Fish Friday: Mackerel Pâté

How about getting lunch ready in 10 minutes? With all the omega 3 oils required from your two portions of fish a week. And without plundering the fish stock. Yes, it's lunch on mackerel. Mackerel Pâté to be precise

Mackerel doesn't have a good reputation, it's often accused of being too....fishy, sure the taste can be rather powerful. it's the reason why, for this recipe, I choose canned mackerel rather than the freshly smoked kind.

There are various schools about the ingredients in a fish pâté. Though there is only a couple of ingredients in the mix, people will argue for sour cream or cream cheese, creme fraiche. My choice is mayo any day.

Then there is the texture should is go in the food processor and be smooth or coarse mashed with a fork, I vote for the latter, less washing up.

Mackerel Pâté
1 small tin of Mackerel, drained
1 tbsp Mayonnaise
lots of pepper
optional fresh herbs  chopped such as dill

Put everything in a bowl and mash with a fork
Serve on toasts

Spaghetti House Celebrates Parma Ham

Pebble Soup / Spaghetti House
Spaghetti House has been successful for the past 60 years and is going from strength to strength. This kind of longevity in the restaurant business is rare enough to be mentioned. From that day in 1955 when two Italian friends decided to invest into bringing Italian Cuisine to London, which in these days was a risky bet, till now, Spaghetti House has provided generations of Londoners with Italy's finest culinary traditions. 
Though Parma ham figures on the menu all year round, in November Spaghetti House in association with the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma celebrates this much loved Italian treat. There is still time to tuck in a special Parma Ham menu at £11.95 for two courses. 
The menu includes dishes such as Prosciutto di Parma e Fichi with roasted figs, almonds and wild Italian honey, Prosciutto di Parma with rosemary infused bubble bread, Merluzzo con Prosciutto di Parma e Lenticchie, - roast cod wrapped in Parma Ham with braised lentils, and Cappelletti Prosciutto di Parma e Panna – pasta hats filled with Parma Ham and gratinated cream sauce.

I was invited earlier in the month to partake in the celebrations. On arrival, we were greeted by a welcoming Buongiorno, followed by a complimentary plate of parma ham as offered to every diner, this month. A glass of Chardonnay was advised. A choice which wouldn't come naturally. However Parma ham with its sweet flavour and the crispness of Chardonnay is a marriage made in heaven.
While we were lunching, a group of 16 walked in and took their seats as they do every day. Regulars. It's easy to see why people come in regularly: meals are good value for money, every ingredient is quality, some freshly produced, some imported straight from Italy such as Sicilian Nocellara del Belice olives, others kept rustic such as the big chunk of mozarella.

Last but not least, acts of kindness take place at the Spaghetti House, remember the complimentary plate of Parma ham, there is also a free profiterole with the coffee. This is a tradition which I would happily see in every restaurant. Sadly the generosity doesn't extend to the speciality bread basket, another tradition adopted in many restaurant but this time not such an happy one.

 Spaghetti house has 15 restaurants in London find their location here. The menu changes regularly at present.

Disclaimer: I was a guest for lunch at Spaghetti house, I was not required to review, all opinions expressed in this piece are my own.
Spaghetti House on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Fish Friday: Cod Wrapped in Smoked Ham

Cod Wrapped in Smoked Ham

Reading a fish fanatic will automatically entail fish news: Cod is still "off the menu" however it would seem that the, "North Sea cod stocks have been steadily recovering for a number of years now" according to the industry body Seafish.
Cod in Parma Ham Pebble Soup
The sustainable stock list has change therefore in a nutshell : say yes to cod, occasionally, haddock and coley from Iceland and herring trawled in the Irish Sea have all moved back to the menu list, while seabass (not the farm kind) is being endangered by our new eating-out habits.
As for me while dinning at Spaghetti House, I enjoyed Cod Wrapped in Smoked Ham,  a recipe which takes no more than 15 minutes, is extremely tasty and low in fat.
here is my version
Cod Wrapped in Smoked Ham
Ingredients -serves 2-

30g/1oz fresh basil
75ml/2½fl oz olive oil
4  slices Parma ham
2 cod fillets
1 little parsley to decorate
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small processor, mix the basil and the oil
Cut out 2 squares of baking paper large enough to wrap the fillets
cross out 2 slices of ham on each parcel papers
spread half the basil mixture on the ham
top with cod fillet
wrap the ham around
wrap the baking paper
cook in a Preheated oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 for 15 minutes
Serve straight away on a bed of lentils with a glass of Chardonnay
If you are interested in fish sustainability have a look at?

My Places to See Before I Die by Solange

Lists, I worship lists. Do I have a Bucket List? you bet; and each time the plane touches down in London, my mind wanders off to the next destination. It hasn't always worked out. At times, I have had doubts, would a place let my dreams down? have I invested too much into "my" ideas about a destination?

Imagine how liberating it would be to leave your Bucket List to Lady Luck. That's exactly what is doing for you with Places to See Before You Die. Input a few details including your interests, (photo is optional, but rather fun) and hey presto, your personalised list appears on a cute passport, accompanied by all sorts of information on the various destinations.

And here is one I prepared earlier:

So what did I think of my new lists of places to see? Here are five of my favorite destinations from the list:

Borneo in 2018 when I will be 54

Holidays = sea and what better destination that the third largest Island in the world. When I was in my 30's, I went to Indonesia on the drop of a hat. It's a place which is close to my heart. During one of these visit, we went to Borneo. We lived on a boat while going up rivers in the jungle. We stopped to play with Orang-outans. Borneo is a destination up there with my best travel memories and I have been longing to visit the Malasian side for a while for all its attraction and not only because the food might be fantastic.

The Dead-Sea in 2028 when I will be 64

Here Lady Luck got confused. I visited the dead sea and really, this was not my cup of tea. 
I almost lost my life when we were sent to a mudspot, way out of the beaten track by some jokers who thought they would play a trick on these silly foreigners. 
Got to admit, it was stupid of me to run to the sea not realising that the brown patch in front of me was some kind of "quick mud," incredibly hot, bottomless and in the blink of a eye, I was sinking.......Got out by a miracle, very burnt and trembling with fear.

The Transiberian in 2032 when I will be 70

Travel is the motto. Often it is not the destination that matters but the journey. There are journeys which are mystical. By the age of 70, I'll probably be patient enough to travel this incredible route. The longest in the world, stretching  from Moscow to Beijing, crossing through Mongolia. Another excellent guess here, I look forward to it.

Rottenberg in 2040 when I will be 76

Germany, never figured anywhere on my own list but what is nicer than a  surprise? Rothenburg ob der Tauber looks as pretty as a picture. Can't beat a medieval town centre awash with wooden beam-laden buildings. 

Rothenburg is situated in Bavaria, on the Romantic Road. When I'll slowly head towards 80, I hope that romance will still be on my mind. However, if it's not the first thing on my mind then, Rothenburg sounds quite tranquil and relaxing, I also read that it has a very nice market. site offers more info about each destination, read more about Rottenburg

Katmandhu in 2046 when I will be 82


It's a fun game isn't it. As it's a game, I cheated a little. Katmandhu appears earlier on the list of places to see before I die but I wanted my fictitious journeys to end on the top of the world. I can well imagine revisiting one of the first places I visited. For the symbolism, for the big wheel of karma, In order to close the circle. What a lovely idea.

If you'd like to create your own bucket list here is the link again

Disclaimer: Sponsored post Thank you to for allowing me to publish my thoughts about their micro-site

A Master Class with Richard Bertinet - By Allan C.- with Spice Christmas Tea Buns recipe

How well do you know your neighbours? They can be full of surprises when you get to have a conversation with them. I never realised that next door to Pebble Soup HQ was "an avid bread-maker and immense fan of all things bready" until one day, in passing the name of Richard Bertinet was mentioned.

Next thing he knew, Allan was asked if he would step in for Pebble Soup at an event hosted by Lurpak, run by the famous Brittany-bred Boulanger. From his spontaneous "OMG" reply, I took he was pleased but let's see what he made of it all. 

A Master Class with Richard Bertinet - By Allan C. :

Lurpak's newest butter has been designed as the perfect topping for bread, crumpets and teacakes, rather than for use as an ingredient in cakes or cooking and the good news is - it tastes delicious.Once you understand that it has been made with a high proportion of cream, you begin to understand why. 
Richard Bertinet himself is a gentle giant of a man with an extensive English vocabulary and a thick French accent. Phrases like, "derbel in size” were particularly endearing. His acute sense of humour set us at ease from the start. In explaining the dance like movement required to work our dough properly he said, “I like to call it Strictly Come Dancing with Dough” and at one point, to demonstrate the technique to one of our number who was hopelessly out of sync he stood squarely behind her, and beamed, “have you ever seen the movie Ghost?” 

From a few brief conversations I managed to glean that Richard used to run a restaurant in London before he realised he could teach and moved out to Bath to set up a bakery school. His favourite restaurants are the ones you can eat in every day. "It's about the ambience, you can't make that", he explained.

However it was good to hear that he still cooks at home, "Adding rye to blinis which gives a little acidity is ‘quite nice’ ... soaking fruit and nuts in rum overnight before putting them in teacakes", he explains waving his gorilla like arms and massive hands expressively.
Very soon, we were in the kitchen with Richard preparing the first dough. This was to be the spiced Christmas teacake. Walnuts should apparently "always be bashed before cooking to release the beautiful oils". It certainly sounded sensible to me and our attention shifted to mixing the dough.

 "Mixing is a case of turning the bowl", we were told, as Richard produced a flexible, plastic dough scraper from his back pocket in the way that the Fonz would produce a comb. Richard worked the dough and explained the traditional methods of bread making.
Historically, women in France would take their dough to the baker to be baked. However from the 1800s, bread was required in such large amounts that 120 kg of dough needed to be prepared at a time. This was such hard work that sweat would pour from the men, known as “grunters”, and we understand that the grunter on duty that day could be identified from the taste of the bread he produced.
Working up the perfect dough, Richard encouraged us to stick to the recipe and went on to explain: Decoupage, Passage en Tête, Etirage and Soufflage, the act of getting air into the dough. We were encouraged to rock backwards and forwards as we kneaded, “if you are stiff then the dough will be stiff” we were reminded. This one I wasn't buying because no matter how 'stiff-less' I tried to be, I was not producing the same effortless motion that resulted in a silky and well behaved dough.

Richard is certainly a master of his trade.
If I were to sum up the evening in three succinct points they would be these:
1. Keep the top of the dough separate from the bottom of the dough – a nice way to explain that the wet kneading process we were using should produce a dough with a clear and separate silky top layer
2. I now, have a flexible, plastic scraper which I if can’t improve as a dough-dancer, I can use to get ice off the windscreen over the coming winter months
3. As Richard said, a bit of [Lurpak Slow Churned] butter and some bread is the best thing in life.
Spiced Christmas Tea Buns 

Working time: 45 minutes
Resting time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Baking time: 15 – 20 minutes

Makes 10 large (110g) or 20 small (55g) buns


10g sea salt (1 tsp)
480g strong bread flour
20g dark rye flour
20g fresh yeast (or 2tsp dried yeast)
1 tablespoon of good quality honey
200g milk at room temperature
100g Lurpak® unsalted butter
3 eggs (2 for the recipe and 1 for the egg wash)
100g walnuts
200g dried cranberries
70g caster sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
Pinch of ground cinnamon
2 pods cardamom crushed
Pinch of salt for the egg wash
Lurpak® Slow Churned butter (for serving)


Pre-heat your oven to 180°C

Place the rye flour and 230g of the bread flour into a bowl. Crumble in the yeast. Add the honey and the milk and mix to a thick batter. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Add the remaining flour, two of the eggs and the butter and work the dough by stretching it and folding it over onto itself for about 10 minutes until soft and supple. Do not add flour or oil to the work surface as it will alter the recipe quantities and the quality of the finished buns.

Crush the walnuts and mix into the dough with the cranberries, sugar and spices. Rest for about one hour until the dough has doubled in volume.

Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Mould into balls, and place onto a baking tray. Prove for one hour until the buns have risen to nearly double the size. Beat the remaining egg in a cup with a pinch of salt. Brush over the top of the buns. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

To serve, cut the tea buns in half. Toast and generously spread with Lurpak® Slow Churned butter.

The last of the Autumn Rhubarb : Rhubarb Meringue Tarte

That's it for this year. It is time to bid farewell to rhubarb. We will have to wait for its return in early spring with the arrival of forced rhubarb. However not all is lost....yet.
The last of this year's rhubarb can be found in supermarket and moreover in allotments' shops. As plants has to be cut to the ground and divided now. So beg, plead and grab what ever you can, because the following recipe is a melt in the mouth experience. It's a bit like eating clouds

Rhubarb Meringue Tarte
Rhubarb  Meringue Tarte

Below is the original recipe from a set of French cooking cards which have I had forever, When I made it I halved the sugar content and it was to my taste, the trick is to start with as much sugar you think is right and taste the compote along the way adjusting accordingly. 

Ready made puff pastry
1.5kg rhubarb peeled and chopped roughly in 1 to 2 cm long pieces
500g sugar

4 egg whites (use one egg yolk to brush on pastry)
200g sugar
50g sliced almonds
icing sugar


Transfer the rhubarb chunks into a bowl and cover with sugar (start with what you think is right from 250g to 500g). Leave it until the sugar is wet from the rhubarb juice.

Pour into a saucepan and cook until boiling point, reduce the heat, cook further until the compote is thick and brown (add sugar if needed)

In the meantime, roll out the puff pastry, line a pie or tarte tin with it and bake blind using baking beans or alternative.

Soggy Bottom: a quick word about the subject. This is not a myth and you will end up with a soggy bottom tarte if the pastry is not cooked thoroughly

Get the tarte out and crank up the oven to the max.
beat the egg white until firm and add the sugar, here I changed the 200g sugar for 2 tablespoons
Place the compote on the top of the pastry cover with the egg whites, sprinkle the almonds on the top and return to the oven until the meringue starts to colour.
Serve warm or cold.

Tassimo : A Review

From a coffee culture to another. A different kind of coffee ceremony, this time enhanced by a barcode system: coffee, cocoa or tea brewed by Tassimo Fidelia T40, a name reminiscent of a Star Wars robot, here applied to a new (to Pebble Soup) coffee machine.

The "old" espresso machine is a stylish chrome plated joby, the ultimate Italian "bang-bang". Coffee has to be compressed, handle firmly wedged in, gorgeous to look at but not very clever.

So it's going to be replaced by easy to use Fidelia. When I say easy to use, there are some basics to grasps and I made a video to illustrate as I struggled a little.


Nutrition content: take cappucino drink at 3.5g fat, 60cal and 3g sugar, it's less than most commercial brands.

Without being the Italian job, Fidelia T40 looks good and is very compact.

The range of brew is ....vast. Even tea is on the menu.

Good price (£119) compared to other machines.


The pods are on average £4.00 for 8 which tots up really quickly.

It's a single use which of course can be repeat therefore perfect if you are on you own or at the office but you'd be stretched if there were two of you; I can't see how you would make a party of 4 their brew without spending 1/4h doing so.

The quality of the brew is constant but has a definite commercial taste to it.

Ingredients in certain pods: added sugar and transfat.


I can see why people swear by "clever" coffee machines: it's easy, it's fast, it's clean the drinks have a constant quality to them and that is without mentioning their variety.

Personally, I miss the quirkiness of mechanical apparatus, the freedom of choosing more than a couple of brands and the long term cost means that I might not use it as often as I could.

This post is in association with Argos.

Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Bad things happen. To people, to countries, they just happen. It's how we handle them that matters. From as far as I remember, my way to cope has been to immersed myself in books. “We are all refugees from our childhoods. So we turn, among other things, to stories.” Stories feed my dreams. They do much more than that but it's the dreams that are floating around me which give me hope.
Hope, to catch a dream and to make it real. I honestly can't remember in which heroic account, I first read about the source of the Nile. I was very young, the journey was full of perils but the hero got the mighty waterfall and so would I one day.

The irony is that when we landed in Ethiopia, I hadn't realised that it was the land where the blue Nile takes its source. Like the heros in the book, we went on a "bumpy" journey. We got conned and it marred the experience. It rained heavily on us and the tiny ferry across the river was far from safe.
And when we got there, we sat in a little hut and he had coffee.
Coffee is Ethiopia main export and Ethiopia is assumed to be its birthplace. It partly drives the Ethiopian economy up but it's also at the core of Ethiopian hospitality. The coffee ceremony may be a grand word for the slow ritual of making and drinking coffee.
The green coffee beans are first washed then roasted over a brazier. Once the roasting is done, the smoke is gently waved by the hostess towards the guests for them to inhale.

 The beans are then ground in a wooden mortar to a thin powder which is placed in long necked boiling pot, placed on the fire once more and when the coffee boils so that overflows pushing the cork seating at the top of the long neck, it is time for the hostess to pour a small cup of very dark and smooth coffee.
The coffee he drank at the source of the blue Nile was without ceremony, it was and tasted rustic, looked more like mud than the delicious brew served in urban centers all over Ethiopia and we hoped that the water had been boiled enough. However, in my mind Ethiopian coffee ceremonies will forever remain associated with a precious moment when one of my many dreams came true.


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