Chefs I Met & Food Photography Workshop

Readers who have been following my meandering in the world of writing will know that I started blogging for Great British Chefs. A dynamic site focused on recipes from British Chefs. Part of the attraction of recipes on line is the photography and last night, Pebble Soup team attended a Food Photography Workshop organised by GBC, lead by David Griffen.
 
The event took place in the Google London headquarters. After a spot of mingling and a few amazing canapés by Pascal Aussignac, we sat to listen to David.
 
In a learning situation, I have to confess that my attention span is shorter than that of a nit. Therefore for food photography tips, you might have to look elsewhere as I would be unable to repeat most of what has been said. As from the start, I got stuck on one  of David's sentence: 'Something about photographing chefs, they look much better in black and white'.
 
I was curious to see if they really do.
 
I supposed Griffen was referring to chefs at work in their kitchen but since I tend to met chefs during interviews, my picture galery contains a collection of talking chefs. It was time to give them the black and  white treatment.
 
Starting with Paul Holywood

 
Celia Brooks


Gary Rhodes


what do you think?
 

Pebble Picture Patchwork: Heinz Chicken & White WIne Stew with Penne Pasta


 



To mark the launch of the Heinz Special Edition Soups range, Heinz has worked with renowned chef and restaurateur, James Tanner, to  promote the new range and create a series of recipes. caned soup easily double up as a sauce, very handy when you are in a hurry. 
 
Each new soup is a old favourite with a twist
Cream of Tomato with a Twist of Chilli
Cream of Chicken with a Touch of Sage
Edition Cream of Mushroom with a Hint of Garlic
Cream of Chicken with a Dash of White Wine
 
And here the recipe for the latter. One to bookmark, a yummy fare.


inspired by the core ingredients in Cream of Chicken and White Wine Soup
(Serves 4)
 
Ingredients

8 chicken thighs, boneless and skinned cut into half inch dice
1 peeled and diced carrot
½ dice onion
1stick peeled and diced celery
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
300ml chicken stock
100ml whipping cream
125ml dry white wine
200g Penne pasta
1 tbsp olive oil

Method
1. Heat a large non-stick frying pan to a medium heat and add the oil.
2. Next add the chicken pieces and sear all over in the oil.
3. Now add the onion and cook for a further minute, then add the remaining chopped vegetables.
4. Stir all whilst cooking to combine and stir frequently for another minute.
5. Now add the wine and simmer until reduced by one third.
6. Then add the stock and bring all to a gentle simmer.
7. Cook uncovered, stirring from time to time for 8 minutes until the chicken and vegetables are tender.
8. Lower the heat and stir in the cream, then add the tarragon and season to taste.
9. Whilst the stew is cooking, blanch the pasta in salted simmering water to cook through until tender.
This should take around 12 minutes, then drain in a colander.
10. To serve, add the pasta to the warmed stew and stir all together to combine.
11. Season to taste and serve in warmed serving dishes.



Rum-Baba and Ndali Vanilla


You Live and learn. And this week I learnt that rum-baba were easy to make. All you need is a savarin ring mould, that's a round tin with a hole in the middle. This post is slightly unusual as the recipe is a virtual present and the story behind it, is on somebody else's blog.

On Monday Vanessa Kimbell will be hosting a Ndali Vanilla Gift Swap. With this event Vanessa wants to spotlight the work conditions of the Ugandan vanilla farmers. Here is the story of the Ndali estate and Fairtrade Vanilla.

The vanilla gift swap will take place at Fortnum and Mason. When this will happen, I will be miles away on press trip. But I wanted to participate because I, too believe in the power of one backed by many.

Since I don't have to bother with transporting my present on the tube. I picked the most gooey, indulgent bake, oozing with rum-syrup and of course perfumed fairtrade vanilla.
 
Rum Baba
 
Ingredients 


For the babas
125g of flour
3 medium free-range eggs
1 pinch of fine salt
2 tbsp of honey
75g of butter, melted
7g of dried yeast
 
For the Rum syrup
250g of caster sugar
1l of water
1 fair-trade vanilla pod split in half
1 orange, rind of
260ml of rum

Method
Preheat the oven to gaz 4/180C, melt the butter in a saucepan making sure that it doesn't brown.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, salt, yeast, eggs and honey, beat until smooth and add the butter slowly until completely absorbed.
Using 6 individual savarin mould or a one regular size savarin tin, pour half way into the mould(s)
Let it rest until it doubles the size.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown and leave to cool
 
Now turn your attention to the syrup. The bakes will be dipped briefly in the syrup.
 
Place the caster sugar, water, vanilla pod, orange rind, and 200ml of rum in a saucepan and bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer.
While the syrup is simmering dip the babas in for 20 seconds and place on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled pour the rest of the syrup over the cake(s).
 
Decorate with chantilly or wiped cream.

Dishwasher Review: Integrated Beko DW602

It's hardly believable, for all the food lovingly cooked at Pebble Soup HQ, for all these years, the washing up has been done in the sink but this is about to change thanks to my new best friend Beko DW602. To meet it click on the video below

 
  video

The Delivery process was rather exciting as you can imagine. Appliances-on- Line had arranged delivery on a fixed date with a four hours window. Which is something of note and very much appreciated. Waiting all day for a delivery or having to pay extra for the privilege of waiting a whole half day only is not  on.
 
 A call arrived early morning to let me know that it was D-Day, a little later the delivery driver rang to reduce the window even further. I started to love my dishwasher already. 10 out 10 for organisation.
 
Drivers arrived moaning and groaning because the kitchen is downstairs. They were playing to the gallery since Beko DW602 is a light as a ballerina with its 46kgs only.
 
What do we look for in a dishwasher? Let's be pragmatic and start with the price, this is one of the cheaper integrated dishwasher on the market. with a price tag around £250, 10 out of 10 for the price.

Now for the next priory, the energy rating rated on a scale from A+++ to D, it has been awarded A.
 
But for all this, there is not loss of functionality. It provides a selection of 5 programmes from pre-wash/no heat  to intensive at 70C and an half load, programmes certainly cover the whole range.  It has some interesting features such as the movable Cutlery basket which rolls allowing the saucepans to seat nicely at the back. It accommodates 12 plates, the top basket is adjustable and the bottom rack collapsible. The design may be more basic than the top of the range but every important aspect has been covered.
 
The noise level  being an important factor when choosing an appliance. This is quiet

Beko DW602 has been running for a few days and I am very pleased with the results, only one very sticky muffin tray came out with still one spot all the rest has been sparkly as it should. No water was left on the top of mugs all in all 9.5 out of 10 for performance.

Integrated or not? It looks so much neater when the appliance is hidden away. It was easy to plumb in. It has special feet to adjust the height so that it fits right under the work surface. The instructions are clear drawing but I would not have felt confident to do it myself. It took an hour for a team of two professionals to complete the work.

 Time will tell how solid it is. On a lighter note He who has been doing most of the dish-washing over the years, has now chained his indignant self to the sink. How could I even think of swapping him with a new model. Appliances on line offered to recycle him to an unknown depot but that is not going to happen.

This is a sponsored post - Appliances on line provided a Beko DW602 for the pupose of this review. I was not asked to write a positive review, the opinions expressed in this post are my own.
 


It's National Cupcake Week


To understand what the attraction is all about, I interviewed Sarah Trivuncic for Great British Chefs, read the interview Here

Book Review : Beer, a Cookbook

Shaped like a can of beer. With beer in the title it must be a book about ....beer...Good Food Made Better with Beer: Beer A Cookbook.


40 dishes made with beer collated by Kimerley Willis. With three type of ratings: Easy most are in this category, Medium where muffins and barbecue beef can be found, and Hard, only a  couple in this category, among which a recipe for  Beer-Battered Fried Fish.

Each recipe is a step by step, as a rule of thumb no more than 4 steps. Recipes are from all around the world from the Orient with Spicy Beer-Soaked Schrimps to  Sicily with
Sauced Meat Balls.
 
Beside the compulsory recipe and a photo, each page contains either a beer fact, a bartender's advice or a beer quote by celebrities from Zappa to Churchill.
 

 
To hear my podcast review click below: 
 
 

 

To order this book click here :Beer: Good Food Made Better with Beer
 
Disclaimer :this is part of a series of book reviews which I am doing for FWMedia international. Opinions are my own.
 



 
 

Great British Chefs: Yorkshire Pudding Recipe

My misadventure with Mr Toad who lives in the hole made me wary of British batter puddings. After all, in France we have the lovely clafoutis announcing the delights of spring and I was quite satisfied with my version of far aux pruneaux. So, I would certainly have never tackled Yorkshire Puddings hadn't it been hadn't been asked by Great British Chefs' to look into Chef Galton Blackiston's Yorkshire pudding recipe. 
 
First impressions: This recipe is so easy to make and it doesn't have to be done in a great big tin, handy individual portions are excellent. These little puddings make a nice alternative to  rice and pasta.

James Tanner the  resident chef on Ready, Steady, Cook's chef reckons that with a bit of cream, mushrooms and guinea-fowls single Yorkshire puddings are a great dish for two.

Something else directed my attention to Yorkshire Pudding this summer and strangely enough it happened during the Olympics. One of the iconic moments pictured Nicola Adams winning an Olympic gold medal for boxing. Nicola is from Leeds. During the interviews she couldn't stop grinning and joking, it was a pleasure to watch how proud she was of her fabulous achievement which she attributed to....Yorkshire pudding.

Yorkshire Pudding should deservedly be more popular.
 

With this in mind, I took a closer look at the recipe.

The batter,

Like most batters is made with milk, flour and eggs. Some recipes advocate lighter batter where the milk is halved with water but I don't really see the point, especially now that Yorkshire puddings are not cooked underneath the roast to catch the drippings like it was done in the old days. They are not heavy as it is.

The batter needs to rest, it is quite important not to miss out that step so that the flour absorbs the liquid and in doing so improving the potential to rise.

The cooking,

The secret is the heat, lard is a fat which turns very hot and tends not to burn, the hotter the tray is, the crispier the puddings will be. So think hot hot hot and let that fat smoke, after all if the recipe really was first cooked in the mid-1700's one can't really imagine that Yorkshire folks who were cooking their meat on a spit were pussyfooting around being concerned about health and safety.
 
 






 Yorkshire Pudding
a Glaston Blackiston's recipe


40 minutes plus resting time
serves 6


Ingredients 
  • 175g of strong bread flour
  • salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 300ml of full-fat milk
  • 1 dollop of lard

Method
1. Beat together the flour, salt, eggs, milk and nutmeg to form a batter. Leave to rest for at least an hour.       
 
Keeping batter: The final batter mixture can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days if required.
      
2. Heat a non stick Yorkshire pudding tray with the fat and place in the oven at 200°C/Gas mark 6 until the fat is smoking.
       
3. Pour in the batter and cook for approx 20-25 minutes until well risen. Serve immediately as an accompaniment to a traditional roast.    
 
Disclaimer : This post is sponsored by Great British Chefs, Opinions expressed are my own.



Boiled Bacon with Cabbage: A Letter from Ireland


With writing commissions come in, in a record number, maintaining a blog can be a challenge, to keep the flow of recipes there is only one solution : call a friend.
 

 To help me out, I asked a few people whom I knew would come up with a tried and tested recipe and a good story. Pebble Soup's first guest this autumn is Philomena Bunce. Phil moved to Ireland 9 years ago. She works magic with a thread and a needle and though she will deny it, is equally good with a wooden spoon and a saucepan....plus a few kitchen gadgets. So without further ado here is her letter from Ireland.
 
 "When I moved to Ireland, one of the things that struck me in the supermarkets were the large amount of bacon joints of all sizes that were on offer. I subsequently learnt that bacon and cabbage was a staple food and cooked most weeks in Irish homes.
 
The following recipe is courtesy of Tamsin Day-Lewis in her wonderful book "West of Ireland Summers" in which she describes her memories of a childhood in county Mayo along with some great recipes.
 
I needed some Irish reaction to this effort of mine so invited my son Colin with his Irish wife Sheila and her mother Biddy."
 
Their verdict: "Satisfied customers!"

Boiled Bacon with Cabbage. 
Serves 8
Ingredients
4-5lbs unsmoked collar of bacon without the rind.
A selection of veg ( eg 3 onions. 6 carrots. 2 leeks, 3-4 sticks celery)
a bunch of herbs tied in a bundle,
3-4 pts  chicken stock or water,
1 large green cabbage chopped and cored.
 
Method
Soak the bacon for 24 hours changing the water several times.
 
Put soaked bacon and veg, herbs and stock in a large casserole, bring to the boil, skim if necessary, turn the heat down keep it simmering at a mere bubble with the lid on for about 30 mins.



Add the cabbage and simmer for a further 1 hour. ( you are not looking for al dente cabbage but completely soft and having absorbed all the flavours) turn off the heat and allow the meat to settle for 20mins.
Remove from the heat and keep warm covered with foil or cloth.


Using a slotted spoon lift out the cabbage. Lay a bed of cabbage on the plate put a couple of thick slices of bacon on top and serve the cooking liquor in a jug.
 
To complete the meal serve some good mustard and some Champ.
Champ is a kind of potato
Champ recipe: Floury potatoes, creamy milk,butter, finely chopped spring onions. (quantities according to servings!)
Simmer the potatoes until tender, drain off the water, cover the pan and let sit while you heat the butter and milk to boiling. Add the spring onions turn off the heat and let infuse. Mash the potatoes then add the milk mixture stirring until smooth. Season to taste and serve,
 
I would like to Thank Philomena Bunce for her guest post. The ingredients in this recipe are Simple and in Season perfect for Fabulicious Food's event hosted in September by Katie Bryson at Feeding Boys and a Fire Fighter 
 

 

Pebble Picture Patchwork #4





Last week-end should have seen Pebble Soup at the Norfolk food festival but due to a lack of organisation from the organisers, the trip we were looking forward never happened. There we were, 3 days off and nowhere to go.


That was counting without Puckley the most haunted village in England and Leeds castle 'the Loveliest Castle in the World'. Kent is only a 40 minutes drive from South East London. Indeed a lot of locals still remember picking hop when they were kids and if the only hop-farm I know is that which now hosts a brilliant music festival there is more to Kent.

For a londoner, it's always weird to drive more than 5 minutes without seeing a house moreover 15 minutes without a town of some kind. That's what happens when you head for Pluckley, a large village in the middle of the apple orchards and as a foodie is never far from a discovery. We walked in The Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Co, a family factory which imports nearly 400 teas and coffee from all around the world. And we walked out amazed. Established in 1982 on the return of the Smith family from India this generations firm is worth a visit if you ever head for Leeds Castle a day trip in itself.

The Humble Sardine & Omega 3

When Heather at Fish is the Dish email me the content of the next fish delivery, she casually said "and oh!, I have added a few fresh sardines". NOOOOooo! "What am I supposed to do with sardines", he doesn't like them and they will stink the place down.
 
 
Reluctantly, I started to look at sardines recipes to soon discover that there is more to sardines than ....fishy taste and smell. The humble sardine is packed with Omega 3, known as "brain food."
 
Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (good fat) vital to growth and development, we need them but we don't make them so they have to come from our food. However, we have to be careful here, as Omega 3 is fast being labelled "magic potion".
 
What has been scientifically proven so far: Omega 3 is a powerful anti-inflammatory.  Omega 3 stimulates blood circulation. It may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. It plays a role in the reduction of bad cholesterol. It interacts with the immune system, healing traumatised and infected tissues so could help with skin problem. Here  is what you need to know explained clearly by the University of Maryland Medical Center.
 
Omega 3 is found in fish which swim in cold waters. Salmon and Sardines are best sources. That was for the scientific bit, now you can relax here is the foodie bit.
 
Once gutted sardines can be eaten whole. In my opinion, they are much nicer filleted. To avoid a kitchen nightmare, ask your fishmonger to fillet them, don't even think of doing it yourself. Fresh sardines can be grilled, cooked in a pan or made into pâté
 
Sardines are full of taste so they will need herbs with a strong flavour, quick marinade in olive oil, salt, pepper and stuffed them with mint or thyme is probably best. If you barbecue them they will not need to be rolled in flour, I choose to pan them in oil with a squeeze of lemon juice, 3 minutes each side, so they needed to be coated with flour to stop them sticking to the pan.
 
 
Verdict: Opening the windows got rid of the smell very quickly and he has decided that from now on he liked sardines.

As with the gurnard post, the sardines used were provided and delivered to my door by Wing of St Maws.

Tipsy Gurnard

Embracing a movement is never innocent but when at Pebble Soup HQ we said "yes" to become a fish fanatic, I really thought that it would only be a matter of trying out new fish recipes.
 
 
Instead, 6 months on, I am spending my spare time reading government reports on the complexity of the fish industry, getting "madder and madder" at the dithering, while tonnes of fish is being thrown overboard.

Let's make not mistake here. The industry and the government may be slow but we, consumers, are very responsible for all the appalling discard. In a nutshell: at the moment, fishermen are only allowed to catch a certain amount of the species we favour, like cod and haddock. But in the nets are other species for which the demand is low- so what happens? what we eat gets cherry-picked, taken to the market, all the rest is throw back, chucked overboard, back half-dead in the sea .dot.

So while "they" are making progress, the best we can do is create a demand for sustainable fish. Cod is not the only fish.

Take the gurnard, never heard of it, no wonder- there is hardly any market for it therefore it's labelled "by-product" and most of it or thereabout is thrown overboard- OK it is ugly but so is crab.

 
It comes in three colours (varieties), red, grey & yellow, red is the tastiest. It lives at the bottom of the sea and is also called "Sea-Robin". It should get top marks for provenance. It is found off the coast of Devon, Cornwall, Scotland.
 
Heads and fins are traditionnally used in fish-stews such as bouillabaisse.  It's difficult to fillet but that is not a problem as you are not going to find it in a supermarket, so the local fishmonger will fillet it for you.
 
The flesh is firm and flaky but rather bland it will need flavouring which can be done easily. Think of a river fish, cobbler for example, it's that kind of taste.

My Tipsy Gurnard
 
Best marinated for an hour before cooking.
Cooking time: under 10 minutes.
allow two fillets per person.

Ingredients
Gurnard fillets
3 tsp aniseed, or fennel seeds (or which ever licorice-like taste herb or spice you have on your rack)
1 red onion, sliced
salt and pepper,

for the liquid, I used a tablespoon of Pastis in a little water to add extra anis flavour but  100ml of white wine will do or plain olive oil but then it won't get tipsy
a few bay leaves
Thyme can be added
Put everything in a shallow plate and leave the fish to marinade for 1 hour

Cooking Method
Throw a little butter in a pan, wait until it's very hot but don't let it blacken
Slide the fillets in the pan, skin side first
Cook for 3 minutes, turn over, add salt and pepper, lower the heat and allow to cook for another 3 minutes.

Serve with crushed potatoes and melted onions.

The gurnard I used for this post was provided and delivered to my door by Wing of St Maws. Their site provides some interesting information about the most sustainable fish you can get  have in Hugh’s Fish Fight Section.

Lakeland Speedy preserves : Strawberry Jam


If you are new to jam making, it isn't advisable to start with strawberries. The lack of pectin in this gorgeous summer fruit makes it devilish to jam. Anyhow, the season is almost past. Does that mean that "you've had it?" Not quite.

Lakeland has come up with a brilliant idea to make your own conserves: tins of prepared preserving fruits, Seville Orange, Lemon or Strawberry, I got to try out the latter. As research always pays, I read the customers' review which were very mixed.
 
So let's us clarify what to expect: £2.99 will buy you a tin of 825g of strawberry purée, the clue is in the title : no bits. By adding water and caster sugar you should get 5lb of strawberry jam. Personally I got 3lb. As with all jams, the problem is to get the mixture hot enough for it to set.
 
The instructions state that it will take 30mins, because my hob is not fantastic, it took 50mins by then the jam had reduced much more than it should have which impact on the consistency. My strawberry jam looks like that which is found in doughnuts or rolly-pollies, by this I mean no bits and rather thick, it taste like a good commercial jam. 
 
Jam making is far from being an exact science that is what makes it exciting. Even when half the work is done for you, jamming is still full of surprises.
 
Home-made preserves make lovely gifts. Lakeland sell a Jam Label Kit to fit 24 jars with pink-checked-square-paper toppers, sticky labels and gift tags. A must have, if you don't want to print your own.
 
Next time I am trying Lemon Marmalade Home-Cook Preserve in a can, that has got to be a time saver.
 
Disclaimer : Strawberry prepared preserve & labels were complimentary which as always didn't influence my opinion. 
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