Tagliatelle with girolles (or any mushrooms)

It’s raining it’s pouring…
Usually Lexie adores the rain as she has a thing for umbrellas and wellies.

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But even she has had enough of having to endure her pushchair rain cover every day since forever #toddlerproblems

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I don’t entirely mind the rain. The slight OCD that emerged in me when Lexie was born is grateful the streets are getting washed properly. I’m also glad that damp = good skin according to my mum. I quite like London in the rain, it feels right (as opposed to London in a heatwave which is hellish). I would however far prefer to be mushroom foraging in a dark, magical Basque forest than fighting with my umbrella on the pavement. I remember being a little girl on treasured mushroom hunts in the forests of Guipuzkoa. I was the assistant to my adored cousin Inigo, a landscape gardener and terrific chef, who would create the most fantastic dishes with our finds (some of his recipes to follow!). The pic below is us together in one of his favourite forests near Anoeta where he lives.

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The damp has been playing on my mind and all I can think about are mushrooms and how to eat them. A morning visit to my mother-in-laws gave me the chance to peruse her River Cafe cookbooks and stock up on herbs from her wonderful garden. I returned home laden with bundles of thyme, rosemary, sage and recipes for veal escalopes, baked porcini and girolle tagliatelle. I realise writing this I’ve also been heavily influenced by a post I read recently on the glorious Manger website.

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I needed a quick lunch and figured veal might be more fun for dinner with Lewis than with a tired toddler so pasta it was. I’ve got a standard mushroom tagliatelle I do with cream, bacon, onion and parsley (see recipe for this variation at bottom of the recipe). I far prefer this version. It’s much cleaner and allows the mushrooms to really take the stage rather than masking them with a rich creamy sauce. Lexie had my leftovers for dinner as a side with a ‘maybe tiny little’ (her words she says doing little lobster claw fingers in front of her eyes) slice of veal saltimbocca and some buttered spinach. She wolfed the pasta – by far her favourite bit of the meal!

EDIT: I now make this pasta recipe about once a week using the bog standard mushrooms and spaghetti from the supermarket because it takes exactly 10 mins, it’s really tasty and cheap. It’s basically one step up from pasta, butter and cheese which we also love to eat when in a hurry. I never use girolles because they are so pricy and also such a faff to clean. So if you want a cheap staple try this with button mushrooms and spaghetti. If you love that and want to push the boat out buy posh girolles and good tagliatelle. 

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Tagliatelle with girolles (or any mushrooms) 

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins
Serves: 2
Ease: Very easy
Budget: £5-10 depending on mushrooms (tagliatelle £2.50, mushrooms £3, parsley £1.50, lemon 30p)

  • 1/2 pack Tagliatelle or spaghetti
  • Girolle mushrooms (or any mushrooms – this is lovely with button, chestnut and portobello mushrooms = aka the ones that are cheap at the supermarket) – as many as you fancy
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • Handful of parsley – chopped
  • 1 clove of sliced garlic
  • Parmesan

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If using normal mushrooms cut the ends of the stalks off then slice. Don’t wash them as mushrooms absorb water. If using girolles, clean them before slicing, so cut the ends of the stalks off then wipe with a damp cloth or brush with a toothbrush. This is really fiddly and don’t attempt this with a toddler under your feet, rather with a glass of wine listening to the radio watching the rain tinkle on the window!

Cook the tagliatelle as per the instructions and when done – usually 5-10 mins – drain, return to the pan with a big knob of butter and some salt. The mushrooms take about 3-5 mins to fry so its good to do have everything ready then start frying them once the pasta starts cooking. So heat olive oil in a separate frying pan to a high temperature but not smoking – I use about 3 tbsp. Add the mushrooms, season immediately and fry for a minute, then add the sliced garlic and fry for another minute on this high heat. Squeeze lemon juice on the mushrooms and reduce the heat adding the chopped parsley. Turn the heat off and as soon as the pasta is done add the mushrooms and mix. Serve with plenty of parmesan and lemon wedges.

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Here are some really good tips on how to clean and cook mushrooms – I knew about not washing them but I didn’t know how important it is to cook mushrooms on a high heat (it’s very important!!).

  • Variation: For those who like creamy pasta sauces try this: fry bacon then add chopped onion. Cook for a bit then add sliced mushrooms, some crushed garlic and maybe a splash of white wine. Sizzle and fry until you like the look of the mushrooms then season with salt, pepper and parsley. Add a swirl of double cream and turn the heat off. Mix in the cooked tagliatelle, season and serve with parmesan.
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Chocolate mousse

My favourite restaurant in Paris is called Le Square Trousseau. It’s so beautiful. The original zinc bar has featured in lots of movies and the food is classic and incredible – garlic snails, steak and chips, steak tartare, confit duck, lemon sole – as are the wines (Drappier champagne, Morgon reds). They always have an ‘all you can eat’ chocolate mousse on the dessert list which sounds quite naff but is so divine! You get a huge bowl of chocolate mousse to share regardless of the size of your group and you pay for what you eat – it’s heavenly.

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After a particularly stressful evening trying to get our daughter to sleep Lewis surprised me with a tray of chocolate mousses. He’d made them as I’d been trying to settle her. Amazing! And totally delicious (although I had to wait for them to chill before I got to eat them!). He adapted Simon Hopkinson recipe from the gloriously retro ‘The Prawn Cocktail Years’. We now leave out the rum and coffee – I ate one and found it impossible to sleep so… This also proved to be the perfect dessert for my celebratory birthday dinner with old school friends I rarely see without children!

(Quick note: I’m keen to try this chocolate mousse recipe – maybe without the salted caramel – when I do I’ll update this post and compare.)

Chocolate mousse (serves 4)

Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 6 hours or overnight in the fridge to set

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate
  • 4 tbsp water (or 3 tbps expresso coffee and 1 1/2 tbps rum)
  • 25g butter
  • 3 large eggs – separated

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Break the chocolate into bits and place in a bowl with the butter and water. Suspend bowl (as in not in contact with) over a pan of simmering water. Let the ingredients melt stirring gently from time to time.

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Once melted remove the bowl from the pan and stir the egg yolks in one by one. Beat the egg whites until they are fluffy. Take 2 tbpn of egg white and fold into the chocolate mixture. Then fold the rest of the egg white in with a metal spoon until it’s completely mixed.

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Pour the mixture into little ramekins or glasses, cover with cling film and leave in fridge to chill for 6 hours or overnight.

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Dani’s spaghetti puttanesca

My friend Dani lent me the most amazing treasure – her family recipe book! All her delicious tried and tested recipes!! Dani is a fantastic cook (and gorgeous as are her kiddos – see lovely pic below) so I want to try pretty much everything in the book. She recommended I do her pasta puttanesca first.

Dani and kids

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All I want for lunch at the moment is tomato pasta – it’s raining incessantly and I’m run down – so I was very keen to try this recipe. Lewis and I both love pasta puttanesca. We lived off it when travelling in Argentina as there are lots of Italians and Italian restaurants in Buenos Aires. We had a memorable moment in Bolivia when Lewis ordered it and received a bowl of cold pasta in a bright purple sauce!?

This spaghetti puttanesca is delicious and a nice change from our fresh tomato sauce staple. It is very easy and quick to make. I was a bit unsure about giving it to Lexie because of all the capers and anchovies but she loved it (I left out the chilli for her). I have to add this sauce was even better the next day so definitely recommend making lots and storing some sauce in the fridge (we stored it in an old jam jar – will probably keep up to a week). Also having made it a few times I can say definitively it is 100% Lexie’s favourite meal right now!

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Spaghetti puttanesca

Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cooking time: 15-20 mins

  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 6 anchovy fillets (or a small tin)
  • 1 tbsp of chopped capers
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 dried chilli or 1 tsp chilli powder (or a fresh chopped chilli!)
  • 1 small white onion chopped
  • Chopped olives (recipe says black but I used green as it was what I had)
  • 1 tin of whole plum tomatoes (miles better than pre-chopped)
  • Spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated parmesan

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Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic, anchovies and capers. Add the chilli (dried or fresh) and oregano and cook gently. Add the onions and olives and fry for a few minutes to soften (I fried them for about 10 mins which is probably longer than the recipe calls for but I was happy!). Add the tin of tomatoes and break them up a bit with a spoon. Simmer the sauce for about 10-20 mins. Cook the spaghetti as per the instructions then drain and tip into the puttanesca sauce. Season to taste and serve with some grated parmesan.

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Skate with puy lentils and salsa verde

Last September we had a lovely weekend away with my mum in Deal for her birthday. My best friend’s mum lent us her gorgeous house and recommended a trip to the Saturday market.

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At the fishmongers we bought fresh crab and a skate wing for Lexie to try. As she’s a fan of lentils I made this Anchor & Hope dish – skate with puy lentils and salsa verde. She absolutely loved it. Because skate isn’t silly expensive and it’s quite easy to cook I now get it regularly from the market.

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Skate with puy lentils and salsa verde

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 20-30 mins

  • Skate wing
  • Light olive oil (or sunflower oil)
  • Knob of butter
  • Flour for dusting fish
  • Puy lentils
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges

For the salsa verde (makes enough for 4 people – it’s powerful stuff!)

  • 8 tbspns olive oil
  • 1 tbspn lemon juice (or slightly less of red wine vinegar)
  • 6 anchovy fillets – chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic – minced
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • A handful of chopped basil
  • 1 tbspn capers
  • Dijon mustard (optional)

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The good thing about this recipe is the lentils and the skate take roughly the same time to cook (depending on the size of the fish). So put the lentils and skate on to cook at the same time. For the lentils put them in a saucepan with lots of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 20-25 mins until they are tender but still with some bite. Keep checking they have enough water. When done drain, put them back in the warm pan and drizzle some olive oil on them. Cover until needed.

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For the skate, first dust with flour (kids love doing this bit), then heat the oil in a frying pan to quite a high heat and add the fish. The piece in these photos took about 20 mins to cook because it was fat. Fry it for about 5 mins then check the underside – when it’s getting lovely and golden turn it over and continue to cook. You can either fry one side then the other or turn the fish a few times. Watch the heat – it’s nice to let the fish sizzle a bit when you turn it then bring the heat down. Just before it’s done add a knob of butter to the pan.

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For the salsa verde, depending on your cooking style, you can either make this while the fish and lentils are cooking, or before so you can concentrate on the fish. This is Lewis recipe so in his words: “Chop a good handful of flat parsley and the same of basil, add a tbsp of capers, 6 anchovy fillets, a single clove of garlic, a tbsp of lemon juice or slightly less of red-wine vinegar. Beat in enough olive oil (about 8 tbsp) to make a thick, slushy sauce. I also add a little dijon mustard. Parsley, garlic, oil and vinegar/lemon essential. Basil, anchovies and capers desirable but not essential.” There you go.

Once everything is ready put the fish and lentils on a nice plate, drizzle with salsa verde and serve with wedges of lemon. For Lexie I take the fish off the bone and add some green veg – in this case broccoli. For us we add lots of salt to everything!

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Puy lentils with beetroot and goats cheese

I tend to make this when I’ve got leftover puy lentils to use up as it takes 5 minutes, it’s delicious and very nutritious – packed full of iron. Lentils are a great and very cheap way of getting protein into your kids without giving them fish or meat. If you cook the lentils from scratch it doesn’t take much longer to make and you get a warm salad which is nice in winter. It makes me laugh how much Lexie looooves this dish but hates mashed potato!?!

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Puy lentils with beetroot and goats cheese

If lentils and beetroot pre-cooked (or vac pac beetroot)
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 0 mins

If cooking lentils and beetroot
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 20 – 45 mins (depending on beetroot)

  • Puy lentils
  • Goats cheese – or feta cheese
  • Beetroot – fresh or vac pac
  • Salad leaves – spinach, rocket, watercress is nice
  • Spring onion (optional) – sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

If cooking the lentils and beetroot, put lentils in a pan, cover with lots of water (be generous, lentils guzzle water up), bring to the boil and then simmer for 20-25 minutes until done. They should be tender but have a bit of bite. Drain and drizzle with olive oil. In another pan cover the beetroot (either whole or chopped in half) with water, bring to the boil then simmer until cooked through – generally 30-45 mins depending on size. Once done drain and leave to cool before removing skins and chopping into chunks. If you’ve never cooked fresh beetroot before be careful of it’s incredibly staining juices! Fresh beetroot is delicious, cheap and very easy to cook but it is stainy and faffy to peel. Vac pac beetroot is less of a faff (no boiling, peeling etc) but equally stainy and the texture is never as nice as fresh beetroot.

Once you have cooked lentils and beetroot assembling the salad is easy. Put leaves in a bowl, add the lentils, beetroot, crumbled goats cheese and spring onion if using (I leave it out for Lexie). Dress with oil and vinegar and season to taste!

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Jamaican lamb curry

It’s my birthday! My favourite birthday dinner is steak and chips. But it’s been chips overload of late and it’s so rainy and grey I wanted this delicious Jamaican lamb curry instead.

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The first time I had this was at my brother-in-law’s with top quality meat from the Ginger Pig. He adapted it from Levi Roots Goat curry. It is A M A Z I N G and super spicy. This is a cheap dish as it uses lamb neck but it does take ages to cook and has many different stages of prep so we always make it the day before we’re having it (by we I mean Lewis). If you leave out the scotch bonnet and reduce the curry powder it’s ok for kids. Or just give them eggs on toast, put them to bed and eat the proper version mwah ha ha! (That is my ‘eating delicious curry’ face – oooh!).

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Jamaican lamb curry

Prep time: 4 hours including marinating time
Cooking time: 4 hours

  • 1kg lamb neck fillet (on or off the bone) – mutton is nice too
  • ½ a lime
  • 2 tbsp mild curry powder
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose seasoning
  • 6 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil
  • 425ml vegetable stock
  • 1 onion – roughly chopped
  • 2cm piece of root ginger – finely chopped
  • 1 hot red chilli (ideally Scotch bonnet) – seeds left in, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves – finely chopped
  • 10 allspice berries
  • ½ a red pepper – deseeded and cubed
  • ½ a green pepper – deseeded and cubed
  • 2 spring onions – green part only, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • Salt and pepper

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Wash the meat and pat it dry with kitchen paper then put it in a large bowl with the lime juice, curry powder and all-purpose seasoning. Leave to marinate for 4 hours in the fridge. Heat a large non-stick casserole or heavy-based saucepan until it is very hot, then add the oil. When the oil is very hot, put the lamb in and turn the chunks over with a wooden spoon to coat the meat in oil. Cover with a lid, turn the heat right down to very low and leave it to just simmer for 45 minutes. Keep checking the pot to make sure the meat isn’t getting scorched on the bottom. I massively burnt the meat the first time I made this so keep a close eye on it! Lewis says about this: “It’s a tricky recipe and needs attention. The first 2 hours are done on a low low low heat. The lamb literally steams in the gravy, no sizzling whatsoever except right at the start when you sizzle it in a hot pan, but very briefly then turn the heat right down.” (This was a text response to me texting “I want to make the curry but am scared of burning it again!!”)

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After 45 minutes, add 150ml of the stock, bring to the boil, turn the heat right down, cover and leave to simmer. After another 45 minutes, repeat this with another 150ml of stock and cook for a further 45 minutes. Add the onion, ginger, chilli, garlic and allspice and stir gently. Add the rest of the ingredients and stock – bring to the boil.

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Turn the heat down again, cover and cook for another 2 hours, stirring from time to time. Keep an eye on it and add more stock if it seems dry. Once done it should be fragrant and glistening. Serve with rice and lots of water because it’s S P I C Y!

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Chocolate chip cookies

A few years ago I spent Christmas in the Basque country with my family. The main celebration is on Christmas Eve with everyone out in the bars, dressed in traditional Basque clothes. Male choirs walk around the town singing carols then everyone goes home around 10pm to start dinner. The food is incredible – jamon, foie gras, smoked salmon, asparagus, steak, turrones…

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Basque men

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The whole experience was amazing but I was heartsick as Lewis was home in London. One phone call to him made me particularly maudlin. It was Christmas Eve and he was looking after his dad’s dog and making chocolate chip cookies to give to his family as presents… awwww! Of course he made me the cookies upon my return and they’ve been a favourite ever since.

The recipe is Hugh Fearnley and very easy to make with kids. They take about 7 minutes to bake and the day we realised we could freeze them in batches then cook from frozen was a very good day!

Chocolate chip cookies (makes 12-14 cookies)

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 75g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped into smallish chunks – Bourneville or Sainsbury’s dark chocolate are nice

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees and grease a baking tray with butter. Weigh out all your ingredients (tutu optional).

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Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Put the sugars into a mixing bowl, pour in the melted butter and beat well with a wooden spoon. Beat in the egg and vanilla (this is Lewis ‘adding vanilla for Phillipa blog’ face).

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Sift the flour into the bowl and add the baking powder and salt. Stir them in, then add the chopped chocolate (eat some chocolate).

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Using two tablespoons put little blobs of cookie dough on to the baking tray – leave lots of space between them. Either use 2 baking trays or bake in 2 batches (or freeze half the cookie balls – see below). Bake for 8-10 mins until the cookies are pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave for a few minutes then use a spatula to put the cookies on a wire rack or plate to cool. I always eat at least one cookie straight from the oven when it’s all goey chocolately (or “chocolalli” as Lexie’s little friend Bonnie says). Lexie prefers to eat hers nudie on the sofa. Remember to store them in a biscuit tin so they are nice the next day. 

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To freeze the cookies (we usually bake 6 and freeze 6) put the little blobs of cookie on a plate and pop in the freezer. Once they are pretty frozen you can pop them into a plastic freezer bag. Then every time you want a cookie just take a ball out of the freezer and bake in the oven for 8-10 mins. This is Lewis ‘putting the cookies in the freezer for Phillipa’s blog’ face.

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