Welcome to Mum&sons

My two eldest boys challenged me to start a cooking blog with simple recipes that we can cook together - and my youngest one has now joined in. I am hoping they pick up some cooking and photograph skills... or that at least they learn to design and run a blog.


ARROZ A BANDA

This is very similar to a paella, but without any of the paella distractions: no need to peel prawns,  open mussels, suck bones, clams or anything like that.  It is typical from the area of Alicante, where I spent most of the summer holidays during my childhood. The chef that cooks this best in Spain is Maria Jose San Roman from the wonderful restaurant Monastrell in Alicante. This recipe is slightly adapted from one of hers. If you are into cooking rice watch her videos in You Tube - she is not only a superb chef but also a great defender of cooking simply and focussing on the a quality of products, which I totally agree with.

You need: 
- 2 large tomatos
- half and onion
- half a red pepper
- 2 ñoras - or alternatively a teaspoon of sweet paprika
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 7 prawns
- 300 g squid 
- around 400 g 'bomba' rice, ideally Calasparra
- salt
- fumet: made with fish bones (a couple of bones of flat fish) and a litre of water. You can get a huge amount of fish bones for very little money - indeed most fishmongers would normally give it to you for free) 
- saffron 
- olive oil

Start by preparing the 'fumet' (which I normally prepare well in advance and freeze): roast the fishbones, a tomato cut into quarters and two cloves of garlic with a couple of table spoons of olive oil at 250 degrees. It takes around 40 minutes untilt he fish bones are brown with black edges. Put it all in a big pan with two litres of water and boil for 2 hours (or just 20 minutes in you do this with a express cooker) 

Separately, fry the ñoras and remaining clove of garlic with a tablespoon of oil, blend it and reserve it. If you are not using ñoras just grate the garlic and mix it with the tablespoon of paprika.

Fry the tomato (no need to add oil) in a small pan until it gets mushy, almost liquid.

Finally fry the onions and peppers (both cut into small cubes) over very low heat with a table spoon of olive oil for 18-10 minutes until the peppers are soft and the onions translucent.

Up to this point you can prepare it all well in advance or even the previous day.

45 minutes before you are going to eat, boil a little bit of water (half a glass), add the saffron and let it infuse. 
Cut the squid and prawns into small pieces. Take a paella pan, fry the prawns until they get pink with a tablespoon of oil (one or two minutes) take them out and reserve. In the same oil fry the squid for 3-4 minutes, then add the rice (a handful per person) a tablespoon of the ñora or paprika mixture, three tablespoons of the tomato pure and three to hour tablespoons of the onion and peppers mixture. Stir it for a minute or so, then add the saffron liquid (put it through a colander to get rid of  the saffron stems). Finally add the fumet (for each volume or rice, three times the volume of fumet).

Let it bubble over high heat for 8 minutes. Then lower the heat and wait for another 8 minutes. Finally (and take note because this is a secret trick) add a tiny drizzle of oil all around the edge of the pan and increase the heat for 3 minutes. This is to create what is called 'socarrat', the burn bit at the bottom of the paella, which is something that every Spaniard would fight for at the table.

The key to any Spanish rice dish is not to overcomplicate it with too many ingredients. And to be really precise about timing. As soon as the rice is done you need to eat it immediately or it will become 'pasado' (mushy)... yuck...       



GOUGERES

Once you learn how to make choux pastry, you can make lots of different recipes. These are gougeres, i.e salty choux pastry. By far my favourite recipe with choux pastry, as I like anything with cheese. My children also prefer these over chouquettes. Though profiteroles are of course something else...

You need:
- 65 ml milk
- 70 g plain flour
- 70 g butter
- 3 eggs
- 125 g strong grated cheese
- a pinch of grated nutmeg
- a pinch of ground pepper
- a pinch of salt


Heat the oven at 180 degrees. Put a tray with water in the lowest part of the oven so that the oven produces steam.

Put the butter and the milk  in a pan over low heat until the butter is melted. Add the flour and salt (all in one go) and beat well with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and wait for 10 minutes so that the mixture cools down. Beat 2 eggs and add them in  little bits (you may not need all of it, but the only way to find this out is trial and error. The good news is that when you make choux pastry 4 or 5 times you will never forget what consistency you need). Finally add the pepper, nutmeg and cheese. Put the mixture into a pipping bag.

Pipe little blobs of the mixture on a tray covered with silicone. Push down any peaks by patting them carefully with a wet finger. Beat the remaining egg and paint each blob with the egg wash. Bake for 22 minutes.  

FENNEL SALAD

This is a very simple summer salad - great with blue grilled fish.
You need:

- two fennel bulbs
- 1 orange
- a handful of black olives (pitted)
- pink pepper (to taste)
- 3 tables spoons of (good) virgin olive oil
- 1.5 tablespoons of vinegar
- salt

Cut the fennel in really thin slices (ideally with a mandoline). Add the olive oil and vinegar and let it rest for 20 minutes or so. Then cut the orange in chunks (getting rid of the white skin) Half the olives. Mix the oranges and olives with the fennel. Add salt and sprinkle with the pink pepper.  Done!


CHOUQUETTES

While this year I am working this week, for many years I used to spend a few days at the beginning of August in France. Nothing reminds me more of La Republique than going to a bakery early in the morning to buy croissants and chouquettes - vive La France! While making croissants in a pain in... the neck, making chouquettes is very easy indeed.
You need:
- 65 ml milk
- 70 g plain flour
- 70 g butter
- 3 eggs
- 150 g pearl sugar 

Heat the oven at 180 degrees. Put a tray with water in the lowest part of the oven so that the oven produces steam.

Put the butter and the milk  in a pan over low heat until the butter is melted. Add the flour (all in one go) and beat well with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and wait for 10 minutes so that the mixture cools down. Beat 2 eggs in  little bits) and put the mixture into a pipping bag.

Pipe little blobs of the mixture on a tray covered with silicone. Push down any peaks by patting them carefully with a wet finger. 

Beat the remaining egg and paint each blob with the egg wash. Sprinkle the blobs with plenty of pearl sugar. Put the tray with the chouquettes into the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Delicieux. 


ARTICHOKES WITH HAM

Most of you are already familiar with my obsession with artichokes and their truly exorbitant price in the UK. But this is my new discovery: frozen artichokes fom the French company Picard. In the UK they are only sold by Ocado (Asda, you are meant to have the lead on frozen veggies, what happened?) and they do not come cheap: £7.99 for a Kg, even though you can buy exactly the same product for £6.17 if you cross the Channel tunnel (or less if the pound was not underperforming due Brexit). But put it in context: at Sainsbury's you get three small artichoke slices (250g) for £1.90.  And at Waitrose you pay £2 just for an artichoke! You can feed 8-9 for starters with just a packet of frozen artichokes. And the wonderful thing is that is it just the really good bit of the artichokes,  the 'creme de la creme',  the  'fond d'artichaut': no leaves, no waste...and of course good bye to those black nails when you clean the artichokes to get just the cores - simply open the bag and that is all.

For this you need:
 - a packet of frozen artichokes (put them in hot water for two minutes and then cut them in slices)
- 200 g of cubed serrano ham ( if you are lucky enough to leave in london near a Casa Manolo you can buy this already pre-cut)
- 1.5 gloves of garlic
- two tablespoons of wine vinegar (I add 2.5 because I am addicted to vinegar)
- three tablespoons of olive oil
- and half  glass of water
- salt (not much as the ham is naturally salted)

Heat the oil in a shallow pan ( I use a paella pan). Add the ham and the artichokes and wait for 5 minutes or until the edges of the artichokes get golden. Add the salt. Grate the garlic and add it to the artichokes (tossing them well so that the garlic does not get burnt). Add the water, sprinkle it all with the vinegar, wait for 2-3 more minutes and done.


SWISS BUNS - BOLLOS SUIZOS

I am being told these are called Swiss buns in Spain because they were the signature bun of the famous Swiss Cafe in Madrid. But they are eaten all over Spain. A milky coffee (cafe con leche) with a  suizo is a breakfast that you can have perching around the counter of many Spanish 'bares'. In my village this is done at around 10 am while you read the newspapers and listen to the gossip of the day.

You need:
- 320 g bread flour
- 3 eggs
- 8 g dry yeast - though I have recently discovered fresh yeast, that you can buy in Amazon (and freeze) or at some supermarkets in the UK. It is a fantastic ingredient for baking. The proportion is 10g fresh yeast to 4g dry yeast. 
- 75 g butter
- 75 g sugar
- 3 eggs
- a pinch of salt

Heat the milk, butter and 55 g of sugar until the butter has melted and the whole mixture is warm. Add the yeast, mix well and wait for 3 minutes. Then add two of the eggs. And finally the flour and salt. Knead the mixture, put it in a bowl and let it rest (and rise) for 1.30 or 2 hours until it doubles its size.

Cut the mixture into 8 bits (around 50 g each) and shape them as little buns. Put them on a baking tray (with baking paper or silicone mat underneath) cover them with a tea towel and let them rest for 1.30 hours.

Preheat the oven at 210 degrees.Make a cut with a sharp knife half way through the buns, paint them with the remaining egg, damp the remaining 20 g of sugar with a few drops of water and sprinkle the wet sugar on each bun. Lower the temperature of the oven to 190 and bake for 12 minutes.

 

MARINATED CARROTS - ZANAHORIAS ALIÑADAS

This is called 'zanahorias aliñadas' or 'aliñás' if you happen to be in Andalucia, which is where this dish comes from. A bite of this on a sunny day and you will feel as if you are in Sevilla, my favourite town in Spain and a truly happy place. 

You need:
- 3 carrots
- a teaspoon salt
- a teaspoon of sweet paprika or pimenton
- a clove of garlic
- a teaspoon of ground cumin
- half a glass of olive oil
- a glass of water

Boil the carrots until they are 'al dente'. Cut them into thick slices and let them cool down. Ground the garlic with the salt in a pester and mortar. Add the pimenton, cumin and oregano, then the olive oil and finally the water. Put the carrots into a plastic container (with a lid), cover them with the marinade and keep them in the fridge over night. Serve this cold (if you want to do this authentically serve them as a snack, with  toothpics on the side and a glass of cold 'fino' sherry) . I normally dry the carrots with kitchen paper before serving them as the marinade can be too strong, but that really depends on your taste...