Hake Bobotie

As part as my Fish Fanatic role, last week the online store Delish Fish  delivered a box of fresh fish packs to my door. Did you know that despite being an island, it could take 3 days for fresh fish to reach market/shop stalls. In the future I will make sure I ask my fishmonger "how old is that fish in the window?"
Signs of the times if  you order direct online, it is likely to beat this timescale Delish Fish does, but then again there is no harm in asking to make sure. As far as I am concerned this is the ultimate luxury or rather the way it should be.

Like a lot of people who love fish, I am after taste and texture and in order to get this, you have to be slightly clever around your fish and explore the possibilities. 

My parcel contained wild hake and various salmon filet which I will be the subject of another post.

Hake which is a deep-sea (over 1000 meters under) fish of the cod family, with less and less cod to go round this is a great alternative. Hake will not win a fish beauty contest, it is rather ugly; in France there is a recipe called Hungry Hake, very likely only because of the way this fish looks like. Hake is a meaty white firm fish, though soft to start with, it firms up and keeps its shape when cooked so ideal for pies and stews. The taste similar to cod but milder and I think sweeter.

The fish fillets arrived individually wrapped in a special box with a cooling system so to keep all the freshness. I wanted a recipe which would add to  the fillets, a recipe which would not be overpowering. I opted for a wonderful South African curry, I made a Hake Bobotie. I chose a recipe from Fish is the Dish (where else!)

Mystery Ingredient : Chickpea

In every kitchen, there are ingredients which linger lazily in draws and cupboards, bought in need yet hardly ever used or made redundant by an abundance of the same kind. Usually after a year or so the day of reckoning comes and they end up in the bin.

Since we need sustainable diets at Pebble Soup HQ, we have devised a system which cuts wastes. Once in a while we play the Mystery Ingredient challenge.

One of us looks around, points at an ingredient and the other has to cook a dish with it. I was chuffed with the double chocolate cheese cake find and now it was my turn, I pointed at one of 12 can of chickpeas and he came up with a recipe adapted from Epicurious

Chick-Pea Walnut Burgers

  • a 19-ounce can chick-peas
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 sesame buns

  • Drain the chick-peas.
    In a food processor pulse all the ingredients except for the walnuts and the eggs
    Whisk the egg and the walnuts in a large bowl
    Transfer the mixture to the bowl and combine with your hands.
    Divide into 4 balls, flatten and fry.

    L'Artisan - Delicatessen & Caterer in Greenwich - London

    You would be forgiven for thinking that the A206 otherwise known as Trafalgar Road, the main congested drag, permanent traffic jam, leading all and sundry, in and out of Greenwich on the way to the Blackwall tunnel, is a no man's land for traders.

    Yet, L'Artisan, a delicatessen, has been going from strength to strength since its opening last year. People praise the high standard and quality of the food  and L'Artisan appeared in The Guardian top 10 budget restaurants in Greenwich.

    Intrigued by the phenomenon, I decided to find the secret of this success and went to interview to the owner: Joris Barbaray.

    Joris comes from Bergerac, a town situated in the South West of  France, an area famed for its Anglo-French flavours. Joris reckons that, "In the small towns and villages in the Dordogne, 60 % of the population is English". With a French literature baccaleaureat and a good food family background, dad is a traditional butcher, mum, at one time, was a cheese-monger, Joris's path could have been a straight line.

    Instead, he decided to travel through France, Spain, South America learning about all sort of local culinary specialities, before opening shop in Greenwich. His shop is a small outfit with a large window to display his creations: plats du jour such as duck osso-bucco, yummy take-away sandwiches, good looking French fruit-tarts and much much more. Four can seat at one time. There is also a space to display bread and groceries like "sirop de menthe" or tins of sweet creamed chestnut. L'Artisan's door is always open  to let in the customers and  the tantalising aroma fresh home-made meals out.

    What do you think of Londoners' food habits?
    "When it comes to eating, people look for a certain facility. They know good a meal even if they don't always know how to cook it themselves. There is a demand for good food".

    And what about Greenwich?
    "Of course, Trafalgar road is not an easy place for trading but if you offer your clients regularity, a consistency in the quality, they will return. Some establishments start real well and quickly nothing follows"
    Aaah so this is the secret, but is there more? When ask, Joris smiles warmly,
     "I like to work with local people, I like that kind of proximity, in France we call it 'le commerce de quartier'. I like talk to people, to get to know them.
    If they don't have the correct change, I'll give them a small discount, I offer samples so they know in advance what they are buying. My clients are people not numbers, I also like Greenwich cultural melting-pot".

    L'Artisan offers a wide range of cooked food from salads to desserts, Joris likes to cook the whole range, "I associate food with moods, when I get up, if I fancy sausages, I'll make sausages that morning. The next day, I might fancy something sweet, then I'll bake a dessert. There is no limitation to cooking, recipes have been around for hundreds of years but each cook will give it a personal touch".

    What sell the most?
    "Ready made meals. Freshly prepared food. But for a special occasion or a birthday, people will buy an item from the grocery range like a tin of cassoulet."

    What surprised you most?
    "Rabbit, in a very good way, my clients love rabbit dishes. I worked in Dulwich before where it was difficult to sell anything to do with rabbit. Here, I never cook enough of it, I prepare it in terrines, sauces, grilled, pies...and I like that, because personally....I don't like chicken."

    It has been a delight to get behind the scenes of my local deli, to see how much care, knowledge, steadfast work and good quality goes into the meals offered by L'artisan. Thank you Mr Barbaray for the interview.

    If you want to know more, drop by: L'Artisan is at 93 Trafalgar Road SE10 9TS, do mention this post and enjoyed the chat.
    Click here to see more pictures
    keep up with news on twitter : artisanse10

    Product Review : Vanish Stain Removers

    Vanish has asked me to talk about tea stains, red wine stains, in one-word stains removal.

     Why me? have they lost their mind? In lots of ways, they came to the right person. OK, I am a little messier than the next blogger but moreover, I have a lot of opportunities to be so.

    When I tell people what I do for a living, there is a sort of immediate physical reaction their eyes narrow to a slit. I can almost read their thoughts, "here is a fibber". I try very hard to convince them that it's not all fun, there are risks involved.

    I won't go as far as, food-writing is a risky business but there are some inconveniences: stains are one of them. Invariably I find myself advertising the menu on my clothes. It might be why people's eyes slit they are trying to read the marks on my garments.

    If you are around kids, cooks and/or of course food bloggers, you will know that stains are a pain. They need that little extra care and a product that works. If you'd like more tips, head for Tips Bulletin and its blogpost on how to remove coffee (and other) stains.

    Sponsored post 

    April Give-Away #15: A Gift voucher for Celia Brooks' Gastrotour

    The prize winner is Corina, congratulations and thank you to all the participants.

    Famous for making vegetarian food exciting, Celia Brooks Brown is a chef and a TV food presenter. When a review of her Covent Garden gastrotour appeared on Pebble Soup, the buzz around the post was such that the next logical step could only be to send one of you to enjoy the experience.

    Celia generously agreed to give one gift voucher worth £60 to one Pebble Soup reader to join any of her gastrotour. There is no geographical restriction except that the tours are situated in London, so if you are planning a trip to the capital, would like to treat a friend or simply want the experience for yourself, this give-away is for you.

    Give away is now closed

    The Perfect Scrambled Eggs

    Whenever I stay in a hotel, I'd like to think that I could ask for scrambled eggs without fear of getting some dry chewy yellow bits more akin to cardboard then eggs.

    Why or why did our "egg queen", Delia Smith teach the nation to boil rather than to scramble? With a bit of faith in the people's skills, she could have done an equally good job.

    By now we would not have to face the "do I", "don't I" morning dilemma and would be consuming much more of the stuff.

    The world scrambled eggs authority (Note to grammar sticklers: the apostrophe marking the possession after eggs is not missing) is Bill Granger. He was crowned by no lesser kings-maker than The Times (though there is a controversy: was it the NY Times or the London Times?)

    Anyway after reading and trying out many perfect scrambled eggs recipes,  three tips jump out of the page.
    1. The melted butter must not turn brown
    2. Stir but don't whisk and do so with a wooden spoon
    3. Just before the eggs are completely set, take them off the heat and add butter.
    Ah, last but not least, these babies can't be left. Leave them alone for a minute and they will overcook.

    Scrambled Eggs

    2 large free-range eggs
    2 Knobs of butter
    Pinch of salt

    1. In a small saucepan, melt a knob of butter and when the butter is fluffy get the pan off the heat and break the eggs into the pan. Place over a medium-high heat, and stir the eggs together with a wooden spoon.
    2. Once well-combined, leave the eggs for 10 seconds, and then stir again. Until almost set when you need to take them off the heat. 
    3. Add the salt and stir in another knob of butter (at this stage some advocate  crème fraîche) and serve immediately.

    Covent Garden Gastrotour

    Celia Brooks has added two districts to her acclaimed gastrotours: Borough Market and Covent Garden. 
    On a grey Thursday morning, I joined the Covent Garden press tour. I had high expectations, I was certainly not disappointed. Celia's tours are rich in discoveries, even if when have been trawling the London's streets and places for foodies for the past twenty years.

    Her Covent Garden tour was entertaining, peppered with information and delicious.
    At Covent Garden station, Celia greeted us with a box of delicate Ladurée's macarons. Ladurée opened shop in Paris in 1862. Their shop in Covent Garden with  Pyramides de Macarons in camaieu of colours is the exact replica of that in Paris.  Ladurée were the creators of macarons as we know them. We were all very impressed that Celia remembered the 16 flavours in the box from Rose to Pistacchio with a different filling each time.
    First stop: Neals Yard Dairy. Not a surprise, this dairy is  a gem of a cheese shop and an institution. It was one of the first  shop to opened here  in the late 70s when the area was still derelict.  We were given the opportunity to ask loads of questions to the very knowledgeable staff while sampling Stichelton, an unpasterised kind of Stilton, so different from its pasterised version, much stronger and more, much more flavoursome. We tried Hafod, Montgomery cheddar, Childwickbury  each time with background information on the producers.

    Next onto the yard and its fascinating history, look up: the Monty Python lived and worked here and of course it was the birth place of the now world famous Neal's Yard remedies.

    I'll gloss over The Slow Food Movement shop which we visited next. A very worthwhile organisation, sadly I lost concentration as the managing director, ex-UN employee, evangelise about the good they do with heritage food and food awareness.

    Much more entertaining was our next stop. On Thursdays, near the Covent Garden plaza there is a food market. We, literally,  ate our way through what London is best at: ethnic mixity. Now with huge smiles on our faces we were tasting Slovenian food

    Polish ostrich sausages and  when we finish with Eastern Europe, we moved to Latin America to eat traditional Capachas at a Venezuelan stall.

    Capachas are crushed corn kernel pancakes, a delicious traditional dish. Here I have to pause for a minute to explain that I tried to cook Capachas without success. I couldn't understand why such as simple recipe went so wrong and now I know. South American corn has a very high content of starch which holds the patti together.

    This is what is great about Celia's tour: all along you grab information relevant to you. A tour de force, on that day, since she was addressing food experts.

    Our final stop was down into the well inside the market were the acoustics  is fantastic. While we were serenaded by buskers we had a taste of Cafe Chutney's Bhel Puri. Authentic Indian street food.

    Just when I thought I could not fit anything else in. Our tastebud were tantalised by an array of intriguing traditional Italian dishes layed out especially for us by the charming managing director of Della Terra a new wine bar in St Martin's courtyard. We learnt about albino wine and ate Puntarella, or green chicory which is bought to their kitchen by their forager. Absolutely amazing.
    Time to pack, thank you Celia for inviting me to share your passion of food and London.

    Double Chocolate and Lime Cheese Cake & The Rainbow Recipe Cookbook

    About a month ago, I was selected along with six other bloggers to write a recipe for Appliances on Line Rainbow Recipe Book, I picked the colour yellow, as in Mango and Jack Knight illustrated it.

    A couple of days ago, Pebble Soup HQ reinstated "The Mystery Ingredient Night". This is when, one of us dives in kitchen nooks and crannies to resurrect an ingredient which had been languishing there for ever and sets the other to task. Mine was an ancient packet of three wholemeal digestive biscuits picked up in a hotel somewhere. I knew straight away what to do.

    I took a hammer to the cellophane packet without opening it. Now I had a cheese cake base, I only had to find a recipe for it. This is when the story goes full circle. In the Rainbow Recipe Book, there was exactly what I wanted.

    As we know, I am not the greatest baker in the world but I try, so I possibly massacred the recipe, but it tested delicious and He was there to take the pictures of the fab Double Chocolate and Lime Cheese Cake.

    The recipe for Mango Lassi can be found here

    Product Review : Tea Horse

    Did you, yes you, know that all types of tea came from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. It's the treatment of the leaves and the variety of plant, where it is grown,  how it is picked etc... which determine the differences.

    Now pay attention: there are at least six types of tea: Black, White, Green, Yellow, Oolong and Puerh. If you want to know more, read on....

    My new found knowledge comes from a company called Tea Horse. In February, the owner contacted me with an irresistible press release explaining that we were ready to pay a premium and ask a lot of questions about our food and its provenance, "Yet for some reason, our tea drinking is still typified by the equivalent of a cup of instant coffee; ‘builders’ tea bags accounted for 71% of all the tea we drank in 2011.  The tea bag accounts for 96% of all sales which denies us the most delicious teas on the market, many of which are only available in loose leaf form."

    I was sold. There was, out there, a world I knew nothing about and that had to stop. So I accessed Tea Horse web site and learnt about the types of tea. Once you are there you can't help going from one gorgeous and informative page to another.

    But as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, in this case tea-drinking. I was offered  a month subscription and on a glorious morning a loud "plouak" dragged me away from the computer. A plain white box had dropped in. Inside four sealed Manila pockets, four types of tea which focused on health benefits, including two bespoke Tea Horse blends and quality leaflet full of interesting explanations.

    By the way, April’s teas feature the best from the original tea-growing nations; a First Flush Darjeeling from the world renowned Castleton Estate in India, known as the ‘Champagne of teas’, Lapsang Souchong from China, a black tea from Sri Lanka and a traditional green Japanese Sencha.

    Out of the four: 2n Flush Assam, Mondkey Picked Oolong, Keemon Mao Feng and White Peony, I gave the Green and Oolong to friends for a bit of help with this review and I am drinking the black Assam as I type this post.

    Our verdict: Friends and I thought that the quality of tea was faultless. Oolong with its fragrance was a real surprise to the most experience tea-drinker among us. The filters to brew your own tea are practical, economical and fun. It is a great way to discover teas from around the world. At £11.95 a month, none of us would have been able to subscribe for a year but we all agreed that as a gift, the one month option was a brilliant idea.

    To get more information on Tea-Horse and how to subscribe click here

    Disclaimer: Thank you to Ali Silk for the complementary month samples.

    Baking in Flower Pots: Cheese Bread

    At Pebble Soup HQ, Easter is secular affair. An opportunity to  curdle up on the sofa, eat chocolates, take time to enjoy a long week-end without any pressure. However this year there was a concession made to traditions.

    Traditionally Easter is a gardening week-end so I joined the crowd got the  flower pots out......and baked bread in them.

    In the beginnings people baked bread in all manners of terracotta containers. Now days we are more likely to use metal, silicone or glass.

    How to bake in a flower pot:
    You'll need a medium size flower pot, preferably unglazed. The pot will have to be thoroughly washed with washing up liquid, rinsed several times and soaked for 10 minutes. Since terracotta retains moisture it is perfect to get a nice crust.

    If the bottom has a hole you'll need to cover that with baking parchment, personally and to avoid seasoning the pot I line the whole of the pot with a parchment. 

    To season a pot  take a brush or a piece of kitchen paper and grease it  inside and outside, with lard, butter or oil.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190°C or Gas 5, for 25-30 minutes. Repeat the process 3 or 4 times before use it for baking.
    Take care when you get the pots out of the oven, as they convey the heat nicely and are hot.

    Think speciality bread: walnuts or dried tomatoes etc, as the bread is likely to be half the size of an ordinary bread + you might want to cook an extra. These bread pot are excellent as gifts.

    Cheese Bread

    250g Flour
    5 grams Salt
    7 grams Dry Activated Yeast (1 sachets)
    100 grams Shredded Cheddar Cheese or 70g Parmesan + 30 Cheddar
    130 ml warm water

    In a food processor mix flour, salt, yeast and add water last
    Process for a minute
    Add the cheese
    Process until you get a ball
    place in the flower pot
    put the put in a plastic bag, close
    when the dough has doubled its size
    place in warm oven gas 200C mark 6 or 35 minutes
    retrieve from oven taking care its should slide out of the pot easily
    Place on a grid to cool
    can go back in the pot for display when cool.

    Bramley Burnt Cream

    This is a splendid concoction which I cut out from The Guardian, 6 years ago and made for the first time last night, though he had a go all these years back. I hope that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will not mind me reproducing his Granny's recipe here as I cannot and would not change an ingredient.

     Bramley Burnt Creams a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Recipe

    1kg peeled and sliced Bramley apples
    Caster sugar, to taste
    330ml double cream
    6-8 dssp soft brown sugar

    Put the apple with the sugar and a little bit of water. Cook them until they turn fluffy and the mixture turns into a puree. At this stage if taste if it is too tart add sugar.
    Leave to cool.
    Divide the purée between six-eight ramekins making sure you leave at least 1cm for the cream and chill in the fridge or freezer.
    Whip the double cream until very thick, then spread it carefully over the chilled purée. It needs to be leveled with the top of the ramekin. Return to the fridge. The mixture needs to be really cold before you attempt to burn the sugar.

    Preheat the grill to its highest setting. Sprinkle a thin, even layer of the brown sugar and grill make sure you keep a eye on it all the time, Return to the fridge until cool and serve. The top should make the same satisfying crack when you get a spoon to it.

    Product Review: Hotel Chocolat Your Eggscellency (TM) Extra Thick Easter Egg

    With three days to Easter, if you have not yet got your special Easter treat bagged up yet, "It is time to panic". There is no shortage of choice so your only problem is what to get. Turn to a one-stop chocolatier and you should be fine

    Hotel Chocolat is fast becoming just that. The company offers to cater for all the needs with
    their Easter Gifts range. A range which stands out for its originality, its clever design and the quality of the chocolates.

    Starting at £5 with Nibblatron tins and its cute little eggs, a timeless winner with kids to the outrageous Ostrich Easter Eggs at £70.00. At Pebble Soup HQ we opted for the middle of the range Your Eggscellency, the Extra Thick Easter Egg.

    The attraction was, I have got to confess, the 12 truffles nestled inside an extra thick exterior. The Bison Grass Vodka truffle flavoured with my favorite herby Polish vodka should have been the winner but the contest was though and the truffles with Champagne dusted in strawberry powder and these smooth operators with white port made it impossible to decide. 

    We also loved the egg shells themselves, no skimping on chocolate here, extra thick it is. To top it all, the family will not argue this Easter as which to get dark or milk chocolate as you half a shell of 70% dark chocolate and the other half 40% milk chocolate.

    Disclaimer: I received a complimentary Your Eggscellency Extra Thick Easter Egg  to review.

    Rhubarb & Ginger Sorbet

    Rhubarb and Ginger is a marriage made in heaven. When using ginger, it is easy to overdo it, so this is a case of less is more.
    I love my Lakeland Ice-cream Maker, however so far I have moaned at how long it takes to make ice-cream. Don't get me wrong using an ice-cream maker doesn't lengthen the process. Ice-cream making just takes time.

    Which is not the case for sorbets as they are mostly fruit juice or puree, water and sugar. It is said that Marco Polo bought back the sorbet recipe from his travels. Personally, I can't resist a Marco Polo story nor a good sorbet.

    Rhubarb and Ginger Sorbet

  • 450g/1lb rhubarb trimmed, partly peeled, chopped
  • 100g/3oz caster sugar, plus extra to taste
  • lemon juice, to taste
  •  6 crystallised ginger pieces chopped finely with a knife
  •  50ml/2fl oz cold water

  • Method
    Cook the rhubarb and sugar on low heat with the water for about 5 minutes or until soft
    process in the food processor with lemon juice until really smooth add lemon
    transfer to the ice-cream maker and quickly add the pieces of ginger.
    When the sorbet is done transfer to a freezing bowl and keep in the freezer till you need it

    It is my pleasure to enter this recipe in Bloggers Scream for Ice-Cream April Challenge hosted by Kavey Eats


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