Monthly Archives: May 2012

A Summery Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet

Family Dinners, Grown Up Dinners

I love cassoulet. It’s probably one of my favourite winter dinners, but boy is it filling. Way too heavy for this time of year anyway. So here’s a fabulous recipe for an altogether much lighter and healthier take on a cassoulet using chicken instead of duck and adding lovely in season asparagus to replace some of the beans.

I wish I could say I devised this recipe myself, but alas no it’s from my beloved Leon book by the inspirational Allegra McEvedy. Ever since I’ve had the book I’ve been excited about trying this particular recipe and have rather impatiently been waiting for the asparagus season to commence. And now we’re in it, I’ve made cassoulet three times already and always a success. Equally great for a family supper, a lunch or dinner party. Everyone seems to love it and it’s surprisingly quick and easy to assemble.

The original recipe calls for chicken supremes but I’ve successfully replaced with cheaper whole chicken legs but feel free to go with the original if you prefer breast meat. When I made the cassoulet for a dinner party I cut down on the asparagus (as 3 bundles was just a tad too expensive at E4.50 a pop!) and used half asparagus, half sliced courgettes and this worked marvellously.  I’d also say that you could omit the chicken altogether and replace the chicken stock with veggie to make a really interesting vegetarian dinner.

Try to start this dish the day before and leave the chicken to marinade in the fridge overnight, or at least for a whole day.

By the way that’s Dotty in the background. She’s the newest member of the Foti clan, a gorgeous little fluff ball of a Collie pup. And no she didn’t get to eat any!.

Enough for 4:

2 unwaxed lemons, zested and juiced

6 tablespoons of olive oil

8 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

6 sprigs of fresh thyme

4 bay leaves

black pepper & salt

4 whole free range chicken leg pieces, skin removed

2 bunches of asparagus, or 1 bunch and 1 large courgette

2 medium onions, diced

2 x 400g tins of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

a large glass of white wine

400ml of chicken stock

8 tablespoons of breadcrumbs plus a little extra olive oil for drizzling

4 lemon wedges to serve

Place the lemon zest and juice, two thirds of the olive oil, half the garlic, the thyme and bay leaves, a generous grinding of black pepper and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade thoroughly in. Cover with cling film and leave to marinade for the day or ideally overnight.

The next day preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Heat the remainder of the olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, set aside the marinade. Fry the chicken on all sides until a little golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion to the pan for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Now add the remainder of the garlic and the marinade and fry for a couple more minutes. Tip in the beans and the white wine. Give everything a good stir and leave to bubble away for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced by half.

Meanwhile prepare your asparagus. Remove and discard the woody ends and cut the stems into roughly one inch lengths ensuring the heads remain whole. Retain four whole asparagus stems for the top. If using a courgette slice in half lengthways then slice across in roughly 0.5cm slices.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the asparagus (and courgette if using). Have a taste check and season really well. Place the beans in an appropriately sized ovenproof dish then tuck the chicken legs in.

Pour over the chicken stock until you can just see the liquid level below the beans.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and place the four whole asparagus spears on the crumbs. Drizzle a little olive oil over everything.

Place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The crumbs should be golden and edges bubbling.

Great served with a light salad and lemon wedges on the side.

Here’s another couple of fabulous Leon recipes to try The Best Chilli Ever, and Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Beans.

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Chicken & Apricot Tagine

Toddlers and Young Children, The Whole Family, Just Grown Ups

Another firm family favourite in the Chez Foti household. The addition of dried fruit to tagines, curries or stews always goes down well with my kids and probably with most others too. I remember the first time I made this for Francesca, when she was little over a year old, she wolfed it down like I’d never seen her eat before and devoured a further two bowls. Now anyone who knows Francesca knows this is not normal for her. She’s a painstakingly slow and generally pretty uninterested eater. Although she actually eats most foods she’s definitely not a natural foodie like her little brother. So tagines subsequently feature pretty often in our house.

Interestingly the reason I came to make it for her in the first place was due to the daily report cards issued to parents, from her nursery at the time, reporting that she was eating two ‘large’ portions of tagine whenever it was served, be it lamb, chicken or veggie based. The food they gave the kids was usually amazing and inspirational.

You can make this in all in one go, but it’s best planned ahead and the chicken left to marinade overnight the day before. Feel free to substitute any of the veggies, I tend to use whatever I happen to have in. Squash, pumpkin, aubergines, courgettes, turnips, swede or parsnips all work equally as well as my choices of peppers, sweet potato and carrots.

This is a fab dish for all the family and can fed to real littlies too, once they’re eating proteins. Babies love the sweetness of the apricots. Either blend a little with a stick blender or cut finely and/or mash with the back of a fork.

Serve with couscous, again a very firm favourite grain in our house.

Enough for 4, or a family of 4 with a few leftovers:

4 whole free range chicken legs, skin removed

the juice of 2 lemons

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a teaspoon of ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoons of turmeric

a teaspoon of ras-el-hanout, or mild curry powder

a teaspoon of cinnamon

a tablespoon of olive oil

1 onion, large dice

2 carrots, sliced

a small sweet potato, large dice

a red pepper, large dice

85g of dried apricots, each chopped into 8 to 10 pieces

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

600ml of chicken stock

Place the lemon juice, garlic, cumin, turmeric, ras-el-hanout (or curry powder) and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir around a bit and add the chicken. Ensure the chicken is well coated, cover with cling film and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least a few hours but preferably overnight.

The next day remove the chicken from the marinade, retaining the lovely marinade. Heat the oil in large casserole dish on a medium heat and fry the chicken for a couple of minutes on all sides. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions, carrots, sweet potato and pepper to the same pan, or whichever veggies you’ve chosen. Place back on a medium heat and cook for ten minutes. If the pan’s a little dry add a splash more olive oil or a little water.

Place the chicken back in the pan along with the rest of the marinade, the thyme, chopped apricots and stock. Give everything a good stir around.

Bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and leave to bubble away on the lowest heat setting you have for an hour. Alternatively you could put the casserole dish (or tagine if you’re lucky enough to have one) in a pre-heated to 200ºC oven for an hour and a half. Check every now and again throughout the cooking process and if things start to dry out add a little water.

Have a taste check adding a little salt and pepper to suit (no salt for littlies). Serve hot with couscous.


Cheese, Ham & Sweetcorn Mini Muffins

Toddlers &  Young Children, Finger Foods, Grown Ups too!

We make cheesy muffins pretty often at Chez Foti as both my kids adore them (and so do I!), especially when they’re still warm out of the oven. They’ve each been known to eat five in one go!  As it was public holidays here last Thursday and Friday and no school we did a spot of baking together. Actually the holiday was only officially on the Thursday but being France employees, teachers included, like to take the Friday off too and make a long weekend of it. Most of May it seems is taken up by these long weekends.

Anyway back to the baking, Francesca who’s now three and a half loves to do all the stirring, whisking, muffin case choosing and placing in the tins, dolloping and sprinkling. It’s a messy business but well worth it, if your patience and tolerance levels will allow!. Kids always seem much more interested in eating anything they’ve had a helping hand in making. Though Jacques at just two was more than happy to do some scribbling, with the occasional cursory glance, on the other side of the table. He participated in the eating only, which needless to say he excelled himself at again. I’m sure it won’t be long before he wants to join in too as he’s a natural born foodie.

As well as a mid morning or tea time treat savoury muffins are a great alternative to all the sweet stuff at kids parties, and are good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. My monsters had these for their dinner with some baked beans on the side. They happened to be coming out of the oven unintentionally at their dinner time anyway and there was no way they’d eat less than three so dinner they were!.

I make small fairy cake size mini-muffins for my kids using ordinary cake cases, and this recipe makes about 24. If you’re  making ordinary muffin sizes you should make 12.

To make 24 small mini-muffins, or 12 ordinary sized: 

2 medium free range eggs

250ml of semi-skimmed or full fat milk

85g of butter, melted then allowed to cool

280g of plain flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

a pinch of salt

a pinch of pepper

½ teaspoon of English mustard powder

140g of Cheddar cheese, grated

100g of ham, diced into roughly 1cm squares

100g of drained tinned sweetcorn (or defrosted frozen sweetcorn)

Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6. Line muffin or cake tins with 12 or 24 cases depending on which size you opt to make.

Beat the eggs together, stir in the milk and the melted and cooled butter.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt & pepper and mustard powder.  Make a well in the middle and pour in the egg, milk and butter mixture. Stir together gently.

Stir in ⅔ of the grated Cheddar, the diced ham and sweetcorn and stir well without over mixing.

Spoon the mixture into the cake or muffin cases. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the tops.

Place in the pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes until risen, firm to touch and a little golden on the tops.

Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool for a few minutes then dig in….as if you couldn’t resist! They’re at their best eaten fresh out of the oven.

How about trying these other recipes? Cheesy Biscuits, Choccie Brownies, a Trio of Dips,  Homemade Fish Fingers or Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes

Little Miss F making the same muffins at Grandma’s a few weeks ago


Chocolate Birthday Cake

It was Baba Jacques’ 2nd Birthday a couple of weeks ago. For one reason or another ,and usually by popular request, I tend to make lemon or orange birthday cakes or a combo of the two. But this time I fancied a change, and as Jacques’ never really that bothered about cakes anyway I went for a choccie one as that’s what I fancied!

As ever it was a quickie last minute operation and my Google search for ‘easy chocolate cake’ came up with this gem of a recipe, thanking you kindly The BBC. It’s a recipe I know I’ll be using time and time again for birthday cakes, or for a special tea time or after dinner treat. It’s incredibly quick, easy and surprisingly low in fat (choccie icing aside anyway). Not that you would have any indication of this from it’s rich fudgily (I’m making up words again) moist texture and depth of flavour.

So here’s the recipe, that I haven’t changed a bean of from the original: It makes two 20cm round cakes.

For the Cake:

225g of plain flour

350g of caster sugar

85g of cocoa powder

1½ teaspoons of baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

2 free-range eggs

250ml of milk

125ml of vegetable oil

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

250ml of boiling water

For the Icing:

200g of plain chocolate

200ml of double cream

Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC/Gas 4.

Grease and line two 20cm wide cake tins with butter or oil.

Place all the cake ingredients together, except for the boiling water, in a large bowl. Using an electric whisk or a wooden spoon beat together until very well combined.

Slowly add the boiling water a little at a time, mixing continuously. The cake mixture will now be very liquid.

Evenly pour into the cake tins and bake in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes. The cakes are ready when the top is firm to touch and an inserted skewer or fork comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tins.

Now prepare the icing. Place the chocolate and cream in a saucepan and place over a very gentle heat. Stir continuously. Once the chocolate has melted into the cream remove from the heat and whisk the mixture until it’s very smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool for one to two hours.

Remove the cakes from the tins. Spread about a third of the icing over the top of one of the cakes. Sandwich the other cake on top. Now spread the remainder of the icing over the top and sides of the entire cake.

Decoration with Smarties purely optional!

Other recipes you might like, Chocolate Brownies, Cheesy Biscuits, Sticky Apple Pudding, Bread & Butter Leftovers Pudding


A Trio of Dips for Babies, Toddlers & Big People!

6-8 month +, Toddlers and Young Children, Finger Foods, Grown Ups too!

Dips are a great way to encourage babies and toddlers to feed themselves and are a fab early ‘finger food’. Even from a very young age babies can co-ordinate themselves to do a dip, even if it’s just dipping their fingers in. And they nearly all love the intensely satisfying experience, albeit a sometimes very messy one for mums and dads!

Dips also encourage wee ones to eat a greater variety of veggies. My kids will rarely eat a stick of raw carrot or pepper on it’s own but will gladly gnaw away if it’s got something yummy on the end. Try offering dips with a selection of finely sliced sticks of raw carrots, cucumbers, peppers, firm avocados or celery as well as breadsticks and slices of wholemeal pitta bread. For babies and littlies offer sticks or pieces of cooked veggies like carrots, courgettes, broccoli florets or even chunks of roasted squash or sweet potato. You might be surprised how much of the good stuff they consume when left to their own devices!

Homemade Hummus

Don’t be daunted by making your own hummus,  it’s remarkably easy and quick and so much better than anything shop bought. From my experience most babies and small children love it, and obviously big children and grown ups too! Rarely a week goes by without me making a batch of hummus. As well as being a great dip it can be tasty snack spread on wholemeal toast or pitta bread, or combined with a little grated carrot or cheese (or both) in a sandwich.

This makes enough for several children but stores well in the fridge for 5 days. I normally make at least double quantity and use exactly the same recipe for the whole family to enjoy.

½ a 400g/14oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ a clove of garlic, finely chopped

juice of ½ a lemon

a desertspoon of Tahini

1.5 tbsps of olive oil

a tiny pinch of salt (no salt if you’re making for babies)

a pinch of black pepper

Throw all the ingredients in a food processor and blend for a few moments, or place in a high sided bowl and whiz with a stick blender. The latter being my preference as it’s less washing up!. Once whizzed check the flavour and add more lemon juice, pepper or salt to taste.

Guacamole

My kids also go crazy for homemade guacamole which again is ridiculously quick and easy to make and beats anything shop bought  hands down.  I use a little fresh coriander in my guacamole as I believe it’s important to get kids into eating strong and interesting flavours from a young age. I also sometimes add a touch of chilli, particularly if I’m making for grown ups too, and the kids like it equally. In fact the first time Francesca ever ate guacamole it was some I’d made for friends that had quite a substantial chilli kick and she loved it! And she was only about 8 months old.

a very ripe avocado

2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice

½ a tomato

a dessertspoon of chopped fresh coriander (optional)

the merest pinch of crushed dried chilli flakes or very finely chopped fresh chilli (optional)

tiny pinches of salt & pepper (no salt if you’re making for babies)

Remove the stone and skin from the avocado, roughly chop and place in a bowl. Mash finely with the back of the fork.

Very finely chop the tomato and stir into the avocado along with the lime  juice, coriander (if using), chilli (if using) and a little salt & pepper.

Tuna & Cream Cheese

The last of my trio happens to be yet another of my kids favourites and is even easier to make than the others. It’s simply tuna mashed up with a little cream cheese. As well as a dip this makes a fab mayo-free sandwich or jacket potato filling. For a very tasty ‘grown up’ version, that kids will also equally enjoy, simply add a little lemon zest, a few finely chopped capers and a grinding of black pepper.

a heaped tablespoon of drained tinned tuna (preferably tuna tinned in spring water)

a heaped tablespoon of full fat cream cheese

Simply mash the two together. Done!.

Here’s Francesca & Jacques enjoying their favourite dippy trio outside in the sunshine:

You might also like: Hummus Hedgehogs, A Trio of Banana Purees, Two Baby Pasta & Puree Recipes, Sweet Potato Daal for Babies.


Leek & Goats Cheese Tart


I actually set out to make an asparagus tart, but couldn’t find any priced at less than €4.50 a bunch at the market yesterday (I know they’re having a laugh aren’t they?!) so I made a humble leek tart instead jazzing it up with some punchy goats cheese that we always seem to have so much of lurking in the fridge.

I don’t make tarts or quiches all that often, and every time I do I always wonder why not. They’re really not that fiddly or time consuming, and the pastry can be made in minutes in advance and happily stored in the fridge for several days, or even shop bought. I tend to make a double quantity of the pastry so that I can make a couple of tarts at a time, or a large and several minis for the kids, as they always prefer anything made in miniature. Mini Quiche Lorraine recipe coming shortly!

Enough for four:
pastry ingredients:
130g of plain flour, plus a little extra for rolling
35g of butter, cut into small blocks, straight from the fridge, plus a little extra for greasing the tin
30g of hard vegetable fat, cut unto small blocks, straight from the fridge
a pinch of salt

filling ingredients:
30g of butter
3-4 medium sized leeks (about 350g prepped and sliced weight)
150g of goats cheese, cut into small pieces (you can include any scrag ends or rind!)
3 large free range eggs, beaten
180ml of half fat creme fraiche (or full fat if you prefer)
salt & pepper

19-25cm width quiche or flat tin

Start by making your pastry. I use a food processor for speed but you can make it by hand too. If you’re using a processor place all the ingredients in the bowl and whiz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add a splash of very cold water (about a tablespoon) and whiz again. When it starts to come together in a ball it’s ready, keep adding a few drops of water until this happens. Remove from the processor and shape together. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.

If you’re making the pastry by hand place all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Rub the fat into the flour with your hands until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add a splash of water (about a tablespoon) and mix into the flour and fat with your hands, trying to bring it all together. Keep adding a further few drops of water until the dough comes together and is very smooth. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC (gas mark 5, 375ºF).

Whilst the pastry’s resting make your filling. Remove the tough green ends from the leeks and wash the remaining lengths of leeks (you can do this by making a cut across the top and slicing lengthways down a few centimetres, then fanning out under a cold running tap). Once washed, slice them across into 0.5cm thick rounds.

Place a large deep sided frying pan or a saucepan on a gentle heat. Melt the butter and then stir in the cut leeks and a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook on this gentle heat for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the leeks are very soft.

Lightly grease your chosen flan tin with butter.

The pastry should now be rested. Roll it out on a floured surface into a round that will fit your tin. Transfer to the tin. Cut off any excess pastry; there should be just enough pastry to overlap the sides by a few mms (the pastry will shrink a little when cooked). Prick the base all over with a fork. Brush the pastry case with a little of the beaten egg for the filling.

You now need to ‘bake blind’ the pastry case in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until it’s almost cooked.

Once ready, remove from the oven and dot the goats cheese evenly over the base. Then layer on the cooked leeks. Whisk the creme fraiche into the eggs, season with a little salt and pepper, though not too much as the leeks have already been seasoned, and carefully and evenly pour over the leeks.

Place the tart in the oven and cook for a further 30 minutes until the top’s a lovely golden brown.

Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve whilst warm. Lovely with a light green salad, and perhaps a few buttered new potatoes.


Super-Fruity Homemade Rice Pudding

8 months +, toddlers & young children, grown ups too!

Homemade rice pudding is so super douper easy everyone should give it a go. Most recipes bake it slowly in the oven but I’ve successfully experimented with simmering the milk and rice in a pan on the hob and considerably shortened the cooking time. The addition of lots of dried fruit gives this pud an extra healthy punch, and even kids adverse to dried fruit will probably enjoy it this way being so meltingly soft. If your making the pud for really little ones or kids that truely do not do dried fruit then omit and add a touch more sugar.

I used to make lots of milky puddings when my wee boy was weaning as once he had his first taste of solids he barely drank another drop of milk and I had to make sure he still got plenty of the white stuff down one way or another. Together with a few milky puds, I was always lucky that the little fella loved his yoghurts, cheese, porridge and milky cereals so it was never too much of a problem. He’s just turned two now and still refuses to drink milk on it’s own!.

Milk is the most important source of calcium to little people, as well as containing protein and a whole bunch of vitamins and minerals. Raisins, sultanas and dried apricots not only count towards your child’s five a day but are a wonderful natural sugar and sweetener. I always add a handful to my kids’ porridge and regularly use in puddings and cakes to replace large, and often unnecessary, quantities of sugar.

for a family of four:

90g of pudding rice (½ cup)

30g of golden caster sugar (1⁄8 cup)

675ml of full fat milk (3 cups)

80g of raisins or sultanas (⅓ to ½ cup)

60g of finely chopped dried apricots (just over ⅓ of a cup)

Simply place all the ingredients in a saucepan, stir to combine, and place on as gentle a heat as your hob will allow.

Slowly bring to a simmer and allow to bubble away for 30 minutes, stirring at regular intervals. If the rice looks like it’s drying out add a touch more milk.

The rice should be gloopy and very very soft.  Serve whilst warm or hot.

Here’s some of my other puddings: Sticky Apple Pudding and Bread & Butter Leftovers Pudding


Go Bananas! A Trio of Banana Baby Purees

First foods 6 months +

Here’s some super-fruity super-healthy and super-yummy first purees all using my personal super food, the humble banana. Bananas contain three types of natural sugars which when combined with their fibre content give an instant and sustained energy boost. They are also high in iron and potassium, the latter being thought to boost brain power. Bananas are wonderful for babies and one of the very few natural convenience foods that can be eaten by babies without blending or cooking, and can be eaten from day one of weaning. They’re also a great natural sweetener and perfect to combine with less sweet fruits instead of adding sugar.

Bananas can be simply mashed raw with a fork and fed to your baby like this or with the addition of a spoon of creamy yogurt or made up baby rice you have something a little more substantial. Most babies adore anything with bananas and these three recipes were my own two little babies’ favourite purees.

With the exception of the Banana & Avocado puree which can be simply mashed, my recipes today do actually require some blending due to the additional ingredients. If you don’t already have one invest in a stick blender, baby blender or a Baby Bullet, they’re totally wonderful for quickly and easily whizzing up baby food.

All three purees produce one serving. Unfortunately banana based purees do not keep well and are not suitable to be made in advance.

‘Banado’ Banana & Avocado Baby Puree

What a combination for little tums? Super powering banana and super nutritious avocado together creating a super calorific double dosing of brain boosting potassium! Now isn’t that what all babies need?. And this is ooooohhhh so simple, and great if you happen to be out and about without a blender.

½ of a medium banana, or a ⅓ of a larger one

⅓ of a very ripe avocado

Place the two together and mash very thoroughly with a fork OR whiz up with a stick blender, baby blender or baby bullet for an ultra smooth and creamy puree. Serve immediately.

Banana & Strawberry Pink Purée

Strawberries are a wonderful source of Vitamin C, the B Vitamins and K and are high in ‘phenols’ that protect the body from diseases like cancer. Advise used to be to not feed babies strawberries for the first 12 months because of the potential of allergic reaction. However guidelines in the UK and US have dropped this to 6 months although parents or babies with any pre-existing allergies or history of allergies, or babies with asthma or eczema should be extremely cautious in the first year and seek medical advice before offering strawberries or other potentially allergenic fruit like kiwis, raspberries or citrus fruits.

½ a medium banana

2 strawberries

Place the banana and strawberries together and whiz up with a stick blender, baby blender or baby bullet. Serve immediately.

Creamy Banana & Mango Purée

Mango’s are another great first baby food, and are very unlikely to be snubbed by little mouths. They contain oodles of vitamins A & C, E & K as well as Vitamin B6 and potassium. And you can’t beat adding a little rich and luxuriously creamy greek yogurt to a purée.

½ a medium banana

1/6 of a ripe mango, cut into chunks

a tablespoon of greek yogurt

Place the banana, mango and yogurt together and whiz up with a stick blender, baby blender or baby bullet. Serve immediately.

Have you seen my other weaning recipe’s….. Sweet Potato Daal for Babies, Two First Pasta Sauces, Bejewelled Eggs or my 5-a-Day Pasta Sauce?


Asparagus, Pea & Lemon Risotto

I’m very excited it’s Asparagus season again. Though here in France, like the rest of Northwestern Europe, they favour the grown in the dark white asparagus over the open air green tips more commonly found elsewhere. And it’s the green I definitely prefer. Asparagus happens to be one of my favourite veggies, and one I’d really like to grow myself once I decide on a permanent spot in the veg patch for it. It’s a dauntingly long wait of a couple of years from seed sowing to cropping…which undoubtedly will test my un-patient self, but once cropping the plants can last up to a lengthy twenty years!

This is my first spring risotto of the year, and possibly my favourite risotto recipe ever. So light and delicately flavoured, rather than the heavier meatier and rootier winter risottos of our last few months. Ideally this should be made with fresh peas, but as my pea plants are still very much in their infancy and no way near ready for picking, I used good old shop bought frozen ones, which I actually don’t have a problem with at all. Here’s one of my baby pea plants….hurry up!:

I don’t know why exactly but risottos tend to be the domain of the grown up folk in the Foti household, usually something I put together once the wee ones are snuggled up in bed. Hence the recipe for two…just double up for a family. Little Miss F is never too keen on them but will eat under duress, and Master F would willingly eat most things, especially anything with rice and his beloved peas in!

I’ve entered the recipe into this month’s ‘One Ingredient’ challenge, hosted by Nazima at Working London Mummy and Laura at How to Cook Good Food. This month the one ingredient is lemon.

Enough for 2:

20g of butter

a tablespoon of olive oil

2 shallots, finely diced

150g of arborio or other risotto rice

a glass of white wine

600ml of hot weak chicken or vegetable stock

a bunch of fresh green asparagus

110g of fresh or frozen peas

the zest of an unwaxed lemon plus 1 to 2 teaspoons of the juice

a heaped tablespoon of half fat creme fraiche

40g of freshly grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

salt and pepper

Prepare the asparagus by removing and discarding the woody white ends.  Cut the tips to about an inch in length and the remaining stalks to a 1 to 2cm length. Set aside.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan on a gentle heat. Add the shallots and saute for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Stir in the rice ensuring the grains get a good coating of butter and oil. Pour in the white wine and stir. Allow to simmer away on a gentle heat. Once the wine’s almost evaporated add a ladleful of the hot stock and continue to stir from time to time.

Once the stock has been absorbed by the rice add another ladleful. Once this has been absorbed stir in your third ladleful of stock together with the asparagus. Continue to stir at intervals adding further ladlefuls of hot stock every time the last lot is absorbed.

When the rice is nearly cooked stir in the peas, lemon zest and a teaspoon of lemon juice.

Once the peas, rice and asparagus are all cooked remove from the heat and stir in the creme fraiche and Parmesan. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to suit, plus further lemon juice if you like.

Here’s two other risotto recipes you might like to try, Sausage & Courgette Risotto and Squash & Goats Cheese Risotto


April in the Garden

Where exactly has this last month disappeared to? It only seems a few days ago I was writing my March update. April’s been a really REALLY wet month here, and a cold month and a windy month, all in all it’s been pretty dire. In theory good for the garden but I’m so behind this year (well in comparison to last year anyhow which is unhelpfully my only year of comparison!) and I didn’t manage to plant out much until nearer the end of April so no watery benefits really gained. Hey ho.

Anyway some good work has been done and the plot is slowly slowly filling up. There’s been lots of shovelling of cow poo and compost and digging, digging, digging, digging. I now hate digging. All my new potatoes have finally been planted and are now coming through. I still have way way too many ‘old’ tatties to get out there and I’ll endeavour to get them in in May.

There’s quite a list of stuff I’ve managed to get in the ground in between the storms and gales: carrots, parsnips, french beans, borlotti beans, swiss chard, peas, rocket, spring onions, 3 types of lettuce, radish, sprouts, spinach, calabrese, coriander, parsley and last but not least savoy cabbages have all been magically sown, and many of the seedlings are excitedly starting to break out into the big world.

Potato Plants

Baby radishes!

To the left there’s the shallots & red onions, to the right carrot & parsnip beds

In the poly tunnel the tomatoes are continuing to do well and some are getting pretty sizeable and ready to plant out. As are all my ‘Mediterranean’ veggies, the courgettes, peppers and aubergines. Half way through the month I sowed lots of squash & pumpkin seeds and they’re already pretty big. I also set off pots a plenty of melons, cucumbers, leeks, sweetcorn and more basil.

Courgette Plant

My higgledy piggledy of pots

Baby Squash

Tomato

A pepper plant

And that’s it folks for this month. It actually sounds a good deal busier than I thought I’d been!

Now on with the pots. My worst job.

Louisa


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