Animus - Portuguese Wine - An Aldi Find

At Pebble Soup HQ, we are trying hard to smile but after seven weeks of lockdown, we are really missing our international freedom of movement. We dream of times when traveling will be possible again, but in the meantime we  also recreate the taste of a country from our home. So last week we 'went to' the north of Portugal.
The Douro Valley photo credit RRuiCunha courtesy of the Portuguese Consulat 
No prize for guessing the number one thing visitors bring back from the area around Porto: Port wine of course, a fortified wine produced with distilled grape spirits exclusively in the Douro Valley.
Portuguese Wine, Aldi Animus


At Pebble Soup HQ, Port is not a favourite, but recently we tried Aldi Animus red wine. Animus is not fortified. Still, it is produced in the same area, the Douro Valley, with the same blend of grapes than Port, and let me tell you this wine tasting session was a success. We found Animus to be a great table wine, full bodied at the amazing price £4.99. Highly recommended.

Pairing AnimusWhat do Twitterers think: 



Stay safe, drink moderately and let me leave you with a quote from Fernando Pessoa, Portuguese author: “Life is whatever we make it. The traveler is the journey. What we see is not what we see but who we are.”

Disclaimer: this post is a review commissioned by Aldi in return for samples, no money was exchanged, words and opinions are my own

Vanilla Currant Loaf /Quick Bread

Vanilla Currant Loaf, quick Bread,
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I published this quick bread recipe 12 years ago, with the lockdown and all things homemade, I thought it was time to give it an airing. 

I love new bread recipes, this one has a very smooth texture which is the trademark of "quickbreads". 

Pay attention here comes the background bit:
Quickbreads differ from cakes which are made creaming butter/sugar/eggs or from breads made with yeast. Quickbreads are often associated with "Afternoon tea" a tradition started by the Duchess of Bedford in the mid 19th century. It is said that the Duchess could not wait from lunch till dinner, don't we know the feeling, so she requested to have a pot of tea with bread and small cakes. Very likely, finding it boring to eat and drink on her own, she started to invite her "aristo-mates" and started a trend.

Tips for you
In the quickbreads family, you will find scones, muffins, sodabreads, teacakes and other fruit or veg loaves such as pumpkin. Dead-easy to make, perfect for beginners, can't really go wrong, remember to sift the flour and make sure that the oven is preheated to 180C (350F/Gas 4) that is all. Ah! and mix the ingredients in the order the recipe tells you, quick breads allow neither anarchy nor cosmic order allowed.

Vanilla Currant Loaf


ingredients
250g plain (9z/ 2cup) (all purpose) flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
60g (2 ½ oz) cold unsalted butter, chopped
115g (4oz/ ½ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
75g (2 ½ oz/ ½ cup) currants
1 large egg
170ml (5 ½ fl oz/ 2/3 cup) milk
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
sifted icing (confectioners') sugar, for dusting, optional
butter or cream cheese, to serve


Method
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4). Grease a 21 X 7 X 8 cm loaf (bar) tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Using your fingertips, lightly rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar and currants, then make a well in the centre.

In another bowl mix together the egg, milk and vanilla, then pour into the well in the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir until just combined.

Spoon into the prepared tin, smoothing the top. Bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. 

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Just before serving, dust with icing sugar if desired.
Slice and serve with butter or cream cheese.


Vanilla currant loaf is best eaten on the day it is made, but can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 8 weeks.

This recipe was reproduced from Leanne Kitchen's "the Baker"

My Valentine's Day Gift Guide

Fun, Affordable, and Yummy, here are some gift ideas for Valentine's day.

Flowers arrangements and bouquets may be expected on V. Day, so what about keeping the floral theme but make it fun, funky and red-hot by opting for a gardening kit.  Sowlush has 7 kits to choose from. Their Chillies 'n' Spices kit includes the following:
I also like their Cool Cocktail Seeds Kits containing herbs and Cucamelon seeds.
You will find the kits here, at £14.95 each.

So near Christmas, you don't want to break the bank but on Valentine's Day, you wouldn't wish to look mean either. How about putting together a hamper? This is exactly what Wilko suggests, think of it as a Pick and Mix for grown-ups.


My personal choice is for soft, cosy and smelly nice. Oh yes, treats have to be fragrant. I opted for a luxurious crushed velvet effect throw in soft silver (£20). It looks very effective draped over the bed.

Reed diffusers are a great hit at Pebblesoup HQ but the cheap ones don't smell much and the more luxurious reed diffusers are rather expensive. Wilko's option cost only £4.00, the glass holder looks gorgeous and the scent truly is indulgent.

And when it is time to dim the light, lit up a 3 wick candle. Perfection in a hamper.

Of course, it wouldn't be Valentine's day without gorgeously presented, good quality food. Take a look at this:

There you have it, 2020 Valentine's Gift Guide.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post - I was sent some of the products in order to review them. As always opinions are my own.

Homemade Goat Cheese

At Pebble Soup HQ, we started to make our own goat cheese. It's not complicated, I would go as far as saying that with a good goat's milk, and a few tips, this disappearing ancient craft, could be easily revived, in your own kitchen.

Homemade Goat Cheese

At first, it was trial and error but a visit to a goat-farm put me right. There I learnt that the key is the goat's milk. Unpasteurised is best unless your immune system is deficient or you are pregnant. However raw milk is not easy to source, and for this reason, pasteurised full-fat goat milk will do. The keyword is full fat, anything but whole milk won't do.

My next point is almost as important as the first. Hygiene: everything, including your hands, has to be squeaky clean, soaked in boiling water, obviously not your mitts.

Things you'll need which you might not already have:
a jam/dairy thermometer, one which clips by the side of the pan, at least know how to recognise when the turning off the heat point is, a cheesecloth or muslin (I get mine from the chemist) and last but not least citric acid.

Firm and Crumbly Goat's cheese
Ingredients:
4 pints whole goat's milk
1tsp citric acid
1 to 2 tsp salt

optional herbs or flavouring

Method:

Dissolve 1tsp of citric acid in 50 ml of water and leave this to cool to room temperature.

Pour the milk into a large pan, clip the thermometer to the pan and heat slowly to 190F/88C. Stir frequently. Turn the heat to low but don't remove the pan from the heat source. Before the foam subsides drizzle in the citric acid solution. Stir and cook for 30 seconds.

Now remove from the heat and continue to stir until you can see the curds.

Line a colander with the cheesecloth. Slowly pour in the curds and drain for 10 minutes. At this stage mix in the salt and any herbs or flavourings if desired.

Gather the cheese into a mound. Fold the cheesecloth corners and press very very very gently. Add a heavyweight or a pan full of water over the cloth and let it drain for at least an hour.

Mould your cheese into any shape you fancy and use immediately or leave it to chill in the fridge in a clean airtight container for up to a week.

Goat Cheese


Here is a recipe I made using the homemade goat cheese: Borek





Peanut Butter Cookies


Everyone who has followed my food column in the Greenwich local newspaper will know that I am mad about the food calendar - check 2020 list of National days here. National days always spur me on and National Peanut Butter Day is no different (24th January 2020).

This time around, I have another reason to take to baking: Antoine is coming back from his travels, 8 months in South America, it is time to get the peanut butter out and make his favourite, basically anything with peanut butter.

Sadly as you also know, I am not the greatest of bakers, help is often required. When I want a recipe, I tend to search in the blogosphere, then I cross-reference with recipe books or Chefs' sites.

I like Emma MT's blog: Cakes, Bakes and Cookies. Luck will have it that she had published one of her childhood-memory-recipes, all about peanut butter. After cross-referencing her instructions, it was time to bake.

Cross-referencing allows to adapt the recipe to your own requirements but it also adds to the general knowledge. Here, for example, the reference site explains that "apparently the traditional criss-cross pattern on top of peanut butter cookies is so you can distinguish them from other cookies" really quite useful for allergy sufferers.

Recipe-wise : Emma uses self raising flour, easier than having to make your own and 1/2 the amount of peanut butter.

The result couldn't have been better an empty biscuit tin by the time Antoine flew back to his beloved Savoie.

peanut butter, cookies, biscuits

Ingredients
  • 125g                    Butter (unsalted)
  • 140g                    Unrefined light muscovado sugar       
  • 1                          Egg (free range)       
  • 150g                    Self raising white flour
  • 125g                    Peanut butter (crunchy)
Method
Preheat oven to 180C or 150 fan oven - Line two baking sheets with baking paper
In a bowl or a food processor, beat the peanut butter with sugar add the butter and process until smooth, gradually add the egg and the flour
When this is done, using a tablespoon take enough dough to fill the spoon and roll into ball, place on the baking sheet leaving a gap. 
Press with a fork until you get the desired thickness usually 1cm. Bake for
15 minutes.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Pay attention here are the eco-facts:

Each time you eat a PB&J for lunch instead of red meat, like a burger or a ham sandwich, you’re shrinking your carbon footprint by almost 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. You’ll also save 133 gallons of water and 24 square feet of land per each peanut butter and jelly lunch.

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