Monthly Archives: July 2012

70s Flashback Stuffed Marrow

‘Tis another courgettie recipe today I’m afraid, though this time of the overgrown kind. One somehow went unnoticed and I found myself happening upon a marrow last week. Loving a bit of 70s foodie nostalgia I thought I’d give stuffing it a go. Interestingly it was way tastier than my less-than-fond childhood memories of waterlogged flavour-lacking marrow dinners. This was a meal I would gladly leave future courgettes to grow into gargantuan proportions for, and indeed I am.

It’s also a very simple to put together dish, made in minutes, albeit taking upwards of an hour to bake in the oven.

I’m entering this blog into Lavender & Lovage’s July Herbs on Saturday Challenge, this month hosted by Vanesther at Bangers & Mash Chat.

My homegrown sage

For 2 to 3 big people or a family of four:

a 750 to 1000g marrow or overgrown courgette

2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus a little extra for brushing

a small onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a heaped desertspoon of chopped fresh sage leaves

a small eating apple, skin peeled and core removed, grated

300g of pork mince

salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4.

Slice the marrow or courgette in half lengthways, scoop out all the loose flesh and seeds from the middles to make two boats. Cut up any fleshy parts and set aside, discard the seeds (I actually kept mine to sow next year). Brush the two halves with a little olive oil and place snugly in an appropriately sized ovenproof dish.

Heat the olive oil in a deep side frying pan on a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until a little softened. Stir in the chopped garlic and sage and cook for a minute longer. Stir in the grated apple quickly followed by the pork mince, set aside diced courgette flesh and a generous pinch or two of salt and pepper. Give everything a thorough stir and take off the heat.

Spoon all the filling into the marrow halves. Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes to an hour (depending on the size of the marrow). Remove the foil and bake for a further 20 minutes.

Great served with a simple green salad and plenty of good quality bread to mop up the lovely juices.

Here’s some other courgettie recipes you might like to try, Courgette & Sausage Carbonara, Courgette, Spinach & Pesto Risotto, King Prawn, Courgette & Spinach Thai Green Curry, Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta.


Courgette Cake with Homemade Lemon Curd

Back on with the courgette season and yep, you did read Courgette Cake, and of the sweet variety too!. Just think of an extraordinarily moist carrot cake with green flecks (and no carrots). Filled with super zingily zesty lemon curd and topped with lemon cream cheese frosting. Yuuuuuummmm. It is.

I first made a courgette cake last summer at a time when my husband was threatening to leave me if I cooked another courgette. Seven plants we realised were way too many for a family of four, especially when two of them are tiddlers and one of the grown ups isn’t a big fan. Which is precisely why I’ve come to have nine, yes NINE plants this year. It was an accident, there were supposed to be four but it seems there was a little mix up on the seed front. And now I fear the summer may end in divorce. Which is precisely why we’re back on the courgette cakes; ’tis Mr F’s preferred usage of a courgette. It’s also one of the few cakes that don’t burn their bum in my awful oven. And only my second blogged cake. Whilst recently adding a Recipe Index to the blog it came to my attention I only had one entry under Cake (Jacques’ Chocolate Birthday Cake), which is obviously wrong on many levels.. Considering I actually do make cakes pretty often at Chez Foti I’ll now be making a concerted effort to blog, and eat, a few more!.

I’d love to take credit for the recipe but sadly I can’t, but Nigella can. It’s from her How to be a Domestic Goddess book. Albeit I switched the lime curd for lemon as we’d recently been given some gorgeous lemons picked from a tree in Spain and they needed using up. My recipe for lemon curd is at the bottom of the blog.

Courgette Cake

The Cake:

60g of raisins or sultanas

250g of courgettes

2 large eggs

125ml of vegetable oil

150g of golden caster sugar

225g of self-raising flour

½ a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

½ a teaspoon of baking powder

2 x 21cm cake tins, greased and lined

Lemon Curd Filling:

2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon curd, homemade (my recipe’s below) or shop bought

Lemon Cream Cheese Topping:

200g of cream cheese

100g of icing sugar, sieved

juice of ½ a lemon

2 – 3 tablespoons of chopped pistachio nuts

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4.

Plump up the sultanas or raisins in a small bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

Grate the courgettes coarsely and place in a sieve over the sink or another bowl to drain out the excess moisture.

Place the eggs, oil and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat together until creamy. Sieve in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Continue to beat until well incorporated. Stir in the courgette and drained sultanas/raisins.

Divide the cake mixture between the two tins. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until firm to the touch and slightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for a few tins before turning out onto cooling racks to cool fully.

Meanwhile make the topping. Beat the cream cheese for a few minutes before adding the icing sugar. Continue to beat for a few minutes more before beating in the lemon juice.

Now to assemble the cake. Place one cake on your cake stand or plate. Spread over the lemon curd. Sandwich over the other cake. Now spread the frostring over the top of the cake and scatter on the chopped pistachios.

Super Zingy Zesty Lemon Curd

Makes 2 jars of curd, which keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks

The juice and zest of 4 unwaxed lemons

200g of golden caster sugar

100g of unsalted butter

3 medium eggs plus one yolk, lightly whisked together

Set a large pan of water to boil. When boiling turn down to the gentlest heat possibly and place a heat proof bowl over the top (though the bowl should not be touching the water).

Place the lemon juice and zest, sugar and butter in the bowl and stir every now and again.

Once the butter’s melted whisk in the eggs, continuing to gently whisk almost continuously for about 10 minutes. The curd is ready when it’s considerably thickened and feels heavy on the whisk.

Pour into super clean jars and leave out to cool. Once fully cool, screw on the lids and store in the fridge.


Thai Green Curry Paste & Curries

Older kids, Big People

I adore the fragrancy of Thai food and really miss the Thai restaurants and take aways that are so plentiful in the UK. You can actually buy the odd jarred paste here but on the whole they’re pretty awful. And making my own paste is generally a rare and special treat in rural, and distinctly un-multicultural France. Getting hold of lemon grass and lime leaves is nigh on impossible (well unless I want to make a five hour round trip, or so I’m told), even getting the chillies, limes and fresh ginger can be a tricky affair. As for the coriander you’ve really got to grow your own and if truth be known I struggle with it, over the last year I’ve probably set it off to grow ten times and only harvested a couple of curries worth. But suddenly for no apparent reason I’ve a bumper crop and have been busy using it in all manner of fragrant dishes I don’t normally get a chance to make the last couple of weeks. Joy. Coriander coupled with a very exciting delivery of goodies from the UK, brought over by my brother in law, has meant a fabulously fragrant batch of Thai Green Curry Paste. Though I’m saddened to say after three large curries in the last week it’s now all gone, but I’ve still just enough ingredients to make another. Boy it’s good.

Making a paste is surprisingly quick and easy, simply a matter of throwing all the ingredients in a blender or processor and blitzing. My recipe below makes enough for ten people, and it can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to three weeks, as if you could possibly refrain from using it that long (I managed five days). From then on the curry’s a fast food cinch too as pretty much all the flavouring’s done for you, 25 minutes tops.

The Paste

The last week we’ve had a gorgeous King Prawn, Courgette & Spinach Curry as well as a Chicken, Chard & Courgette one. Both totally divine. I tend to veg up my dinners (though you’ve probably worked that one by now!) but feel free to omit or vary the veggies or the meat.

This is really a dinner for grown ups or big kids that can take a little heat. It can be adapted for littlies by only adding the merest touch of paste and upping the ratio of coconut milk or making a milder paste altogether. Both work for my kids (they’re big Green Curry fans now), and I’m planning on blogging a specificly child friendly version shortly.

The Paste

enough for 10 big people

4 medium green chillies, roughly chopped

2 shallots, roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic

2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, skin removed, grated

a large handful of coriander including the stalks (and the roots as well if you grow your own), washed and roughly chopped

2 lemongrass stalks, roughly chopped

the juice of a lime

the zest of 2 limes (if you’re lucky enough to have kaffir lime leaves then substitute one of the zested limes for 8 leaves)

a tablespoon of coriander seeds, crushed in a pestel and mortar

a teaspoon of black peppercorns, crushed in a pestel and mortar

a teaspoon of ground cumin

2 teaspoons of Thai fish sauce

3 tablespoons of sunflower or vegetable oil

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processer and blitz into a paste. The aroma is simply breathtaking!.

Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Chicken, Courgette & Chard Thai Green Curry

The 3 Cs, Chicken, Courgette & Chard

enough for 4 big people (with big appetites!)

2 tablespoons of sunflower or groundnut oil

a large onion, diced

2 heaped tablespoons of Thai Green Curry Paste (either the above homemade paste or shop bought)

3 or 4 free range chicken breasts, cut into large chunks (about 5 or 6 per breast)

400ml of coconut milk

Thai fish sauce

a pinch of sugar

2 courgettes, quartered lengthways then sliced

a couple of handfuls of swiss chard, the stems separated from the leaves and both shredded separately

juice of a lime

a large bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped (including the stalks)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, deep sided frying pan or wok (preferably something you have a lid to) on a medium heat. Throw in the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a minute or so more stirring constantly. Add the chicken pieces and briefly coat in the paste before pouring in the coconut milk, a generous shake of Thai fish sauce and a pinch of sugar. Give everything a good stir and cover for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes throw in the the sliced courgettes and shredded chard stems. Stir and cover and cook again for about 8 minutes. Now add the shredded chard leaves, stir and cover again. Leave to wilt down for a couple of minutes. Once all the veggies and chicken are cooked and tender, take off the heat and stir in the lime juice and coriander. Have a taste check and season with more fish sauce to suit.

Serve immediately with steamed Thai Jasmine Rice.

King Prawn, Courgette & Spinach Thai Green Curry

King Prawn, Courgette & Spinach Thai Green Curry

Enough for 4 big people:

2 tablespoons of sunflower or groundnut oil

a large onion, diced

2 heaped tablespoons of Thai Green Curry Paste (either the above homemade paste or shop bought)

300g of fresh or frozen uncooked king prawns (defrosted if frozen)

2 courgettes, quartered lengthways then sliced fairly thinly

400ml of coconut milk

Thai fish sauce

a pinch of sugar

4 very large handfuls of spinach, washed and shredded

juice of a lime

a large bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped (including the stalks)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, deep sided frying pan or wok (preferably something you have a lid to) on a medium heat. Throw in the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a minute or so more stirring constantly. Add the prawns and courgettes and coat everything briefly in the paste before pouring in the coconut milk and a generous shake of the Thai fish sauce. Give everything a good stir and cover for 8 minutes.

Now stir in the spinach and cover again. Leave to wilt down for a couple of minutes. Once all the veggies and prawns are cooked and tender, take off the heat and stir in the lime juice and coriander. Have a taste check and season with more fish sauce to suit.

Serve immediately with steamed Thai Jasmine Rice.

How about trying some of my other curry recipes? Chochori, Swiss Chard & Potato, Beetroot, Spinach & Chickpea, Aloo Gobi Kaddu


Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta

Last night we had our lovely friend Debbie over for dinner and coupled with the welcome opportunity of an afternoon sans les enfants I got busy and inventive in the kitchen with our enormous glut of courgettes. Don’t ask me how but I’ve ended up with nine plants this summer. Last year’s seven were excessive despite our stream of guests the entirety of the courgette season.

Yesterday afternoon I was immensely satisfied to use six of the beasts in a three course courgette dinner, and almost get on top of the growing glut. Heavenly bruschetta topped with griddled and marinaded courgettes with lemon, feta and basil to start, followed by a chicken, courgette & chard thai green curry. The curry being a very rare treat as its nigh on impossible to get most of the ingredients here in rural France, but I happened to have a sudden success in homegrown coriander and some recently imported goodies from the UK. Recipe to be blogged shortly. Dinner was finished off rather surprisingly with a green tinged, utterly delicious and moist courgette cake, sandwiched with homemade lemon curd and topped with lemon cream cheese frosting! I’d love to take the glory for the cake but in truth it’s Nigellas from her Domestic Goddess book.

By the way, just in case you hadn’t guessed it, my Veggie of the Month for July is the not so humble courgette. I’ll be reviewing all my courgette recipes and ideas later in the month in a special courgettie round up. In the meantime I’d love to hear your interesting or novel courgette recipes and if I get a chance I’ll try them out before the round up.

Anyway, back onto the Bruschetta. I’m a big bruschetta fan, and this has to be one of my favourite toppings. And so lovely to be able to not only glorify the courgette but my homegrown basil that’s finally big and grown up enough to be picked (considerably later than last year). Griddled or barbecued in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and plenty of black pepper, marinaded in a little more oil, juice and zest and topped with salty feta and torn basil leaves this is to me the essence of summer, and an extremely tasty starter or entree. I regularly griddle or barbecue courgettes in this way, without always the further marinading, to serve as an interesting veggie side, pizza topping or pasta addition.

I’m entering this post to Lavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, held this month by the lovely Vanether at Bangers & Mash Chat.

Marinaded Courgettes

Enough for 4:

2 medium to large courgettes

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil plus a little extra for drizzling

juice of a lemon

zest of half a lemon

a generous pinch of Malden sea salt or similar

a generous pinch or two of coarsely ground black pepper

8 – 12 slices of good quality thickly sliced bread (sourdough works particularly well)

a clove of garlic

60g of feta, crumbled

a few basil leaves, torn

Fire up the barbie or place your griddle pan on a high heat.

Slice the courgettes lengthways into thin strips 2 to 3mm thick. Mix two tablespoons of the olive oil, half the lemon juice and the salt and pepper in a bowl.

Dip each courgette strip into the above marinade and place on the hot griddle. Allow to cook for two or three minutes until coloured and soft on each side. When cooked on both sides remove and place in another bowl and start up another batch until all are cooked.

Griddling

On to the cooked courgettes pour the rest of the marinade, a little more lemon juice (to taste), the lemon zest and another wee drizzle of olive oil. Give everything a good stir and leave to marinade until you’re ready to make the bruschettas.

In the same griddle pan or barbecue toast the bread until coloured on each side (this again will take several batches). Cut the garlic clove in half. As the hot toast is removed from the griddle rub the cut side of the garlic over the hot surface of the toast to impart a little flavour. Drizzle over a little olive oil. Top with a couple of slices of the marinaded courgettes, a little crumbled feta and a few pieces of torn basil and eat immediately. As if you could resist.


Barbecue Chops

Barbecue Pork Chops Recipe

Older Kids (that like a bit of spice!), Grown Ups

Back on with the Chez Foti barbie season here’s a dead simple fool proof recipe for spicy marinaded pork chops, and one I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess as to exactly how many times I’ve used over the last two summers!.

I love marinading as it usually means most of the effort’s made in advance and these are no exception, in fact all the work’s done in advance bar the actual barbecuing. Allow at least a couple of hours for flavours to mingle, preferably four or five. I like to use rosemary in the marinade as it’s works so well with garlic and chilli, but I don’t always include it. Kind of depends on how lazy I am at the time as the rosemary grows towards the bottom of our drive!.

For four people:

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a heaped teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika

a teaspoon of hot chilli powder

a desertspoon of runny honey

3 tablespoons of olive oil

a teaspoon of coarsely ground or crushed black pepper

½ a teaspoon of Malden sea salt, or similar

a large sprig or two of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped (optional)

4 pork chops

Simply mix all the marinade ingredients together (which is everything listed above bar the chops!) in a large non-metalic bowl. Plonk in the chops and get down and dirty thoroughly rubbing the marinade into the meat with your hands.

Cover and leave to rest and mingle in the fridge for 2 to 5 hours. I like to give everything a little stir half way through the marinade time. Remove from the fridge 20 minutes or so before cooking time.

Cook the chops over hot coals or timbers (we always cook over oak as we have so much of it here and happens to give off a particularly lovely flavour) for about 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Timing depending on how thick your chops are and how hot your bbq is. Pork should be fully cooked through (no pinkie bits) and the juices running clear from the middle.

I like to serve my porkie chops with a selection of salads and veggie kebabs. More barbecue recipes and sides coming soon, but for now have you seen my Greek Stylie Pork & Veggie Kebabs or Lou’s Blue Cheese Barbecue Burgers?

Barbecue Chops

Marinading Away

Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Kids, Grown Ups

In my continued efforts to blog more veggie dishes here’s another popular family dinner at Chez Foti, my very green super-healthy risotto that I’ve actually been making for years as a quickie mid-week supper. Packed full of the good stuff as well as tastiness from the pesto and sun dried tommies this is an all round pleaser for littlies and big people alike.

It hit me a few months ago that I was sub-consciously shying away from giving the kids green dinners as for some daft reason I thought they wouldn’t buy it. How wrong was I. As long as the base flavour’s good they’ll eat anything, spinach and all. Since my moment of realisation I’ve been bombarding them with spinach and chard based risottos, pasta sauces, stir fries and thai green curries and so far they’ve happily gobbled down each and every one. And pesto being such a pleasing flavour to most littlies provides the perfect flavour vessel. In truth I’ve also shied away from risotto for the kids too as Francesca was never too keen, but she seems to be really enjoying them now. Rock on the risottos!

This was one of our first ‘freebie’ dinners of the year with most of the ingredients being picked fresh out of the garden, and notably used the first of many of the courgettes. I’ve seven plants which should ensure us in consistent supply for some time. The spinach, shallots and garlic were all Chez Foti homegrown too. Admittedly I used shop bought pesto for my risotto this time but I did make my own all last summer. The basil plants are all a little on the weeny side for pesto making as of yet this year.

In writing this post I’m also entering Ren Behan’s Fabulucious Food Simple and In Season blog event, hosted this month by Homemade by Fleur

The First Courgette of 2012!

Popeyetastic Spinach!

Enough for a Family of Four or Three Big People

3 tablespoons of olive oil

a small onion or 2 shallots, very finely diced

a clove of garlic, finely chopped

220g of risotto rice

a small glass of white wine

700ml of hot vegetable stock (I like to use Marigold)

a courgette, diced

200g of spinach, washed and shredded

70g of drained sun dried tomatoes, chopped

3 tablespoons of homemade or shop bought pesto

salt and pepper

grated parmesan, to serve

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

Stir in the rice ensuring the grains get a good coating of oil. Pour in the 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 give everything a stir from time to time.

Once the stock has been absorbed by the rice add another ladleful. Once this has been absorbed stir in another ladleful together with the diced courgette. Continue to stir at intervals adding further ladlefuls of hot stock every time the last one is absorbed. If you run out of stock before the rice is tender add a little boiling water.

When the rice is almost tender stir in the shredded spinach, sun dried tomatoes, pesto and a generous pinch of black pepper.

Once the rice is cooked and spinach wilted remove from the heat. Taste and add more pepper to suit. You probably won’t need to add any salt as there’s plenty in the stock and pesto.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan.

How about trying some of my other risotto recipes: Asparagus, Pea & Lemon Risotto, Sausage & Courgette Risotto or Squash & Goats Cheese.


June in the Garden

June’s been a wonderfully exciting month at Chez Foti where all my hard work earlier in the year’s started to reward us with a larder full of bountiful produce. Most of my wee little seedlings are growing up into large healthy fruiting plants and the garden has suddenly gone from a desert brown to luscious green. Result!

Early in the month I declared war on the weeds and mulched around most of the plants with course grass clippings. On the whole it’s working well though the most persistent weedy warriors have broken free, and there’s still a few areas I haven’t got around to mulching yet.

I’m pleased to report that I’ve finally finished planting my chitted potatoes, just as the first ones I planted back in March have started to be dug up! I also sowed some sweetcorn, lots more basil and a few cauliflowers…the latter being a complete germination failure.

All sixty one of my tomato plants are fairing well (yes 61, 54 planted ones are 7 self seeders) and most are fruiting, yikes that’s a whole lotta tomatoes coming our way very soon! I really must crack on and research buying a chest freezer in France.

Jacques assessing the Tomato Situation

The Borlotti Beans have been caned (using bamboo cut from the garden) which has made the garden look like a proper veg patch now! And they’re starting to form gorgeous red and green pods.

The Borlotti Canes

The First Borlotti Pods

I’m delighted to report that my overwintered garlic has been a huge success. I pulled it up a couple of weeks ago and was quite taken aback at the size of the bulbs…and the flavour’s pretty good too.

Pretty chuffed with my Garlic!

Finally the globe artichoke plants are taking off and moving on from the teeny weeny seedlings that they seemed to be stuck at for months:

An artichoke seedling

The squash and pumpkin plants have grown absorbitantly and seem to be taking over most of the patch again:

Pumpkins & Squash

After a slow start the pepper and chilli plants are also looking a success, with the first of the chilli’s forming, yay!

A Pepper Plant

The first chillies of the Year

Another recent success are the rhubarb plants which I took for dead a few weeks ago, it looks like we’ll be eating rhubarb very soon.

Lovely lovely Rhubarb

The disasters of the month have been my cauliflowers, cabbages, calabrise and PS Broccoli…all sown several times now but have suffered the double blow of very low germination levels and too much hot sun that’s withered the survivor seedlings. I’ve recently re-sown most of them again but covered the areas in bracken to retain moisture and protect from the strong sun, fingers crossed. We’ve also had a new problem with enemy Mr Mole who’s taken to digging up several new plants and seedlings.

What were Eating

The shallots are all ready for the eating, as are a few of the red onions. The potatoes have now started, both new and old. We’re also happily tucking into courgettes and cucumbers a plenty as well as the continuing pick and come again lettuces and salad leaves. We have a few french beans starting (the first got used last night in a lovely Salade Nicoise). Plus the spinach and my Veg of the Month, Swiss Chard. Together with the strawberries we now have a few luscious raspberries which the kids are loving. Other than the odd red pepper I’ve barely been buying any fruit or veggies and making do with what we’ve got. Together with our wonderful eggs we’ve been having quite a number of freebie dinners now, which makes it all so worthwhile!.

The first of the French Beans

Bring on the Courgettes!

…and the Cucumbers!

Lovely Lettuce

Potato Plants

The Raspberry Inspectors!

Master F, the Strawberry Appreciator!

All the ingredients for tuna nicoise (well minus any toms, tuna, olive oil and vinegar anyways!)

So that’s it folks for this month, I’m sure we’ll be tucking into a good deal more by the end of another month,

Louisa


June Veg of the Month: Swiss Chard

As my veggie patch, or potager as they’re known here in France, is coming into its full glorified bloom and all my hard work’s paying off with a freebie larder of veritable goodies, I’ve decided to start something new on the blog, A Veg of the Month round up. Each month I’ll be choosing my most prolific in season veggie and blogging all the ways I’ve used and cooked with it, and asking readers to contribute their own recipes and ideas. This month I’ve chosen the humble yet magnificent Swiss Chard, not the most obvious choice for a June veggie I know, but along with the more popular spinach it’s been one of the first abundant veggie’s of the season at Chez Foti.

It’s a fabulously easy veg to grow, readily germinates, takes up relatively little space, seems to require little or no additional watering, grows quickly and profusely with individual plants lasting up to a staggering 18 months (and mine have) and is pretty darned hardy to boot!

Interestingly it’s been a veggie generally unknown to most folk, myself included, apart from the allotmenteers and grow their owners, until the recent advent in popularity of the organic veg box schemes. Being such an easy crop to grow it’s no wonder it’s became a regular feature of the boxes. Chard is also a particularly heathy green leafy veg having high levels of vitamins A, K and C, and rich in minerals, dietary fibre and protein.

Freshly picked chard and the first potatoes of the year

Not only is it my wonder veg to grow it’s fabulously versatile in the kitchen too, and can be used a lot like spinach. The leaves can be picked young and small and eaten whole and raw in salads (which admittedly I have yet to do, as they seem to grow so quickly here!). Or they can be left to mature and the leaves separated from the stems. The stems are a little like celery and require slicing and cooking for a few minutes longer than the green leaves which are pretty much the same as spinach (though with a wee bit more oomph in the flavour department).

As a veggie side chard is great sautéed for a few brief minutes in garlic and plenty of olive oil, adding a wee squeeze of lemon and a generous pinch of salt and black pepper at the end. Throwing in a tinned anchovy or two with the garlic and/or a finely sliced chilli works a treat; chard takes particularly well to strong salty flavours.

Last week I made a delightful Chard & Broad Bean risotto (using my recipe for Lemon, Pea & Asparagus Risotto but switching the veggies). Earlier in the month I made Ewan Mitchell’s Pasta with Chard which provided us a very tasty mid-week supper in minutes.

A very successful mid-week supper of Pasta & Chard

And I spiced it up in a wonderful Chochori, a Chard and Potato Curry courtesy of Nisha Katona’s Curry in a Hurry video. I’ve also added it shredded (at the last minute) to Frugal Feeding’s fabulously aromatic Slow Cooked Beef Curry and my own Prawn Thai Green Curry (recipe to follow).

A wonderfully spiced Swiss Chard & Potato Curry

I’ve been adding Chard a plenty to my Chicken, Egg and Veggie Fried Rice or more often than not ditching the meat for a vegetarian freebie alternative (which the kids adore equally), throwing bundles of it into Pork & Noodle Stir Fries (and again various meat free versions), Kids Bolognese and Super-Vegged up Chillies. It’s also been a welcome green in many a soup, including my Cream of Veggie Souper Soup and Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup) and blitzed into a super nutritious Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce.

Noodles with Pork & Veggies

So that’s it for my first ever Veg of the Month Round-Up. Feel free to join me in my celebration of the Chard Wonder Veg with your comments, ideas or recipes! I think we’ll be having chard in surplus supply for a good while yet so I’m looking forward to trying out some new ideas.


Paella

Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Children, Grown Ups

My apologies for the lack of blogging action of late, we’ve had my MIL staying the last week and time has been more than a tad short. I’m hoping to get back to normal blogging soon, though we do have a line of guests coming early summer so it could be tricky. And my poor veggie patch is suffering enormously again. So much to do, and always so little time.

In case you didn’t see it I wrote a guest post for Foodies 100 which appeared on their site last week, it’s listing my Five Favourite Family Foodie Blogs. Well worthy of a read if you want to check out some other great family foodies, and there’s some truly brilliant ones around!

The essence of summer I made this paella for our balmily hot sunday dinner last weekend and it was a hit with everyone, littlies and all (and they particularly enjoyed the mussels!). Ever so impressive yet surprisingly easy to assemble and if you’ve not made one before you really must give paella a go. A perfect dish for big family gatherings or parties, or like us a special sunday lunch. I’ve listed ingredients to serve four (big) people, but double or treble up or more for larger parties. You do need a very big frying pan for any more than six people, or preferably a paella pan (I have one on my wish list!).

A great summery dish at it’s best served with ice cold vino blanco …. and maybe the odd finger bowl or two….it’s a messy business!

Enough for Four:

3 tablespoons of olive oil

a large pinch of salt & pepper

4 chicken legs or thighs (each divided into two) or 8 chicken drumsticks, free range, skin removed

100g of chorizo, sliced into 5mm slices

a large onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

a red pepper, thinly sliced

120g of french green beans, sliced into 2.5 cm lengths or frozen peas

a teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika

a large pinch of saffron

170g of spanish paella rice

600ml of hot chicken stock

500g of large mussels (washed and de-bearded and any opened ones discarded)

8 or more large whole raw king prawns

lemon and parsley to serve

Rub a little salt and black pepper into your chosen chicken pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide frying pan or paella pan on a medium heat. Fry the chicken a little on all sides until lightly golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the chorizo to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, turning occasionally. Remove with the spoon and set aside with the chicken.

Turn the heat to low and throw in the onions and garlic to the pan. Gently saute for 5 minutes until softened. Add another tablespoon of olive oil together with the sliced pepper, beans if using ( if using peas they are added later) and smoked paprika. Cook for another couple of minutes stirring regularly.

Stir in the saffron, rice, and peas (if using) ensuring the rice has a good coating of the oil. Pour over the chicken stock, and place the set aside chicken and chorizo back in the pan. Gently bring to a simmer, and allow to bubble away for 12 minutes, stirring only occasionally.

Place the mussels evenly around the pan, pushing the shells into the rice so that they have an opportunity to cook. Cook for a further 5 minutes without stirring the paella.

Evenly place the prawns over the top and cook for a further 6 minutes (turning them over half way through), but not stirring the paella. The rice and chicken should now be tender and cooked through and liquid evaporated. Cook for a few moments longer if not.

Serve with a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley and lemon wedges….and a glass of white wine.


%d bloggers like this: