Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Especially for me - Sea bass with Wilted Spinach and Mushrooms

Phill is away. This means self indulgence when it comes to cooking the evening meal. And before you think I am some sort of needy woman (I am, like!) it's only because in this house, with the exception of Lola and her tuna sandwich fixation and, of late, Finn's realisation that mussels are, actually, quite nice and an excuse to play with your food, this house is definitely 'soleless', 'o - fish - ally' seafood unfriendly. And here's me. I adore fish, I adore seafood, but the only way I eat it is if we go out to a restaurant and then I can eat what I want to eat. So when Phill is away, I make Lola and Finn some pasta and then I retire to the kitchen and make myself something from the fish stash I have in my freezer, bought previously with a mind to cook for myself when I am (sort of) home alone.

I find it frankly incredible that it has taken me over a year of blogging before I have got around to recreating a Richard Corrigan recipe. This is just plain wrong and needs putting right, today. I adore his cookbook 'The Clatter of Forks and Spoons', not only because of its reference to one of my favourite writers, James Joyce, but also because the title reminds me of eating at home when I was young and the cutlery was put onto the table in a handful, instead of being carefully placed aside and above placemats. It's informal and it means home. And it goes without saying that I adore it because it is a superb read, jam packed with super recipes and a window into the philosophy of simple, responsibly sourced, ethical food practice that Richard Corrigan is known for.

Anyway, after 'bigging up' his cookbook for him (like he needs it) this recipe is actually from the book 'Cookery School' which accompanied the series were novices are taught the tricks of the trade and how to produce great food. The only alteration I have made from the original is that I added a squeeze of lemon to the sauce, such is my love affair with all things citrus, and I had to use chicken stock rather than the fish used below. If I were making this for more than me, and it could happen sometime, then I would use the fish stock, though the sauce was tasty with using chicken stock, so, it's up to you.

What you will find below is the quantity to serve four. I halved it for me, and I ate it without accompaniment. I would be serving something like Jersey Royals with this and maybe some green beans to eke it out to serve 4 as a main meal.

This took about 15 minutes to make from start to finish. Real fast food if you ask me.

Sea Bass with Wilted Spinach and Mushrooms, adapted from 'Cookery School' from Channel 4/Richard Corrigan

Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad... I wish. let's just say it serves 4 people who like fish with an accompaniment


50 g (1.8oz) Unsalted butter
2 tbsp Olive oil
2 Shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 Garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 180g sea bass fillets, skin on and scored
150 g (5.3oz) Button mushrooms, sliced
50 ml (1.8fl oz) Fresh fish stock (though I used chicken stock for ease)
250 g (8.8oz) Baby spinach leaves
4 tbspCrème fraîche
1 Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Lemon, cut into wedges


Heat a large frying pan and put in 30g butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil.

Once hot, add the shallots and cook over a low to medium heat for 3 minutes until softened, then add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Meanwhile heat another large frying pan and add the remaining oil and butter. Once the oil is hot put in the sea bass fillets and cook over a medium heat for 2–3 minutes on each side. Always cook fish presentation-side down first. In this instance it should be skin-side down first.

Add the mushrooms to the pan of shallots and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the fish stock and allow to reduce for 1 minute before adding the baby spinach. If the liquid evaporates, add some more stock.

Once the spinach has wilted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the crème fraîche. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. You may like to add a squeeze of lemon juice if you are like me.

Place the wilted spinach and mushrooms in the centre of each plate and put the sea bass fillets on top. Serve with the lemon wedges and a garnish of parsley.

And have a glass of something chilled and 'Sancerre like' if you fancy it. Unsurprisingly, I fancied it!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

How to feed your kids peas and lettuce - French Style Chicken with Bacon and Peas

Yes, seriously. Normally a salad garnish in a restaurant is eyed with disdain by my brood and a helping of peas on the plate of either Lola or Finn is usually pushed around for a little while before being tried (after much harassment from mum) and then ultimately cast aside. I can't complain too much. When I was their age, my way of getting rid of my helping of peas was to surreptitiously throw them, one by one, behind the room divider cum sideboard, only to be discovered one day when the room was being decorated and the sideboard was moved. I was, as they say, busted. However, these days, I adore peas and cannot really understand what made me dislike them so when I was young. Maybe your taste does change with age. Not necessarily a bad thing.

I have toyed with making something like this for a while and have various recipes which produce this dish, but I have never got round to making it. But a flick through and the realisation that I had all the ingredients (not massively surprising; there is nothing listed in the ingredients which would be difficult to find) and the fact that I am making do and clearing the fridge out in preparation for going on holiday was another reason not to put the making of this dish off any longer.  Plus, it's French style... Have I told you we're off to France? Seriously? I have? Oh well...

This may now be wearing a little thin.

Anyway, this dish is super easy, tasty and a certain winner because it has peas and bacon together, which, when paired are sooooo good. Maybe that's why Lola and Finn ate this. When it comes to savoury combinations, there are few pairings that are better in my opinion.

French Style Chicken with Bacon and Peas, adapted from the GoodFood website


Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad, generously, plus one other, depending on what you serve with it.

                   125g bacon lardons (or pancetta if you're so inclined)  
                                          8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs                                         
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch spring onions, roughly chopped
300ml hot chicken stock
250g frozen peas
1 Little Gem lettuce, roughly shredded
2 tbsp crème fraîche


In a large frying pan, dry-fry the bacon over a medium heat for 3 mins until the fat is released and the bacon is golden. Transfer the bacon to a small bowl, leaving the fat in the pan.

Add the chicken and brown for 4 mins each side.

Push the chicken to one side of the pan and tip in the garlic and spring onions, cooking for about 30 seconds, just until the spring onion stalks are bright green.

Pour in the chicken stock, return the bacon to the pan, cover and simmer for 15 mins.

Increase heat under the pan. Tip the peas and lettuce into the sauce and cook for 4 mins, covered, until the peas are tender and the lettuce has just wilted. Check chicken is cooked through.

Stir in the crème fraîche just before serving.

I served this with some mashed potato, being that Summer in these parts resembles the month of November and therefore some serious stodge is required.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

My pantry provides - Peach tart

I am using 'pantry' in the loosest sense of the word, as I haven't got a proper pantry, just a few cupboards and general nooks and crannies that hold stuff that I need to use up. Regular visitors might be aware that I am going to France soon (Did I mention it already? Really?) and that I am buying as little as possible in terms of groceries and instead am making good the stuff that I already have. My aim is to clear the cupboards so that I can fill them up again with lots of lovely French stuff when I return from holiday.

Talking of France, the puff pastry which is the basis of this impromptu tart was bought on my last trip there and was, frankly, a bargain. I should have bought more. Along with some peaches, which I bought cheaply from the supermarket a week or so ago and have been kept in my fridge ever since I was sure that there was a quick, easy and pretty scrumptious pudding betwixt the two. So, educated guesswork began.

This pudding is really simple, especially if you buy the puff pastry. I know you can make it, and I have made it, but, do you know, sometimes life is too short, and if you buy a good quality buttery pastry you will have no cause for complaints. All that time folding and rolling and folding could be spent on other, more pleasurable, activities in my opinion.

Skinning peaches is also dead easy. I haven't shown it here but what I do is make a slight criss cross in the skin at the bottom of the peach, place it into boiling water for about 30 - 40 seconds, then take it out and plunge it into cold water to stop the cooking process, then take it out and peel. The skin slips off with ease. As easy as this tart is, as it happens.

Peach tart

Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad twice


One sheet of (all butter) puff pastry
5 - 6 peaches, depending on size (my advice would be skin the peaches as you use them; don't skin them all at once in case you have a significant amount left over).
2 - 3 tbsp of sugar - depending on the sweetness of the peaches
a sprinkle of cinnamon
2 tbsp of warmed apricot jam, for glazing


Grease a baking tray and place your sheet of puff pastry on it.

Skin your peaches and then cut them into 'segments'. Mine were a little squishy so I did this by cutting around the peach first (hard to describe, but by making an incision from the top of the peach and letting the knife roll around the bottom of the peach, back up to the top of the peach again. Once that was done, I then cut the peach again to the size of segment that I wanted and flicked it out, away from the stone).

Place your peach segments in a uniform pattern on the pastry, ensuring that you leave about 1/2 inch or so around the edge of the pastry.

Once the peach segments are in place, scatter the sugar on the peaches and sprinkle a little cinnamon also. Place the tart in a preheated oven, about 180c, for about 30 minutes, but check every so often. The tart is ready when the pastry is golden and the peaches are yielding and beginning to caramelise a little.

Whilst the tart is warm, carefully brush over the warmed apricot jam (I zapped my jam in the microwave for about 20 seconds or so) over the fruit.

Serve warm with cream or ice cream, and, here's a thing... any leftovers you can have for breakfast. The tart has a danish pastry kinda feel to it when cold. Delicious!


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