Category Archives: Grown Up Dinners

Halloumi and Roasted Veggie Kebabs

Halloumi Kebabs

We’re truly in the throws of one hot summer here. And for once the UK seems to be matching the glorious South of France climate too, hooray …. but please may it last through to August when I shall be descending on the homeland to, fingers crossed, bask in the delights of an English summer for the first time in many years!. Unlikely, but one can live in hope.

I’d like to say the fabulous weather has brought on a spate of barbecues at Chez Foti but to be honest there simply hasn’t been the time with everything else that’s going on. But we did manage a lovely one last Saturday with an assortment of Kebabs, Satay Sticks and Salads. Very much enjoyed by all and both kids happily munched away.

I LOVE Halloumi on a barbie and it makes for a fab veggie kebab. And as I recently discovered my kids like it too it’s sure to become a bit of a regular round here, though they’ll have a fight on their hands for it with me! Since Halloumi doesn’t take long to ‘cook’, more like brown, I suggest you either bbq it with quick-to-cook veggies like cherry tomatoes, finely sliced courgette ribbons and mushrooms OR like me with a pre-roasted selection of slightly longer-to-cook veggies, namely red peppers, aubergine and thickly cut courgette. Obviously the roasted veggies can be prepped in advance, so all you need to do pre-barbie is thread them with the Halloumi on to skewers.

fsf-summerCooking-with-HerbsSeeing as I’m hosting this month’s Four Seasons Food with a Barbecue and Barbecue Side theme I shall of course be entering this post! Also to Karen’s Cooking with Herbs Challenge.

Roasted Veggie & Halloumi Kebabs

Halloumi & Roasted Veggie Kebabs

Great for Toddlers & Pre-schoolers, Bigger Kids, Grown Ups, Family Dinners, Barbecues, Barbecues Sides, Outdoor Eating, Vegetarians

Notes: Feel free to vary your choice of veggies as to what you have in, or your kids will eat

Makes 6 – 8 Kebabs Sticks

1 small courgette

½ aubergine

1 red pepper

1 white or red onion, large

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt & pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon oregano leaves, roughly chopped

1 pack Halloumi cheese, 225g or 250g

Pre-soaked bamboo kebab sticks or metal skewers

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC.

2. Slice the courgette into 6/7mm slices and cut the pepper and aubergine into similar sized chunks. Cut the onion in half, then each half into quarters. Half each of the quarters and separate the layers to roughly match the thickness of the veggies.

3. Place all the veggies in a roasting tray. Stir in a tablespoon of the olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and black pepper (go easy on the salt for littlies). Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes.

4. Mix the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon and oregano in a bowl big enough to easily house all the veggies.

5. After 20 minutes remove the veggies from the oven and place in the bowl with the marinade. Ensure they have an even coating and leave to marinate until you’re almost ready to barbecue.

6. Cut your Halloumi into similar sized chunks to the veggies.

7. When you’re ready to barbecue thread the veggies and Halloumi onto your pre-soaked bamboo sticks or metal skewers, alternating between each component.

8. Cook the kebabs on a hot barbecue (or under a hot grill) for 4 to 5 minutes turning frequently. The cheese should be golden.

One very excited wee boy about the prospect of a barbie!

Jacques for once without a silly face. But very excited about the prospect of his forthcoming barbie fodder!

Roasted Veggie & Halloumi Kebabs

Never much time to snap a photo before little hands start grabbing!

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Griddled Courgette & Cherry Tomato Garden Pasta

Griddled Courgette & Cherry Tomato Garden Pasta

One Pot Ratatouille

One Pot Ratatouille

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Roasted Tomato and Feta Risotto

Roasted Tomato Risotto

This was actually a fabulously tasty dinner borne out a random fridge emptying operation!. You know those times when there doesn’t appear to be anything too interesting and you rustle up what there is anyway, and hope for the best. And actually it was really rather good and has since been made a couple of times, and not just when I’m in fridge clearing mode! What’s more the kids ate it, Jacques in the main because it contained an ample amount of his beloved olives (especially taking into account his sister’s discarded ones), and Francesca who claims to not like tomatoes happily ate these sweet roasted ones. Result. And us big people loved it too, so a perfect family dinner all in all.

Jacques eating Roasted Tomato Risotto

One happy Jacques with his olivey risotto!

To be fair I probably wouldn’t be feeding this risotto to an Italian or Risotto Aficionado. I mean feta in a risotto?. It’s all a bit wrong really. But hey this Greek/Italian fusion worked for my lot and interestingly, while I was stirring away, as you do with a risotto, I couldn’t help but think it all looked a bit like a hot greek salad. And besides, since it has no cow’s dairy but sheep’s milk Feta it’s something I can happily give to Jacques who appears to be dairy intolerant.  It’s certainly one of my healthier risottos and a fab way of getting lots of the good stuff into little (and big) tums!

Even Francesca enjoyed it, tommies and all!

Even Francesca enjoyed it, tommies and all!

Simply oven roasted cherry tomatoes (with fresh thyme if you have any), roasting while you make the risotto. Then stirred into a super-healthy risotto of  red pepper, courgette, olives (black or green) and blasphemous Feta cheese. De. Lish. Ous.

Since there’s fresh thyme involved I’m entering this post

Cooking-with-Herbsto Karen of Lavender & Lovage Cooking with Herbs challenge. Also as it was a genuine fridge-clearing concoction to Credit Crunch Munch, hosted by Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours and this month by Sian at Fishfingers for Tea. To to Javelin Warriors Made with Love Monday’s event, as this is a made from scratch meal. And finally as tommies are now in season to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season challenge. Phew that’s quite a few entries!Simple and in Season

Made with Love Mondays

Credit-Crunch-Munch

Roasted Tomato & Feta Risotto

Roasted Tomato & Feta Risotto

Great for: Toddlers & Pre-schoolers, Bigger Kids, Grown Ups, Family Dinners, Mid-Week Suppers, Risotto Fans, Vegetarians. Not for Risotto Aficionados

Serves: A Family of 4

Total Cook Time: 45 minutes

450g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt & pepper

a few sprigs fresh thyme. leaves removed

small onion, finely diced

1 small red pepper, cut into fine strips

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

220g arborio risotto rice

large glass white wine

700ml hot vegetable stock, I use Marigold

1 small courgette, diced

60g green or black pitted olives, halved, optional

120g Feta cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC

2. Place the halved cherry tomatoes cut side up on a large roasted tin. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt, black pepper and the thyme leaves. Finally drizzle over 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place in the hot oven for 25 minutes.

3. Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, prep the risotto. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan on a gentle heat. Sweat the onion and red pepper strips for 10 minutes with the lid on, stirring every now and again and adding a splash of water if the veggies look a little dry and are sticking.

4. Stir in the garlic and allow to cook for a moment or two before stirring in the risotto rice, ensuring the grains get a good coating of the oil. Poor in the wine and stir.

5. Allow to simmer (uncovered) on a gentle heat until most of the wine has evaporated/absorbed then stir in a ladleful of the hot stock together with the diced courgette and olives (if using). Continue to stir at regular intervals adding further ladlefuls of stock every time the last one’s almost absorbed.

6. When the rice is tender stir in the roasted tomatoes, together with any juices from the tray, and the crumbled feta. Place the lid back on the pan and allow the flavours to rest and mingle for a couple of minutes.

7. Taste and season to suit. No added salt for littlies. Serve as is or with a sprinkling of grated fresh Parmesan.

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Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

Roasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto


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.

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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


Smoked Salmon and Courgette Carbonara

Smoked Salmon & Courgette CarbonaraAs regular readers may know we’re rather partial to a carbonara in our house. In the main because we always have a steady supply of eggs, albeit a dwindling one these days as our ladies are getting quite frankly a bit old. The kids love it and it so happens to be one of the quickiest and tastiest dinners EVER. In essence Carbonara Rocks. And I do love a pasta dish that can be prepared in the time it takes the pasta to cook. We very rarely have the standard bacon and egg version, as ever feeling the compulsion to ‘veg’ things up somewhat. A popular permutation is my Sausage & Courgette Carbonara and in the Autumn a Roasted Pumpkin Carbonara, but for you today I have a pescatarian and seasonal Smoked Salmon & Courgette Carbonara.

swallow-recipes-for-lifeWith Jacques’ adoration of all things smoked salmon and Francesca’s recent approval of it we’ve been eating this quite a bit lately. So when June’s Recipes for Life ingredients were announced to be Salmon, Pasta and Courgette I was delighted to be able to blog another Foti family favourite. To recap on my previous Recipes for Life posts, this is a challenge run by Vanesther of Bangers & Mash on behalf of the Somerset based charity SWALLOW. Each month three ingredients are picked and bloggers are invited to concoct wholesome, easy and tasty dishes that use them.

Simple and in SeasonAs courgettes are now gloriously in season I shall also be entering my recipe to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season event. And since this is actually a pretty frugal dinner using smoked salmon trimmings to Credit Crunch Munch, co-hosted by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and Camila of Fab Food 4 All. And this month Anneli over at Delicieux is taking up the hosting.Credit-Crunch-Munch

Smoked Salmon & Courgette Carbonara

Smoked Salmon & Courgette Carbonara

Great for: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Bigger Kids, Growns Ups, Family Dinners, Grown Up Dinners, Quickie Mid-Week Suppers, Carbonara Addicts, Smoked Salmon Fiends (like Jacques – smoked salmon is his new best thing)

Serves: A Family of 4

200g of dried pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 smallish courgettes, sliced lengthways then diced across into 2/3 mm slices

130g smoked salmon trimmings

3 free range eggs, medium

2 tablespoons finely grated Grana Padana or Parmesan cheese

black pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Cook the pasta to packet instructions

2. While the pasta’s cooking heat the oil in a (lidded) saucepan and cook the garlic for a minute. Throw in the diced courgette and give everything a good stir. Place the lid on and allow the courgette to sweat for the time it takes your pasta to cook. Stir every now and again and add a splash of water if they’re looking a little dry.

3. While the courgettes and pasta are cooking, lightly whisk together the eggs, then stir in the cheese and a generous pinch of black pepper. Set aside.

4. Once your pasta’s cooked and drained and the courgettes are soft combine them both together and stir through the egg and cheese mix, together with the lemon juice. But don’t put the pan back on the heat or your eggs will scramble!. What you want is lovely glossy eggy coating.

5. Taste and season with more black pepper and/or lemon juice.

Smoked Salmon & Courgette Carbonara Recipe

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Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone

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Garden Pasta with griddled courgettes, cherry tomatoes & feta


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


Chicken, Asparagus and New Potato Traybake

Chicken Traybake

Why oh why it’s taken me so long to discover the wonderous simplicity of savory traybakes is a mystery?. An impressively tasty meal with minimum prep, mess or fuss that the whole family can enjoy. And great to place on the dinner table for everyone to hungrily dig in to and help themselves, which is always fun and sociable. They’re definitely the way forward to perfect family fodder in my book. Since my ‘discovery’ I have to confess to their over-zealous appearance on the Chez Foti table, but when the kids are eagerly tucking in, as without fail they do to a traybake, how can I not?!.

Jacques ChickenAnd this particular one’s most definitely my Traybake du Jour, with asparagus suddenly appearing at more reasonable end of season prices. Simply chicken pieces, new potatoes and asparagus all roasted together in a yumminess of lemon, garlic, fresh thyme and green olives. Since Jacques has recently acquired a taste for olives (bordering screaming obsession!) I seem to be adding them to everything these days; luckily his olive adverse big sister’s quite happy to pick them out and pass them over his way. And if you’ve never tried asparagus roasted with such heady flavours believe me you’re missing out. Divine. And always a bit of fight as to who gets the last spear….

Admittedly this is hardly a recipe, rather a throwing together of a few select ingredients. Traybakes are obviously open to a good deal of seasonal variation…and a handy way of clearing out your fridge! Carrots, parsnips, squash, peppers, courgettes, sweet potato and onions all roast handsomely and you could also vary your meat to pork or sausages (or leave out altogether), and of course opt for ‘old’ tatters when the newbies aren’t around. And as for the herbs, throw in whatever you have! Orange segments are also a tasty variation to the lemon, particularly with chicken, red pepper and black olives.

Made with Love MondaysNow for the challenges, as there’s plenty of thyme involved to Cooking-with-HerbsLavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday event. To Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays as it’s a made from scratch meal. And finally to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season as asparagus is unquestionably still in season!. Simple and in Season

Chicken, Asparagus & New Potato Traybake

Chicken, Asparagus & New Potato Traybake

Great for: Toddlers & Pre-Schoolers, Big Kids, Grown Ups, Family Dinners, Week-end Slowies, Mid-week Suppers

Serve with: plenty of steamed veggies

Serves: a family of four, just throw in as much as you think you’ll all eat (I always add a few extra potatoes for tasty leftovers):

600g new potatoes, scrubbed but skin left on

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 – 6 chicken pieces, I usually opt for thighs or legs, free range

1 dessertspoon fresh thyme leaves

4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole

1 lemon, one half juiced the other half cut into 6 segments

salt and pepper (no salt for toddlers)

1 bunch of asparagus, washed

a handful or two of green olives, optional (feel free to omit if you’re not olive lovers)

Special Equipment: a large hob-proof roasting tin

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas 6.

2. Cut any of the larger potatoes in 2 or 3 and leave smaller ones whole. Par-cook them for 8 minutes in boiling water. Drain and set aside.

3. While the potatoes are boiling heat the oil in a large hob-proof roasting tin. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides and take off the heat.

4. Once the chicken’s browned throw the potatoes into the tin along with the thyme, garlic cloves, juice of half a lemon, and a pinch of salt and pepper (no salt if you’re making for toddlers). Give everything a good stir around and place in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes.

5. Prepare the asparagus by bending each spear and snapping off the woody ends, discard the ends.

5. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and throw in the asparagus spears, lemon segments and the olives if using. Give everything a good stir and place back in the oven for a further 20 to 25 minutes. Take out of the oven and stir everything around a little a couple of times during this period.

6. It’s ready when the chicken and potatoes are fully cooked through and golden.

7. Place on the dinner table and let everyone help themselves. Perfect family fun fodder!

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Boeuf en Daube


An Asparagus and Gruyère Tart

IMG_4804

While the weather here is grim, and I mean really GRIM, this tart is as close to a ray of sunshine as we’ll be getting for a good bit longer!. I’m talking incessant rain, gales and highs of a heady 10 degrees. And it’s the end of May! Needless to say the fires are still being lit and nightly hot water bottles filled. Quite ridiculous, but that’s enough moaning about the weather…..

One good thing though is the delightful occurrence of asparagus season, the weather may not feel like but the shops are brimming with glorious, magical spears. And round here of both the white and green varieties, though I have to admit to not being the biggest fan of the grown-in-the-dark former. It’s definitely the goodly green stuff that gets me going. And the blogosphere is full of it too, I can barely turn on my computer without there being an image of yet another fabulous asparagus (or rhubarb) recipe! And unlike the weather, I’m so not complaining about that.

Asparagus & Gruyere Tart

So here’s my first Asparagus recipe of the year (yep, there’s more to come!). A simple Asparagus Tart made with an ever so easy homemade shortcrust pastry, a large bunch of lightly steamed asparagus floating in a creme fraiche, Gruyère, Dijon mustard and eggy deliciousness topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Oh it’s good. A little naughty admittedly, but hey what’s the odd tart here and there between friends.

Simple and in SeasonOne-Ingredient-AsparagusNow for the bloggie challenges. Since Asparagus is so in season I’m entering my blog to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season event. And to How to Cook Good Food and Franglais Kitchen‘s One Ingredient Challenge, hosted by Laura this month and so happening to be glorious Asparagus, yeah! And as it’s a totally made-from-scratch tart to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays event.Made with Love Mondays

IMG_4806

Asparagus & Gruyère Tart

Great for toddlers & little people, bigger kids, family dinners, grown ups, parties, lunch or dinners, vegetarians, picnics

Enough for 4 – 6

For the Pastry:

130g of Plain Flour, plus a little extra for rolling

65g of Butter, straight from the fridge, cut into small blocks, plus a little extra for greasing

pinch of Salt & Pepper

an egg yolk and a little cold water

For the Tart Filling:

a 450g bunch of Asparagus, washed

3 free range Eggs

200ml of half fat Creme Fraiche

a heaped teaspoon of Dijon Mustard

100g of Gruyère, grated

Salt & Pepper

a tablespoon of finely grated fresh Parmesan

Special Equipment: a 19 to 25cm width quiche/tart case

Start by making your pastry. Easiest and quickest in a food processor, but can be made by hand too. If using a processor blitz the flour, salt, pepper and butter together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and blitz again. With the machine still on add a little very cold water and continue to add until the mixture starts to come together in one piece. Remove from the processor, shape together, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.

Alternatively, if you’re making by hand place the flour, salt, pepper and butter in a large bowl. Rub the fat into the flour with your finger tips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the egg yolk and a little very cold water with your hands. Continue to add water until the mixture comes together in one piece. Shape together, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

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

Whilst the pastry’s resting make your filling. Snap off the tougher ends of the asparagus and throw away, slice the remaining ends into 1 to 2cm slices, retaining spheres approximately half the width of your tart or quiche case. Steam over boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes until almost tender. Immerse in cold water, drain and set aside.

Lightly beat the eggs then stir in the creme fraiche, Dijon mustard, grated Gruyère, and pinches of salt black pepper. Set aside.

Lightly grease your chosen flan case with butter.

The pastry should now be rested. Roll out on a floured surface into a round slightly bigger than your case. Transfer to the case. Hang any excess of pastry over the sides. Prick the base all over with a fork. Place a piece of greaseproof paper over and fill with baking beans to weight down the pastry. Bake for 20 minutes in the hot oven, remove the beans and bake for a further 5 minutes. While still hot trim the pastry around the top of the tart case to make a neat edge.

Place the small slices of asparagus in the bottom of the tart case. Pile on the creme fraiche filling. Now carefully arrange the asparagus spheres in a pretty ‘sunshine’ design on the top. Sprinkle over the Parmesan.

Slide in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until firm to touch and golden brown on top. Serve warm with a large leafy salad. Maybe some buttered new potatoes too.

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A Summery Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet

A Summery Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet

PSB, Anchovy & Parmesan Tart

PSB, Anchovy & Parmesan Tart


Forager’s Freebie Nettle & Wild Garlic Risotto

Nettle & Wild Garlic Risotto

I have for you today a fabulously light, healthful and frugal Nettle & Wild Garlic Risotto. And anything this green has to be amazing for you surely? And indeed it is. I even kept away from adding any dairy to make as light a risotto as one can, omitting my normal more decedent additions of creme fraiche and Parmesan. But feel free to add if you want something a little less delicately flavoured and more substantial in body.

Incidentally Nettles, in case you didn’t know, have an incredible amount of health giving properties. Not only are these stingers an excellent natural iron source (way higher than popeye spinach, take note ladies!), they’re very high in protein for a plant, fabulously cleansing for hair and skin and are used to treat a huge variety of ailments and iillnesses from arthritis, gout and rheumatism though to various immunity disorders, allergies and infections. And as for the Wild Garlic it’s a potent antibacterial, antibiotic and antiseptic. And wild garlic, more significantly than cultivated garlic, is known to reduce blood pressure, and thus also reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. So I say get yourselves out there and a-gathering!

Foraged freebie goodies of Nettles, Dandelion Leaves and Wild Garlic. Plus Parsley from the garden.

Foraged freebie goodies of Nettles, Dandelion Leaves and Wild Garlic. Plus Parsley from the garden.

Chez Foti Wild Garlic, a little different to the normal UK Ramsons

Chez Foti Wild Garlic, a little different in appearance to the normal UK Ramsons

And I’m not the only one gloving-up to forage these wonder weed stingers. Andrea over at Shabby Chick made a tasty looking ricotta and filo Wild Greens Pie recently which I’m so going to try. Sarah at The Garden Deli cooked up Nettles with Cannellini Beans, the latter being a big favourite of mine but I’ve yet to try her lovely recipe. She also used them as part of a foraged Spring Leaves Pesto, gorgeous! The king of foraging and my foodie hero, Mr HFW, regularly writes about nettles and I know I’ve seen several other recipes recently incorporating them, but have somehow failed to locate them from my diminished memory bank for the purposes of this post. So if you have any nettle recipes I’d love to hear from you!

Lots of Goodly Green Stuff!

Lots of Goodly Green Stuff!

Simple and in SeasonherbsonsaturdaySince Nettles, Wild Garlic and Parsley are all in season right now I’m entering my post to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season event. Also to Lavender and Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday challenge, currently hosted by Anneli over at Delicieux. Credit-Crunch-MunchAnd being about as frugal a risotto as one can make to Fab Food 4 All‘s and Fuss Free Flavour’s Credit Crunch Munch, this month hosted by Janice over at Farmersgirl’s Kitchen. nature's Lunchbox logoAnd last but certainly not least to a new-blog-to-me, Foodie Laura, who so happens to be running the Nature’s Lunchbox Challenge showcasing freebie foraged meals!.

Nettle & Wild Garlic Risotto

Nettle & Wild Garlic Risotto

Great for foragers, tight budgets, health kickers, vegans & vegetarians, bigger kids (who can get over the idea of eating nettles), grown ups, mid-week suppers

Enough for two hungry big people:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 shallots, very finely chopped

4 baby wild garlic bulbs OR a clove of cultivated Garlic, very finely chopped

180g of Arborio Risotto Rice

a glass of White Wine

600ml of hot Vegetable Stock (I invariably use Marigold)

3 large (gloved!) handfuls of Nettle Tops

a bunch of Wild Garlic Leaves

a small bunch of Flat Leaved Parsley

Salt and Pepper

a little very good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based saucepan on a gentle heat. Fry the shallots and wild garlic bulbs/clove of garlic for 5 minutes, 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 on a gentle heat until most of the wine has evaporated/absorbed then stir in a ladleful of the hot stock. Continue to stir at regular intervals adding further ladlefuls of stock every time the last one’s almost absorbed.

Meanwhile prep the greenery!. With gloved hands remove any thick stems from the nettles and thoroughly wash the leaves. Blanch in boiling water for a couple of minutes then drain. Squeeze out the excess of water and finely chop. Wash and finely chop the wild garlic tops and parsley.

When the rice is tender stir in the diced nettles, garlic tops and most of the parsley (leave some for sprinkling on the top). Cook for a moment or two longer and then leave to rest for a couple of minutes before serving. Season with plenty of black pepper and a little salt.

Serve piping hot with a sprinkling of parsley and a handsome glug of good quality olive oil. Believe me you’ll feel instantly healthful! I personally enjoyed the delicate flavour of the nettles, wild garlic and parsley but if you’re in need of a little more sustenance then feel free to stir through a little creme fraiche and top with grated Parmesan.

Nettles

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Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto

Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto

Chochori, A Vegan Swiss Chard & Potato Curry

Chochori, A Vegan Swiss Chard & Potato Curry


Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

It seems like ages since I made fishcakes. In fact I know it is. Why exactly this is I’ve no idea when they’re always a huge hit with J & F, just as much as with us. Particularly with Master J who wolfed two down in breakneck speed. But then it appears, at newly three, he’s suddenly acquired a taste for smoked salmon, together with a near screaming obsession with olives….and Parmesan. The boy certainly appreciates the finer things in life and I have secret hopes he’ll be a fully fledged foodie one day. Maybe even a chef? Now how good would that be.

These fishcakes really are a cinch to make, and a fast cinch at that. And pretty frugal too if you use the considerably cheaper smoked salmon trimmings. They’re simply a matter of combining cold mashed potatoes (you could even use leftovers) with a generous amount of smoked salmon, plenty of parsley, capers, lemon zest, a couple of spring onions and a dollop or two of creamed horseradish. Then there’s the fun moulding into golf balls, dipping in beaten egg and rolling around in breadcrumbs and flattening into a fishcakey shape. So easy. You could even get the kids to make them. With their eyes shut (could be messy!). Then obviously there’s a brief shallow frying which is more grown up territory.

Smoked Salmon Fishcakes with Herby Mayo, Lemon Wedgies and Steamed PSB and Carrots.

Smoked Salmon Fishcakes with Herby Mayo, Lemon Wedgies and Steamed PSB and Carrots.

herbsonsaturdaySince there’s a handsome amount of parsley involved I’m entering my post to Lavender & Lovage’s Credit-Crunch-Munchmonthly Herbs on Saturday event, this month hosted by the lovely Anneli of Delicieux. And as these work out as a particularly frugal, but nevertheless exceptionally tasty, munch to this month’s Credit Crunch Munch challenge!. Jointly held by Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All, and this month hosted by Farmersgirl Kitchen.

Smoked Salmon Fishcake

Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

Great for Toddlers & Young Children (omit the capers if they’re adverse to strong flavours), Bigger Kids, Cooking with Kids, Family Dinners, Mid-Week Suppers, Grown Ups too!

Makes 9 fishcakes (plenty for a family of 4!):

500g of Potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into large chunks

150g of Smoked Salmon trimmings, roughly chopped

2-3 Spring Onions, finely sliced

zest of a Lemon

2 heaped tablespoons of chopped Parsley

a heaped tablespoon of Capers, rinsed

2 teaspoons of Creamed Horseradish

Salt and Pepper

a free range Egg, lightly beaten and seasoned with Salt and Pepper

4 heaped tablespoons of dry Breadcrumbs or Panko or a mix of the two

Sunflower Oil for frying

Boil the potatoes in water until tender. Mash and set aside to cool.

Once cool stir in the smoked salmon, spring onions, lemon zest, parsley, capers, horseradish and a generous amount of black pepper. Taste and season with additional pepper if needed. You may want to add salt but it’s unlikely you’ll need it with the salty capers and smoked salmon.

Place the beaten egg in a bowl and the breadcrumbs or Panko in another.

Form the fishcake mix into nine evenly sized golf balls. Dip each into the egg so it’s coated all over, then the breadcrumbs, flattening to a patty as you do so. Refrigerate until you’re ready to cook them.

Heat a very fine layer of sunflower oil in a frying pan until medium hot. Carefully place however many fishcakes will fit in your pan and allow them to crisp up and golden on each side. This will only take two to three minutes on each side. Add a little more oil to the pan and continue until all the fishcakes are cooked.

Serve hot. With lemon wedges and Herby Mayo on the side, and a salad or streamed veggies. Bliss.

Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

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Roasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Mushroom Risotto

Pearl barley risottos seem all the rage of late and it was really about time I got around to trying my hand at one. I had fully intended on making Anneli’s (of the fabulously inspiring Delicieux blog) Marvelous Mussel Puttanesca Pearl Barley Risotto and even bought the mussels especially in for the very recipe. But somehow after a couple of glasses of vino they got used in making an impromptu Moules Frites supper one night instead. Oops, sorry Anneli, but rest assured I will be trying your delightfully interesting recipe very soon!. Moules-less but still determined to give a pearl barley risotto a crack and happening to have an abundance of mushrooms begging to be used I opted for my favourite Roasted Mushroom Risotto instead, just replacing the rice with barley.

I actually made this for my Mum and Dad as I was with them in the UK at the time, helping out whilst my Mum recuperated from a nasty dose of pneumonia. Luckily she’s now firmly on the mend. Both parents gave the risotto the thumbs up, and there’s even an extra couple of portions waiting to be re-heated in their freezer (along with a whole host of fish pies, stews and soups I made for them whilst I was there!).

IMG_0494

On the whole I was pretty pleased with the barley risotto. An interestingly nutty texture and taste which I actually really liked, but on the down side it didn’t half take a long time to cook! Nigh on an hour, probably at least double the time of the rice version, which seemed a little on the lengthy side. But with a glass in hand (it seemed wrong not to finish the purposefully-opened-for-the-risotto bottle of white) I was quite happy to potter around the kitchen whilst it bubbled away.

You may recall my earlier obsessions with the aforementioned Roasted Mushrooms, namely my Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza or the Stilton, Parsley & Walnut Pesto Spaghetti with Roasted Thyme & Garlic Mushrooms. And I’m still obsessed. Love them. Can’t bring myself to cook a mushroom any other way. And they’re amazing in a risotto, especially paired with a little lemon, Parmesan and plenty of parsley. If you don’t fancy whiling away an hour feel free to substitute with arborio risotto rice instead. Or a top tip I gleamed on Twitter was to soak the barley for an hour beforehand in boiling water.

As Thyme and Parsley are key flavours in my risotto I shall be entering this post to the lovely Karen of Lavender and Lovage‘s Herbs on Saturday challenge. And as there’s Grana Padano to the One Ingredient Challenge which has the theme of Cheese this month, an event co-hosted by Laura of How to Cook Good Food and this month by Nazima of Franglais Kitchen. And finally since pearl barley is considerably cheaper than risotto rice this makes the dish a pretty frugal munch and a deservant recipe to enter to Credit Crunch Munch, a monthly challenge held jointly by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and this month hosted by Camilla of Fab Food 4 All.

herbsonsaturday

One-Ingredient-April-Cheese-300x247

Credit-Crunch-MunchRoasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto

Great for: Bigger Kids, Grown Ups, Family Suppers, Mid-Week or Week-end Slowies, Vegetarians, Wild Mushroom Foragers, Roasted Mushrooms Obsessives

Serves 4:

For the Risotto:

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 medium or 4 small Shallots, finely diced

a clove of Garlic, finely sliced

a stick of Celery, finely diced

280g of Pearl Barley (or Risotto Rice if you prefer)

200ml of White Wine

1.5 litres of weak hot Veggie or Chicken Stock (about a litre if using Risotto Rice)

a heaped tablespoon of Creme Fraiche (half or full fat)

a small bunch of Parsley, or 3 – 4 tablespoons, chopped

80g of Grana Padano, finely grated

a squeeze or two of Lemon Juice, to taste

Salt & Pepper

For the Roasted Mushrooms:

600g of Mushrooms, as interesting/wild as you can find – but Chestnut would be fine

4 cloves of Garlic, skin intact

a few sprigs of Thyme, leaves removed

Salt & Pepper

3 tablespoons of Olive Oil

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

Stir in the barley or 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 on a ladleful or two of hot stock. Continue to stir at regular intervals adding further ladlefuls of hot stock every time the last one is nearly all absorbed.

Meanwhile prep the mushrooms. Pre-heat your oven to 200°C. If you’re using smaller or button mushrooms leave them whole. Tear or chop larger mushrooms into two or four. Place on a baking tray with the garlic, thyme and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and using your hands ensure the mushrooms are evenly coated. Spread out over the tray and place in your pre-heated oven. Bake for 25 minutes, turning once or twice during the cooking time.

When the barley or rice is tender (which could take up to an hour!), stir in half the roasted mushrooms, the creme fraiche, parsley, cheese and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Squeeze out the flesh from the roasted garlic and stir into the rice too. Cover and leave the risotto to stand for a few minutes whilst the flavours mingle. Taste and season with black pepper and more lemon juice to suit. You probably won’t need any additional salt as there’s plenty in the stock and cheese.

Serve topped with the rest of the mushrooms. Enjoy!.

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Butternut Squash Risotto with Butternut Skin Crisps

Butternut Squash Risotto with Butternut Skin Crisps

Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto

Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto


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