Dream Job Series- part 2-

Working for Chocolatier.co.uk  is a wonderful job. The editor is charming, my colleagues are enticing writers and I get to nibble the products while reviewing. I was not expecting to get a gig as nice as this for a while. 

Really, I had to pinched myself when, at the end of last year, I was asked to collaborate with Häagen-Dazs. This delicious ice-cream brand chose 25 people in the UK to engage in their media program called Häagen-Dazs Loves.

I get to preview new flavours, attend parties and be opinionated. Moreover it is perfect timing as this month Häagen-Dazs is launching "its biggest product innovation in recent years, Secret Sensation, a range which, "Features a new patented technology which creates a liquid centre of sauce, enveloped by ice cream."

Häagen-Dazs' single pots have just got a little bit saucier. Two indulgent flavours, you can't really go wrong with Chocolat Fondant and Crème brûlée.
Creamy ice-creams with a "heart" of rich sauce and crunchy nuggets.
Does it work? Ooooh yeees! Crème brûlée is really a sensation, the ice-cream is delicious. With each mouthful, the soft caramel center is screaming "come-back, have a little more" and then there is a myriad of crunchy caramel biscuits pieces which will not leave you alone until the pot is empty.

Chocolat Fondant is as it should be a different story. Again the blend of chocolate ice-cream is delicious, the soft brownie pieces and the chocolate sauce make the overall experience a chocoholic heaven. Sadly it proves a little over the top for me. And to all who say, "You can't have too much chocolate" then that is the dessert for you.

Secret Sensation range is available in packs of two 100ml mini-cups, RRP £3.29 or individual 100ml cup, RRP £1.99

Ceviche, Seviche, Cebiche

Fish and seafood lovers hang on to your fishing rods, I have a strong feeling that this truly international appetiser is going to trend in 2012. Fresh and full of maritime flavours, Ceviche is a dish made of bite-size chunks of fish and seafood marinated in citrus (often lime) juice.

As there are as many people as there are ways of preparing Ceviche, if you fall for it, you will soon add your own version of "El Ceviche hecho en casa" to the myriad of recipes.

There is only one fast rule for a good Ceviche. As no heat is used and the "cooking" process is done by acidic reaction,  the raw ingredients have to be really fresh, apart from that "the world is your lobster." I make mine with salmon sometimes with white fish.

In Chile, the ingredients are marinated in lime and grapefruit juices. In Peru, where the dish is said to originate from, bitter oranges are used. Apart from the coastal areas of South and Central America, Ceviche is also found in the Philippines. But enough with the geography lesson.

You will have noticed that the picture is not mine, I borowed one of Michelle,  a fabulous blogger and food photograph whose work can be read and admired at Greedy Gourmet.
Here is a basic recipe Ceviche, Seviche, Cebiche recipe, spelt and pronounced differently depending where you are in the world. 
  • 55g/2oz salmon fillet, cut in small chunks
    • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • 1 lime  juice or 1/2 lime and 1/2 lemon
    • a pinch of salt and a pinch of chili
    Method: Marinate the salmon dices with some pepper and the lime juice, place in the fridge for at least two hours, three if you can, the larger the chunks the longer the dish will need to marinate
  • Before serving, in the food processor mix all or part of the following, you can use 4 tbsp of coriander only if it is easier.
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tbsp fresh coriander
 1 tbsp fresh dill
 1 tbsp fresh chives
 1 tbsp fresh chervil

add a little olive oil mix with the fish, if you can't serve straight away, leave in the fridge until ready to use.

Sunday Soup: Cauliflower and Stilton Soup + 3 Variations

As Soup recipes are going to be a regular feature on this blog, they might as well have a title of their own and Sunday Soup has a ring to it. This week's vegetable is the glorious cauliflower & the soup in question is Cauliflower and Stilton

Tip: In soups all tastes are enhanced so you need to be careful with seasoning and certain ingredients such as Stilton, this is a case of "less is more."

Cauliflower and Stilton

  • 2 medium onions
  • knob of butter
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 litre/35fl oz chicken stock
  • 100g/3½oz Stilton
  • 300g/10½fl oz double cream or 300ml milk
  1. In a large pot, cook the onions in butter until soft.
  2. Add the cauliflower florets and the chicken stock.
  3. Cook for 25 minutes or until the florets are soft
  4. Leave it to cool and mix in the food processor
  5. Return to the pan add the Stilton and the cream or milk and bring nearly to the boil
  6. Season serve with crusty bread.

Variations on Cauliflower Soup
The base soup is #1 and 2 in recipe above 

Cauliflower Cheese Soup : add nutmeg, 200g of cheddar 1tsp English mustard

Cauliflower Broccoli Mustard soup : add broccoli florets (about 1 head) to stock + 1tsp English mustard in the processor

Cream of cauliflower soup: add 2 gloves of garlic to the stock and a pinch of nutmeg do not use all the stock. 

The Winner of the TOTAL Greek bumper Health Pack

is Number 15
Beverley congratulations email or DM me your details

Home-Baking Baguettes : Tips

It is common knowledge that, "Home-baking baguettes is difficult". Like many, I believed that affirmation therefore, I never tried. I now wish that I had hit this urban myth on the head earlier by researching the subject. Being aware of only a few things can make the process successful.

Major stumbling block: the Baking Tray. Bakers use a canvas cloth, called a couche. Baguettes are nestled in the fold of the floured cloth. I was definitely put off, by visions of flaming linen coming out of the oven baring the remains of charded baguettes. Alternatively, I vaguely flirted with the idea of buying a whole lot of professional equipment, price tag was the problem. Until I spotted the Perfobake baguette tray supplied by Lakeland at £9.99.

The long troughs of flexi-silicone hold the dough in shape while the perforations allow for even browning from top to bottom, and it works. Technology scores 1, old woman's tale, nil.

Then, the scouring issue. The answer is: use a razor blade instead of a knife. Make sure that the blade is very clean.
The golden crispy crust comes with spraying the dough with water while baking. Personally, I put a bowl of water in the oven.

So there you have it, baguettes made easy. My next campaign bound to be, "is it right to pay for bread in restaurant?" if you have a minute let me know what you think.

Disclaimer Lakeland supplied me with a complimentary Perfobake baguette tray however the opinions expressed in this post are my own

Wild Behaviour

Once upon a time, the work station used to look over an narrow street worthy of an Oscar Wilde's fairy tale bar the O2 which provides the backdrop to this urban scenery. Then, entered the developers and what was a flat garage became a 2 storeys maisonette with a couple of bedrooms, one is possibly the smallest room you'll ever see.

The mechanic was evicted but a row of lock-ups remains. Now the work station looks over a flat roof. I have got to say that nothing much happens on it and little distracts me from typing away. Except, yesterday when a vixen and two foxes provided an extraordinary spectacle, gekkering, barking and screaming as they fought on the rooftop.

Mini Baguettes

You know that sinking feeling you get, after having spent hundreds of years thinking how lovely it would be, to do a certain thing. When you finally get to doing it, it doesn't work.

At Pebble Soup HQ, baking baguettes, has been labelled with a capital F...for Failure and for what I used to say on opening the oven-door. I am not quite there yet but my latest attempt is worthy of posting, so light and crusty that opening the oven door became opening the heaven door. Perseverance paid off.
Mini Baguettes

Ingredients - make 3 baguettes-
90g (3/4 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt (or table salt)

1 teaspoon sugar
375g (3 cups) white strong flour
310ml (1 1/4cup) warm water
Polenta or semolina (pasta flour) or fine cornmeal for sprinkling on the baking sheet

More about shaping  baguettes techniques in a post coming soon

Put the yeast, sugar and 310ml warm water in a small bowl and mix well. Leave in a warm draught-free place for 10 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface.

Mix together the flours and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and transfer all the dry ingredients to a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Using a spoon mix until you get a soft dough> Cover leave to rise till it is one third of its original size about 30 minutes.

Knead the dough on a slightly floured surface add a little water is needed to get a soft slightly sticky dough. When the dough is smooth and elastic shape it into a large ball put it back in the bowl with a dampen clothe on the top for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size

Lightly grease two large baking trays and sprinkle with polenta. Punch down the dough and knead for 2-3 minutes. Divide the dough into three portions and press or roll each into a rectangle about 20x40cm. Roll each up firmly into a long sausage shape and place seam side down, well spaced on the tray. cover loosely and leave for another 40 minutes or till doubled in size

Pre-heat the oven 220C/ 425F/ gas 7. Lightly brush the loaves with water and make diagonal slashes across the top at intervals. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. For a really crusty baguette place an oven-proof bowl of water in too. Bake for 20 minutes then lower the temperature to 180/350/4 and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until golden. Colo on a wire rack

Don't Forget to Enter

You have until Sunday 22nd to enter January bumper give-away consisting of
A Month’s supply of TOTAL Greek Yoghurt ,
a yoga mat,
a reformer and
2 x 0.5kg hand weights.

Click here to enter

Soup of the Week: Pie-Crust Mushroom Soup

Weeks back, I set out to post one soup a week. Soon realising that there were too many tried and tested recipes in my folder to all fit in one winter only. Therefore, it seemed logical to write one recipe and add variations on the theme.

Soup are maximum flavour, the broth or bouillon used is paramount. Making a bouillon takes time however it quite happy to cook away without supervision for a couple of hours minimum. Once cooked, freeze it in 300ml portions. So, the whole exercise does not have to be repeated too often.

This recipe is a basic mushroom soup (+sherry) cooked on the hob then baked in the oven fitted and with a  puff pastry "hat".

Six Variations on Mushroom soup

use the basic recipe below (-sherry) and add either: 
Cooked leeks  or
lentils (cooked) or
White sauce and you get a cream of mushroom as in the cans in this case omit the cream or
Barley (pre-cooked) or
Chicken (grilled first) or
artichokes (use a can) or

Pie-Crust Mushroom Soup
serves 4
cooking time: 35 minutes
pre. time: 20 minutes

  • 400 g large field mushrooms
  • 1 small onion  diced
  • 1 garlic clove 
  • 60g butter
  • 30g plain flour
  • 750 ml vegetable stock
  • 2tbsp thyme leaves
  • 2tbsp sherry wine
  • 250ml of pouring (whipping) cream
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 eggs, beaten

  • Method
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C Peel and roughly chop mushrooms, including the stems.
  • Melt the butter in a  large saucepan and cook the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir for a minute. Stir in the stock, add thyme and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Allow to cool before transfering to a food processor and blend in batches.
  • Return the soup to the pan and add the sherry and the cream. stir for another minute to get a good mix.
  • Pour mix into 4 ovenproof bowls or ramekins.
  • Cut rounds of pastry slightly larger then the bowl tops, use a ramekin as a guide and cover each bowl with the pastry.
  • Seal the edges and give each pastry top a light brush with the egg.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until golden and puffed. 

  • If you would like more information about mushrooms such as which mushrooms are used for which recipe access the Mushroom Bureau

    Bumper Give-Away ~ A month supply of Greek Yogurt + Yoga mat + Reformer + 2 x 0.5Kg hand weights

    Sticking to a healthy New Year's resolution has suddenly been made much easier with this bumper give-away. The first of the year.
    Pebble soup has teamed up with TOTAL Greek Yoghurt to give one reader the chance of winning a healthy start up pack.
    The lucky winner will receive:
    A Month’s supply of Greek Yoghurt that will include a selection of 0%, 2% and Classic TOTAL Greek Yoghurt, as well as TOTAL 0% Greek Yoghurt Split Pots in honey, blueberry, strawberry and tropical fruit.
    But carefully managing the fat intake is not enough so TOTAL has thrown in:
    a yoga mat,
    a reformer and
    2 x 0.5kg hand weights.
    TOTAL Greek Yoghurt is like no other! Thick, creamy and authentic, 100% natural and with no additives or preservatives, it can be eaten all hours of the day – drizzled with honey or blended into a smoothie! It’s also a superb substitute for mayo and cream – an ingredient with carefully managed fat levels to suit all diets!
    So what are you waiting for….

    Here’s how to enter:

    You have three chances:
    1. Follow me https://twitter.com/#!/solangeweb and leave me a comment to tell me you have done so or are already doing so.
    2. Leave me a comment here to tell me one of your tip to slim or keep yourself in shape.
    3. Re-Tweet this sentence “I’ve entered to win a @TotalGreek healthy starting pack via @Solangeweb at Pebble Soup” and leave a comment on the blog to tell me you have done so.

    You can enter this competition via any or all of the three ways described above, but please leave me a separate comment for each time you have entered. No details of any of the entrants will be passed onto anyone else.

    The winner will be chosen by an online randomiser. I will contact you if you have won, and pass your land address to TOTAL who will be dispatching your prize.

    This giveaway is open to all UK readers.

    Closing date: SUNDAY 22th JANUARY 2012 at 19pm.

    The winner will be announced in a separate post.
    Good Luck!

    If you would like to read more information aboutTotal Greek Yogurts click here

    Book Review: Skinny Meals in Heels by Jennifer Joyce

    Second week in January and New Year's resolutions are showing signs of flagging. As every little helps, this is Pebble Soup's contribution to make healthy eating less of an effort or rather it's Jennifer Joyce's with her Skinny Meals in Heels.

    Jennifer Joyce is a London-based food writer originally from the US and from Italian descent. Her first book Diva Cooking was a big success, now re-printed it was unobtainable for a long time. Jennifer's recipes can be trusted....as long as you follow them. This book is the second in a series.

    The glamorous line illustrations are the series trademark, either you like them or hate them, personally I am not a great fan. Call me old fashion but I like to see pictures of finished dishes in a cookbook. Each recipe contains a "skinny" box which explains why and how the fat content is down and a "prep ahead" section which is useful.

    The book is divided in 8 chapters, starting with the philosophy behind it: "NOT a diet book....instead a collection of quick mouth watering recipes that 'happen' to be low in fat." Then comes the turn of  "skinny tips", such as "Coffee and wine both suppress your appetite", yes you guess what Jennifer's advises while you are trying out one of her tasty recipes.

    This book has sections for most of our simple culinary requirements with chapters ranging from "Weekday dinners in under one hour" to  "Week-end cooking." I picked a recipe title at random, which is slighly unfair, to give you of the flavour of the book "Turkish Chicken Escalopes with Yogurt Marinade." Most recipes are stress-free, pantry friendly but a few raise the game up a little not sure that Pomegranate Glaze will be on every table soon. It also contains a section on soups, another on pizza-dough.
    In a nutshell:
    Chiefly, Skinny Meals in Heels made me think about how to prepare food, in order to make sure that dishes are both low-fat and tasty. If you are looking for inspiration to honour your new healthy eating habits, this book will help no-end.

    Skinny Meals in Heels was published on th 5th January 2012 by Murdoch Books. RRP £8.79
    With thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

    Soup of the week: Mystery Soup

    This is a delicately flavoured soup. Thanks to the avocado it has a creamy texture. It is equally delicious hot or cold. No dilly-dallying today and on with the recipe. To prepare this soup you will need the following:


  • 450g/1lb leeks
  • 1.2l/2pints chicken stock or straight water
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 large ripe avocado
  • 150ml single cream
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Handful of fresh chopped parsley
  • Salt and cayenne pepper

  • Method:
    Place the bouillon in the saucepan or crumble the stock cubes until it boils.
    Add the cleaned and roughly chopped leeks
    Simmer for 10 minutes
    Use this time to cut, peel, stone the avocado then mash it with the lemon, use a fork or the food-processor, reserve.
    Now pulse the leeks with as much bouillon as you wish in the liquidiser.
    Return to pan and add avocado mixture. Season. Simmer for a minute
    Serve with chopped parsley.

    Happy winter days.

    Masala Dosa

    At the crack of 2012's dawn, I would like to reflect on types of cooks. Which kind of cook do you think you are? Good or bad is not an answer. The same way that there are various types of cooking which are the basic methods such as roasting, boiling etc.. Cooks too are categorised.

    Some years back The New York Times analysed a research indicating 5 types of cooks. The article described them as:
    • “Giving” cooks (22%), enthusiastic about cooking and specialize in comfort food, particularly home-baked goodies.
    • “Methodical” cooks (18%) rely heavily on recipes, so their cooking is strongly influenced by the cookbook they use.
    • “Competitive” cooks (13%) think less about health and more about making the most impressive dish possible.
    • “Healthy” cooks (20%) often serve fish and use fresh ingredients, but taste isn’t the primary goal.
    • “Innovative” cooks (19%) like to experiment with different ingredients, cooking methods and cuisines, which tends to lead to healthier cooking."
    I am firmly anchored in the last category however he is a methodical cook and one who will never give up a recipe until it works. Sometimes it will take years and many unsuccessful, how shall I put this delicately, "Goo-dishes".

    In this way, Masala Dosa became a sort of Grail. For the benefit of the readers who are not aware of this particular Indian street-food. Masala Dosa is a traditional South Indian snack often served at breakfast consisting of fermented Rice-lentil batter, fried crisp brown both sides then stuffed with a potato filling and accompanied by a coconut-chutney.

    Recipe in hand, the correct type of dahl or lentils had to be found. For a while, we could have opened the pantry as a legumes shop. Urad Dhal or black lentil, not to confused with many other sort of black dhal even white ones! as I was told by an Indian shopkeeper in the Euston Road who pointed at snow white lentils assuring me that this was the true Urad/black Dhal.

    Then, there was the Dosa which warranted a trip to Kerala, to observe the type of utensils used, the shape and texture. Still nothing worked, "goo-dishes" came out of the kitchen with much shaking of the head. Until, last night......

    You will not get a step by step picture-story. The cook might be methodical but he, like many of us, doesn't like to share the kitchen space while preparing, chopping (that includes fingers) and working a certain kind of magic. So here are some recommendations over stolen observations.
    • A ready mixture for the Dosa is by far the easiest
    • The frying pan seems to be crucial: non-stick, nothing else will do.
    • Use Ghee to fry the batter and a rounded spoon to "fan" it in the pan
    • White dahl will do, as long as you believe that it's black.
    • Though a breakfast food, it can be served at dinner and is very filling.
    • Do not forget to soak the lentils, the day before.
    Masala Dosa

    Makes 8
    For the Potato filling:

  • 800g potatoes, peeled, cut into 1cm cubes
  •  200g of skinned soaked and cooked split black lentils or urad dal
  • 150g onions, roughly chopped into cubes (optional)
  • 2 large, hot green chillies, minced (or to taste)
  • 2 tsps mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 50ml lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsps salt or to taste
  • 2 tbsps sugar
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp turmeric

  • Method:
    Boil the potatoes while they cook until soft
    Heat oil in a frying pan, place the mustard seeds in and wait until they pop add all the remaining ingredients except for lemon, sugar, salt and potatoes.
    Allow to cook for 5 minutes and then toss in the rest cook for a couple of minutes.
    For the Dosa use a commercial mix and follow the instructions on the packet and the tips above.


    Related Posts with Thumbnails