Happy New Year

You have made this year very special, Pebble Soup is going from strength to strength thanks to you. I wish you a fabulous 2014. Until then, here are your favourite recipes from 2013.

Cassoulet - 21st Century Version-

Observing people cook, is as much a pleasure as doing the deed; When it comes to traditional dishes such as Cassoulet, observation can be very entertaining.
Cassoulet is a slow cooked dish from the South-West of France. So far so good. The recipe comes from a time when the majority of people didn't have our financial means but clearly had more time on their hands. A cassoulet is a slow cooked dish which requires a couple of days of preparation. 
Cassoulet contains Mogettes which are white beans from area, Toulouse sausages, duck confit in goose grease because that is the way locals used to preserve and cook their meat  and very fatty pieces of pork which in these days, fat was not such a dietary issue since nobody was seating in front of a screen for part of their day.

Well, we, that is you and me, are not going to ban our screen in favour of cooking all day, in a hurry. We know where we stand and we are not going to pretend. I am sure we can make a  very good cassoulet, using the best of other people's recipe. After all every single "traditional" cassoulet cook will swear on their mother's grave that they hone the correct way of cooking this traditional dish.

Let's start with the time issue, soaking the beans and cooking changing the water several time is not an option, so here we will apply Simon's quick cassoulet technique. He makes his in 10 minutes.

Toulouse sausages are not easy to find, north of Brittany. But Pat came to the rescue she sworn blank that Morteau sausages should be used in cassoulet. Morteau is about as close to Toulouse as we, in London, are from Germany. However she has got a point, if the sausages are smoked the dish gains an extra dimension. 
One thing which can't be bypassed is the goose fat, the duck and/or the pork browned in it will be crispy adding an extra texture.
At Pebble Soup HQ, our secret for best cassoulet is the cooking vessel, an earthenware dish bearing a small resemblance to a Cassoul, the dish which gave the cassoulet its name.
And the chapelure: fresh bread crumbs sprinkled over the dish so as it cooks slowly the crumbs absorb the juice, thickening the dish in the process.
There you have it, not as Henry IV intended it but a wonderful casserole which many can enjoy until we all take a trip to Toulouse to taste the real thing (or is it still?).

Cassoulet -Version 21st Century-
2 cans cannellini beans
110g fresh bread crumbs
2 bay leaves
a couple of sprig of thyme
black pepper
3 cloves garlic finely cut
a good dose of tomato puree (about 2 tbsp)
600ml boiling water
goose fat
1 smoked sausage per person
1 duck leg per person or 1 goose leg for 2
300g pork belly or pancetta
You don't have to use all the meat 2 out of three will do

  • Whisk the tomato puree in hot water add the herbs and reserve
  • On an oven tray, grill the sausage and the pork until they get a nice colour, reserve them with their juices
  • Melt a little goose fat and brown the poultry legs with garlic
    to assemble the cassoulet, take an oven dish with  lid, preferably earthenware, pour in one can of beans (minus the water), season
  • Add the browned meat on the top season again another layer of beans
  • pour the tomato bouillon on the top 
 Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 2/3,160°C
  • Cook for 90 minutes
  • take the lid off springle the breadcumbs on the top bump the heat a little to 200 cook for another 30 minutes or until the crumbs are golden brown and have soaked up some of the juice.

For more of the same but different have a look at
Toulouse Pork and Beans as cooked by As Strong as Soup
Camp Cassoulet by David Lebovitz

Pairing Wine & Desserts at Christmas

Let's travel back in time, casting out mind to July when most retailers promote their Christmas goodies. This year as always Waitrose had an impressive display, desserts and starters leading the way.

Concentrating on desserts, beside the amazing Ice-cream logs and by the way, Ice-cream seems to be the trend this year, 

 There are fun biscuits for people like me who can't bake a biscuits but like to pretend they do.

The eternal cupcakes have also made a grand apparition on the Christmas table

Of course Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a cake and/or a pudding

The major difficulty with dessert is to match them with the wine, an art which we don't all possess. So Waitrose has produced an infographic which is going to help no end.

Disclaimer : I was commissioned this post by Waitrose, all words are my own and I was not ask to write a positive review

Pork Burger with Blue Cheese & Caramelised Pears

Burger with Gongorzola - recipe-

It's a strange feeling to realise that an inanimate object has been following you for a little while. I am not referring to a chair shadowing you in the street, stopping when you do or running along for the bus, that would be really bizarre. I am referring to "things" virtually popping up at different stages of your life, "things" insisting on being noticed when you don't feel much association with them.

Prork and cheese recipe

When we were in Costa-Rica, we got stranded in a small town where all hotels were closed, buses to anywhere had long departed and darkness was closing in. We walked along the edge of a primitive forest, hoping to find somewhere to stay. There was a camp but it was closed. Banging on the door, we raised Sarah, the manageress who reluctantly offered us a room.
That night, I sat watching her partner preparing and barbequing blue burgers, listening to his life story of digging ancient artefacts, seducing beautiful women, while He walk back through the forest with Sarah looking for her lost kitten and some beer.
I stored the episode in my travel memories treasure box until I came across my first editor, Sally, who blog on Pinch my Salt. She once ran a piece on "Blue Cheese Burger", the recipe reminded me so much of the "midnight" burger that I left a comment.
6 years later, I still get regular follow-up comments. Now this is an achievement, to get comments for so long.  The blue burger recipe should have died by now instead it was attracting my attention every now and then
So when I got a press invitation to spend an evening cooking with Gorgonzola which included making succulent Gorgonzola burgers, I decided to face my stalker, and once more sink my teeth in it.
but first some Gorgonzola facts:
  • Gorgonzola originates from the north of Italy
  • It's a white cheese with greenish streaks from a process called erborinatura". It's creamy with a slight tang. Gorgonzola picante is more blue veined and crumbly.
  • It was given a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status in 1996.
  • It's recognised with the "G" mark embossed on the foil

Pork Burger with Blue Cheese and Caramelised Pears
recipe reproduced with permission
Pork burger with cheese recipe

For the meat
1kg Pork mince
10g Maldon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Shallots
2 garlic cloves
10 leaf of sage
100g bread crumbs
Cayenne pepper to taste

For the garnish
2 whole pears
200g caster sugar
100cl water
1 whole red chili
2 stars anise
200g gorgonzola
6 brioches

For the burger mix Peel and finely chop the garlic and shallot. Discard the stalk from the sage and finely chop the leaves. Add all of these ingredients to the pork mince along with the salt and pepper.

In a bowl whisk together the breadcrumbs and water. Add to the pork mince. Mix well in the bowl, seperate a little patty ready for testing so you can check the flavour and seasoning of your burger mix.
When ready divide the mix into 12 and shape into a nice patty. Heat a pan on to a medium heat and fry on 1 side for 1 minute. After a minute one side of the mini burger will be golden brown, turn over and colour for a further 30 seconds before covering with a lid, at this point turn the heat down and leave covered for 2 minutes. Take the lid off, turn the burger over again and place a slice of Gorgonzola on top. Cover again and continue to cook for a further minute. This will allow the cheese to begin to melt. Serve straight away in your mini brioche buns

For the garnish

Peel the pears. Slice the chilli in half lengthways.
Place the pears into a deep pan with the chilli, star anise and sugar and water. Cover with a cartouche. Poach on a medium heat heat for an hour or two, depending on the ripeness of the pears. When cooked remove from the heat and allow to cool in the liquer.
When ready slice the pears and remove the core. Fry in a pan with a little olive oil and use a garnish inside your burger.

top photo reproduced with permission Credit to Anthony Charlton from In-Press Photography

The Rivington Grill in Greenwich SE10 - Restaurant review-

The Rivington Grill Review

First impressions, the first 30 seconds when you form an opinion which will leave its mark for ever. When The Rivington Grill opened in Greenwich, over a decade ago, we made use of our Cinema membership card to eat. Unusual? not so, follow me.....

....to Greenwich center. Next to the Picture House is  The Rivington Grill, dark blue awnings, terrace outside. Let's go in: perfectly acceptable decor, high ceilings, white walls, white table cloths, wooden floor. On the first visit, I remember coming out thinking "thanks resto-gods for the discount". Definitely not the right first impression, time past, we never went back, until.....but let's have a little bit of background first.

If Greenwich is flushed with places to eat, they are not all worth writing about, moreover not many cater for a special meal, you know "the something which offers a little more than....". So when the time came to review locally, my attention turned to the Rivington again.

When we walked in the Rivington Grill for the second time, my first thought was "Wow, the Rivington Grill has entered its teens and is screaming "look at me"". Same non descript, perfectly fine environment but it felt cosier with its burnt sienna sofas which contrast with the brightest of artworks by Cheryl Field. I liked the new feel straight away.

The hush-hush atmosphere I remembered, had been replaced by a happy buzz. The Rivington is pulling off something difficult, an open space with distinct areas for different purposes, living in harmony.

A bar where punters can enjoy "quick food from the menu" or a cocktail (£8.00) and a snack or a gin from their extensive list and a bite, Olives or Crispy Pig Ears (see what I mean about unconventional) among other bar snacks.
The rest of the place including the Mezzanine is devoted to tables, single or two on the edge and family size in the middle. At the Rivington kids eat for free. On the subject of offers on Mondays you can bring your own wine (£5.00 corkage).

A waitress shown us to the table. Now, I am going to pause  on image for a minute. The front of the house is, in my opinion, the Rivington Grill's biggest asset. Waiting staff were perfect, so nice that I wanted to take them home.
Forward to the food, the menu offers a range as varied as the nature of the dinners: Battered Haddock and Mushy peas (£15.50), Burger and Chips (£10.00) along with some really strong combinations such as my Wild rabbit, mushrooms, black pudding, green beans, poached egg (£6.25).           
Ingredients are all British and local whenever possible:  sausages from Heap's, the chorizo is from Monmouthshire. The menu is bit like a geography lesson, there is more on their website under Local Legends.

As always, it was a delight to see rabbit on the menu and chose it as starter, it was nice. He was very happy with Creamed smoked haddock, poached Burford brown egg (£6.50). The sommelier had chosen a bottle of Bavodolino for us, an excellent all rounder. We decided that there was a chef in the kitchen and started to relax, soaked in the atmosphere and enjoy our time.
No lull on the service, perfectly on cue, with a smile, came the ever so friendly waitress and the mains: Snowdonian Lamb Shank, Parsnip mash, Rosemary (£17.25), a good dish which let me down a little by its under-seasoning and  the parsnip mash being very strong, in fact vegetables are not best but he loved his Newlyn cod, Butter Beans, Monmouthshire chorizo (14.75).

Our 3 course meal with dessert and coffee came to £113, not cheap but certainly not outrageous for the quality of ingredients, the variety of dishes offered by a head chef's with a solid direction and of course the engaging service.
A good mid-range provision, a difficult slot in the best of cases, we will be back hopefully before the Rivington reaches its middle life crisis.

Rivington Grill
178 Greenwich High Road,
SE10 8NN
020 8293 9270.

Rivington Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Disclaimer: We were guest of the Rivington Grill and thank all who made this review possible.

How to Make Brioche

Some articles are so enjoyable to write that it's hard not to share them on Pebble Soup even though they were published else-place. It's the case for
a piece I wrote for Great British Chefs : How to make brioche

If you would like to read more about the day we made brioches and how it went terribly wrong for Emma as in Cakes, Bakes & Cookies click here

What's New in the Kitchen #6

Though the official Xmas count-down has started, What is New in Pebble Soup's Kitchen has yet to put festive bubbles on. Here we are still doing a bit of catch up.

First with the Birds Eye Tracker

When it comes to peas, frozen is the answer. Birds Eye petit pois are absolutely delicious.  Now why would Birds Eye invest in a peas tracker remains a mystery. It works like so: Each pack has a number, by keying the digits in, you're able to know where very roughly your peas are from. If you ask me that is marketing gone mad but still it's very good to know that it takes only 2.5h from Field to Freezer and that possibly explains why they are the best

Next time you are in the vicinity of Harvey & Nichols, go in and stock up on Awani Jams. They'll make the most wonderful presents, all wrapped up the Balinese way, in a checked handkerchief. Each jar is handmade, a whole village works in the farm-kitchen, fruits are native from Indonesia and the taste is just fantastic. Plus, where would you find jams such as mango, pineapple, pink guava and tamarillo,  lime and Balinese tangerine marmalades?
This is my top choice this month, one to remember and by the way, my favourite was Pink Guava, a usual jam with its slightly gritty texture and aroma like no other.
Exclusively at Harvey Nichols Foodmarkets nationwide priced at £6.95 (225g)
Giovanni Rana's new range of (very) large ravioli is available in a distinctive paper bag. The egg pasta is thin and yummy. At the taste test, we found that as for most commercial ravioli, if you don't know what the content is, there is very little chance that you'll recognise it just by eating. It doesn't take anything away from the quality. We tried Chicken, Rosemary Ravioli and Crumbly Ricotta, Shredded Baby Spinach, Mascarpone and found them very convenient, well prepared, as in none of them split in the water. A quick and easy evening meal.
RRP: £2.49

Friends love me working with Haagen-Dazs and a new flavour is always exciting. In my opinion what HD does best is vanilla ice-cream. The latest is a festive Marc de Champagne sauce swirl and chocolate truffle pieces added to a Vanilla base. So far it has gone down very well in the taste-test. Of course, it's nice on its own but it will also go very well on the top of Xmas pudding. 
Marc de Champagne truffle is on sale for a limited time. 
The new ice cream has an RRP of £4.99. Available in Pint.

Disclaimer: I received samples to taste for this series, all the words are mine and I was not asked to write positive reviews.



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