Beetroot & Chocolate Muffins

There is little doubt that chipping in to help at the Queen's Orchard, a 17th century wall garden, a favourite in Greenwich Park, has changed my approach vegetables.

And, I bring home a small collection of fresh veggies which I scrubbed lovingly and pay special attention to when it comes to cooking them. Beetroots were a challenge, there are so many salads, cold soups and pasta/beetroot dish one can muster.
I particularly enjoy beetroot used as the "hidden ingredient".  In this recipe the flavour disappears behind the chocolate but it gives the texture shine and moisture like no other ingredients.  Gorgeous.

Beetroot and Chocolate Muffin
Makes 6
the recipe recommended cocoa powder but I used 40g drinking chocolate powder. If you use cocoa powder increase the sugar.
90g plain flour,
2 teaspoons baking powder,
100g golden caster sugar,
200g peeled and diced cooked beetroot, has to be fresh beetroot, no beetroot in vinegar
2 large beaten eggs
100ml corn oil
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract (optional)
icing sugar for dusting (optional) 
Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade/gas 5
Sieve all flour, baking powder in a bowl and add sugar
Whisk beetroot, eggs in a food processor until smooth
Add the beetroot mixture, oil, vanilla (if using) to the flour mixture
Mix well.
Prepare muffin tray: place paper case in each hole
Pour equal mixture in each
Bake in oven for 25 minutes. After 20 minutes check with a knife if ready


It's the end of August, let's all try very hard to hang on to the summer feeling, don't bring the stews just yet, let's have something sunny, one more time. What about une pissaladière?

Pissaladières originate from Nice; the base of the dish is a bread dough, slightly thicker than a pizza. It derives its name from piscis (fish). 
It is a caramelised onion tart with anchovies and olives topping, usually eaten cold with a pre-dinner drink (un aperitif). Add a few kids giggling at the mention of the name, a sprinkle of the sea-spray and the trick is done. It's summer again.
Things to know before starting: 
  • To serve, it is recommended to cut a Pissaladière into rectangular pieces rather than wedges.
  • To caramelise the onions thoroughly will take at least a couple of hours. Don't worry if they burn a little, it's part of the flavour.
  • All the elements can be prepared in advance, even the night before.
  • Do wash the anchovies as directed in the recipe as otherwise the pissaladiere will be far too salted. Here white large onions are recommended however yellow ones will be work too.
1kg of large white onions
1/2 bunch of thyme, washed and picked 
salt black pepper
extra virgin olive oil, for frying 
50g of anchovy fillet, salted
50g of black olives, pitted, kept in brine
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil 
2g of dried yeast
120ml of warm water
250g of plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp of salt 
1. To begin the pissaladière, start with the topping. Peel, cut in half and slice the onions roughly.
2. In a large pan, drop in some olive oil and then add the onions and thyme Caramelising onions An alternate way of caramelising onions is by cooking them in a pressure cooker for 45 minutes, then draining the water and gently caramelising the onions in a pan
3. Cook the onions on a very gentle heat until all of the water evaporates and the onions caramelise and turn a golden colour - this could take up to 3 hours. Be very careful as the onions tend to stick to the pan when the water has evaporated
4. When the onions have caramelised, season with salt and pepper to taste - bearing in mind that you will be adding some salted anchovies and olives kept in brine. Allow to cool before reserving in the fridge
5. Mix in a bowl the olive oil with the dried yeast and warm water. Once mixed, add the flour and salt and work by hand until it forms a ball
6. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and start to knead vigorously, as you would do for a bread dough, until you obtain a very smooth round ball
7. Reserve the dough in a large floured bowl, cover with cling film and allow to rise for an hour at room temperature. Once risen, refrigerate for another hour
8. Knead the dough once more, then return to the fridge until ready to use
9. When ready to assemble the pissaladière, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6 and place a baking tray inside to heat. Remove the excess salt from the anchovy fillets by rinsing them under cold water for few seconds
10. Roll out the dough, dusting generously with flour down to 3 to 4mm. Spread the caramelised onions, the anchovy fillets and the pitted olives on top
11. Place on the hot baking tray and bake for about 5-8 minutes, until the dough crisps and darkens.
Serve and drizzle with a little olive oil and some freshly ground pepper -
Disclaimer: this is a Pascal Aussignac's recipe reproduced with the agreement of Great British Chefs


Broad Bean & Mozzarella Salad - Seasonal Food -

We are reaching the end of broad-bean season. it started in April, with small, green and sweet beans, it's nearly September and we have nearly come to the last of the season.

An ancient staple, broad beans are eaten green in Europe but fully grown and dried in North Africa and the Middle East. Where broad beans are called by their Arabic name : ful.
Ful Medames is a hearty warm breakfast of mushed beans, garlic, olive oil and spices, often enjoyed throughout the day, at least by be who can never get enough. I associate it with the sound of the muezzin, the frisson and the excited anticipation of a new day of discovery.
Tragically, these peaceful times are no more and though I can't cook Ful Medames the way the Syrians or the Egyptians do, it was the inspiration this colourful salad.
Broad Bean and Mozzarella Salad
1 mug of cooked broad beans
8 to 10 small Mozzarella balls
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
a small handful of basil torn
As many small tomatoes as you like
a slash of lemon juice
a couple of tbsp. of olive oil
Place the lot in a bowl
toss well
refrigerate for 1/2h or more
serve with toasted sourdough bread.

I enter this inspired recipe to Simple and in Season a Ren Behan challenge hosted by Elizabeth Kitchen Diary 


Life-Style Article & Basil Pesto

Eat Travel Live offered me the opportunity to have a shot at my first life-style article. Being rather pleased with the result *smug face* I wanted to share.

From the start, I knew that life-style articles needed to be visual and direct what I didn't realise was that "keeping it simple" is a rather complicated business.

I was inspired by Butter Basil and Pesto post and the need for a bit of class when growing herbs in the kitchen.

The experience was made much easier by Sophie Conran's team who provided the images and all the help I needed. It will take me a bit of time to become an expert and hopefully there will be more opportunities in the future.

For the time being I cling to lesson number 1 : What matters is how it looks like on the page, because after all, that is what will remain.

Give Away #26 : Salter Heston Blumenthal Precision Professional Whisk

Yet again, there are none for a long time and two arrive together. Though I didn't start my blog to fill it  with give-aways, it's lovely to share. The second give-away in so many posts could be titled: Whisk it like Heston 

As the GBBO returns to our screens, so do the tools of the trade.

Indeed the contestants are using some pretty nifty pieces of equipment.

In anticipation and for you to join in, from your own kitchen, Salter has joined forces with Pebble Soup to offer a lucky reader a Salter Heston Blumenthal Precision Professional Whisk

With its 7.5cm diameter balloon this whisk allows in plenty of air. Ever wondered how the contestants achieve these perfect peaks. Professional tools is your answer.
To win use the rafflecopter below: First comment on the blog that will unlock the bonuses. Note that one bonus is linked to Facebook as Pebble Soup has recently got its own page. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Torta del Cielo with a French Twist & French Glacé cherries

Torta del cielo (literally Cake of Heaven) is a light almond sponge cake said to have originated from Mexico. It's great at breakfast time but comes the afternoon cup of tea, Torta del Cielo is missing "un petit quelque chose".
And nothing better to give this exquisite recipe the little bite it needs than French Glacé Cherries. They complement perfectly the almond base perfectly and become the star of the show at first bite. Now this is a match made in heaven.
                         Torta del Cielo with a French Glacé Cherries
Serves 12
225g butter
About 15 French Glacé Cherries
70g plain flour sifted
175g ground almonds
225g caster sugar
3 eggs
1tsp organic vanilla essence
Icing sugar to decorate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170C

Beat together -in this order- the butter, the sugar, slowly add the ground almonds, the eggs and the sifted flour and the vanilla essence this can be done with food processor.

Roughly Chop the cherries and fold into the mixture.

Pour the mix in a greased baking tin and cook in the oven for 40 minutes. Test with a knife before cooling. It might need a little more cooking depending on your oven.

Let it cool before adding the icing sugar (optional)

Häagen-Dazs : What's in the Name?

Though I have been collaborating with Haagen-Dazs for years, I get cold sweat when I need to spell the brand's name. Has it got two g's, or two a's? Does the z come before the s or vice-versa?
Often wondered where on earth that name came from? All was revealed last week when I attended  the launch of the Häagen-Dazs new campaign: #realornothing.
With this campaign Häagen-Dazs is going back to base. The company stresses the importance of the ingredients. Take their vanilla ice-cream (by far my favourite). It consists of only five ingredients: eggs, milk, cream, vanilla and sugar, nothing else is added.
The chef associated with the #realornothing campaign is Natalie Coleman, Master Chef 2013 winner. Natalie cooked us lunch.
The menu, she regaled us with was 
based on the five ingredients used in Häagen-Dazs' vanilla ice-cream. Her confit duck egg with asparagus and truffle shavings was out of this world.
At the end of lunch, we had a little bit of time for a chat. Natalie is super-proud of her Central Street Cookery School's cooking lessons with kids. She told me, "They make simple things, like flat-bread, but you should see their faces when it comes out of the oven". So kids, expect vanilla ice-cream, next.

Now that we know what is in the ice-cream. What's in the brand's name?
For recently having gone through the process of naming a company, I can tell you that it's not an easy task. In my opinion, a name should at least try to represent the business in question. However that didn't seem to bother Reuben and Rose Mattus, husband and wife, Häagen-Dazs founders, in the 1959.
 Ruben and Rose both had Polish ancestors with Reuben born in Poland. Both had Jewish parents and both emigrated to New York in the early 1920's. 
It's not certain how they came to chose the name for their ice-cream enterprise.
One theory is that that they took the name of a European place  "to convey an aura of the old-world traditions and craftsmanship, values which Ruben held close to his heart" in this case Haage- and Scandi-fied it.
 Another is that Reuben wanted to brand the ice cream as a tribute to Denmark, a country that had supported the Jews during the war. Though Danes don't use umlauts, he added one, "to draw attention".

There you have it, a set of sound values, a pinch of gibberish, an umlaut where none should exist and the most famous ice-cream's name was born.
Read what other bloggers thought about the event:
Disclosure: I was a guest at this event by the  Great British Chefs and Häagen-Dazs 


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