Category Archives: Dinner Party

Spinach and Feta Filo Pie: Spanakopita

Spinach & Feta Pie Recipe

I feel I should start this post by way of an apology. It’s an awful photo. I know. It shall be replaced next time I make this pie, and being such a tasty pie as it is this won’t be long. But as time is most definitely in short supply right now I’m going with the shameful shot in order to make another entry to this month’s Four Seasons Food challenge.

I’d also like to take to take the opportunity to offer huge and well deserved congratulations to my friend and partner in foodie crime for the Four Seasons Food challenge, Anneli! If you haven’t already heard she won the glittering Britmum’s Brilliance in Blogging Food award on Friday night for her gorgeous and inspiring Delicieux blog. I believe she’s still getting over the hangover and on her way back to rural SW France as I write. Well done Anneli, so can’t wait to help you celebrate!

So on to the Pie. I’ve been intending to bake this pie for a long long time, and despite the sad photos it was stunningly tasty. And took me right back to many a happy Greek joliday of yonder year. Though also made me a little sad, sad in the sense it was made with shop bought spinach and not Chez Foti spinach which until recently has been growing in huge abundance. As my garden winds up there’s very little greenery out there any more, bar a barrage of weeds and lots of (overgrown) herbs. In case you didn’t know I’m moving back to the UK this summer, back with the littlies to be nearer my family in gorgeous and foodie Herefordshire. Which funnily enough is very similar and gentle countryside to where I live now, minus the Pyrenees obviously!. And one day very soon I’ll be very excited to start another veggie plot on English soil. But more on my new venture in another blog soon.

Anyway, I digress again. Back to the pie, which was a real doddle to make. And makes for a wonderful cold or warm picnic, lunch or dinner munch. Don’t be put off by the filo, it’s so easy to use and very forgiving in any shape or form!. The pie’s assembled in a flash, simply a matter of sweating a little onion and garlic, followed by a seemingly monstrous amount of fresh spinach. A stirring in of lightly beaten eggs flavoured with nutmeg and a little Dijon mustard, pine kernels, parsley and feta. Then spooning into a filo pastry shell, topped with more filo and baked for a mere 30 minutes.

fsf-summerNaturally I shall be entering my picnic-perfect pie to the Four Cooking-with-HerbsSeasons Food challenge, a new monthly event hosted by myself and (award winning!) Anneli at Delicieux. This month Anneli’s hosting and the theme’s aptly Picnics and Outdoor Nibbles. Also to Lavender and Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday event,Simple and in Season Ren Behans Simple and in Season and Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays.Made with Love Mondays

Spinach & Feta Pie Recipe

Spinach & Feta Filo Pie: Spanakopita

Great For: Toddlers & Pre-schoolers (if they’re not green adverse!), Bigger Kids, Grown Ups, Family Dinners, Mid-Week Suppers, Week-end Slowies, Picnics, Nibbles, Mains, Lunches, Dinners, Dinner Parties, Parties, Spinach Growers (sob, sob)

Notes: Substitute fresh spinach for the same weight in frozen spinach which has defrosted (no need to wilt)

Serves: 4-6 large slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, medium sized, medium dice

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

500g fresh spinach, washed & dried and roughly shredded

2 heaped tablespoons chopped parsley

200g Feta cheese, crumbled

50g pine kernels

3 free range eggs

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard

pepper

4 large or 8 small sheets filo pastry

40ml olive oil

Special Equipment: a small ovenproof baking tray, pie dish or tart tin (roughly 20 x 20), round square or oblong! A pastry brush.

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas 6.

2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan on a low to medium heat. Gently fry the onion for 5 minutes, before adding the garlic for a further 2 minutes, stirring regularly so nothing catches.

3. With the pan still on the heat stir in the spinach, in batches, until it’s all wilted. It helps to have a saucepan lid. Once wilted take off the heat and set aside.

4. Stir into the spinach the parsley, Feta and pine kernels. Lightly whisk together the eggs with the nutmeg and Dijon mustard. Stir the eggs into the spinach along with a generous pinch or two of black pepper. Ensure everything’s very well combined.

5. Grease your chosen dish or tin liberally with olive oil. Line it with a small sheet of filo pastry or half a large sheet (letting the other half of a larger sheet hang over one side – it will form the top once the filling’s been added). Brush the sheet with olive oil before adding another layer. Continue until you have 4 base layers of filo.

6. Spoon in the spinach mix and evenly spread. Layer 4 small sheets of filo pastry on the top, brushing on oil between each and tucking the edges into the sides to seal the pie. I like to scrunch them up for effect. If using the larger sheets turn them over and scrunch them onto to the top of the pie and tuck into the sides. It might look messy but filo pies are very forgiving!.

7. Brush the top with olive oil if you haven’t already done so. Place in your pre-heated oven for 30 minutes until set, golden and crispy. Turn out of the dish, if you dare, and allow to cool for a few minutes. Lovely warm or cold.

You might also like:

Greek Stylie Pork & Veggie Kebabs

Greek Stylie Pork & Veggie Kebabs

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni with Hidden Veggies Tommie Sauce

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni with Hidden Veggies Tommie Sauce


A Couple of Summer Crostini for the Four Seasons Food Challenge!

Summer Crostini Recipes

I’m a huge fan of Crostini and Bruschetta, well anything tasty on toast to be honest. Little niblets of loveliness to gobble down between sups of vin blanc on balmy summer evenings (of which admittedly we’ve had precisely one so far this year!). And they don’t just have to be for grown ups, Jacques in particularly gets very excited about crostini, though Francesca’s a little more cautious, as ever. Whenever we have friends over I can’t resist a few toasty offerings and these are my favourite toppings of the moment.

Firstly a Wild Garlic and Cannellini Bean Crostini, a simple mix of cannellini beans, lemon zest and juice, a small bunch of wild garlic leaves and bulbs , a little green chili, olive oil and seasoning. Plus a sprinkling of parsley to finish. No cooking (bar the crostini toasts) just a simple assembly job. And it so happens to double as a deliciously morish dip, which I find requires considerable restraint to not polish off in a single session.

Secondly there’s my now-favourite topping of all time. Homemade Pesto, Lemony Griddled Courgettes and Feta Crostini. Admittedly this is a little more faffy, but so so worth the effort. And exceptionally crowd pleasing to all ages and tastes. And since all the elements (like the Cannellini Crostini) can be made in advance you don’t have to be faffing when your guests arrive.

fsf-summerI shall, of course, be entering this post to my brand new Four Seasons Food blogging Simple and in Seasonchallenge, co-hosted my myself and Anneli of Delicieux. This month Anneli’s hosting and the theme’s Summer Outdoor Nibbles and Picnics. Cooking-with-HerbsAnd as the ingredients are all in season to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season event. And last but most certainly not least to Lavender and Lovage’s lovely Herbs on Saturday challenge.

Cannellini Beans & Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic & Cannellini Bean Crostini

Great for: Pre-dinner nibbles or appetisers, bigger kids, grown-ups, parties, starters, vegetarians, wild garlic foragers, dipping

Notes: Substitute the wild garlic for a crushed clove of cultivated garlic if you can’t forage or source

1 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

zest of 1 lemon, plus a generous squeeze of juice

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 small bunch of wild garlic leaves, finely chopped or 1 clove of cultivated garlic, crushed

½ green chili, finely chopped, optional

salt and pepper

1 dessertspoon finely chopped parsley for the top

crostini toasts – see recipe here

1. Simply mix together the beans, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, garlic, chili (if using) and a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. If you’re making for little people avoid the chili (unless they like it) and salt.

2. Taste and add more lemon juice, salt or pepper to suit.

3. Serve spooned onto crostini with a little chopped parsley on top or as a dip with crudités or breadsticks.

Summer Crostini Toppings

Homemade Pesto, Lemony Griddled Courgettes and Feta Crostini:

Great for: Pre-dinner nibbles or appetisers, bigger kids (though Jacques at three adores these!), grown-ups, parties, starters, vegetarians, courgette growers, pesto fiends

Notes: This recipe makes enough for about 12 crostini, feel free to substitute the homemade pesto with shop bought, but homemade is a cinch to make and truly sublime on this recipe, particularly parsley pesto (made with any sort of nut)

Special Equipment: A griddle pan or heavy based frying pan

1 large or 2 small courgettes, washed

2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

½ lemon, juiced

salt and pepper

12 crostini toasts – see recipe here

2 – 3 tablespoons of homemade parsley pesto, or you could make your own recipe using these mix ‘n match ideas

100g of feta cheese, crumbled

1. Slice across the courgettes into diagonal 2mm thick strips

2. Heat a griddle pan or heavy frying pan until very hot

3. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

4. Fill the hot pan with a single layer of courgette slices and cook for a minute or two on each side until char-grilled. Remove the slices from the pan and place in the bowl with the oil and lemon mix.

5. Continue with more courgette slices until they’re all fully cooked and charred. Stir them all around in the bowl with the olive oil and lemon, cover and set aside to marinate until you’re ready to assemble the crostini.

6. When you’re ready for crostini assembly take each crostini and spread on a generous layer of pesto. Top with a small pile of the courgettes and finish with a crumbling of feta.

7. Serve. Eat. Divine with vin blanc.

Summer Crostini Recipes

Smoked Salmon & Red Pepper Dip

Smoked Salmon & Red Pepper Dip

A Couple of Winter Crostini: Lovely Cannellini Beans & Homemade Tapenade

A Couple of Winter Crostini: Lovely Cannellini Beans & Homemade Tapenade


A Couple of Fishy Dippy Dip Dips

Smoked Salmon & Red Pepper Dip

To be truthful things have been a little on the busy side at Chez Foti lately. Make that insanely hectic. Way too much flitting to and from the UK for a multitude of reasons, four times in the last few weeks!. Which is all very tiring, both emotionally and physically, and has sadly meant less time to potter in the kitchen putting together new recipes and ideas. Not that we haven’t eaten well, very well indeed. But there’s been a greater reliance on those firm family favourites and the pulling together of goodies from the freezer. I’ve also been on somewhat of a mission to cook and eat my way through five enormously fruitful PSB plants, and probably been a little too reliant on my PSB Pasta and Tart recipes for quickie mid-week suppers. Plus there’s been PSB pizzas, PSB pesto pastas, PSB stir fries and PSB crostini and bruschettas a plenty!

Between the flitting and Mission PSB I’ve managed a few catch ups with friends, involving various nibbles and numerous drinkies. Nibbles at this time of year, as the weather’s happily warming up, usually means a plate of assorted Crostini (including one with the the aforementioned PSB, cooked with anchovies, garlic and chili) and a dip or two with various dipping accompaniments.

P1070766

Both these dips are made in minutes, which is always a bonus in my book. Both are very tasty indeed but I wouldn’t necessarily serve them together, possibly being a little bit too similar. And both have funnily enough been stolen from other people!. The first is a Smoked Salmon & Roasted Pepper Dip, which also makes for a wonderful sandwich filling, pate or crostini topping. It’s a recipe I ‘stole’ from a friend of mine, Anita, who nearly always turns up at social occasions with a pot of this pink loveliness. It’s a heavenly blitzed-up mix of creme cheese, smoked salmon, roasted red peppers (I use the jarred ones), a little red onion, horseradish, lemon zest and juice, and plenty of black pepper.

My second recipe is for a Tuna & Caper Dip, which I stole in idea from my big brother Julian. Again it’s wonderful in sandwiches or on crostini too.. And no blitzing required, just a stirring of creme cheese, tuna, capers, parsley, lemon zest and juice and black pepper. So so simple, and perfect for impromptu drinks parties.

And they’re not just for the grown up folk. My kids love these ‘fishy dippy dip dips’, and dips are a fine (and manipulative) way to get your kids eating more raw veggies and lots of them. Namely carrot, pepper, celery and cucumber strips. So along with my faithful hummus I make dips pretty frequently at Chez Foti. For more baby and toddler-friendly dippy ideas please do bob over to a blog I wrote last year: A Trip of Dips for Babies & Toddlers.

Since there’s parsley involved I shall be entering my blog to Lavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday challenge, this month hosted by Anneli over at Delicieux.
herbsonsaturday

Smoked Salmon & Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Smoked Salmon & Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Smoked Salmon & Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Great for Parties, Drinks and Nibbles, Starters, Picnics, Kids, Finger Foods, Grown Ups, Sandwiches, Crostini Toppings

150g of Creme Cheese, full fat, light, or extra light depending on how virtuous you’re feeling!

100g of Smoked Salmon trimmings

80g of Roasted Red Peppers – about 2 or 3  (you can make your own but I use the jarred shop bought ones for speed), drained of all oil

zest of ½ a Lemon plus a couple of generous squeezes of juice, to taste

¼ of a small red onion, diced

a heaped teaspoon of Creamed Horseradish

a large pinch of freshly ground Black Pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth and creamy texture. Or alternatively blitz with a hand held stick blender. Season with more black pepper and lemon juice to suit. Eat and devour.

Tuna & Caper Dip

Tuna & Caper Dip

Tuna & Caper Dip

Great for Parties, Drinks and Nibbles, Starters, Picnics, Kids, Finger Foods, Grown Ups, Sandwiches, Crostini Toppings

a 185g tin of Tuna, drained

150g of Cream Cheese, full fat, light, or extra light

a tablespoon of Capers, drained and rinsed

the zest of a Lemon plus a squeeze or two of juice to taste

a heaped tablespoon of chopped Parsley

a large pinch of coarsely ground Black Pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Taste and season with more black pepper and/or lemon  juice. Eat. So so easy.

You might also like: 

A Couple of Winter Crostini: Lovely Cannellini Beans & Homemade Tapenade

A Couple of Winter Crostini: Lovely Cannellini Beans & Homemade Tapenade

Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta

Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta


Rhubarb Tart

Rhubarb Tart

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything in the sweet or pud line, but then it’s pretty rare I make anything outside of a good old crumble, bread and butter pudding or a cake. But today, armed with some handsome pickings of homegrown Rhubarb, I tasked myself with being a little more inventive and put together this cheeky wee tart. A simple (bought!) puff pastry base, smeared with a fine layer of gingered & slightly sweetened creme fraiche and topped with roasted rhubarb it really is simplicity in itself. And was pretty heavenly served with a generous dollop of the flavoured creme fraiche. It’s quite a ‘tart’ tart but then that’s how I personally like my fruit. Feel free to be more generous with the sugar than myself.

Rhubarb

On a sweeter note, it was my wee fella’s Big Third Birthday last week. The requested blinged-up (he LOVES his silver balls!) Choccie Cake was successfully made and (messily) consumed.

Happy Big Third Birthday to Baba Jacques!

Happy Big Third Birthday to Baba Jacques!

Jacques

Since rhubarb is very much in season I shall of course be entering my tart to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season event.

Simple and in Season

Rhubarb Tart

Rhubarb Tart:

Serves 6:

6 – 8 Rhubarb Stalks

2 dessertspoons of Dark Soft Brown Sugar

3 heaped tablespoons of Creme Fraiche (half or full fat)

½ teaspoon of Ground Ginger

250g of ready made Puff Pastry

a little Plain Flour for rolling

a medium Free Range Egg, lightly beaten

a teaspoon of Icing Sugar, plus a little more for serving if you wish

Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC.

Start with roasting off the rhubarb. Wash and cut the stems into roughly even lengths – anywhere between 5 and 10 cm. Place on a baking tray and scatter over a dessertspoon of the dark soft brown sugar and 4 tablespoons of water. Place in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Leave the oven on for the tart.

Meanwhile mix the creme fraiche with the remaining dessertspoon of soft brown sugar, the ginger and any juices from the rhubarb tray.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a rectangular shape. Roll it out a little larger than you intend the tart to be, so you can cut off some side strips. It should be big enough to house your rhubarb fairly closely. Cut 0.5 to 1 cm off each side and glue on to the sides with a brushing of beaten egg. The total size of my tart was about 15 by 30 cm which is probably what you’re aiming at. Brush the side strips with the egg.

Spread a fine layer of the creme fraiche mixture over the base of the tart. There should be plenty left to serve with the cooked tart. Lay the rhubarb strips. Sprinkle (through a sieve) over a teaspoon of the icing sugar. Place in the still hot oven for 25 minutes, or until the pastry is browned, cooked and risen.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving with a generous dollop of the flavoured creme fraiche. Dust with a little extra icing sugar if you wish.

A slice of Rhubarb Tart

You might also like:

Courgette Cake with Homemade Lemon Curd

Courgette Cake with Homemade Lemon Curd

Clementine & Almond Cake

Clementine & Almond Cake


A Winter Roasted Roots and Gruyere Pie!

Roasted Roots Pie

It’s still mightily cold isn’t it? I’m in the midst of the never-ending Winter that is the UK this week, and this morning has witnessed my third siting of snow since I’ve been here. Unbelievable. Not helped by the frequent Skype sessions to the littlies in France who are clearly enjoying the first few sun-drenched ‘strawberry days’ of the year. ‘Strawberry Day’ being a Francesca-ism for a warm sunny day. Each and every day her first question upon awakening is invariably ‘is it a strawberry day mummy?’. The answer (usually to the negative) not only giving her the potential to pick a strawberry from the garden (bless her, she’s perpetually confused as to why it can be sunny yet there’s none to be found) but more importantly would allow her to put on the summer dresses and shorts that she’s been so longing to wear again since October. So much for my non-girlie girl! She may have only friends that are boys but she’s turning out to be a right little fashionista.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Seeing as it’s still full blown winter in the UK I’m bringing you my recipe for a wintery Roasted Roots Pie, and sincerely hoping this might be the last wintery food blog for quite some time! The recipe for this pie came about on a recent family get together when I tasked myself with putting on a bit of a Pie Night. The meat one was a cinch to decide, opting for my Beef, Beer and Stilton Pie that I recently wrote for Delicieux and went down stormingly well with my pie-eating family!. But I wanted to match it’s decadent richness with a special veggie option for the non-meat eaters of which there’s a few dotted around our lot. Being a bit partial to my seasonal Rosemary Roasted Roots I opted for an interesting selection of Celeriac, Butternut, Sweet Potatoes and Carrots and encased them in a rich Gruyere, Parmesan and Wholegrain mustard sauce. And topped off with the same homemade Rough Puff pastry (you could obviously cheat on this bit and use ready made Rough) as it’s meaty brother pie. I’m very pleased to report the pie was an equal hit and the perfectly interesting and substantial veggie option, that even the ardent meat eaters couldn’t resist nibbling into. In fact I’ve already made it again since. It’s a keeper. Rock on the next Pie Night I say!

Being heavy on the Rosemary (most of my food seems to be these days!) I’m entering Lavender and Lovage’s lovely Herbs on Saturday challenge again, this month hosted by London Busy Body (you’ll be sick of my emails by now!). And since it’s a made from scratch meal, to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays challenge. And last but certainly not least once again to Simple and in Season, the seasonal blogging challenge of Ren of Fabulicious Food and this month hosted by myself.

herbsonsaturday

Made with Love Mondays

Simple and In Season

Roasted Roots Pie

Roasted Roots & Gruyere Pie

Serves 6 to 8

Great for Pie Nights!, Dinner Parties, Vegetarians, Family Dinners, Special Occasions, Week-end Slowies, Winter Warmers

1.2 kilos of mixed Root Vegetables (I used a fairly even mix of Celeriac, Butternut, Carrots and Sweet Potato. You could also use Swede, Turnips, Pumpkin, Beetroot or Parsnips)

2 large Onions, large dice

6 cloves of Garlic, left whole with skin on

a heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh Rosemary

Salt and Pepper

4 tablespoons of Olive Oil

50g of Butter

50g of Plain Flour

700ml of Whole Milk

180g of Gruyere, grated

30g of Parmesan, grated

a tablespoon of Wholegrain Mustard

Salt & Pepper

450g of Rough Puff or Shop Bought Pastry (about 2/3rd of this recipe)

an Egg, beaten

Special Equipment: 2 x large roasting tins

Preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Dice all your veggies, bar the carrots, to a similar 2-3cm chunk size. Cut the carrots into inch long narrow battens. Place in the roasting tins, along with the diced onions, garlic cloves, rosemary and a generous pinch or two of black pepper and salt. Drizzle over the olive oil and give everything a thorough mix with your hands. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, turning the veggies twice during the cooking time.

Meanwhile make the cheese sauce. Using the roux method gently heat the butter in a medium sized saucepan until it’s melted. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and with the pan still over the heat slowly and gradually add the milk. You may want to switch the spoon for a balloon whisk at this point, whisking thoroughly between milky additions, until all the milk is incorporated. Continue stirring with the whisk or wooden spoon until the sauce is simmering. Stir in both the cheeses, mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Remove the whole roasted garlic from the Roasted Roots and squeeze out the loveliness contained into the sauce. Give a final thorough stirring.

Combine the sauce with the veggies and place in your pie dish.

Roasted Roots Pie

Turn down the oven to 190ºC/Gas Mark 5.

Cover the top of the veggies in a layer of Rough Puff Pastry, crimp the edges. Brush with the beaten egg.

Roasted Roots Pie

Place in the pre-heated oven for 40 to 45 minutes until the pastry is fully cooked, puffed up and golden brown. Slice and eat. With lashings of buttery mash to ward off the cold.


Stilton, Walnut and Parsley Pesto Spaghetti with Roasted Thyme and Garlic Mushrooms

Stilton, Walnut & Parsley PestoYou know when you make something that you become a little obsessive about? And you end up eating it several times a week, and making every possible permutation of it. Well that’s pesto for me these days. Since I blogged my Parsley and Almond Pesto recipe back at the beginning of January it’s fair to say my processor’s been turning out an inordinate amount of pesto. But my latest addiction is one made with crumbled Stilton, lightly toasted Walnuts, Walnut Oil and Parsley. Make it. Please. It’s heavenly. And particularly wonderful melted into pasta with a generous serving of roasted mushrooms on the top. It’s also fair to say I have a wee addiction to Roasted Mushrooms. After my success of the Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza, I’ve been roasting wild and ordinary mushies and adding them to many a Pizza, Risotto, Pasta dish, Bruschetta or Omelette. Believe me once you’ve tried roasting mushrooms you’ll never go back!

Stilton, Walnut & Parsley Pesto

And it’s not just me that’s been getting excited about homemade pesto lately. My inspiration for the stilton pesto came from a blog by Marmaduke Scarlett which so happened to win January’s Herbs on Saturday challenge. Thanking you very unkindly for my new addiction! Andrea of the gorgeous Shabby Chick enlightened me to the use of both Kale or Cavelo Nero and Pumpkin Seeds in a pesto. Urvashi from the Botanical Baker uses Sunflower Seeds and Comte in her Parsley Pesto. Anneli of Delicieux offered a Walnut & Basil Pesto and served it with a fun Spaghetti Squash! And she also recommends Mache Lettuce. And very recently Under the Blue Gum Tree showcased her delightful Spinach & Walnut Pesto and 8&Ruth won February’s Herbs on Saturday with her wonderful Themes of Wild Garlic Pesto blog. Also in the same competition was a highly intriguing Seaweed Pesto
from Elizabeth’s Kitchen.

Stilton, Walnut & Parsley Pesto

If you’ve never made your own pesto then I urge you to set aside a few minutes and do so. And minutes is all it takes, really. And I wholeheartedly promise you it will be sublime. As for what to put in, then get creative and frugal!. Clear your fridge and store cupboards. So this is what you need, intending to be in no means exhaustive!:

Some sort of Nut – Walnuts, Pine kernels, Cashews, Almonds, Hazlenuts, Pecans all work marvellously. Or even a Seed – Pumpkin, Sunflower

A Hard Cheese – Parmesan, Grana Padano, Pecorino, Mature Cheddar, Mature Manchego, Comte, Stilton – anything with a strong flavour really!

Something Green & Raw – Rocket, Spinach, Watercress, Kale, Chard Leaves, Parsley, Basil, Mint, Mache/Lambs Lettuce, Wild Garlic

Garlic – Unfortunately no pesto is quite right without a little garlic!

An Oil – Olive, Sunflower, Hemp, Walnut, Rape

Salt, Pepper and possibly a little Lemon Juice

Crush all together in a Pestle & Mortar or like me take the easy option of blitzing with a stick blender or food processor. And there you have it a bowl of your very own pick and mix pesto!

And pesto isn’t just for pasta! It’s perfect smothered on a pizza base in place of a tomato sauce – I have my Rocket Pesto Pizza coming very shortly for that. It’s great on puff pastry as a tart base (A Couple of Tomato Tarts), perfect paired with salad or Goats Cheese or both in a sandwich, spread on toast or muffins with creme cheese (and avocado if you want to be really extravagant!) and glorious on a jacket potato.

As luck would have it Homemade Pesto is the theme of this month’s Pasta Please, a monthly challenge held by Jacqueline of the super veggie blog Tinned Tomatoes, and this month hosted by Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes. So naturally I shall be entering this very pesto-ey blog! I’m also entering it to Lavender and Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday challenge, this month hosted by London Busybody.herbsonsaturday

pasta please

IMG_4283 - Version 2

Stilton, Walnut & Parsley Pesto Spaghetti topped with Roast Garlic & Thyme Mushrooms

Great for: Bigger Kids, Grown Ups, Family Dinners, Dinner Parties, Mid-Week Suppers, Vegetarians

Serves 4:

For the Mushrooms:
300g of Mushrooms, Wild Mushrooms would be amazing but Chestnuts or even ordinary Buttons will happily do
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
4 Garlic cloves, skin removed and each clove cut into 3 chunks
a few sprigs of fresh Thyme, leaves removed
Salt and Pepper

For the Pesto:
60g of Walnuts
60g of Stilton, crumbled
40g of Parsley leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
a clove of Garlic, finely chopped
75ml of Walnut Oil or Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

For the Pasta:
400g of Spaghetti, Linguine or Tagliatelle

Pre-heat your oven to 200 c.

Tear or cut the mushrooms into bite sized pieces. I leave button sized whole and Chestnuts I half or quarter if particularly big. Place on an oven tray along with the garlic pieces and drizzle over the olive oil. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Using your hands give everything a good mix ensuring the mushrooms are evenly coated.

Place the mushrooms in the oven for 20 minutes, and stir and turn about half way through.

Whilst the mushrooms are roasting cook your pasta to packet instructions and prep your pesto. Start with toasting the walnuts. Heat a frying pan on a medium heat until hot, throw in the walnuts and lightly toast for a few minutes, turning and shaking very frequently – you only want a light colouring and toasting to boost flavour and no burnt black bits.

Now place all the pesto ingredients (including the toasted walnuts) bar the seasoning in a food processor and pulse a few times. If you don’t have a processor use a deep sided bowl and a stick blender or a pestle and mortar. I prefer a fairly coarse texture so you can really taste and identify the walnuts. Once you have your desired texture, taste and season with plenty of black pepper and a little salt to suit.

Once the pasta’s cooked drain and run the pesto through it, I use a pair of tongues to do this. Place the pasta evenly on four plates or bowls and serve with a pile of the roasted mushrooms on the top. Enjoy!

You may also like:

Butternut Squash Risotto with Butternut Skin Crisps

Butternut Squash Risotto with Butternut Skin Crisps

Pumpkin Carbonara

Pumpkin Carbonara


A Guest Post by The Healthy Epicurean – Almond Chocolate Cake

Almond Chocolate Cake

Hello! I’m Fiona, The Healthy Epicurean. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me today writing as a Guest Blogger, because Louisa and I are doing a ‘cake swap’. I hope that my cake lives up to the deliciously high standards you’ve come to expect from Chez Foti. I blog from our traditional Landaise farmhouse in the middle of the forest in Southwestern France, surrounded by numerous mad animals. I aspire to a wonderful vegetable garden like Louisa, but for the moment haven’t got further than tomatoes. I talk about it quite a lot though 😉 The recipes on my blog are healthy, in that they use ‘real’ and nutritious ingredients such as butter, unrefined flours and cane sugar. I try too to use seasonal fruit and vegetables as much as possible. I tend to rant on a fairly regular basis about endocrine-wrecking ‘plastic’ ingredients like margarine, highly-refined or ready-made food and sweetners, etc.

I can’t eat wheat so this cake is wheat and gluten-free, as are all of my recipes. The fact that it uses powdered almonds instead of flour means that, for a chocolate cake, its glycemic index is low and it contains valuable nutrients – almonds are packed full of protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. It also has a fairly low sugar content. What’s not to like?

Ingredients

5 eggs

130g cane sugar

140g powdered almonds

60g butter

60g coconut oil

125g dark chocolate (preferably 90% coco)

pinch of bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Melt the chocolate with the butter and coconut oil. Once melted, add to the sugar, egg yolks, almonds, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and pour into a 20cm cake tin. Bake for 45 minutes.

Louisa – Thanking you very kindly Fiona, so can’t wait to try this fabulously healthy choccie cake, ’tis now on my baking to do list!. Please bob over to Fiona’s gorgeous site – The Healthy Epicurean to see my cakey offering of a similarly gluten and wheat-free Clementine & Almond Cake, and to browse through her deliciously tempting and inspired healthy recipes. Not to mention the awesome photos and drawings!


A Couple of Winter Crostini – Lovely (Cannellini) Beans and Green Olive Tapenade

Winter Crostini

Now I’m a big fan of pre-dinner nibbles in the form of Bruschetta or Crostini or whatever you care to name them, but for some odd reason I tend to favour such appetisers more in the summer months. Eaten as the sun goes down alongside a glass or two of white . They’re usually assembled to use up an glut of tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines or peppers from the garden (my Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta being a bit of a favourite). Which got me thinking, there really must be some excellent store cupboard toppings that would be equally as fabulous in the depths of winter with a glass of red.

The Lovely (Cannellini) Beans topping I’ve made many a time before, but not for many years now. It’s simply a heady mix of Garlic, Fresh Chili, Fresh Rosemary and lots of good Olive Oil roughly mashed into canned or soaked and pre-cooked warm Cannellini Beans. Quick and easy, but very substantial in the flavour department!. A posh beans on toast. The Green Olive Tapenade is a newbie on me – I put it together to clear out the three half eaten tins of green olives that were lurking in my fridge – and part followed a multitude of internet recipes. And with pretty tasty and zingy results. An extremely flavourful mix of Green Olives, Olive Oil, Capers, Anchovies, Fresh Chili, Lemon Zest and Juice, Garlic and Fresh Parsley.

Both are great just on toast or pitta bread, ‘poshed up’ on Crostini or Bruschetta or served as a dip with raw veggies and breadsticks. The Tapenade is also sublime stirred through hot pasta or as a topping for tarts (see A Couple of Tomato Tarts) or pizza and even slathered onto bread for a sandwich. And probably lots more amazingly tasty treats that I haven’t thought of!.

herbsonsaturdaySince herbs feature fairly highly in both these toppings I’m entering my blog to Karen of Lavender and Lovage‘s Herbs on Saturday bloggie challenge. And also to Javelin Warriors Made with Love Mondays as both my Crostini toppings are made with lots of homemade love!

Made with Love Mondays

Lovely Cannellini Beans

Lovely (Cannellini) Beans!

Great For: Pre-dinner nibbles or appetisers, bigger kids (though my toddler Jacques adores these beans on toast!), grown-ups, parties, starters, vegetarians

2 tablespoons of good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (plus a little more for drizzling)

½ to 1 Red Chili, finely sliced (use less or none at all if you’re heat adverse)

2 cloves of Garlic, finely sliced

a 400g tin of Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed OR the equivalent in soaked and home-cooked beans (I tend to cook up large batches and use them in various recipes)

2 teaspoons of chopped fresh Rosemary leaves

1 – 2 teaspoons of Red Wine Vinegar

Salt & Pepper

Heat the oil in a saucepan on a low heat. Add the garlic and chili and fry for a few moments. Once you get a garlic aroma (but before it browns) quickly stir in your beans and rosemary together with a teaspoon of the red wine vinegar and very generous pinches each of coarsely ground black pepper and salt.

Keep the pan on the heat and allow the beans to warm through and the flavours to infuse. Once hot, remove from the hob and mash the beans a potato masher. I like a fairly rustic texture so don’t go too wild on the mashing, a few whole beans here and there are perfect.

Have a taste, adding more salt, pepper and red wine vinegar to suit. I don’t normally advise this but you may need to add a fair whack of salt to do the beans justice.

Serve warm on Crostini or Bruschetta with a naughty additional drizzle of olive oil. With a glass of red. Obviously.

Green Olive Tapenade

Green Olive Tapenade

Great For: Pre-dinner nibbles or appetisers, bigger kids, grown-ups, parties, starters, vegetarians (if they eat anchovies that is)

200g of pitted Green Olives

a heaped dessertspoon of Capers, rinsed

3 Anchovy Fillets (canned in oil)

½ a Red Chili, sliced

a heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh Parsley

a clove of Garlic, finely sliced

Zest of ½ a Lemon plus a couple of generous squeezes of Juice

a generously large pinch of freshly ground Black Pepper

50 ml of Olive Oil

No cooking required here. Simply throw all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until you have your desired texture. Again, I quite like a fairly rustic texture here so don’t go too crazy on the blitzing. Or you could whiz with a stick blender in a deep sided dish. Taste and add more lemon and pepper if you wish; it’s unlikely you’ll need any salt.

Crostini

For the Crostini

These really are a cinch to make and well worth the effort if you have friends over for a nibble, especially as they can handily be made a few hours in advance.

a Baguette, or part of a Baguette, preferably stale

Olive Oil

a clove or two of Garlic, peeled and halved, optional

Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Simply slice a baguette, stale if possible, into thinnish rounds of ½ to ¾cm thickness. Slice across the baguette for smaller and more delicate crostini or diagonally for a more generous two to three bite-fulls – my personal preference! Cut as many slices as you think you may need, plus a few more just in case.

Brush both sides of the slices with olive oil, rubbing one side with the cut side of half a garlic clove. I sometimes rub garlic in, sometimes I don’t, depending on how much the toppings already have in (and mine invariably have quite a bit in!). Place on a baking tray.

Place in the hot oven for 5 to 10 minutes, turning half way through. They should be golden and crispy when done. How long they take will depend on their thickness and how stale the bread was to start with – stale obviously being quicker to ‘crisp’ up.

Set aside to cool. They can be made a few hours in advance. Top with either of the above toppings, or anything else you so care to eat!.

You might also like: 

Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta

Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta

The Best Herby Garlic Bread Ever!

The Best Herby Garlic Bread Ever!


A guest post by Anneli from Delicieux – Slow Cooked Blue Cheese Pulled Pork with a Cider and Apple Sauce

Pork with Roquefort

Comfort Food Makes You Feel Good!

After the fun we had on our last blog challenge (Traditional French Christmas), Louisa and I decided to embark upon round two! We settled on the theme of ‘Comfort Food’ this time as it seemed fitting for this time of year and the kind of food we have been wanting to eat.

Comfort food is a great phrase. It can mean many things to many people. Ultimately, for me it represents food that makes me feel snuggly and happy. Food I like to eat in front of the TV whilst cosy on my sofa. It’s not fancy or frilly, it’s hearty and honest and leaves you feeling satisfied and content.

I have been cooking a lot in my Slow Cooker this year, lots of delicious stews and curries. Meat cooked in the slow cooker becomes incredibly soft and tender which I find very comforting. I also appreciate that it does not take much effort, I love having popped dinner on in the morning and just forgetting about it until the evening. Fantastic food, fuss free, that makes me very happy indeed!

The dish I have decided to share with you was one that I made on a Sunday (officially the best day for comfort food!) whilst I was actually not feeling particularly well. I was wearing my comfy trousers and had spent a fair chunk of the day curled up on the sofa under a blanket snuggling with my kids. The fire was roaring whilst outside the wind was blowing and it had been raining all day. I just about managed to throw a few things into the slow cooker that morning so I had a minimal amount of work to do to get dinner onto a plate. Oh yes, this was a day when comfort food was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Slow Cooked Blue Cheese Pulled Pork with Cider & Apple Sauce served with soft buttery mash and garlicky courgettes was my finished dish and my oh my, it was a heavenly combination. I think mashed potatoes might actually be compulsory with all comfort food, not much can beat them when served with a lovely hot sauce or gravy.

For this dish, pork shoulder is cooked in the slow cooker covered with cider on a bed of apple and onion for 8 hours, or even longer if you like. This creates such tender pork that you can take a fork to it and just pull it apart into juicy strands, super succulent and delicious. The sauce is simplicity itself, the apple and onions are just blitzed into the cider with a hand held blender and then boiled to reduce a little. Meanwhile, some roquefort cheese is crumbled over the pork and melted under the grill before serving with that wonderful mashed potato and lashings of hot cidery sauce. This takes comfort food to a whole new level of contentedness!

So if you are feeling under the weather or out of sorts, then I have the remedy for you. Just follow these instructions and you will be on the road to recovery in no time…

Slow Cooked Blue Cheese Pulled Pork with Cider & Apple Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 small shoulder of pork around 1kg
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 500-600ml of cider
  • 150g Roquefort cheese
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tbsp creme fraiche

Method:

  • Place your chopped onion and apple in the bottom of your slow cooker. Cut any string off from your pork shoulder and lay it on top of the onion and apple.Pork Shoulder in slow cooker
  • Pour over enough cider to go half way up your pork shoulder. Don’t be mean, the more cider, the more moist!
  • Put your slow cooker on to high and cook for 8 hours or low and cook for 12 hours.
  • Once cooked, remove the pork and take two forks and ‘pull’ the pork apart, tearing it into shreds. Place on a baking tray and crumble your Roquefort all over liberally. Put under the grill for 5 minutes or until all your cheese has melted over the pork

Pork with Roquefort

  • Whilst your pork is under the grill, pour the remaining cider, apple and onion into another saucepan and using a handheld blender, blitz until smooth. Then spoon a little of the sauce in to a small bowl and add your corn flour and mix to combine.
  • Meanwhile, bring the sauce to a simmer then stir in the cornflour mixture to help thicken. Let the sauce bubble away and reduce until you are happy with the consistency. You may find you have a lot of sauce…just freeze what you do not use for the next time you have pork. Just before serving, stir in a tablespoon of creme fraiche
  • Cider sauce
  • Finally serve the pork with some creamy mash and vegetables and pour the cider sauce all over the pulled pork and bubbling blue cheese
  • Finished Dish - Slow Cooked Blue Cheese Pulled Pork with Cider & Apple Sauce

And you will surely be comforted!

If you enjoyed this post then be sure to hop over to check out Louisa’s take on comfort food on www.delicieux.eu

Thanks for having me over again Louisa. Always a pleasure and I look forward to ‘Round Three’!

Louisa: I’m entering this gorgeous guest blog to a couple of challenges for Anneli. Firstly, being a slow cooker wonder recipe, to Credit Crunch Munch, an event co-hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and this month by Camilla from Fab Food 4 All. And secondly, being a made from scratch lovliness, to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays.

Credit-Crunch-Munch

Made with Love Mondays


Rosemary and Cannellini Bean Risotto…and a tale of Bugs in the Borlotti

Rosemary and Cannellini Bean Risotto

I’m a huge risotto fan and make them pretty often, but I have to say this is a particularly blindingly good one. Luxurious, decadent, dreamy, sumptuous, comforting, warming. And all without too many calories, much effort and minimal expenditure. And it’s here that I should really point out it wasn’t entirely my own recipe, but more on that later!. If you like your beans, rosemary and risotto then I urge you to make this, I’m confident you won’t be disappointed. The creaminess of the beans works wonderfully in a risotto, adding a luxurious depth of texture and flavour to an otherwise frugal dish. And whilst I’m on the subject of risotto I’d love to hear what your favourites are?

Now there’s a little story as to how I came to back this heavenly supper….so stay with me here, this blog’s a bit of a longie today! I’ve recently been perusing a new to me book, The Best-Ever Easy-to-Use Herb Cookbook by Joanna Farrow, a gift from the lovely Karen of Lavender and Lovage, for winning November’s Herbs on Saturday Challenge (for my Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza blog).

Herb Cookbook

It’s a lovely book, full of really interesting and innovative herby recipes from soups and salads, baking and mains through to desserts and sweets with absolutely gorgeous photography throughout. Being a bit of a risotto fiend I was immediately struck by a recipe for Rosemary Risotto with Borlotti Beans, having never used beans in a risotto before and happening to have a huge tub of homegrown borlotti begging to be used.

Now the observant amongst you may be confused at my recipe for Cannellini Beans when I’m writing about Borlotti. On inspection of the borlotti, in readiness to soak and boil, I sadly discovered my tub to be jumping with nasty little mite type bugs. I even tried to wash and soak a few but the bugs had penetrated the skins and the bugs and borlotti had to be binned. And fed instead to my chickens. But not without cooking in a tasty little stew first. My chickens must be the fussiest chickens to strut the earth, they don’t do raw veggie or fruit peeling but will eagerly peck away at anything cooked. So every now and again I treat them to a pot of slow cooked peelings and chopped old veggies, cooked for free on the top of my woodburner, and this time it included the buggy borlotti. And they loved them! Though I wonder if their coop was unusually stinky that night? Does anyone else cook for their chickens, or is it only crazy little me?!

My Bugged Borlotti & Veggie Stew - a winter warmer for the chickens!

My Bugged Borlotti & Veggie Stew – a winter warmer for the chickens!

A few of my ladies tucking into their tasty warm stew

A few of my ladies tucking into their tasty warm stew

As well as switching the beans, I also strayed a little from the original recipe by using shallots instead of an onion since we still have a surplus of homegrowns to use and besides I virtually always use shallot in a risotto. I added a few sticks of my celery too as it’s still growing here, I say a few as my plants are smaller than shop boughts. I also substituted mascarpone for half fat creme fraiche as let’s just say I’m cutting back on the calories a little this month. I don’t do the ‘D’ word. Last, but possibly most importantly, I oomphed up the quantity of rosemary. By about four times! The original recipe, for four people, called for a teaspoon of rosemary. I halved the quantity to serve to two people and added a dessertspoon, which in my opinion was bang on the flavour.

I’m entering my blog to quite a number of challenges, so bare with me here! Firstly, of course, to Karen’s Lavender and Lovage Herbs on Saturday challenge, as without my previous win this recipe would never have entered my realm of culinary possibilities!

herbsonsaturday

Secondly to Bookmarked Recipes, an event held by Jacqueline over at Tinned Tomatoes and one I somehow as yet have never entered, so here’s my first ever entry!

bookmarked recipes new logo

Thirdly to Credit Crunch Munch, as I hope you’ll agree with is a pretty frugal munch, an event jointly hosted by Camilla of Fab Food 4 All and Helen of Fuss Free Flavours.

Credit-Crunch-Munch

Fourthly (yes really!) to another new challenge I’ve just come across, Flavours of Italy, a European food event held by Simply Food, and this month hosted by Divya’s Culinary Journey,
and with the handy theme of Italy, home obviously of the wonderful dish that is Risotto.

Flavours of Italy logo (2)

And finally to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays as it so happens to be a Monday (not that I think that matters?!) and my risotto’s made from scratch.

Made with Love Mondays

 Phew, are you still with me? Now on with the recipe:

Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto

Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto

Great for family or grown up dinners, dinner parties (it’s that good!), vegetarians, mid-week or weekend suppers

Serves 2

a tablespoon of Olive Oil

2 Shallots, finely diced

a stick of Celery, finely diced

a large clove of Garlic, finely chopped or crushed

140g of Risotto Rice

90ml of White Wine

450 to 500ml of hot Veggie Stock (I used my favourite Marigold)

2/3rds of a 400g tin of Cannellini or Borlotti Beans (drained and rinsed) or 85g of soaked and cooked beans (though I wouldn’t advise cooking this few beans on their own, I soaked and cooked a huge batch for several recipes – look out for them in subsequent blogs!)

2 tablespoons of half fat Creme Fraiche (or full fat or Mascarpone if you’re feeling more indulgent)

a dessert spoon of chopped fresh Rosemary

35g of Parmesan or Grana Padano Cheese

Salt and Pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan on a gentle heat. Fry the onion, celery and garlic for 5 minutes until very soft, stirring regularly.

Stir in the rice ensuring the grains get a good coating of the oil. Pour in the wine and stir. Allow to simmer away on a gentle heat. Once most of the wine’s evaporated pour in a ladleful of the hot stock. Continue to stir at intervals adding further ladlefuls of hot stock every time the last one’s nearly all absorbed.

Meanwhile prep the beans. Blitz about two-thirds of the beans in a food processor or with a stick blender. Set the remainder aside.

Once the risotto rice is about three-quarters cooked, stir in the blitzed beans. Continue to cook the risotto, adding more stock as and when required.

When the rice is tender, but still has a tiny bit of ‘bite’, stir in the remaining whole beans, creme fraiche, Parmesan, rosemary and a generous pinch of black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper to suit. Cover the pan and leave the risotto to rest for 5 minutes so that the risotto absorbs the flavours fully and the rice finishes cooking.

Serve, with extra Parmesan if you wish. And a glass of crisp white wine.

Here’s some of my other Risotto Recipes you might like to try:

Butternut squash risotto

Roast Butternut Risotto with Butternut Crisps

Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

Spinach, Courgette and Pesto Risotto


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