Category Archives: Starters

Chicken Satay Sticks

Chicken Satay

Jacques tucking into his ‘chicken lollipops’ with zeal

I’ve been meaning to make satay sticks for the kids for so long now, and it’s taken me to host the Four Seasons Food barbecue event to actually get around to it. And predictably they were a huge hit. With both the littlies and myself, plus some friends I also trialled them out on with an additional chilli kick. It’s funny how food on sticks is always so appealing? And now, predictably also, I’m wondering why oh why it took me so long! Prepped in minutes, left to marinade for a few hours then barbied or grilled in a flash.

PAC_Logo_L-300x300Having travelled extensively in SE Asia in my twenties I must have gobbled my way through an inordinate amount of pork and chicken satay sticks through Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, each with their national and regional twists. Always an exceptionally tasty, cheap and highly addictive street food snack on the hoof.

Pig A Chic @ FBC5

Pig A Chic @ FBC5

I was recently reminded and inspired of the wonders of satay by the highly authentic Pig A Chic who were dishing out Thai satay sticks and papaya salad (plus a range of hot sauces) a plenty to hungry delegates all weekend at Food Blogger Connect. If you get a chance to sample their food then you really MUST, please do check out their site at www.pigachic.com or follow them on Twitter @Pigachic.

Even Little Miss F LOVED them, devouring three!

Even Little Miss F LOVED them, devouring three!

Now on to my own considerably less authentic but nevertheless pretty tasty Satay Sticks. I made them first minus any chilli with the kids in mind and the ‘chicken lollipops’ proved very popular. I think Jacques managed five and Little Miss F three. And served with barbecued Halloumi & Roasted Veggie Kebabs and a Child-Friendly Salad that was an impressive eat. Yes, salad….I’ve FINALLY found a salad they’ll eat, but more on that in a later post. Whilst the chilli-less ones were fragrantly tasty I have to admit to personally preferring my grown-up version with a couple of finely minced hot chillies thrown into the marinade mix.

Naturally I shall be entering my post to this month’s Four Seasons fsf-summerFood, hosted by myself and with the seasonal theme of Barbecues and Barbecue Side DishesAnd if you have your own barbecue dish then please do join in, there’s even a prize this month of the Pitt Cue Co Cookbook.

Chicken Satay Sticks

Chicken Satay Sticks

Great for: Toddlers & Pre-schoolers, Bigger Kids, Grown Ups, Appetisers, Starters, Mains, Barbecues (or Grilling)

Special Equipment: Pre-soaked bamboo skewers or metal skewers

Notes: How about substituting the chicken for pork or tofu?

3 free range chicken breasts

2 heaped tablespoons crunchy peanut butter

2 tablespoons thick coconut milk

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 dessertspoon Thai fish sauce

1 dessertspoon fresh ginger, finely minced

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 heaped teaspoon soft brown sugar

1 – 2 hot chillies, finely minced (optional)

1. Flatten the chicken breasts a little. I usually bash mine with a rolling pin on a chopping board. Pretty therapeutic actually. Cut the flattened chicken into narrow long strips, about six per breast.

2. Combine all the other ingredients in a medium sized bowl to make the marinade.

3. Stir the chicken strips into the marinade. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour or two. Or even over night.

4. Cut in half and soak your bamboo skewers (if using) in water for 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook.

5. Thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers.

6. Heat up your barbecue or grill. When very hot cook the chicken on each side for 5 minutes until a little charred and cooked through. Serve immediately.

Chicken Satay Sticks

My grown-up chillied version served up as part of a Tapas night with the gals. Inclusive of sangria.

You might also like:

Greek Stylie Pork & Veggie Kebabs

Greek Stylie Pork & Veggie Kebabs

Blue Cheese Burgers

Blue Cheese Barbecue Burgers

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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

You might also like: 

Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto

Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto

Chochori, A Vegan Swiss Chard & Potato Curry

Chochori, A Vegan Swiss Chard & Potato Curry


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


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!


The best Garlic Bread, and a Chorizo, Potato and Rosemary Pizza

Garlic Bread

It’s most definitely pizza weather here at Chez Foti. We’ve had seemingly ceaseless rain, gales and miserable cold for way too long now, since New Year’s Day to be exact. And it’s getting kind of depressing now, in a British wintery kind of way. Our garden is one big muddy swamp and the wee pond a lake, just a shame we don’t have any duckies to appreciate it. Bet they’re the only ones happy round here. And the forecast for the next week is still more rain, a little snow, and grey, grey, GREY. AHRRRRRR. Where’s that gorgeous south of France sunshine and glorious blue sky that amazed and cheered me through the last two winters?  OK, enough said, weather rant over (well I AM English!) and on with a couple of recipes to insulate against the outside nasties.

You really can’t get much better winter warming and cheery fodder than a homemade pizza, especially a heftily insulating one with a gutsy topping of Potatoes, Chorizo and Rosemary. Admittedly not one of my healthiest of recipes, but hey ho everything in moderation, and it is rather good. And if you want to omit the Chorizo it’s equally as tasty with just Potatoes and Rosemary. Don’t be put off by the way with the idea of potatoes on a pizza (and try not to think about the carb overload), they really work!

Chorizo, Potato & Rosemary Pizza

Living so close to Spain Chorizo is cheaply abundant in these parts and I cook with it regularly, though much more so in the winter. It’s one of my staple store cupboard ingredients and gets used to liven up many an Omelette or Tortilla, Salad (Chorizo & Manchego Salad), Veggie Side ( just a little is fabulous sauted with Cabbage, Chard or Spinach and even roasted with Pumpkin or Butternut) or Soup (Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons, Caldo Verde). And then there’s obviously Paella and other rice based dishes that it works so well with. But there’s no qualms about it, Chorizo’s not the healthiest choice of ingredients, but a little really does go a long way in the flavour stakes and it can be used remarkably sparingly. Though perhaps, ahem, not so sparingly on this particular pizza!

And I also have my favourite Garlic Pizza Bread, made exactly in the same way as pizza but simply containing a topping of Garlic (lots of), fresh Parsley or Rosemary (lots of) and good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (again LOTS OF). It’s that simple. Whenever we have a pizza night I always start with one  or two of these naughty little herby numbers to get things going. And it’s equally as delish with rosemary or parsley, just go for what you fancy or happen to have in, but be generous!

I shall be entering my herby post to Karen of Lavender & Lovage’s February Herbs on Saturday challenge.

Herbs on Saturday

Garlic Pizza Bread with Parsley or Rosemary

The Best Garlic Bread!

Serves 4 as an appetiser

One quantity of Pizza Dough (I use this Jamie Oliver recipe, using part semolina flour when I can get hold of it)

2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

Salt & Pepper

2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus a little extra for drizzling

a few sprigs of Parsley or Rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped, be generous!

Special Equipment: a Pizza Stone, Pizza Baking Tray or an ordinary Baking Tray

Pre-heat your oven to as hot as it will go. Place your pizza stone or baking tray in the oven to heat up.
Start with making your oh so simple topping. Crush the chopped garlic with a little salt using the flat edge of a large knife. Mix the garlic with the olive oil, a generous amount of black pepper and the parsley or rosemary. Leave to infuse while you prep the pizza base.

Roll out your pizza dough to your desired size and thickness. I like mine very thin, particularly as this is only an appetiser. Place on your hot pizza stone or baking tray.

Evenly spread over the garlic and herby oil and place in your very hot oven for a few minutes until golden and crisp. It should only take about 5 to 8 minutes and watch as it can burn very easily.

Drizzle with a little more olive oil, slice and serve.

 Chorizo, Potato & Rosemary Pizza

Chorizo, Potato  & Rosemary Pizza

Serves 1 to 2 (depending on how much of a pizza monster you happen to be!)

One quantity of Pizza Dough (as per Jamie Oliver recipe if you wish)

2 – 3 tablespoons of Tomato Pizza Sauce (see below) or my slow cooked fresh tommie sauce (which I so happen to have half a freezer of still!) A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces

150g of small Potatoes, washed but with skins on, waxy ones work the best but any will do really!

80g of Chorizo, skin removed and finely sliced

2 or 3 sprigs of Rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped

a 125g ball of Mozzarella, sliced

Salt & Black Pepper

Special Equipment: a Pizza Stone, Pizza Baking Tray or an ordinary Baking Tray

Pre-heat your oven to as hot as it will go. Place your pizza stone or baking tray in the oven to heat up.

Cook the potatoes until almost tender. Once cool enough to handle slice.

Now for the pizza. Roll out your pizza dough to your desired size and thickness. I personally prefer mine very thin. Place on your hot pizza stone or baking tray.

Smoother the base with your tomato sauce, followed by an even scattering of the chorizo, potatoes, rosemary and mozzarella. Finely add a generous grinding of black pepper and a little salt.

Place in your extremely hot oven and cook until crisp, golden and bubbling all over. This could be anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes! Our woodfired bread/pizza oven usually takes less than 5 minutes and the electric oven around 10.

Slice and enjoy. With a salad if you want to feel just a little less indulgent!

Tomato Pizza Sauce

Enough for two large pizzas:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

a clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

a 400g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes (or fresh obviously!)

a generous pinch each of sugar, salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on a gentle heat and fry the garlic for a few moments, ensuring you do not burn the garlic. As soon as it takes on any colour and you can smell it cooking throw in the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and give everything a good stir. Cook gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit. You can either use the sauce as it is or blitz with a stick blender or processor for a smoother texture (I rarely bother!).

You might also like:

Pizza Puttanesca

Pizza Puttanesca

Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza Recipe

Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza


Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tarts

We’re in the midst of fig season here in France and I’m loving it. Without a doubt they’re one of my favourite fruits and as we’re relative newbies here only in our second fig season they still feel rather decedent and exotic. Sadly we’re the only people I know of without a single fig tree in the garden so I have to rely on friends and a couple of our holiday home neighbours’ trees to feed my indulgence. I really must get around to planting our own trees next spring.

Last Saturday we were happily invited to my friend Debbie’s house for a spot of fig picking and horsey riding for Francesca. Five kilos later we came home (not counting the umpteen in our tummies). I’m afraid to say I put most of them in the freezer to make into jam when I’ve a little more time on my hands than this week. The rest were made into several batches of these gorgeous wee Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tartlets and a fabulous Fig & Pear Crumble (which I shall be blogging shortly too).

Master J adores his figs too, though they’re not the choicest of foods for a lad going through potty training. Last Autumn I took my daily walk with Jacques-on-my-back past one particular fig tree which he’d scream at as we got closer, screaming for me to pick him some. Funny at first, but the screaming carried on for the subsequent four months until well into January and there was snow on the ground, and each time with me painstakingly trying to explain the figs were all gone and he’d have to wait until next September. Anyway at least September’s come around again and he’s one very happy wee (and exceptionally regular) chappie. And a happy chappie with a few more words than last year, namely ‘Mummy pick fig NOW!’.

Anyway enough fig talk, on with the tarts, or tartlettes if I want to be really posh. I made several batches of these last year too, and always a success. The sweetness of the figs and balsamic caramalised red onions is cut through with a little sharpness from the goats cheese and the savory notes of thyme and addition of black pepper to the pastry. Perfect for parties and buffets, or as a nibble served with pre-dinner drinks or a starter with a few dressed leaves on the side. Admittedly they’re a tad on the fiddly side but can be made in large batches and handily frozen. And so well worth the effort.

I’m going for my first ever trio of bloggie competitions with this recipe, so keep on in there while I detail them all. Firstly, I was very pleased to see September’s One Ingredient Challenge is the Fig, a wonderful competition held jointly by Laura at How to Cook Good Food and Nazima at Working London Mummy (this month is Laura’s turn).

As thyme is such a crucial ingredient to my tarts I’m also entering Karen at Lavender and Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday Challenge (again I know, but it’s such a lovely competition!)

And last but most certainly not least my tarts are also entering Ren Behan’s Fabulicious Food Simple and in Season Competition, this month hosted by Katie at Feeding Boys and a Firefighter.

Phew, that’s a whole lot of competitions, now on with the recipe!

Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tarts

Makes 24 mini tartlets:

For the Pastry:

200g of plain flour, plus a little extra for rolling

100g of butter, cut into small blocks, straight from the fridge

100g of hard vegetable fat, cut into small blocks, straight from the fridge

a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

a generous pinch of salt

an egg yolk

For the Tarts:

3 tablespoons of olive oil

3 red onions, very finely sliced

2 dessertspoons of balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper

12 to 15 very ripe figs (about 320g)

150g of goats cheese (preferably in a log shape)

a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed

a little more extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Special Equipment: 

2 small x12 tart or fairy cake tins

Start with making your pastry. I use a food processor for speed but you can make it by hand too. If you’re using a processor place all the ingredients (bar the egg yolk) in the bowl and whiz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and continue to whiz. When it starts to come together in a ball it’s ready, add a few drops of very cold water until this happens. Remove from the processor and shape together. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.

If you’re making the pastry by hand place all the ingredients (bar the egg yolk) together in a mixing bowl. Rub the fat into the flour with your hands until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk splash and mix into the flour and fat with your hands, trying to bring it all together. When it comes together in a ball it’s ready. You may also need to add a few drops of water for this to happen. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC (gas mark 5, 375ºF).

Whilst the pastry’s resting make your filling. Heat the oil in a saucepan on a gentle heat. Add the finely sliced onions and cook slowly for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until very soft. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and a pinch each of salt and ground black pepper. Allow to bubble for a minute or two before setting aside to cool.

Meanwhile cut each of the figs into 6 segments, and cut the goats cheese into 24 thin rounds.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface as thinly as you can, to a one to two millimeter thickness. Cut into rounds with a 8cm diameter pastry cutter (or like me an upturned thin wine glass – every time I make tarts I curse myself for not having a correct sized cutter!). Re-work the leftover pastry until you have 24 pastry rounds.

Lay the rounds in the two tart or cake tins and press down lightly. Place a small teaspoon of the red onions at the bottom of each, followed by a slice of the goats cheese, a scattering of thyme leaves. Finally place three fig segments on the top of each, plus a fine grinding of black pepper and the merest drizzle of olive oil.

Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the pastry’s golden brown and crisp.

How about trying my other tart recipes? A couple of Tomato Tarts or Leek & Goats Cheese Tart.


Courgette Soup with Parsley & Parmesan

There’s certainly still plenty of courgettes and marrows to be getting through at Chez Foti and I’ve now turned to soup making to attempt a dent on the mountain. Without blowing my own trumpet, or courgette, this is the nicest courgette soup I’ve ever tasted. I’ve been making it with both courgettes and marrows or a mixture of the two, and all are equally as successful so just use whatever you have a surplus off. It’s a great recipe for gluts. And if you don’t have a glut, just go halves on the quantities and make a smaller amount.

It’s probably not entirely soup weather yet at Chez Foti, but there’s a definite Autumnal crispness in the air early mornings and evenings, which is pretty welcome after all the heat of July and August. And besides I’m trying to loose a stone by christmas (a ridiculously tall order me thinks but I’m going to give it a whirl anyways) so soups are most definitely on the menu for me these days. Barely a day’s gone by since returning from our jolidays last weekend that I haven’t been busily rustling up some sort of soup or other. And the kids always love them, whatever the weather. By including a fair whack of creme fraiche (albeit I do use a half fat version) and Parmesan (or Grana Padano it’s cheaper cousin) this admittedly is a considerably more indulgent soup than my usual, but is oh so good and worth it. Though if you’re serious about dropping calories it’s still very good without any dairy additions.

I’m entering my recipe to Karen at Lavendar and Lovage’s September Herbs on Saturday blog challenge. I’m feeling rather lucky after I won the August competition with my Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces recipes. My first ever bloggie win!.

Courgette Soup with Parsley & Parmesan

To make 8 servings:

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 onions, diced

6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 kilos of courgettes or marrows, diced

a litre of chicken or veggie stock

a heaped teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

25g of flat leaved parsley leaves and stalks, roughly chopped

2 heaped tablespoons of creme fraiche, half or full fat

75g of Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, finely grated

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or stockpot on a medium heat. Throw in the onions and cook for 10 minutes, stirring at intervals. Add the garlic and cook for a moment or two more before tipping in the diced courgettes or marrows.  Cover and allow to sweat for a further 10 minutes, stirring every now and again.

Pour in the stock, bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 15 minutes until all the veggies are perfectly tender and soft. Once cooked stir in the parsley and take off the heat.

Thoroughly whiz with a stick blender or in a liquidiser or processor; I personally prefer the former as there’s less washing up. Stir in the creme fraiche and Parmesan or Grana Padano. Et voila. Final taste check and you’re done. There shouldn’t be any need to add further salt as there’s plenty in the stock. This makes a pretty thick soup (which I happen to prefer) but can be thinned down to your desired consistency with more stock, milk or water.

How about trying some of my other soupy recipes? Cream of Veggie Super Soup, Pumpkin & Bacon Soup, Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons or Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup)


A Couple of Tomato Tarts

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

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

Cherry Tomato, Pesto & Goats Cheese Tart

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

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

About half a log of goats cheese

A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes

Freshly ground black pepper

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.

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

Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella & Tapenade Tart

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

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

A ball of Mozzarella

A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes

A little finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.

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

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


Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta

Last night we had our lovely friend Debbie over for dinner and coupled with the welcome opportunity of an afternoon sans les enfants I got busy and inventive in the kitchen with our enormous glut of courgettes. Don’t ask me how but I’ve ended up with nine plants this summer. Last year’s seven were excessive despite our stream of guests the entirety of the courgette season.

Yesterday afternoon I was immensely satisfied to use six of the beasts in a three course courgette dinner, and almost get on top of the growing glut. Heavenly bruschetta topped with griddled and marinaded courgettes with lemon, feta and basil to start, followed by a chicken, courgette & chard thai green curry. The curry being a very rare treat as its nigh on impossible to get most of the ingredients here in rural France, but I happened to have a sudden success in homegrown coriander and some recently imported goodies from the UK. Recipe to be blogged shortly. Dinner was finished off rather surprisingly with a green tinged, utterly delicious and moist courgette cake, sandwiched with homemade lemon curd and topped with lemon cream cheese frosting! I’d love to take the glory for the cake but in truth it’s Nigellas from her Domestic Goddess book.

By the way, just in case you hadn’t guessed it, my Veggie of the Month for July is the not so humble courgette. I’ll be reviewing all my courgette recipes and ideas later in the month in a special courgettie round up. In the meantime I’d love to hear your interesting or novel courgette recipes and if I get a chance I’ll try them out before the round up.

Anyway, back onto the Bruschetta. I’m a big bruschetta fan, and this has to be one of my favourite toppings. And so lovely to be able to not only glorify the courgette but my homegrown basil that’s finally big and grown up enough to be picked (considerably later than last year). Griddled or barbecued in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and plenty of black pepper, marinaded in a little more oil, juice and zest and topped with salty feta and torn basil leaves this is to me the essence of summer, and an extremely tasty starter or entree. I regularly griddle or barbecue courgettes in this way, without always the further marinading, to serve as an interesting veggie side, pizza topping or pasta addition.

I’m entering this post to Lavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, held this month by the lovely Vanether at Bangers & Mash Chat.

Marinaded Courgettes

Enough for 4:

2 medium to large courgettes

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

juice of a lemon

zest of half a lemon

a generous pinch of Malden sea salt or similar

a generous pinch or two of coarsely ground black pepper

8 – 12 slices of good quality thickly sliced bread (sourdough works particularly well)

a clove of garlic

60g of feta, crumbled

a few basil leaves, torn

Fire up the barbie or place your griddle pan on a high heat.

Slice the courgettes lengthways into thin strips 2 to 3mm thick. Mix two tablespoons of the olive oil, half the lemon juice and the salt and pepper in a bowl.

Dip each courgette strip into the above marinade and place on the hot griddle. Allow to cook for two or three minutes until coloured and soft on each side. When cooked on both sides remove and place in another bowl and start up another batch until all are cooked.

Griddling

On to the cooked courgettes pour the rest of the marinade, a little more lemon juice (to taste), the lemon zest and another wee drizzle of olive oil. Give everything a good stir and leave to marinade until you’re ready to make the bruschettas.

In the same griddle pan or barbecue toast the bread until coloured on each side (this again will take several batches). Cut the garlic clove in half. As the hot toast is removed from the griddle rub the cut side of the garlic over the hot surface of the toast to impart a little flavour. Drizzle over a little olive oil. Top with a couple of slices of the marinaded courgettes, a little crumbled feta and a few pieces of torn basil and eat immediately. As if you could resist.


Moules Frites, Mussels Marinieres & Chips

Mussels are a real treat in our house, though being as cheap as chips and abundant as they are there’s no real reason for this. They also happen to be my husband Philipe’s absolutely most favourite dinner, but only with a simple Mariniere sauce and served with a mound of chips and plenty of fresh bread on the side to soak up all the lovely broth. Plus a little bowl of homemade mayonnaise. Whilst I’m sure our kids would love Moules Frites too, they’re a grown up late night treat in our house to messily and greedily tuck in to when the kids are safely tucked away in bed.

The fiddliest bit of cooking mussels is in preparatory cleaning and de-bearding. It really is worth taking the time to thoroughly clean each individual shell and pull off any hairy ‘beards’, at least if you want to up your chances of avoiding poorly tummies. In doing so discard any broken or open shells. Once this fiddly task is done they’re unbelievably easy and quick to cook.

Traditionally Marinieres sauce is made with shallots, garlic, fresh herbs and white wine. I tend to add a little creme fraiche or double cream to mine, but feel free to omit if you don’t do cream sauces. I love using tarragon with it’s slight note of aniseed, but if you don’t have any to hand it’s just as nice with only parsley.

I cook my own chips to serve with mussels, but as I don’t have a deep fat fryer mine are more healthily baked in the oven. And they really don’t take long to cook either, parboiled for 4 minutes then roasted in a little sunflower oil in a very hot oven for a further 15 to 20.  Barely longer than shop bought oven chips yet so much better, they really are surprisingly good.

Enough for two hungry big people:

For the Moules Mariniere:
a kilo to a kilo and a half of fresh mussels
15g of butter
a tablespoon of olive oil
a shallot, finely chopped
a large clove of garlic, or two small, finely diced
a large glass of white wine
a tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley
a tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
salt & pepper
4 tablespoons of creme fraiche or double cream

For the Frites:
2 large potatoes, Desiree or other floury ones, peeled
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
salt & pepper

Start with thoroughly cleaning all your mussels, scrubbing the shells and removing their hairy beards. Discard any with broken or open shells. Set aside until you’re ready to cook them.

Preheat your oven to 230°C, or as hot as it will go.

Peel and slice the potatoes into chips, cutting first lengthways into 1cm slices, then into 1cm thick chips. Unfortunately any thinner and they’re a bit too tricky to oven cook. Place the chips in a saucepan of boiling water and simmer for 4 minutes. Drain well and leave to steam for a couple of minutes.

Carefully empty the parboiled chips out onto a large baking tray and coat them evenly in 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil and a little salt and pepper. Place in the hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes, turning at least a couple of times during the cooking time. They’re ready when they’re golden and crisp.

About half way through the chip’s cooking time start the Moules Mariniere. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan (one big enough to easily hold all the mussels, and one that has a lid) and gently fry the finely chopped shallot and garlic for about 5 minutes until very soft, stirring regularly. Add the wine and herbs and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream or creme fraiche (if using) and bring back to a simmer. Tip in the mussels, shake around in the sauce a little and put the lid on. Steam the mussels on a medium heat until most of the shells are open, this should be only about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve the mussels and chips immediately with a pot of mayonnaise and plenty of fresh bread on the side.

If you like this have you tried any of my other fishy recipes, Salmon Fishcakes with Herby Garlicky Mayo, Fish & Chips with Homemade Mayo, Kid’s Fish Pie or Smoked Salmon & Broccoli Penne?


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