Monthly Archives: December 2011

Goats Cheese & Beetroot Salad

A grown up salad today, our late night supper of last night!. Admittedly it’s a tad cold outside and not exactly salad eating weather, but with the addition of hot goats cheese crunchy toasts this makes a pretty good winter warmer of a salad.

Salad au Chevre appears on virtually every restaurant menu around us here. The first couple of times I ordered it I was expecting a large leafy salad with a little goats cheese tossed in. Alas no. It is in reality two or three large hunks of goats cheese on toast placed on a few stray lettuce leaves, sometimes with a scattering of walnuts, and usually with a little honey drizzled over the top. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really complaining as I love it, but it hardly constitutes a ‘salad’ does it?!

So here’s my compromise on the salad. Lots of salad leaves (I used rocket from the garden), diced beetroot (it’s majorly in season @ Chez Foti right now) and walnuts (picked down the lane a few weeks ago) all tossed in a simple walnut oil and red wine vinegar dressing, with three slices of toasted french bread and goats cheese….and a generous drizzle of honey. Honey in fact from our roof. A few months ago we had three bees nests removed and reaped the sticky benefits with a few jars of honey. So all in all there weren’t too many food miles clocked up in this salad!.

I’m loving our homegrown beetroot. Not only is it exceptionally easy to grow with minimal watering or effort, it just seemed to look after itself, but it’s so sweet and delicious. I’m also finding great use for the leaves and stalks in curries, stir fries and stews, and taking great delight in the pink beetrootie tinge they add!

Local beekeepers removing the bees nests from our roof!

Homegrown rocket & beetroot

For a hearty dinner for two:

6 baby beetroot, or 1 very large full sized

2 very large handfuls of flavoursome baby leaves or rocket, washed

40g of walnuts halves

1 tbsp of red wine vinegar

3 tbsps of walnut oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 slices of good quality french bread or sourdough, cut into 1cm thick slices

a little olive oil

130g of goats cheese (preferably in a log), cut into 12 slices

honey to drizzle

Firstly you need to cook and prepare your beetroot. Place them whole with the skin still on and a few millimetres of the root and stalks attached (this prevents them bleeding out too much colour) in a pan of boiling water.  If you’re using baby beetroot, simmer for about 30 minutes, if full sized for about an hour and a half. When cooked remove from the pan and allow to cool. Slip off the skin, root and stalk – it should all come away very easily. Dice into small even sized pieces.

Now to make your dressing. In a bowl whisk the red wine vinegar, walnut oil, a pinch of salt and a generous grinding of black pepper together.

Grill the bread slices on both sides until slightly golden. Drizzle over a little olive oil and place a couple of slices of the goats cheese on each piece and put back under the grill until the cheese has melted.

Meanwhile place the salad leaves in a bowl with the diced beetroot and walnut halves. Add the dressing and toss lightly together. Lightly as you don’t want the beetroot to stain the leaves too much. I actually tossed the salad leaves and walnuts separately to the beetroot to prevent this!.

Place the salad on a plate with the goats cheese toasts on top. Drizzle a little honey all over, but particularly on the goats cheese. Serve immediately!

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Sausage & Bean Stew

It’s been a bit cold here as winter finally settles in, and I’ve had my usual annual hankering for warming stews and casseroles. With only a few sausages in the fridge a couple of days ago and fancying something substantial and flavoursome I put together this sausage and bean stew, and it really was lovely. In fact one of the tastiest dinners I’ve had in a while! And so very easy and quick to put together. Fresh rosemary aside (though I’m lucky enough to have it growing in abundance at Chez Foti), it’s made from standard store cupboard ingredients. You could obviously use dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked for an hour and a half, but as this was a fairly last minute dinner I used a few trusty tins.

A hearty and on the whole pretty healthy dinner for the whole family, but if your wee ones don’t like any heat omit the chilli flakes.

Enough for 4 hungry grown ups:

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

a pinch of dried chilli flakes

6 – 8 Toulouse Sausages, each cut into 4 pieces

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

3 x 400g tins of Cannellini beans, drained

2 very large handfuls of spinach/chard/savoy cabbage, washed and finely shredded

salt & pepper

Heat a glug of olive oil in casserole or very large saucepan. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until softened a little. Add the chilli flakes, sausages and rosemary and continue to cook for a few more minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and a little seasoning. Bring to a simmer and gently cook for 20 minutes. Now add the beans and spinach/chard/cabbage to the party and cook for a further 20 minutes with the lid on.

Adjust the seasoning to suit. And it really is as easy as that! Serve in a bowl with a large hunk of bread.


Jamie’s Empire Roast Chicken, Bombay Potatoes & Gravy

A grown up dinner today, although without the chilli (or just the merest touch) I’m sure little ones might enjoy this too. But for us it was the perfect excuse to have a late evening Sunday supper on our own, cooking in the original wood burning bread oven that’s in our lounge. I’ve been watching Jamie Oliver’s latest series Great Britain these last few weeks, and just how excellent was it?! His midlands show had this recipe for Empire Roast Chicken served with Bombay Potatoes and Gravy that literally had me dribbling and I just had to make it. He used a wood fired oven on the show and totally inspired me to try it in ours. It was great to put it to use for something other than pizza. And what a fantastic success, although a tad on the hot side. I will definitely be experimenting a little bit more with cooking in ours. Obviously if you don’t have a wood oven you can use a conventional gas or electric one!

Our 1788 original bread oven!

This is a bit of a lazy blog today, as it’s entirely not my recipe AND I’m not even going to write it out. To read Jamie’s recipe click on the link below. I can honestly say I didn’t change anything at all, nor would I want to….it was perfect.  It’s a fantastic recipe, please try it, I know you won’t be disappointed. A great dinner if you have friends over, or just an indulgent night in for two. If I had to make one suggestion though, bump up the amount of Bombay Potatoes if you’re cooking for four or more people. Somehow or other Phil and I managed to chomp our way through the lot when there was supposed to be enough to feed four to six. But then we are rather greedy and couldn’t actually move afterwards. They were way too good to leave.

The recipe:
Jamie’s Roast Chicken & Bombay Potatoes Recipe

Thanks so much Mr Oliver!


Aloo Gobi Kaddu – Potato, Cauliflower and Pumpkin Curry!

I love veggie curries. Even though I’m a meat eater I’ve always loved, and usually preferred, the veggie sides when it comes to Indian food. A few days ago when faced with a very empty fridge bar one huge cauliflower and half a pumpkin I thought I’d make a veggie curry.  Aloo Gobi, a curry of potatoes and cauliflower is one of my all time faves, a wonderfully comforting combo, and definitely my favourite way of eating cauliflower (even above cauliflower cheese which I adore!).  I thought I’d try it out with pumpkin too, Kaddu in Hindi, and it really was rather a delicious combo. I’m also happy to report that both the kids loved it too, in fact rather surprisingly after ten days of being a little ill and only picking at his food Jacques really tucked in….even with the addition of a couple of dried chilis!. I think it’s a good thing to get your kids eating a touch of chilli at an early age, then there’s no great surprises or aversions when they’re a bit more grown up. Mine definitely have a taste for a little heat and spice, but then they were weaned on lots of yummie lentil dahls.

You could either serve this as a meal in it’s own right, as I did, with some plained steamed basmati rice and chapatis on the side, or as a veggie side accompanying a larger meal.

Enough for a main meal for 4:

1 onion, halved and sliced

sunflower oil

2 small dried chilis, or 1 fresh, thinly sliced

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated

a large thumb size piece of fresh ginger, grated

1 tsp medium curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp brown onion seeds

2 potatoes, peeled and diced into 2cm chunks

3 heaped tbsps ground almonds

a handful of sultanas

350ml water

300g cauliflower, cut into florets

300g pumpkin or squash, peeled and diced into 2cm chunks

1 400g tin of coconut milk

juice of ½ lemon

a handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

salt

In a large saucepan heat a little sunflower oil and add the onion. Cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent.

Add the chilli, garlic and ginger to the pan, along with the curry powder, turmeric and onion seeds. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often. Add the potatoes and ground almonds. Stir well. Add the sultanas and 350ml of water.

Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower, pumpkin and coconut milk. Continue to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes with the saucepan lid on, until the potatoes and veggies are all very tender.

Stir in the lemon juice and coriander. Taste and add salt to suit.


My Great-Granny’s Christmas Pudding!

Yipppppeeee!  It’s the second day of December, the advent calendars are up (and choccies gobbled), decs soon to be up, the kids are excited beyond belief, and father christmas will be coming down that chimney before I can even spare a thought for sending my chrissie cards…as usual!

And it’s time to get cracking with the christmas puds. If you’ve never made one before I urge you to, they really are very easy. And this recipe, that’s been passed through several generations of my mum’s family, is honestly the best christmas pudding I have ever EVER eaten. We’re not sure quite how old it is, but it was certainly the recipe that my Granny and Great-Granny always used, albeit with a little tweaking here and there over the years. My mum’s highly successful tweaking omitted the suet, nor indeed any fat at all, and the result is a much lighter and less cloying, though somehow more delicious pud. And the secret un-tweaked ingredients that make this pud so extra special? Carrots and potatoes! Would you believe? But it really really works!

In writing this post I am also entering the ‘Christmas Carrot Competition’ organised by lovethegarden.com and the brilliant award winning food blogger eatlikeagirl.com to find the most creative and scrumptious carrot recipe. I think you’ll agree you can’t get much more creative with a carrot than the traditional Christmas pudding, my Great-Granny should be proud of herself!

To make 2 medium sized puddings (2 x 2 pint basins, each serving 6 people):

225g mixed dried fruit

225g sultanas

225g potato, finely grated

225g carrots, finely grated

225g breadcrumbs

225g soft brown sugar

115g currants

115g dried apricots, chopped

85g glace cherries, quartered

55g almonds, chopped

a little grated nutmeg

½tsp cinnamon

Place all of the ingredients in a very large bowl and mix thoroughly. The best way to do this is to get right in there and mix with your hands.

Butter your pudding basins and add the mixture evenly. Press it down a little, the puddings should come to about ½ inch from the top of the basin. Place a circle of greaseproof paper on top of the mixture within the basin.  Cover the entire basin and part way down the sides with a couple of layers of foil, tie some string tightly around the sides of the basin to secure in place.

Place each pudding in a large saucepan (you must have a lid for it). The pudding should NOT be tight fitting and there should be ample space around the sides. Poor in boiling water until the level reaches ¾ of the height of the basin. Place on the hob with the lid on and bring back to the boil and simmer gently for 5 hours. As the water level in the pan drops top up with boiling water, you will probably have to do this 3 or 4 times. After 5 hours take off the heat and leave to cool in the pan.

The pudding will now keep for up to a month in the fridge or a year in the freezer. Please note that these puddings don’t keep for lengthy periods in the fridge in the same way as puddings that contain preserving suet do.

When you want to eat your pud, boil for one hour in the same way as above. Turn out of the basin and serve!


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