Review: Pie & Vinyl - Southsea

A prop paradise,

a really good record-store

And a delicious Pie cafe offering a varied menu of pies with an array of mash and liquor,

in Southsea 

When I landed a commission to visit Portsmouth and Southsea for 2017- Year of Literary Heroes, I asked him if He would like to join and if so, where would he like to eat. "Pie and Vinyl" was the immediate answer.

Such enthusiasm required action. So fresh from the train, we headed for the quirky Castle street in Southsea and entered a kind of Ali-Baba cavern for prop lovers, the place is so kitsch that you don't know where to look, every surface is covered with amusing, delicate, pretty and right ugly "things". I loved it from the word go.

The cafe cum kitchen bit is tiny and spills out a little in the record shop. There are eight tables which at lunch time were all full, a queue started forming by 13.00.

So what is the attraction?
The choice of pies is vast and caters for all sorts of dietary requirements. The owners wait on you as if you were their long lost relatives. The pies are from a few sources. From Buckwell, you'll get the sensible options, Chicken 'n Mushrooms is one. Choose one from the lovely Pieminister people fare and you'll get unusual options such an Heidi: Goat cheese and sweet vegetable or from Pie and Vinyl's own kitchen and you'll be served an all singing pie.

Pie and Vinyl pies are named after tracks, on the special board are the pies of the week which are related to the new releases that week. Got it? It's like being brought back in time to your childhood days, when you were singing from the top of your voice, making up the words you didn't know or understood.

I went for a "The 'O Sea" with mustard mash and dried onions topping with liquor.
Look and I'll say no more.

Except that, the tea came in a pot accompanied by a tiny hourglass. Pies start from £6.00

When in Portsmouth/Southsea Pie and Vinyl is definitely a place to visit.


61 Castle Rd, Portsmouth, Southsea PO5 3AY
phone: 02392 753914

Brumal Risotto :Vegan Butternut Squash and Spinach Risotto Recipe

It's amazing how the world has changed towards veganism, 30 years ago a plant-based diet was if I am honest, rather tasteless.

This month delicious Vegan recipes are everywhere you look. After all, we are in Veganuary.  When the PR for Flora, the plant-based spreads cie, got in touch to ask if I could relay one of their recipes using Flora Freedom, I found it impossible to say no, out of respect for all the people who will dabble in veganism this Veganuary and in support of their friends who will have to make a few changes in their presence too.

I opted for their Vegan Risotto Primavera with some seasonal changes

Risotto, Vegan, Asparagus, peas, recipe

But before leaving you with the recipe, let me tell you how I first came to contact with Veganism.

We are going way-way back about three decades ago, I had never heard the word, vegan and the world had yet pay attention to the movement. On one of my trips to England, He'd offered to introduce me to his best friends. We drove to Warrington, in the middle of winter. My travel bag contained a little black dress, a pair of leather trousers and a wool fluffy jumper.

Unknown to me, the friends we were about to spend the weekend with were ethical vegans, their philosophy extended beyond diet and had utterly changed their lifestyle and left me facing a real wardrobe problem. There I was in the north of England, with only one option: my little black dress....

I spent the weekend wrapped in it and several borrowed non-wool jumpers. Not the sexy look, I was hoping for but, the beginning of a long friendship, I listen to the reasons behind their choice with my heart and after two days was much more aware of our cruelty to animals.

On an intellectual level, I remember thinking, "What difficult path they had chosen". On a practical level, my most vivid memory of our return journey is our stop on a motorway cafe to eat the place dry. A weekend of veganism had seen me not only freezing but starving too. 

It would not be the case anymore as it's much easier to find vegan products. Here is a list of 7 top tips from Lucy Jones, Expert Dietician and TV Presenter which show just how to start on a vegan course.

7 Simple Tips to try this Veganuary
1.       Simply swap the milk in your tea, coffee and cereal to one of the great plant-based alternatives. There are loads to choose from including soya, almond, cashew, coconut, oat and hemp. Pick one fortified with key nutrients like calcium and B12 to make sure you don’t miss out.
2.       Big up the pulses! Tinned pulses are easy, ready to use and a great filling provider of protein and fibre. Add to soups, salads and veggie chilli.
3.       Try making a delicious cottage pie using soya, quorn or vegetable mince and lentils / beans. Combine with chopped veggies, tinned tomatoes, herbs and spices and top with mashed root veg made with Flora Freedom. Nothing more warming when topped with vegetable gravy and steamed green veggies
4.       Get out the slow cooker. Chuck in tinned tomatoes, veggies, lentils or beans and some barley / potatoes for a warm filling dinner. Serve in a bowl with crusty fresh bread spread with Flora Freedom.
5.      Try out some vegan pancakes. Make your pancake mix using flour, a plant based alternative to milk, nut butter and mashed banana. Top with sugar and lemon or chopped fruits for a fun tasty start to your day.
6.       Don’t miss out on enjoying dessert. You can make a delicious crumble topping using flour, oats, sugar and Flora Freedom and add on seasonal fruits. Combine with a soya or oat based custard or try some coconut ice-cream alongside
7.       If you’re cravings start to creep up on you, nuts make a fantastic healthy vegan snack. Combine 30g of your favourite with some small chunks of rich 80% dark chocolate for an indulgent afternoon treat.

Brumal Risotto : Butternut Squash and Spinach Risotto


  • 25 g Flora Freedom
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 225 g Arborio rice
  • 700 ml hot vegetable stock
  • 300 ml vegan dry white wine (optional but increase stock to 1 litre if not used)
  • 250 g roasted butternut squash, cut into large cubes
  • 175 g spinach, washed and drained
  • 75 g vegan Parmesan cheese, grated 
  • pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Directions

  • Heat Flora and olive oil in a large pan and fry the onion and garlic until soft but not browned.

  • Add the rice and stir well. Pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook gently, whilst stirring, until the liquid has been absorbed.

  • Stir in 300ml stock and repeat until the stock has been absorbed.

  • Add half the remaining stock, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the risotto has a creamy consistency.

  • Add the butternut squash cubes to the rice and squash them roughly with a fork, then add the frozen spinach and remaining stock. Bring back to a simmer and continue stirring as the liquid is absorbed and the rice becomes tender and the spinach well defrosted.

  • Serving suggestion: serve with sweet potato pancakes

Disclaimer: Sponsored post. I was contacted by Flora to write a post promoting their recipes for which I received a food voucher. No cash was exchanged. 

Bidvine: The Easy Way for Hiring a Pro

Sponsored post

When it comes to mundane tasks, we all need a bit of a helping hand time to time. Bidvine is an app-based and online local services marketplace that dubs itself as “the easiest way to find and hire local professionals.”

When Bidvine got in touch and I read through all their literature and in order to share the finding with you, I gave it a go. Like everyone else at the start of the year, I have a long list of things needing doing so if there is a simple process to save time, it's tempting.

Determine what you need

Before soon, I had my options narrowed down to three. Fitness, Photography, Learning. The latter seemed like a popular option, especially when it comes to learning guitar or singing. We possibly have the success of the TV show such as the Voice and Gareth Malone's to thank for that. However, this is not something, I would consider unless I wanted half of South London evacuated as a result.

However, my social media picture needs updated as it's now a couple of years old, best to keep up with the wrinkles. In my opinion, there is nothing worth than old profile pictures.

To get the right pro, all what is needed is to detail what you need using service-specific questions. Bidvine then sends your request to relevant qualified professionals. 

Choose One
True to their word in my case, in the space of 2 hours, I had received 5 offers from professional photographers with quotes and a message detailing the companies credentials.

The process is indeed very simple

Bidivine operates in the whole of the UK and the list of professionals is growing every day.

Click here, to learn more about

Pimped up Pumpkin Gratin

Have you noticed that when you love something, it shows on the pictures you take. I make no mystery of the fact that I just adore curcubitaceae, every autumn, I publish recipes with pumpkins and it goes well into the winter.

The picture is a simple Pumpkin Gratin Recipe but if you wanted something a little fancier you could pimp the recipe up a little and that's how you do it.

Pimped up Pumpkin Gratin
Pumpkin 1.8kg (4lb), peeled and de-seeded
Parmesan Cheese 50g (2oz), grated
Fresh breadcrumbs 50g (2oz)
Pecan nuts 50g (2oz), roughly chopped
Chopped Thyme leaves 2 tbsp
Butter 50g (2oz), melted

Preheat oven to 200°C /400°F/Gas 6. Cut pumpkin into 2.5cm (1in) thick wedges. Place in a lightly buttered oven-proof dish. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
Mix together Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, pecans, thyme and seasoning in a bowl.
Sprinkle evenly over pumpkin. Then drizzle over melted butter.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until pumpkin is tender and topping is golden. Serve immediately. 
TIP Rather than Parmesan cheese crumble over some strong blue cheese – if you prefer.

It's Veganuary and if you need ideas to plan Meat-Free meals there is no better place than Meat-Free-Monday challenge hosted by Tinned-Tomatoes

Leek and Chickpea Soup

Time for a warming, comforting soup. As you can see at Pebble Soup we like our soups thick. I make soups all the time but, I am still to master the "potato business". Let me explain, most soups contain potatoes and when food processed potatoes turn "gluey", I have tried all sorts of tricks but it's often a hit or miss affair.

So it's with a sigh of relief that I found a substitute: Chickpeas. It works a treat.

Leek and Chickpea Soup 
Serves 6
  • 250g chickpeas (one can)
  • 5 medium leeks finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • knob of butter (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic finely sliced
  • salt ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pints chicken or vegetable stock 850 ml
  • Parmesan cheese grated
  • a little parsley (optional)
  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and butter, if you use it. Add the leeks and garlic with a pinch of salt and cook until tender.
  2.  Add about two-thirds of the stock, the chickpeas and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Puree half the soup in food processor. To obtain a thick soup, use a slotted soup, give that a whizz with a little stock and then add the remaining stock. Season with salt, black pepper and add grated Parmesan cheese.

Pebble Soup has a whole collection of soup recipes, head to the recipes index for ideas such as Leek and Avocado, Harira, Coco and Chorizo and over 50 more. For quick access, I've picked a few which you can access by clicking on the pictures.

It's good to share so this week I linked my soup collection to Hijacked by Twins who is hosting #Cookblogshare
Hijacked By Twins

La galette des rois

Every year to celebrate Epiphany and the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem, the French enjoy a traditional dessert known as galette des rois, or “King Cake”.
While the most popular variety is filled with frangipane or sweet almond paste, many other versions are available on the market.
It all began as a Christian festival celebrated the first weekend in January. Today, it also marks the launch of galette des rois season. If we scour the annals of time, the tradition began with a simple piece of bread and a bean hidden inside. As the centuries have passed, brioche has replaced the bread, a layer of frangipane has been added, and the bean, or “feve” in French, has morphed into a porcelain figurine as a nod to the nativity, or other trinkets. Galette can officially be enjoyed right through until Shrove Tuesday, but the French tend to limit their galette consumption to January! During this period, bakeries in France sell galettes personalised with their own trinkets. It’s a lucrative period for bakeries, cake shops and even supermarkets, as each year the French manage to put away 30 million galette des rois cakes. (Source: Federation des Entreprises de Boulangerie).

Brioche, frangipane or Provence-style to celebrate Epiphany in Provence

Galette des rois come in many different shapes and sizes. There are various regional differences and specialities, which can be the subject of much discussion when it comes to whether the frangipane or brioche version reigns supreme. Galette des rois in its simplest form is a flat, round puff pastry cake baked in the oven until golden brown. The most popular version, according to 80% of French people, is filled with a layer of frangipane, a cream made of sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar invented by the Earl of Frangipani in the 14th century. There are however other variants just as delicious, filled with chocolate, apples, cream or even dried fruits… which leads us to galette provencale.
In the south of France, in Provence in particular, this traditional dessert enjoyed to mark 12th night is not a galette at all, but instead a fruit brioche also containing a feve and known as a gateau des rois, (also King cake). The brioche is baked in the shape of a crown and flavoured with orange water and sprinkled on top with dried fruits and sugar.
King cake

The essential ingredient: the feve

In the 18th century, the feve was no longer a bean but a small porcelain figurine representing the nativity scene and the figures around the cradle. Feves are now big business in France, with every variant imaginable, much to the delight of children and collectors all over France. Traditionally, people gather around a table to cut the galette. The youngest child retreats under the table and allocates each slice to those around the table. The person who finds the feve must wear the crown that comes with the cake and choose his king or queen. He/she must also buy the next galette.

Galettes des rois with the feve

Galettes crafted by the finest chefs and purveyors

Every boulangerie-patisserie specialist bakery in France produces galettes from the start of January. Artisan boulangers and patissiers, master craftsmen in their field, craft these traditional desserts with the skills handed down from generation to generation. In the same way, every year the cream of French pastry chefs offer a range of exclusive produce.
Three collections stand out in particular: the galette created by Christophe Adam (L’├ęclair de Genie), with its unique caramel topping, the Fantastik galette by Christophe Michalak, with a superhero’s shield hidden inside, and finally, and the most visually striking of all, the galette bouche in the shape of a pair of lips created by chez Fauchon, with its rose petal and raspberry flan filling.

2016 is over and not a moment too soon

I was determined not to write a 2016 Round-Up. Though it had been a rather good year on a personal level, it didn't seem decent to rejoice in view of the atrocious events happening around the world.

Then, this morning I looked at Pebble Soup's statistics and noticed something which made me change my mind. The top recipe, the blog post most visited in 2016, was "I Like my Pizza from Syria". Written in 2008, it's an early blog post, 

Somehow, it reassured me that thousands of people would, for a minute, associate Syrian life with something else than brutality and horrors. It reminded me of Jeremy Bowen' Twitter feed where the BBC Middle East correspondent, from time to time,  tweets pictures of food. In a 2014, in a NewStateman article, he explains his motivation for doing so, "Because it is important to show how people live as well as how they die".

Happy New Year. Let's get out there and make it happen x



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