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.


MALTESE OCTOPUS

This is a typical Maltese dish. I came to look into food from Malta after a prominent member of the UK Conservative party insulted the Maltese by saying that their  Prime Minister 'should go back to his tiny little island'. How sad is it that members of the UK governing party now feel free to insult other Europeans gratuitously like this - and without the government offering any apologies for it?

On the positive side this has led to me talk to the children about Malta, its geographical position, history, size and culture. It has not been difficult because my bother was on holiday there a few months ago and he could not stop praising the island. We have looked into Maltese recipes, which are great. I have found many good blogs, including a superb one called www.amaltesemouthful.com. So utterly yummy. I tell you, the island may be small...but boy they know how to eat well!!

Best is obviously to follow the authentic recipe in any of the numerous blogs. The best we saw is here: http://www.amaltesemouthful.com/octopus-stew-stuffat-tal-qarnit/ But we  made a few changes as we went along. You need:

- an octopus, cut into mouth-bite chunks. If the octopus is fresh you need to tenderise it by hitting it everywhere many times for 3-4 minutes. This is a bit off putting, because normally octopus are sold with their eyes on, so you risk looking like a sadistic person while the eyes of the octopus beg you to stop. The easier alternative is to freeze the octopus when you buy it (when it freezes the muscles contract and then let go, so it becomes tender and there is no need to torture the poor octopus anymore)
- 3 onions, chopped thinly
- 4 garlic cloves (grated)
- 1glass of tomato sauce (see our recipe http://www.mumandsons.com/2011/03/tomato-sauce.html- alternatively used a good passata, or 2 tins of chopped tomatoes )
- 2 handfuls of olives
- 2 teaspoons of small capers
- lemon zest and juice of a lemon
- a glass of white wine
- a tablespoon of parsley, a tablespoon of basil, and the leaves of three springs of thyme.
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- salt
- a glass of frozen peas.
- more parsley and basil to garnish
- a tin of chickpeas (drained)

Fry the onions in the olive oil under low heat until they are tender. Then add the garlic and after a minute or so the tomato sauce. Then add the octopus, increase the heat to medium and wait for 15 minutes and add the olives, capers, lemon zest,  wine and lemon juice. Add the salt, reduce the heat, cover with a lid and let it summer for 40 minutes. Add the peas, let it cook for a further 10 minutes, and finally add the chickpeas, wait for a further 5 minutes, sprinkle the basil and  parsley and serve.



COURGETTES WITH BASIL

This is a super-quick and really healthy lunch or starter for a dinner.  I cook very often as it is a good way to make children eat courgettes. And the children like to help with the pestle and mortar.

You need:
 - three courgettes and a spiralizer (or you can buy the courgettes already cut into 'spaghetti' in some supermarkets. I have seen them at Sainsbury's but sure others have them too)
- a handful of pine nuts
- 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
- two handfuls of basil leaves
- a clove and a half of garlic (or more if you are into garlic and are not going out that night)
- parmesan cheese (as much or as little as you wish - my children like lots of it)
- salt

Take a shallow pan. Heat the oil. Add the courgettes and let them fry for 5-7 minutes depending on how 'al dente' you like them). Te key to this wish is not to add any salt to the courgettes at this stage as otherwise they will release water and get boiled. While the courgettes are cooking, crush the garlic and salt with a pestle and mortar. Then add the pine nuts to the garlic and leap crushing them. Finally add the basil leaves to the mortar and mash them with the garlic and pine nuts. Do not mind too much if some pieces are bigger than others - it actually adds texture to the dish, so it is a good thing.  Add all this mixture to the courgettes (while you are still heating them). Mix well and add some grated parmesan cheese on top of it all (at this point you can also add some dried tomatoes, or bits of mozzarella or both)  Wait for a minute while the parmesan mellows. Take it off the heat and serve it promptly.

If you do not have time you can replace the garlic, pine-nuts and basil with a jar of pesto. Still good, but not the same…

 

ROSCON

This is a recipe for Roscon, which is a cake that we eat in Spain with hot (very thick) chocolate on the evening of 5 January. Year after year the whole country goes out to the streets to watch the Three Kings (Reyes) parading through each town and village. Then we get together with families and friends to eat the Roscon, which always comes with a 'surprise' (a bean or a coin) inside it. Whoever finds the surprise has to pay for the Roscon. Then before going to bed we leave our shoes by the window, together with some left-over Roscon for the Kings and a bucket of water for their camels. If you have behaved well you get presents in your shoes by the following morning. And if you have behaved badly you get only coal (the Three Kings are much stricter than Father Christmas!)

On Epiphany (Reyes day on 6 January) you are meant to make some wishes for the rest of the year. Mine is that we all (all reasonable people that means - of which there are many, millions of us...we are actually the majority of people, so sure you are one of them!) speak out way more. In my dream world we would all (and especially all young people) decide to be involved in politics in whatever shape or form. We would be actually proud of being citizens of the world. We would try to convince all boys and girls to treasure excellence, and to aspire to being not ordinary, but elite, in whatever they want to do. We would speak up so loudly that nobody would care about what the trolls and populists say because we would be answering back, with reasoned arguments, to them. And we would defend with passion and conviction the need for more, yes more, enlightenment, rationalism, multilateralism and international engagement... I promise I was really good last year, so hope that the Reyes bring me at least a little bit of all this!

This is what you need for the recipe of the Roscon (it feeds 15 with a cup of hot chocolate for each):

- 850 gr plain flour
- 3 eggs
- 500 ml milk
-  pinch of salt
- 60 ml of orange blossom essence (yes, a whole bottle)
- 150 gr butter (room temperature)
- 150 gr sugar
- grated zest of a lemon
- grated zest of an orange
- 14 gr of dried yeast

For decoration (most of this is optional):
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- a handful of flaked almonds
- a handful of perled sugar (if you do not have this, then a handful and a half of normal sugar)
- candied peel
- candied cherries

Mix the yeast, two tablespoons of flour and 80 ml of milk. Let it rest for half an hour until it becomes foamy.Then mix the rest of the flour, salt, milk, orange blouson essence, butter and eggs and mix it all well. Add the yeasty mixture and mix it well, kneading it a bit until the mixture does not stick any longer (this may take you 10 minutes or so). Then put it all in a big bowl, cover with cling film and let it rest for 2.30-3.00 hours. It should double in size.

Shape the mixture as a ring (leave a big hole as it will close down as the mixture raises) and let it rest again for another 2.30-3 hours.

After that, paint the Roscon with the egg and milk. Decorate with the perled sugar (if you do not have perled sugar then mix  the normal sugar with half a teaspoon of water and decorate the Roscon with it), candied peel and cherries. Preheat the oven at 175 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes. Then paint some spots with a bit the egg mixture and add a few flaked almonds on it. Bake for a further 10 minutes.

This is best if it is a bit warm. But since the chocolate is hot it does not matter if you have prepared it some hours in advance (I always struggle for time, so I prepare it in the evening and let it rise overnight...and it is still good!) Just dunk the cake into the chocolate and enjoy.    


ROASTED BEETROOT

Back to healthy eating after the endless Christmas meals. This makes a nice lunch with a salad or a starter for a heavier meal.

you need:

- three beetroots
- a packet of (good) feta cheese
- a handful of parsley
- a tablespoons and a half of balsamic vinegar
- two tablespoons of olive oil
- salt

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees. Grate the beetroot (use plastic gloves for this). Add the salt, and olive oil and toss it all well so that all the beetroot gets coated. Put the beetroot on a roasting tray and roast for 25 minutes. As you take it off the oven, add the balsamic vinegar, then the chopped parsley and finally crumble the feat on top - the beetroot should still be a bit hot while you do this. Toss it all well and serve. This dish is even prettier if you use beetroots of different colours.


PONCHE SEGOVIANO

This is my favourite dessert of all times. So much so that we served it as a wedding cake when Nick and I got married. It is very filling, so all you need is a tiny square of it. But it is divine. Definitely a dessert for big celebrations. I made it for Christmas Eve (which is what we celebrate in Spain)
and it was a huge success.  

If you happen to be in Segovia (which means you are lucky because together with Seville it is  - in my view- one of the two most beautiful towns in Spain) then buy one of these at the bakery El Alcazar by the Plaza Mayor. Or just ask for it as dessert after a meal of lamb or sucking pig (one of the two culinary specialities in Segovia) in El Parador or the restaurant Jose Luis. Just the thought of these places makes me happy.

This recipe serves 18-20  people. You need:

For the cake:
- 6 eggs
- 200 gr sugar
- 45 gr plain flour
- 90 gr corn flour

For the whisky sirup:
150 ml sugar
150 ml water
60 ml whisky (if in Spain do it with whisky Dick, which comes from Segovia)

For the cream:
- 10 egg yokes (which seems a huge lot but remember it will be shared between lots of people)
-190 gr sugar
- 100 ml water

For the marzipan:
- 250 gr icing sugar
- 250 gr ground almonds
- 1 egg white

And more icing sugar for the top of the cake.


Start with the cake. Preheat the oven at 170 degrees. Mix the eggs and sugar and beat them well for around 10 minutes until they become very fluffy and double their size. Then mix the flour with the corn flour - sift them together and add them to the eggs and sugar mixture folding them carefully so that you do not loose any air. Divide the mixture between two swiss roll tins lined with baking paper and bake them for 15 minutes. When you take them off the oven let them cool down for 5 minutes and them flip them over a (clean) kitchen towel sprinkled with caster sugar.

While the cake is baking in the oven, prepare the syrup: just boil the water and sugar for 8 minutes and then add the whisky. Let it simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Now the cream: boil the sugar and water for 15 minutes first over high heat and as soon as it boils, over low heat. Put it aside and let it cool down for 15 minutes. Beat the egg yokes and add the boiled sugar with water to the egg yokes very slowly while you keep beating. Put it all in a pan over low heat for a further 5 minutes while you keep stirring constantly. Let it cool down completely (better in the fridge).

 And finally the marzipan:  just mix well the almonds, egg white and sugar. Make a ball with the resulting paste, cover it with cling film and let it cool down in the fridge for an hour.

To assemble the cake put a cake lawyer over a serving tray. 'Paint it' with half of the whisky syrup. Spread half of the cream on it. Then add the second cake lawyer. Paint it again with the remaining syrup and spread the remaining cream on it. Put the marzipan between two cling film sheets and roll it until it is very thin (as thin as possible). Put the marzipan layer on top of the whole cake (the easiest way to do this is to flip the cling film with the marzipan on top over the cake with the help of somebody else). Cover the top of the marzipan generously with icing sugar. Take a spaghetti or a skewer and draw parallel lines to make a rhomb pattern on the icing sugar  (see the picture) Then get a blowing torch and caramelise the lines and also the sides of the marzipan. Let it cool down for at least 30 minutes.




And this is the impressive Roman aqueduct in Segovia:

UPSIDE DOWN ORANGE CAKE

This is a really nice cake for for the Christmas holidays. Really simple to make and properly seasonal. We also make a version of this with pineapple when it isn't Christmas.
You need:

- one and a half oranges
- 2 handfuls of brown sugar
- 150 gr brown sugar
- 150 plain flour
- a teaspoon of baking powder
- 150 butter
- 2 eggs
- grated zest of and orange

Preheat the oven at 180 degrees.

Take a round cake tin. Sprinkle the 2 handfuls of brown sugar over it. Slice the oranges thinly (the thickness of a pound coin or a bit less) and arrange them nicely over the sugared tin. Separately beat the sugar and batter, then add the zest and eggs and keep beating it. Finally add the flour and baking powdered and fold it into the mixture. Put this batter over the oranges - the batter is a bit thick to absorb the water of the oranges, so you may need to spread it a bit to cover the whole tin. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

When you take it out of the oven wait for 5-7 minutes, run a knife around the edges and then unmould it carefully. It  should come out easily. It is very nice with unsweetened greek yogurt.




CHRISTMAS TREE BISCUITS

We make these every year to decorate the Christmas tree. If you are in a 'being a good person' phase, just follow the recipe and use nicely flavoured sweets to make the transparent glass. The risk is that  your children will eat the biscuits as soon as you look the other side, just as my 3 years old niece did last week (the results of which you can see in my instagram account miriamgonzalezdurantez) If you are in a 'fed up of being a good person' phase, then add four generous teaspoons of ground black pepper to the mixture and use strong mint flavoured sweets - you can be sure the children will not mess around with your tree.

You need:
- 1 egg
- 100 gr sugar
- 100 gr butter at room temperature
- 275 plain flower
- half a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon
-  half a teaspoon of vanilla essence
For the decoration
- and egg white
- 225 gr icing sugar
- 6 boiled sugar sweets (any colour you like)

Preheat the oven at 190 degrees.
Beat the sugar and butter in a food processor. Add the egg, then the cinnamon and vanilla and finally the flour. Wrap it all with cling film and let it rest for 30-45 minutes in the fridge. Then roll it out to the thickness of a pound  (or a euro - almost the same thickness and on the way to being the same value!) and cut the biscuits in whatever shape you wish.

Put the biscuits on a tray lined with being paper. Remember to make a hole at the top of each biscuit. And if you want to get a transparent effect then cut a shape inside each biscuit and put a sweet (or half a sweet) inside each shape. Bake the biscuits for 15 minutes ( we got 24 biscuits, but it depends on how big your cutter is)

Let the biscuits cool down completely. Then prepare the icing by just whisking the egg white and icing sugar for 5 minutes. You need a pipping bag with a very small nozzle to decorate it with whatever shapes you wish. Though they also look good if you just cover the biscuits in icing with a teaspoon.