Mauritian feast at Trader Vics

The Trader Vic's Hilton Hotel 22 Park Lane London W1K 1BE (44 207 493 4113) 

Pop up menu created by 2012 Master Chef winner Shelina Permallo and Executive Chef Shiran Fonseka - 3 course menu £29 per person, sharing patter for 2 £19

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Having a restaurant in a London basement can be a good business move especially if it's the Hilton's basement and the restaurant is more a cocktail bar than a fine dining place.

That's the case for the Trader Vics, a Polynesian-themed restaurant chain co-founded by Victor Jules Bergeron Jr in 1932. An institution which grew during the 50s and 60s when the Tiki culture was at its peak. 

London Trader Vics opened in 1963 in the Hilton's building. It follows the trademark marketing model: Polynesian artifacts, loud reggae music, bamboo bar, staff in flowery outfits, exotic cuisine and unique cocktails. The fiercely branded chain has opened its kitchen to talented guest chefs. This month it was the turn of 2012 Master Chef winner Shelima Permallo.
credit: Trader Vics
In 2012, Shelima introduced Mauritian cuisine to millions of viewers. If you have the chance to sample this tiny island's dishes jump at the chance to do so. The food is a mixture of European, Asian, Creole and Chinese reflecting the immigration waves known by this lovely melting pot of an island situated not too too far from Madagscar and Ile de la Reunion.

How does a pop-up and an established kitchen blend? How do they work together? Shelina's and Trader Vics' dishes are both inspired by their respective islands. One off New Zeland, the other off the South East coast of Africa. It's a bit like if tomorrow you decided to throw a dinner party with your friend from Peru. It only works to a certain extent.

The famous Trader Vics' Mai Tai cocktails are not famous for nothing. They are just brilliant, at tat expensive but this is no ordinary basement bar.  The starters a platter of coconut prawns, Chicken Croustillant and BBQ ribs the original 1972 Trader Vics' recipe, Octopus Salad and Green papaya Salad didn't work for me nor him. 

Nothing wrong with any of the dishes...individually, though I thought the octopus salad could have done with more octopus and less salad, they are all good dishes. They just don't belong together.

Our mains took a very long time to arrive. By then, I was craving to try out Shelina's food. Her Mauritian Coconut Sea Bass recipe was just out of this island. I want Shelina to be my friend so that I can watch her cooking forever. The sea bass was delicate, fragrant, no single ingredient was overpowering. A marvel. 

His Supreme Chicken seem to go down quite well, when it arrived but by then we were both wondering why oh why? should people have a 3 course menu in a cocktail bar? and the answer is: they should not. Coconut Bun is not best friend with BBQ spare ribs and cocktails.

In conclusion, too many culinary cultures spoil the broth but each taken individually is excellent. Go and try out the Trader Vics when you are in one of the towns where the chain has an outlet. Definitely try out anything with Shelina Permallo's name on, her food is as good as it looks on TV.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Trader Vics Ldn. Words as always are my own.

Caramelised onion in Puff - Mid-Week Dinner Idea

Caramelised onion, pomegranate
 Imagine you have a friend who has a favourite vegetable  As a host your first reaction would be to cook that very vegetable to please your friend wouldn't it?

Now imagine that the vegetable is an onion. Yes, you see the problem now and that is the conundrum which I faced when my friend came on one of her rare visits from Toronto.

So I called on Higgidy Pie because I know that Camilla Stephens always has an answer. To be perfectly honest, I was really looking for an onion tart recipe when I can across these Sticky Onions in the Higgidy Cookbook.

This recipe is a little marvel, it's quick, the sweetness of the caramel is counterbalanced by the pastry, it looks gorgeous and it makes for a quick mid-week idea or an accompaniment for fish, other vegetables etc...

Sticky Onions

ideally you'll need 4 small tartlet tins however you can get away with ramekins

2 Onions
80g caster sugar
Fresh Thyme leave stripped (but I used dried)
A little olive oil
200g puff pastry
salt pepper


Preheat oven at 220C gas mark 7

Peel the onion and slice in half 

Make the caramel in a saucepan by heating the sugar and pouring 80ml of water over the sugar, make sure the saucepan is squeaky clean, sugar is fussy. When the water is completely dissolved, turn the heat down and then watch your pan like a hawk. The caramel colour will appear suddenly. All this time there was NO stirring.

Now you need to work quickly, pour the caramel in the tins, sprinkle the thyme and place half the onion, large face down on the top. Bake for 25 minutes

Roll out the pastry to 3 mm thick, cut out 4 circles large enough for your tins. After 25 minutes get the onions out of the oven, let them cool long enough to handle. Place the pasty on the top of each dome. Return to the oven

Cook for another 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. 

Remove from the oven and quickly turn the tins over.

To clean the pan, fill with cold water and return to the stove, bring to boil, tackle the residue.

With time this has become a favourite at Pebble Soup HQ and for this recipe, I am adding it to November 17 Inheritance Recipes challenge co-hosted with Coffee and Vanilla

What's New #18 : Mother's day Gift Guide

Ancestry DNA kit at discounted price £69

What better day than Mother's day than to offer the gift of family lineage with AncestryDNA. None of us is 100% what we think we are and taking a simple test can be the start of a wonderful journey rich in discoveries. 

Here is the scientific bit : AncestryDNA is a cutting edge DNA testing service which combines advanced DNA science with the world’s largest online family history resource to predict your genetic ethnicity and help you find new family connections.

How does it work? you activate an account online, send a saliva sample and 6-8 weeks later you'll receive the results showing what percentage of each ethnicity your DNA is made of. The website helps you building your ancestry tree. It's fun. 

Penclic KB3 Mini Keyboard £79.99 from Penclic
For all those workaholic mum’s we have the perfect gift for them. 
Nothing shows how much you care then with the stylish yet functional mini keyboard, compatible with both iOS and Android devices via Bluetooth. The Penclic keyboard is Bluetooth, but gives you the option to switch to a corded connection, oozing sleekness and sophistication with every click. For the super stylish mum’s, keep an eye out for the release of the new rose gold, silver and regular gold designs.
If you are looking for a sweet gift Carluccio is your answer, if you are looking for a gift which will make your mum smile, Carluccio is your answer.
In fact, Carluccio's goodies are your answer to loads! It was hard to select only one item out of Carluccio's spring collection but I would recommend

BACI DI MERINGA - £5.95 from Carluccio online

For Mums who are yearning for a taste of summer. This mix of vanilla and strawberry meringues sandwiched together with chocolate perfectly fits the bill.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post, no money was exchanged. I was sent samples of the products mentioned. Every month, I choose the items which I think will interest the readers and share my review in the series "what's new" As always, wording and opinions expressed are our own.

Sweets Memories

Sweets are all about memories. You remember sweets like you remember a song. 

As a child my favourites were necklaces, the juxtaposition of colours was an object of fascination. 
Studying hues stayed with me. I'm rather good at creating colour harmonies.

So what are the new trends and where can you buy sweets in bulk for all the coming occasions?

I believe that the firm favourite are "chocolate boxes,  containing the pick n mix classics Fish and Chips, Giant Chocolate Jazzles, Giant White Jazzles, Giant Pink and White Mice, Pink Pigs, Skulls, Spinning Tops, White Drops, Chocolate Drops, Chocolate Mice, White Jazzles, White Mice and the amazing Bananas In A Box.

Which leads me to the outrageous flavours. You know what I mean, flavours like nothing else. We all had a favourite. Was yours any of these?

If when a child you already belonged to the foodies category and had a penchant for hidden surprises, you probably reached out for the sherbets and fountains jars. And don't get me started on novelty sweets.

Of course in the UK, all theses treats could and still can be found in sweet- shops which is an alien concept on the continent. When I first arrived in Greenwich, I was quite taken aback by its two sweet shops with their shelves full of jars showing all the colours of the rainbow, ever so retro.

But that's OK for the occasional buy. But what do you do when you need more than a small paper bag full? 

It's only very recently that I heard about online wholesale sweets buy. In fact, Appelton sweet Cash and Carry did alert me to the concept. Really worth investigating their online offer. A lot of savings to be made. Think Easter hunts.

I know which of all the Appleton's treats, I will choose at it has long been one of my mum's favourites:
We have a family tradition. Whenever there is a holiday such as Christmas or Easter, we make sure that older parents and children get a bag of coins. My mum insists on it and though she makes light of it. I think that deep down, she believes it lucky. What will your choice be?

This post was commissioned by Appleton Sweet a wholesale sweet company which has 70 years of experience.  Keep up with them on Twitter and Facebook

Irish Confit Salmon with tomato, onion and cucumber salad, dressed with lemon and coriander oil

Salmon Confit salad recipe

It's St Patrick's day and I have few reasons to bring you a fine recipe prepared by a country top chef using the best of Irish products.

First and foremost, two of his brothers fell in love whilst visiting Ireland, so now his side of the family has an Irish contingent. On each of my visit, I've found the Irish hospitality amazing. On the first wedding, the father of the bride pointed out the similarities between French and Irish: a strong sense of family and a love for a good party. That leads me to the second reason.

and then, in this dish, an original recipe by Aktar Islam of Lasan Restaurant, the salmon is cured then confit, creating a melt-in-the-mouth consistency that also captures the vibrant flavour of Irish salmon. To cure and to confit are two techniques which are at first a little scary but they are incredibly simple as long as you use a good thermometer and follow the instructions.

Happy St Patrick's day

Irish Confit Salmon with tomato, onion and cucumber salad, 
dressed with lemon and coriander oil
Serves 4 
 4 x 100g fillets of Irish salmon
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chopped dill
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp cracked coriander seed
Zest ½ a lemon
500ml olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
For the salad:
Handful of mixed leaves – rocket, watercress, baby leaf spinach and red chard
Selection of tomatoes, quartered
½ red onion, finely sliced 
½ cucumber, in strips 
1 tbsp coriander oil
Pinch cracked black pepper
Pinch chat massala
Salt to taste
1 tbsp lemon juice
To cure the salmon:
Mix the salt, sugar, lemon zest and dill together and rub over the salmon fillet. Wrap the fillets with cling film and leave in fridge for 30 minutes. Wash the salmon under cold water and pat dry with kitchen towel and wrap in fresh clingfilm and place in the fridge.
For the salad:
Using a peeler make thin cucumber strips, sprinkle with salt and set aside for 20 minutes.  Wash the cucumber under cold water and leave to drain on a colander and pat dry. Make the coriander oil by taking a handful of coriander and blitz with 50 ml of olive oil. 
To confit the salmon:
Warm olive oil in a pan, use a thermometer; keep the temperature to 60°C.  Place the salmon fillets in oil along with peppercorn, coriander seed and garlic. At this point the temperature will drop, regulate the temperature and maintain it at 45°C and leave the fillets in the oil for 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
To serve:
For each portion; take a handful of mixed leaves, tomatoes, onion and cucumber; drizzle with coriander oil and lemon juice.  Sprinkle over with chat massala, salt and cracked pepper. Finally, flake the salmon over the salad and serve. 

Useful links related to the post 
Irish board Bord Bia which provide me with the right to reproduce this recipe, no sample nor money was exchanged words are my own

Wild Garlic Omelette - L'Ail des Ours - Season's eating -

Last weekend, the local farmers' market's traders had small crates of wild garlic. In my opinion, the very first sign of spring, these tender, pointed leaves, sweet and pungent all at once are always a joy to see...and eat.

Wild garlic or l'ail des ours, to give it its French name was once thought a magic plant. Found in woodlands, wild garlic is easy to forage even for a beginner. It can hardly be mistaken for anything else, its smell is typical of garlic. When foraging, it is best to leave the bulb in the ground to ensure new shoots the following year.

Wild garlic is incredibly versatile. I have asked fellow-bloggers for recipes which you'll find added at the end of this post.  Usually, it's a matter of throwing the leaves in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, sieve, cool and use. Why not give it a go?

Eggs and wild garlic are the best of friends. So after buying a small brown bag of the delicious plant, I took them home and without further ceremony, blanched them, sieved thoroughly, chopped and added to an omelette. Goat cheese would have been welcomed in this dish but I couldn't wait to go to the shop.

foraging, wild garlic, recipe

Further reads
By Danny aka Food Urchin on Great British Chefs, a cracking Wild Garlic Pesto
From Karen at Lovage and Lavender a Wild Garlic and Blue Wensleydale Tarte
By Niamh on Eat Like a Girl a Wild Garlic Potato and Bacon Hash

Let me know if you have been inspired, I'd love to add your recipe too.

I am linking to #cookblogshare
Hijacked By Twins

Mid-Week Dinner Idea : Harissa Chicken

Easy recipe, quick meal idea, harissa, chicken

In France, Moroccan food is the counterpart of Indian food in Great Britain. When I was a young adult and money would hardly stretch to the end of the month, eating out was an extra-ordinary event.

We would never go anywhere else but for "un Couscous". Very recently, my friend rang, to tell me with a giggle: "I went to the loft, to clear it up and guess what I found?.... My Couscous Dress." Yes, we had special extra large dresses which would accommodate us and all the couscous we could eat. Tight jeans would have been a liability.

My favourite part of a Couscous meal were the juices mixed with harissa and spread over semolina. I was so hooked on harissa that at home, my preferred snack was harissa on toast.

Now, I would not dare to post such things as semolina harissa or harissa on toast but the next best thing for "not that young but not that old adults": Harissa Chicken to be served with semolina or a green salad. It's extremely quick and easy, the perfect Mid-Week Dinner Idea.

Harissa Chicken

  • chicken  breast
  • 4 tbsp harissa paste (rose harissa is nice)
  • 1 garlic bulb, broken into cloves
  • lemon , cut into wedges
  • 400g cherry tomatoes (on the vine if you wish)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • green salad or semolina to serve to serve (optional)


Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Oil a baking tray with olive oil

Break the garlic bulb and break it into cloves, it's entirely up to you how many cloves to use.
Spread in the tray, add the cherry tomatoes (with or without the vine).
Cut the lemon into 6 wedges.
Score the chicken breast and rub with harissa
Place the lemon and the chicken in the tray
Drizzle with olive oil

Bake for 45 minutes

I would like to share this recipe with Inheritance Recipes hosted by Coffee and Vanilla. Because it reminds me so much of time past but also because it's the type of food, I grew up with when staying with my Moroccan maternal family.

At Home with Sherlock Holmes : A Visit to Portsmouth

2017 has been dubbed "The Year of Literary Heroes" thanks -in part - to the 125th anniversary of the first Sherlock Holmes publication by author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The book, published in 1892 was the first collection of Holmes stories which Conan Doyle had been publishing in magazines since 1887.

Conan Doyle Show Case Portsmouth City Museum 

Like many readers, I first picked up a volume of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes as a child and, the child in me has always been disappointed by the fact that Sherlock and Watson's famous address at 221B Baker Street doesn't actually exist but why should it? For tangible evidence of Holmes genius, I should have been looking into the author, not the character
Portsmouth Harbour
The search led me to Portsmouth where Conan Doyle set up his medical practice in 1882 and where he wrote the first two Holmes stories. While living in Portsmouth Conan Doyle did much more than writing. He was a goalkeeper for the local football team and he getting into a ring to box. He played cricket in the same team as J.Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan and popularized skiing. In the late 19th century, Spiritualism was a popular system of belief, the practice of the occult and paranormal was common. Doyle believed that these practices had a scientific background which is one of the reasons he became a Freemason.

Following a literary trail is a fun way to get into the stories and the characters. Sherlock Holmes trail could start with Conan and Louisa Doyle's first home. The house where they lived has been bombed during the war, like most of the buildings in Portsmouth but a Blue Plaque marks the spot. In this case, most of the visit will take place in Portsmouth City Museum which offers a wonderful permanent exhibition called ' A Study in Sherlock'.

This exhibition showcases the largest collection pertaining to Doyle, and his creation Sherlock Holmes, in the world. The gallery explores Doyle's early life as a doctor in Portsmouth, his sporting activity and later interest in spiritualism as well as Sherlock Holmes as depicted in films, theatre, advertising and elsewhere. It includes a Sherlock Holmes mystery and a narration by Stephen Fry, patron of the collection.

Michael Gunton, the museum's resident Doyle expert, uncovered the collection for me. As I was marvelling at a case containing, games, cards, fake everything and more. He explained, "the marketing memorabilia was developed in the 30th but people were already writing spoofs of the great detective from 1900. For example, there is a silent film from 1916 called "the Mystery of the Leaking Fish" in which the hero called "Coke Anyday" is a detective who sniffs a talcum-like-powder which enhances his powers of investigation. Every few years there is a creation which draws the attention to Sherlock Holmes taking the name and sometimes very little else."

Conan Doyle loved Southsea/Portsmouth. Though he left after a decade, he bought a second home there, probably attracted by the town's raw energy and the ambient patriotism. There is something about literature and Portsmouth/Southsea. Something which can not be explained. It has been home to a large number of famous authors. H.G. Wells and Somerset Maugham who had a miserable time while living there, unlike Kipling whose memories of the town are happy. Dickens was born in Portsmouth. I would never hazard a guess at author Neil Gaiman's feelings towards his hometown but it certainly inspired him as the road lay-by near the sea which serves as bus terminal is called The Ocean at the End of the Lane. His book of the same name was ‘Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards’ 2013.

The Ocean at the end of the lane credit Solange Berchemin


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