Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Friday, 25 October 2013

What d'you get when you cross a lasagne and a fish pie? Salmon Parmentier!

Yeh I know. Not funny. Though whilst this might sound at first like a joke, actually it isn't. I think this is what you get when you cross a lasagne, in terms of its layering, and a fish pie for the ingredients. It is a lovely, unctuous dish with not so much cream and cheese added... though of course if you want more cream and cheese there is absolutely nothing to stop you.
I was inspired to blog about potatoes because of British Potato week (of which you can find out a lot more at ) and also for the fact that there is absolutely nothing to beat the spud. I mean, there's lots of other carbs but potatoes are far more versatile and lend themselves to the creation of a vast array of marvellous meals. And here, the potatoes are layered, lasagne stylee, to sandwich the lovely flavours of salmon and the iron richness of spinach.
This recipe is kind of inspired by lots of French visits (and I haven't nearly done enough of them) and that's the reason I have called this dish 'parmentier' as my limited understanding is that this French term refers to something that is made with potatoes, after Antone Parmentier, who promoted the use of the potato as a staple food in France (here endeth the history lesson). I was also inspired by the fact that fish, a creamy sauce and potatoes just 'go' together. 
The dish is pretty easy to make and quite rich so a little goes a reasonable distance; it needs only a green vegetable to go with it in my opinion. You could replace the parsley with dill, for I know that many like salmon and dill, but for me dill is the devil's herb, so I have gone with parsley, for a parsley flecked sauce is a wonderful thing.
Maris Pipers are great for this recipe, for they are bigger potatoes for one, and cover a bigger area when layering, and they retain their shape but are still soft when cooked, though of course you have to make sure they are cut to similar sizes and boil them until they are just cooked.
And finally, this post is an entry for #MarisPiperBritMums Linky Challenge sponsored by Potato Council for Potato Week 7 – 13 October, celebrating the varieties of potatoes and how we like to eat them. Learn more and find recipes at,
Here's the recipe:
Salmon Parmentier
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad twice (six people)
800g potatoes  (I used Maris Piper)
300g salmon pieces
chopped parsley for layering and/or adding to the cream and cheese, so a small pack. You could use dill (see above)
300g spinach (about half a pack, wilted and most of the excess moisture squeezed out) You could use more if you like spinach, as it renders down to very little once wilted
50g grated cheese (I used medium strong (whatever that is) cheddar)
150ml cream
salt and pepper (of which you will need to be quite generous)
 Preheat the oven to 180c

Wash, peel and slice the potatoes into half centimetre size slices, the potatoes and then put them to cook in a pan of salted water. Mine took about 10 minutes or so. for 20 minutes. Check the cooking of them with the tip of a knife; it must go easily but the potatoes should still be firm. Drain and allow to steam whilst you get yourself organised (if you're anything like me).
Cut the salmon into 1cm slices. Chop the parsley

 Place a layer of potatoes in the bottom of a suitable casserole or ovenproof dish, cover with a layer of the spinach and then a layer of the salmon. Season each layer and sprinkle with the parsley and then repeat the process,  finishing with a layer of potatoes.

Sprinkle the top with cheese and then season the cream to taste and pour it over the top of the potatoes.

Place in oven for about 20 minutes until the top is browning off and the juices are bubbling.
Leave for a couple of minutes before serving, scattered with more parsley if you like.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Great Nosh, Rogan Josh!

I think lamb, tomatoes and coriander are a great mixture wherever you put them together, but in a curry they are sublime. I didn't always feel that way though and I was put off rogan josh for a long time because off the vats of it they used to serve up of it when I was at university. Huge cauldrons of brick red slop being sloshed onto overcooked rice was enough to put even the hardened curry "How hot is this exactly?" aficionado off for life. And then there was the smell... Normally on 'Curry Tuesday' I would grab a sandwich and leave for somewhere far more pleasant, even if it was outside and it was cold. The more I think of it now, the more I think this concoction can only have come from dubious origins as curry really shouldn't smell that way. It should be enticing, complex, heady. This wasn't.

However, this rogan josh smelt great as it was bubbling away for an hour or so. I went outside to do a couple of jobs and when I returned to the house was bursting with exotic smells. And a scattering of coriander to finish brought the colours and flavours to life.

This recipe is a hybrid of my knowledge of making curry, what a rogan josh is, and what I had in the fridge and cupboard. I tempered the heat a little as Lola and Finn are not fond of anything too spicy, and any of the offending heat was all but extinguished with generous dollops of cream after I had served those who like it spicy. Though when I say spicy, this was never going to be 'blow your head off' territory for I have ever believed that sweating and eating go together. Eating should be a pleasure, not a feat of endurance.
Rogan Josh
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad
20g ghee or unsalted butter
400g cubed lamb leg
1tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder (or more to taste)
2cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 - 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
225g - 275g onions, finely sliced
coriander stalks
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 can of tinned tomatoes, chopped or whole
150ml lamb stock (I made it with a stock cube)
salt and pepper
50 - 90ml double cream (or to taste)
coriander leaves for garnish
Melt the butter/ghee is a suitable pot/casserole, etc.
Fry the lamb so that it gets a good colour. Remove to a plate.
Turn the heat down low and add the spices, garlic and ginger and stir fry for about 30 seconds. Be sure not to let the garlic burn.
Increase the heat and add the lamb back to the pan with any juices. Cook the lamb for a further 3 or 4 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any residue. Then add the sliced onions and cook for five minutes or so until they are soft and becoming translucent.
Add the coriander stalks, puree, the tinned tomatoes, mix well and cook for two or three minutes then add the lamb stock and season. Bring the pot up to the boil, cover and simmer for about an hour, checking every now and then that the mixture isn't catching.
After an hour or so, taste for seasoning. Add the cream and taste again. If there is too much sauce or the sauce is runny, boil the mixture, uncovered, for a few minutes until the mixture is of the desired consistency. Taste again and season if necessary.
Gotta have Tiger with a curry!
Serve over rice with a scattering of coriander leaves.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Chicken does not have to be in a pie, Stella. Creamy chicken and potato casserole

I suppose I was thinking chicken pie without the pastry, for much as I adore pastry, it probably isn't a good idea to have too much of it. But my children, like me, are lovers of chicken pie. I don't know what it is - the gravy, the chicken bits, the sometimes creamy vegetable filling, genetics... anyway, I thought it might be nice to concoct something that was nice enough without it being encased in flaky pastry so I had a bit of a rummage in the fridge/freezer and this is what I came up with.

This was one of the Sunday afternoon meals in advance that I made in the hope that an afternoon of kitchen pottering might make weeknights just a little bit easier. And, in truth, it has. It was really nice to come home to this yesterday and just put it in the oven to warm through. A quick stir when done and a fresh scattering of parsley and all was well with the world. Kick your shoes off, switch the telly on, a big bowl of this and the trying day you've had is soothed away, or else, sit at the table, cut up some crusty bread for mopping up the chicken sauce and dissect the day with your bubs and best mate, even if it does result in the realisation that the numeracy homework is in tomorrow and Lola has lost the sheet and Finn (it transpires) needs new school shoes (again!!!)
Creamy chicken and potato casserole
Serves 6 (Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad, twice).
2tbsp olive oil
six chicken pieces (I used quite large(!) boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
2 onions, halved and sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
4  scant tbsp plain flour
1 1/2 pints strong chicken stock (I used stock cubes and doubled the amount of cubes I needed for the volume of water)
10 fl oz dry white wine
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
A pack of baby corn, chopped into thick pieces
1lb of  new potatoes, halved if they're big
some fresh parsley (a handful maybe)
a little chopped tarragon (optional)
5 fl oz double cream
salt and pepper, to taste
Pre heat the oven 180c
Heat the oil in a pan/pot that you will be able to transfer into the oven later.
Brown the chicken well on both sides, then transfer to a plate.
Add the onion and sauté, scraping the browned chicken bits off the bottom of the pan. Then add the garlic and sauté briefly until fragrant.
Stir the flour into the onion and garlic mixture until the flour is cooked out. Remove the pan from the heat the and add the stock and wine, or else, you could add the stock and the wine to the onions and cook briefly before ladling some of the liquid into the flour (have the flour in a bowl or jug or something!) and whisking it until the mixture is smooth, then adding it to the onions. The flour will eventually thicken the sauce.
Bring the mixture to the boil and add the carrots and the sweetcorn, potatoes and the herbs. Finally add the chicken and any juices. Stir. Season a little.
Place, covered, in the oven for about an hour. This time easily cooks boneless chicken pieces and they don't dry out because they are immersed in the sauce. It should also be enough time to cook bone in pieces if that is what you are using.
Take the casserole out of the oven and add the cream, Stir in and then taste for seasoning.
Return to the oven for 15 minutes. If the sauce is still a bit watery, leave the lid off to allow it to thicken a little.
I served this with some rice (the kids' request) and crusty bread after scattering some more parsley over it.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

In times of crisis, go back to what you know. Chilli con Carne

I say 'crisis', but it's all relative and my type of crisis is nothing compared to some in the world  - and at this point can I encourage you to give as much as you can to the likes of the Red Cross, Oxfam and UNICEF and other tremendous organisations who I try to support on a regular basis because of their great work with the needy. It's important to know sometimes that the world does not end at your front door. Anyway, that said, my 'crisis' should probably be re-categorised as 'minor hiccup' and it's all about the fact that there has been too much of mum going to Iceland (or insert any other frozen food shop/ freezer aisle of a supermarket here) and whilst I alluded to the fact in my last blog post that my love affair with a Birds Eye chicken pie really does go on and actually I don't mind battered fish, oven chips and beans, I really should be cooking something of a weekend to sustain us through the week, using fresh ingredients and just a little bit of effort. And the fact is, for me at least, it is not just about food that is good for you, but food that is good for my soul. Cooking actually de-stresses me; just a shame that my job doesn't allow me that time to de-stress, hence my regular visits to the supermarket for something that was made earlier.
So this weekend I went back to what I know, and have spent the last four hours creating those go to dishes; those crowd pleasers that you can make a vat of and it tastes so much better the next day and the day after. Shepherds' pie x 2 have been cooked and fridged, a ragu of some sad looking stuff in the vegetable drawer of the fridge has been concocted and there is a chicken casserole blipping away in the oven (and who knows, I might throw a lid of pastry over it later in the week and pretend it was made by Birds Eye) but the success is the chilli. Parties in my youth were centred around a chilli, ladled out over some fluffy rice, containing enough ballast to soak up any alcohol excess, and it is the sort of food that almost makes you glad about the onset of winter, as you curl up on the couch, hugging a bowl of the stuff, watching it go dark earlier and earlier. And it tastes good the next day. And if you're going to make one serving of it, you may as well make several, so on we go.
This is a doubled up recipe from 'Ministry of Food' by Jamie Oliver. Other chillis are available.
Chilli con Carne, adapted from Jamie's 'Ministry of Food' by Jamie Oliver
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad twice. (Please note, I doubled the ingredients below to feed 12 people - and us for a long, long time!)
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
2 medium carrots
2 sticks celery
2 red peppers (didn't use)
olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon chilli powder
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
400 g tinned chickpeas
400 g tinned red kidney beans
2 x 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes
500 g quality minced beef
1 small bunch fresh coriander
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Peel and finely chop the onions, garlic, carrots and celery.
Halve the red peppers, (if using) remove the stalks and seeds and roughly chop.
Place your largest casserole-type pan on a medium high heat. Add 2 glugs of olive oil and all your chopped vegetables.
Add the chilli powder, cumin and cinnamon with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Stir every 30 seconds for around 7 minutes until softened and lightly coloured.
Add the drained chickpeas, drained kidney beans and the tinned tomatoes.
Add the minced beef, breaking any larger chunks up with a wooden spoon. (Should just say, I browned my mince first in a separate pan. I am not a fan of grey looking mince). 
Fill one of the empty tomato tins with water and pour this into the pan. Pick the coriander leaves and place them in the fridge.
Finely chop the washed stalks and stir in.
Add the balsamic vinegar and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper.
Bring to the boil and turn the heat down to a simmer with a lid slightly askew for about an hour, stirring every now and again to stop it catching.
Serve with rice and all the other accompaniments you might like. No guacamole fans here unfortunately, but we do open a bag of Doritos and dive in!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Full time, Family and Flognarde. A tale about the lack of quality faff in my life.

It's official. Full time work and blogging don't mix, least not in this house where I remember vaguely coming back from France and then it's been a bit of a blur involving my kids, somebody else's kids, the 6am alarm, mountains of marking and very little in the way of what they call quality time. It's been pretty crap to be honest. But I should be pretty grateful for my lot and even though meals have been haphazard, sometimes 'Mum's gone to Iceland' stylee (truly I hate myself, and then I am okay because I have rediscovered my liking for oven chips, fish and beans, with a cup of tea, all is right with the world, even though it isn't a world I am used to) and occasionally I have rustled something up. If I were disciplined I would, at the weekend, be making vats of stews and pies and alsorts of those comfort food offerings which wrap you up like a blanket in about half an hour of bunging them in the oven or stove to heat through, but I haven't, and whilst I hate to get political on an apolitical blog like this, Mr Gove in his divine wisdom is determined to have me work myself into a puddle of green ink and then drown in a sea of what he terms 'outstanding progress' instead of spending quality time in the evening with my children, which, come to think of it might be the root of the problem in the first place. We're all too busy chasing our tails to inflate figures on some spreadsheet somewhere to line somebody else's pockets or to perpetuate some ideological point of view and as a result families become people who just happen to live in the same house because they are too exhausted to try to connect and encourage with each other. Family life can be really quite hard to get right.

Anyway, whilst I move my soap box, I decided to get back to my happy place for this blog entry, which unsurprisingly is French inspired. As well as my filling up of the motorhome with French goodies before crossing the channel, we also brought a couple of carrier bags of Bramleys home, picked straight off the tree from our friend Richard's Perigourdaine orchard.
Kids on hols!
So, after blanching and freezing some, apples have been the go to for any kind of dessert or pudding that I have tried to rustle up and I decided that something typical of the region would be appropriate. As is usual, I buy a French cookery magazine when I am there because of my insatiable appetite for mooching through recipes and my aim to try and make my French knowledge the best it can be.   I found a recipe for Flognarde, which I will be honest doesn't sound like the most appetising of desserts if you go on name alone, but it is easy to make, tastes lovely and is lacking a pastry crust for those who have fallen out with pastry (sadly, I haven't) So, apple pie and custard without the 'pie' is what I am trying to say, I think!
The origin of the recipe is from the Perigord region of France, where we stayed for our second week, and I have translated this from the French recipe in this magazine.
Warm with a little cream, this was so like the comfort blanket food I have craved just lately. The only way this could have been better is if it had been made for me *leaves recipe on worktop to see if Phill takes the hint*...
Flognarde, translated and adapted from 'Gourmand' magazine
125 g caster sugar, divided.
150 g plain flour
5 eggs
1/2 litre of milk
the seeds of a vanilla pod or a dash of vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
4 apples (I used medium sized Bramleys)
butter for greasing the dish

Preheat the oven to Gas 7 (210 ° C).

Reserve 3 tablespoons of sugar after weighing out the amount of sugar. You will need it for scattering over the finished dish.

In a bowl, work together the flour, sugar, milk and vanilla and then add the eggs, one at a time.
Butter the dish.
Peel the fruit and cut them into thin slices or little chunks. Put them into the base of the dish.

Pour the batter into the buttered pan. The apples will float to the top.
Sprinkle the top of the mixture with the reserved sugar.

Put to bake for about 40 minutes until the custard is set. You might have to cover with foil if the middle seems a bit runny but the top is getting too coloured.
Serve warm, with a little cream if you like. This is also pretty yum next morning for breakfast, even if I do say so myself!


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