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.


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. 

WELSH CAKES

I was asked to come up with a Spanish version of Welsh Cakes after I attended a London Welsh Rugby lunch last Saturday to raise funds for Inspiring Girls. You can see the welsh cakes that were served there on my instagram. And the BBC report on Inspiring Girls sponsoring the London Welsh Women's Rugby team with Lotus here (via twitter): https://mobile.twitter.com/londonwelshwrfc/status/971824330718969859.

I don't want to upset the Brexit ultras ( oh well...) but it turns out Sheffield University researchers are looking into an influx of Spanish migrants into the Welsh copper mines 4,000 years ago, which means that perhaps Wales and Spain are not so far apart as one might initially have thought...and perhaps there is a bit of Spain as it happens in welsh cakes...fancy that.

Anyway, going back to the recipe, this one is a Delia recipe adapted to Mediterranean flavours as it has orange zest and orange blossom water. I do not want to disrespect the original recipe, but this is very very good...

You need:
- 225g self raising flour
- one teaspoon mixed spice
- 110 g butter
- 75 gr sugar
- 100 g sultanas
- 1 egg
- zest of an orange
- a teaspoon and a half of orange blossom water

Sift the flour and mixed spice. Add the sugar. Then add the butter cut into little squares. Rub the flour and sugar with the butter with your finger tips until you get the consistency of bread crumbs. Add the zest of the orange, the sultanas and the egg and blossom water and mix it all well with your hands (try not to touch it too much). Extend the dough over a floured surface with a rolling pin and cut rounds with a cutter. Fry them on a pan (no need for butter or oil) until they are golden (3 minutes on each side). You can sprinkle some sugar on top while they are still hot, but they are really good without sugar too. They lasted literally 4 minutes in my kitchen before my three monsters ate them all...




FISH 'BACK STYLE' - 'A LA ESPALDA'

This recipe is normally done in Spain with red seabream, which is difficult to find (and has ginormous fish bones, so not great for children) or with John Dory. I use it with all sorts of fish (the one below is with cod) and it is one of the simplest dinners to make - and also one of my favourites recipes with fish.

You need:
- 5 steaks of cod
- 5 fat cloves of garlic (sliced thinly)
- (good) olive oil (6-8 tablespoons)
- 2.5 tablespoons of vinegar (preferably sherry, but any other vinegar will do too)
- a little bit of parsley (chopped)
- salt

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees. Salt the cod and put it on a roasting tray. Put it into the oven (it should be ready in 10-12 minutes, but check after 10 minutes as overcooked fish is vile) While the cod is roasting fry the slices of garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until they get light golden ( it should take 2-3- minutes but again make sure you do not burn it or the garlic will taste bitter) Add the vinegar to the pan with the garlic, take it off the heat and stir it well with a fork so that the oil emulsionates with the vinegar.  Pour the oil over the fish and spinrkle the parsley on top. That is all there is to it!

It tastes great with mashed potatoes. But if you want to make an even more authentically Spanish recipe then start by slicing some potatoes, put them on a roasting tray with salt and olive oil, roast them for 20 minutes at 200 degrees. Then put the cod on top of the potatoes and continue the recipe as per above.


MUSSELS SOUP

This is one of my favourite soups. And mussels are a good source of iron, so it is good to feed them to children.
You need:
- about 750 gr mussels (don't worry too much about the precise quality)
- 300 ml white wine ( I also do this some times with 'manzanilla', a light Spanish sherry, which is wonderful to cook with and goes really well with sea food and also with pork)
- an onion (chopped finely)
- one leek (chopped finely)
- a clove of garlic (grated)
- three tablespoons of olive oil
- 250 ml water.
- a pinch of saffron
- 150 ml double cream
- a pinch of parsley


Clean well the mussels (discard any that are open and do not close after tapping them before you cook them, and also any that remain closed after you cook them). While you are cleaning the mussels, fry the onions and leek in the olive oil over slow heat so that they get soft but not golden (15 to 20 minutes). If you worry that they might burn just add a tablespoon of water.

Put the mussels in a separate pan, add the white wine and let the muscles cook over high heat until they all open up. Take the mussels off their shells. Reserve the wine (it is a good idea to get it through a colander in case there was any sand in the mussels)

Go back to the pan with the onions. Add the mussels and parsley. Dissolve the saffron into the white wine. Add it all to the onions and mussels and add also also the water. Let it all bubble up for 5-8 minutes.

As you take it off the heat, add the cream and blitz it all with a hand held mixer.

Serve it immediately. I sometimes reserve some of the mussels, chop them and add them to the soup for texture. You can also serve this with a slice of grilled crusty bread and alioli. Or just serve it like that with bread - it is delicious so it does not need anything else.