Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

So good you may find yourself licking the bowl - Amaretto Syllabub from Nigella Express

Actually, I believe licking the bowl or getting your index finger into the little twists and turns of the beaters after they've been whipping cream is one of life's simpler pleasures. I grew up with Dream Topping (OMG, remember that? Do they still do it? I may have to investigate...) and one of my memories is getting the beaters after my mum had made it up to hungrily remove any trace of whip that might be hiding here or there. I enjoyed it then, and I enjoy it now. And so does Phill.
I am not comparing this recipe to Dream Topping by the way, but I did stand there and enjoy a fingertip or two of this wonderful cream laced with the bite of alcohol when it had just been whipped and it was delightful. Having a dessert dish full of it was real decadence and not great for a diet I don't suppose but Saturday evening Phill and I were on our own as Lola and Finn were at a (very early) Hallowe'en party and I wanted to make something which wasn't kid friendly. This is it. And it's takes about as much time to make as it does to find a couple of decent sized wine glasses, locate the corkscrew, open some wine and pour two glasses, which is the job Phill was doing whilst I did this.
Easy, quick, typical Nigella (in my mind) and certainly express. The quickest pud in my repertoire!
Amaretto Syllabub, taken from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson
Serves 4 (so I halved the quantities below to make it serve 2)
80ml amaretto liqueur
25g caster sugar
15ml lemon juice
225ml double cream
1 (225g) packet amaretti morbidi (soft almond macaroons) (You might not need all of these depending on how much 'crumble' you want)
Pour the amaretto liqueur into a bowl with the sugar and lemon juice and stir to combine.
Whisk in the double cream until it has thickened but is still soft and billowy.
Crumble some amaretti biscuits into each of the 4 glasses (or 2 if you're halving it like me, obviously!)
Divide the syllabub between the glasses on top of the crumbled biscuits, then crumble more biscuits, and sprinkle this golden rubble over the top of all the glasses to give a fine sprinkle of crumbs on each. Serve the remaining amaretti alongside the syllabub

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Something Scottish to go with sausages - Rumbledethumps

... or you could go with a fried egg on top, or have both sausages and a fried egg. Why not? It would all be brilliant.

Whilst we are all fans of bangers and mash chez Lola and Finn, sometimes it is nice to ring the changes and this is the kind of regional, homely dish is one that I like to cook. I also thought that if I drowned it in onion gravy I might be able to distract the kids from the fact that there is cabbage in this dish, as cabbage may as well equate to poison in the minds of Lola and Finn. I am not overly critical of this because I remember being less than impressed at a plate of cabbage being put in front of me when I was young, but as I have got older, I have begun to appreciate that it is a food packed with goodness and iron rich, at least I perceive it to be, and how I would love it to be a part of my children's diet.

This is another recipe from Jill Dupleix, and it is glorious. Once again I urge you to seek out her recipes if you haven't already done so.

This dish originates in the Scottish borders. My great great great grandma was from Melrose. I wonder if she ate a version of this dish when she was a child? I hope so, because it was good just now and I am sure would have been the perfect antidote to a cold day working on the farm back then.

Did I manage to get savoy cabbage into Lola and Finn? Well, a little. The secret is to chop it up really small and they eat some of it before they realise that you are trying to poison them!

Rumbledethumps taken from Jill Dupleix's Good Cooking.

Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad heartily!


500g all purpose potatoes (I used Vivaldi, from Sainsbury's)
400g savoy cabbage
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
6 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter 
30g cheddar cheese (Go for something punchy!)
30g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Heat the oven to 350*F.
Peel potatoes and cut into coarse chunks. Remove any tough outer leaves and the core from the cabbage, and finely slice the leaves.
Cook the potatoes in a large pan of simmering salted water for 10 minutes, then add the cabbage and cook until both are tender, but not overly soft, about 10 more minutes. Now add the spring onions for the last minute of cooking. Drain well.
Add the butter and most of the cheeses, leaving a little to sprinkle over the top later. Mash well, seasoning with salt and pepper.
You may serve it at this stage, sprinkled with the rest of the cheese. Or, if you like, pour it all into a buttered baking dish, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and bake until lightly browned and steaming hot, 25-30 minutes, (which is what I did)
Serve with sausages, or eggs, or both. Maybe a little onion gravy? It's all good.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Because I got confused. Easy Peach and Amaretto Flan

...and confusion happens often. I appear to be hurtling towards some sort of befuddledom, though to be fair the fact that I don't seem to be able to tell the difference between tinned apricots and peaches may have had something to do with the fact that when shopping I was being hassled at the time by two children, well known to this blog, who were putting stuff in the trolley that I didn't want, in between partaking in playfights in the middle of the supermarket aisle so much so that little old ladies were having to manoeuvre their trolleys around them to get to the custard (or whatever it was they were buying). What's that? Yes, you're right. I am an appalling mother.
Anyway, when I got home and set upon the original Gino D'Acampo recipe I realised my mistake in that I had peaches for his easy apricot and kirsch flan which is in his 'Italian Home Baking' cookbook but sourced here from a column in the Daily Fail Mail. I uttered several words not in keeping of the spirit of this blog as I had got everything else out, ready to prepare the damn, a few tweaks and judicious ingredient changes and what we have now is an easy peach and amaretto tart which though inspired by the original recipe, I will now attempt to claim as my own.
I like pastry - I'll have it in, or on, anything, but because I am extraordinarily good as putting fat down I have convinced myself that using filo pastry as the pastry case is almost healthy. I subbed the kirsch for amaretto, the hazelnuts for almonds and a little almond extract and obviously the apricots are now peaches, so you will not need as many of them. I needed a large tin only.
My filo was quite thick as it is the last of the French stuff that I bought back home from that huge supermarket shop I did in Calais in the Summer. Make sure that you put your finished tart on a preheated baking tray when you put it in the oven to ensure that the bottom of the tart cooks all the way through, as the filling is a little bit wet. Mine cooked, just. I think if I had used the thinner filo pastry (or maybe used less of the one I was using in the first place) it might have been easier for the bottom to cook through quicker.
So here we are. This is the recipe that I created from confusion. If you want the original recipe, click on the link above, or buy the cookbook.
Peach and Amaretto Tart, loosely based on a Gino D'Acampo recipe for something similar.
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad, twice, so 8 people.
For the pastry case:
120g filo pastry
20g salted butter melted

For the filling:
120g salted butter plus extra for greasing
115g caster sugar
2 medium eggs beaten
100g finely ground almonds
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp amaretto liqueur
1 large can peach halves drained (though this might be two normal size tins with a few halves left over)
2 tbsp apricot jam
icing sugar for dusting
Grease a 25cm loose-based flan tin with butter and preheat the oven to 220C fan/gas 7 (add 10C-20C for non-fan ovens).
Cut the filo pastry into 20cm squares and lightly brush each one with the melted butter. Line the base and sides of the
flan tin with the filo squares, ensuring that each one overlaps the next. Fold in any uneven edges, or trim off, as I did.
Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the eggs. Add the almonds, almond extract, flour and amaretto and gently fold everything together. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pastry case.
Arrange the peach halves on top of the mixture, placing the fruit rounded side up (you may have some left over).
Put the flan tin on a baking tray and bake in the middle of the oven for 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to 190C fan/gas 5 (add 10C-20C for non-fan ovens) and continue to bake for a further 20-25 minutes until the filling is golden brown and firm to the touch.
Meanwhile, heat the apricot jam over a low heat in a small saucepan. Remove the flan from the oven and brush the jam over the top.
Leave the flan to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before removing the outer ring and place on a wire rack to cool.
Dust with a little icing sugar and serve warm, or leave to cool to room temperature.
We had this with a little cream and it was really good! Thumbs up!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Half term and I am pretending I am in Mallorca - Tumbet

... I am imagining that in Mallorca it is shimmering hot with a periwinkle blue sky and a breeze that merely breathes through the branches of the soon to be abundant fruit trees whilst I sit on the veranda of an old Mallorcan house, sipping Palo and reading a good book, watching Lola and Finn splash about in the pool and Phill visibly begin to unwind and build up some laughter lines. I think it's safe to say that he needs this imaginary holiday more than me. Anyway, in my mind I am feeling pretty damn content after eating the joyously wonderful Tumbet in such imaginary surroundings - it is better than the harsh realism of being sat here in my conservatory staring out westwards watching the cloud...and the rain...and wondering if my washing will ever dry. 
I love these kind of dishes in which the whole is better than the sum of its parts. I mean, I do like all these things separately I suppose but there is something that happens, let's call it 'alchemy' for I like the word, that takes place when these ingredients come together. I don't know whether this particular alchemy will confer some kind of everlasting life and youth but what I do know is that it tastes wonderfully garlicky and glorious. And if you're of a mind to, dipping a bit of good bread into the flavourful olive oil once the Tumbet is no more is a total and utter must.
Once again, as I am attempting to escape to somewhere further south with this recipe so it seems apt that this recipe is from Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escapes, a book that has seen plenty of action in my kitchen, as its battered cover and corners will testify.  Stein makes reference to Sam and Eddie hart's Modern Spanish Cooking, which I also have, and my reason for mentioning it is not to give you some sort of glimpse into my cookbook addition, it's more to emphasise the extraordinarily good provenance of this dish.
It is a little bit of a faffy recipe with a few stages involving frying the various vegetables off, but don't let that put you off because it is worth it. Not unsurprisingly, Lola and Finn were not necessarily taken with aubergines. That's okay. Phill recommends this dish highly, and so do I, 'cos we loved all of it.
Tumbet: Oven Baked Potatoes, Peppers, Tomatoes and Onions, adapted from Rick Stein's Mediterranean Escapes
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad twice as a side dish
My adaptions are in red
For the tumbet:
Two large aubergines, stalk ends removed
1 kg floury potatoes (I used Vivaldi, that I get from Sainsbury's)
About 10 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Two large red peppers (Though I confess to using one red and one yellow - I fancied colour)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
For the tomato sauce:
14 plum tomatoes (Ever tried getting decent tomatoes around here? Impossible. So, I subbed two tins of plum tomatoes instead)
1 - 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion chopped (I used a full onion because it wasn't so big)
1 banana shallot or 3 ordinary shallots (I used ordinary)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 large thyme sprig (I subbed 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
1 oregano sprig (I subbed 1/2 tsp dried oregano)
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
To make the tumbet - slice the aubergines into 1.5cm thick rounds ans lay them out on kitchen paper or a clean tea towel. Sprinkle with salt and allow the aubergine slices to degorge for about 20 minutes.
Peel the potatoes and slice into 5mm thick rounds. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and fry the potato slices until they are golden and tender. You will have to do this in batches. Season.
Halve and core the peppers, then slice length ways into 1 cm strips. Heat some more oil in the frying pan and fry the peppers over a medium heat for about 20 - 25 minutes stirring occasionally. (I cooked mine for about 15 minutes and they were fine). Remove, season lightly and set aside.
On their way to golden!!!!
Meanwhile, pat the aubergines dry to remove the salt and juices. Place the slices in a frying pan with some more of the olive oil and fry until the slices are golden brown. You'll need to do this in batches and you will probably need to add more oil. Set aside.
For the tomato sauce. If you are using tomatoes you'll need to skin them, quarter them and remove the seeds. If you're using tinned, maybe pour yourself a glass of wine at this point.
Bit chunky - we like it this way. You might like to cut them smaller...)
Sweat the onion and shallot in the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat for about 10 minutes or so then add the garlic and bay leaves and cook for another five minutes approximately.
Add the tomatoes and thyme and oregano and some salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce slowly for 25 - 30 minutes until you have a thickish sauce. Remove any herbs you can (I'm thinking bay leaves if you used dried herbs like me) and then taste and season again if necessary to taste. You do need a sauce with flavour because it is going to 'season' the vegetables too.
Preheat the oven to 190c/Gas 5 and oil the base of an ovenproof dish.
Lay potato slices over the bottom and then cover with pepper strips, then aubergines (though for reasons I still don't understand I did aubergines first, then peppers). I had potato slices over so I topped the peppers with them.
Pour the tomato sauce over the top and bake for 25 - 30 minutes.
Serve with chicken or fish maybe. I had Merguez sausages and some sourdough bread and we ate like a king, a queen, a princess and a prince.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Cooking and contemplation - Lemon Chicken Risotto

Normally, weekday meals (on the days where I have to put a shift in elsewhere that is!) are speedy, not overly involved affairs which allow me to do other things whilst some amazing cooking process is taking place. Monday, however, was different. At the weekend I had planned what I wanted to cook that week because I wanted to use up some sad looking leftovers in the fridge, the meat that resembled icebergs languishing at the bottom of the freezer and to get to the very far nooks and crannies of the cupboards to eke out those packets and tins which had become forgotten. All of it needed using. But Monday afternoon I got a cold, one of those ones that feels like it's filled your head with soggy cotton wool and where your shoulders and chest begin to ache. Any other time and I would have uttered the phrase "Chippy for tea" as Phill walked through the door, but I had a plan, and weirdly despite having a cold I really wanted to make, and eat, this dish - Tamasin Day Lewis' Lemon Chicken Risotto, from her book 'Supper for a Song'.
Regular readers of this blog will know I am a big fan of Tamasin Day Lewis and every one of her cookbooks that I own (and I think it's all of them, actually) have sustained some sort of cooking punishment - splattered pages, dog eared corners, slightly bashed looking... you get the drift. This, in my mind, has to be the sign of a good cookbook, if not a clumsy chef. This book in particular I have cooked quite a few recipes from, particularly as I like the premise of being thrifty but eating well. And with the news that I heard yesterday that the average food bill is expected to go up by an average of 15% by next June, it's something worth thinking about. This mum does not want to go to Iceland - I still want to be able to give Lola and Finn a meal without resorting to food that might be cheap but full of junk.
Anyway, whilst I move my soapbox out of the way, let me tell you despite being riddled with a cold, this risotto was quite a pleasure to make. Once the initial preparation was done, the act of stirring and sloshing the odd ladle of chicken stock onto the rapidly expanding grains of risotto was actually quite soothing. I could even do it sitting down. What's more, the end was result was really tasty and comforting; I swear it made me feel just a little bit better.
In terms of Lola and Finn, well, Finn is Finn and very hard to please. Miraculously, when I told him he wouldn't be allowed to play his 4x4 driving game after the meal if he didn't eat some of it. He ate about six mouthfuls and gave me raised eyebrows. This is very high praise from the boy who isn't interested unless it involves sausages, or cake. Lola, foodie adventurer, liked the creaminess. Good girl.
Lemon Chicken Risotto, adapted from Tamasin Day Lewis' 'Supper for a Song'.
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad and one other
Ingredients, plus my adaptions, in red:
1 tbsp olive oil
2oz unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped (I used 3 because they seemed small and we like the flavour)
1 celery stalk, de-strung and finely chopped (or whizzed to a state of oblivion in a mini chopper if you're me because of Phill's celery hatred)
10oz risotto rice (I used Arborio)
1 3/4 pints vegetable or chicken stock (I used chicken)
6 sage leaves, rolled up and shredded (I confess - at this point I used a tsp of dried thyme as I had no sage and felt that chicken, lemon and thyme had to be good)
1 small sprig of rosemary needles, chopped
finely grated zest and juice of one (organic) lemon
1 (organic) large egg yolk
4 tbsp of freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve,
4tbsp double cream
sea salt and black pepper
6oz cooked chicken (I used the meat from three chicken legs - so a little bit extra chicken than specified)
Parsley for sprinkling (my addition)
Using a heavy bottomed saucepan or pot, melt half of the butter and olive oil together.
Add the shallots and celery to the pan and cook gently for a few minutes until the mixture is softened.
Tip in the risotto rice and stir to coat for a couple of minutes.
Heat the stock whilst you are cooking out the celery and shallot and coating the rice, so it is simmering in time to add the first ladle or so of chicken stock. I found initially that I had to put a ladle and a half of chicken stock in first to give the rice something to absorb. Stir the mixture until the stock is absorbed.
Once the stock has almost been absorbed, add another ladle to the pot and continue this process of ladling and stirring until virtually all the stock is used, probably about 20 ish minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, add the herbs and the lemon zest.
In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, the Parmesan and the cream, then scrunch over some black pepper. Mix well with a fork.
When the rice is cooked but still with some bite to it, take the pan off the heat and add the egg mixture, cooked chicken and remaining butter. Add the last of the stock to the risotto.
Cover the pan and leave the risotto to rest off the heat. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary, adding more lemon juice if necessary.
Give the mixture a last stir and serve immediately topped with grated Parmesan and a little chopped parsley if you like.


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