Piri-Piri Chicken with Bart's Spice Blend

Centuries back the spice trade was one of the most financially rewarding of all businesses. Countries fought to secure routes which led to spices. In these days Portugal was a powerful nation whose empire span three continents. Chilli, coriander, cumin, all the flavours we take for granted were then newly discovered. 
In Lisbon, the period starting in the 15th century with the creation of trade posts in Africa and which reached its peak hundred years later with the discovery of Brazil by Vasco de Gama is commemorated by a tall momunent.
Shaped like a caravel with on board all the men who contributed to the country's expansion, the monument of discoveries stands proud over a map of the world as it used to be then. Fortunes were made, lives were lost and European cuisine would never taste the same.
So spices had started their voyages too, take piri-piri, a small chilli pepper brought back from the Americas on Columbus' voyage made its way to the Portuguese colonies in Africa and later on, to Goa.

Chicken Piri-Piri, a dish we know as a Portuguese recipe didn't originate from Portugal, nor is it only piri-piri chillies, like with curry (the spice), it's a blend. Now, blends are a bit tricky as they very much depend on the person blending.

Luckily, at Pebble Soup HQ we like spices so much that we were generously offered the new range of Bart's blends "Journeys of discovery" which starts with Portugal and piri-piri. It's a dry rub which contains a blend of hot chillies and Paprika, Red Bell Pepper, Garlic, Lemon Peel, cumin and coriander.

Chicken Piri-Piri. The recipe It doesn't get easier than that.
rub the blend on chicken legs, left the dish to marinate for a couple of hours, drizzled a little oil before baking in the oven for 30 minutes with a little bit of water for the legs not to catch.

When in Lisbon don't to miss PASTEIS DE BELEM (Rua de Belém, 84-92)  it might be a cliché but there is good reason why: there custard pies are out of this world.

Next stop Tunisia and Harissa, however before we get there, Pebble Soup is going to be much more spicy, next month.... 

Osteria dell'Angolo - Restaurant Review -

What are the signs of fine dining restaurant?
Thick table clothes (preferably whiter than white), complementary amuse-bouche to heighten a sense of hospitality and one which never fail to prove that you are about to dine in a fancy establishment is, a waiter with a crumb knife.

Osteria Dell'Angolo displays them all, you know as soon as you enter the dining rooms that this is going to be an Italian experience with a difference.

Prior to our visit, I was told that "this spring, Osteria Dell'Angolo's Head Chef, Maximiliano Vezzi, had put his Neapolitan enthusiasm into a brand new menu".

Amuse bouche: Fried pizza dough balls, Osteria Dell'Angolo
Amuse bouche: Fried pizza dough balls
I am not familiar with Italian food south of Rome and even then, the little I know of Roman food dates back to my early 20s when I decided to travel to every single place of worship during their biggest religious festivals.

I wanted  to make sure that I had a comprehensive picture, so that I could put the matter of the existence of god to rest and live the rest of my life as a fundamentalist atheist. I started with Rome at Easter. I do not remember any culinary experience but I do remember wondering, "What what is  all the fuss about?."
Listening carefully to the solicitous waiter's explanations, my attention was caught by the magic words "Italian speciality" followed by Steak Tartare.
Hmmm, who would have thought?

Steak Tartare is usually associated with Paris. Italian Steak Tartare made as much sense as being on St Peter's square at Easter. But since raw meat is a popular delicacy in many countries, why not?.

When the slate arrived, Tartare had no egg which obviously is the "Italian way," served just with pepper, salt, Parmesan shavings and olive oil to enhance the taste of the beef.

Italian or French if a restaurant serves steak tartare, it has to be the finest of beef and so it was. Absolutely delicious.

He might have been thinking along the same lines, as he chose to go regional with one of the new signature dishes, Scialatielli from Sorrento with fresh crab meat and grilled courgettes as a main course.

Scialatielli from Sorrento with fresh crab meat and grilled courgettes
Scialatielli is, "A speciality from the Neapolitan coast, this is a type of short tagliatelle simply made with high quality flour, water and salt, once only served at special celebrations." The combination was truly delicious which is high praise from someone who doesn't eat sea-food.

It was now obvious why this restaurant had been voted TopTable "best restaurant" recently. More over many of the ingredients used are cerfied as DOP that includes Parma Ham, Pienza's Black Pecorino and an extra sign of quality, artisan breads freshly baked: focaccia, grissini....

Selection of Italian cured meat with mix olives from Apulia

Cooking with squid ink is popular in latin countries, among the treasured dishes of Italy served here Black-ink Tagliolini with “Cornish” squid and cherry tomatoes was my main course choice.

This plate has all the aroma associated with the Mediterranean, close your eyes and you could almost feel the spray from the sea, well...almost. It may have been help by the other customers who were on that night all Italian, greatly adding authenticity to our meal.

Starters are priced between £9 and £12 and pasta dishes don't exceed £13 and other fish and meat mains ranging between £16 and £25, all somewhat reasonable for a restaurant in the heart of Westminster. ‘Prix Fixe’ set menu at £16.50 for two courses or £21.00 for three courses is served at lunchtime and à la carte menu is available for both lunch and dinner’.
The wine list is a different matter, we spotted a “Masseto”, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, 2000 at £800.00 having said this, A bottle of Borgo Selene, Villa Tonino from Sicily costs £19.50. Our waiter recommanded a Pinot Grigio“Russiz Superiore”, Marco Felluga, Friuli 2010/11 priced at £57.00. "Friuli-Venezia Giulia's reputation as a wine region essentially depends on a select group of quality-conscious, small-scale winemakers – large-scale production is not on the agenda here." And the quality was obvious.

I probably wouldn't have choosen to walk in the Osteria Dell' Angolo and I would be wrong. He should not have order the chocolate mousse, that's better made the "French way" on the other hand in France expresso is rubbish compared.
The Osteria Dell'Angolo with its political elite customers doesn't need Pebble Soup's approval but judged on our experience that evening I would gladly give it and even go as far as booking a trip south of Rome to taste more contemporary Neapolitan dishes.
In short:
Service was spot on. 
Top quality ingredients shone through dishes expertly executed.
Our choice of dishes was good value for money
Wine list is superb but tend to be expensive.
The clientele was entertaining and there was certainly a lot of good natured atmosphere.
Our thanks to the Osteria Dell'Angolo where we were guests for the evening, I wasn't asked to write a positive review, all opinions in this review are strictly mine. 
Address: 47 Marsham St, London
Phone:020 3268 1077

Nutella Cake - the quick and easy version -

Last minute Easter panic, it's time for Nutella Cake. There are two ways to bake such a cake and it's a matter of time on your hands. Both cakes are equally delicious, one will be sort of gooey as the other will tend to be soft and melt in the mouth.

                        thank you to Oceane Mathieu for her picture

Version 1 is a sponge cake to which Nutella is added, that the version which will take longer doing.

Whereas Version 2 requires only a few ingredients therefore little work and less chances to get it wrong.
Nutella cake - the quick and easy version -

6 large eggs -separated-
pinch of salt
125 grams soft unsalted butter
400 grams Nutella (1 large jar)
Top with Ganache and 50g toasted Hazelnuts 

Preheat the oven to medium setting 180C/gas4
Get the eggs out of the fridge and leave them to stand at room temperature 

While you melt the butter gently in a saucepan then
Beat the nutella and the cooled butter until perfectly integrated, that can be done in a large bowl with a whisk or fork

Then in a food processor with the eggwhite attachment beat the egg whites till you get thick snowy mix (a pinch of salt can be added, I don't, never seen the point but I am sure there is one)

Line or grease a round cake tin with loose bottom.

Incorporate the egg whites gently to the nutella mixture, little at the time.

Pour in the cake tin and bake for 40 minutes and leave to cool on a rack.

When cold, Top with Ganache and decorate with toasted Hazelnuts.


Ploughman with Maple Caramelised Onion Mini Quiches

Can't think of any english sound more difficult to pronounce than "ough". It's a nightmare.
"Through" sounds like "flew", "cough" like "off", "though" like "so" and what about "plough" why should it sound the way it does? For years, a group of us met at The Plough and for years, the jokes were on me. There would be all sort of references and invitations for me to say the name of the pub which I kept pronouncing "The Ploof".
For my defence, I had no reason to know how to pronounce that word, one doesn't use a ploof in suburbia. Of course when it came to order a "ploofman" so called friends chuckled in their beers. Eventually, I worked it out and The Plough never saw my custom again.
quiche, ploughman, maple caramelised onions.

A couple of weeks back, Sue bought a wonderful food parcel back from Canada. It contained a jar of "Maple Caramelised Onions" which yesterday became a dinner saver. Shortcrust pastry, a spoon of the wonder jar, covered with guiche filling (egg + cream) and topped with grated cheddar, this is a must try recipe, Ploughman made into a quiche. My little revenge on The Ploofman and it was delicious cold too.
Camilla Stephens' Cheddar Ploughman Tartlets, seen in Higgidy Cookbook were the inspiration.
 Ploughman Mini Quiches
Makes 4
Preheat oven 190C/fan 170C/gas mark 5
1/2 pack of Shortcrust pastry (bought commercially)
1 onion finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of maple syrup
1/2 spoon of balsamic vinegar
1 egg
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
salt and pepper
60g mature cheddar grated
3 cherry tomatoes (optional)
To caramalise the onion
in a small saucepan
heat the oil
add the onion (2 is small)
leave it to soften and when it's translucid add the syrup and the vinegar (make sure the heat is low)
cook 5 minutes to coat the onion. have water ready on the side in case onion catches
For the quiches' egg mixture
in a bowl beat 1 egg and 2 tablespoon of creme fraiche (thick cream is required), season well.

Assembling and Baking
Use single tartlets tins.and a bowl larger that each shape to cut out the pastry
Roll the pastry out as thin as you can 0.5cm
cut 4 shapes
place the circles in the tins and layer thinly with onion, add the cream mixture, then the cheddar and top with half a cherry tomato
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes
Serve hot or cold

As I want a maximum people to know about this new recipe, I've shared it with

Salmon Verrine with Dill & Lime Mustard and Fennel Mousse, A Maille Culinary Challenge

Salmon Verrine with Dill and Lime Mustard and Fennel Mousse, A Maille Culinary Challenge

Here is an experiment for you: take a French person, preferably over 12, look at this person and say the magic words, "moutarde Maille". Without fail your person will reply "Il n'y a que Maille qui m'aille". Very few brands have managed to hypnotise a whole nation with a motto.

La maison Maille created by Antoine Maille in 1747 did. Soon after he'd opened its first shop in Paris, Maille became King Louis XV's official supplier of vinegar and mustard.

267 years later, Maille opens its first shop abroad (Picadilly, London) and launches a new "collection", subtil flavours favoured by Louis XV's entourage (that's Mme de Pompadour) aptly name Le Potager du Roy.

Why am I giving you an history lesson? because the other day, I got an email from the company asking if I wanted to take up a recipe challenge. The idea is to incorporate product(s) from their exclusive online boutique and creating a unique recipe. 
French mustard can be rather strong compared to its sweet mild counterpart, here I chose to work with Moutarde Aneth et Citron Vert a zingy, fresh tasting condiment, picked for its medium strengh.
To get the taste of the mustard through the dish, the recipe needed to be delicately balanced. To complement Aneth (Dill), I chose salmon and salmon chose fennel, which in my opinion was a good choice as the fennel mousse ended up being of a very similar colour to the aneth and lime mustard. 

The slightly coarse texture of the salmon and finely chopped shallot contrasted perfectly with the silkiness of the fennel mousse. All the flavours could be picked up individually and married ever so well. As you can see, I am very proud of my recipe and will do it again, though next time, I'll used butter on the top rather than gelatine and will serve it with asparagus topped with Dijonnaise.

This verrine, in spite of its long title is extremely simple and fast to make, it will serve four and could be set in individual glasses or in a terrine.

 Salmon Verrine with Dill and Lime Mustard and Fennel Mousse

10 min. cooking time, assemblage time 10 min.
Serves 4.

20 g butter (+ 5g to use to cover the verrine)
160 g salmon fillets
1 fennel chopped in slices (keep the leaves for decoration)
1 lemon cut in half & reserve 1 slice for decoration
1 shallot finely sliced
3 tsp Maille Mustard - Aneth and Citron
3 heaped tbsp of creme fraiche (alternatively use 100g of cream cheese)
milk (might be necessary if the mixture is too thick)
Salt and pepper to season to taste
5g butter or 1/2 leaf gelatine to seal

  1. Add 10 gr butter to a skillet and pan fry salmon fillets both side for a total of 6 minutes, it could still be slightly pink in the middle. 
          Note : When using frozen salmon make sure it's well cooked (not pink in the middle) cooking time might be slightly longer.

    2. In the meantime, gently melt 10g of butter in a saucepan and add the chopped fennel, squeeze lemon lightly over the top (the equivalent of 2tbs), cover and leave fennel to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the fennel is very soft. Turn heat of and leave to cool until it's needed

           Note :There is no need to season at this stage.

     3. While this is doing chop the shallot as finely as you can.

     4. When the salmon is cooked, take off the hob and let it cool for a few minutes. Skin the fillet(s) and place them with the juices in a small food processor.
     5.Season and add 3 heaped tablespoons of creme fraiche.

     6. Process, it's done when it reaches a firm and smooth consistency with very little pieces of salmon. If the mixture turns into a thick ball add a little milk.

      7. Put the mixture in a bowl, add 3 teaspoons of Aneth and Lime Mustard and  the finely chopped shallot, mix well with a fork.

      8. Rinse the equipment clean and process the fennel until it gets smooth, season generously and mix a little more.

Choose a serving dish, either a tumbler glass or four small glasses or a terrine dish, layer half the salmon first, press as much as you can to get the air out, then spread out the whole of the fennel mixture, press to get the air bubbles out, top with the rest of the salmon, press again.

If you use butter to seal, melt 5g of butter, leave it to cool slightly and pour on the top, decorate with fennel leaves and a slice of lemon, if you use gelatine, melt 1/2 leaf according to the instruction and proceed the same way as with butter.

Store in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour, verrines can be prepared several hours in advance or even the day before. Serve with toasts.

Disclaimer: thank you to Maille for sending me Aneth et Citron vert Mustard in order to create the recipe.

How to Taste Olive Oil

In January, The NY Times published an infographic put together by illustrator Nicholas Belcham. Its title? Extra Virgin Suicide: the Alduration of Italian Olive Oil.

It's a great  visual piece detailing the not so Italian olive oil food chain. We learn that much Italian Olive Oil doesn't come from Italy but from countries like Spain, Tunisia and Morocco and it's only the start, it gets much much worse. I leave you to have a look at it,
A couple of months later, in sunny Greenwich, I received a couple of tiny samples of Greek olive oil to raise awareness of D.O.P (Protected Designation of Origin) a label connected with a specific geographical area that define the quality, taste and other singular characteristics of a product.
Cause to effect, may be not and let's not be cynical but if I were in the very lucrative olive oil business or liquid gold, as a mate of mine, himself a producer, calls it, I would definitely get worried about the bad press on the subject .
A point of interest in the infographic was that "to combat the fraud, the Italian Carabinieri relied on smell as lab test can be easily faked". Which brings us neatly to how to do a bit of Olive Oil tasting which was the subject of a previous post: Know Your Olive Oils.
 But in short, here is how to taste olive oil:

First place 15-20ml of oil in a small glass
Cut your hands around to glass to warm the liquid
Smell. Good olive oil should have a pleasant aroma
Then take on a piece of white bread and dip it in the oil, you should detect spiciness and fruitiness

"Spiciness is a peppery sensation at the back of the throat and a slight "burning"on the throat"

"Fuitiness is a sensation of freshly cut olive fruits and leaves when smelling the oil" there will also be a bit of bitterness

Tasting olive oil neat, without the bread is a revelation, only use a minute quantity, less than a teaspoon. I would be rather curious to know how it went, leave me a comment.

disclaimer: some of the tasting notes are from Olive Oil World a current, generic ,campaign to raise awarness about olive oil, some are from my own experience.



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