Category Archives: Starters

Pumpkin & Bacon Soup

I cut into the last of our pumpkins to make this soup. I never actually thought we’d get to the end of our almighty Autumn harvest but now we’re on the last one I’m more than a touch sad!. Though I’m very excited about growing plenty more of these wonderful orange monsters again this summer, despite spending most of the last one cursing them for the enormity of space they took up and vowing never to bother again! My opinions however quickly changed after our first homegrown pumpkiny dinner (I think it was indeed a roast pumpkin soup), far more delicious and sweet than I thought possible of the humble pumpkin. The ones you buy in the UK, particularly around Halloween time, can be so bland and devoid of any real flavour, and I assumed our orange monsters would be the same. So wrong! I think the hot Southern French sun worked it’s magical wonders on my patch, each and every one were delicioso.

Not only are pumpkins so incredibly easy and fun to grow, albeit taking up way too much room, they are wonderful and versatile to cook with providing they have a half decent sunkissed flavour that is. I’ve added diced pumpkin to virtually all my stews and casseroles throughout the autumn and winter, stir fries, pasta dishes, curries, and obviously soup a plenty. It’s also a great veg to accompany a roast dinner, cut into large chunks and roasted in the oven with a little chilli and/or bacon pieces and plenty of black pepper.  Porky flavours work really well with pumpkin and squash which is how I came to concoct this soup. Might sound a little weird but it’s oh so lovely!.

Enough for a couple of servings each for a family of four:

1 kilo of flavoursome pumpkin or butternut squash, skin removed and cut into 2cm chunks

olive oil

salt & pepper

the merest pinch of dried chilli flakes

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

80g lardons or streaky bacon, diced

600ml of chicken stock plus a little more water to thin down

Rub a tablespoon of olive oil into the pumpkin chunks along with a little salt, a generous grinding of black pepper, and the chilli flakes, rubbing the oil onto all sides of the pumpkin. Place on a baking tray in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes at 220°C. The pumpkin is ready when it’s soft and starting to brown a little. Turn at least once during the cooking time.

Meanwhile heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the diced onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes until softened a little, now add the lardons or bacon. Continue to cook on a medium heat for a further 7-8 minutes  until the lardons or bacon are browning, stirring regularly so nothing catches.

Once the pumpkin is roasted add it to the onions and bacon and cook for a further couple of minutes then add the stock. Bring to the boil and leave on a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes of simmering remove the soup from the heat and whiz thoroughly, I usually use a stick blender to do this as it’s much less washing up than a processor or blender!. Taste the soup and add a generous grinding of black pepper to suit, it’s unlikely you’ll need more salt as there’s plenty in the bacon and stock. Thin down with water to make to your desired thickness. We tend to eat our soups really thick as they’re easier for the wee ones to spoon.

Here’s some other Chez Foti soup recipes: Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons, Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup), Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup

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Chorizo & Manchego Salad

A winter warmer of a salad today, and one for the grown up folk really, unless your kids happen to eat salad which mine very definitely don’t …..at least not yet anyway. Philipe and I often have a late night supper salad once the kids are in bed, but we’re not talking a couple of lettuce leaves and a spray of dressing here, we’re usually talking pretty substantial. More often than not there’s something sausage like, a little cheese, definitely croutons and sometimes potatoes. A salad for the boys really.

Today’s chorizo salad is simply lots of lovely salad leaves (fresh from the garden in our case), chopped parsley, sliced red onion, some strips of pepper (or a few preserved peppers from a jar), cubes of Spanish Manchego (or any other flavoursome sheep’s milk cheese, but even a good goats cheese works well), fried chorizo slices and last but certainly not least lots of crunchy croutons fried in the remainder of the chorizo juices and a little hot smoked paprika to boot. Smoked paprika is the main spice in chorizo and is used widely in Spain, it gives a great little smokey spice kick to many a casserole or stew or even a crouton in this case!. The salad’s then simply tossed together in a sherry vinegar and olive oil dressing. Inarguably this is my favourite of our ‘winter’ salads.

Enough for two hungry grown ups:

120g chorizo, cut in 3 to 4mm slices, skin removed

a little olive oil

a small interesting lettuce, or a bag of lovely leaves, washed and torn

1 heaped tbsp of chopped parsley

1/4 of a red onion, finely sliced

1/2 a red pepper, cut into thin strips OR a few preserved peppers from a jar (available in good supermarkets or delis), sliced into strips

100g manchego cheese or any other sheeps or goats cheese, cut into 1cm cubes

40g stale white bread, cut into 2cm cubes

a generous pinch of hot smoked paprika (optional)

1 tbsp of sherry vinegar

3 tbsps of good quality olive oil

salt & pepper

Start with frying off the chorizo slices in a frying pan, adding just a little olive oil. Fry for about five minutes until golden on both sides, turning frequently.

Meanwhile prepare the salad. Place the lettuce, chopped parsley, red onion slices, red pepper strips and cheese cubes in a large salad bowl.

Make your dressing by briskly whisking together a tbsp of sherry vinegar with 3 tbsps of olive oil, a little salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.

Once your chorizo is cooked remove from the frying pan with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen roll. Add another splash of olive oil to the frying pan along with a pinch of salt, a generous pinch of hot smoked paprika (if using) and another of black pepper and place back on the heat. When the oil’s hot add the bread cubes and immediately turn to coat all sides. Continue to cook a little on all sides until the croutons are golden and crunchy, turning very regularly so as they don’t burn. The whole process will only take 2 to 3 minutes. When cooked drain on some more kitchen paper.

Add the slightly cooled chorizo to the salad and about half of the dressing. Toss the salad well, ensuring everything’s evenly coated. Taste and add more dressing to suit. Scatter the croutons on top and serve immediately.

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Smoked Salmon & Broccoli Penne

An extremely simple and extremely quick pasta supper for all the family today that’s oh so yum. Our kids love it, but then they really like fish, and broccoli’s interestingly both their fave veggie.

Unknowingly I think I may have used the last of our lovely Chez Foti broccoli in this dish. I went out to pick some more today thinking we had loads to eat up, only to find our new feathery residents have stripped all the heads bare!. They’ve also nibbled up all my baby savoy cabbages and uprooted the lovely beetroot. Hmmmm. Me thinks it’s time to fence off the veggie plot.

Enough for a family of four:

A smallish broccoli, separated into bite size florets

200g dried penne pasta, or similar

5 spring onions, sliced

olive oil

3 tbsps of creme fraiche

zest of one lemon, plus a little juice

a large handful of parsley, finely chopped

180g smoked salmon, cut into small strips

salt & pepper

grated Parmesan to serve

Steam the broccoli florets until they’re al dente – cooked but with a tiny bit of bite to them. At the same time, but in a different pan, cook the pasta to packet instructions, again so it’s al dente. Once cooked drain and set aside.

Meanwhile heat a frying pan or large saucepan and add the merest dash of olive oil and the diced spring onions. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Add the steamed broccoli florets, creme fraiche, lemon zest, chopped parsley and the salmon. Give everything a good stir around and heat until bubbling and allow to cook for a couple of minutes more.

Taste the sauce and add plenty of freshly ground black pepper, salt if necessary (the smoked salmon’s pretty salty so you may not need to add any more), and a generous squeeze of lemon juice.  Taste again and add more of each to suit.

Stir in the pasta and serve immediately with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan over the top.

Simple as that!

Like this? Have you tried these other recipes – Kid’s Bolognese, Pumpkin Mac n’ Cheese, Roasted Veggie Lasagne or Salmon Fishcakes?


Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

We’re still munching our through all our lovely homegrown squash and pumpkins and in an effort to add a little variety to our staple pumpkin or squash soups I’ve been experimenting with adding new flavours, and the addition of a little Chorizo is a definite favourite in the Foti household! The kids and Phil go crazy for it. Admittedly a pretty heavy soup, especially with the addition of homemade Chorizo flavoured croutons, so probably best kept for the depths of winter like we’re in now. A very comforting and filling ‘meal’ of a soup.

Living so close to Spain Chorizo is really cheap and easily available here, and so I tend to cook with it quite a bit these days. It is however also pretty easily available in UK supermarkets. It’s a great flavour and colour enhancer to meaty stews, casseroles and soups and I regularly add a little to salads, omelettes, pizzas and pies.

I’ve used Butternut Squash in this recipe, but you could substitute with any other flavoursome squash or pumpkin. I didn’t bother to peel my Butternut as the skin is perfectly edible when cooked…and as it’s to be whizzed up you can’t tell the difference. By roasting the squash first you intensify it’s sweetness which works wonderfully with the intense meatiness of the Chorizo.

Enough for 4 grown ups:

850g Butternut squash, cut into 2 cm dice

olive oil

salt & pepper

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

70g Chorizo, finely diced

600ml of chicken stock

For the croutons:

70g stale chunky white bread, cut into about 1.5 to 2cm cubes

olive oil

25g Chorizo finely diced

a pinch of Spanish sweet smoked Paprika (optional)

salt & pepper

Combine the squash with a tablespoon of olive oil, a little salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Place on a baking tray in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes at 220°C. The squash is ready when it’s soft and starting to brown a little.

Meanwhile heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the diced onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes until softened a little, now add the Chorizo. Continue to cook on a gentle heat for a few more minutes, stirring regularly so nothing catches.

Once the squash is roasted add it to the onions and Chorizo and cook for a further couple of minutes before adding the stock. Bring to the boil and leave on a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering prepare the croutons. Add a good glug of olive oil to a frying pan and heat. Add a pinch of Spanish sweet smoked Paprika if you have any (it’s one of the main colourings and flavourings in Chorizo), the Chorizo pieces, a little salt and a good grinding of pepper. Heat until the Chorizo is starting to ‘bleed’ it’s lovely oil and colour. Now add the bread pieces to the hot oil. Cook on all sides until the cubes are coloured and crunchy, making sure they are regularly turned.

After ten minutes of simmering remove the soup from the heat and whiz thoroughly, I usually use a stick blender to do this as it’s much less washing up than a processor or blender!. Taste the soup and add plenty of freshly ground black pepper to suit, it’s unlikely you’ll need more salt.

Serve piping hots with a generous scattering of the fried Chorizo pieces and croutons.

Here’s Jacques enjoying his crispy croutons!:

If you like this, have you tried my Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup recipe?


Goats Cheese & Beetroot Salad

A grown up salad today, our late night supper of last night!. Admittedly it’s a tad cold outside and not exactly salad eating weather, but with the addition of hot goats cheese crunchy toasts this makes a pretty good winter warmer of a salad.

Salad au Chevre appears on virtually every restaurant menu around us here. The first couple of times I ordered it I was expecting a large leafy salad with a little goats cheese tossed in. Alas no. It is in reality two or three large hunks of goats cheese on toast placed on a few stray lettuce leaves, sometimes with a scattering of walnuts, and usually with a little honey drizzled over the top. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really complaining as I love it, but it hardly constitutes a ‘salad’ does it?!

So here’s my compromise on the salad. Lots of salad leaves (I used rocket from the garden), diced beetroot (it’s majorly in season @ Chez Foti right now) and walnuts (picked down the lane a few weeks ago) all tossed in a simple walnut oil and red wine vinegar dressing, with three slices of toasted french bread and goats cheese….and a generous drizzle of honey. Honey in fact from our roof. A few months ago we had three bees nests removed and reaped the sticky benefits with a few jars of honey. So all in all there weren’t too many food miles clocked up in this salad!.

I’m loving our homegrown beetroot. Not only is it exceptionally easy to grow with minimal watering or effort, it just seemed to look after itself, but it’s so sweet and delicious. I’m also finding great use for the leaves and stalks in curries, stir fries and stews, and taking great delight in the pink beetrootie tinge they add!

Local beekeepers removing the bees nests from our roof!

Homegrown rocket & beetroot

For a hearty dinner for two:

6 baby beetroot, or 1 very large full sized

2 very large handfuls of flavoursome baby leaves or rocket, washed

40g of walnuts halves

1 tbsp of red wine vinegar

3 tbsps of walnut oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 slices of good quality french bread or sourdough, cut into 1cm thick slices

a little olive oil

130g of goats cheese (preferably in a log), cut into 12 slices

honey to drizzle

Firstly you need to cook and prepare your beetroot. Place them whole with the skin still on and a few millimetres of the root and stalks attached (this prevents them bleeding out too much colour) in a pan of boiling water.  If you’re using baby beetroot, simmer for about 30 minutes, if full sized for about an hour and a half. When cooked remove from the pan and allow to cool. Slip off the skin, root and stalk – it should all come away very easily. Dice into small even sized pieces.

Now to make your dressing. In a bowl whisk the red wine vinegar, walnut oil, a pinch of salt and a generous grinding of black pepper together.

Grill the bread slices on both sides until slightly golden. Drizzle over a little olive oil and place a couple of slices of the goats cheese on each piece and put back under the grill until the cheese has melted.

Meanwhile place the salad leaves in a bowl with the diced beetroot and walnut halves. Add the dressing and toss lightly together. Lightly as you don’t want the beetroot to stain the leaves too much. I actually tossed the salad leaves and walnuts separately to the beetroot to prevent this!.

Place the salad on a plate with the goats cheese toasts on top. Drizzle a little honey all over, but particularly on the goats cheese. Serve immediately!


Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup)

This was our Sunday lunch today!  We tend to have some sort of soup on Sundays for lunch (and Saturdays too for that matter!) followed by a proper ‘sunday lunch’ around 6ish.  Because the kids normally have a sleep at 12 for a couple of hours it’s too rushed trying to get lunch ready before then….nor do we have much of an appetite for a roast and pud at 11.30am! So today’s soup was this new-to-me gem of a recipe (although I’ve now made it three times in less than a week!), and the kids loved it too.

A big thank you to my friend Susie for emailing me it.  Susie and her partner Gary run a training retreat for cyclists and triathletes in the mountains of central Portugal (www.delucci.co.uk), and regularly cook up this fabulous soup for themselves and hungry guests, either as a filling starter or a light lunch or supper served up with a hunk of bread.

Very quick and easy to make, it’s filling, nutritious, warming and bursting with flavour.  You can use any greens in this recipe, I used savoy cabbage as it’s very much in season now (although admittedly I had to buy mine, as my Savoys are in very poor miniscule shape!) and it worked splendidly.  If you want to add less of the greens then do so to make a slightly thinner soup, add more to make it a heavier.

Enough for 4:

1 very large or 2 small onions, finely diced

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

olive oil

150g chorizo, sliced and each slice cut into 6/8 small pieces

600g potatoes (about 4 large ones), peeled and diced into 1cm chunks

700ml of chicken stock

300ml of water

2 bay leaves

salt & pepper

400g savoy cabbage or other greens, very finely shredded

Saute the onions and garlic with a glug of olive oil in a very large saucepan.  Cook until soft and translucent.

Now add the chorizo pieces to the onion and continue to saute for a few more minutes. Add the diced potatoes and stir well.

Pour in the stock and water to the onions and potatoes along with plenty of black pepper (you can add salt if you wish but the Chorizo and stock both contain plenty).  Simmer until the potatoes are soft and cooked through. Mash the potatoes into the stock (by using a potato masher).

Add your finely shredded greens to the soup.  If you want a heavy soup add as much as the soup will take!  If you want it lighter add less than my suggested 400g.

Simmer until the greens are cooked.

Adjust the seasoning and serve immediately with a large hunk of bread.


Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Apologies for yet another pumpkin recipe today, but to be truthful this is about the extent of the Chez Foti diet of the last few days as everyone except me has been sick with a nasty flu bug!  This simple gentle soup has been the only thing anyone’s actually had an appetite for….good job we have lots of pumpkins!

Aside from illness, we seem to be eating some sort of squash or pumpkin soup every day for lunch these days.  This particular soup is lovely and extremely simple to make.  If you want to jazz up the flavour a little roast the pumpkin with half a chopped up chilli or some chilli flakes.  I tend to make this in pretty big batches so I can store in the fridge for the next few days, or in the freezer for a later lazy day.

As per previous blogs, a word of warning on using pumpkins.  Quite often when you buy the very big pumpkins in the UK for Halloween they can be very tasteless for cooking with, no matter how much roasting and flavouring you add they’ll never be great.  If you do have a pumpkin to use try roasting a little of it before using, just to have a taste check.  You always substitute Butternut squash as a more reliable tasty alternative.

To make enough for at least 2 family lunchtimes:                                                        

1 kg of pumpkin, skin removed and cut into roughly 2cm chunks

olive oil

salt and pepper

1 large onion, peeled and diced

1 clove or garlic, finely sliced

500ml of chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want a vegetarian soup)

2 heaped tbsp of creme fraiche

Begin by preheating the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark  .  Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and combine with about a tbsp of olive oil, a little salt and a generous grinding of black pepper (and some chilli if using).  Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes (turning the pumpkin about half way through) until soft and just starting to colour a little.

Meanwhile heat another tbsp of oil in a large high sided saucepan and add the onion and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes until softened a little, stir regularly to avoid catching.  Then add the roasted pumpkin, stir and cook for a further minute or two.  Poor in the stock and bring to a gentle simmer.   Simmer for a further 10 minutes, until the pumpkin is very soft.

Take off the heat and add the creme fraiche.  Blend with a stick blender until smooth and creamy.


Salmon Fishcakes with Herby Garlicky Mayo


Yesterday we all greedily tucked into a baked salmon for our sunday dinner (baked in foil in the oven), along with a garlicky herby mayo, the last of the new potatoes, and lots of steamed veggies.  It was an absolutely delicious treat, but left us with lots of fishy leftovers…..so today it was salmon fishcakes for tea!  They were a huge success, Jacques ate two (he’ll be 18 months this month!) Luckily for us both our children love fish, but if yours don’t how about trying some homemade fishcakes as the buttery potato inner and the crunchy breadcrumbed outer go a long way to disguise the fishiness.  And you can even further disguise by serving them with something dippy, like my herby garlicky mayo, a classic tartare, or just a squirt of good old Heinz Tommie K.
I tend to make my own breadcrumbs from leftover bits of white bread that we always seem to have lying around, and store them in the freezer.  Mixing breadcrumbs with polenta makes for an extra crispy crumb.

Makes about 8 fishcakes:
about 400g cold mashed potato (mashed with plenty of butter, but no milk)
418g tin of salmon, or about the same of home cooked leftovers
a heaped tbsp creme fraiche
1 egg, beaten
zest of a lemon
salt and pepper

For the crunchy outer fishcake layer:
2 eggs, beaten
fine breadcrumbs, or mix of breadcrumbs and polenta
sunflower or vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl mix all the fishcake ingredients, preferably by hand.  Shape into little rounded flat patties and place on a layer of cling film on a baking sheet.  Cool them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

For the outer layer, place the beaten eggs and breadcrumbs in two shallow bowls.  Dip each fishcake in the egg, ensuring it gets a good coating, then the breadcrumbs.

Place enough oil in a frying pan to just cover the base, and heat.  Place the fishcakes in the hot oil and fry until golden on both sides.  Serve immediately.

For the kids I served these up with some baked beans and a few steamed veg.  For us with slices of lemon, lots of herby mayo (recipe below) and a rocket (straight from the garden) salad.  Yum.

For the Herby Garlicky Mayonnaise
You really can use any herbs here, depending on personal preference or like me use whatever you happen to have an abundance of.  Tarragon, basil, parsley and chives however work particularly well, either use individually or a mixture as I’ve done.  For a super quick result, add some finely chopped herbs to shop bought mayo

1 egg
1 tsp of mustard powder
½ clove garlic, chopped
¼ pint sunflower oil
1 tbsp of cider or white wine vinegar
a large bunch of flat leaved parsley, leaves removed and roughly chopped
a few sprigs of tarragon, leaves removed and roughly chopped
a bunch of chopped chives
a little lemon juice
salt and pepper

Place the egg, mustard powder, garlic and a good pinch of salt in a food processor and whiz a little.  Whilst the processor is whizzing drop by drop start to add the oil through the funnel at the top, ensuring you don’t add too much too soon (as the mix will curdle), as the mixture thickens you can add the oil in a steady stream.  Once all the oil is in, add the vinegar and all your herbs and continue to whiz until the herbs look well incorporated.  Add a little lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

For a printable recipe, please click the following link  Salmon Fishcakes with Herby Garlicky Mayo


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