Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Jubilee food fit for a Queen, or in my case 'Princess Lola' and 'Prince Finn'. Eton Mess

Well, despite my mix of origins, not all English, or indeed British, I would be being a disloyal subject if I didn't broach the subject of the Jubilee in this blog (though I am really quite traitorous in that I am buggering off to France today for a few days, though I am back for Jubilee Tuesday, so I am not beyond reproach totally) so, out of the possibles that one could cite as British food I decided on Eton Mess for several reasons, not least because it is easy, it's quick, and if you are doing one of these street party things, quite simple to upscale for a crowd.

I am not really sure there is a quintessential recipe for Eton Mess, seeing as it is basically meringue, cream and fruit (usually strawberries/raspberries) it's not difficult to figure our how to do it, and if you are doing it for yourself or others you know, you decide on how sweet/crunchy/creamy/fruity you want it to be. Some people mix it up, some people layer it, some people add stuff, so don't think of the recipe below as some kind of panacea, 'cos it ain't. It's just my way of doing things.

I haven't faffed much with the traditional concoction of the recipe, being somewhat of a Luddite when it comes to the old faithful recipes, being that they have stood the test of time because they are great as they are, but I will explain my notion behind doing things.

Firstly, summer fruit in this country can be gorgeous or tasteless. Strawberries taste of nothing sometimes and are in dire need of va va voom, and strawberries straight from the fridge are vile, so ensure your fruit is at room temperature before you start. I am not overly keen on raspberries that can be a bit sour, and for that reason I tend to blitz them with a squeeze of orange juice and some sugar to create a sauce that mingles with the cream, the meringue and the strawberries.

Some people sweeten the cream. I don't. I think there is enough sweetness from meringue and fruit, but if you could add a little icing sugar and vanilla extract to the cream if you want to.

Sometimes life is too short to make your own meringues, particularly when you can buy those natty little mini meringues that are crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside. So I buy them.

Lastly, I layer. Personally I think mixing it all up is a 'mess' too far, and so I like the idea of the fruit being revealed, if you like. But it's a personal thing.

So, here goes...

Eton Mess

Serves Lola, Finn, Mum, Dad and two others.


Large punnet of good quality strawberries (about 454g/1lb)
Small punnet of raspberries (227g/ 1/2lb)
A squeeze of orange juice
2 - 3 tbsp caster sugar
600ml double cream
About 10 - 12 mini meringues


Halve and hull the strawberries,

In a mini chopper blitz the raspberries with a squeeze of orange juice and some of the sugar. Once blitzed, taste and add more sugar if necessary. You could add a few strawberries too if you wish.

In a mixer, or similar, whip up the cream. Once it reaches soft to firm peaks, turn off the mixer.

Crumple the meringues into the cream. Mix carefully to combine.

To assemble, put some fruit at the bottom of the glass, top with the cream, add some raspberry sauce, then more fruit, cream, sauce, etc. I top them with the remaining mini meringues.

Really nice. Really.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Al Fresco food: Spanish kebabs with patatas bravas

Food just tastes better outside. I don't know if this can (or should) be scientifically proven and I don't know if it is really down to the food, but there's something about eating outside which never gets old. Even on a cold, cold day, the mug of soup that you hold in your hands to thaw your fingers tastes more like it is doing you the world of good than sat inside drinking it. It's a more satisfying experience, for me, anyway.

Luckily this is not about cold weather food, for Summer was well and truly ensconced chez Lola and Finn (and indeed the whole of Blighty) this weekend. Whilst the neighbours were giving their guests food poisoning at impromptu barbecues, I decided to cook these kebabs on the griddle inside, not because I don't trust Phill and his barbecue skills (for he is really rather good) but because we were woefully ill prepared in the barbecue and charcoal department. Whilst it might have been nice to have had these sizzling away outside whilst I was busy doing other things, I still think these were tasty, and more importantly Lola and Finn agreed wholeheartedly. The fact of the matter is that I will eat most things, and Lola and Finn won't. Clean plates signifies a massive thumbs up.

I am in the process of clearing out the freezer and using up the stuff that has been in there for longer than it probably should have been. A scour of the back of the freezer revealed turkey breast chunks and some pouting fillets. I figured that with a marinade to juzz them up, a nice salad and some accompanying patatas bravas, this would be a meal that would make room in the freezer and make us feel content and very summery. Success all round.

Spanish kebabs with Patatas Bravas

For the marinade:

3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
1 tbsp pimenton (paprika). I used 'picante' for a little heat
1 tsp of thyme
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp chopped parsley (I used the stalks - more flavour!)
30ml red wine or sherry vinegar
30ml good olive oil

I marinaded 400g turkey breast chunks and 350g of pouting (cut into chunks) with this amount of marinade. You can obviously pick the meat/fish of your choice

Skewers, soaked in water.

In addition, I used some red onion and cherry tomatoes on my kebabs

For the Patatas Bravas:

500g good quality new potatoes. I used Exquisa, a waxy yellow variety
A couple of glugs of olive oil
salt and black pepper
A tin of chopped tomatoes
a few dashes of tabasco sauce
pinch of chilli flakes (or to taste)
1 tsp pimenton picante
1 tbsp red wine or sherry vinegar


Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a suitable non reactive bowl.

Add your marinade to the meat. (I marinaded the different meats separately). Marinade for a few hours at least.

If you are using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for a few minutes to  ensure that they don't set on fire whilst on the griddle.

To make the Patatas Bravas: Peel and chopped the potatoes into even sized pieces, between 1 and 2 cm in size.

Put into a roasting tin and then add olive oil. Coat the potatoes thoroughly in the mix and then liberally apply salt and pepper. Give the potatoes a quick stir once again. Place in a hot oven (220c) for about 25 minutes or until the potatoes yield easily when pierced and are beginning to colour a little at the edges. Give the tin a shake a couple of times during cooking to ensure that the potatoes are evenly cooked.

Start to cook the bravas sauce whilst the potatoes are in the oven. Pour the tinned tomatoes into a sauce pan, add some salt and pepper and cook on a high heat until the tomatoes have reduced a little and the sauce has thickened perceptibly. Add the other ingredients, stir to combine and continue to simmer the sauce for a further 10 minutes or so. Taste for seasoning. The sauce should be tomatoey with a latent kick.

Whilst the potatoes are cooking, assemble and cook your kebabs. Thread the meat onto the skewers, ensuring that each piece of meat is of a similar size so that the kebabs cook evenly.  I alternated by putting meat, then vegetable.

Place the kebabs onto a hot griddle. You might need to add a smear of oil to the griddle so that the kebabs don't stick. Also bear in mind if you have a combination of meat and fish, that fish will cook far quicker and meat will need to rest. Cook the meat ones first, and cook the fish ones whilst your meat kebabs are resting.

Rotate the kebabs to ensure even cooking. My turkey breast kebabs took about 8 - 10 minutes to cook, the fish, about 5 minutes.

Plate up the kebabs, transfer the patatas into a bowl and either pour the sauce over the patatas or, if you have smaller ones, serve the sauce separately. Lola and Finn adore these potatoes without sauce, not unsurprisingly. The bravas sauce is for the grown ups really.


Saturday, 26 May 2012

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream - Almond ice cream

How lovely it is to be blogging this recipe, sat outside, with a beer, not a cloud in the sky. It's the weather I crave the most because it is definitively Summer; no in between, no half measures; no warm rain. And it has been like this for days and days really. This could be our Summer, and I hope it's around for weeks and weeks and weeksuntil at least September, when I suppose I will have to accept that rain and cloud and all that non descriptive stuff is the ying to a good Summer's yang.

So, ice cream. I grew up with Walls. Yes, it's a shame. When I first made some ice cream it was a revelation, and though there isn't much reason to whip up a batch to temper the searing heat on a Summer's Day round here, I do every now and then like to make some to go with a pudding if we are having people around but it's not he same as making it and eating it outside on a hot day.

If custard makes you nervous, then this recipe is so easy and does not involve the temperamental nature of egg yolks. It's basically almond infused cream, churned in an ice cream maker ideally and eaten on its own. It freezes quite hard but melts quite quickly, the sign of good and proper ice cream. The original recipe is from my favourite Spanish cookbook at the moment, Modern Spanish Cooking, by Sam and Eddie Hart and the only changes I have made is to replace the water with cream, and add a little salt to the mixture. It is simply joyous to eat. I hope you have the weather we're having here at the moment to give you excuse to make some.

Almond Ice Cream, adapted from 'Modern Spanish Cooking' by Sam and Eddie Hart

Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad, and several of Lola and Finn's friends


200g blanched almonds (I splashed out on Marcona ones!)
600ml milk
150g sugar
200ml cream
pinch of salt


Preheat the oven to 180c and spread out the nuts on a baking tray. Toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes, turning once or twice.

Put the milk, cream, sugar, almonds and a pinch of salt into a saucepan and put onto the heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to the boil and and then take off the heat and allow it to cool completely. 

Take the cooled mixture and blitz it in a blender, or you could sieve the mixture into a bowl then blitz the almonds in a mini chopper. Either way, you need to sieve the almonds out of the milk and blitz some of the almonds, in preparation for adding some of them to the ice cream mixture.

Take the almondy milk and pour it into the churn of an ice cream maker. Add about 50g of the blitzed almond mixture. Churn until the milk has started to thicken and congeal perceptibly. It took about 45 minutes in my machine.

Once churned, transfer the semi frozen mixture to a suitable container and put in the freezer. Leave for at least eight hours, and preferably overnight.

To serve. Take the ice cream out a couple of minutes before you wish to serve it so you can scoop it properly. Serving suggestion: Outside. Definitely outside!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Quick, quick, and special! Chicken with a chive sauce, inspired by the Barefoot Contessa

I thought I would get in another Barefoot Contessa recipe before the end of May, when the Cook Like A Star bloghop for Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, ends, and I decided that one of her chicken recipes would be most fitting, particularly as I have never met one of her chicken recipes that I really didn't like. My other motivation is that I have wrongly neglected her most recent tome, 'How Easy Is That? as my cookbook collection had blossomed to include other chefs and cookery writers, but it is really nice to touch base with a Barefoot Contessa recipe, as I used to cook many 'Barefoots' when I first started to become really interested in cooking.

Now, I could have sworn that I had shallots somewhere, as the intention was to create her 'Chicken with Shallots; recipe, and as it was I was totally mistaken so had to think of something similar that would make do. I knew onions would lack subtlety so in the end I plumped for a combination of spring onions, of which I had a couple lurking, and chives, which are currently doing their thing quite happily in my garden. And I thought it was rather good, but one thing I will say about this sauce is that it is really quite strong tasting, particularly of lemon, and whilst I added a little more cream to try and temper the acidity, I found I needed a little more salt. Basically, what I am saying is that be prepared to alter the sauce how you see fit, but the strength of the flavour of the sauce is tempered quite pleasantly when it is poured over the chicken and the accompaniments (of which ours were new potatoes and broccoli, both of which suit this sauce tremendously well).

The original recipe calls for breasts with skin. Mine were skinless, and it didn't matter at all. Just make sure you have enough oil in the pan not for them to be swimming but to ensure that the top of the breasts don't stick to the pan during the initial browning process where you will probably be using a high heat.

Before I get down to the recipe, I strongly recommend a visit to Zoe at Bake For Happy Kids whose website is really rather lush and far more aesthetically pleasing than this one, plus a visit to the other very talented food bloggers who are taking part in this Barefoot Contessa bloghop, the links of which you will find towards the bottom of  the page. Enjoy, and prepare to get hungry!

Chicken with chives, adapted from 'Chicken with Shallots' from 'How Easy Is That?' by Ina Garten

Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad.


4 boneless chicken breasts (skin left on) - (Though I used 3 skinless breasts)
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (3 lemons)
1/4 cup minced shallot (1 large) (Though I used a combination of 3 spring onions, white parts, plus 6 chives, finely snipped - some whilst cooking the sauce, others added once the sauce was complete)
3 tablespoons heavy cream (though you might need more)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature   


Firstly, preheat the oven to 200c/425 degrees.

Pat the chicken breasts dry with a paper towel and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Heat enough oil in a pan that is suitable to be placed in the oven, a skillet or such like. Make sure the oil is hot before putting the chicken breasts in.

Place chicken breasts, skin side down if yours have skin, in the skillet and cook 4 to 5 minutes without moving, until golden brown.

Using tongs, turn chicken and place the skillet in oven. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a medium saute pan, combine the white wine, lemon juice, and the chives and spring onions. Cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes, until only about 2 tablespoons of liquid remain. If it reduces too much, add an extra splash of wine or water. Add cream, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and bring to a full boil.

Remove from heat, add the diced butter, and swirl pan until butter is incorporated. Taste at this stage. It will be a strong sauce, but maybe it needs a little more cream, or more salt?

Don't reheat or the sauce will break.

Serve the chicken with accompaniments, and spoon the sauce over the chicken. And if I were you I'd be having a glass of wine with it too.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Inspired by this holiday weather -Keftedes with patates yiahni, or meatballs with potato and tomato stew

Yes, Summer is here! Wow! Well, we all know we will be lucky if it lasts any further than the weekend, but as I am the eternal optimist (yeh right!) I believe that this is just the start of a long Summer filled with Lola and Finn's laughter, heat haze, the sun glistening on the water, warm, light nights and mucho good food, eaten outside, with a little libation if you are so inclined.

I don't know whether it is because I am not the purest of English roses, but the English food that I know and love does not totally lend itself to hot days, save for the salad, which you can get too much of. Seriously, you can. It means that I tend to want to cook the cuisine from those countries with the weather I crave, so here, I find myself in Greece, not for the first time, and if that wasn't pleasing enough, it is yet another recipe for meatballs, of keftedes if you will. Well, give your audience what they like, so they say. I paired this with potatoes braised in a tomato and oregano sauce, and with a little help from a glass of Mythos, this tasted really rather good.

A word or two about meatballs. Seasoning is key, and you find that you need to be generous with the salt to make some meatballs taste of something. Here I seasoned a little more judiciously, because I decided to hide a little piece of halloumi in each meatball, its creamy saltiness helping to season the meatball as a whole. Whilst it might be a bit of a faff, when you mix the meat together for the keftedes, I season a little and fry off a tiny bit to taste for seasoning before making the meatballs. It really is worth doing so that you know that the meatballs you are about to make taste of something.

These recipes are a kind of hybrid of many recipes for keftedes that I have encountered over the years, combined with an adapted recipe from the wonderful book 'Cretan Cooking' which I bought when I was on holiday (in Crete, funnily enough). I bought it because it had a recipe for bougatsa in it. Since buying it, I have found it has many other wonderful recipes which have really enhanced my cooking of Greek food.

Anyway, pour yourself a glass of Mythos and say Yammas! Then try the recipe.

Keftedes, with Patates Yiahni

Feeds Lola, Finn, Mum, Dad and one other

For the Keftedes:

500g lamb mince
5 tbsp breadcrumbs
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp thyme
1/2 tbsp mint
a squeeze of lemon
1 egg
salt and pepper
3 thick slices of halloumi

For the Patates Yiahni:

2 - 3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 tbsp oregano
Pack of new or salad or waxy smallish potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces. About 500g
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper
chopped parsley


Start with the potato stew. Place the olive oil in a casserole or a saute pan with a lid. Add the onions and fry them gently for a couple of minutes until they are becoming translucent but not coloured. Add the oregano and stir in until it becomes fragrant, them add the potatoes.

Add the tinned tomatoes to the onions and then add the potatoes. Bring the mixture to the boil, season, then lower the temperature and put the lid on. Allow to cook for about 25 to 30 minutes, checking occasionally to ensure that there is enough liquid in the pan. Add a splash of water if necessary.

The stew is cooked when the potatoes yield easily when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, make the keftedes. Put all of the ingredients, except for the halloumi, in a bowl and mix together with your hands until well combined. Season a little, then fry a tiny piece of the mixture in a frying pan in order to taste the keftedes mixture for seasoning. Add salt if necessary and repeat until you're happy with the flavout, bearing in mind that you will be putting some halloumi in the middle of the meatball which will add to the saltiness.

Make the keftedes, using wet hands. Roll the keftedes to the size of golf balls, and then squash a small piece of halloumi in the middle.

Fry off the keftedes in a frying pan, over a medium heat, turning often to ensure even browning.

To serve, put the patates yiahni in a dish and top with the keftedes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and enjoy!


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