Travels with Olive & Ham Cake


2 long bank holidays was too good an opportunity to miss, to travel a little. Though I have taken the plane to the 4 corners of the earth, I never drove the car to France. So here I was, faced with the unprecedented choice of being able to take all sorts of liquid, soft pastes and even the kitchen sink, through customs, if that turned me on.

I opted for travelling with a savoury cake. Lately, I have been pulled towards things which are not all what they should be. Cake is ordinarily associated with sweet,  however it deserve a look when stuffed with savoury ingredients.

Great for party -soooorrry too late- excellent value for money- perfect outside at aperitif time, here is my contribution to the day after the wedding that was. 

                                                    Ham and olive cake 
Makes one 20cm round or square cake, a loaf or about 10 mini cakes.
Ingredients
  • 150ml olive oil, plus a little extra for greasing the tin
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp picked fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • 100g parmesan, coarsely grated
  • 180g cooked ham, roughly chopped
  • 130g green olives, stoned and roughly chopped
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g milk
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
Ingredients
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Grease a 1.5-litre loaf tin with olive oil, line it with baking parchment and brush the parchment with more oil. (Alternatively, you can make this in muffin tins, or mini loaf tins, which simply need brushing with oil and dusting lightly with flour.)

Sift the flour, baking powder and paprika into a bowl. Stir in the thyme, parmesan, ham, olives, salt and pepper. In a jug, whisk together the oil, milk and eggs. Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients until just combined and pour the lot into the prepared tin (or tins). 

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until golden and a toothpick or skewer comes out clean. (Muffin tins or smaller loaves will take 12-15 minutes.) Leave to cool in the tin for five minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

find more recipes http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/apr/09/savoury-cake-recipes
carrot and feta

Chocolate is Not Only for Easter


Everything seems to have increased tenfold in the past fortnight, Still working hard on "Artist in Black & White" and got this new fantastic assignment, imagine to be asked to taste chocolate for a living.....that's what happened to me a couple of weeks, I am officially a chocolate reviewer, the name of the magazine needs to remain secret for a little longer as the website is not live yet.

Since then, it has been non-stop. On Tuesday, I was invited to attend the launch of Thorntons Chocolate liqueur, a cocktail ingredient and a chocolate at the same time, wow, if you ask me, there is no stopping creativity in Thorntons chocolate factory.

Did I like it? short answer "yes" and I liked it better in the hot chocolate than in the cocktails, however my personal highlight was to talk to Master Chocolatier Keith Hurdman. I learnt that their chocolate factory was the last one standing in England, now this sounds completly wrong. Come on, according to BBC, the UK population consumes over 500,000 tonnes of chocolate every year. it doesn't tally does it? Well this is the sad reality.

I had a taste of rose chocolate, a delicate flavour which tickles the taste buds nicely.

And if that was not enough I also got to see celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo in action turning up the Italian extrovert charm and a Chocolate Liqueur Trifle laced with some midly amusing jokes.



So if you are looking for some inspiration at Easter here are 2 cocktail recipes

                                       Thorntons Chocolatini

1 part Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur
1 part Sobieski Estate Vodka
1 part Vanilla Teichenné.

Method

Rim a martini glass with lemon and dip in baker’s cocoa. Combine all ingredients together with ice, shake and fine strain into the martini glass.

Thorntons Chocolate Russian
50ml Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur
250ml cold milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder.

Method

Shake or blend ingredients and pour into a tall glass over ice. Sprinkle with grated Thorntons chocolate.

Chocolate liqueur is £12.99- Available in Asda, bars and other retailers.

1 tarte, 2 tartes, 3 tartes.......

Help! I can't stop making tartes and it is all Jeanne's doing. Nothing could have stopped me participating to Meeta's monthly mingle , hosted by Jeanne of Cook Sister! . It all started innocently with a chicken curry quiche.

Not being satisfied with my efforts and wanting to do my best for Jeanne's excellent read of a blog. I went onto making a pear tarte on crème patissière.. I can't start describing the success that desert had. It disappeared before my eyes, gobbled up by people who all wanted:  "only a small piece, I am on a diet". Yeh right, that must be the popular 5 pieces diet.


The following day, as I was invited to a 90th birthday party, I thought what could be best but to make another couple of tartes. If fact by then, I didn't want to admit it but I was thoroughly hooked, nothing could stop me. It is then that  I realised that you could not take the topless tarte out of a French person. 

I baked a tarte aux raisins and


a tarte aux pommes



and when I got to the party, the first thing I did was to dash to the kitchen to see if there wasn't a tarte or two to inspire me, thanks goodness for this spinach and cherry tomato guiche. I never thought I would say that "I think I need therapy otherwise I am afraid to be baking toplesses every single day

So if you are not worried about getting the topless tart addiction here is the recipe for the grape tart can be adapted for pear tart ....or strawberries..endless possibilities.
                                                                     Grape Tart
Ingredients
250 g sweet shortcrust pastry  (sorry I used the ready made kind)
For Creme Patissiere:

290 mls milk
2 egg yolks
55g caster sugar
20 g plain flour
20g corn flour
Vanilla extract (optional)


For topping:
650 gr of grape seed (not the stalk)60 mls water

Method
Preheat oven to 180 C.
  1. Roll out the pastry into a rectangle to line a 35 cm X 13 cm fluted side tart tin.
  2. Bake the pastry blind (i.e. line with baking paper and weights to avoid the pastry rising). Bake until cooked. Remove the paper and weights and return to the oven to bake the uncovered base for another few minutes.
  3. Cool on a cooling rack.
For the Creme Patissiere
  1. Scald milk by bringing to just below boiling point.
  2. Cream egg yolks with sugar and a little milk and when pale, mix in the flours. Pour the scalded milk on to the egg yolk mix and mix well.
  3. Return the mix to the saucepan and bring to the boil slowly, stirring continuously.
  4. Allow to cool slightly and stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming. Refrigerate until cold.
  6. Place the mixture into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Turn into a bowl.
  7. To assemble the tart, spoon the creme patissiere into the tart filling to the edge of the pastry. Smooth with the back of the spoon until even.
  8. Carefully arrange the grapes
  9. Chill in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours before serving.

Savoury Crumble : Leek and Caerphilly/ Cheshire Cheese Crumble


This is such a delicious recipe that I have opted to enter it in Spring a Leek, recipe competition


Crumble is usually associated with desserts mostly of the rhubarb kind but my French friend Pat raves about savoury crumbles. Indeed crumble is the topping so it could be sweet or savoury.

Crumble topping is half fat to flour with the same amount of sugar as fat and in the case of savory it is the same principle minus the sugar, usually you will get nuts or cheese added to the mix.

                        Leek and Caerphilly/ Cheshire Cheese Crumble 

Ingredients
  • 500 g leeks, trimmed
  •  400 ml light stock
  • 100 ml single cream
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 100 g white breadcrumbs
  • 30 g Hazelnuts, skinned
  • 2 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped  
  • 125 g vegetarian caerphilly cheese, and Cheshire cheese, finely grated or crumbled   
and here are the step by step recipe which is a first for me, doing a step by step, I always skipped a step and could not blog it but not this time.
  
 Preheat oven to 200C/gas 6  
 Slice the leeks into thick circles (no larger than 2cm) and place in a large saucepan with the stock, cream and mustard. Cook gently for 15 minutes until starting to soften.  

  

  
Transfer to a ceramic baking dish, saving 2 or 3 tbsp of the stock mixture.

Place the breadcrumbs, nuts and parsley in a food processor and whizz together until finely chopped.  
  

 
 Scatter the crumble and cheese over the leeks and drizzle the remaining stock mixture over the top. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until starting to turn crisp and golden. If necessary finish under the grill. 

Café Luc : Restaurant Review

Cafe Luc on Urbanspoon
Let's travel back in time a little, little bit. It is still winter and I am trotting along Marylebone High Street, pacing the street this and that way, I am looking for Cafe Luc and despite it stylish Olive walls and  very green awnings I keep missing it. When I am finally told by a friendly local "You need glasses Luv, it is right there" I am indeed in need of a glass or two but not the glasses he had in mind.

Inside, the colour scheme is similar to the outside only softer.  Lots of mirrors, classy lampshades, ornate walls and ceilings. This is the kind of brasserie which would not denote in the 16th arrondissement of Paris or the stylish Bruxelles center. The tables are stern black wood, the chairs comfortable,  brown banquettes and in one of the banquette, by the window,  smiling back at me, looking lovely in her polka dots dress is Sarah from Maison Cupcake, it is not long before Michelle of Greedy gourmet pushes the door.

Michelle has organised this lunch for us and it is always a pleasure to meet them have a natter around a meal.
Soon we are shown to our table, so far everything is brilliant then trouble starts, our waiter is in keeping with the brasserie style, Sarah describes his manners as Parisiennes, yes indeed, the place is buzzing and the staff very busy but it is not a reason for being so brisk - oh no! don't look another waiter just slapped a waitress on the bum, indeed we could be on the continent.

Michelle orders a Mojito which we all agree is not nice and we go for a glass of champagne which OK, 2 out of 3. Little did we know at the time but this was the only drink we would be served. After much discussion, we order, now a word of warning the week-end menu is different from the website offerings which are week days only.

Picking a dish, in a restaurant, is often a hit and miss affair, I hit, they missed.



I chose Game terrine with sourdough toast, it arrives with a very flavoursome gelatin cube



My main is steak tartare, a la minute, with toasted sourdough bread (yet again but it ended up being irrelevant....read on)

It is nicely presented and the waitress takes it away to mix it, sadly she comes back 15 minutes later but it is perfectly seasoned, the meat is good and the thickness of the mince perfect. The sourdough bread toasted or not was too hard to eat.
The side dish is pommes frites - two words- not edible


and for desert Crème Brûlée au Nutella a large portion, nicely presented. one of the little pleasure in life is to take a spoon to the caramel on the Brûlée and to crack it..... unless the dish has been left on the side or in the fridge for too long before serving and it gets soggy. No satisfying crack for me here. I can't tell you if I liked it or not, I was still thinking about it on my way home, Chocolate spread in a crème caramel is a weird concept, it could work but I surely would not recommend it.

All in all, it was great to meet up, the surroundings are attractive, the service appalling and the food average and would have found £ 35 + drinks, a  expensive had I had to pay. But the meal was sponsored for which I thank Michelle and the PR agency.
My verdict 5 out of 10.

Give Away # 5 and the winner is............

Roll the drums, turn on the sun, a round of applause for number 18 : Medsdemon






A big thank you for all your comments, this is the largest number of entries so far.

Domino's Spanish Sizzler Pizza


How often do you get to try out something completely new? What are the chances of this happening twice in a week? Last week I was invented to discover South African cuisine, by the way have you left your comment on Give-away #5.
The next thing I knew Domino, the world's leading pizza delivery, was asking Pebble Soup to order their brand new Spanish Sizzler pizza online 

Yeeeeeh, fame....... or may be not..... just yet. I soon read that Domino's Pizza was concentrating on their on-line operation James Millett, multimedia manager at Domino’s Pizza, said: “We’ve achieved fantastic growth in ecommerce in the past year, up 63% in 2010, and this new campaign utilises the latest opportunities in the digital arena and continues our focus on online innovation."
Never the less, as far as I am concerned I love Pebble Soup new found notoriety which leads to add variety to the posts and I am able to share a lot of fun experiences with you.

So how does it work?
You pick up his laptop, in your case you might have to use your own, go to Domino's web site, the landing page might be an offer, keep your eyes peeled, type your post code. It could not be simpler, the next thing you know the menu pops up, you order your selection, pizzas can be customised, check out: card, cash, pay-pal and 20 minutes later the order is at the door.

So far the experience was really good fun and the idea of not having any cooking to do extremely attractive

One click for  for 5 breaded mozzarella sticks with garlic and herbs coating which was accompanied by a herb dip little pot- at £3.99

The kind of thing I never go for- and there is a good reason for that... I hardly never use take-aways but I could get persuaded so far it was not very tasteful but fun, if you are concerned about the calories , you can always click here, might be wise to wait until you have finished your meal 

               
Another click and a warm garlic bread at £3.49. This was gulped in no time with another click for the main course the brand new Spanish Sizzler with its small pieces of chorizo, cubes of roast chicken, green and roquito pepper, the latter gives the pizza its little kick. 4 sizes from individual at £5.99 to large at £16.49

The verdict: as you know I am not a fan of pizzas but for an "industrial" pizza this was really quite good, I know the pizzas are tested and re-tested before being offered on the market but that should not be hold against the company. They have done a good job here
  • There is lots of meat
  • The chorizo is not overpowering as it often is when the pizza is home made
  • Nice thin crust
  • The colours are just as pleasing to look at, as the slices are to eat.
  • The addition of roquito chili is just right, so  the pizza is not too hot
It does not re-heat well so make sure you order the right amount

And last for desert before he and I slumped in an armchair with a smile reflecting our dumpy state -3 cheese cakes at £3.99- I like the lemon one and happily ate the strawberry riple and the chocolate.

One thing to do is to thank Domino for sponsoring my first ever meal ordered on line.

Give Away # 5 :A Bottle of Mrs Balls' Chutney & A Copy of South African Recipes

South African Banquet -part two- Now that I know a little more about South African food I would love to share my newly acquired knowledge with you.

GIVE AWAY #5 is


 A Copy of Cape Wine Braii Masters Cookbook - an education in the art of South African braii - barbecue- and various other delicious fares such salads, bread, onepot recipes

And

A bottle of Mrs Balls Peach chutney. An item which I understand is  compulsory in any South African pantries.
All you need to do is leave a  comment answering the following question:
What is your favorite South African dish?
if you have no idea just say so, this is a perfectly acceptable after all I I knew nothing about it last week.


If you re-tweet this post, let me know and you will be entered twice.


Competition ends on the 10th April, it is open to UK and Irish residents.
Good luck
si

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