Monthly Archives: February 2012

Pumpkin & Bacon Soup

I cut into the last of our pumpkins to make this soup. I never actually thought we’d get to the end of our almighty Autumn harvest but now we’re on the last one I’m more than a touch sad!. Though I’m very excited about growing plenty more of these wonderful orange monsters again this summer, despite spending most of the last one cursing them for the enormity of space they took up and vowing never to bother again! My opinions however quickly changed after our first homegrown pumpkiny dinner (I think it was indeed a roast pumpkin soup), far more delicious and sweet than I thought possible of the humble pumpkin. The ones you buy in the UK, particularly around Halloween time, can be so bland and devoid of any real flavour, and I assumed our orange monsters would be the same. So wrong! I think the hot Southern French sun worked it’s magical wonders on my patch, each and every one were delicioso.

Not only are pumpkins so incredibly easy and fun to grow, albeit taking up way too much room, they are wonderful and versatile to cook with providing they have a half decent sunkissed flavour that is. I’ve added diced pumpkin to virtually all my stews and casseroles throughout the autumn and winter, stir fries, pasta dishes, curries, and obviously soup a plenty. It’s also a great veg to accompany a roast dinner, cut into large chunks and roasted in the oven with a little chilli and/or bacon pieces and plenty of black pepper.  Porky flavours work really well with pumpkin and squash which is how I came to concoct this soup. Might sound a little weird but it’s oh so lovely!.

Enough for a couple of servings each for a family of four:

1 kilo of flavoursome pumpkin or butternut squash, skin removed and cut into 2cm chunks

olive oil

salt & pepper

the merest pinch of dried chilli flakes

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

80g lardons or streaky bacon, diced

600ml of chicken stock plus a little more water to thin down

Rub a tablespoon of olive oil into the pumpkin chunks along with a little salt, a generous grinding of black pepper, and the chilli flakes, rubbing the oil onto all sides of the pumpkin. Place on a baking tray in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes at 220°C. The pumpkin is ready when it’s soft and starting to brown a little. Turn at least once during the cooking time.

Meanwhile heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the diced onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes until softened a little, now add the lardons or bacon. Continue to cook on a medium heat for a further 7-8 minutes  until the lardons or bacon are browning, stirring regularly so nothing catches.

Once the pumpkin is roasted add it to the onions and bacon and cook for a further couple of minutes then add the stock. Bring to the boil and leave on a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes of simmering remove the soup from the heat and whiz thoroughly, I usually use a stick blender to do this as it’s much less washing up than a processor or blender!. Taste the soup and add a generous grinding of black pepper to suit, it’s unlikely you’ll need more salt as there’s plenty in the bacon and stock. Thin down with water to make to your desired thickness. We tend to eat our soups really thick as they’re easier for the wee ones to spoon.

Here’s some other Chez Foti soup recipes: Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons, Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup), Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Pin It

Advertisements

Nigella’s Choccie Brownies

If I want to bake something yum quickly then this is what I make, such a doddle, quick and generally faultless….even in our worse than useless oven (though admittedly I do occasionally have to slice off a burnt bum!). But this week we had the good fortune of Grandma’s wonderful fully functioning temperature controlled oven! Hence the run on half term baking.

I often serve brownies as a crowd pleaser pudding when we have friends round, and tend to keep a few in the freezer for impromptu visits. Unbelievably great served warm with ice cream and hot choc sauce.

Sadly I can’t any glory for the recipe as it’s originally the lovely Nigella’s (from her How to be a Domestic Goddess book) and was brought to my attention by the even lovelier supermum-supercook Lucinda. Lucinda used to bake my husband (and occasionally me) whole batches of these lovely brownies when he was working for her as a builder a few years ago in London, he’s such a sucker for homemade cakes and would gladly except them on part payment terms! Since leaving London I’ve taken over baking the brownies and do you know what, he still doesn’t rate them as highly as his Lovely Lucinda’s…despite using the exact same Nigella recipe. But luckily all those who don’t know Lucinda do!.

The original recipe calls for walnuts (250g) which occasionally I add, though more often don’t as we never seem to have any in. I’ve also added fresh raspberries and white chocolate chunks to the recipe in summers past which takes the humble brownie to a whole new level. As so much chocolate goes into these brownies you can really tell the difference if you use a good quality bar with a minimum 70% cocoa solids content.

Makes 30 – 35 small brownies:

300g butter
300g good quality plain chocolate, broken into chunks
5 medium eggs
400g caster sugar
1 dessertspoon of vanilla extract
185g plain flour
a large pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Butter and line with baking paper a brownie tin that’s about 25 by 30 cm (or even a little smaller if that’s what you have).

Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over a very low heat, stirring very regularly. Once melted set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Meanwhile whisk the eggs in a large bowl and whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract. Stir in the slightly cooled chocolate mix. Finally add the salt and flour and combine the whole lot together with just a few turns of your mixing spoon. Apparently the trick to great brownies (from Lucinda the Queen of Brownies herself) is not to over stir the mixture. I get my three year old daughter to do this bit for me, a perfect task for her none too deft little hands!

Scrape the mixture into your tin, shake a little to evenly distribute and place in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes.

Towards the end of the cooking time regularly check the brownies as you don’t want to overdo them. They’re ready when the top is dry with a paler brown surface, but the middle is very dark brown, dense and still a little bit gooey. Remember that they’ll continue to cook a little more after they’re removed from the oven.

Whilst still hot score the top into little brownie squares


Cheesy Biscuits for Half Term

It’s half term for number one child this week, actually this two weeks…they generously do two in France, the country of more school holidays than anywhere else in the world! So we’re on holiday in the warmer climes of England luxuriating in the wonders of a centrally heated Grandma and Grandpa house, escaping the snowy sub zero temperatures of Siberian SW France.

Yesterday we had a spot of mummy and daughter cheesy biscuit baking. Great fun. This is a really REALLY simple recipe and great to make with kids. I make them quite often with my daughter who’s three as she hasn’t got a particularly sweet tooth (except for chocolate) and likes her cheese so these always go down a storm. Especially when she gets to cut them out herself with animal shaped cutters. Believe me she ate six before I had time to get the camera out and get a snap! If you want to get your kids into baking, invest in some interesting shaped cutters (whatever they’re into!) and make some biscuits, I guarantee they’ll love it.

And these cheesy gems are pretty popular with grown up folk too. You could always add a pinch of hot paprika to the biscuit mix to jazz it up a little, and cut them into more traditional round shapes.

80g grated mature cheddar

50g butter

110g plain flour plus a little extra for rolling

½ tsp of english mustard powder

1 egg yolk

salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 180℃.

Place the cheese, butter, flour and mustard powder in a food processor and whiz until you have a fine crumb.

Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper and the egg yolk and whiz again until a ball is formed in the processor. If a ball doesn’t form easily add a splash of cold water and whiz again. Remove from the processor.

If you have time cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour or so. If not, you can make them immediately but the dough is a little stickier.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it’s about 3 to 4mm thick. Cut the biscuits into your desired shapes. Re-roll any scraps until all the dough is used.

Place on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 7 to 10 minutes until puffed up and a little golden. Keep checking them regularly as they can overcook very quickly.

Once cooked remove from the tray immediately and place on a cooling rack to cool for a minute or two before eating. They’re particularly lovely eaten a little warm fresh from the oven. Enjoy!

Pin It


A Tartiflette for your Valentine?

This French classic from the Alps has to be the ultimate in staying in cuddling up in front of the fire cold winter night comfort food. Coupled with a fine bottle of vin rouge, a simple well dressed green salad and plenty of crusty bread this would be my perfect Valentines supper, and I’d be lovingly making this for my husband tomorrow if he happened to be in the same country as me! But alas he’s beavering away at home in France fitting new floors and ceilings whilst I’m camping out with the nippers at my parents house in Herefordshire.

Not exactly the healthiest of recipes which is why I’ve left this little gem until February, but nevertheless a wonderful and special treat. Potatoes, lardons (or streaky bacon if you can’t source), meltingly soft onions, cream and oozy cheese and that’s it. Splurge on some top quality cheese here, it’s worth it. Reblochon is traditional but Tomme de Savoie, Compte or Gruyere work well too, or any combination of these. So so simple and divine beyond belief. I defy any bloke not to be chuffed with this super calorific little number!

Enough for a romantic gorging for two, possibly with a few tasty leftovers

olive oil

220g of lardons or streaky bacon, diced

2 average sized onions, finely sliced

500g cooked potatoes, sliced

120ml double cream

220g Reblochon, Tomme de Savoie, Compte or Gruyere cheese, sliced

salt & black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

In a large and deep frying pan fry the lardons or streaky bacon in a little olive oil until slightly crisp. Add the sliced onion and fry for at least 15 minutes on a low heat until very very soft. Now stir in the cooked sliced potatoes and continue to sauté until everything is slightly browning. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a little salt (be cautious with the salt, you may not need any at all) and stir in well.

Place in an overproof dish and pour over the cream. Layer the cheese slices over the top and place in the oven. Bake until bubbling and slightly golden on top.

Eat immediately, as if you couldn’t resist! Lovely with a simple well dressed green leafy salad, plenty of crusty bread and a fine bottle of gutsy red wine.


Beef in Guinness

This is about as winter warming and comforting as food can be, and just perfect for all the snowy weather we’re all getting at the minute! I made this last weekend when it was minus 9 outside and in the midst of a snow storm!. I didn’t actually set foot outside all day. We all tucked in and devoured it with fervour.

Strangely enough the first time I ever cooked beef in Guinness, or black beer, was in the semi tropics of Bolivia. Staying in a picturesque mountain side hut overlooking the Andies with my friend Enda we made the most of having our very own outdoor kitchen for a few days and cooked up some triumphs with great local produce from the village a steep 3km trek away. Not only did the village have fresh homemade pasta for sale (this is extremely rural South America, not Italy, we’re talking about!), but we managed to find some very novel in those parts black beer (and some pretty good local red plonk to boot too!). And as the beef looked particularly scraggy and distinctly unappetising I figured the best treatment for it was to stew it up for a few hours in the beer. And what a result, I remember it being the best meal we’d had in weeks. Admittedly not the best choice of dinner to be eating in 35 degrees of heat but nevertheless it tasted damned good at the time. Happy happy memories!

Our wonderful outdoor kitchen

The view from the upstairs sleep deck, that's the bottom of my sleeping bag!

Anyway, I digress! Here’s a considerably more refined recipe for Beef in Guinness cooked with winter veggies and pearl barley. I used some pumpkin in mine which melted beautifully into the gravy, but I’ve usually used swede or parsnips in the past, even some turnip, but more often than not a mixture of what I happen to have in. These root veggies hold their shape a good deal better than my pumpkin.

For a family of four:

800g of braising steak

2 tbsps of plain flour

salt & pepper

olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, sliced (a little thicker than a pound coin)

2 sticks of celery, sliced

500g of pumpkin/squash/swede/parsnips/turnips or a mix of a few of these. Peeled and cut into a 2 cm dice

2 tbsps of tomato puree

750ml of Guinness – equates to 1 and a half cans (some unfortunate person gets to finish the can!)

500ml of beef stock

4 bay leaves

4 sprigs of thyme

125g of pearl barley

Place the 2 tablespoons of flour in a large bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Cut the beef into 3 to 4 cm chunks and roll around in the flour until evenly coated.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large casserole or saucepan and brown the beef off on a medium heat. Turn the meat every few minutes until all sides are browned. Once browned remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Into the same pan add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. If there’s not much fat left from the beef add another tablespoon of olive oil. Continue to cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring everything regularly so nothing catches.

Add the browned beef to the pan along your chosen veggies and 2 tablespoons of tomato puree. Give everything a good stir then add the Guinness, beef stock, bay leaves and thyme. You can leave the thyme sprigs whole, and remove the empty stalks at the end of cooking just as you would the bay leaves (far less fiddly than removing the leaves I find). Last but not least stir in the pearl barley.

Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 2 hours with the lid on. Stir periodically so as to ensure nothing catches on the bottom of the pan. The stew is ready when the beef is very very tender.

Serve with oodles of mash and the rest of the Guinness, or like myself a large glass of vin rouge.

Have you tried my other winter warming recipes? How about my Sausage & Bean Stew or Comfort Cottage Pie,


Chorizo & Manchego Salad

A winter warmer of a salad today, and one for the grown up folk really, unless your kids happen to eat salad which mine very definitely don’t …..at least not yet anyway. Philipe and I often have a late night supper salad once the kids are in bed, but we’re not talking a couple of lettuce leaves and a spray of dressing here, we’re usually talking pretty substantial. More often than not there’s something sausage like, a little cheese, definitely croutons and sometimes potatoes. A salad for the boys really.

Today’s chorizo salad is simply lots of lovely salad leaves (fresh from the garden in our case), chopped parsley, sliced red onion, some strips of pepper (or a few preserved peppers from a jar), cubes of Spanish Manchego (or any other flavoursome sheep’s milk cheese, but even a good goats cheese works well), fried chorizo slices and last but certainly not least lots of crunchy croutons fried in the remainder of the chorizo juices and a little hot smoked paprika to boot. Smoked paprika is the main spice in chorizo and is used widely in Spain, it gives a great little smokey spice kick to many a casserole or stew or even a crouton in this case!. The salad’s then simply tossed together in a sherry vinegar and olive oil dressing. Inarguably this is my favourite of our ‘winter’ salads.

Enough for two hungry grown ups:

120g chorizo, cut in 3 to 4mm slices, skin removed

a little olive oil

a small interesting lettuce, or a bag of lovely leaves, washed and torn

1 heaped tbsp of chopped parsley

1/4 of a red onion, finely sliced

1/2 a red pepper, cut into thin strips OR a few preserved peppers from a jar (available in good supermarkets or delis), sliced into strips

100g manchego cheese or any other sheeps or goats cheese, cut into 1cm cubes

40g stale white bread, cut into 2cm cubes

a generous pinch of hot smoked paprika (optional)

1 tbsp of sherry vinegar

3 tbsps of good quality olive oil

salt & pepper

Start with frying off the chorizo slices in a frying pan, adding just a little olive oil. Fry for about five minutes until golden on both sides, turning frequently.

Meanwhile prepare the salad. Place the lettuce, chopped parsley, red onion slices, red pepper strips and cheese cubes in a large salad bowl.

Make your dressing by briskly whisking together a tbsp of sherry vinegar with 3 tbsps of olive oil, a little salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.

Once your chorizo is cooked remove from the frying pan with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen roll. Add another splash of olive oil to the frying pan along with a pinch of salt, a generous pinch of hot smoked paprika (if using) and another of black pepper and place back on the heat. When the oil’s hot add the bread cubes and immediately turn to coat all sides. Continue to cook a little on all sides until the croutons are golden and crunchy, turning very regularly so as they don’t burn. The whole process will only take 2 to 3 minutes. When cooked drain on some more kitchen paper.

Add the slightly cooled chorizo to the salad and about half of the dressing. Toss the salad well, ensuring everything’s evenly coated. Taste and add more dressing to suit. Scatter the croutons on top and serve immediately.

Pin It


Pot Roast Chicken in a Lardon, White Wine & Creme Fraiche Sauce with Leek & Mustard Mash

This was our Sunday dinner last weekend and inarguably makes my Sunday Food Heaven top 5 list!. We all LOVED it, and needless to say there weren’t many chickenie leftovers!

I’m really into pot roasting meat these days as it by-passes having to use an oven, and as I’m sure most of you are well aware our temporary gas oven is worse than dreadful and best avoided at all costs. I daren’t buy a decent bird or joint of meat until it’s replaced, unless I can pot roast it on the hob. If you have a slightly older chicken (as we had, a gift from a neighbour) then this is also a particularly great way to cook it and retain as much moisture in the meat as you can. Older in age I mean, not old in the sense of it knocking around the fridge for a couple of weeks!.

Steamed in plenty of white wine, lardons (or streaky bacon if you can’t source), thyme, bay, garlic and onion, then thickened with a little crème fraiche at the end, this is a rather splendidly rich dish yet somehow light at the same time. I like to serve a mound of fluffy leek and wholegrain mustard mashed potato on the side as well as a simple steamed green veg, and in our case french beans fresh from the freezer (fresh from the garden last summer anyway!). Leek & mustard mash is also great with sausages, a pork joint or chops or just a plain roasted chicken.

If you happen to have fussy kids (we have one!) then with very little effort you can adapt this dinner to suit the whole family. If your kids don’t ‘do’ sauces as many seem not to (our daughter recoils with horror at anything other than gravy!) then they can just have the plain chicken, leaving even more delish sauce for those that can appreciate it. Similarly on the mash front I tend to keep a little plain mash back before adding the mustard and leeks. As it happened they both ate the lot today, sauce and all.

Enough for 4:

2 tbsps olive oil

salt & pepper

an average sized chicken (about 1.5kg)

1 smallish onion, finely diced

5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

200g lardons or streaky bacon

500ml white wine

500ml chicken stock

4 large sprigs of thyme, leaves removed

3 bay leaves

4 heaped tbsps of creme fraiche

For the Leek & Mustard Mash:

900g of peeled potatoes, cut into large chunks

1 tbsp olive oil

2 large leeks, thoroughly washed and finely sliced

30g butter

a dash of milk

salt & pepper

1 to 2 tbsps wholegrain mustard

Add the olive oil to a very large saucepan or casserole dish (it must be able to easily contain the chicken and have a lid), place on a low heat. Season the chicken all over with a  little salt and black pepper, massage into the skin. Place the chicken in the pan and turn every few minutes until it’s golden brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Place the onions and garlic in the same pan and sauté on a gentle heat, stirring regularly, for 5 minutes. Add the lardons and cook for a further 5 minutes. Put the chicken back in the pan with the onions and lardons, along with the white wine, chicken stock, the thyme and bay leaves and last but not least a generous grinding of black pepper.

Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for one and a half hours with the lid on. The chicken is ready when it falls easily off the bone.

Whilst the chicken is simmering away make your mash. Boil the potatoes in a saucepan of boiling salted water. While they’re boiling saute the sliced leeks in a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan, stir regularly and saute for about 10 minutes until very soft. If the leeks are catching on the bottom a little too much, add a splash of water. When the potatoes are cooked drain and leave to steam for a couple of minutes to dry out. Mash with a potato masher, mashing in the butter, a dash of milk, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the cooked leeks and the wholegrain mustard. Start with just one tablespoon of the mustard and taste, add more to suit your taste – I like about two tablespoons!.

When the chicken’s cooked, remove from the pan and leave to rest in a covered dish or a roasting pan covered with foil, so that it stays warm. Stir the creme fraiche into the sauce and bring back to the boil. Allow to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced and is a little thicker. Pour into a serving jug.

Carve the chicken and serve with a generous pouring of sauce over thet top, a mound of mash and a green veggie on the side. Perfect.

Have you tried my Coq au VinSimple Chicken Stew or Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Beans recipes?


%d bloggers like this: