Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Out of Africa - Moroccan Tagine

Anyone would think I wanted to be somewhere else. Well, somewhere warm would be a start but seeing as food takes me to place I can't always get to, then it's definitely time for tagine.

So, Morocco. I love its extremes: heat; colour; spice. And I love its heady food. A tagine is something that is so easy to make and its evocative scent envelopes your senses as it cooks. I think some people have an aversion to the whole fruit and meat thing, and whilst I am a fan of this matching, I wasn't sure that Lola and Finn would be, so with this in mind, this slightly tweaked recipe fitted the bill. If you prefer a punchier tagine, then I would suggest being slightly less judicious with the spicing, or adding a little paprika or chilli.

Lola and Finn gave this one the thumbs up.

 I hope this recipe transports you to the souk or at least makes you feel like rocking the kasbah.

Serves 8 (or 6 hungry people!)


3 tbsp olive or argan oil
1.5kg lamb. Boneless leg is what I recommend.
2 onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp cumin seeds
3 tsp ground ginger
3 pinches of saffron
2 x 400g can chick peas, rinsed and drained
100ml lamb stock. (I used a cube)
3 x 400 can chopped tomatoes
1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into large chunks
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped coriander
2 tbsp chopped mint
salt and freshly ground black pepper


Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and brown the lamb in the pan in batches, deglazing the pan with a little water between batches. Add more oil if necessary. Set aside the browned mince and the reserved deglazing liquid to add back to the pan later.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes or so until lightly golden. Then add the chopped garlic and gently fry until fragrant. Then add the spices and stir for 30 seconds.

Return the meat to the pan with deglazing juices. Add the chick peas, tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for an hour or so, stirring occasionally.

Add the squash, then the herbs, reserving a handful for the final garnish. Cook the squash for about 15 minutes then uncover the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes to thicken the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Scatter over the remaining herbs and serve, accompanied by couscous.

Friday, 16 September 2011

From the East: Spicy Beef with Coriander Relish.

Whilst there is nothing quite like a pie, and one can never have too many roast potatoes and indeed, I would always pick a 'stick to your ribs' fruit crumble over a fruit salad, sometimes, just sometimes I really enjoy something zingy, fresh, light and oriental and this recipe fits the bill. It is a recipe from the excellent Antipodean chef, Bill Granger, whose food resonates freshness and taste. I am a big fan.

I know that mostly, a good steak requires not much more than a bit of seasoning, a raging hot griddle  a little bit of resting and some yummy chips, but this recipe is well worth a try. I didn't use sirloin which is what Bill Granger recommends, mainly because I didn't have it to hand, but I imagine a decent cut of steak, almost char grilled and crusty on the outside and pink on the inside would be heavenly. A very impressive dinner dish.


80 ml shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry (I used sherry)
60ml oyster sauce
60ml light soy sauce
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
4 sirloin steaks, each 175g (though I used a thinner cut of 'frying steak')
For the coriander relish
50g chopped coriander, including stems
60ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 large chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
1 pinch ground black pepper
Serve with steamed veg - bok choi, or mange tout, broccoli, etc. I also served some noodles.

Serves 4


1. Place the Shaoxing rice wine (or sherry), oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil in a large bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

2. Add the steaks then cover with food wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate for twp hours; bringing them up to room temperature in the last 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the coriander relish while the steaks are marinating. Simply place all the ingredients together in a bowl and season with freshly ground black pepper.

4. Preheat a frying pan, griddle or barbecue until hot.

5. Fry the steaks for two minutes on each side, by which time they will be done if you like rare steak. This obviously depends on the thickness of your steak and your preference to how you like your steak cooked.

6. Continue cooking over medium heat for one to two minutes more on each side for medium, or two to three minutes more on each side for well done.

7. Remove the steaks from the pan and allow to rest for five minutes in a warm place.

8. Lightly blanch or steam the vegetables.

9. Slice each steak into slices, top with a little coriander relish and serve with your chosen vegetable

Yum! Zingy, spicy, fresh and easy!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The perfect recipe. Easy; smells divine; difficult to resist seconds...

As soon as I saw this recipe on the wonderful food blog 'How to cook a wolf...' I knew I was destined to cook this recipe.  Days previously I had just stripped a Victoria Plum tree and I had a fridge was full of plums waiting to be created into something wonderful, but I was looking for something suitably effortless and maximum impact. This fitted the bill. The smell of this cooking - its cinnamon scented warmth wafting through the house was divine, and I personally could not wait to reveal it from the oven, burnished and sweet, and dive in with a spoon.

This recipe is a keeper and I hope you decide to try it. When I make it again I might put a few more plums in. I was perhaps a little stingy with the plums first time around and my plums did disappear from view once the sponge enveloped them. This isn't a bad thing by the way, but it arguably did lose the visual impact when cooked.

Original Plum Torte

adapted from the NYTimes recipe and from the wonderful food blog, 'How to cook a wolf.'

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes


3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
24 halves pitted Italian purple plums (prune plums) I used victoria plums.
Sugar and cinnamon for topping.


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream sugar and butter in a bowl. Add flour, baking powder, salt and eggs, and beat well.

3. Spoon the batter into a buttered spring form of 8 or 9 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, or to taste.

4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired (but first, double-wrap the tortes in foil, place in a plastic bag, and seal). Or cool to lukewarm, and serve.
5. To serve a torte that has been frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.

Yield: 8 servings.

This is glorious, served warm with vanilla ice cream. Pudding heaven.

Whilst I'm here, let me recommend the blog from where I was inspired. 'How to cook a wolf' You'll see a link on the left hand side of this page. You must visit!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Mocha Cupcakes: For when a cup of coffee just isn't enough.

I know that I will garner absolutely no sympathy here but going back to school after six weeks off is a testing time. When you've had days and days of not getting round to doing much until late morning at least, that six o'clock alarm (for me, anyway) on the first day of term is a shock to the system, and even though I try to be bright eyed and bushy tailed, the sorry truth is that in reality I am dazed, confused, ineffectual... So, when coffee is your metaphorical jump lead, I decide to give an extra boost by having one of these cupcakes. Like I need an excuse. I took a batch of these cakes into work this week. Breaktime was good. Very good.

A word about yieldings. I was possibly a little generous with my frosting. The recipe here iced 12 cupcakes, whereas the cake recipe produced 16 cupcakes. The original recipe that I adapted this from apparently would have yielded about 24 cupcakes...I can only think that I use a larger cupcake pan, but then small cupcakes have never really been my thing. What I am saying is that the number of cakes produced is 'flexible'.

Another observation: Chocolate covered coffee beans. I decided to go along with the idea of putting some into the mixture. I am not sure that they added much to be honest, apart from the odd hard bit of bean which I am not sure is a good thing. I have suggested coffee beans as an optional, but if I were having my time again, I would have them just as the decoration. If you don't have chocolate coffee beans, I reckon a bit of grated chocolate over the top of the frosting would be a pretty cool idea too, if not better than the aforementioned coffee bean adornment!

Mocha cupcakes (adapted from 'Baking Magic' by Kate Shirazi)


For the cakes:

170g self raising flour
8 tbsp cocoa powder (use good stuff; Green & Black's cocoa is my preference)
220g caster sugar
220g softened unsalted butter
a few drops of vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 4 tsp of boiling water
4 large eggs
2 oz chocolate coffee beans (very optional!)

For the buttercream:

165g unsalted butter, softened.
340g sifted icing sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tbsp of instant coffee dissolved in 3 tsp of boiling water
a few drops of vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170c/Gas 3 and line a muffin/cupcake tin with cake cases
Sift the flour, cocoa and sugar into a mixing bowl, food processor or mixer.
Add the butter, baking powder, dissolved coffee, eggs (one at a time and mix in until combined) vanilla extract and salt and then beat until light and fluffy. At this point add the coffee beans if using.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared cases (I use an ice cream scoop to try to get each cake as equal as possible) and then bake in the oven for 20 minutes until firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once the cakes are cool they can be iced. To make the buttercream, put the butter into a bowl.
Sift the icing sugar and cocoa over the top, add the vanilla extract and beat away. Then add the coffee. If you're using a food processor this is easy. You should beat the mixture until it becomes fluffy which is effortless with a food processor. It will take mucho elbow grease if you are doing thme by hand. If you think the frosting is too dry, add a splash of milk. If it is too runny, add more icing sugar, until you get a piping consistency.
To decorate. You can either spread the frosting across the top of the cake using  a pallet knife, or take a piping back with a large star nozzle, pipe the frosting on in huge swirls. Add a chocolate covered coffee bean on top or some grated chocolate. Deeelish!!

Friday, 2 September 2011

The bestest, bestest carrot cake in the world, ever.

Frankly I have neglected my duties. Considering the amount of cakes I make, the fact that a cake has not made its way onto the blog yet is really not acceptable, so this is the first in a long line of cakes that will make an appearance here.

YES, carrot cake. How many carrot cake recipes do you need? Well, I don't necessarily think you can have too many but this one is utterly divine! And easy! This is the cake that you whip up earlier in the day and serve with a cup of tea late afternoon. Very civilised. And if you are up to your eyes in carrot cake recipes, then just see this as a suitably apt vehicle to carry this frosting which is absolutely delish!

This recipe is gently adapted from Tamasin Day Lewis' recipe in her book 'Supper for a Song'. If you read through the recipe you will realise that the instructions are for you to make a sandwich cake which is then covered by the mascarpone icing. My preference is to just sandwich the cakes with a layer of the frosting. If you prefer this, please note that you SHOULD HALF THE QUANTITY OF FROSTING.

Carrot cake with lime and mascarpone frosting

Makes a 20cm / 8 inch cake


180g/6oz plain flour

2 level tsp baking powder

1tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 grated nutmeg

180g/6oz light muscovado sugar

150ml/1/4pint sunflower oil

2 large eggs

200g/7oz coarsely grated carrots

85g/3oz shelled walnuts, roughly chopped
A handful of raisins (optional)

For the frosting

1 lime

200 - 225g / 7 - 8oz mascarpone or full fat cream cheese

100g/3 1/2 oz unsalted butter, softened

85 - 100g/3 - 3 1/2 oz icing sugar or light muscovado sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste


1. For the cake: preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Grease and line one deep or two shallow 20cm cake tins.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and mix in the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

3. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to whisk together the muscovado sugar, sunflower oil and eggs until smooth.

4. With a large metal spoon, fold in the carrots and walnuts, and raisins, if using, then fold in the flour and spice mixture until well combined.

4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin(s), place on baking trays and bake until the cake is golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (test after 25 minutes if you are using two shallow cake tins; 40 minutes if using a deep cake tin). Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin(s) on a wire rack.

5. For the frosting: pare a few shreds of lime zest with a zester and set aside to use as decoration. Finely grate the remaining lime zest and squeeze the juice from one half of the fruit.

6. Beat the mascarpone in a bowl with the softened butter, icing (or light muscovado) sugar and finely grated lime zest. Add the lemon juice slowly, beating the mixture continuously to prevent it from curdling. You may not need to add all of the lemon juice; add to taste.

7. If you have made one deep cake, cut it horizontally into two layers. Sandwich them (or the small cakes) together with some of the mascarpone mixture. Spread the frosting over the top and smooth it down the sides to cover completely, then ruffle the surface.

8. Either refrigerate and serve chilled, or serve immediately, topped with the reserved strips of lime zest.

My notes:

I make two small cakes instead of one deep one and then sandwich them together.

I have a fan oven and so generally have it lower than the recommended temperature and check it frequently.

For the frosting, if you just want to sandwich the cake together and not top it with the frosting, then you only need half the quantity of frosting listed here.

Sometimes the butter can go a bit lumpy during the mixing of the frosting, even if it is at room temperature, so I make it with an electric mixer and beat it until it becomes smooth.

I use light muscovado sugar in the frosting instead of icing sugar. I think it tastes better, and less sweet.

It's very important to keep tasting the frosting until you get it as citrussy as you want it. I like it quite 'tart'.

I think this doesn't need to be refrigerated. Keep in an air tight tin.

Excellent served with a cup of tea and a few friends around.


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