Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Guest Post by Anneli from Delicieux – A Very Merry French Christmas!

Finished dishLouisa and I both live in South West France in the rolling countryside of Gascony. Although we have never met in the flesh, we soon found that we have a lot in common; both being food bloggers, both growing our own vegetables, both having two small children of similar age, and of course, both having up and left the UK to pursue the good life here in France.

And what a good life it is too! I have been here now for five years and I absolutely love it. I feel spoilt to live somewhere so beautiful. I am touched by the unhurried way of life and the sense that time has almost stood still, both in the architecture of the villages and also in the mentality of the locals!

By that I mean this wonderful sense of doggedness that the French have about their traditions and their food. Always French wine, always local produce, always French cheese. And why not when what they have is so goddamn good! Why import goods when they have all they need right here?

I live in ‘duck’ country. Foie Gras, Confit and Magret are a staple on every restaurant menu in the Gers I think! And yet I am never bored by them. They are so quintessentially ‘French’ and they do them so well that they always delight. When I think of traditional French food, for me, it must include duck in some form or another.

Louisa and I got together to think of a blog challenge ingredient or subject we could both get our teeth into and Louisa suggested something for a traditional French Christmas. I immediately knew that I wanted to use duck so I did a bit of research to see how the French like it at this time of year.

It seems that they like to roast a whole duck and use chestnuts in the stuffing. In fact, upon further investigation, it would appear that chestnuts are a very traditional ingredient in Christmas cooking. I guess not so different from the British roast turkey with chestnut stuffing…

I decided to have a go at putting these traditional Christmas ingredients together in my own way and an idea began to form. I chose to use duck breast in this dish, for me it is the Rolls Royce of duck meat and it allows you to have more control when cooking it, keeping it nice and pink and moist.

To accompany my juicy duck meat, I made a chestnut puree with a little ricotta to make it super creamy. And I added a few ‘devilled chestnuts’ as well – just fried off in some paprika. These added another dimension and texture to the dish. All served alongside a crunchy yet soft potato rosti and some stir fried cabbage. It was winter on a plate. Rich, nutty, juicy and yummy. I would be very happy to eat this at Christmas – or any other day of the year!

Here’s how I did it:

Duck Breast with Chestnut Puree & Devilled Chestnuts served with a Potato Rosti & Cabbage  

Serves 2

 1 large French duck breast or 2 British duck breasts

4-5 smallish potatoes

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp olive oil

250g vacuum packed cooked chestnuts

1 tbsp Ricotta cheese

100ml milk

1 tsp paprika

1/3 of cabbage, shredded

  • First of all, peel your potatoes and par-boil them for 7 minutes in salted water. Then drain them and set aside to cool. Once cool, coarsely grate them and add the egg yolk and mixGrated Potato
  • Heat your oven to 150 F/180 C. Heat your olive oil in a frying pan and then split your grated potato in half and press into two metal rings if you have them. If not, just make two balls and then press each one flat to make the rosti. Fry on each side until nicely brown, 5-7 minutes each side. Then place them in the oven to keep warm and to ensure they are cooked all the way through.Rosti
  • Meanwhile, re-heat your chestnuts according to package instructions. For mine, I just pierced the vacuum pack and then cooked them in boiling water for 5 minutes.Chestnuts in pan
  • Release your chestnuts and set aside 10-12 to ‘devil’ later. Leave the rest in the pan and add the milk and using a hand held blender, blitz to make a thick puree. Add the ricotta and stir through. It should be as thick as cream cheese and a pale beige colour. Season generously. Set aside to heat though just before serving.
  • Now prepare your duck – score the skin in a criss-cross as in the picture and season on both sides of the duck. Heat a non stick frying pan and place the duck in the pan with no oil, skin side down and leave without touching it for 10 minutes to cook. Then turn the duck over and cook for 5 more minutes. Then remove, cover with foil and leave to rest for at least 5 minutes – longer if you want.Raw Duck
  • Meanwhile, to cook the cabbage, take a table spoon of the duck fat from the pan cooking the duck and add to another pan. Then fry your cabbage in the duck fat for 10 minutes until wilted and cooked through. Season well.
  • Chop your reserved chestnuts and toss them in the teaspoon of paprika. Heat another spoonful of duck fat in a small pan and fry your chestnuts in it for 4 minutes to ‘devil’ them. Also, gently reheat your chestnut puree.Devilled Chestnuts
  • When you are ready to slice your duck, pour any juices that have collected whilst resting into your chestnut puree. Then slice into at least 8 diagonal slices.
  • To serve, spread some puree across the middle of your plate. Place a potato rosti on one side and some cabbage on the other. Top the rosti with 2 slices of duck and the cabbage with 2 slices of duck. Finally, sprinkle the devilled chestnuts down the middle of the plate and serve.Finished dish

Blog by Anneli Faiers from www.delicieux.eu

Biog: I am a Private Chef  living South West France. I am a 36 year old, mother of two, living the rural dream. I love to cook all food and am inspired by fresh produce and the cuisine here in France. From rustic traditional dishes, to vegetarian, to fine dining, I try to cook it all and share my journey with you. Stop by and check it out.

Thanks for having me Louisa and Happy Christmas everyone!

And if you want to check out my own guest blog on Anneli’s site then please drop by to: www.delicieux.eu. Mine’s a very naughty but festive Chocolate & Chestnut Bûche de Noël.


Parsnip and Pear Soup

Parsnip & Pear Soup

There’s been a frenzy of activity in the Chez Foti kitchen this last week, brought on by my sudden and slightly panicked realisation we will be ten for christmas. Which obviously is very wonderful but I’ve got my work cut out! And after a few trials this is the soup I’ve decided to kick off christmas day lunch with, using our lovely parsnips and the last of the pears from the garden. It’s quite a light, yet creamy, soup flavoured with plenty of nutmeg and white pepper, and will be served with Parsnip Crisps (time permitting on the day!) and Mini Pear, Stilton & Shallot Tarts (blog coming soon!).

Parsnips

We’ve opted out of turkey for the main event this year and I’ve purchased a rather large piece of  imported British Beef instead (thanks to the lovely people at the Singing Frog Farm). The Roast Beef will be served with Yorkshire Puds, Chipolatas, Duck Fat Roasted Spuds, Roast Parsnips, Sprouts with Chestnuts, Roasted Pumpkin with Lardons and Lemon Butter Carrots. With lashings of Red Wine Gravy and Horseradish Sauce of course. As for the pud they’ll be my Great Granny’s Christmas Pudding, that my mum’s very kindly made this year and will be bringing over by special delivery. And for the christmas pud haters a Chocolate & Chestnut Bouche Noel (or Yule Log to you and me, but sounds a tad more sophisticated in French, made, photographed and now frozen and also coming to you in a blog very soon!). Oh I’m hungry just thinking about it. 10 days to go,  yikes!  Here’s a sneeky peek of the log:

My Chocolate & Chestnut Buche Noel, coming in a blog very soon!

My Chocolate & Chestnut Buche Noel, coming in a blog very soon!

Being full of seasonal goodness I’m entering my Soup to Ren Behan of Fabulicious Food‘s Simple and in Season bloggie event, this month hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage.

Simple and In Season

Parsnip & Pear Soup

Parsnip and Pear Soup

Serves 8 to 10

2 tablespoons of olive oil

25g of butter

a very large onion, or 2 mediums, diced

a kilo of parsnips, scrubbed and peeled

220g of pears, peeled and cored

a level teaspoon of ground white pepper

a level teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

2 bay leaves

2 litres of good quality chicken or vegetable stock

5 heaped tablespoons of half fat creme fraiche

A little milk for thinning (optional)

Heat the oil and butter in a very large pan on a gentle heat. Add the onions and saute gently for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile prep the parsnips. As mine are organic and homegrown I tend to leave the skins on but it’s probably best to peel them otherwise. Cut into 2 to 3 cm chunks. Throw the parsnips into the pan. Allow to cook for a further 10 minutes, regularly giving the pan a good stir so nothing catches.

Stir in the pears, white pepper, nutmeg and bay leaves. Then pour over the stock. Bring to a simmer. Allow to bubble away for 15 to 20 minutes or until the parsnips are very soft. Take off the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Remove the bay leaves then blitz in a food processor or blender or with a stick blender until silky smooth. Stir in the creme fraiche until it’s perfectly incorporated. I like my soups around this thickness but you may wish to thin some more with a little extra milk.

Serve immediately!

Here’s some other Chez Foti seasonal soups:

Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

Pumpkin & Bacon Soup

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup)

Parsnip & Pear Soup


White Chocolate and Cranberry Christmas Cookies

White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

I’ve had a bit of a spate of cookie baking lately. Due in the main to my new cooker and in keeping my promise to Mr F that it would feed him with a regular supply of biscuity goodies. He is rather fond of his biscuits to say the least, and gets very grumpy if there happen to be less than two spare packets in the cupboard (the number of which he can easily polish off in a single tea dunking session). And cookies I find are the perfect almost instantaneous biscuit hit. The dough’s frighteningly easy and quick to make and can handily be made in advance and stored for several days in the fridge or considerably longer in the freezer. Then simply brought out when the urge for a cookie takes over or guests arrive, cut up (even straight from the freezer) and placed on a baking tray. And voila 9 minutes later you have the most perfectly naughty fresh cookies to munch.  Or in my case one very happy husband.

Three sausage rolls of Cookie Dough

Three sausage rolls of Cookie Dough, ready to be cut and baked

And so here’s my recipe for Christmas Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks and Dried Cranberries. This makes enough for about 30 large cookies, but I split the dough into thirds and only bake one lot at a time. Which will be particularly handy for sudden guests over the festive period. I’m planning on stockpiling quite a bit of cookie dough over the next couple of weeks!

breakfast-club-logoI’m entering my recipe to a couple of bloggie events that are running this month. Firstly for my first ever time to the Breakfast Club challenge created by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours to encourage more interesting breakfasts. This month it’s being hosted by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash Chat and has the theme of ‘Brunch’. And as it’s Christmas my cookies make a wickedly good brunch snack with a cup or two of coffee (I can vouch for this).

Christmas TTTI’m also entering this month’s Tea Time Treats, an event held jointly by What Kate Baked and Lavender and Lovage. The theme this month is Chocolate and these cookies so happen to be equally good with a cuppa at the end of the day (which I can also vouch for!).

White Chocolate & Cranberry Christmas Cookies

Makes 30 large cookies:

225g of butter, very soft

175g of light muscovado sugar

175g of caster sugar

2 medium free range eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

350g of plain flour

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon of salt

200g of white chocolate, chopped into small chunks

150g of dried cranberries

Simply beat the butter until very soft (which is much easier to do if it’s been left to warm up out of the fridge for a while). Then beat in the sugars, then the eggs and the vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and creamy. Employ any spare children to do this bit for you!

In another bowl combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Slowly add the dry mix to the wet until  fully combined. Stir in the chocolate and cranberries. That really is all there is to it!.

Divide the mixture into three. Dollop each third onto a length of cling film. Using the cling film to hold the mixture together (it’s very soft and almost unworkable with bare hands) form into a long sausage shape, about 20 cm long and 5 cm wide. Twirl the ends of the cling film to secure into shape and pop into the fridge to firm up. Repeat with the other two thirds.

It’s good to use after about 30 minutes of firming up time. The dough will keep like this for several days in the fridge or much longer in a freezer.

When ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 190º/Gas 5. When it’s up to temperature, remove a section of dough from the fridge or freezer. Cut the sausage dough into 1.5 cm rounds, and simply place the rounds as they are, but very spread out, on a large baking sheet. They’ll melt down into a flat cookie shape all by themselves, my kids love to watch this.

Pop in the oven for 9 to 11 minutes. They’re ready when almost firm in the middle and a little brown. Remove from the tray immediately and cool a little on a rack before eating.

White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

You might also like:

Cheesy Biscuits:                                     Super-Fruity Banana Mini-Muffins

Cheesy Biscuits

Francesca Super Fruity Banana Mini Muffins


October and November Veg of the Month: Pumpkin and Squash

We’ve had quite a harvest of pumpkins and squash this year and they should see us through to spring next year, if they’re able to keep good that long. Such fun veggies to grow and easy too. I rarely watered the plants nor gave them any attention at all past the seedling stage, and they happily brought themselves up and just got on with it, fruiting gloriously all over the patch. If only my children were as easy! And like everything here they’re totally organic. A wonderful veggie to grow for a beginner, albeit you do need quite a bit of space…and dare I say it, sunshine.

Pumpkin Tower

They also happen to be one of my favourite veggies to cook with, being so incredibly versatile as they are. Virtually every dinner  or snack has some form of squash or pumpkin in these days at Chez Foti, even the cakes and muffins!. My Chocolate Pumpkin Cake is always a big hit with the littlies, both to bake and eat. And the fact that it contains one of your five-a-day is a happy bonus. Jamie’s delightful recipe for Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top have also proved popular as are my savoury Pumpkin, Cheese & Red Onion Muffins.

Chocolate  Pumpkin Cake

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Butternut, or flavoursome pumpkin, make a wonderful tart too, especially when combined with a little salty cheese like feta, Butternut, Feta & Red Onion Tart with Thyme. And it’s equally as tasty on a pizza, I’ve made several of The Garden Deli’s Autumn Pizzas now, and this has to be one of my favourite pizza combinations ever now, thanks Sarah!.

Butternut, Feta & Red Onion Tart with Pine Nuts and Thyme

Butternut, Feta & Red Onion Tart with Pine Nuts & Thyme

Obviously you can make super soups with pumpkins and squash though I’ve yet to experiment with any new recipes this year. Last year I blogged the simple Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup then paired it up with a little bacon for my Pumpkin & Bacon Soup and Chorizo for one of my favourite soups ever in my Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo CroutonsI recently made a fabulous and health inducing Roasted Pumpkin Mulligatawny Soup, thanks to a recipe I chanced upon from Gastrogeek.

Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

This magical duo also go superbly well in a curry, one of my favourite recipes being a veggie curry I blogged last year, Aloo Gobi Kaddu (Potato, Cauliflower and Pumpkin Curry). I also happened upon a wonderful recipe from my beloved Mr HFW for a very tasty Butternut Squash Curry which I’ve now made a couple of times. It’s also a fab veg to add to a stir fry, squidging down and soaking up the flavours, and has been happily added to my Noodles with Pork & Veggies  recipe many a time. I also have my eye on trying Shabby Chick’s Noodles with Squash, Chard & Prawns some day soon.

Potato, Cauliflower & Pumpkin Curry

Aloo Gobi Kaddu, Potato Cauliflower & Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin and squash are a fabulous base vegetable for most stews and casseroles, adding a subtle sweetness which my kids particularly favour, one of their favourites being my recently blogged Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Stew and last years Pork, Pepper & Pumpkin StewI also add plenty of finely diced pumpkin to my Cottage Pie and Kids Bolognese recipes, loving the way it melts down into the sauce.

Chicken, Borlotti & Pumpkin Stew

Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Stew

And if this isn’t enough cucurbitas in your diet, then you can always happily add them to many a pasta dish too!. Favourites in the Chez Foti household happen to be Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese and Pumpkin CarbonaraAnd then there’s always risottos, my Butternut & Sage Risotto recipe will be coming shortly.

Pumpkin Carbonara

Pumpkin Carbonara

I’ve also been serving up pumpkin or squash as a veggie side dish to a sunday roast. Either chunked and roasted with just a little olive oil, salt and pepper or with a pinch of cumin and coriander too. Pumpkin’s also totally divine roasted with a few bacon lardons and sage.

And don’t forget the glorious seeds and skin. Both squash and pumpkin seeds can be roasted in a frying pan or the oven with just a smear of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Great tossed into a salad or served as a snack with drinks. After watching Nigel Slater recently I’ve started roasting off strips of Butternut skin to make lovely freebie crisps, and also noted Shabby Chick’s Pumpkin Crisps blog.

Other squashy ideas that have grabbed my attention are Fishfingers for Tea’s Butternut Squash Falafel recipe, which no doubt would go very well with the Roasted Pumpkin Hummus that I made last year (and should really get around to blogging!), and Lavender and Lovage’s Roast Pumpkin Salad with Panchetta, Grana Padano & Pumpkin Seeds. And I couldn’t not mention Anneli of Delicioux’s Super, Sexy, Strange: Spaghetti Squash recipes. I can’t wait to get my hands on one!

Well that’s it for this month’s round up, other than to say PLEASE do have a look at the fabulous array of squash and pumpkinie recipes in October’s  One Ingredient Challenge and We Should CocoaPrepare to be amazed! And my December Veg of the Month is the humble Parsnip, and we’ve got quite a few of those to get through too at Chez Foti. I’d love to hear of your favourite recipes to try out!,

Louisa

August & September Veg of the Month: The Tomato

July Veg of the Month: The Courgette

June Veg of the Month: Swiss Chard

The first pumpkin of the year!

The first pumpkin of the year!

Chez Foti Pumpkins and Squash


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