Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Thursday, 28 March 2013

No Amphibians were harmed! - Toad in the Hole


So it is the end of March and I would be expecting to be cooking meals that aren't as stodgy and wonderful as Toad in the Hole, but snow in late March means that salad isn't really going to cut it. Shame eh?


Anyway, to celebrate the fact that British Summer Time starts on Sunday and I am still scraping ice off the car, here is a recipe for one of the ultimate and peculiar named British iconic dishes. Whoever thought bunging sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter would be so glorious? Mind you let me remind myself of the key ingredients again... yes, it was always going to be wonderful wasn't it?

March is Delia month at 'Cook like a Star' blog hop, hosted by Zoe at Bake for Happy Kids, Baby Sumo from Eat your heart out and Mich from Piece of Cake. After you have looked at this Delia recipe, take a look below for more Delia deliciousness.

Here is the recipe:

Toad in the Hole with Roasted Onion Gravy, adapted from Delia Smith's 'How to Cook, Book One'.

My adaptations in red

Note - I doubled the quantity below to make four to six servings:


6 good-quality pork sausages – about 14 oz (400 g)
1 tablespoon groundnut or other flavourless oil (if necessary)
For the batter:
3 oz (75 g) plain flour
1 large egg
3 fl oz (75 ml) semi-skimmed milk
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and freshly milled black pepper
2 fl oz (55 ml) water
For the onion gravy:
8 oz (225 g) onions, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons groundnut or other flavourless oil
1 level teaspoon golden caster sugar
1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 level teaspoon mustard powder
15 fl oz (425 ml) vegetable stock made from 1½ level teaspoons Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon powder dissolved in 15 fl oz (425 ml) boiling water (I made mine using a vegetable stock cube)
1 rounded dessertspoon plain flour
salt and freshly milled black pepper


Begin by making the batter, and to do this sieve the flour into a large bowl, holding the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing. Now, with the back of a spoon, make a well in the centre, break the egg into it and add some salt and pepper. Mix the dried thyme in.

Now, measure the milk and 2 fl oz (55 ml) water in a measuring jug, then, using an electric hand whisk on a slow speed, begin to whisk the egg into the flour – as you whisk, the flour around the edges will slowly be incorporated. Then add the liquid gradually, stopping to scrape the flour into the mixture. 

Whisk until the batter is smooth. Now the batter is ready for use, and although it's been rumoured that batter left to stand is better, I have never found this, so just make it whenever it's convenient.

Now place the sliced onions in a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of the oil and the sugar and toss the onions around to get the lightest coating, then spread them on the baking tray.

Next arrange the sausages in the roasting tin, then place the onions on a high shelf in the oven, with the sausages on a lower shelf, and set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the sausages from the oven but leave the onions in for a further 4-5 minutes – they need to be nicely blackened round the edges. When they are ready, remove them and leave to one side.

Now place the roasting tin containing the sausages over direct heat turned to medium and, if the sausages haven't released much fat, add the tablespoon of oil. When the tin is really hot and the oil is beginning to shimmer – it must be searing hot – quickly pour the batter in all around the sausages. Immediately return the roasting tin to the oven, this time on the highest shelf, and cook the whole thing for 30 minutes. Now for the gravy.

First add the Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder to the stock, then add the onions from the baking tray to a medium-sized pan. Now add the second teaspoon of oil, then, using a wooden spoon, stir in the plain flour. Stir all this together over a medium heat and then switch to a whisk, then gradually add the stock to the pan, whisking all the time, until it's all in.

Then bring it up to simmering point and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Taste to check the seasoning, then pour into a warmed serving jug or over the toad. When the toad is ready, it should be puffed brown and crisp and the centre should look cooked and not too squidgy.

Serve with mash and vegetables, and warm yourself up a little!

If you're interested in joining the blop hop, click here for details, and please visit the wonderful food blogs below for great ideas and recipes.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

A meal for Finn - Mediterranean Meatballs with Tomato and Basil Sauce.

My son Finn. In some ways he is very obvious and then there are times when he has me completely flummoxed. I mean I suppose this keeps me on my toes and stops life being dull but trying to feed him is a bloody nuisance. Given the chance, the boy would exist on a diet of chicken nuggets, spaghetti bolognese, eggs in any form and a selection of yoghurts until the end of time, so not what you would call adventurous. And then he will quite happily polish off mussels, (Moules Mariniere in Honfleur, last Summer, ate every last morsel), prawns and the most recent revelation, caviar(!) when we were at a party recently. He eats caviar but won't eat carrots. Maybe he just has a more discerning palate, or else he just likes seeing his mum put her head in her hands when he declares for the umpteenth time that he "doesn't like it. It's too spicy..." Spice for him means flavour - he'll call it spicy when no spice has been anywhere near it. Strange boy!
Finn - being discerning; Lola rocking out by the looks of it...
But here is a gem. I made this and he cleared the plate. I should have taken a picture of it, because it's a gastronomically momentous event. I mean, I know this dish isn't much of a departure from the spaghetti bolognese that he enjoys but it is different and that is not always a good thing.  If it doesn't look right then it isn't right., to Finn.
This recipe is from what I have in my mind as one of the first grown up cookbooks that I bought. I can't really quantify for you what a grown up cookbook is really, save for the fact that in my own mind it is full of the recipes of one writer/cook and it was recommended in the book review section of The Times. This bit may or may not be relevant. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that the cookbooks I had before were perfectly fine bargain basement generic collections of recipes like 'Italian' or 'Desserts' or something and this book was the first had more of a personal aspect. Or something.
Anyway, for Finn... and I will cook it you again soon babe, and for you the recipe:
Mediterranean Meatballs with a Tomato and Basil Sauce, adapted from the recipe in 'The Fish Store' by Lindsay Bareham
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad and one other
My adaptations in red
1 large onion

50g butter

Half tsp thyme leaves

400g can chopped tomatoes

1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper taste

20 basil leaves

15 pitted black olives

1 thick crustless slice of bread

Milk or thin cream for soaking

1 egg yolk

500g minced lamb

1tsp oregano (my addition)
salt and pepper to taste

400g linguine

Chunk of Parmesan to serve
First make the tomato sauce. Saute the onion in the butter until it's translucent, about 5 - 10 minutes, then add the thyme. Cook for another couple of minutes and then remove half of the onions to a mixing bowl where you will eventually combine the meatball ingredients.
Add the tinned tomatoes and stir to combine. Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes.
Shred half of the basil and add it to the sauce.
Finely slice the olives. The original recipe suggests adding the olives to the meatball mixture but I didn't - I added them to the sauce so I could still have an olive dimension to the dish but pick the offending beings out when I served Lola and Finn's helping. If you want to add the olives to the sauce like I did, now you can. Lola and Finn hate olives, me and Phill love them!
To make the meatballs, soak the bread in the milk until the bread absorbs the liquid. Squeeze the bread and then break it up into little. Combine the bread with the reserved onions, the rest of the shredded basil, the olives if you are using them, the egg yolk, the oregano and the lamb mince. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Mix with your hands and then form the mixture into balls.
When the balls are made, put them into the bubbling tomato sauce mixture and allow them to poach. The balls will render some fat which will leech into the sauce and make it a little richer.
Poach for about 8 - 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook some pasta according to the packet instructions.
Serve the meatballs and sauce over the pasta with a few torn basil leaves and a sprinkling of Parmesan.

Monday, 18 March 2013

For Connoisseurs - Bacon, Leek and Sweetcorn Pie

The cynics amongst us might think that themed weeks are a little 'meh' and spend the time wondering what the point is of making a week out of something when let's be honest, a day would be quite enough. However, I am not a cynic and some things are worth a week of extoling their virtues, so most definitely I would say that a week devoted to bacon is a wonderful thing. This week is 'Bacon Connoisseurs Week' which is a week to raise awareness of the brilliance and versatility of bacon as an ingredient, from the crispy streaky that you put on a slice of doorstop white bread for the ultimate bacon butty, to the bacon joint, simmered to create the most wonderful stock and even more wonderful soup. It's hearty, honest, unpretentious food and despite the keenness of the health lobby to point out how we should be careful about the amount of processed meat, sausages, etc. we eat, I still fervently believe that a little bit of what you fancy does you good. Bacon does you good. Is there anything more instantly gratifying than the smell of bacon cooking? I don't think so.  
And if we are to be more conscious about just what we consume, then all the more reason to be selective in what we actually buy. A little bit of bacon goes a long way and the purchase of a quality bacon such as something endorsed by the Red Tractor label really makes the difference to the finished dish and a difference to the welfare of livestock in this country. Food for thought, literally.
So, to celebrate Bacon Connoisseurs Week, I have recreated a dish by Fay Ripley, who is the ambassador of 'Bacon Connoisseurs Week' Her recipe for bacon, leek and sweetcorn pie uses dry cured gammon steaks to flavour and intensify the filling and the addition of leek, sweetcorn and cream cheese produces an unctuous and satisfying pie which even Finn liked! And Finn, as you may know, is hard to please.
I hope that you are inspired to look at good quality, dry cured bacon as a basis for a myriad of dishes that could feed yourself and your family ethically but economically. Here's the recipe:
Bacon, Leek and Sweetcorn Pie, adapted from the recipe by Fay Ripley
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad
My adaptations in red
2 dry cured smoked bacon or gammon steaks (about 200g each in weight), cut into cubes (You could also use lardons, or pancetta)
15ml (1tbsp) Oil
2 leeks, washed, halved and sliced
200g low fat/light cream cheese
325g can of sweetcorn, drained (alternatively use 260g of frozen sweetcorn)
500g ready made puff pastry (I actually used six sheets of filo pastry - Lola and Finn are fans of the texture of filo)
Milk and egg, whisked, for glaze (or melted butter if you decide to use filo)
Black pepper – to taste
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7, 200˚C, 400˚F.
Heat the oil in a large pan.  Add the bacon and leeks and cook until the bacon has changed colour and the leeks are beginning to soften.
Add the cream cheese and combine together well.  Heat through and allow to thicken slightly for about 2-3 minutes.  Taste and check for seasoning - you shouldn't need salt because of the saltiness of the bacon. Add the black pepper and sweetcorn then place in a large 1 litre/2 pint pie dish.
Roll out the pastry to a size that will roughly cover the dish – decorate the edge with a pattern (a good effect is to use the edge of a small round glass) and if you wish cut out shapes to decorate the top of the pie.  Brush pastry with the milk and egg glaze. (If you decide to use filo, use some melted butter to brush over each layer of filo - I used six layers in total. I seasoned the top with salt and black pepper)
Place in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and well risen.
Serve with vegetables and enjoy!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

If I were on Masterchef, I'd cook these - Melting Chocolate Puddings

If you watch Masterchef, you will know that should anyone mention the phrase 'Chocolate Fondants' it results in several things - one: a look of horror followed by that look of 'Are you really THAT stupid?' from Messrs Torode and Wallace, two: a grimace and an apologetic smile/look of sheer bravado from the contestant, and three: about two minutes worth of footage of the contestant peering through the oven door watching anxiously for the point at which they think the fondants are ready. The stakes are high. You either get something that will pleasingly ooze when a spoon parts the chocolate sponge that results in a carnival like response, or else you'll get something you can break a window with and everyone ruefully shakes their heads at the contestant's stupidity for even thinking it was a good idea in the first place. A risky business.
So my advice to any Masterchef contestant would be to cook Delia's melting chocolate puddings, for being Delia, they behave. I faffed around in the kitchen cooking the main meal whilst preparing these, chocolate, butter and booze mingling nicely over boiling water, eggs and sugar turning to something pale and ribbon like in the Kenwood whilst I was chopping leeks. Then a therapeutic few minutes carefully combining chocolate, eggs and sieved flour with a metal spoon before pouring the glossy but still airy chocolate mixture into dariole moulds. A quick tap to settle the contents and I left them on the side for nearly an hour before firing them into a preheated oven for 12 MINUTES. Result? They came out onto the plate with a tap, and a spoon into its chocolate heart revealed gooeyness galore. Yum, frankly.
I served these with cream. Messrs Torode and Wallace. You would have loved them!

As March is the month of Delia on the 'Cook Like a Star' bloghop, hosted by Zoe at  Bake for Happy Kids, Baby Sumo from Eat your heart out and Mich from Piece of Cake, I am submitting this post to the list. See the end of this blog post for more superb Delia recipes!
So, the recipe:
Melting Chocolate Puddings, adapted from Delia Smith's 'How to Cook, Book Two'.
My adaptations in red.
Note: I halved the ingredients below to produce a quantity that would feed Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad
7 oz (200 g) dark chocolate (75 per cent cocoa solids), broken into pieces
7 oz (200 g) butter, diced
2 tablespoons brandy (I used Triple Sec)
4 oz (110 g) golden caster sugar (I used ordinary caster sugar)
4 large eggs, plus 4 large egg yolks
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2½ oz (60 g) plain flour

A pinch of salt


First of all place the broken-up chocolate, along with the butter and Triple Sec, in a large heatproof bowl, which should be sitting over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water.

Then, keeping the heat at its lowest, allow the chocolate and butter to melt slowly; it should take 6-7 minutes. Then remove it from the heat and give it a good stir until it's smooth and glossy.


While the chocolate is melting, place the sugar, whole eggs, yolks and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl, place it on a tea towel to steady it, then whisk on a high speed with an electric hand whisk until the mixture has doubled in volume – this will take between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the power of your whisk. (I used a Kenwood and left it to whisk for about five minutes or so). What you need to end up with is a thick, mousse-like mixture that, when you stop the motor and lift the whisk, leaves a trail like a piece of ribbon.
Not a great pic, it has to be said!

Now you need to pour the melted chocolate mixture around the edge of the bowl (it's easier to fold it in from the edges) and then sift the flour and salt over the mixture. Using a large metal spoon, carefully but thoroughly fold everything together. Patience is needed here; don't be tempted to hurry it, as careful folding and cutting movements are needed, and this will take 3-4 minutes.

Now divide the mixture between the pudding basins (it should come to just below the top of each one) and line them up on a baking tray. If you like, the puddings can now be covered with clingfilm and kept in the fridge or freezer until you need them.When you're ready to bake the puddings, pre heat the oven to Gas 6, 400F (200C).

Remove the clingfilm and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 14 minutes if they have been chilled first, but only 12 if not; after that time the puddings should have risen and feel fairly firm to the touch, although the insides will still be melting.

Leave to stand for 1 minute before sliding a palette knife around each pudding and turning out on to individual serving plates. If you're cooking these puddings from frozen, give them about 15 minutes' cooking time and allow them to stand for 2 minutes before turning out.

Serve absolutely immediately, with some chilled cream to pour over. As the puddings cool, the melted chocolate inside continues to set, so they can, if you like, be served cold instead as a fudgey-centred chocolate cake with whipped cream.


Friday, 15 March 2013

My first venture into Jerusalem: Turkey and Courgette Burgers with Sumac and Yoghurt Sauce

When I say 'Jerusalem', I mean the tremendously brilliant 'Ottolenghi' cookbook, rather than the city, but I have to say that watching the BBC Four series last year which depicted Yotam Ottolenghi's culinary tour of Jerusalem was fascinating. I'd love to go! Maybe one day... Anyway, until then I can cook my way through this glorious cookbook, full of exciting recipes to try.
It was natural that I was going to start here, at this recipe, because you see, the first Ottolenghi recipe I ever cooked was this one, which was a total revelation to me and everybody around me who has eaten it. I always thought that turkey mince was really a bit 'meh!', but pimping it up with some fresh herbs, vegetables and a generous amount of seasoning takes something uninspiring to something you can't get enough of.
Lola and Finn were a bit unsure of the yoghurt sauce and that's okay because as a kid I don't think that I would have been too keen. However, it is a lovely sauce, both zingy and cooling and a great match for the cumin infused 'burgers'. I served this with rice cooked in a little chicken stock and Lola and Finn approved.
So, here's the recipe:
Turkey and Courgette Burgers with Sumac and Yoghurt Sauce, adapted from 'Jerusalem' by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum, Dad and one other
1 lb/500g ground turkey
1 large courgette, coarsely grated about 8oz/200g
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 large free-range egg
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
about 6 tablespoons sunflower oil, for searing
Sour cream & sumac sauce
Approx 80ml sour cream
Approx 160ml Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, crushed
11/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Make the sour cream sauce first by placing all the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside or chill until needed.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the burgers except the sunflower oil.
Mix with your hands and then shape into about 18 rounded burgers of about 1½ ounces each.
Pour enough sunflower oil into a large frying pan to form a layer about 1/16-inch thick.
Heat over medium heat until hot, then sear the burgers, in batches, on all sides. Cook each batch for about 4 minutes, adding oil as needed, until golden brown.
Carefully transfer the seared burgers to a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and place in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until just cooked through.
Serve warm or at room temperature, with the sauce spooned over or on the side


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