What's New in the Kitchen #11 : On the Go

When hunger strikes, snacks and bite-size are handy. At Pebble Soup we have tried new products and here is what we think:

Nature Valley -Two New protein bars -  RRP £2.89 for 5 I am a fan of Nature Valley range. Their two new bars at 140 calories are available in multi-packs of 5 or individual bars. Both peanuts flavoured one with chocolate the other with seeds.
          When I tried them out, at first, I loved them, soft and tasty, the chocolate one looks really indulgent with its chocolate base. Then came along another brand to taste. Was it enough to change my mind to which is the best bar?

Yes, Tracker's Crunchy peanut bars RRP 1.99 for 5 with 127 calories at first glance looks smaller but the salted peanut taste comes through much stronger and therefore is more satisfying, so you would have thought that the winner had been found.
It was without counting on the Fabulous Bakers' bars RRP 1.50 for 5

The bars are unusual as they are thick and you can really taste all the ingredients. They are soft and not too sugary but they are not all equal in taste, in my opinion some work better than others. Mango and Pineapple tastes really fresh. This bar was my favourite. Between 130 and 150 calories per bar.

Each of the three brands had they own qualities: Nature Valley's looks indulgent and sometimes a little "pick me up and makes me feel naughty" is required. Tracker's taste indulgent with all the salty and peanut taste as for the Fabulous bakers bar they are scrumptious, even if snacking is not very healthy, these bars will give you the impression that it is.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the brands for sending their new products over. I was not requested to write a positive review.

Medieval Glamping at Warwick Castle

When I was a teenager, I came over on an exchange and stayed in Leamington Spa, a few miles away from Warwick Castle.
From 1000 miles away, my parents had selected Leamington, only as the blurb indicated that the town was right in the centre of England. 

My host family took me everywhere. We travelled the length of the country. We, even, tripped down to Cornwall for one day but never did we explore the surrounding area. 
Mind you, Warwick Castle back then was probably a far cry from its present incarnation. Run by Merlin which is the same company looking after famous British tourist attractions like Alton Towers, the London Eye, Madame Tussauds and Thorpe Park, Warwick castle is much more than a boring medieval attraction. It's a whole experience which includes glamping in the beautiful castle grounds.

The Glamping site has 38 large tents, a couple of extra-large one by the river, a banqueting/bar tents, ample loos and showers facilities. The tents are divided into houses, ours was in the house of Plessis. 

Though I was a little dismayed when reading in the Glamping pack that our Lord knight was the one who lost this magnificent castle to its enemies.

The tents are very comfortable. Each sleeps two adults and two children in wooden-framed beds. Bed linen is provided. This is far cry from a normal camping experience. Be aware, it gets a little chilly at night, but then nights in May are never very warm. 

The glamping experience includes two days of Priority Castle tickets. My favourite attraction was the Time tower. A 15 minutes history of the castle recounted by framed portraits which jump from one frame to the next. The characters interacting as history rolls from one century to the next.
My least favourite was the Castle Dungeon which saw us herded in the bowels of the castle to listen to actors re-enacting tortures and trials. it's a long and dark 45 minutes filled with plague, rats and misery.

Then, there are the views from the castle ramparts walk, nothing breaks the view as far as the eyes can see. When up high looking down it's not hard to comprehend why in Warwick, all roads lead to the castle.

What is included in the price?

Glamping starts from £200 per night. It includes
an overnight stay for 4 with two days priority castle tickets, cooked or continental breakfast served in the Medieval tent.
VIP parking for two days

Free evening entertainment Jester’s School,  Knight’s School and have-a-go archery
Would I recommend it?
Absolutely, it makes for a fun-packed week-end in an amazing setting. Where else would you have a go at archery, fly birds of prey and pretend you are a knight or a princess and be treated like one?
For more information see www.warwick-castle.com/glamping/ and to book call the
Glamping Hotline on 0871 663 1676 (lines open Monday – Friday 9am-5pm).

Disclaimer: we spent a week-end glamping at Warwick courtesy of Merlin Experience. My thanks to the staff of Warwick Castle and the White Tiger PR for making us so welcome and facilitating this post

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Of gardening, I don't know very much. This being my first ever visit to Chelsea Flower Show. The floristry impressed me more than the garden did. Elaborates scenes made out of flower arrangements, of which some where truly incredible.  

Asparagus Soup

Asparagus soup #nationalvegetarianweek

I have written over 600 posts for Pebble Soup. With time, it would be pleasing to think that I know the recipe to write recipes.  That would imply that no blank screen is "scary" and by enlarge it is true.

Except when it comes to asparagus. Pretty much everything has been said about this spring vegetable. Comments have been passed on the increased UK production, now grown all the year round, soon we will not depend on Peruvian spears.

Even the Guardian devoted space to mercaptan, the sulphurous component which will make some people's pee smell, depending on the genes.

You see, there is little I could add to all this therefore I will let this much loved vegetable do the talking with a soup recipe. One word of warning though the amazing fresh spring green colour will depend very much on the asparagus cooking time, don't be tempted to overcook them and always salt the water before dropping the asparagus in.

Asparagus soup
400g of asparagus (cut off the woody bit a the end)
600ml vegetable or chicken stock
pinch of salt
a squeeze of lemon
ground pepper
To get the right consistency keep the proportions
Bring the stock ( personally, I favour chicken stock) to boil, add the salt, drop the asparagus in for 5 minutes
Liquidise transfer back to the saucepan add the lemon, the pepper, warm the soup for a little longer and serve.

The Londonaise & The Cochonette at the Angelus

"The Londonaise", a three days Pétanque tournament, now in its second year, is becoming a ‘hipster’ event. On the afternoon of Saturday 6 June a free Doubles Melee competition will take place in Barnard Park, Islington and you will be taking part. Mais oui! oui!

What's Pétanque?  
Pétanque is that funny boules game, old men play wherever you look when you holiday in the South of France. It involves a lots of hand gestures, near arguments resolved with another dose of Ricard and  another round of throwing hollow silver boules as close as possible to a tiny wooden ball called the cochonnet. 

Who would have thought that this oldfangled game was popular in London? As it happens among the "fana" of the game there is  the Angelus’ owner Thierry Tomasin.
He is so passionate about French boules that he put his mind to organising the UK’s largest public entry International Petanque tournament and  call it the ‘The Londonaise’ .....
It was an instant hit. This year, the festival will run over 3 days and host 128 teams.  It’s open to absolutely anyone from novices to experts with lots of prizes on offer.
The angelus Hyde Park LondonEveryone is invited to play on the 6th and if the day is anything like the evening he and I spent in the Angelus, Thierry Thomasin's restaurant. An art nouveau-style brasserie with fixed-price options and a lengthy, Franco-centric wine list, the event is going to be the friendliest, warmest sporting event of the year.
To promote the event The Angelus'  kitchen team have created a special dish entitled ‘The Cochonette’, which will be served as part of the restaurant’s set lunch menu for the whole of June.

Thierry explains, "Each element of this dish draws on the subtle nuances of the game of Petanque  for ‘A Sud de France’, experience that is savoured in the colours, textures and smell of the dish, all in honour of the Londonaise.”

‘The Cochonette’ special consists of braised shoulder of Provençal lamb encased in a golden, round case of pastry that represents the boule, and pulled pork rolled in crisp breadcrumbs to represent the cochonette. Both are accompanied by a Mediterranean vegetable tian and rich and moreish Champagne sauce, and balanced by fresh cos lettuce purée and charred herbs.
Angelus cochonnette menu preview Pebble Soup Petanque Londonaise

The Angelus' team was kind enough to make this dish especially for Pebble Soup to preview. We spend a cosy 2 hours eating boules and cochonnet and never before, the petanque looked so amazing nor tasted so good. It was a real wow moment. The lamb melting in its soft pastry case was a pure delight.

There was a moment when I regretted that the game is not played with more cochonets but as it was the portions were perfect, leaving us to dream about coming back to play, sorry eat some more.

Angelus cochonnette menu preview Pebble Soup Petanque Londonaise

Now for the practical details:
 The Londonaise Pétanque festival will see a 128 teams take part, as well as ‘Artisan British and French food stalls’. The festival also aims to raise funds for its associated charity ‘The Mercury Phoenix Trust’ which was set up in memory of Freddie Mercury and is responsible for raising awareness and funding charities globally in the worldwide fight against AIDS.
For more information and to enter, visit:  http://www.thelondonaise.co
The Angelus
Address: 4 Bathurst Street, London W2 2SD
Phone:020 7402 0083
open from 10.00 for breakfast/brunch until 11.00
 Disclaimer: my grateful thanks to the kitchen team at the Angelus for re-creating the cochonette menu especially for us. This is not a paid post, words are my own.
Angelus on Urbanspoon

Give Away #30 : Lakeland's Picnic Party Cool Bag

Time to think picnic. At Pebble Soup HQ, we love picnics, for many years we organised a yearly friends and family event where by we tried to get as many people as we could to join us on One Tree Hill in Greenwich park. We stopped doing so 5 years ago but the event is due for a revival.

To make your picnic more enjoyable, the lovely Lakeland team is teaming up with Pebble Soup to offer a lucky reader this bright, family-sized cool bag which has a showerproof outer, terrific insulation and reflective, wipe-clean lining to keep contents cool. Worth £24.99
29.5 x 24.5 x 28cm. 15 litre. 

To be in with a chance to win enter via the rafflecopter below -Last entries Tuesday 19th May at midday - Good Luck

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Hispaniola : Review - Restaurant- Ship-

I was invited on board The Hispaniola to review the new spring menu when I got distracted by the cocktails.

I do have a fickle mind but usually it doesn't interfere with work but then again, he and I never got a cocktail prepared by Chris Filipek, Barista Extordinaire with stunning and romantic views of London as a background.
View London Eye Hispaniola restaurant

The Hispaniola an old London favourite. She has been bobbing and rocking gently opposite the embankment station since time immemorial. She would have continued to do so if it hadn't been for James Bueno, General Manager – formerly of Café Boheme + Perritt and Perritt – and his team.  Together, they create  seasonal menus with a range of dishes to suit all palates.

But first, let get back to my favourite string of words: The cocktail list. With name like Ginger Bison or Hurricane Laura, you would be forgiven to think that it's all about frivolity. Far from the truth, this is serious business, the flavours are well balanced and perfectly mixed.

Take Ginger Bison for example, Chris explained that he got his aspiration from the way people drink Żubrówka in his native Poland. Żubrówka which by the way is pronounced  'Zoo-Broov-Ka' is drunk with apple juice and lots of ice. Here the genial extras are crushed fresh ginger, lime and gomme (that's sugar and water for you and me). 
Show me the food, I hear you say.
pigeon salad hispaniola

 My starter of warm wood pigeon salad balsamic berries, celery cress croutons gave me a flavour of things to come. It was going to be luscious principal ingredients accompanied by unlikely pairing. Though when his was brought to our table by our friendly waiter, I mellowed my judgement.

hispaniola spring menu wild mushroom with stilton cream
Wild mushrooms, stilton cream, lemon, parsley toasted ciabatta was a little traditional though more often than not there is no mention of Stilton in the cream.

Portions are very generous so we took a break, happily chatting to one of the waitress according to whom the recent success of the restaurant is down to, "A new chefs, the menu is bolder. Diners like it better, word of mouth is the best publicity" she said before adding with a mischievous smile "The views and the waitressing staff play a large role too....."
Roast Halibut, piperade, fingering potatoes hispaniola dinner Thames
Starters range between  £7 till £11.50. Had we stopped here, this review would have dithyrambic. Our mains Confit Duck Leg, Chorizo, Chickpea cassoulet for him and Roast Halibut, piperade, fingering potatoes for me, reflects the enthusiasm of a youth.
hispaniola Confit Duck Leg, Chorizo, Chickpea cassoulet

At 23, Head Chef, Barry White, puts together some great flavours which are not obvious companions.  My halibut was cooked to perfection but my pigeon earlier had been overcooked, that didn't really matter as the pairing of pigeon and fruits of the forest was surprising, fun and added sharpest to the gamy taste of the meat. The mains were slightly over-spiced were over-spiced. Not by much, certainly not enough to take away the pleasure of all the flavours street dancing on the papillae.

hispaniola thames restaurant menu

The Spring menu is priced at £28 for 3 courses which is good value for large portions and impeccable ingredients, attentive waitressing and..... these views.

Cocktail hispaniola london eye
The Hispaniola spring menu is very popular so book early. It's worth a punt.

R.S. Hispaniola Bar & Restaurant
Victoria Embankment

Call: +44 (0)20 7839 3011
Disclaimer : My thanks to City-cruises head-office for inviting us to try out the spring menu. I was not requested to write a positive review, words  and pictures are my own.

Spaghetti Fritters -

It's election night when we need a fast, easy, tasty recipe to cook and plenty of carbs will be required later on for all that jumping up and down when the results will be announced.
Shallow fry.
Don't cook more than and couple of minutes, each side or the fritters will be rubbery.
Break the spaghetti in half they will be easy to handle
No spaghetti, noodles will do
Serves 4 makes about 20 fritters should not take longer than 30 minutes
  • 200g spaghetti
  • 2 egg
  • 1 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 shallot
  • 10 finely chopped fresh chives
  • ½ tablespoon tarragon (optional)
  • 100g dried tomatoes chopped finely
  • 80g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 2 tps oil for shallow frying
  • 30g flour
  • salt
  1. Boil pasta for about 8 minutes in salted water.
  2. While the pasta are cooking prepare the coating in a large salad bowl
  3. Crack the eggs in a bowl, press in the garlic, chopped and add the herbs, then all the rest shallot, Parmesan cheese, flour, pepper, dried tomatoes and whisk
  4. Sieve the pasta add them to the bowl and give it a mix using a fork or your hands
  5. Pour two tablespoons of oil in a pan, heat
  6. Roll the spaghetti around a fork, drop the fritter in the pan if you have not caught enough "bits" add them on the top. Fry no more than 2 minutes each side 
Serve hot or warm with tomato chutney
Now you are ready to shout at the TV.

Cooking Basmati Rice

basmati rice cooking method rice cooker open pan
Cooking rice is not as easy as it looks - I for one struggled for years to get fluffy, separated grains, the way it should be. Out of desperation, I worked out my own method. But first, let's have a look at the conventional method:

The Open Pan where rice is cooked in lots of water just like potatoes or pasta, then drained in a colander. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt (optional). When boiling, tip in 250g/300ml (for 4 servings) of rice. Return the water to the boil then stir well. Lower the heat to a fast simmer and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain in a colander and allow to stand for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork and adding a little butter or oil (optional).
Should you rinse or soak the rice prior to cooking? it's not necessary but rinsing rice make the grains of rice "fluffier". Though soaking, make things much more complicated as the cooking time has to be reduced accordingly.
A few years back, a friend visited with his Thai-lady-friend, she was appalled that nobody, she had visited in London, had a rice-cooker. Allegedly, in Thailand that's the first thing one would get when starting a home. A rice cooker works on the same principle as a pressure cooker, it's electrical and it turns itself off when the rice all the water is absorb. The rice keeps for a hours.
My full proof cooking method
 60 to 80g per service. Get a large frying pan, we are going to fry the rice first in a little oil.
When the rice turns white and "pop-corn like" add the liquid broth or bouillon, a glass at the time. Stir. Repeat until the rice is cooked which takes about 15 minutes.
The advantages of using this method are:
  • The grains stay separated
  • Spices can be added before the rice
  • Rice is cooked in a bouillon which gives it a nice flavour ( I use organic Marigold)
  • You are in charge of the cooking, it is not going to go mushy or overcook as you will stay around to add water.


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