Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Biccie anyone? Random Linzer Cookies

I don't really make biscuits - I don't really eat them either unless I am desperately hungry and there is nothing else or else there is a cup of tea involved and it is the end of the school day and I am sat in a meeting or something. Then biscuits seem right somehow. I maybe should mention at this point 'Jaffa Cakes' which I can consume at speed without them touching the sides and I mention them because they happen to be on the biscuit aisle, but they're CAKES and maybe that is why I like them so much.

Anyway, this month's Random Recipe Challenge hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen was 'your go to' cookbook. In desperate (and indeed, non desperate) times I am a Barefoot Contessa disciple, for I know that her recipes turn out completely as they should for I believe they have been tested to within an inch of their lives in that amazing barn kitchen of hers (not in the least bit envious...) and within the cookbook there will be something that you can just hurl together emergency style, for sometimes slaving over the stove is not my bag and frankly, I just want to eat.

Ten seconds was just enough time to find my well battered 'The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook' which is in a pretty poor state due to massive usage over the years. This is her first cookbook and contains some spectacularly amazing recipes, and has been well cooked from, so finding a recipe that had not been used was a bit of a challenge, until I came across these:
Linzer cookies.
My only tweak of the original recipe was I decided to sandwich some of these cookies with Nutella. Because I can. And should. And it allows me to do this:

Straight from the jar... a spoonful just for me.
Linzer Cookies taken from 'The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook' or from here
Makes loads!
3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain)flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup good raspberry preserves (or Nutella!)
Confectioners’ (icing) sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.



In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/4-inch thick and cut 23/4-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter. With half of the rounds, cut a circle out of the middle with a 1-inch cutter. Place all the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature. Spread raspberry preserves on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust the top of the cut-out cookies with confectioners’ sugar and press the flat sides together, with the raspberry preserves in the middle and the confectioners’ sugar on the top. Or you could get creative with Nutella!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Almost Alliterative - Pasta with Pancetta, Peppers and Parsley

So, I am making it my business to look for meals that are quick to whip up in time for the new school term when I transform from part time to full time teacher once again. I have to say I am little concerned about how I am going to fit it all in, including the upkeep of this blog, but that is all in the future and miraculously, I may stumble upon some sort of efficient routine that allows me to do everything, domestic goddess style.
Talking of domestic goddesses, here is another Nigella recipe for this month's 'Cook like a Star' hosted by Zoe at Bake for Happy Kids, Joyce from Kitchen Flavours and Anuja from Simple Baking.  Normally, I wouldn't post one particular 'star' so regularly but as the rest of August will be taken up by a little trip to France (can't wait!!) I thought I would take the opportunity.
This recipe is from 'Kitchen'. the sharp eyed amongst you will notice that all recent Nigella offerings have been from this book. I do have others, but this just seems to be the one that is in fashion for now. But the important thing is that it tastes good, is quick, is colourful and everybody liked it!
Pasta with Pancetta, Peppers and Parsley, adapted from 'Kitchen' by Nigella Lawson
Serves 4 (quantities doubled from the recipe in the book)
My adaptions in red
1 lb (450 g) spaghetti (I used trofie pasta) 1 tablespoon olive oil
11 oz (300 g) pancetta cubes or streaky bacon
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional)
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup (60 ml) cold water
about 14 oz (400 g) (drained weight) roasted peppers from a jar, chopped into bite-sized pieces (I used a couple of handfuls of frozen roasted peppers, which were perfectly fine) 1 large bunch of parsley, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions.
Meanwhile, heat the oil over a medium heat in a heavy-based pan, one that’s big enough to eventually add all the cooked pasta to later.
If you’re using regular bacon, chop it into bite-sized pieces first. Fry the pancetta or bacon until crisp, then add the garlic, dried chilli, lemon zest and juice and the water. Cook for 1 minute, then add the peppers and half the chopped parsley.
When the pasta has finished cooking, reserve 2 cups (480 ml) of pasta water (I didn't use or need as much water as this, probably only a few tablespoons to slacken the sauce a little), then drain. Add the pasta to the sauce in the pan.
Toss everything together well and add some of the pasta cooking water if it needs it, then season to taste and sprinkle with the remaining parsley.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

£20,000. If I had it I would spend it like this. This blog also includes a Kenyan Curry.


Twenty thousand quid. Wow. If it were just me I suppose I would happily blow it all on a series of very expensive spa days, designer sunglasses, more Le Creuset than my kitchen actually has room for and a trip to New York, first class of course, but I need to think less about my need for pedicures and French cookware and more about actually how actually that amount of money could create something long lasting in the memories of Lola and Finn and invest it in providing some cherished family experiences. That being the case, I would love to take my family on Safari to Kenya.

 This is partly inspired by Phill’s experience of a ‘holiday of a lifetime’ safari that he was lucky enough to experience when he was younger. His enthusiasm for what he experienced: the sparse landscape, the heat, the amazing spectacle and privilege of seeing animals in their natural habitat, rather than peering at them, captive, through the bars in a zoo somewhere was a humbling experience that has never got old. I am gratified by Lola and Finn’s interest in natural history and their inquisitive minds when it comes to animals, and I hope the adventure of an early morning start, as the sun peers above the morning mist, the stillness, only disturbed by our movements in an off road vehicle and then by the amazing sight of elephants milling about around a watering hole, or the lion creeping as it stalks its prey, or the giraffe (Lola’s particular favourite!) elegantly reaching up to pick the leaves from the highest branches of the acacia trees.

I’d hope that both Lola and Finn would be up for sleeping in tents, closing their eyes surrounded by the sounds of the African bush, playing out some kind of Safari symphony – if not, well I could put up with one of those lovely safari lodges I am sure.
Africa, for me, seems a land of such contrasts, from the idyllic to something less so, where many find it almost impossible to forge a life because of the lack of infrastructure that we take for granted. To that end, I support charities like UNICEF and OXFAM in the hope that I can in some small way try to make a difference. I think it would be enormously beneficial with some of this twenty thousand pound windfall to involve our family with World Vision. I think sponsoring a child in another country would be a real opportunity for Lola and Finn to engage with and understand how life is for others.  I’d like my children to consider themselves as world citizens, rather than at the centre of their own little world. Food for thought.
Talking of food for this is, of course, a food blog, and as I am talking of Kenya, a Kenyan recipe might not go amiss. So here is something we ate a couple of nights ago which was enjoyed by all: Kenyan Ground Round Curry.

Kenyan Ground Round Curry, adapted from

Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad

An American recipe, so cup measurements

My adaptations in red

2 tablespoons oil
 1 cup onion, chopped
 1 lb lean ground beef mince
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (I used medium curry powder, similar spices to what you might use in a Rogan Josh)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 medium tomatoes, chopped or 1 (12 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained (I used plum tomatoes and didn't drain)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (didn't use it)
1 tablespoon coriander, chopped 
 1/2 cup water (I used beef stock)

salt and pepper


In a deep medium-sized frying pan, sauté onions and beef mince in oil until meat is browned. Skim fat if necessary.

Add curry powder, garlic, ginger and tomatoes. Fry briefly, then add tomato puree, (cinnamon) and coriander.
Stir and add water or beef stock and season to taste.

Simmer 20 minutes over medium heat to blend flavours. Serve over rice, spaghetti or with chapatis and sprinkle some more chopped coriander over if you like. Everybody loved this, even Finn, and this will become a weekday staple when I return to work full time in a couple of weeks or so.

This post is an entry for BritMums #Spend20K Challenge sponsored by The National Lottery, with more ways to win more money on the new Lotto game. Find out more about new Lotto, which starts in October, here – and about the Britmums #Spend20K challenge here.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Cooking like a Star - Strawberry and Almond Crumble a la Nigella

Strawberries. I do love them, and for some reason the garden has, this year, produced loads! Seems to me that snow in April and the coldest Spring in general for many a year is good for strawbs! Some of them have been luscious, gigantic ruby like jewels hanging heavy, others have been less alluring to look at, but certainly pack a beautifully sweet summer flavour, better than anything I have tasted at the supermarket, where all their strawberries tend to look alike and taste like squidgy cotton wool. Anyway, I used some of the less handsome looking strawberries in this gorgeous Nigella crumble, which was a total hit. If there was a way of making strawberries taste even better, then this could be it, and I think as Nigella says, it might also work wonders on those beautiful but insipid things you get off the supermarket shelf... maybe.
August is the month of Nigella Lawson on the 'Cook Like a Star' blog hop, hosted by Zoe at Bake for Happy Kids, Joyce from Kitchen Flavours and Anuja from Simple Baking. Hopefully this recipe will be a pleasing addition to an already growing and delicious list.
Strawberry and Almond Crumble, taken from 'Kitchen' by Nigella Lawson
My adaptions in red
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum, Dad and one other


500 grams strawberries (hulled)
50 grams caster sugar
25 grams ground almonds
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the topping:

110 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
75 grams cold butter (diced)
100 grams flaked almonds (I used ground almonds)
75 grams Demerara sugar (I used light brown sugar)
double cream (to serve)
Actually some of these strawberries look mighty fine! The dodgy ones must be on the bottom!!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A little ditty about food and falling in love, Greek style! Lamb Souvlaki with Red Pepper Sauce

When I was thinking about holiday memories and food I didn’t really have to think hard and when I asked Phill the question, he immediately confirmed what I knew was one of the best holiday experiences we have shared. Memories of love, of food, of Mediterranean light and waves softly lapping the shore.
Though we had been together for a couple of years, our holiday to Lindos on Rhodes in August 2005 was booked on a bit of whim and was, in effect, the first proper holiday we had shared together and the time to properly cement our relationship I suppose. Phill had vague memories of visiting Lindos a few years previously, a brief glimpse of something special from aboard a day boat but never really explored. For me, it has been somewhere I remembered in bits and pieces from a holiday to Rhodes some years earlier but had never been totally appreciated during a day of cocktails and checking out the local talent, but here we were now, kinda grown up, revisiting and discovering a place that was really amazingly special and which had an amazing power to excite the senses; The warmth of the sun on skin, the hustle and bustle through the winding maze like passages of the old town, the whitewashed Lindian houses against vivid bougainvillea and an infinitely blue sky.
St. Paul's Bay, Lindos
But the senses of taste and smell are the things I remember the most. In my practical head I had decided that we would get by on whatever we could pick up at the local markets and supermarkets  and have the odd meal out in the town from time to time, but a short walk into the old town from our Lindian house soon put paid to those plans as we felt immediately wrapped up in aromas of garlic and thyme and oregano that crept upon us from every nook and cranny. Confusingly, the sounds of laughter and the clatter of plates and glasses seemed to come from above, rather than the almost underground world around us and it was a peek up well worn, dimly lit staircases which revealed another world, a world where mixtures of voices mingled with irresistible smells and flickering votives beneath the mellow light of the illuminated coliseum.  Rooftop restaurants! Both Phill and I were hooked.
Over the time we were there, we ate out at a different rooftop every night, and not one meal disappointed. It might have been the heady mix of herbs and spices, the warm Mediterranean evenings briefly interrupted by a refreshing sea breeze, the chatter of happy voices, the sound of distant bouzouki that made the experience so memorable, but that would be being unkind to the undoubted deliciousness of the food. Having never really eaten Greek food before, I was hooked, and over the flickering candlelight I realised that I truly had fallen for my companion in one of the most beautiful places I had ever visited. And luckily he felt the same…

So, to remind me of one of the most wonderful holidays I have ever had, I made souvlaki, and whilst it wasn't quite the same as I remember, the fresh smell of herbs, garlic and lemon filled the kitchen and my senses once more.

Lamb Souvlaki with Red Pepper Sauce

Feeds Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad


4 tbsp olive oil
Juice of a lemon
1 tsp dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 lb boneless leg of lamb, cut into bite size pieces
8 - 12 bay leaves
Lemon wedges to serve

For the red pepper sauce:

Large jar of roasted peppers and their oil
six garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
a pinch of sugar (optional)
a squeeze of lemon, to taste
herbs - mint, or oregano, or coriander, which I used.
Salt and pepper, to taste


Marinate the lamb by mixing together the oil, the thyme, the lemon, the garlic and the pepper together and placing the cubed lamb into it. Marinate in the fridge for as long as possible - a couple of hours, or if you can overnight.

If you are using wooden skewers, soak in water so that they don't burn whilst being griddled.

Put the peppers into a food processor with the garlic, chilli (if using), vinegar and herbs. Blitz and taste for seasoning. You may find that according to your palate the sauce might want some sweetness, so add a little sugar, some flavour, so season to taste, or a little vibrancy, so add lemon juice to taste.

Preheat the griddle, grill, frying pan, whatever you are using. I used my hot plate to griddle the lamb.

Thread the marinated meat onto skewers, with the bay leaves.

Place onto the grill and brush with any of the remaining marinade as they cook. Turn the skewers occasionally to ensure even cooking. Cooking should take about 10 minutes or so, by which time, the outside should be charred and the inside should be just pink and moist.

Meanwhile, warm through the pepper sauce to accompany the souvlakia.

Serve the skewers with a Greek salad, some rice if you like, and the lemon and red pepper sauce on the side.

I am linking this blog post to 'Holiday Postcards' at Travel Supermarket, which you can find here



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