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.


DUCK WITH CHINESE PANCAKES

This is a very simple family dish that never fails to please. You just need:
-       - a duck
-       - a couple of packets of Chinese pancakes
-       - salt
-       - 2 tablespoons of olive oil
-       - four tablespoons of chinese all spice
-       - a cucumber
-       - a bunch of spring onions
-        - plum or hoisin sauce (whatever you prefer)

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees. Salt the inside of the duck. Then make a paste with the olive oil, all spice and salt. Rub this paste all over the duck. Put it in the oven for 1.30 hours and then lower the heat to 175 degrees for another hour. When the duck is ready let it rest for 10 minutes covered with foil, take the meat out of the bone and then shred the meat with two forks.


When you are about to serve the duck, cut the cucumbers and onions into thin sticks. Heat the pancakes in the microwave for 30 seconds and let everybody assemble the pancakes (cucumber, spring onions, duck and sauce) It really could not be any easier.   


SPRING PASTA

This is a really nice and quick way to prepare pasta.
You need:
- a packet of long dry pasta (spaghetti is best)
- a mug of peas
- a bunch of asparagus (chopped in bite size bits)
- half  mug of pesto sauce ( preferably home made, which is really easy to prepare and lasts for 5-6- days in the fridge - see our recipe http://www.mumandsons.com/2011/03/green-pesto.html)
- salt
- parmiggiano cheese (or equivalent)

Boil the pasta in salty water according to packet instructions  (it tends to be 12-14 minutes) 6 minutes before you take the pasta out add the peas, and two minutes afterwards add the asparagus. when the pasta is boiled put it all in a colander, add the pesto ( with a couple of tablespoons of the water that you have used to boil the pasta) and grate a generous amount of parmiggiano on top. It could not be more simple, but it is heavenly.

You can do this with beans or broccoli, but the peas and asparagus combination works really well.


CHOCOLATE TART

Though I was having a really happy weekend, I had to resort to a bashing recipe after receiving on Friday a leaflet from the Education Secretary Justine Greening in my home. Full of superficial trivia (bash) like pointless letters she has written on everything from airplane noise to pollution - as if that could be changed with just a couple of letters! (bash, bash) -  but no reference of course to her draconian cuts to the secondary schools budget which are already having a devastating effect on London schools (bash, bash, bash). Gone are the days when politicians had to be accountable for the financing decisions they took... (bash, bash, bash, bash)

Luckily this recipe involves plenty of biscuit bashing. It is from Simply Nigella and all I have done is to replace vanilla essence in the original recipe with orange essence. The pastry case is made with crushed bourbon biscuits which is one of those truly genius Nigella ideas (together with frying gnocchi's) and it  means you do not need any melted butter.

You need:
- 300 g bourbon or oreo chocolate biscuits
- 50 gr butter (room temperature)
- half a teaspoon salt flakes
- 500 ml double cream
- 100 g dark chocolate (grated or cut thinly)
- 50 g cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons expresso instant coffee
- 2 teaspoons olive oil ( the stronger the better)
- 1 teaspoon orange essence
- 75 g sugar
- a teaspoon of salt flakes.
- 4 teaspoons milk
- 25 g corn flour

Bash the biscuits for as long as you need to get rid of any bad moods, worries or stress (if you are getting tired of bashing just think of the conservative education policy for a minute so that you can keep going) Mix them with half a teaspoons of salt and the butter. Take a flan case and cover it with the crushed biscuits so that you make a tart case. Let it cool down in the fringe for 2 hours.

When the case is ready, mix the cornflour with the milk until it dissolves in it. Then in a pan heat the cream, salt, chocolate, cocoa powder, coffee, olive oil, orange essence and sugar. Put it over medium heat and stir it (without letting it boil) until the chocolate dissolves into the cream. Take the cream off the heat. Pour the milk and corn flour mixture in it, bring it back to the heat and keep stirring until it thickens (around 10 minutes). Put it in a jug, cover with cling film (so that the cling film touches the chocolate cream) and let it cool down for 30 minutes in the fridge. When it is cold, pour the cream into the pastry case and let it all cool down for 4 hours or preferably overnight.

This tart is divine. Definitely good enough to even make you forget for a while about the policies of this government. Final bash!



OMELET 'A LA MENTA"

I went to Milan earlier this week to launch Inspiring Girls Italy with our partner there, the business association ValoreD. What an amazing amazing day! You can see pictures in my instagram (miriamgonzalezdurantez) but  I could have stayed for hours listening to the volunteers telling their life journeys to the girls. So utterly inspiring. I came back mesmerised by the professionalism, energy and strength of Italian women - the kind of strength that comes from the inside, a 'serene strength'. Thanks so-so much to ENI, Intesa Sanpaolo and Courriere de la Sera, who sponsored our event there and also to the Minister of Education for backing us. We are already in four countries and we set this up from scratch, fancy that!

The night before the event I was taken to a restaurant, where they served omelet 'a la menta', which I had never tried beforehand  It was the kind of moment when you wonder: why, of why, didn't I think about this beforehand?! so simple but so very gorgeous. The freshness of the mint with the warmth of the egg and the parmesan - a revelation. I am prone to liking any recipes with eggs, but this... I just love it.

All you need is:

- 2 eggs
- a couple of spoons of olive oil (use a small frying pan)
- a pinch of salt ( not too much as the cheese is salty)
- a tablespoon and a half of grated parmesan cheese
- two teaspoons of finely chopped mint leaves

Heat the oil in the frying plan. Beat the eggs (not too much) with the salt and the mint. Pour the egg mixture onto the pan. After 30 seconds stir it a couple of times so that you get 'folds' in the omelet. Sprinkle the parmesan on top. wait one more minute and fold the omelet in half as you normally do with any omelet. It should all take barely 2 minutes so that the omelet is moist inside. Eat it immediately. Just heavenly.  



STRAWBERRY CRUMBLE

A journalist friend (yes, they do exist, in fact many of them…but for some reason none in the Daily Mail!­čśë) has asked me to bake a Brexit crumble.  This particular recipe comes from the wonderful Nigella Lawson and calls for almonds and vanilla, but over the years we have cut down on the sugar, replaced the vanilla with lemon zest and the almond with hazelnuts (only because a year ago I went through a time when I compulsively added hazelnuts to almost everything - they are particularly good with mackerel and orange I must say) The crumble, just like Brexit, seems fine on the outside, though if you look attentively you can see that there is a mess bubbling up inside. And it will definitely fall apart when you serve it no matter how hard you try. Though to be perfectly honest, I am not sure the messiest of the crumbles does any justice to the mess we are all in.

You need:
- 300 g strawberries
- 100 g sugar
- 100 g hazelnuts (ground 30 g thinly and the remaining 70 g coarsely)
- 110 g plain flour
- zest of a lemon
- 75 gr cold butter
- a tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven at 180 degrees

Cut the strawberries in half. Put them on a baking dish (you can also bake this in individual dishes) Sprinkle them with 30 g of sugar, the 30 g of thinly ground hazelnuts and the lemon zest.

Separately mix the flour and baking powder  with the cold butter (diced). Rub the butter with your fingers for 5 minutes. The add the remaining sugar and Hazelnuts. Tip this on top of the strawberries. Bake for 30 minutes (22 minutes if you bake this in individual dishes)




VINAIGRETTE


I normally dress the salad by just pouring some salt, olive oil and red wine vinegar on top of it (in this order). If you get enough practice you will not even need to measure the ingredients. The rule in Spain is that the salad should be oily, salty and not too vinaigry -  but I love vinegar (and I also love breaking rules) so my salads (which I eat pretty much every day) are always on the vinaigry side. The alternative to this rudimentary way of dressing salads is to prepare a proper vinaigrette and keep in in the fridge for a few days. You need:

- 200 ml of light olive oil
- 40 ml water
- a tablespoon of mustard (dijon is best)
- a teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of red wine

Whisk the olive oil and mustard. When the mixture is emulsionated (i.e. it becomes a thick sauce) add the water, then the salt and vinegar. Whisk it a bit more and keep in a jar in the fridge.

You can also do a variation of this by replacing the mustard by a tablespoon of shop-bought mayonnaise and increasing the amount of water to 60 ml.

Whatever you do please do not add any sugar or honey to it - that is the easiest way to ruin any salad.

It keeps in the fridge for a week.



ARTICHOKES WITH SERRANO HAM

Artichokes are one of my favourite vegetables, together with aubergines and swiss chard. I bought these beauties last week at the truly exorbitant price of £1.99…per artichoke! For that price you can buy a whole kilo of artichokes in Spain (taking into account the depreciation of the pound after Brexit et all) Out of curiosity I searched the prices in different supermarkets  during one of my daily commutes - difficult to find artichokes in the UK for less than 1.40-1.50 per unit at the very best. Insane. How much of that goes to the farmers pockets? as the granddaughter and niece of farmers I can tell you that very little indeed. Perhaps when governments spend money on marketing to convince us all to increase the number of fruit and vegetables we eat per day, they could think of how to work with supermarkets so that  raw vegetables and fruits go down to a more normal prize. How can they possibly justify that the price of one single artichoke is the same as the prize of not one, but twelve packets of salt and vinegar crisps? or eight Mars bars?

For this dish you need:
- one artichoke for two people (or if you are in the South of Europe, as many as you wish)
- two cloves of garlic sliced
- 50 gr serrano ham  (or parma, etc…cut it in little cubes)
- 80 ml water
- a tablespoon of white vinegar
- half a lemon
- salt
- three tablespoons of olive oil

Clean the artichokes: get rid of all the outer leaves and peel the base as well. Cut them in slices and put them in a bowl of water with the juice of half a lemon.  Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Dry the artichokes and add them to the oil. Let them fry over medium heat for 3-4- minutes until them get golden. Add salt to the artichokes.

Separately fry the garlic on low heat on the spare tablespoon of oil (this takes only 1.5 minute or so), add the ham and let it fry for another minute, then the vinegar and finally the water. Pour all this over the artichokes and let it simmer for 5-8 minutes until they get soft (the exact amount of time depends on how tender the artichokes are of course - I prefer them a little al dente, but children normally like them soft)