Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Autumn in August? Navarin of Lamb

It has been distinctly chilly here the last few days (or more like it, evenings). It's perceptible and it's quite depressing really because it is that subtle sign that I have to return to work, the nights are drawing in and before I know it, the mornings will be dark and I will be stumbling around at 6am trying to find matching pairs of socks for Lola and Finn and the wherewithal to get dressed and drag myself out into the cold rain for another day of death by statistics.
Anyway, I remember Nigella saying something along the lines of cold weather having some benefits, mainly culinary and this dish fulfils this idea quite spectacularly, though ironically I ate this in France when it was really quite a warm and pleasant evening. However, there is a satisfying warmth about this dish which means that as much as it made me happy sat in a little restaurant in northern France, it made me feel cosy and sated as August begins to creep towards September.
I would, frankly, be delusional if I didn't seek out a recipe written by a French chef for this particular dish, and to that end, this is a slightly tweaked Raymond Blanc recipe from his book Kitchen Secrets (though I sourced the recipe through the Guardian website). The only tweaks I made from the original where that I used lamb shanks, which I have had at the bottom of the freezer in the garage for longer than the recommended freezing time (a LOT longer...) instead of the water, I used lamb stock. Using water always frightens me because I just think I am going to end up with water at the end of cooking, so lamb stock was the way to go. I also boiled down the stock at the end of the cooking process because wanted something thicker than what I had. We like clingy gravy here.
I served this with mash. It was amazing and Lola and Finn loved it. Happiness all round, despite the nip in the air.
Navarin of Lamb, adapted from the recipe in 'Kitchen Secrets' by Raymond Blanc
1.2kg new season's neck or shoulder of lamb on the bone, trimmed and cut into 4–5cm pieces (I used 3 lamb shanks)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
100ml white wine (such as dry Chardonnay) (I used chardonnay)

1 tsp sea salt
6 black peppercorns
bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, 4 thyme sprigs, 5 parsley sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig, tied together)
4 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 litre cold water (I used a litre of hot lamb stock)

2 onions, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled
1 celery stick
2 turnips, peeled (I omitted these)

8 garlic cloves, peeled

Check that the lamb is trimmed of excess fat. Preheat the oven to 110C/gas ½. Heat the rapeseed oil in a large flameproof casserole and colour the pieces of lamb over a medium heat for 5–10 minutes until lightly browned.
Meanwhile, in a small pan, bring the wine to the boil and let bubble for 30 seconds.

Season the lamb with the salt, then add the peppercorns, wine, bouquet garni and chopped tomatoes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour on the cold water to cover the lamb and bring just to the boil, then skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Put the lid on, place the casserole in the oven and cook for 1½ hours.

While the lamb is in the oven, cut each onion into 6 wedges, keeping the base intact. Cut the carrot in half lengthways and slice into 6cm lengths. Cut the celery into similar lengths. Cut each turnip into at least 6 wedges.

Take out the casserole after 1½ hours, add the vegetables and garlic and bring back to the boil on the hob. Replace the lid and return to the oven for 1 hour until the vegetables are cooked and the lamb is very tender. Taste and correct the seasoning. If you want to, and the sauce is a little thin for your taste, turn the heat up and reduce the sauce to a consistency that you prefer. 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Rice Pudding, but not as we know it. Payasam (Indian Rice Pudding)

If I were that bothered to look back at what I suppose would now constitute an 'archive' of recipes on Lola and Finn's Mum, then I think I would be looking at three, maybe four recipes for a rice pudding of some description, and that really isn't a bad thing, because, frankly, rice pudding is not a bad thing. Rice pudding is glorious. Rice pudding is ace. And rice pudding is loved the world over, as this recipe for an Indian rice pudding, Payasam, clearly shows.

There's very little else to say, other than this is a recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay's Great Escapes, his cookery book on Indian food. Whilst I am not a fan of Ramsay, the man, his recipes can be relied on to work and this one does, beautifully.
I made a change to the original recipe in that instead of adding water to the mix (rice pudding and water did not compute in my mind) I replaced the water with milk. I suppose it made it more creamy, maybe. I don't know. I also cooked this so it was reasonably dry because it's my preference. Of course, you might like more of a liquid consistency, in which case don't cook it as long. Simple!
Lola and Finn adored this. And it was a stunning end to an Indian meal as it took away the spice of the main course and soothed the palate with something sweet and comforting. Gorgeous!
Payasam, or Indian Rice Pudding, adapted from 'Great Escape', by Gordon Ramsay
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad and one other generously.
150g basmati rice, rinsed and drained
400ml coconut milk
400ml water (but I used milk)
100g jaggery or light brown soft sugar (I used the sugar)
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
50g (or a handful) of mixed chopped nuts (I used flaked almonds)
20g sultanas and/or raisins
Put the rice, milks, (or milk and water) jaggery/sugar and cinnamon into a heavy based saucepan with a lid and being to the boil.
Reduce the heat and partially cover the saucepan with the lid, and leave to simmer gently for about 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. If you like it drier, cook it for longer.
Add three quarters of the nuts and dried fruit to the rice pudding and stir well to combine. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid and leave to stand for about 5 minutes or so. If the pudding appears dry, then you can add a little milk/water to slacken it off a little.
Ladle the rice pudding into bowls, and scatter the remaining nuts/fruits on top.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Definitely not lost in translation: Chocolate and Banana Clafoutis, ou Clafoutis Chocolat et Banane

Many, many years ago I was really quite good at speaking French and was verging on fluent. Then I decided to study English at university and the whole thing started to unravel. Years of not really engaging with the language began to take its toll and as the visits became fewer, the more my knowledge waned. Fast forward about 10 years or so and my first visit to rural France in too long a time resulted in me just hearing 'noise' which I knew was French, but which meant absolutely nothing to me. Only when I managed to blurt out the phrase 'Est ce que vous parlez plus, plus lentement s'il vous plait' did I manage to cotton on to the odd word. A real fall from grace for the woman who had discussed the works of Jean Paul Sartre, in French, for her A level oral French examination. I was sad. And annoyed.
So, for the recent trip, I decided to immerse myself as much as possible in the language. Searching out French radio on long wave radio, TV5 on the cable telly, Pimsleur French III in the car to and from work, resulting in strange looks from fellow commuters as I sat at traffic lights, remonstrating with an absent Frenchman about my hotel room being dirty. I even rediscovered my gallic shrug, resulting in my losing the panicky squeak when I tried to communicate in a language that was not my own. The result was that I performed a lot better this time around, with about 90% communication and 10% gesticulation. Result!
Anyway, you may be wondering where I am going with this and up to now there has been a distinct lack of recipe mentioned. I was in the supermarket in France just before returning to the UK and I happened upon the magazines. I resist the temptation to buy food magazines in this country because it's a slippery slope. I buy one, I'll buy two, I'll buy them every month and before I know it I'll have piles of them all over the house, but I figured buying a French one would be 1) a one off, and 2) a good way to immerse myself in a language that I had rediscovered a love for and that I wanted to use. So this is what I bought:
...and there are lots of lovely recipes I want to try, but I started with this one, Banana and Chocolate clafoutis.
My alterations to the recipe were few. The original recipe calls for 180ml of milk to be added to the chocolate mixture. I added 60ml because I was concerned about the 'runniness' of the raw batter mixture. I didn't think it would set and so erred on the side of caution. It might have been that my eggs might not have been as 'gros' as the ones called for in the recipe. Either way, I would exercise a bit of caution in case the batter becomes far too runny. I also added a pinch of salt to the batter mix to bring out more of the chocolate flavour.
Several words about bananas. You want ones that are pleasingly yellow and slightly yielding. If they're turning black I don't think they lend themselves to this recipe. You want bananas that are going to keep their shape and not disintegrate to mush. Yuk. keep those for banana bread.
Clafoutis chocolat et banane, translated and adapted from the recipe in the French publication 'Cuisine de Grand-Mere'
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad, generously.
100g of dark chocolate
50g butter
50g caster sugar
3 large eggs
2 tbsp cornflour
180ml full fat milk (I used 60ml, see explanation above)
a pinch of salt
3 large bananas
Preheat the oven to 180c (Gas 6)
Melt the chocolate gently in a bain marie or double boiler - basically in a bowl placed over simmering water. Don't let the bowl touch the water or else the chocolate will seize.
When the chocolate is melted, add the butter and combine.
Then, add the sugar. Stir to combine.
Let the chocolate mixture cool slightly, so that it doesn't scramble the egg that you are about to add to it.
Beat the eggs together, then slowly add them to the chocolate mixture. Stir until the chocolate mixture and eggs are well combined.
Add the cornflour little by little, whisking it in and taking care not to create (or leave!) lumps in the chocolate batter. Add a pinch of salt.
Lastly, add the milk to the batter, little by little, until the mixture is well combined. You may want to add less milk.
Butter six ramekins, or one larger souffle type dish (actually, I used a cake pan).
Slice the bananas and place into the bottom of the ramekins or dish.
Pour the batter mixture over.
Place in the oven for 20 minutes for ramekins or 30 mins for a larger dish. The clafoutis is ready when it is set but with a little wobble.
Allow to cool slightly.
I served this with cream and it was tremendous!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Cakes not balls: Turkey cakes with Wasabi Guacamole

The first dish I cooked from the Ottolenghi cookbook was turkey meatballs which was, frankly, a revelation. I know it's hardly some sort of haute cuisine and I daresay it isn't gracing the menus of many Michelin starred restaurants just now but the fact is that it (or they I suppose) taste totally fabulous. I also think that any recipe that manages to impart some semblance of flavour into turkey mince is one worth keeping and cooking regularly.

So when I was perusing the Guardian website for something else it was with such happiness that I saw this. Firstly, an Ottolenghi recipe. Fabulous. Secondly. Turkey mince. Well, it has to be okay doesn't it? And it was...

Wasabi and kids don't do really go together and I'll be honest I didn't even try. I gave Lola and Finn a little guacamole before I put wasabi into it which they tried but weren't massively excited by. That's okay, Phill isn't greatly excited by it either. However, the addition of a little wasabi just transformed the guacamole into something with pizazz, which married well with the turkey cakes. Phill was pleasantly surprised.

Lola and Finn really enjoyed the turkey cakes. I suppose what makes these cakes rather than balls is that they're flat rather than round and are baked. I also think you could make these into burgers and they would be lovely topped with feta and a tomatoey, chilli relish.

Turkey Cakes with Wasabi Guacamole from The Guardian website

Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad generously.


For the cakes:

2 courgettes, coarsely grated (net weight 250g) (Two medium ones for me)Salt and black pepper
600g minced turkey, or chicken (I used 500g)2 medium free-range eggs
1½ tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp chopped coriander
3 tbsp chopped mint
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
60g chopped spring onion
Sunflower oil, for frying
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp mirin
½ tsp toasted sesame seeds (which I forgot to use!!)

For the wasabi guacamole:

2 ripe avocados, peeled (net weight 300g)
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp wasabi paste
20g chopped spring onion


Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

 Put the grated courgette in a sieve, mixed with a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and leave to drain for about 15 minutes.

Squeeze out as much liquid as possible with your hands, then put the courgette in a large mixing bowl along with the turkey, eggs, cumin, coriander, mint, garlic, three-quarters of the spring onion, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Mix together well. then shape into 12 patties weighing about 80g each (or just eyeball it, like I did)

Because turkey mince is so bland, I always worry about whether I have seasoned the meat enough. Fr that reason I take a little of the mixture and fry it off to taste for seasoning. If I need to add more, then I do so. You'd be surprised how much salt you might need to make turkey mince taste of something  When you're happy with the seasoning then shape into 12 patties weighing about 80g each (or just eyeball it, like I did).

Heat two tablespoons of sunflower oil in a large frying pan and fry the patties for four minutes, turning once, until nice and brown on both sides.

Transfer to a baking tray and finish off in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

I confess, I like it chunky!

While the turkey cakes are in the oven, make the guacamole: mash the avocado with a fork and mix together with the lime juice, wasabi, chopped spring onion and half a teaspoon of salt.

Mix the sweet chilli and mirin in a separate bowl, and brush this over the turkey cakes as soon as they come out of the oven.

Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top (if you don't forget!) and serve with the guacamole on the side.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Speeding up history - Bakewell Tart (or pudding, if you like)

I am lucky in that being British I have gorgeously satisfying, completely stodgy puddings in my cooking DNA. Whilst sometimes it might be nice to finish a meal with something light, there are times, often when it's cold or miserable outside, that I require something a little more weighty, the kind of 'afters' that sticks to your ribs. And whilst this particular pudding might not have the sticky gravitas of Spotted Dick or Steamed Treacle Sponge, Bakewell Tart is a gorgeous way of finishing off a meal. And to think, like Tarte Tatin, it happened through mistake...

Coming back from France I brought a motor home freezer full of (amongst other things) puff pastry, filo pastry, shortcrust pastry and so on, not because I hate making pastry as such but because it's so bloody cheap compared to here and it's amazing quality. And it's easy to whip something up resembling a hearty meal when I come home from work when the pastry is already there, done, waiting to be topped with tomatoes or mozzarella or something, or wrapped around potatoes and meat to produce a pie or a pasty, both adored by Lola and Finn. I figured that I could make this tart easier by using ready made pastry. Ordinarily I would have used puff as this is meant to be more faithful to whatever the 'original recipe' was, but I used pate brisee this time and it was absolutely fine, and totally delicious.

And as my great, great grandma and plenty of her forebears are from Bakewell, I kinda feel quite close to this pudding, imagining that some of my ancestors might have been ones to try the original mistake in the Rutland Arms, nearly 200 years ago.

Bakewell Tart or Pudding


6 - 8 oz puff pastry (though on this occasion I used ready rolled pate brisee)3 oz butter
3 oz caster sugar
3 egg yolks lightly beaten
2 egg whites
A quarter of a teaspoon of almond essence or almond oil if you have it.
four tablespoons of firm raspberry jam
(though I have used a bit more than that - I like it jammy)

A handful of flaked almonds


Preheat oven to 210 C and put in a baking sheet to warm up (the bottom of the pie needs extra heat to cook the pastry)

Roll the pastry out and use to line a greased tart tin or pie plate about 7 inches across and one inch deep with a tiny lip all the way round. Spread the jam thinly on the bottom of the pastry. It should look like a big jam tart.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, and work in the egg yolks and almond essence bit by bit.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold into the butter and sugar mix. You might end up with a batter that is quite thick, but you should be able to pour it into the pastry and jam.

Pour this batter over the jam, scatter some flaked almonds over the top and place in the oven on the baking sheet. After about 15 minutes, check the pie to see if the top is browning. If it is getting quite dark, reduce the heat down to about 180 C. Bake for a further 20 minutes or so, but keep checking. If the batter is still too wobbly but is browning more than it should, place some foil over the top.

The pudding is ready when the pastry is puffed and the mix has risen and looks dark. The batter will yield a little.

Allow to cool slightly. The top will sink very slightly but its meant to.

Serve with pouring cream, custard or vanilla ice cream. Custard is the accompaniment of choice around here!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...