato paste. Add the spice mixture and allow to toast for a minute or two.

3. Add the chickpeas, dates, and ½ cup or more of water, enough to make them less than dry. Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally to incorporate the flavors, and keep warm until serving.


Related Posts with Thumbnails