Buche de Noel

                                           Wishing You a Merry Christmas

For the base

150g Caster sugar
6 large free range eggs, separated
250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
Icing sugar for dusting

For the Filling

400ml double cream, lightly whipped
150g raspberries, or canned cherries

For Chocolate butter cream
250g unsalted butter, softened
450g superfine ice sugar
50g cocoa powder, sifted
2 tbsp milk

 Line a 23 x 33cm Swiss roll tin with baking paper and preheat the over to 180C.

Wisk sugar and egg yolks in a bowl until thick and white.

In another bowl whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks and gently mix with the chocolate mixture. Spread in the tin and bake for 10 minutes maximum.

Soak a clean tea-towel and slide the cooked dough with parchment in the towel. Roll and leave it to cool. that will prevent the log to crack.

When completly cold add unroll and spread the filling in.

Roll back with the small width facing you.
For the filling
Beat the double cream with fruits of the forest or canned cherries

For the covering butter cream, beat the butter, then sift in the icing sugar and cocoa. Beat well, adding enough milk to create a smooth light butter cream.
Spread to cover the cake over and use a fork to make the log effects, decorate with icing sugar, He used little hearts to finish it nicely.

This recipe was such as success that it might reappear for St Valentin and with a lighter cover later on during the year as My Buche de Paques.

In the meantime, I am sharing it with the Inheritance Recipes being one of the most traditional French dessert. So here it is passed down to me by a whole nation.

Inheritance recipes is a challenge co-hosted by Coffee and Vanilla and Pebble Soup 

A Review of Christmas at Cadbury World

If you are looking for activities during the school holiday, Cadbury world has put together a whole range of surprises, the shows have been running every week-end since November and you've still got time to catch the grand-finale. Megan Kissane went to have a look and here is what she found:
When Solange invited me to head to Cadbury World in Bournville, Birmingham, to review its Christmas-time festivities, I was pretty chuffed at the idea of free chocolate. Who knew I would end up learning so much about the history of how it came to be, and the process of how it still comes to be the nation’s trademark chocolate?
The Cadbury World experience begins with a walk through a set of rooms called the ‘Aztec Jungle’, full of interesting boards of information and scenes of the native home of the cocoa bean. For example, did you know that Mayan people used cocoa beans as their currency and basis for trade, and were so dependent upon them that they prayed to their god of cocoa, Ek Chuak? And did you know that the Aztec people of central Mexico called the cocoa drink ‘xocoatl’, which means ‘bitter water’? It is no wonder then, that when Sir Hans Sloane was journeying in Jamaica and discovered the same drink, he is reported to have found it nauseating because the cocoa was far too bitter.
Miles from the ‘hot chocolate’ we know today, but on its way nonetheless, since Sloane replaced the water with milk to soften the taste and brought his recipe back with him. And so the cocoa bean came to England under Cromwell, but was not valued right away and for over a century it was used by apothecaries as a medicine. Believe it or not, the chocolate drink was a popular cure for a hangover: ‘to settle my stomach’ writes Samuel Pepys in his diary in 1661, after finding his head ‘in a sad taking through last night’s drink’. Who’d have thought?
Now enter John Cadbury. Following the Cadbury World tour through a mock-up of Birmingham’s Bull Street in the early 1800s where John Cadbury first opened a small shop, the ‘Cadbury Story’ is then told by a wonderful use of holograms enacting the Cadbury brothers. As a Quaker, John Cadbury disapproved of alcohol, and so started to experiment with coffee, tea and chocolate as alternatives for recreational drinking. Potato starch and sago flour were added to the early versions of drinking chocolates to balance out the amount of cocoa butter. Some manufacturers would add bread dust to their cocoa, but the Cadbury brothers soon gained a reputation for their superior quality, and became leading traders in Birmingham.
Today our Cadbury-stamped cocoa beans come largely from Ghana. It takes five years for the trees to grow to maturity, and once the pod cases are a golden colour (a sign of maturity) the beans are ready to be dried out in the sun. They are then shipped to a factory in Chirk, Wales, and are cleaned, pasteurised with steam, carefully roasted (this is apparently the part of the process which gives them a certain aroma), and passed over vibrating trays to remove the shells. When the vibrating trays appear on screen in this part of the tour, beware: the benches shake along with them. The beans are then passed through a cylinder of rotating blades to make cocoa liquor, which is pressed to extract the cocoa butter, which in turn is again pressed to refine its quality.

Once the water is removed, sweetened condensed milk is added to form a rich chocolate liquid and then evaporated to form ‘the crumb’. The lot is then sent to the Bournville factory to later resurface as fully-fledged chocolate bars. The most important part of the later processes is the tempering, which involves mixing and cooling the liquid chocolate to crystallise the fat in its most stable form. Interesting fact: over 150 tonnes of sugar and 500,000 litres of milk are delivered to the factory daily.
Other sections of the Cadbury World experience include passing through the packaging plant (which wraps over 700 bars a minute) and a quaint ride through Beanville (aimed at children, but snacking on a free Crunchie whilst gazing upon little cocoa-bean people never goes unwelcome, surely). More interactive areas include the demonstration area where talented chocolatiers show visitors how they decorate actual chocolate kettles or write someone’s name out in piping. The smell alone could drive any self-respecting chocaholic into a frenzy, and make them pack their bags and move into the factory forever.
A highlight for the family is definitely the Pantomime, held in a marquee by the play area. The story of Aladdin is told in full panto-style, chock-a-block with terrible – albeit hilarious it – jokes. And opposite the marquee is the Essence room, well worth a visit for the cup of melted chocolate everyone gets with a choice of filling to go with it. I got little balls of shortbread biscuit. Delicious.
Essentially, if you are not already convinced, consider this: the Cadbury business was among the very first to care for its workers. The brothers invented a pension scheme, enforced schooling upon minor workers, and were intent upon building a community. What’s not to like?

My thanks to Megan Kissane for agreeing to report and to Cadbury World for her complementary pass

The Real Greek: Restaurant Review

A friend of mine has a bakery in Wye when she was looking for a name for her venture, she rejected all our fancy suggestions and called it: Wye Bakery. When asked the reasons behind such a plain denomination, she replied "A name should reflect exactly the business".

And here we have it. "The Real Greek" is not only a restaurant, in my opinion it is a real Greek experience in hospitality.
Here, they managed to transport hellenic atmosphere as well as cuisine. It could be the blue and whitewashed decor filled with light pouring in from the large bay window.  But then again many adjacent restaurants have made a effort to place their diners "in situs".

The large size tables inviting conviviality help matters. There is no apologies for ordering 2, 3, 4 dishes and share. They will arrive on a strange metal contraption. Portions are generous and reasonably priced, may be this is where it differs from my many experiences in Greece where everything seemed overpriced.

Michelle of Greedy Gourmet had organised a get together for Jeanne as in Cook Sister!, Sarah of Maison Cupcake and myself. It is always great to meet up with blogging buddies but I've got to say I was lukewarm at the thought of the food. When ask which kind of food I like, it will never cross my mind to reply Grec food which I often find standard.

Having said this, when you will be in Westfield Center in Stratford, The Real Grec is a must-visit. This chain of 6 London restaurants has already carved its reputation in the shopping center, for the right reasons. Christos Karatzenis, head of operation and second generation of restaurateurs made us so welcome that it was difficult to leave. This might have also been due to the fact that after sampling almost every single dish on the menu, we were rather full. Sarah and Michelle describes our meal as an Olympic marathon. We tucked in cold Meze, hot Meze and desserts.
 Cold Meze
Every dish we had was well prepared. Flavours are traditional, take the taramasalata (£4.25) it bares nothing in common with the commercial pink goo. Here, chefs make it with naturally undyed cod roe it is smooth and fresh and....off-white. Hummus (£4.25), is light, with very little of the rich tahini, it tastes different from what we are used to.
By the way, hummus is one of the most popular Real Greek cold meze, I hope I am not revealing a secret by saying that the Head of Operation is planning to enlarge the range. One can easily see a hummus card working very well, here.
Personally, among the cold meze, I had two favourites. Two dishes I don't remember having had before. Two surprises standing out, not the Greek flat-bread (£2.50) which is delicious, the crudites (£2.25) a necessity to dip which by the way could be complementary, the already named and described above nor the dolmades (£4.25) which I never liked so didn't try but the Htipi (£4.50) and  Gigandes Plaki (£4.25).

Gigandes Plaki are giant beans slow-cooked in tomato sauce, inspiring,easy to cook at home. We were told that each Greek household and every region had its own variation. He and I may have had it when we worked in Greece but the texture was more like a thick soup.
Htipiti is real Greek feta, and we all know how much feta can vary, coarsely chopped with grilled red peppers and red onions, if I can pronounce it, Htipiti will be top choice, next time Greek food is on the menu.
When the hot meze appeared, we were already slightly full. At this stage, I have got to tell you that the menu shows the calories intake for every dish with 913 calories Tarama Salata is a winner but at 257kcal Pork Belly should be indulged.
Hot meze
can be divided in fish and meat, the meat is mostly minced under various shapes and forms, standard Greek cuisine with generous portions, well cook. Here one dish stands out, the slow roasted Pork Belly (£6.25), cooked like  Gyros but without its skin therefore all the fat was crackling and delicious.
Don't go away without trying one of their sea-food dish. It is notoriously difficult to cook octopus and Kalamari it could get chewy and greasy, the Real Greek chefs cook this really well, Kalamari with Greek honey and paprika (£6.50) is delighted, Tiger Prawns (£6.50) are juicy and thick. The Grilled Octopus (£7.25) was my overall winner, a simple dish in olive oil, close your eyes and you are by the Aegean sea, frolicking with the gods.
When the  funny contraption got to our table, it was dark outside and we had little room left, real Greek yoghurt and walnuts with honey  (£4.25) was the best dish on the tray. The walnuts were so soft that I had assumed they were chestnuts when you start to mix your nuts up, it's time for coffee.

Like everything else the selection is vast, opting for Greek coffee. A engagement party was arriving it was time to say good bye to the staff who looked after us and every single other table, with professionalism and an enthusiasm for the food which was infectious.

 In brief: Generous portions, overall good value, authentic Greek food, in my opinion some dishes were more flavoursome than others, the slow cooked or the barbecued ones were my favourites. Warm and enthusiastic staff help to complete the experience. As it's Mezze base, try to go with a party or order 3 to 4 dishes per person,  open and light decor.
See what our party had to say about The Real Greek
We were guests of The Real Greek.
The Real Greek
Westfield Stratford City

Real Greek on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Cocktail Master Class at Balans

What do you need to attend a cocktail master class? A gorilla pod. Even with the help of this useful camera stabiliser, I defy you to take pictures without shaking after the third cocktail.
Last week, a group of bloggers were invited to Balans, Westfield center in Stratford, to be instructed by Megan Burroughs, a talented mixologist who has created concoctions for the likes of Kate Moss and the late Amy Winehouse.
Did you know that there are 3 types of different cocktail shakers: the Boston shaker which is a three pieces apparatus with the opened top and a separate strainer and the Cobbler much easier to use as the strainer is built in. We were not introduce to the third type which I believe is French and shaped elegantly
As we went along, we learnt to rim our glasses. To do so, take  a small plate in which you will have put salt or sugar. Run a wedge of lime around the top of your glass, tilt the glass away from you and roll, all the way or part of the way et voila, one I made earlier

 Then there are the decorations and I am not talking about an paper umbrella. Fruits to enhance the beverage or spice, chocolat sprinkled through stencils, the tip here is to be very slow otherwise you get a blob.
Last but not least, special cocktails such as the Red Ribbon made in aid of the Elton Joh AIDS Foundation come with a side shot, in this case a Champagne shot.If you have been inspired, here is the recipe for


Red Ribbon
  • 25ml Chase Vodka
  • 25ml Vanilla Vodka
  • 50ml Raspberry puree
Rim the glass with vanilla sugar. Shake all ingredients and strain into glass. Serve with side shot of champagne.
 Balans sponsored our visit, they do organise such classes on a regular basis, the chain includes 7 restaurants in the UK, I can't vouch for the food but I would like to thank Balan for organising the event.

Baked Bean Soup

Look at this soup, all inviting and warm, you would think that it's the perfect winter warmer. Wrong, this soup is an abomination. Then why did I cook it? The answer is: "It's not my fault".
We have all heard that excuse before. Little Johnny comes back from school with fish in his hair, clothes all dirty, sporting only one shoe, when you asked what happened, he replies: "he made me do it" to which invariably you will say: "So, if he asked you to jump over the cliff blabla bla bla..."
Except in this case, I am little Johnny and Dom made me do it. Dominic Franks from Belleaukitchen has an event which I have wanted to enter for donkey's years. It's all to do with random and recipe books. This month, we were supposed to throw our past Christmas gifts/books in the air and pick a recipe  from the landing page.
Thankfully, I don't get many recipe books at Christmas, but I did get one a couple of years ago which I love: Celebration of Soups by Lindsey Bareham. This book is simply great, pages after pages of soup wonderful recipes from around the world.
Except that when I threw it in the air, faith had it landing open on a choice of boiled oyster soup, Brussels sprout soup and baked beans soup. This was a non-choice, at this stage, I should have cheated but, oh no, I soldiered. Described as a rapid to make, it may be nutritious but the result is yurk.
Now, I feel strange to share it with you but rules are rules therefore Baked Bean soup gets entered in Dom's December 'random recipes' challenge, moreover if you wanted to give it a go, love baked beans, Worcester sauce, onions and bacon here is how to make

Baked Bean Soup
a recipe adapted from L. Bareham, wonderful book A Celebration of Soups
Proudly entered in
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 onion
  • 2 chopped rashers of rindless smoked back bacon
  • 420g can baked beans
  • 300ml each of chicken stock
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • paprika
  •  Salt or soya sauce and pepper

    Heat 1 tbsp sunflower oil in a large pan.
    Chop and lightly fry 1 onion and 2 chopped rashers of rindless smoked back bacon for 10 minutes.
    Add a 420g can baked beans with 300ml each of chicken stock.
    Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce and a pinch each of paprika then cover and cook gently for 10 minutes, do not let it boil.

    Chocolate Fudge and Cornish Sea Salt Brownies

    In November, I started to work my way through Great British Chef's Chocolate Collection,  a series of chefs recipes entirely dedicated to chocolate. The first attempt was an alternative Chocolate and Orange Mousse.
    Then came a lovely invitation from Vanessa Kimbell at Goddess on a Budget. For the second year running Vanessa had organised a home-made Christmas gifts swap, the food blogosphere gets really busy and "buzzy" when the invitation drops. It is genuinely a great idea, to spend some time making your own gifts rather than running around buying them. We all love the event which this year was taking place at the infamous Rococo chocolate factory, though it felt a little odd to bring chocolate to a chocolate factory.

    So putting two and two together I came up with:


    and Mine
    So very often with chefs recipes, you have to up your skills a little. On Great British Chefs recipes are never out of reach, there are no ingredients one can't find but there is often that little thing which will stretch you, that little plus which will make you go the extra mile and that is why I chose to bring these brownies to the gift swap.
    Afterall if a creation will be judged by the like of Chantal Coady from Rococo, Xanthe Clay from the Telegraph, Lucas Hollweg from the Sunday Times and Sophie Conrad, then you have to think carefully and this cold Sabayon base brownies sounded perfect.
    Judges were impressed by the creativity behind the presents, they all had a big grin on their face after working their way through the amazing array of gifts; and No, Chocolate Fudge and Cornish Sea Salt Brownies didn't get a prize but I surely enjoyed making them and I learnt that, "Melting, rather than beating, the chocolate, butter and sugar together to make brownies gives them a thick, fudge-like texture."

    Chocolate Fudge and Cornish Sea Salt Brownies a recipe by Nathan Outlaw

  • 225g of unsalted butter
  • 275g of 70% bitter chocolate
  • 400g of caster sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 200g of plain flour
  • 100g of fudge, chopped
  • 10g of Cornish sea salt

  • Method
    1. Begin the brownies by preheating the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2
    2. In a bain marie, melt the butter, chocolate and sugar over simmering water
    Tip : Making a Bain Marie for chocolate
    If you don't have a bain marie, you can make one. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4 and fill a roasting tin halfway with water. Place the chocolate in a ramekin in the water and put the roasting tin in the oven
    3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until they form stiff peaks. You will need an electric mixer with a whisk attachment for this
    Tip :  Whisking the whole eggs to stiff peaks
    It will take a little time, but eventually you will reach stiff peaks or a cold sabayon if you will      
    4. When the chocolate mixture is melted, carefully fold it into the eggs
    5. Sieve the flour and fold it into the chocolate mix. Add in the chopped fudge and the sea salt
    Tip : How to add the salt
    The salt goes in straight from the packet, but you may like to give it a light crush between your fingertips
    6. Pour the batter into a greaseproof paper-lined baking tray and bake for 20 minutes, or until the brownies are cooked so that they are set but still slightly soft in the middle
    7. Remove from the oven and cool. Once cool, cut into desired shapes and serve.
    The brownies should last up to 4 days

    This post has been sponsored by Great British Chefs, the top picture is from GBC website.


    Harira: Moroccan Lamb and Bean Soup

    To be born of two cultures is a blessing and a curse. For me the blessing was the food: the familiar yet unfamiliar smell of spices that flavour  Moroccan food, the tiny little cakes left around the dining room which could be picked up at leisure.
    One recipe sticks in my mind as the ultimate comfort food and that's my grand-dad's Harira, A wonderful dish of lamb, chickpeas and lentils, this is the ultimate cure for the winter blues.
    I seldom cook Harira because it is full of calories for a soup moreover one bowl is never enough. But on these rare occasions it is nice to share and this is my inheritance recipe
    Be prepared to let the soup cook for at least 30 minutes.
    Harira: Moroccan Lamb and Bean Soup
        1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound of bone-in shoulder lamb chopped in small pieces (but any lamb meat will do)
  • 1 carrot, cut into pieces
  • 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 small potato, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp dried  lentils (I use red lentils but again any will do)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  •  1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp hot paprika
  • 600ml  of  chicken stock
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1  can chick peas
  • large handful or chopped coriander
  •  a dollop of Greek yogurt to garnish (optional)

  • Method

    heat oil in a large pot and cook the lamb for 2 to 3 minutes until brown . Remove to a plate and set aside

    Reduce the heat to medium add onion and cook for 2 minutes mix in all the spices for 15 seconds. Add the stock bring to simmer. Scrap up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.

    Stir in the tomato and the lentils, return the lamb to pot. Bring to boil aand immediately reduce to simmer for 20 minutes

    Add the chick peas and cook for a further 10 minutes add more liquid if it seems too thick.

    Serve with a handful of coriander and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

    I have to thank Sue for emailing me this recipe and generate an idea which I hope will be popular with food bloggers, in the new year Pebble Soup will be hosting its own event: Your Inheritance Recipes....watch this space.

    Pebble Picture Patchwork #6 : Great Bavarian Bake Off

    Last month Pebble Soup was invited by the German Tourism Office to a Bavarian Bake Off. We heard about the iconic Christmas markets and learnt how to make tasty biscuits. Read all about it on Great British chefs.

    Bavarian Christmas biscuits and cakes recipes can be found here

    Chocolate and Orange Mousse

    Some people spend hours browsing through cars, shoes, IT catalogues, may be not all at once. As far as I am concerned, I could spend days gazing at pictures of chocolaty creations wondering if I could work my way through them all. There is no better way to know than to try.

    I made a start with Chef Nathan Outlaw's creation from Great British chefs. This puddings which marries Orange and Chocolate in a  mousse. Mousse au Chocolat is a French classic which owes its lightness to the air trapped in the fluffy whisked egg whites but not in this case which was intriguing.

    Nathan Outlaw works his chocolate (cocoa powder and 70% bitter chocolate) with cream, egg yolks, milk. The binding is generated by gelatine. Not used to work with this product, a bit of research was necessary. Gelatine comes in two forms: powder and leaf, in this recipe the latter is used.

    Step one work with gelatine leaves

    Soak first in cold water for 5 minutes, the time is on the packet in the instructions. Then squeeze out the excess water and place the leaves in a saucepan over gentle heat and melt or alternatively if you work with other hot ingredient place the squeezed ball directly in and it will melt of its own accord.
    Step 2. Mix the egg yolks and caster sugar together in a bowl
    Step 3. Bring 300ml of the double cream together with the milk and orange zest to the boil. Pour the mixture onto the egg yolks and sugar then return to the pan and cook over a low heat until the mix thickens a little.
    Step 4. Remove from the heat. Finely chop the chocolate and stir in, along with the gelatine and cocoa. Place the pan over a bowl of ice to cool. Meanwhile, semi-whip the remaining 160ml of double cream

    Step 5. When the chocolate custard mix is at room temperature, fold in the cream until fully incorporated.

    Step 6. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the fridge for 2 hours before serving


  • 80g of caster sugar
  • 460ml of double cream
  • 6 gelatine leaves
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 80g of 70% bitter chocolate
  • 80g of 70% cocoa powder
  • 300ml of whole milk

  • Tips
    Making crème anglaise or custard
    When stirring the mixture on the heat be sure to use a flat edged spoon, moving it continuously along the base of the pan so the mixture does not catch.
    Intensifying the orange flavour
    Get hold of a microplane - a great tool for removing the maximum amount of zest without the bitter pith.
    Leave the cream, milk, and orange zest to infuse for an hour before re-heating to pour over the egg yolk and sugar mixture.
    Mixing 2 kinds of chocolate make this dessert much lighter than its French counterpart. it's quick and easy to make, the orange flavour comes through and that's a really nice addition. Working with gelatine leaves is much easier than it looks and here it gives much more "form" to the mousse. A perfect mousse to serve at the end of dinner in coffee cups.

    Give-Away #18: Win A Case of 24 Häagen-Dazs Secret Sensations Fondants

    This Give-away was won by Lynn S. with her lucky number 140

    Häagen-Dazs has added a new flavour to their Secret Sensations Collection:
    Meringue and Raspberry fondant. An indulgent vanilla ice-cream with tiny, crunchy pieces of meringue and raspberry sauce center.

    At Pebble Soup HQ we snuggled up in front of an open fire with this delicious treat and now it's your turn. Häagen-Dazs is giving away a case of 24 mini cups, to be delivered to your door, so get ready to lock the world out and indulge. On the other hand, if you really have to, since the party season is just around the corner, it won't be easy, but you could share. Follow the instructions below to be in with a chance to win.

    Giveaway #18: Win a Case of 24 x 100ml minicups Häagen-Dazs Meringue and Raspberry Fondant RRP: £40


    • Complete the Rafflecopter form below to confirm your entries made via blog comments, Twitter, Facebook etc.
    • This giveaway is set to run until Friday 7th December 2012 however it may close close or be extended without notice.
    • This prize will be delivered via courier, organised by Häagen-Dazs within 4 weeks of winning.
    • Do read the rules below.
    • Winners are picked by Rafflecopter, contacted by email and  will be announced on Twitter and on this page.

    Good Luck

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    With a little help......Sheperdhess Pie & Rousquilles

    Food is the  new rock'n'roll and food bloggers more and more in the limelight. With so much activity around us, it's sometimes difficult to stop and thanks the bloggers who are grafting behind the scene and make a real difference to our meals by bringing up little known recipes.

    My aim with this post is to thank the bloggers who have helped me with Sunday dinner when neighbours gathered around the table. Always a tat nervy to cook for others and when you are a food blogger, people expectations are high.

    Going against the etiquette. Instead of writing the recipes up, I am going to link to their original post and let other bloggers do the talking. 

    The main course is a Shepherdess Pie a recipe from Food to Glow. A blog which features healthy  recipes with a twist. A blog I came across when I wrote the Ten at Ten for the foodies100.  

    With coffee we had Rousquilles. Mine don't look exactly the part but Phil in the Kitchen creations are the real McCoy with their story as a bonus. Enjoy Phil's Rousquilles.

    Monthly Product Reviews: All About Provenance

    In October Pebble Soup sampled three additions to the supermarkets shelves.

    Harry’s Nuts! Fairtrade Crunchy Peanut Butter developed by stand up comedian Harry Hill and Liberation Foods CIC, a Fairtrade nuts company.

    I have to say that until Vanessa of Food Goddess on a Budget travelled to Rwanda to visit vanilla farms which are helped in their development by the Fairtrade foundation, I was highly cynical about the scheme. Many moons ago, I briefly shadowed humanitarian workers in Mali and have a vivid picture of mountains of sacks filled with grains, stamped "famine relief" being sold openly on Djenne market square but Vanessa changed my mind.
    Though there are still niggling doubts about the system in general, here, I am prepared to believe the press release statements: Harry Hill makes no money from the products, he came up with the idea, the smallholder peanut farmers in Malawi are trading their way out of poverty.

    As for the taste: crunchy it is, lots and lots of crushed peanuts in each jar which contains 96% of fairtrade peanuts. It doesn't have much of the stickiness associated with peanut butter which make a nice change and Hill tells us that it is gluten free. Available in most supermarket at RRP £1.70  for 227g (or thereabout) for its provenance and quality it's thumbs up.

    Pebble Soup was invited to the Crosse & Blackwell new soups launch and stepped out of the building convinced that this brand was back where it belongs, at the top with 17 new soups over three ranges: Best of British, Premium and Classic. That's a lot of flavours and some such as leek and potato are nothing but new. 

    The newness is rather subtle and needs explaining: take their Best of British, the new element is, yes again the provenance. All five recipes are made with British only products, Lincolnshire Maris Piper potatoes, Wiltshire cured ham, the list goes on. At Crosse & Blackwell, they believe that consumers really benefit from the reinforced linked with local farmers.

    At the launch, there was no gimmick, no celebrity-chefs, now I come to think of it, no celebrity at all, a table full of veggies, a kitchen with large cauldrons of soups, the only thing doing the talking was, quality.

    Verdict: blown away. I don't think that soup in cans will ever be as good as home-made ones but here, it is very close. Unexpectedly, some flavours tell you if there is enough vegetables to make 1 of your 5 a day. RRP at £1.29 for 400g in most supermarkets (barred Sainsbury's) I'll reach for that brand anytime.

    In real life what are the chances to have a grandmother called Jamia who made jolly good jams, slim, I agree, but this is exactly the story behind this next product. Sajmira is from Albania, she and her husband made a run of 600 jars of the handed down family preserve recipes. Now, in many supermarkets, the couple has added their own flavours inspired from the English countryside to the range so not only the range offers fig preserves but Pear and Rhubarb.

    Verdict: I sampled Pear preserve which was as good as any, being roughly half fruit, half sugar, it's not overly sugary which is a bonus. In my opinion the good thing about the range of Mammy Jamia's premium preserve, is its variety and novel flavours. If you don't make your own jams, the other supermarket brands have a narrow range of flavours. With Mammy Jamia the range is broad and exciting. RRP £2.39 per 340g jar.

    Sponsored post

    Chocolate & Ginger Scones Crown

    Mention the word Chocolate and readership increases immediately by 20%. We, as a nation, are chocolate mad. Our chocolatiers, are the best in the world, no exaggeration here. 
    During Chocolate week, The International Chocolate Awards announced the winners of the 2012 World Final, out of 600 products, the likes of Paul a Young and Damian Allsop led the way to the top prizes and not chocolate medal in site.

    The blogosphere is not immune to this passion, there is of course Chocolatier a review and news magazine which I am so delighted to contribute to and Choclette's very own blog, Chocolate log blog,  a much-loved read. 
    Thinking along the lines of French-English alliance, I turned to a timeless cookbook Cranks' Breads and Teacakes and opted for a warming and spicy marriage of chocolate chip and ginger in a couronne (a French type of bread) of scones. Perfect for autumnal breakfasts or mid-afternoon teas, this tear and share made of scones is fast and easy to bake.
    Chocolate Chip and Ginger Scones Crown
    The original recipe uses carob chip and wholemeal flour
    1lb (450g) Wholemeal Flour
    2tbsp (30ml) Baking powder
    4oz (100g) Butter
    3oz (75g) Unrefined brown sugar
    2oz (50g) Chocolate chips
    1oz (25g) Crystallized ginger, finely chopped
    1/3 pt (200ml) Buttermilk
    Egg glaze made with one egg and 3tsp milk
    Combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar, carob chips and chopped ginger and add the milk to form a soft dough. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead quickly. Roll out the dough 1 in (2.5cm) thick and 2½ in (6.5cm) plain pastry cutter, stamp out scones and place on a buttered baking tray.
    Or to make a crown arrange the scones, overlapping in a circle.
    Brush with egg glaze and bake 425/22/gas 7 for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden.
    Cool on a wire tray
    Makes about 14 scones

    Urban Eden's in the Sky - By Alex C - Guest Blogger

    A month ago, Pebble Soup team attended GBC photography workshop. Mid-conversation someone mentioned edible walls. That immediately grabbed my attention. That someone is Alex C, a soon-to-be blogger who is passionate about the quality of the food she eats and very knowledgeable when it comes to growing her own. she was in her fifth sentence when on the spur of the moment, I asked her if she wouldn't mind writing a post about it. Here it is
    Urban Eden's in the Sky
    I’ve always wanted to grow my own food, particularly herbs and spices. Their culinary and therapeutic properties, really fire up my imagination and taste buds.
    Second to none for adding unusual specialist produce, difficult or expensive to buy, to your repertoire, some of my homegrown favourites include cavolo nero, Vietnamese coriander, borlotti beans, elephant garlic, sea kale, callaloo, edamame, tomatillos, goji berries, quinoa, and golden raspberries.
    Don’t so don’t let lack of space put you off like I did. You see I only have a balcony. Although it’s south facing, it’s tiny. Worse still it’s overshadowed by huge trees that blocks out virtually all heat and light for most of the day.
    ©Growing Culture : My small balcony
    Focusing on what I didn’t have, rather than what I was blessed with, my growing ambitions remained on the back burner for several years.
    Eventually, I realised I’d best try and work with what I have. There’s no need to help supermarkets make superprofits. If you lament deteriorating food quality, service, and, poor value for money join the club and start growing your own It was time to start showing it my small balcony a little love.
    Investigating how to get the best out of my space led to the following discoveries
    1. Quite a few fruits, vegetables and herbs thrive in shade,
    2. Produce you can start/continue growing in the autumn-winter period include leafy greens, broccoli, salads, perennial herbs, beets, beans, assorted berries,
    3. The only way is up for space-challenged city dwellers like me, i.e. gardening up and along, walls, balconies, window sills, fire escapes and roofs.
    There is plenty of helpful advice and support on vertical gardening available in the form of workshops, books and blogs.

    ©Growing Culture

    A couple caught my eye with their sage advice, innovative ideas and practical tips for growing edible Edens in the Sky:
    Mark Ridsdill Smith’s, founder of Vertical Veg, sprinkles his magic helping city dwellers get the maximum benefit from their tiny spaces. Passionate about what food growing can contribute to city life, health and sustainability he provides online information and workshops on vertical gardening. Check out his excellent free step by step guide on getting started The Art of Growing in Small Spaces.

     ©Vertical Veg
           For years Mark yearned to grow his own produce, but like me, believed his small London property wasn’t suitable. Finally, after years languishing at the bottom of allotment waiting lists, he started experimenting on his small balcony and was amazed to discover the amount of produce he was able to grow.

    © Vertical Veg One year he grew more than £900 worth of produce!

    In The Edible Balcony, writer Alex Mitchell, shares her DIY punk philosophy to growing edibles when space is a premium. Challenging assumptions that that you need a large amount of space to succeed it is packed with creative real life ideas. Here are a few inspiring examples for space starved growers featuring recycled materials such from old hat stands to colanders, mugs, guttering and shoe holders. It was certainly killed off my allotment envy.

     Source: The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell
    Growing. Eating.
    Ultimately vertical gardening allows you to eat fresher, tastier and more nutritious produce at a lower cost to the environment and your pocket. What’s not to love. Quick and easy things I love to make with my bounty include
    • herb oils and vinegars, salsas, pestos
    • simple dishes with anything deep, dark green like Cavolo Nero

    © Growing Culture Wilted Cavolo Nero with Black Rice Red Thai Fish Cakes and Sprouts

    Cavolo Nero is an Italian staple. A key ingredient of the well-known Tuscan bean soup Riboletta, it is also commonly used in a wide variety of dishes including risottos, pastas and frittatas.   Unaffected by the cold and most diseases, Cavolo Nero, a member of the kale family requires little attention and gets by in partial shade. Accordingly it is fast becoming an edible garden staple. Buy some seeds online or at the garden centre and follow the instructions for autumn planting.

    I love it’s rich, earthy flavour. I like it best lightly cooked dressed with some simple chilli garlic oil. Great food that makes the palate sing.

    Helpful resources mentioned in this article :
    The Edible Balcony by Alex Mitchell 
    Here’s another great starting point too:
    If you would like to contact Alex, drop her a comment below or tweet her @growingKultur


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