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.


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... 



COD WITH PARSLEY AND GARLIC

This is great and really simple way to cook any white fish. Perfect for a quick dinner. And very healthy as well.

You need:
- a cod stake per person
- a fat clove a garlic
- two tablespoons of parsley
- half a glass of olive oil
- salt
- one lemon cut in really thin slices (preferably with a mandoline)

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees.
Cover a roasting tray with baking paper. Salt the cod stakes and put them on the tray. In a food processor (or with a hand held blender) blitz the garlic, parsley and olive oil. Pour a table spoon of this mixture over each of the cod stakes (if you have too much sauce just keep it aside and eat it with prawns,  or even with chicken). Put the lemon slices on top of the sauce. Bake it all the oven for 8 minutes. Then set the grill on high and grill for a couple of minutes until the lemons get golden.  as always with fish, do not overcook it (e.i if the steaks are very think just bake them for 6 minutes)



PROFITEROLES

These are sinful: you can get fatter by just looking at the picture; and so very difficult to resist. But they are just great for a party.

You need:
- 65 ml milk
- 70 g plain flour
- 70 g butter
- 2 eggs
- half a teaspoon of salt
-400 gr double cream
- half a teaspoon vanilla extract
- 150 gr dark chocolate

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 the eggs in (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. Put the tray with the profiteroles into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

When you take them out cut a little hole with a skewer or a tooth pick on the base of each profiterol and let them cool down on a rack.

Whip 275 gr of cream with the vanilla extract until you get a hard peak consistency. Put the mixture into a pipping bag and pipe the cream into each profiterol.

Finally, melt the remaining cream with the chocolate over a bain marie or in the microwave (check every 15 seconds). Pour the sauce over the profiteroles.

They are much easier to make than they seem.



LADY FINGERS - BIZCOCHOS DE SOLETILLA

These light little things are called bizcochos de soletilla. It is what elegant ladies eat with hot chocolate in Spain. As far as chocolate is concerned the Spanish population is divided in two: posh ladies who drink hot chocolate in the afternoon, served in fine china and with 'soletillas' on the side; and everybody else who drinks hot chocolate in the morning in normal cups with fried churros (see our recipe). I know what you are thinking, but elegant men eat churros and that seems to be fine.

After 382 posts in this blog I am sure you already know that I am more churros than soletillas. But still, I loved soletillas when I was growing up. In my village there was a really good bakery (Pasteleria Frias) which actually still exists. They used to make soletillas and sold them on strips of baking paper. Eating these with a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of milk seemed the height of sophistication at the time - little did I know then that they can be made cheaply and in almost no time!

You need:
- 2 eggs
- 60 g self raising flour
- 50 g sugar
- a teaspoon of vanilla essence
- half a teaspoon of baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- two tablespoons of icing sugar

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees.
Mix the egg yolks with the sugar and beat well. Add the vanilla essence. Separately whisk the egg whites with the salt until they are stiff. Fold the whites into the yolks mixture.  Then sift the flour and fold it into the mixture. Pipe the mixture into 6 cm strips on a sheet of baking paper. Dust the strips with the icing sugar just before getting them into the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes (the precise timing depends on your oven, but they should be pale)



GRILLED OCTOPUS - PULPO A LA PARRILLA

This is lovely for a hot summer day.  Very easy to make, though cooking octopus requires a physical and emotional battle with the 'pulpo' (see below)

You need:
- a medium octopus/pulpo (should be enough for 4/5 people)
- a handful of parsley
- 4 tablespoons of really good olive oil
- a clove of garlic
- the juice of half a lemon
- salt

Start by boiling the octopus in a big pan with lots of salty water. If you do this recipe with a fresh octopus then you will have to hit it (literally) many times with a rolling pin or equivalent so that it becomes tender. If you shy away from displays of physical violence in your family, then do as I do: freeze the octopus first and then defreeze it overnight (for some weird reason this makes the octopus 'decontract' and become tender). If you do not do this the pulpo will be rock hard.

In any case, when you put the octopus in the water take it in and out of the water three times in quick succession. This is so that the pulpo 'gets scared' (I kid you not) and therefore gets 'tense' again. I do not know whether the physics of this are right, but Galician cooks (as far as I am concerned the best cooks of pulpo in the world) swear by this method, and therefore so do I.

Once the pulpo is boiled ( which you can do well in advance) cut it into chunks, pour two tablespoons of oil over it and toss well with your hands so that all chunks are well coated.
Heat a cast iron pan until it is very hot. Put the pulpo chunks on it and cook them for a couple of minutes on each side until they get a bit charred.

Meanwhile blend the remaining oil with the garlic and parsley. Pour this mixture over the grilled octopus, sprinkle the juice of half a lemon on top of it and that is all. You can eat this with boiled potatoes, rice, salad, crusty bread... or on its own!





HADDOCK 'A LA EUROPEENNE'

This week we saw the Brexiteers throwing haddock into the river Thames, a sin worthy of ex-communication to any Spaniard. Most of the fish from UK waters is actually sold to Europeans, so when Brexit kicks in the Brexiteers are going to have a hell of a lot of fish to eat. Since deep down I am a good girl (very-very-extremely deep down as far as Brexiteers are concerned) I though I would give them a fish recipe so that they can start practising.

We do not make this recipe with haddock in Spain, but with hake, simply because do not eat much haddock there. In fact most Spaniards would not even recognise haddock's Spanish name: 'eglefino'.  I am pretty sure that if you say 'eglefino' to most Spaniards they would think you are calling them names and it is most likely they would respond 'eglefino tu!'  or perhaps even something less polite than that...

Anyway, back to the recipe. Though I have called it fish 'European style', in Spanish this is called fish ' a la marinera'. It is a bit confusing, because the recipe for one of our most traditional and delicious dishes, 'almejas a la marinera' (clams seaman style) does not call for sweet paprika (pimenton) and tomato -  but this one,  merluza 'a la marinera' (hake seaman style) does. Nobody knows the reason for this. But I am sure we Spaniards did this many years ago with the single objective of confusing the Brexiteers, because of course everything we do in Spain, on indeed in the rest of Europe, is all directed to them.

The recipe is very easy to make. You need:
- four steaks of haddock (preferably a bit thick... and if you want the proper recipe then use four steaks of hake)
- half a lemon
- 12 raw prawns (this is not essential)
- an onion (chopped very thinly)
- a quarter of a red pepper (chopped very thinly)
- 2 cloves of garlic (chopped very thinly)
- a bay leaf
- a tablespoon of tomato sauce
- a teaspoon of sweet paprika- pimenton
- half a glass of sherry.
- a glass of water
- half a teaspoon of cornflour
- a tiny bit of parsley
- too tablespoons of (not too strong) olive oil
- salt

Salt the haddock. Sprinkle the lemon juice on it and leave it aside while you get on with the sauce.

In a shallow pan, fry the onion, red pepper and garlic over very low heat in the olive oil (it should take 12-15 minutes). Then add the tomato, paprika, a tiny bit of salt and the bay leave. Wait for a couple of minutes and add the sherry, let it bubble for a couple of minutes and then add the water.  Take three spoonfuls of the bubbly sauce and mix them in a cup with the cornflour - get this mixture back into the pan so that the sauce thickens. Wait for another couple of minutes and add the haddock, cover the pan with a lid and wait (it should take 3-4 minutes maximum though this really depends of the thickness of the haddock of course) Then add the prawns and after a minute it should be all done. Just sprinkle a little bit of parsley on it before serving it.

Do not be tempted to overcook the fish as overcooked fish is awful. If you are a Brexiteer you should be particularly careful with this because, let's face it, you are prone to overdoing things.

So here you are: fish 'European style'.  If eating this does not get you to like Europe, then nothing will.


RHUBARB JAM

I originally did this some years ago from a BBC recipe with real vanilla pods, but the recipe below is with frozen rhubarb (less than half the prize than fresh) and vanilla extract and it is just as good as the original one.

You need:
- 1 K of frozen rhubarb
- 1 K of jam sugar
- juice of 1.5 lemons
- 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
- and the essential ingredient for making jam without any stress: a jam thermometer (£8 in Lakeland - totally worth it)

Put the rhubarb, jam sugar, vanilla extract and the juice of a lemon in a big pan over medium heat. Let it simmer for a good 22-25 minutes until the rhubarb goes mushy. My children do not like big bits of fruit in the jam, so as soon as a rhubarb is soft I press it down a few times with a potato masher. Keep the heat on for another 10-14 minutes until the mixture reaches 105 degrees. Take the pan off the heat and add the juice of the half lemon. Let it rest for a few minutes and pour it into sterilised jars (just rinse the jars with water and microwave them for 2 minutes). You should get 5 jam pots from this.