Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Tale of Two Kormas - Creamy Chicken Korma

Whilst we all know that the quickest way to a man's heart is a six inch knife through the chest; the other, less gruesome way is through his stomach. In fact, the wooing of Phill involved, amongst other things, some carefully selected and cooked meals - lasagne, beef stroganoff, croissant bread and butter pudding, all of which I don't believe I have ever blogged about and maybe, right there, lies a series of themed posts for Valentine's Day. Anyway, one night, very early in our fledgling relationship, he told me that a) he likes cooking and b) he cooks a mean korma. The description he then gave was quite mouth watering: you have to start the day before because it is such a complex process, it involves rendering a pound on onions down to almost nothing, yadda yadda yadda...
Nearly 13 years on, I am yet to taste this korma.
He mentions it every so often, usually when I am making curry and he comes wandering into the kitchen, enticed by the heady smells of herbs and spices, gets a spoon out the drawer, tastes the sauce I am cooking and gives the 'quality control' verdict, but he has never got round to making me his korma, which has taken on mythical proportions since it was first mentioned all those years ago. He does cook on occasions - he once made steak pizzeola, which tasted absolutely lush but my enthusiasm was dampened a little when I realised he had used every plate, dish and bowl in the kitchen to create his masterpiece and I was in charge of washing up...  But he can cook, but never the dish I thought he might cook...
Which brings me to this korma. This is from Neven Maguire's 'Food from the Sun'. He is an Irish chef who I discovered whilst on maternity leave, watching the 'GoodFood' channel in the afternoon, drifting in and out of consciousness whilst I had a plus 9lb baby writhing inside me who kept waking me up,,,(thank you Finn). I remember that I liked his kitchen and I liked the dishes he created, so I bought his book and have cooked from it here and here.
He calls this an authentic korma - to be honest I wouldn't know. What I do know is that it is pretty easy, does not involve a pound of onions and I did not have to start the day before. In fact, start to finish it took about an hour. It's a very comforting dish and Lola and Finn really like it, despite the touch of latent heat it exudes, just when you think it is only going to give flavour. I might use it as a lever to try and get Phill to make a korma...
Creamy Chicken Korma - adapted from 'Food from the Sun' by Neven Maguire
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum, Dad and one other
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped (I used three - I like an oniony curry)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp finely grated root ginger
1 green chilli, seeded and chopped finely 
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp chilli powder
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp tomato puree
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
150ml double cream (or to taste - you might need more, depending on how far down you have reduced the sauce)
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions and garlic until for about 10 minutes until golden brown. Stir in the ginger and green chilli, and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
Add the garam masala to the pan with the turmeric, chilli powder and a pinch of salt and cook for another minute, stirring. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and bring to the boil stirring continuously.
Add four tablespoons of water, (actually - I added about 150ml of water and a chicken stock cube at this point) stir well to combine, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes until the sauce is well reduced.
Cut the chicken into 2.5cm (1in) cubes and then add to the reduced down sauce. Slowly bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and completely tender.
Stir in the cream and simmer gently for another few minutes until well combined. Season to taste.
View on Instagram here
To serve, arrange the basmati rice and chicken korma on warmed plates and scatter over the coriander.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Bank Holiday, Some Lindeman Wine and a Roast, Spanish Style! - Pot Roast Spanish Chicken #capturethesunshine

See it on Instagram!

I didn't really rate bank holidays when I was younger; they became increasingly more appealing when as a student I could work them and get double time to keep myself in weird clothing and Victorian literature, but that was where their allure ended. Until now, that is. Bank Holidays are a little gift which says to you - yes, here is a day off to do what you want with, and the proceeding week is only a four day week so blink and it is Friday again. If only every week started with a Bank Holiday...
But, alas, Bank Holidays are all too few and far between and for that reason they must be made the most of, whether it is simply doing nothing because you can, going out and doing something completely different, or inviting a few people around, opening a bottle of wine and cooking something really tasty that fills the house with mouth watering smells. Which is why this weekend I cooked Pot Roast Spanish Chicken, accompanied by Lindeman's 95 Sauvignon Blanc, and filled the house with the chatter of people catching up with the gossip, the clatter of forks and spoons, and the clinking of glasses to toast what was a day of good mood and good food.

I adapted this recipe from my recently acquired 'Ginger Pig' Farmhouse cookbook which is full of alsorts of amazing recipes that I cannot wait to try. I cut down the chilli heat of the dish to factor in the fact that there were children around, so the sauce as a result gave a lazy warmth which went well with both the wine and the children. Because of my love of garlic, I mushed the slow cooked cloves of garlic into the winey, chickeny sauce to create something really rather unctuous and full flavoured.
I served this with roasties and lots of bon homie. Now, what to cook next Bank Holiday???
Pot Roasted Spanish Chicken, adapted from 'Ginger Pig Farmhouse Cookbook' by Tim Wilson and Fran Warde.
Feeds Lola, Finn, Mum, Dad x 2 (8 people)
3kg (6lb 8oz) good-quality chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sweet paprika
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the bed of vegetables
3 onions, peeled and cut into quarters
3 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
3 large tomatoes, cut into quarters
2 red chillies, cut into quarters (I used one chilli and scraped the seeds out)
2 heads of garlic, cut in half horizontally (I used only one, but it was truly HUGE!!)
3 red peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
400ml (14fl oz) Lindeman's Sauvignon Blanc wine
300g (10½oz) black olives, stoned (I decided, reluctantly, to leave them out...)
Parsley, for scattering over
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Put all the ingredients for the bed of vegetables into a large lidded casserole dish.(I actually used a large roasting tin which I then covered tightly with foil to create the steam).
Mix well.

Rub the chicken all over with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the paprika and seasoning and rub these into the chicken too.
Place the chicken in the dish on top of the vegetables and cover with a tight-fitting lid. (I refer you to how I cooked mine above.

Place in the oven for 1½ hours, then remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes to crisp up the skin. At this point I removed the chicken to a separate place to rest, whilst I reduced the sauce in the bottom of the roasting tin on top of the hob. Then, as described above, I squeezed the soft garlic out of its skin and mashed it into the sauce.

Serve the pot roast chicken immediately with rice or pasta....or roast potatoes and a glass or two of Lindeman's Sauvignon Blanc!


Saturday, 23 May 2015

A (not so) Lonely Dinner for One - Hake Bilbaina

I suppose I should be sad when my better half goes away....and I am, honestly. He makes me cups of tea and usually makes me happy, so I do miss him when he is off galavanting at 'conferences'. But, you have to make the best of a bad lot and the way I do it is by eating the thing I love the most but can't really justify cooking when I have three 'fishyphobes' in the house - fish. Any fish. I am not fussy; just grateful.

So, on this auspicious occasion I give the kids what they really want (chicken nuggets and chips - yes, I am sorry, I am a poor mother...) and I prepare the recipe that I have picked out as soon as I know that Phill is going away. This time it was Cod Bilbaina from the lovely, love 'Modern Spanish Cooking' by Eddie and Sam Hart. As hake was on offer, and in my mind a little more Spanish, I went for that over cod and whilst I am sure it tastes equally as good with cod, the piquant sauce went really well with the more robust tasting hake. What's more, it was a cinch to make. If my brood ate more fish, then my life would be so much easier...
Cod (or Hake) Bilbiana, adapted from 'Modern Spanish Cooking' by Sam and Eddie Hart
The quantities below serve four - I halved it and had the leftovers the next day.

4 hake fillets – evenly sized and about 4 cm thick
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce

12 small plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp sherry (Fino or Manzanilla)
2 tbsp sherry vinegar


Pre heat the oven to 180 °C / 350 °F / Gas mark 4.
First make the sauce. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Cut the tomatoes in half (lengthways), peel and thinly slice the garlic and place in the pan with the bay leaves. Cook for 3-4 minutes until just soft.
Add the sherry and sherry vinegar, season and allow to bubble for 2 minutes until reduced. Set aside but keep warm.
Heat a large, ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Put the hake in the pan, skin side down, and fry for 4 minutes to crisp the skin.

Remove from the heat and place the pan in the oven for a further 4 minutes until the hake is just cooked through.
Serve the fish immediately with the warm tomato sauce.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Resisting the lure of the Curry House: Chicken Lahori

Friday night is curry night. And Friday night is THE night of the week that I am utterly banjaxed and grateful that the day after is Saturday and I can choose to do absolutely zilch (yeh right, I start the washing and clear all the crap I have been unable to shift all week because I have been a) taking an interest in my children b) generally distracted and c) marking something or other) and for some reason Friday night feels like a take away night. It's like a reward for getting to the end of another week without telling someone to stick it where the sun doesn't shine. This week, I evidently wasn't knackered enough to tell Phill to find the menu for the Indian takeaway; I volunteered to cook one. I had the ingredients, I could have wine whilst I was doing it, Finn's football on the Saturday was a later kick off.... why shouldn't I?  And I am glad I did because this recipe is, frankly, glorious. Punchy spice with a languid kick of chilli right at the finish, it was made for the bottle of Riesling that I had opened and half consumed by the time I actually got round to serving this.
A Google search consisting of 'Atul Kochhar, curry and chicken' threw up the frankly amazing Chicken Lahori. It was very easy to make, low maintenance and after half an hour or so cooking away whilst I was rounding up washing and threatening my kids with violence if they didn't get their uniforms off THIS MINUTE, this was ready to be served. It filled the kitchen with the heady smells that I normally associate with Phill bringing in a Friday takeaway. Thank God it's Friday and for once, I cooked it all myself...
Chicken Lahori adapted from the recipe by Atul Kochhar in the Daily Telegraph
Serves 4 in the original recipe: I approximately halved the ingredients below to create a hearty meal for two.
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 black cardamom pods
4 green cardamom pods  
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
3 onions, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste*
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons red chilli powder
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 green chillies, chopped
800g chicken thighs, skinless and
boneless cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons plain yoghurt (You can add more if you find this too spicy for your palate)
400ml chicken stock or water (I used chicken stock)
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
*Ginger-garlic paste: Blend equal quantities of peeled garlic and fresh ginger with 10 per cent of their total weight in water, using a blender or mini food processor. Store in a sealed container in the fridge. If you want to keep this for longer than a few days, add 5 per cent vegetable oil and 2 per cent lemon juice when you blend. Or you can freeze this in ice-cube trays.
Heat the oil in a wok and sauté the whole spices with the bay leaves until they crackle. Add the onions and sauté until lightly browned. Add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté for a minute, stirring well, then add the ground spices (except the garam masala) and the green chillies and tomatoes. Cook for 5–8 minutes or until the tomatoes soften.
Add the chicken pieces with the yogurt, stock and salt to taste, and mix in well. Simmer gently for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked. If the sauce is too thick, add more stock. I found that after the recommended cooking time the sauce was still a bit loose for my taste, so I increased the temperature and reduced the sauce further.

Stir in the chopped coriander leaves and garam masala, then serve.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The tart that makes you look pretty damn good when really you're just well read, resourceful and in a hurry: French Apple Tart (Tarte aux Pommes)

I know I would be a far better cook if I made my own puff pastry but the fact is, I am, essentially, lazy. And I buy loads of that lovely all butter French stuff when I go to France so why on earth would I bother? And, I wouldn't have been able to knock out this tart in the five minutes it took, if I had to spend God knows how long folding, rolling and resting, folding, rolling and resting....
I had a small two concerns: Is it wise to make a dessert that is more nuts than I am? I didn't think there was a major chance of anaphylaxis amongst our Sunday afternoon meal crowd (more like a Sunday soiree crowd in the end: note to self, don't open that wine you've been saving and drink two glasses of it without checking that you have actually put the oven on 'oven' instead of 'grill') and sometimes, people just don't like nuts, so I decided to have a reserve. And this was it. Once you've prepped the apples, five minutes will probably do it and with an apricot jam glaze, it looks like it's come straight out of a French patisserie window. And it tastes, and smells, sublime.
This was essentially sourced from Michel Roux Jnr's 'My Life in the Kitchen', which is current bedside reading, though there are a couple of little Lola and Finn's Mum twists, namely instead of creating an apple compote, I finished off a jar of apple sauce laced with calvados from Christmas that had been lurking at the back of the fridge by spreading it on the base of the tart. I then sprinkled a little sugar and cinnamon over the top of that before piling the apples neatly on top. With a bit of a flourish to adorn the surprisingly neat job I had made of the apples, I sprinkled a little more cinnamon over the top after I had brushed them with melted butter.
This was such a joyous dessert; and amazingly easy to assemble make. And apples, sugar and flaky pastry is never, ever wrong. If you find yourself in a bit of a dessert bind, free yourself with this beautiful thing...
French Apple Tart, adapted from 'My Life in the Kitchen' by Michel Roux Jnr
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum, Dad and four others
1 box of ready rolled all butter puff pastry
2 to 3 tbsp. of apple compote/apple sauce
1/2 - 1tsp of sugar to taste.
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 to 4 cox or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced very thinly (put the slices into acidulated water whilst prepping the pastry to prevent the slices turning brown).
20g melted butter
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
beaten egg, to glaze before baking.
2 tbsp. of apricot jam, warmed, to glaze the tart
Unroll the pastry and cut a circle, using a dinner plate to cut around. Crimp the pastry to create an edge and then turn the pastry over. Apparently according to Michel Roux Jnr, this helps the layers to puff better, and let's face it, if anyone is going to know, it's him.
Dock the pastry with a fork.
Spoon the compote/sauce over the base of the pastry, leaving about a centimetre around the edge of the pastry.
Sprinkle over the sugar and the cinnamon over the compote.
Arrange the apples in neat circles on top of the compote, maintaining the centimetre around the edge of the tart.
Brush the apples with melted butter and sprinkle a little more sugar and cinnamon over the apples if desired. (I tasted the apples to see how they were sour they were; that determined my decision).
Brush the edge of the tart with the egg wash and place on the preheated tray. Bake in the oven for about 20/25 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden, the apples yield easily to the tip of a knife and are starting to colour a little.
pre glaze!!
Leave to cool somewhat, then glaze with the warmed apricot jam.
I served this with homemade vanilla ice cream because I like to show off.


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