Recipe from Bake me I'm Yours....Chocolate: Stars of Wonder

Bake me I'm a series of books which stand out for two reasons: the expertise of its authors and its cute covers. The books are smallish and very attractive with their polka dots spine, their little imitation rubbons, they scream "buy me". I first came across the collection with Sarah's Sweet Bite Size Bake.
The formula is the same for each book. About a third is dedicated to "How to" chapters and nitty-gritty sections, a lot of expert information to help  the readers to progress.

For example, in Chocolate by Tracey Mann, a page is dedicated to chocolate moulds, should we use plastic or silicone shapes?
Each piece of advice is then summed up on a banner at the bottom of the recipe pages.

Take Tempting Truffles, which I am off to make next, the bottom banner states the pages for basic tool kits, tempering and ganache.
Tracey Mann is a highly successful Cake Designer, her chocolate creations are stunning, I would not say they are simple but simple enough for average bakers to give it a go. Reading through her book, I was transported in a kind of Bake Off situation. For the recipe which is reproduce below you will need to know how to temper chocolate and how to make simple chocolate bites.
As the world and its wife know, I am not the best of bakers, following a recipe seems to be beyond my natural abilities however I feel confident that with this book, I could create that sexy birthday cake. Because of its layout it forces you to focus on each element and isn't that the secret of making beautiful creations. The devil is the details.
Stars of Wonder
These sparkly chocolate bites will make perfect treats for the stars in your life this Christmas. Serve on a platter at a party or tie together with ribbon as a classy gift.
you will need
(for nine bites) …
one batch of chocolate bites, 6cm (23⁄8in) in diameter
250g (9oz) white chocolate paste
25g (1oz) dark couverture chocolate
large star cutter
disco white hologram edible cake glitter
red dusting spray
1 Prepare a batch of chocolate covered bites. Evenly roll out 250g (9oz) of white chocolate paste onto icing sugar and use the large star cutter to cut out nine star shapes.
2 Spray some of the white chocolate paste stars with the red dusting spray and dust the remainder with the disco white hologram edible cake glitter.
3 Temper 25g (1oz) of dark couverture chocolate and place in a disposable piping bag. Pipe a small dot of tempered chocolate onto the top of the chocolate bites and position a star on top. Pipe another dot of tempered chocolate onto this star and arrange the second star in a contrasting pattern, lternating between red and gold stars for interest.
For tasty stocking fillers, tie a stack of three biscuits together with an organza ribbon Chocolate Bites
These mouth-watering chocolate bites are so simple to make and don’t even require any baking.

They can either be made as indulgent cookies for yourself or to give as gifts –
simply use a variety of cookie cutters to vary the size of your bite.
ingredients (for nine small bites or four larger bites) …
12 digestive biscuits (Graham crackers)
250g (9oz) white, milk or dark chocolate
55g (2oz) butter
60ml (4 tbsp) drinking chocolate
30ml (2 tbsp) golden syrup
18cm (7in) tin
Round, metal cookie cutters
Do not let the chocolate set completely, or it will be diffi cult to cut out the
individual bites
1 Melt the butter and golden syrup together in a pan over a low heat.
Add the drinking chocolate.
2 Crush 12 digestive biscuits in a bag with a rolling pin. Add the melted mixture to the crushed biscuits. Push the mixture into the tin until it is flat and chill for approximately 20 minutes.
3 Temper 250g (9oz) of the chocolate of your choice, pour onto the mixture and spread into an even layer using a palette knife. Tap the tin to remove any air bubbles and leave for approximately 10 minutes at room temperature until the mixture is partially set.
4 Before the chocolate has gone completely hard use the round metal cutters to cut out the bites. Leave to harden before decorating as desired.

Thank you to FWMedia for authorising the publication of the recipe, photo and for sending 3 copies to readers and myself

Cullen Skink : A Great British Chefs' recipe

Faced with proper names, it often takes a while to fathom the correct pronunciation, at times odd names get distorted. About seven years ago, one Sunday afternoon, I was attracted to the window by the sound of laughter and high pitched screams, well before spotting young Tony, age 5, who lives up the street. he was running as if pursued by the entire Adams family, waving his little arms in the air, shouting "Nanny Sue, Nanny Sue."
We live in a very small street, so small that there is no pavement on either side and a gutter runs in the middle to prevent basements flooding when it rains heavily. On that Sunday it was not raining, only a resident was washing a car up the street therefore a lot of water was cascading down.
It took me some time to associate what Tony was saying with the real thing. In fact he was not running away from a Nanny called Sue, what he meant to say was, "Tsunami, tsunami".
Last week when I got an email from Great British Chefs asking if I wanted to be the first person to review a recipe called Cullen Skink, I felt exactly like little Tony, I could have skipped around the dinning table waving my hands  in the air chanting "Colin Stinks, Colin Stinks," but of course, serious reviewers do not act in such manner.
Therefore I called my mate Ailie and asked her to pronounce it properly for me and in her gorgeous Glaswegian accent she said something like "oh Aye, the Scottish Soup...Coolin Skink".
This soup is from the town of Cullen in Moray. It is prepared with undyed smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. It's an absolute delight, the smokiness of the haddock adds to the warm filling effect which the mashed potatoes inevitably have. The second part of the word, "skink" is a Scots word for shin which refers to the beef stock in which this hearty concoction is cooked.
It is such a great dish that many chefs have produced their own version. It would  be difficult to change the base of this soup though you will notice that Adam Stokes' recipe replaces onions by shallots which in my opinion are not pungent enough.
The differences reside in "the extras". Some add garlic and that's completly wrong. Others add leeks, can't really see the point of that; Jerusalem artichokes, each to their own. Adam Stokes add quails eggs, that is a better idea, still debatable, however, his recipe works like a charm.
  Cullen Skink
A Great British Chefs' Recipe   

  • 470g of smoked haddock, undyed
  • 500ml of milk
  • 2 large white potatoes
  • 4 shallots, diced
  • 1 knob of butter
  • 100ml of white wine
  • 500ml of chicken stock
  • 90ml of double cream
  • 12 quail eggs
1.Pour the milk into a pan and add the haddock. Place over a medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the flesh of the fish turns opaque. Once poached, remove the haddock and set aside to keep warm - reserve the milk
2.Sauté the potato cubes in a pan with a knob of butter. Add the shallots and cook until both the potato and shallots are soft
3.Cover with the chicken stock, white wine, double cream and reserved milk, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Season the soup with salt, pepper and mustard powder to taste
4.Meanwhile, in a separate pan, boil the quails eggs for 3 minutes, remove and cool in ice water. Once cooled, carefully remove the shells and slice each egg in half
5.Blitz the soup in a blender and then pass through a sieve
6.Remove the skin from the fish and flake into large chunks. Season with lemon juice and salt
7.Place 4 slices of quails eggs at the bottom of each bowl and lay some, but not all, of the fish flakes on top. Pour the soup on top and finish with the rest of the fish and more slices of quails eggs. Sprinkle chopped chives and parsley leaves on top and serve immediately.

Disclaimer: this post is sponsored by Great British Chefs, the recipe and photo have been reproduced with authorisation.

Quick Halloween Recipe: One Eye Tom

At times, recipes sway from the sublime to the ridiculous. Last recipe was developed by the an acclaimed chef and these one...well this one, is a bit of fun.
With Halloween around the corner, ghoulish is in order, moreover tomatoes are still in the shops but not flavoursome enough to be used in salads.

One Eye Tom 
For this recipe you will need as many tomatoes and eggs as people.
Scoop the inside of the tom which you can use to make a "blood sauce" by blitzing, seasoning it and place it under the tomatoes.
In a Medium heat oven, cook the tom shells for 15 minutes, get them out and drizzle the inside with olive oil, salt and pepper plus any herb or seasoning you see fit, I use garlic and tarragon.
In a small bowl crack the eggs one at the time and slide each one into a tom shell.
Put back in the oven for a further 10 minutes, check that the egg is cooked before serving.


A Great British Chef's Slow Cooked recipe : Lamb Shanks with Tomato and Rosemary

Slow Cooking:  A method for busy people who let the pot do the work. 

How does it work? Throw all the ingredients together in a pot and cook slowly on the stove or in the oven. Slow-cooked recipes often call for a 24h marinade prior to cooking.

Tagine, Casseroles, Stews are all slow-cooked dishes. The advantages of long braises and hours of cooking exceed by far the ease of cooking.

#1: Tougher pieces of meat will go from zero to hero allowing for cheap cuts. These kind of recipes don't call for tender/expensive ingredients as they all cook for hours. It's hardly surprising that the end result will melt in the mouth. 

#2: Flavours are enhanced by the slow process. Cooked this way, food will soften and absorb all the flavours only to bring them out in an harmonious melting pot

#3: No need for oil or fat of any kind, all simmers in the juices. It's an healthy way to cook.

Lamb, beef, pork, mutton all beneficiate from hours of cooking. My best friend always slow-cooks her Christmas goose.  Greek cuisine enjoys a chequered reputation but its Kleftico, individual lamb shanks cooked with lemon and herbs would almost redeem it all.

British Chef, Martin Wishart  wrote his own take of slow-cooked lamb shanks  for Great British Chefs with a succulent Lamb Shanks with Tomato and Rosemary. Hope you'll give it a go.

Lamb Shanks with Tomato and Rosemary


  • 30ml of vegetable oil
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 250ml of red wine
  • 2l of chicken stock
  • 1 400g tin of chopped tomato
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 150g of unsalted butter, cold and diced
  • 1 tbsp of caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp of red wine vinegar
  • salt
1. Start on this lamb shank recipe by setting the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan. When you feel a good heat rising from the pan, season the lamb shanks with salt, then carefully brown each of them on all sides
Marinating lamb shanks
To boost the flavour and tenderise the meat even more, marinate the meat in the wine for 24 hours before cooking, draining well and patting the meat dry before sautéing. 
2. In a large casserole pot, heat the olive oil. Then add the onion and garlic and gently sauté them until golden brow.
3. Pour the red wine into the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the wine by two-thirds
4. Add the stock, tomatoes, rosemary and bay leaves, bring to a simmer and then add the lamb shanks

Disclaimer: This is a post sponsored by Great British Chefs who authorized the reproduction of the recipe and photo.

Breast Cancer Awarness Month & Pink Champagne Cupcake Recipe

This post is a sponsored post. The fee for this post will go direct the cancer fund.

50,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK, but we seldom think about it happening to ourselves or one we love. 
Three years ago, almost month per month the phone rang. “Don't worry” my mum said “it's nothing, just a small tumour”. 

She was very brave, had the operation but the news was not good. At that stage, I would have sacrificed anything “to make her better”, and I possibly did. For 10 months, I ignored my home-life, work became the least of my priority, social life got forgotten. 

We talked her first chemotherapy through, then there was the relentless pace of the treatment, loosing her hair was the worse part, I held her hand when she was sick and cry the tears she wouldn't cry. 

It was not a small tumour. She had ignored the first signs and it had been missed once at a routine mammography. Ten years ago, this type of cancer would have killed my mother. Today she live with “Juste un mauvais souvenir”. 

The advances in science and technology saved her life. The hospital staff played a huge part in her recovery and because of that, since then, every year, I “do” my bit to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

The fee for this post will go direct the cancer fund. Money raised goes to vital services such as charity's helpline, hospital and group support. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, people are encouraged to take part in fund raising campaign such as Pink Fridays, it's easy to do and can include anything from wearing pink to baking pink
Breast Cancer Care website  lists more ideas or call 0870 164 9422.

 To celebrate all the success stories, I'll leave you with a few tips on how to make cupcakes and a  Pink Champagne Cupcake recipe

120 grams Plain White Flour 
140 grams Golden Caster Sugar
40 grams Butter Unsalted, softened
Salt pinch
80 ml Whole milk
1.50 tsp Baking Powder
40 ml Champagne
1 Free Range Egg 
50 ml Champagne
500 grams Icing Sugar 
160 grams Butter Unsalted, softened
Pink Food Colour

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C, Gas 5, and line a 12 bun muffin tin with muffin cases.
  2. Using a hand held electric whisk or freestanding mixer mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed until it is the texture of breadcrumbs
  3. Put the eggs in a jug and whisk by hand. Add the milk and champagne and mix together
  4. Pour ¾ of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients & mix on low speed, then mix on a medium speed until smooth & thick 
  5. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until ½ full
  6. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch.
  7. Leave to cool slightly and then place on a wire rack
  8. To make the frosting use a hand held whisk or freestanding mixer whisk the icing sugar with the butter until mixed, then pour in the champagne, mixing slowly, then increase the speed to high and whisk until soft and fluffy. Add a few drops of pink colour creator to achieve a pale pink frosting.
  9. Top the cooled cupcakes with frosting with a palette knife.

Give Away # 17: Two Copies of Chocolate : Bake me I'm Yours

October sees a few celebrations and this week is Chocolate week. To celebrate Pebble Soup is giving away 2 copies of Chocolate by Tracey Mann. This lovely book will be sent to two winners courtesy of the publisher David and Charles.  Tracey Mann designs are regulary featured in Cakes & Sugarcraft and Wedding Cakes magazines.
So if you would like to win a copy, try the rafflecopter below.
Best of luck.

And the winners are : FabFood4all & Emma Walton
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Istanbul - part 2 - The Shopping Experience

To go to Asia we took the local ferry. In my opinion, no visit to Istanbul is complete without crossing to Asia. The experience starts with the ferry, half an hour of sheer happiness, sipping black tea, watching the sea-gulls catching crumbs that kids send at them from the deck.

"On the other side" there is an authenticity, a rawness to the atmosphere which I find refreshing. Let's find the market entrance and loose ourselves in its streets:

 Imagine streets of fishmongers, all displaying the catch, gills out to show how fresh fish are

I could spend weeks wondering the markets in Istanbul, even the oldest and largest covered market, the Grand-Bazaar which I don't rate highly can, at times, be fun. To barter, half the price and start from there, even then the price will be a little higher than what it should be but that doesn't matter.

                Examples of souvenirs sold in the grand baazar
The offbeat Cukurcuma area is best for vintage and the up-and-coming designers are based by the Galata tower, for modern mall try the Istinye Park to find the latest of the Turskish designer labels. 

By far my favourite is the spice market, again a covered market, not so warren like that you can't find the right exit. Filled with spices, sweets and firm favourite buys such as carpet bags. 
I once bought turmeric there which was sold to me as saffron root, I still giggle at the young naive me, the worse thing was that, on return, I tried to powder it being so hard, it blew the blender container. I learnt a valuable and expensive lesson.

Let's part with a few loukoms

If you are planning a trip to Istanbul here are a few practical tips to iron out some difficulties.
You are likely to arrive early evening, both airports don't have easy public transport access, arranging a shuttle could save you grief. There are many independent ones which are scheduled to pick up passengers as they arrive.
Istanbul is as safe as any large touristy town. If Turkey is relatively cheap to travel in, Istanbul is not, paying £3 for a cup of undrinkable instant coffee is rather common. Make sure before you buy. But overall, Istanbul is good place to visit and certainly a mecca for shoppers.
Foodies will find a colourful organic farmers market on Bomonti Caddesi in the modern part every Saturday. Best street food if you can ignore the fact that you are eating sheep intestines is a kokorec sandwich
A foodie's blog to read before you go

Istanbul - A Dream of a Lifetime

There is something beautiful about making someone's dream come true. His mother, Philomena, had always wanted to go to Asia. So he set out to make Phil's dream a reality. We were going to cross to Asia and the easiest place to do so, was Istanbul. Istanbul is an old friend of mine, having been many-er times.
Previously known as Constantinople, after the emperor Constantin, Istanbul is transcontinental city, situated on the Bosporus. Its historical center is in Europe while 2/3 of  its massive 15 million people live "on the other side" in Asia.
Doesn't matter what time of the day or night one arrives in Istanbul, it'll always provide with that memorable image. Here was ours from the hotel roof terrace.

 99% of Istanbul population is muslim, there are 2 800 mosques, pictured above Ayasophia former Orthodox basilica later a mosque and now a museum 

First thing first, before trotting in the streets of  The old town of Sultanahmet district, conveniently situated only within a few minutes walking distance away.
 We tackled breakfast. Turkish breakfast is composed of tomatoes, bread, oil, cheese and coffee. A Turkish cheese board is a camaieu of light yellow to white, sometimes "stringy" generally high in fat, always delicious.
Beyaz peynir (white cheese) is a favourite in Turkey, each region has a different way of producing it. Sometimes it's left in saltwater. 
Zerrin Ersavas was going to be our guide for the day. Described by one of her colleagues as the best guide in Istanbul, she waved her magic wand and bought the past to life.
To a background music of Phil's amazed "wOoows". She told us about the settlement which in the 1st century BC had reach the pinnacle of wealth. She shown us the remains of the Roman hippodrome which could host 80 000 spectators, situated opposite the roman palace, now the Blue Mosque or as to call it by its proper name Sultan Ahmed Mosque.
She told us about the Ottoman empire, an unified Muslim empire whose rulers would not destroy the buildings from other faiths but would adapt them to suit their own faith. Plastering over the mosaic figures, forbidden by Islam. Now coming back to life after years of Restoration of Ayasophia, ex-mosque turned museum.

Zerrin pointed to the  Marmara marble jars bought from Pergamon used to store olive oil, explained the significance of the tulip with blue leaves seen everywhere from carpet to planes' tail: Tulip is a Turkish word and the flower originates from this area. She told also us about the internal immigration in the 50's, when villagers surged across Istanbul, coming from far and near to find work consequently recreating their own village life in the outer districts. 

Her passion for the city kept us going until we couldn't walk any longer and sat down for a cooling drink. 
Various sherbets such as cherry, tamarind, red poppy, rose, pomegranate are on offer. 
Then, we had our lunch in Erten Konak a beautifully wooden house restored with care, now a small independent hotel and restaurant. I do remember the wooden houses district decades ago, being an oppressive warren of blackened crooked houses. They are now mansions of unique beauty arranged around inner courtyards sheltering mulberry trees. Cavidan Erten, the owner waved us in with the warmest of welcoming smile. He and his brother restored their family home and it is now a charming hotel with a courtyard restaurant. The Ertens are Turkish entrepreneurs offering a variety of quality services to tourists.

Lunch bought even more sparkles in Phil's eyes, fresh fruits and fish, slow cook meat, fresh fish and Turkish coffee. By now, we were ready to cross "to the other side," to take the local ferry to Asia, its markets, its open-terraced coffees but before taking you there Click here to hear Phil's impromptu interview and her first impressions of Istanbul. 
In the interest of disclosure, I would like to mention that to realise one's dream took some preparation, my grateful thanks to the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office for taking care of our guide, transfer and our evening entertainment at  Sultana's Dinner and 1001 Nights show,  Ela and her colleagues at Redmint Communications for co-ordinating from the UK and the Erten family for their welcome.

Fig Crumble & Trojan war

Food and literature is a powerful combo. In August as part of Idealo Holidays Read, I got my teeth in Madeline Miller's The Songs of Achilles, a beautiful love story which was a key element to the Trojan war. Miller is a story-teller who with this book weaves effortlessly mythology and the known records of day-to-day living in ancient Greece.
Achilles and Patroclus are both princes but they couldn't be more different. The former is handsome and arrogant, the latter shy and sensitive and when the two heroes eventually make contact, when the graceful Achilles turns his attention towards the captivating Patroclus... he throws a fig at him.

From that page on I craved for figs. Had I been living in France, I would have gone to my friend's garden and raided her fig tree. Instead, I dashed to the supermarket and was virtually stopped on my tracks, horrified at the price of figs, I would have to stop by the bank to remortgage the house before I got enough to pay for that crumble.

That crumble is a Zester Daily recipe, which was stored in my private Spring Pad for a while. All along I knew it would make good entry in Tinned Tomatoes' challenge Bookmarked recipes I am just sorry I missed the September round-up as I am not too sure fresh figs will be around at the end of October. On the other hand you might have to keep that recipe until figs lure us again next summer.

Fig Crumble

Serves 6
I have replaced the pecans by walnuts in a effort to keep that dish thrifty. The nuts give the crumble a delightful taste. In my opinion the crumble will work better if the figs are peeled
For the topping:
150g shelled walnuts
100 cup rolled oats
80g unbleached all-purpose flour
180g firmly packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
110g cold butter, cut into smallish pieces

For the figs:
2 pounds fresh ripe figs, stemmed, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
⅓ cup mild honey, preferably lavender
2 tablespoons Port

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. Heat the nuts under the grill until they have toasted but not browned, chop coarsely.
3. Mix together the oats, flour, sugar, nutmeg and salt, either in a bowl or in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and stir to get an even mix. Add the butter and mix again until you get a crumbly mixture
8. Make the fig filling: Place the figs in the baking dish, cut side up. Drizzle on the honey and douse with the Port. Bake 30 minutes.
10. Sprinkle on the topping and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until bubbling.
11. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream, crème fraiche or custard sauce.



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