Monthly Archives: October 2012

Pumpkin Carbonara

I finally picked the rest of our pumpkins and squash yesterday. Frosts are on their way and I wanted to get them under cover sharpish. I have to admit most are looking more that a tad sorry for themselves and in need of some strong sun to finish ripening, and being a bit of a novice at these things I’m not really sure what to do! I grew lots of pumpkins last year in my first season of growing but they were all fully ripened and orange by now. Should I keep them inside and bring them out on sunny days? Or resurrect and put in the poly tunnel? Or should I just eat them as they are? Any pumpkin professionals out there willing to offer me some advice?

The last of the pumpkins & squash!

Luckily I’ve already picked lots of fully ripened radiantly orange pumpkins and so it’s pumpkin with everything these days at Chez Foti. And as usual I’m loving adding a seasonal touch of healthiness to our favourite family suppers. It was the turn of the carbonara this week. Much as I love carbonara made traditionally with just eggs, bacon and parmesan it’s not exactly nutrient rich and I’m reluctant to give it to my kids in its basic form. Whilst Mr F and I will happily eat a large leafy salad on the side the kids won’t, so I like to add some veggie goodness to the sauce. Pumpkin works wonderfully with both parmesan and bacon and so it’s a natural for carbonara, and I also like to add a little fresh sage which is the perfect paring for pumpkin and bacon.

The first pumpkin of the year

If you don’t have any flavoursome pumpkin to hand (and believe me it’s not nice to cook with if it isn’t!) you can happily use butternut instead.

Since my carbonara is flavoured with sage I’m entering the recipe (for the second time this month!) to Lavender and Lovage’s October Herbs on Saturday blog challenge.

Pumpkin Carbonara

Enough for a hearty meal for a family of four:

500g of flavoursome pumpkin or butternut, peeled

a tablespoon of olive oil

salt & pepper

240g of dried pasta of your choice, or equivalent in fresh

200g of streaky bacon or lardons, cut into small strips

a heaped teaspoon of finely chopped fresh sage leaves

1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves, finely slices

3 eggs, free range

3 heaped tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

Start with roasting your pumpkin or butternut. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6. Dice into smallish 1 to 1.5cm cubes, toss in the olive oil and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Place on a roasting tray and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until soft and slightly browned, turning once or twice during the cooking time.

Cook your pasta to packet instructions. Try to time so your pasta is cooked and ready at the same time as the pumpkin roasted and bacon browned.

Meanwhile heat a frying pan on a medium heat and fry off the lardons or streaky bacon (in their own fat) with the sage and garlic. Drain off any excess fat. Fry until the bacon is a little browned.

While the bacon’s frying, whisk the eggs lightly and stir in the Parmesan and a generous pinch of black pepper (you shouldn’t need any further salt as there’s plenty in the bacon and parmesan).

As soon as the pumpkin, pasta and bacon are all cooked and still piping hot throw them all together in one pan and thoroughly stir in the egg and Parmesan mix. Don’t put the pan back on the heat or you’ll have pasta with scrambled eggs! What you want is a lovely glossy eggy coating. Taste and add further pepper if it needs it  (I do like lots of pepper on my food!).

Related Posts: 

Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

Pumpkin & Bacon Soup

Sausage & Courgette Carbonara

Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese


Homemade Tomato Ketchup

I was very kindly given this glorious recipe last week by a friend and neighbour of my Mum and Dads in Herefordshire, Janette. My Mum had happened to mention quite how overrun I was with all our homegrown tommies and Janette suggested I used them to make Tommie Sauce and promptly emailed me the recipe that her mum had passed on to her that she’d always eaten as a child. How wonderful is that?.

I immediately set to to make it, just in the nick of time picking the last of our beef and plum tommies and a few of the still prolific cherries, and I couldn’t think of a better recipe to celebrate the end of one extremely hectic tomatoey summer. Incase you missed reading about all our tomatoes here’s my Tomato Veg of the Month Round Up. And although the tomato season is pretty much over for most people I couldn’t help myself  in blogging it now rather than wait until next year, when undoubtedly I’ll be making many further batches!.

I should also mention that Janette is generally known to us as ‘Chocolate Janette’ as she so happens to own a small chain of gorgeous artisan chocolate shops in Ludlow, Worcester and Shrewsbury and an online business too, www.chocolategourmet.co.uk. Now that’s the sort of neighbour everyone needs!.

I have to admit to being extremely skeptical that a Homemade Tommie Sauce would meat the mark. The mark being the big H brand so known and loved. And how wrong was I? This recipe is superb, the kids couldn’t tell the difference and I would honestly go as far to say I preferred it, though it’s remarkably similar. I know we’re now at the end of the tomato year, but if you happen to come across some cheap and flavoursome tommies I urge you to make this, or bookmark it for next summer. It doesn’t take long at all, is foolproof simple and oh sooooooo good. I now have a serious addiction. In truth I’ve never been that huge on Tommie K though I do love it on a bacon butty, but now I’ve made my own it’s going on everything. I even made some homemade chips at the weekend to give it a thorough road test, and I don’t ever eat ketchup on chips. And I don’t have to tell you how good it was.

I’m not sure you can beat a bacon butty with homemade Tommie K, this was the second of the weekend!

Similarly my kids aren’t huge Tommie K addicts like some kids, but then I probably haven’t allowed them to be. It’s only ever brought out with chips, which are a pretty rare treat at Chez Foti. But now it’s on free flow they’re asking for it with everything!. It’s actually called ‘Bop Bop’ sauce in our house, bet no one can guess why?!

Jacques safeguarding his precious bottle of Bop Bop Sauce, that he enjoyed for lunch yesterday with his cheese on toast

As homemade Tommie K is technically a Preserve I’m also entering it to this month’s Tea Time Treats  challenge, and it’s certainly a popular Tea Time Treat in our house now!. The blogging event it held jointly by Karen @ Lavender and Lovage and this month by Kate @ What Kate Baked.

The recipe below is pretty much exactly how Janette emailed it to me, though I used cider vinegar instead of the malt. Not to posh it up in any way, but you can’t buy malt vinegar in France. I also used a little less sugar as I didn’t feel it needed it all, but then my tommies were extremely ripe and sweet. I skinned my tomatoes first, which is really not at all tricky. Simply immerse them in boiling water for a minute then plunge into cold for a few moments, the skins will then effortlessly slip off. I didn’t bother with the straining (actually I started then promptly stopped as I didn’t want to waste so much goodness!) but gave the finished sauce a very good blitzing with a hand blender.

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

2700g (2.7 kilos) of ripe tomatoes

570ml of malt vinegar

225g of sugar

25g of salt

½ a teaspoon of allspice

½ a teaspoon of ground cloves

½ a teaspoon of cinnamon

a pinch of cayenne pepper

Special Equipment: Sterilised bottles or jars

Skin your tomatoes if preferred.  Cut into rough quarters and simmer with the salt and vinegar until soft and broken.

Strain if you have not skinned then return the puree to the pan, add the sugar.  Continue to simmer until the ketchup starts to thicken. Then add the spices a little at a time stirring thoroughly until the flavour is to your taste. I probably added a little more of each than the recipe called for.

When the ketchup is reasonably thick pour into sterilised hot bottles or jars and seal.

Please note it will be thicker when cold than hot, so don’t reduce it too far. If you like a more rustic texture with the seeds still in the sauce miss out the straining process.

And before I go, why ‘Bop Bop’ sauce? When the squeezy Tommie K sauce bottles are coming to an end (which ours is at the minute) the kids think the sound is hilarious, like a ‘bop bop’, which in case you (probably) need further explanation the kids call a ‘fart’ or bottom. And so Tommie K has become the ‘Bop Bop’ sauce!. My kids are very little, and Bops Bops are still one of the funniest things in their worlds!

Related blogs:

August & September in the Garden

Homemade Sun (aka Oven) Dried Tomatoes

A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces

Butternut, Feta and Red Onion Tart with Thyme

I’m loving the Butternut and Pumpkin season at Chez Foti. To be honest it’s making a welcome change from all those tomatoes of the summer, not that they’ve completely finished yet!. And it’s been lots of fun getting a little more inventive with them than the usual soups and stews. One of my biggest successes was the Chocolate Pumpkin Cake, but I’ve also been making all manner of other sweet and savoury baked goodies that I haven’t found the time to blog yet. My latest mission has been to develop an interesting Butternut Tart and I’m finally happy with the results and ready to share the recipe. A Shortcrust pastry base (homemade or shop bought), a meltingly soft layer of red onions topped with roasted butternut cubes, crumbled feta cheese, toasted pine kernels, a generous sprinkling of fresh thyme and finally a drizzle of  balsamic for a little zing. Not only is this a great family-friendly mid-week supper or lunch tart, it’s a more interesting than normal vegetarian dinner party option too.

I have to hold my hands up and admit I do use ready-made shortcrust or puff pastry occasionally, particularly to make a quickie mid-week supper. In France both pastries are readily and cheaply sold in a roll, ready rolled and ready to place directly onto a (round) baking tin or tray. How’s that for super-cheating? Even better that it can sometimes be very good quality pastry, but like most things you get what you pay for. I believe in the UK you can only buy frozen shortcrust or puff pastry that needs to be rolled out? I do obviously make my own pastry quite often too!

You could happily also use a flavoursome pumpkin for this tart, and in fact I used a mixture of pumpkin and butternut here as I was using up what I happened to have in the fridge. Though my normal warning with using pumpkin standsmake sure it’s a sweetie! Pumpkin can all too often be bland and devoid of flavour, particularly the pumpkins sold for Halloween in the UK. I’m luckily enough to have really flavoursome ones at Chez Foti, but then I’m also lucky enough to have long sunshiny summers!.

Since thyme is a crucial flavouring to my tart I’m entering my recipe to Lavender and Lovage’s October Herbs on Saturday blog challenge.

I’m also entering it to the One Ingredient Challenge for a second time this month, hopefully this is allowed?! The One Ingredient Challenge  is a monthly blog event, held jointly by Laura @ How to Cook Good Food and this month by Nazima @ Franglais Kitchen, picking out a particular ingredient each month, and this month it so happens to be Pumpkin or Squash. Perfect!

Butternut, Feta and Red Onion Tart with Thyme 

Serves 3 to 4 people, or a family of 4:

400g of Butternut squash, peeled

a tablespoon of olive oil

salt & pepper

1 very large or 2 medium red onions

35g of butter

250g of shortcrust pastry, either homemade or shop bought

25g of pine kernels

a medium free range egg, lightly beaten

130g of feta cheese, roughly crumbled

a few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed

balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper

Special Equipment: A large oblong or round baking sheet or tray

Start with roasting your Butternut. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6. Dice into smallish 1 to 1.5cm cubes, toss in the olive oil and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Place on a roasting tray and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until the squash is soft and slightly browned.

Meanwhile finely slice the onions. Heat the butter in a frying pan on a low heat and saute the onions for 25 to 30 minutes until meltingly soft.

Roll out the pastry (or de-roll in my lazy case!) into a circular (roughly 30 x 30cm) or oblong (roughly 35 x 20cm) shape. Place on an appropriately sized and shaped baking sheet or tray. Lightly prick the surface all over with a fork. Bake blind in the already pre-heated oven (200ºC) for 10 minutes.

Now to toast the pine kernels. Heat a frying pan on a medium heat and once hot throw in the kernels. Shake every few moments until you have been lightly toasted. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Once the onions are cooked allow to cool for a few minutes before mixing them with the beaten egg and a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.

Once the butternut has finished roasting, the onions are ready and pastry baked blind you can begin your assembly. Evenly spread the onion mix over the pastry, followed by the roasted butternut cubes then a scattering of the feta and pine kernels. Generously sprinkle on the thyme leaves and a little more black pepper. Carefully drizzle a few drops of Balsamic evenly all over.

Place back in the already heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes (200ºC). Remove when the pastry is golden at the edges. Slice and serve. Lovely with a tomato or green salad.

How about trying some of my other related recipes Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons, Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese,  Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Beans, A Couple of Tomato Tarts, Leek & Goats Cheese Tart


Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Yesterday it was Wednesday and there’s no school in most parts of France on Wednesdays so the littlies were at home. A bit odd at first but quite nice for the kids to have a day off half way through the week, especially as the school hours of 9 to 5 are so long (for Frannie anyway). Over the last few weeks it’s become a bit of baking day at Chez Foti, trying out a new cake or muffin recipe or two and getting the littlies to help with the weighing, pouring, whisking, stirring and of course most importantly the tasting. Yesterday it was the turn of a Chocolate Pumpkin Cake, not only one of the ‘healthiest’ cakes I’ve ever made but one of the moistest and most temptingly delicious. And the kids LOVE it. I think this’ll be a regular Wednesday bake!.

The stirring and tasting team

I love experimenting with veggies in cakes, much to the horror of the French who still haven’t really got to grips with the humble carrot cake. I made many a Courgette Cake with homemade Lemon Curd over the summer, and lots of Chocolate Courgette or Marrow Cakes of late using up the last of the glut. I’ve also baked quite a bit with Butternut Squash in Muffins and Cakes and once even made a gloriously coloured Beetroot Chocolate Cake. But using Pumpkin was a newbie to me, and after a couple of attempts I’ve perfected my recipe and it really is a winner. Low in sugar, and only using healthier unrefined Light Muscavado anyway, and richly flavoured by Roasted Pumpkin, Cocoa and a little warming Cinnamon.

We’ve more than a few pumpkins at Chez Foti, to be honest I’ve not counted them but there’s a lot. They should definitely see us through the winter and I have a feeling the blog will be moving from it’s recent tomato red to pumpkin orange. I’ve picked a few already but most are still out on the patch and will stay there slowly ripening until there’s a risk of frosts.

The Leaning Tower of Pumpkins!

I’m entering this blog for my first ever time to the We Should Cocoa challenge, held by Choclette of the Chocolate Log Blog and the Chocolate Teapot Blog and this month guest hosted by Hungry Hinny. This month’s challenge is to pair Pumpkin with Chocolate or Cocoa.

I’m going for a double whammy and also putting it forward to the One Ingredient Challenge, as this month the ingredient so happens to be Squash or Pumpkin!. The challenge is held jointly by Laura at How to Cook Good Food and this month by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen.

I baked my cake in a medium sized baking tin and made a wee extra in one of my Oogaa bowls for the kids. Being silicone they’re perfect for baking cakes in. Incase you haven’t already dropped by, the Oogaa Recipe site is now up and running and features several Chez Foti baby and kids recipes. You can even add your own recipes!

The kids love their cakes baked in an Oogaa silicone bowl

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Makes one very large traybake (20 x 35cm tin) or a smaller tin and a few individual cakes. Can be frozen.

700g of pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into very large chunks

120g of unsalted butter, room temperature

120ml of sunflower oil

260g of light muscovado sugar

3 medium free range eggs, lightly beaten

130ml of milk

350g of plain flour

50g of cocoa powder

2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Special Equipment: 20 x 35cm baking tin lined with baking parchment, or 6 silicone Oogaa bowls 

Begin with roasting your pumpkin. Place the very large chunks on a baking sheet in an oven pre-heated to 190ºC/Gas Mark 5. Bake for about 40 minutes until they’re pretty soft, turning once or twice during the cooking time. Once cooked remove from the pan, place in a bowl and thoroughly mash with a potato masher. Leave to cool a little. This part could always be done before, when you happen to be using the oven.

Meanwhile start the cake batter. Place the very soft butter, sunflower oil and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir or whisk until well combined.

Whisk in the eggs, followed by the milk.

Now gradually sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and cinnamon to the cake mixture, stirring until well combined with each sifting.

Finally stir in the slightly cooled mashed pumpkin and spoon out into your lined baking tin or bowls. Bake big cakes in the preheated oven (190ºC/Gas Mark 5) for 30 to 40 minutes and smaller ones for around 25 minutes. They’re ready when they’re firm to touch on the top (but still feeling a little squidgy), and an inserted skewer comes out clean of crumbs.

Cut into squares and serve as soon as cool enough to eat. You won’t be able to resist long!

Here’s some other Chez Foti sweet treats: Easy Chocolate Birthday Cake, Courgette Cake with Homemade Lemon Curd, Chocolate Brownies, My Girly Fairy Cake Heaven, Super-Fruity Banana Mini Muffins.

Little Miss F having an approving taste!

Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie!

There’s more than a chill in the air and finally it’s time to bring on the pies and stews. I love my winter food. As you’ll see from my last year’s Comfort Cottage Pie recipe normally I love nothing more than a super-meaty cottage pie with no more veggie additions than a little carrot and celery. However, my son Jacques (who’s now two and a half) is back on his Mission of Veggie Refusal and I’m back on my Mission of Veggie Disguise (a blog I wrote a few months ago getting kids to eat more veg). And this revised and super-seasonally vegged-up recipe has an umpteem of hidden veggies that will please even the most ardent of carnivores.

My basket of veggies freshly picked to make my Vegged-Up Cottage Pie, including carrots, parsnips, butternut, swiss chard, green beans and thyme

Interestingly the wee fella loves his fruit, particularly if he’s picked it himself which he often does, gorging himself on figs (his favourite), blackberries (second fave), plums, greengages and the odd pear from the garden. And he’ll happily eat a banana. And yet virtually all veggies are a complete no go these days, even his once beloved peas and sometimes low and behold even sweetcorn! He’ll happily watch and join in as I pick green beans and tommies, lift the carrots and parnsips, cut the brocolli or sweetcorn from the garden..but when it come to eating them, you’re having a laugh! It’s always a whiny ‘dont like’ coupled with a pushing away off the plate or even worse a full blown, increasingly more frequent, tantrum. I’m still lucky Francesca will eat pretty much all veggies put her way, admittedly not with great gusto (but then she doesn’t particularly like most foods!) and always under a certain amount of duress. But she does love her carrots, because horseys do.

My little veggie-refuser Grubster happily tucking into a fig

Jacque sagely eying up the veggies he’d just help to pick

This cottage pie is an out and out winner with them both and with us too, and provides us with a couple of very healthy and pleasing family dinners. Whenever I’m making these slow-to-cook meaty dinners I tend to double (or treble) up on quantities making at least enough for two family dinners, freezing half or keeping it in the fridge for later in the week. Halve the below ingredients list if you want to make enough for just one dinner.

Feel free to vary the veggies, use whatever’s seasonal or you have in. My weights are only what I so happened to have picked and are included for a guideline only, so please vary accordingly. I used swiss chard, carrots, french beans, celery and butternut squash in the meat sauce and parsnips and potatoes in the topping. The first parsnips of the year actually, and the first parsnips I’ve ever grown. Pretty impressive size I thought, Jacques and I were a bit surprised when we lifted them together! You could also use pumpkin, spinach, mushrooms, runner beans, swede, sweetcorn, peas, broccoli, cabbage, kale or peppers and probably loads of other veggies I can’t think of right now!

I also have a tendency to leave the skins on my carrots, parsnips and potatoes (and give them a jolly good scrub obviously!), but then mine are all organically home grown. It’s up to you.

Titchy carrots and whopper parsnips!

As an added meal enhancer try baking your kids their dinner in individual bowls, mine love eating theirs straight out of my gorgeous Oogaa bowls, which being silicone can handily be oven baked and microwaved.

This is also a recipe that can easily be adapted for weaning babies. Omit the Worcester Sauce and use baby stock cubes which are available at most big chemists, then whiz up the cooked beef and veggie sauce in a processor before piling on the topping.

The kids love their Cottage Pie baked in my individual Oogaa silicone bowls

Since my recipe is full of seasonal goodies I’m entering it into Fabulicious Food’s Simple and In Season challenge, this month hosted by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen

Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie

Toddlers, Bigger Kids, Family Suppers, Just the Grown Ups too!

Enough for a family of four TWICE!:

For the Meat & Veggie Sauce:

a large onion

2 sticks of celery

2 carrots

300g of butternut or pumpkin

2 tablespoons of sunflower or olive oil

600g of good quality beef mince

1 tablespoon of plain flour

800ml of beef stock

1 heaped tablespoon of tomato puree

2 teaspoons of Worcester Sauce

3 large sprigs of thyme

3 bay leaves

black pepper

100g of french or runner beans, finely diced

200g of chard or spinach, separating any thick stems from the leafy parts and shredding separately

For the Topping:

850g of potatoes peeled or un-peeled, chopped into large chunks

500g of parsnips, peeled or un-peeled, chopped into large chunks

50g of butter

50ml of milk

2 teaspoons of creamed horseradish, optional

salt & pepper

Finely dice the onion, celery, carrots and butternut or pumpkin. I usually pulse these veggies in a food processor both for speed and to get them reasonably fine (and well hidden!).

Heat the oil in a very large saucepan and throw in the onion, celery, carrots and butternut or pumpkin. Cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft, stirring regularly.

Turn up the heat and add the beef. Cook for about 5 minutes until browned.

Stir in the flour, quickly followed by the stock, tomato puree, worcester sauce, thyme, bay and a generous pinch of black pepper.

Now prepare the rest of your veggies, dicing them to an appropriate size for your kids i.e. the finer the dice the less likelihood of rejection!. Add them to the sauce. If you’re using swiss chard, include the diced stems at this stage but add the green leaves later (the same for spinach). Cover and leave to simmer for at least 30 minutes. If the sauce looks like it’s drying out, add a little water.

Meanwhile pre-heat your oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6, and make your potato & parsnip topping.

In a large pan of boiling water boil the potatoes and parsnips until soft. Drain and allow them to steam  and dry out for a few minutes. Mash with the butter, milk and horseradish.  Season to taste (go easy on the salt or none at all for littlies).

Once the sauce is cooked, stir in the spinach or chard leaves if using and  have a final taste check, adding a little more pepper and some salt if necessary (no salt for littlies and you shouldn’t need to add any anyway as there’s plenty in the stock).

Pour it into a large openproof dish (remembering to remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, which I usually don’t!) or smaller individual dishes.  Spoon on the mash. Shape your mash with the back of a fork as desired, I like a nice swirl!.

Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden on the top (and if it’s not you can alway pop it under the grill). Individual dishes will need substantially less time.

My other whoppers of veggie disguise are Kids Bolognese, Chicken, Veggie & Egg Fried Rice, Super-Vegged Up Chili, Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce and Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes

And here’s the little monkey wolfing down his super-vegged up Cottage Pie! Result.


Cinnamon & Greengage or Plum Jam

I’ve recently got into jam making @ Chez Foti and I’m totally hooked. My Dad’s an amazing jam, marmalade, chutney and pickle maker and has been supplying Family Foti with his wonderful retirement hobby preserves for years. To be honest when we lived in the UK and had his ready supply I never even considered making my own (and had a distinct lack of time with two very little littlies!), but now we’re in France and one and a half of the children are at school (Little Miss F full time and Master J part time) I finally have a few snippets of time for jam making. Plus we’ve had an amazing abundance of wild fruit at Chez Foti this summer and autumn. The old plum tree and five greengages have been weighed down with their fruity wares this year, none of which bore a single fruit last year. We’ve also a crazy amount of blackberries, a couple of apple trees and three old but exceptionally fruitful pear trees. And plenty of neighbours with unlimited kilos of figs going spare.

It’s been surprisingly easy to get good results with the jam making, but then I could be having a long spate of beginners luck!. So far I’ve made four different batches of plum or greengage jam, using different sugars and adding or omitting cinnamon, but the recipe below is my favourite. I’m not even a jam gal normally, much preferring my marmite, peanut butter or (dad’s) marmalade on my toast in the morning. But now we have jars and jars of the homemade stuff I can’t resist, and the same for the kids who’ve never really liked jam much before. Mr F however is and always has been a BIG jam eater, and nothing else for him will ever suffice on toast. Needless to say he’s one happy husband these days loving my latest foray into the world of jam making!.

Master J sneakily dipping into my jam!

Last autumn I tried my hand for the first time at chutney making, again with some very pleasing beginners luck results. As yet I haven’t got around to chutneying this year, though have all the ingredients and a garden and potager full of waiting wares, so watch this space!. I should also mention I recently made a huge batch of the most wonderful Fig Jam flavoured with port and lemon following a recipe from a new-to-me-blog The Garden Deli. Please drop by and have a peruse at this gorgeous blog, and if you happen to have a kilo or three of figs going spare then you MUST make this jam, equally wonderful on toast in the morning or as a savory preserve served with goats or sheeps cheeses.

As the theme of this month’s Tea Time Treats blogging challenge, held jointly by Karen @ Lavender and Lovage and this month by Kate @ What Kate Baked, is Jams, Chutneys, Curds and Conserves I’m entering for the first ever time!.

Cinnamon Greengage or Plum Jam

To make 5 average sized jars:

1.5 kilos of plums or greengages, washed, halved and stoned

400ml of water

1.25 kilos of granulated sugar

2 heaped teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Place the halved and de-stoned plums or greengages together with the water in a very large pan, preferably a jam or maslin pan. Place on a medium heat and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes until the fruit and skins are a little softened.

Stir in the sugar and cinnamon and raise the heat. Bring to a simmer and allow to boil reasonably furiously until setting point is reached, either by a thermometer temperature of 104.5 or by testing a drop on a cold saucer (place a couple in the fridge at the start of the jam making process). If you can wrinkle the jam (just a little) after a minute on the saucer it’s good to go.

Immediately pour into sterilised jars and top with a wax disc and the jar lid whilst still piping hot.

And here he is again sneaking a greengage!


August and September in the Garden

Time’s been rather short over the last few weeks and somehow or other I didn’t get around to an August garden update and indeed now I’m more than a tad late for Septembers!. So here goes for the last couple of months and a bit….

To tell you the truth it’s a bit of a jungle out there and I’m rather ashamed of the patch right now. As I said it’s been a very busy few weeks for me of school holidays, holidays to the UK, rentree back to school and the patch has unfortunately had to suffer with zero time for weeding, tidying, sowing or planting. There has however been a fair degree of harvesting with all my spare time energies being channelled into picking, cooking, preserving and freezing.  Incase you missed it, here’s my Tomato Veg of the Month Round Up of recipes, and I really have been picking an enormous basket of tommies each and every day since the end of July!. And although they’re finally starting to slow down and die off there’s still a ridiculous amount out there.

Other than the tommies we’ve also been enjoying a glut of peppers and aubergines (and there’s happily been Ratatouille a plenty all summer, and lately another veggie favourite of mine Aubergine Parmigiana‘s – blog coming soon!).

Other stuff that’s fairing well despite the neglect are the chilies, I’ve only three plants this year but they’re constantly laden (and pleasingly firey!), I’ve several bags full in the freezer plus a few hanging around drying out. After a slow start the squash and pumpkins are all going great guns and I’ve started to pick a few butternutsfor risottos, pies and soups. I’ll be harvesting them all soon as we can’t be too far off the first frosts.

I’ve even pulled a few parsnips of late and they’re surprisingly sweet (and large!), a tad better than my disappointingly miniscule carrots anyway.

Titchy carrots and whopper parsnips!

Jacques playing with his trucks and carrots!

The goodies that have sadly finished since my last round up include the sweetcorn (now that was fantastic, so super sweet), cucumbers and unbelievably the courgettes (we’ve only one marrow left!). And the gorgeously sweet melons have been and gone too.

Here’s what we’re currently tucking into:
Aubergines
Borlotti Beans
Broccoli 
Carrots
Chilies
French Beans
Herbs: Chives, Thyme, Rosemary, Mint, Lovage, Sage, Parsley, Coriander, Tarragon, Oregano
Lettuce
Parsnips
Peppers
Potatoes: New (that aren’t so new anymore, but nevertheless are still tasty! and ‘Old’)
Pumpkins
Rhubarb
Spring Onions
Squash
Strawberries
Swiss Chard
Tomatoes: Cherry, Plum & Beefies

It’s quite a list when written like this! Cabbages and sprouts soon. And I’ve not even mentioned the pears, greengages, apples & blackberries around the garden.

Just incase you missed them here’s my last few round ups: July in the Garden, June in the Garden, May in the Garden.

Bye for now, Louisa

My desperately overgrown ‘jungle’ of a potager!


My Girly Fairy Cake Heaven!

After all those tomatoes here’s a bit of cakey relief! It was my daughter’s fourth birthday a couple of weeks ago and I copped out of making a big show stopper iced cake and opted for these quickie, but nevertheless impressive (to a four year old anyway), pink iced glittery and oh so girly fairy cakes.

Unfortunately what she really wanted was a ‘horsey’ cake, but I’d made her a ‘horsey’ cake last year to the very best of my cakey baking and icing abilities. After initially recoiling in horror at the prospect of shaping and icing a horses head and/or body I had a major brain wave last year to construct a substantially simpler rectangular field of (plastic shop bought) horses complete with choccie finger fencing. It was a success. A huge success. But not a success I could beat this year…unless obviously I made her the exact same cake!

Last year’s third birthday ‘Horsey’ Cake!

So huge apologies Little Miss F, but I am not, nor ever will be a prospective candidate for the GBBO and thus it’s highly unlikely I’ll be carving that horses head too soon my lovely. Shame. She’s completely and utterly ridiculously infatuated with horses, and has been from a year old. Interestingly it’s come from no-where as we’re not horsey people at all. It’s the only thing she’s ever been interested in, every conversation or question she’ll without fail relate back to horses in some way. She only eats in the belief that one day she’ll grow enough to reach the stirrups (she’s no foodie, but does have a particular partiality for carrots, you guessed it, because horses do), the only film she’s EVER watched the whole of is Black Beauty (and I have no idea HOW many times she’s now watched it), she dreams of horses and riding EVERY night and loves nothing more than to watch the horse racing on TV, or worse in the local bar with all the drunken men folk whilst supping on an apple juice. Her life really is horses. And she’s going to be expensive.

So anyway back to the cakes, horsey cake request aside my pink and glittery job lot of fairy cakes seemed to be a good second best and she was, luckily, suitably impressed. Albeit most of her birthday party guests, being boys, weren’t so impressed. She doesn’t seem to have many girlie friends does funny Little Miss F!

Incidentally don’t be put off by the number (48), they’re really a doddle and don’t take long at all to bake, ice and decorate. Albeit I did bake them in a couple of batches as I don’t have that many cake tins or a big enough oven for that matter. The good thing about lots of little cakes is if you balls up on the decoration no one will notice….unlike on a big show-stopper cake. And they’re easy for your party guests to pick up and scoff and take home.

Pink & Glittery Fairy Birthday Cakes!

To make 48 small buttercream-iced fairy cakes:

For the Cakes:

330g of caster sugar

330g of butter, room temperature

6 medium eggs, free range, lightly beaten

3 teaspoons of vanilla extract

330g of self-raising flour

For the Buttercream Icing:

200g of butter, room temperature

400g of icing sugar

a few drops of red food colouring

For the Decoration:

Anything small, edible and pink/glittery

Mini smarties or other mini sweet or chocolates

Hundreds & Thousands

Edible glitter or sprinkles

Silver balls

Candles

Special Equipment:

4 small x 12 fairy cake tins and a large oven! Or 2 tins and 2 batches of half quantity cake mix and a smaller oven! 48 fairy cake cases

Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4. Line the fairy cake tins with the cake cases.

In a large mixing bowl beat together the room temperature butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs a little at a time. Then stir in the vanilla extract.

Fold in the flour using a large metal spoon until well combined.

Spoon a teaspoon of the cake batter into each of the cake cases. Place in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until firm to touch and golden brown on the top (you could also insert a cake skewer and if it comes out clean they’re ready).

When baked place on a cooling rack to cool.

Meanwhile make your icing by beating the butter until very soft. Add half the sieved icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth again.

Now add a few drops of the red food colouring and beat until you have an even colour. You can’t really tell from the pictures but I iced half my cakes in a pale pink and the other half in a slightly deeper pink. If you want to do this just divide the icing in half and add a little more colouring to one of the halves.

Now for the fun bit!. Spoon about a half a teaspoon of the icing onto each fairy cake and smear evenly over. Gather your decorations and get creative! Kids love doing this so get them involved if you can (although not so good if it’s their birthday cake as it may just spoil the surprise!). I love this part, and it’s surprisingly quick to decorate 48 cakes!.

Arrange on a plate or cake stand. Add the appropriate number of candles and there you have it, Girlie Fairy Cake Heaven!

For Jacques’ birthday I made him this easy peasy Chocolate Birthday Cake. Here’s some other party food ideas: Cheesy Biscuits, Cheese, Ham & Sweetcorn Mini Muffins, Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tartlets (good for the mums and dads!), Chocolate Brownies (always a winner), A Trio of Dips for Babies, Toddler & Big People.


August and September Veg of the Month: The Tomato

There’s been no getting away from the summer of tomatoes at Chez Foti. A ridiculous amount. An obscene amount for a family of four. At my last count there were 72 plants, with self-seeded newbies appearing every day all over the plot, like some tomatoey horror B movie. I need to stop counting them! They’ve taken over my life these last few months with many an evening spent chopping, blanching, saucing, souping, chutneying or drying. Chez Foti’s been a bit of a tomato processing plant at times. The new and especially purchased chest freezer is now full to the brim. But luckily the harvest’s finally starting to subside, and will totally subside when the frosts start, probably very soon. And then it’ll all be over, bar a mountain of green tomatoes, until next year. And next year, mark my words, I will not be growing so many. No where near as many.

Of all the veggies (or indeed fruits) to have a glut of, tomatoes have to be the most versatile and useful, and can handily be cooked down to make all manner of wonderful sauces and soups to bring out all year round. And believe me I’ve made a few!. Here’s my favourite recipes for a glut:  A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces (so useful to store in the freezer for pasta or pizza sauces), Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes (I urge you try to these if you’ve a few tommies going spare, they’re truly sublime beyond sublime!), One Pot Ratatouille (can handily be frozen too). I’ve also been making many a tommie soup, though as yet haven’t blogged any recipes. One of my favourite recipes is Felicity Cloake’s Perfect Tomato Soup from the Guardian website. To be honest I reckon most people would struggle to beat this recipe, it’s totally the most perfect tommie soup you could wish to eat, aside from Heinz obviously.

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes

A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces

One Pot Ratatouille

Tomatoes have featured in pretty much every evening meal we’ve eaten at Chez Foti over the summer. And indeed many a breakie (tommies on toast!) and many a lunch (think soups, sandwiches, salads, tarts). Here’s my favourite dinner time tommie treats: Garden Pasta, Spaghetti alla Puttenesca with Fresh Tomatoes, Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone, A Couple of Tomato Tarts, Roasted Veggie Lasagne, Couscous with Roasted Veggies & Feta, Cheese, Tomato & Courgette Bread & Butter Pudding.

Garden Pasta with Griddled Courgettes, Cherry Tomatoes & Feta

Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone

Cheese, Courgette & Cherry Tomato Bread & Butter Pudding

As for the umteem of tomatoey salads dished up at Chez Foti, we’ve been munching our way through many a simple Tomato & Red Onion Salad through to my favourite Greek Salad and Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Salad a plenty. Then there’s been the lightly more sophisticated Salad Nicoises and Roasted Tomato Salads and I’ve regularly thrown in a few homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes to liven up a plain green salad.

I’ve been pretty busy trying out fellow blogger’s tomatoey recipes too. There’s been the delicious Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Oats from Karen @ Lavender and Lovage, I’ve now made these many an evening. I’ve also been baking and stuffing tomatoes with pork or lamb mince and just a simple and divine oozy goats cheese (thanks to Mr Nigel Slater!). Mr F’s is a huge fan of stuffed tomatoes in any form, so he’s one happy husband these days!.

Lavender and Lovage’s Beef, Herb & Oat Stuffed Tommies

I’ve been making several loaves of Kitchen Ninja’s delicious Tomato, Courgette & Basil Bread which is oh so perfect with tommie soup. I urge you make this!. The Tomato Gratin from Laura @ How to Cook Good Food is wonderful, served simply with some fresh french bread on the side, as is the heavenly Goats Cheese & Oven-Dried Tomato Pappardelle from Keith @ Reluctant Housedad. And I have to mention the divine tomatoey heaven of Vanesther’s  Slow Roasted Tomato & Oregano Pizza from the award winning Bangers and Mash Chat blog. Last but not least I have to mention the deeeelicious Tomato Relish from A Wee Bit of Cooking, just perfect with my Barbecue Burgers or even in a cheese sandwich (goats cheese in particular!).

A Wee Bit of Cooking’s Tomato Relish

So that’s it for my rather long Tomato Veg of the Month round up blog. Believe me I still have a list of tomatoey recipes as long as my arm to make, blog or try and I haven’t been nearly as inventive as I’d wanted to, but time as usual has got the better of me. It’s been a hectic couple of months of school holidays, holidays to the UK and rentree back to school (for both littlies, eek!). I’m hoping though to bring a few more tomato treats to you before they’re finished for the year (and even then I’ve an entire freezer full to blog about!). I narrowly missed entering July’s One Ingredient Tomato Challenge (held jointly by Laura at How to Cook Good Food and Nazima at London Working Mummy) waiting for mine to ripen, but there’s a whole host of wonderful recipes to try, and wonderful blogs to peruse.

October’s all about the squash and pumpkin.…as we’ve more than a few of those too! I’d love to hear your favourite uses, ideas and recipes.

Did you catch my other Veg of the Months? July Veg of the Month: The Courgette, June Veg of the Month: Swiss Chard.

Louisa

Felicity Cloake’s Perfect Tomato Soup with Kitchen Ninja’s Courgette & Tomato Bread


%d bloggers like this: