Monthly Archives: August 2012

A blog (and tomato) holiday!

We’re off on our jolidays tomorrow to not-so-sunny England and Scotland to go to my big bro’s wedding and visit lots of family and friends. It’s going to be a hectic eleven days away so I’ve decided, after nearly a year of blogging, to take a bit of a break. It’s unfortunately come at a rather hectic time in the garden especially with the tomato harvesting, though I have to admit I’m quite looking forward to getting away from them all. Chez Foti’s felt like a tomato processing plant these last few weeks. It really has been a huge basket of pickings every day, with each and every night spent peeling, chopping, cooking, reducing, souping, saucing, drying, roasting, chutneying…..I could go on!

I’ve decided to continue my tomato ‘Veg of the Month’ on into September as I’ve already got a huge backlog of tomatoey blogs to write and no doubt I’ll be even more inundated with them when we return. I dread to think.

Anyway, here’s hoping I don’t see a tomato for eleven days!  Happy rest of the holidays everyone, here’s a couple of tomatoey photies to be going on with,

Louisa  x

My homemade sun aka ‘oven’ dried tommies. Sublime beyond sublime.

Master Jacques helping me pick the cherry tomatoes

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One Pot Ratatouille

Baby Foods & Weaning 7-9 Months plus, Toddlers & Small Children, Older Kids, Grown Ups

We love ratatouille at Chez Foti, and it’s a regular feature on our dinner table throughout the summer. Originally from Provence, it’s a classic Southern French veggie side dish, and made with good quality (preferably organic) tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and aubergines it’s utterly delicious and bursting with vibrant summer flavour. My kids have always loved it too, they eat it these days on a bed of pasta or couscous with a few cheesie sprinkles (they LOVE their sprinkles!). Last summer when they were considerably smaller (and fussier) I diced all the veggies to a smaller size, as large chunks seemed to put them off. And when Jacques was really tiny and weaning I whizzed up my ratatouille with a stick blender and served it to him with baby pasta stars. If you’re making for babies or little kids do not add any salt.

Us grown up folk prefer to eat our ratatouille in a large shared bowl (with a luxurious drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the top) with plenty of fresh bread and maybe the odd sneaky merguez sausage on the side. It’s great served as a veggie side dish to a roast or cold cuts too, or with pasta or couscous like the kids.

My ratatouille recipe is probably somewhat old school now, in that it’s made as I’ve always made it with all the veggies in one big pot. It seems that most modern recipes call for the roasting or sauteing then layering of each of the veggies separately and diss my old fashioned all-in-one stew method. I personally like it both ways, but Mr F (who’s a big ratatouille fan) and the kids prefer this one pot wonder way….which is also quicker and requires less washing up!

Like all our dinners over the summer the veggies were all freshly picked from the garden, though admittedly I had to buy some peppers as mine are very slow to fruit this year. The courgettes, tomatoes (well obviously!), aubergine, garlic, onions, thyme and bay were all Chez Foti. It really is rather special being able to walk out of the front door and pick all your dinner’s ingredients, and after a year and a half of growing my own the novelty most certainly isn’t waining. And I hope it never does.

I’m entering this blog to the lovely Herbs on Saturday challenge, held by Karen at Lavender and Lovage.

Ratatouille

Enough as a main for four big people, or several more as a side dish:

4 tablespoons of olive oil

a very large or two medium white or red onions, medium dice

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a large aubergine or two small

2 peppers (preferably a red and a green one, or two reds)

2 courgettes

a small glass of white wine (optional)

700g of fresh chopped tomatoes (3 or 4 very large) (OR 600g of good quality tinned chopped tomatoes)

3 bay leaves

several sprigs of fresh thyme (be generous!)

a teaspoon of sugar

salt and pepper

Dice your veggies. If cooking for bigger kids and adults try to cut the peppers, aubergines and courgettes to a similar 3 cm ish slice size. I slice the aubergines into rounds (of about 4 to 5mm thick) then quarter the slices (or eighth if very large). The courgettes are sliced to the same thickness then cut in half (or quartered if very large). If making specially for babies (that do lumps) or toddlers cut to a much finer, more acceptable to them, dice.

Make a small bouquet garni of the herbs by tying together the bay leaves and thyme sprigs with string.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole. Add the onions and saute on a medium heat for 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and allow to cook for a further minute. Next throw in the aubergines and peppers followed by the courgettes about 5 minutes later. Stir frequently so nothing catches.

Pour in the white wine (if using) and allow to simmer for a few minutes until much reduced. Now stir in your chopped tommies, bouquet garni, sugar, a generous amount of back pepper and salt (go easy on the pepper and no salt for babies and small children). Bring everything to a simmer, stirring from time to time, and allow to cook on a fairly gentle heat for about 45 minutes partially covered with the lid. The veggies should be very tender and tomatoes much reduced.

Have a final taste check, adding more pepper, salt and sugar to taste (no added salt for babies or small children though). Fish out the bouquet garni and serve hot or cold.

Eat and enjoy as you so desire!

How about trying some of my other summery recipes? Garden Pasta, Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone, Paella, 70s Flashback Stuffed Marrow or A Couple of Tomato Tarts?


A Couple of Tomato Tarts

We’ve been having many a tart lately, which has made my husband a very happy man. He likes a nice tart (of the foodie variety obviously). And as it’s tomato season we’ve been using up oodles of cherry tommies on our tarts.

Not exact recipes here, but just throw it all on (in a couple of minutes tops), on bought ready rolled puff pastry (obviously you could make your own if you were so inclined and had more time than me) and bung in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. And voila you have a very tasty little tart for minimum effort. Great served as a main with a large leafy salad on the side, or a tasty wee nibble, appetiser or starter. Good party food too….and great for kids!

Cherry Tomato, Pesto & Goats Cheese Tart

A pack of ready rolled puff pastry (or a de-frosted block rolled out)

Pesto  (enough for a fine smear all over your pastry)

About half a log of goats cheese

A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes

Freshly ground black pepper

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.

Unroll the puff pastry and lay on a suitably sized baking tray (or roll out to size if using a block). Smear a fine layer of pesto over the surface. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half and scatter over (cut side upwards). Cut a few slices of goats cheese and place evenly. Grind over a generous amount of black pepper and drizzle on a little olive oil. Throw in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry’s golden, tomatoes wilted and cheese bubbling.

Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella & Tapenade Tart

A pack of ready rolled puff pastry (or a de-frosted block rolled out)

Tapenade (enough for a fine smear all over your pastry)

A ball of Mozzarella

A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes

A little finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.

Unroll the puff pastry and lay on a suitably sized baking tray (or roll out if using a block). Smear a fine layer of tapenade over the surface. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half and scatter over (cut side upwards). Slice the Mozzarella and place evenly. Sprinkle a fine layer of Grana Padano or Parmesan over and a generous grinding of black pepper, drizzle on a little olive oil. Throw in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry’s golden, tomatoes wilted and cheese bubbling.

If you like this, how about trying my Courgette & Cherry Tomato Garden Pasta, Cherry Tomato & Mascarpone Tagliatelle, Leek & Goats Cheese Tart, Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta, Griddled Veggies & Goats Cheese Pizza, Salami, Courgette & Blue Cheese Pizza


Chicken Goujons for Kids (and Growns Ups too!)

Finger Foods, Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Kids, Grown Ups too

I should start with an apology for my lack of so called ‘kid’s food’ lately. It’s not that my monsters haven’t been eating, it’s just with so many guests and so much going on these days they’ve been eating more often with the grown ups or I’ve been sticking with my old faithfuls.

I have however been making Chicken Goujons for the kids and their friends all summer and they’re a huge hit, and more often than not I make more than a few extra as we can’t resist joining them for a chicken & chips supper!. Some kids food is just too hard to pass by and these are no exception. Just in case you weren’t around in 80s Britain ‘goujons’ are breadcrumbed and fried strips of fish or chicken, very popular then but less so now, not that there’s any reason at all they shouldn’t be. These goujons are dipped in flour, then egg, before coating in a mixture of Parmesan cheese (or Grana Padano), polenta and dried breadcrumbs.

Incredibly quick and simple to make and I almost guarantee your kids (and you) will love them. Don’t be put off by the breadcrumbing bit, it’s a cinch, albeit a messy cinch, and fun to do. If I manage it with a terrifying toddler at bay anyone can!. If your kids are a little older than mine get them involved, I’m sure they’d love to do it themselves. It’s always worthwhile making a huge batch and storing them in the freezer at the post-crumbed pre-fried stage.

I serve mine up with homemade potato wedges and some veggies or baked beans on the side.

The pre-fried Goujons

Enough for 8 to 10 Goujons:

2 chicken breasts

1 tablespoon of plain flour

1 egg

1 heaped teaspoon of dijon mustard

25g of finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese

20g of dried breadcrumbs, homemade or shop bought

20g of polenta

sunflower oil

Slice the chicken breasts into 4 or 5 thin strips or ‘goujons’.

Place the flour in a flat bottomed bowl or plate. Lightly beat the egg with the mustard and place in another bowl. And then finally in a third bowl mix up the Parmesan or Grana Padano, breadcrumbs and polenta.

Now for the messy stuff! With well washed hands, dip each chicken strip in the flour bowl, ensuring it’s fully coated. Then dip it into the egg, again ensuring it’s coated. Then finally the breadcrumb mix. Set aside on a plate and repeat with the remaining strips.

When they’re all done cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge until you’re ready to fry.

Pour enough sunflower oil into a frying pan to just cover it’s base. Heat on a medium heat until very hot. Carefully place the goujons in the hot oil and cook for about 3 minutes before turning it over. You want a golden crispy crumb. When they’re cooked on both sides remove from the pan and drain on kitchen roll.

Serve with homemade potato wedgies and veggies or beans. Yuuuummm. Bet you can’t resist at least one?


Garden Pasta

So named ‘Garden Pasta’ as most people who grow anything themselves tend to grow tomatoes and courgettes at the very least, it’s two chief ingredients. A quick and simple pasta dinner using griddled and marinated in lemon and olive oil courgettes, cherry tomatoes, feta and basil, no more complicated than that. We’ve been eating this pretty frequently at Chez Foti lately, it’s a tasty little number that handily makes a dent into some of the enormous glut we’re accumulating!. If you’re not a regular reader courgettes were my ‘Veg of the Month’ in July and this month it’s most definitely the turn of the tomatoes. 64 plants and INUNDATED, cherries, beefs and plums. I need to dump my husband, kids and life in general and dedicate my being to the tomato cause…or battle. Which is also why we seem to be having plenty of quick pasta suppers these days, freeing up a little evening tomato factory time. Here’s the basket I picked this morning, just an average day:

I’m entering my recipe to Ren Behan’s Fabulicious Food August Simple and in Season blog challenge, as you can’t really get much more simple or seasonal than this Garden Pasta supper.

Enough for 2 big people: 

a tablespoon of lemon juice

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

salt & pepper

2 courgettes, sliced lengthways into 3mm strips

180g of penne (or any other pasta that takes your fancy), cooked to packet instructions

150g of cherry tomatoes, halved

a handful of basil leaves, torn

80g of feta, crumbled

Combine the lemon juice, oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl.

Heat a griddle pan or frying pan to a very high temperature. Dip each courgette strip into the above marinade and griddle or fry in a pan on both sides until cooked through, coloured and soft. Once cooked set aside in another bowl. Once all the strips have been cooked drizzle over any remaining marinade juices.

Cook the pasta to packet instructions whilst you’re griddling the courgettes. Once cooked, drain and put back in the pan and stir through the cherry tomatoes and marinated courgettes. Place back on the heat for a couple of minutes until the tomatoes are just starting to soften.

Take off the heat and stir through the feta and most of the basil. Retain a few torn leaves for garnish. Taste and add a little more lemon juice, salt and pepper to suit.

Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the top and the rest of the basil leaves.

How about trying some of my other tomato or courgette recipes? A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces, Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone, 70s Flashback Stuffed Marrow or Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta or Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto.


A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces!

It’s the war of the tomatoes this week (and month) at Chez Foti, there’s a daily battle between myself and the ridiculously extravagant sixty three tomato plants I’ve somehow ended up with (an over exhuberance in seed sowing and a problem number of  self-seeders literally fruiting up all over the plot!). Every day I fill an enormous basket worth (with the help of my two little tomato pickers – see pics below) and use up every minute of available time (which is never all that much with a two and a nearly four year old to entertain too) transforming them into something tasty for the future. An inordinate amount of my time seems to be spent chopping tomatoes. But there’s always a tray full of surplus at the end of the day, and today I now have two trays worth. And we’re only at the beginning of the tomato season. Our new chest freezer’s meanwhile filling up nicely, it arrived last week just in the nick of time. I fear we’ll be ordering another before the end of the summer.

My daily pickings, beef and cherry tomatoes mainly at the minute but the plum tomatoes are just starting too

Today in the Chez Foti Battle of the Tomatoes it was the turn of the pasta sauces, a roasted in the oven with thyme and garlic Cherry Tomato Sauce and a slow cooked on the hob with garlic and plenty of oregano Beef Tomato Sauce. Both are divinely simple but packed full of intense  flavour through slow cooking, good quality olive oil and plenty of fresh from the garden herbs. Great to use just as they are as a pasta or pizza sauce or sublime with a stirring through of a little creme fraiche and/or balsamic, fresh basil or oregano….and then topped with a further drizzle of good quality olive oil (or chili oil) or Parmesan. Happy days! I’ve also used these as a base for a very rich tomato soup or thinned down (with milk and water) as a sauce for meatballs.

My kids adore both these sauces as much as we do, and they make a super quick and healthy pasta supper when short on time. Which is just as well as I now have half a freezer full. I tend to stir a little creme fraiche into the sauce for the littlies making it extra creamy, and I also go easy on the salt content.

Pasta & Tommie Sauce in my gorgeous Oogaa bowls

As a fair whack of my herb garden has been going into these tomato sauces I thought it more than appropriate to enter this post to the lovely Herbs on Saturday blog challenge held by Karen at Lavender and Lovage. There’s always plenty of gorgeous herby recipes to check out each month so keep the page bookmarked!

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce with Thyme and Garlic

About a kilo of cherry tomatoes

Maldon sea salt (or similar)

Freshly ground black pepper

Several sprigs of fresh thyme

6 cloves of garlic (un-peeled)

3 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil

Heat your oven to 160ºC.

Fill an oven tray with whole cherry tomatoes (which is about a kilo, maybe a little more). Sprinkle over a generous pinch or two of black pepper and Maldon (or similar) sea salt. Remove the leaves from some of the thyme sprigs and scatter over, leave some whole. Nuzzle in the whole sprigs and un-peeled garlic cloves where you have space. Drizzle over the olive oil.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until the tomatoes are completely soft and collapsing.

Remove the thyme sprigs and garlic. Tip the tomatoes into a food processor or blender, making sure you fully scrape off all the lovely residue and oil from the tray. Squeeze out the goey goodness from each of the garlic cloves into the tomatoes too. Whiz until you have a super smooth sauce. Alternatively tip the tommies and garlic into a bowl and use a stick blender to do the whizzing (my preferred method as there’s less washing up!). Have a taste check and add more salt and pepper to suit.

A Slow Cooked on the Hob Tomato & Fresh Oregano Pasta Sauce

About a kilo of larger than cherry tomatoes, any variety. I used beef as that’s what I have

6 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil

8 cloves of garlic

a teaspoon of sugar

a couple of pinches of Maldon sea salt (or similar)

a couple of generous pinches of freshly ground black pepper

a few sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves removed. Be generous!

Chop up all your tomatoes to a medium dice. I tend to use the skin and seeds but not everyone likes to, so remove if you wish.

Heat the oil in a very large saucepan or stock pot on a lowish heat. Fry the garlic for a couple of minutes and at the point when it’s just starting to take on some colour tip the tomatoes into the pan. It’s important not to burn the garlic or this will taint the sauce.

Stir in the pepper, salt and sugar and bring to a simmer on a medium heat. Once simmering turn the temperature down to the lowest setting and allow to bubble away for about an hour until much reduced and considerably thickened. Half way through the cooking time stir in the oregano leaves.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before whizzing up in a processor or blender, or a stick blender straight into the pan, until you have a super smooth sauce. Have a taste check and add more salt and pepper to suit.

My two little tomato picker helpers having fun

A touch of tomato balancing envy!


Super-Fruity Banana Mini Muffins

We’re just over the middle of the loooooonnnnng 10 week, yes TEN week summer school holidays here. France reportedly has more school holidays than anywhere else in the world, a great place to be if you’re a teacher. Actually I moan a lot about them but in truth I’m quite enjoying it really, well this holiday anyway. The first half we had lots of visitors which is always fun, and now we haven’t but I’m just enjoying being lazy and not having to get dressed and washed and breakfasted (well eventually we do!) and do the school run (not that it’s terribly stressful round here, 5 kms in about 6 mins, and it’s rare you ever see another car until you get to the actual school and there’s never any hassle parking). This holiday it’s lots of walks around the garden, fruit picking, marathon trampoline and paddling pool sessions, visits to local parks and the odd lake or swimming pool dip. Plus plenty of baking. I’m not going to mention the squabbling, squealing, screaming or sulking. Really I’m not. Ahhhrrrrr.

My daughter’s now nearly four and loves to bake (she’s been at school since she was just over two by the way, they start them young here!). Strangely though she’s not really a big cake fan (we really should have a DNA test done) but does love to eat anything she’s helped make. And Jacques at just over two has now decided he wants a piece of the baking action and is very much my master stirrer. He likes his cake but also has a partiality for savory. So during these long summer jollidays we’ve had many a baking session. Many way too messy to blog and show, but some just about okish!. Today it was the turn of some really-fruity fairly-healthy mini-muffins made with bananas, apricots and sultanas. I like to make my muffins small for the kids (and for me so I can eat twice as many) and tend to make them in the normal fairy cake sized cases and tins, but feel free to make them a normal muffin size too.

Use really ripe, preferably over-ripe with blackened skins, bananas.

Miss F the Urchin Child & Champion Spoon Licker

Makes 24 mini-muffins or 12 regular:

250g of plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

a large pinch of cinnamon

180g of golden caster sugar

2 large eggs

75ml of sunflower oil

75ml of creme fraiche (half fat works fine) or yogurt

2 very large over-ripe bananas or 3 medium sized

80g of apricots, chopped (the slightly squishy ‘ready to eat’ ones are best, but dried work too)

80g of sultanas

Preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Sieve the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a largish mixing bowl then stir in the sugar.

In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, oil and creme fraiche or yogurt. And in another bowl roughly mash up the bananas with the back of a fork.

Now for some serious stirring action. Throw the wet mixture into the dry along with the mashed bananas, chopped apricots and sultanas. Stir until well combined.

Place in cake or muffin cases in cake or muffin trays. It’s about a dessertspoon of the raw mixture for a fairy cake sized mini-muffin.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until a little golden on the top, firm to touch and an inserted cake skewer or fork comes out crumb free.

Remove from the trays and cool on a cooling rack for as long as your little ones will allow. Go gobble.

Here’s some other easy peasy baking with kids ideas: Cheesy Biscuits, Cheese, Ham & Sweetcorn Mini-Muffins, Chocolate Brownies

The new Naked Chef, admittedly it was 38°C and we were baking!


Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone

The first of my Tomato ‘Veg of the Month‘ recipes. I’m growing cherries, plums and beefies this year…and at today’s count I’ve 63 plants (I keep finding random self-seeded plants around the patch, as if I need any more!), which admittedly is an awful lot for a family of four. So you can expect an awful lot of tomatoey recipes over the next few weeks. And today’s it’s the turn of the super-sweet Cherry Tomatoes.

This is a real quickie of a mid-week supper that we’ve had a couple of times in the last week. I love a tasty simple pasta sauce that can be made in the time it takes to cook the pasta in, and this is no exception.

Enough for a family of 4:

250g of tagliatelle

just over a tablespoon of olive oil

3 small shallots, finely diced

425g of cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons of mascarpone

a pinch each of salt, pepper & sugar

a handful of torn basil leaves

Cook the pasta in boiling water to packet instructions.

Whilst the pasta’s cooking heat the olive oil in a medium sized saucepan, add the shallots and saute over a gentle heat for 4 to 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the cherry tomatoes and continue to cook for a minute or two. When they start to soften stir in the mascarpone and a pinch each of salt, pepper and sugar. Bring to a gentle bubbling then take off the heat. Stir in most of the basil, retaining a few pieces to go on the top.

Combine the tagliatelle with the sauce and serve with a scattering of basil over the top.

Job done. Told you it was a quickie. Off to pick some more tomatoes.


July in the Garden

Unsurprisingly it’s been another busy month in the garden, though all the busyness has been in the harvesting, picking, cooking and eating. Bar a couple of rows of carrots and parsnips and a few lettuces nothing new has been sown or weeded. And it’s truly a jungle out there, there’re weeds taller than me! But then I’ve had a busy month of visitors and school holidays. Hoping to get more of a grip in August.

My jungle of a Potager!

This month’s all been about the courgettes, barely a meal’s gone by without them appearing in some form or other (just incase you hadn’t noticed!). My nine plants have been on a bit of rampage!. Incase you missed it I did a round up of all my favourite courgettie recipes a few days ago.

And I’m very pleased to report the tomatoes are all going great guns, each and every one of my 58 plants (plus a few more stray wild ones scattered around the plot!) are all fruiting and we’ve started to pick and eat the huge beefies and some sweet-as-sweet-can-be cherries. They’re definitely my August Veg of the Month and I’ve already been busy in the kitchen trying out lots of new recipes. I’d love to know your ideas if you’d like to share  them (and you’ll get a mention in my round up!)

Beef Tommies

The Cherry Tommies

And finally, my slightly behind Plum Tommies

Other goodies that we’ve started to tuck into this month are cucumbers (they grow as fast as the courgettes, I’ve quite frankly never eaten so many in my life!) and the equally profuse French beans.

Cucumber, one of dozens!

The Borlotti (they’re the gorgeous red pods) and French Beans

A basketfull of Beans

The first baby aubergine has formed, but I doubt they’re going to do anywhere near as well as last year. I think I had eight plants literally dripping with them between July and November last year. Most of mine look unlikely to even fruit this season. Same for the peppers, extremely disappointing.

There’s a few pumpkin and squash now formed, but again they’re a little disappointing compared to the bumper crop of last year, despite my having twice as many plants. But maybe there’s still time to catch up?

One of the first Pumpkins

Baby Butternut

Other notable olympic growers this month are the sweetcorn that I only planted at the beginning of June and my lovely chilli plants that are dripping with decidedly hot chillies. A hot success compared to the boringly mild ones of last  year.

My Majestic Sweetcorn, the cobs are just starting to form

My chillies are HOT!

Along with the garlic back in June, my shallots and red onions have now all been harvested and are hanging out to dry.

That’s my lot of Shallots!

A wheelbarrow o’ onions!

What We’re Eating:

Quite a lot really! Bar the odd red pepper and a few bananas I’ve not been buying any fruit or veggies for weeks (or months?) now.

– Garlic, Shallots and Red Onions

– New potatoes, normal ‘Old’ Potatoes

– Lettuces, Radish, a few Spring Onions

– Cucumbers

– The odd early summer Squash

– Courgettes until they’re coming out of our ears

– Cherry & Beef Tomatoes

– Swiss Chard

– French Beans

– Strawberries & Rhubarb

– Basil, Coriander, Rosemary, Mint, Tarragon, Oregano, Chives Thyme, Sage, Lovage, Parsley

And I think that’s it? We’ve also got lots of very exciting and wonderful freebie wild stuff growing, but I’m going to save that for another blog.

So that’s it for July. Bring on the August Tomatoes!

Louisa x


Boeuf en Daube for The Care to Cook Recipe Challenge

What dish would you cook to welcome someone into your home? This is the question posed in the Care to Cook Recipe Challenge I’m entering, a competition held by Vanesther at one of my favourite family food blogs, Bangers & Mash Chat. The challenge raises awareness of the wonderful charity TACT who provide fostering and adoption services to help some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the UK. TACT have recently launched their own cook book Care to Cook with recipes donated by the charities adopters, supporters and staff. At only £3.00, with all proceeds directly benefiting adopted children and their new families, this has to be a steal!.

Living abroad and in a particularly nice place to kick back in (well we think so anyway!) we regularly have friends and family to stay at Chez Foti. With almost all of our guests coming from England, I always try to serve something classically French for at least the first dinner. A couple of weeks ago we had my brother in law Patrice and nephew James to stay for a week and I made Boeuf en Daube to welcome them to our home.

Our Pyrenean View

Beef in Daube recipe

Boeuf en Daube originating from Provence is a fabulously fragrant, hearty and gutsy braised beef dish slow cooked in the oven in red wine, lardons, chopped tomatoes, shallots, garlic, thyme and orange peel. Although similar in sound to a Boeuf Bourguinon it tastes pretty different due to the addition of tomatoes, preserved anchovies and orange peel and the slow baking in the oven rather than on a hob.

I used my first pulled carrots of the year to make this, possibly a little on the small side but I couldn’t resist. It goes without saying that the garlic, shallots, onion and herbs were all homegrown Chez Foti too.

The first carrots of the season!

The beef is great served at this time of year with roasted new potatoes (roasted whole in the oven with plenty of rosemary, lemon wedges, garlic, salt, black pepper and olive oil) and a simple braised or steamed seasonal green veggie (I served mine with braised chard). And a nice bottle of red obviously. By the way the beef is even more amazing served the next day or the day after that, so a great dish to be made in advance.

Enough for six grown up folk: 

1.2 kilos of beef shin or chuck, cut into a large 5 cm dice

salt & pepper

3 tablespoons of olive oil

200g of lardons or diced streaky bacon

a medium onion, diced

10 shallots, halved

5 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped

650ml of red wine, nothing too special

3 carrots, sliced

2 sticks of celery, sliced

a 400g can of chopped tomatoes

250ml of good quality beef stock

2 tinned or jarred anchovies (preserved in oil)

3 large strips/peelings of orange zest

4 large sprigs of fresh thyme

4 large sprigs of fresh parsley

3 bay leaves

Season the beef with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a large heavy based casserole or Le Creuset (it must have a lid and be oven proof). Fry the beef on a high temperature until browned on all sides. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Now fry the lardons or bacon in the remainder of the fat. Once they’ve taken on a little colour remove from the pan with the slotted spoon and set aside with the beef.

Reduce the heat, and into the same pan and fat throw the onion and shallot halves. Stir at intervals but allow to gently saute for 8 to 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic for a further couple of minutes before re-introducing the beef and lardons to the pan.

Pour over the wine and give everything a good stir. Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer reasonably vigorously for 30 minutes until the wine is considerably reduced.

Meanwhile prepare a bouquet garni of the herbs by tying together the thyme, parsley and bay leaves. Peel three strips of orange zest from a whole orange, each of roughly 6cm by 2cm.

Once reduced add to the beef the carrots, celery, chopped tomatoes, beef stock, anchovies, orange zest, bouquet garni and a generous grinding of black pepper.

Bring back to a simmer and take off the hob. Cover and place in a preheated to 160ºC oven for 2 hours, but giving everything a thorough stir at least a couple of times during the cooking process (add a little more stock or water if things start to look a little dry).

Here’s some other classic French dinners I’ve served to welcome our guests to Chez Foti: Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguinon, Moules Frites, Tartiflette, A Summary Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet


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