Category Archives: The Chickens

Banana Pancakes!

Banana Pancakes

I know, I know, I know I’m more than a little fashionably late for Pancake Day….but I had very much intended to write this blog quite some time ago!. Pancakes are big business in our house and barely a day goes by without a pancake request (breakfast, lunch or dinner!). But seeing as these days the monsters will only eat them with a gargantuan spreading of the not-so-healthy but so well-known Hazelnut and Choccie Spread, I’m loath to make them often. So I’ve been experimenting with healthier options and these Banana Pancakes have happily been gobbled down with great success minus any need for the naughty stuff. I’m certain they’d taste sublime with a decadent spreading but I’m not going there, these pancakes are served with fruit and fruit only at Chez Foti, plus a wee drizzle of honey or maple syrup and a dollop of creme fraiche naturally. Happy days.

Anyone who’s ever travelled any the more popular backpacker routes of Asia or Latin America should be familiar with the ubiquitous Banana Pancake. They seem to crop up on pretty much every hostel or backpacker cafe breakfast menu, and I must have tirelessly munched my way through an inordinate amount in the totality of my two and a half years of traveling. Making them myself has wonderfully taken me back to those heady days, albeit life is rather more different now than then!

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I may be late for pancake day, but I’m hopefully not too late to enter my pancake recipe to this month’s No Waste Food Challenge, an event held by Kate from Turquoise Lemons and this month hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen and the no waste ingredient being eggs!. Now we’ve always got eggs to use up from our hens and pancakes are the perfect answer in my book. Plus these pancakes are a great way of using up blackened and over-ripe bananas too. Since our eggs are so local (the hen house being approximately ten meters away from the kitchen door) I’m also entering my pancakes to this month’s Breakfast Club which has the theme of ‘local’. The challenge is the baby of Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and is being hosted this month by Heidi at Kitchen Talk.

No Waste Food Challenge

breakfast-club-logo

Banana Pancakes

Banana Pancakes

Great as a Finger Food for very little littlies, Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Kids, Family Breakfasts, Sleepovers (I’m too scared to go there yet!), Grown Ups 

Enough for a Family of Four:

20g of Butter, plus a little extra for greasing the pan

175g of Self-Raising Flour

½ a teaspoon of Baking Powder

a tablespoon of Soft Light Brown Sugar

2 free range Eggs

170ml of Full Fat Milk

2 Bananas, preferably very ripe, mashed with the back of fork

To Serve: Creme Fraiche or Yogurt, Honey or Maple Syrup, Berries or other Fruits

Melt the butter and set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Place the flour, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl and mix together.

In another bowl or jug lightly whisk the eggs, then whisk in the milk and cooled butter.

Whisk the wet mixture slowly into the dry mixture and when you have an even consistency stir or whisk in the mashed bananas.

Heat a frying pan until hot. Grease with a little butter and gently drop in a tablespoon of the batter at a time. You should be able to cook three to four at once, depending on the size of your pan. Allow plenty of room between each pancake as they do spread a little. Once each pancake is a little risen and you can see bubbles appear on the surface carefully turn over with a spatula and cook the other side. Each side should be pale golden-brown.

Either serve immediately or keep warm in a low oven until you’re ready.

Perfect served with a drizzle of maple syrup or honey, a (generous) dollop of creme fraiche or yogurt and fresh berries or fruit of your choice. Absolutely no Nutella required.

Master J sabotaging my photo!

Master J sabotaging my photo!

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

Rosemary and Cannellini Bean Risotto

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

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

Herb Cookbook

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

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

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

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

A few of my ladies tucking into their tasty warm stew

A few of my ladies tucking into their tasty warm stew

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

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

herbsonsaturday

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

bookmarked recipes new logo

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

Credit-Crunch-Munch

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

Flavours of Italy logo (2)

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

Made with Love Mondays

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

Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto

Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto

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

Serves 2

a tablespoon of Olive Oil

2 Shallots, finely diced

a stick of Celery, finely diced

a large clove of Garlic, finely chopped or crushed

140g of Risotto Rice

90ml of White Wine

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

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

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

a dessert spoon of chopped fresh Rosemary

35g of Parmesan or Grana Padano Cheese

Salt and Pepper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butternut squash risotto

Roast Butternut Risotto with Butternut Crisps

Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

Spinach, Courgette and Pesto Risotto


Mediterranean Pot Roast Chicken

As I’ve mentioned before I’m a big fan of pot roasting chicken, not only to avoid using our worse than awful gas oven, but it’s a fabulously succulent way to cook a chicken (or indeed any meat), particularly for slightly older-than-supermarket birds as ours was.

I made this a few days ago for our Sunday lunch when I was trying to think up something a little bit different and special to do with the first of our chicken brood to hit the pot, so to speak. She was a lovely lady though sadly went a bit lame. Luckily for us our kind neighbour down the  road offered to do the deadly deed and we were spared it this first time. I’m sure next time we’ll have to get involved and eventually it’ll be Phil or I bearing the knife. Something I’m wholeheartedly not looking forward to.

Sad to say but she turned into a great dinner and was very much appreciated and enjoyed by all. Slow cooked in a pan on the hob in lots of white wine, tomatoes, aubergine, courgette and peppers and flavoured with one of my favourite spices, sweet smoked paprika, and then served on a bed of fluffy couscous. Even better that there were lots of saucy and chickeny leftovers for the next day which made for a fabulous pasta sauce.

Enough for a family of 4, with plenty of leftovers for the next day:

a medium to large chicken, about 1.5 to 2 kgs

salt & pepper

4 tablespoons of olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a large onion, diced

2 sticks of celery, diced

2 teaspoons of sweet smoked paprika

500ml of white wine

200ml of water

2 x 400g cans of good quality chopped tomatoes

a heaped tablespoon of tomato puree

3 sprigs of thyme

3 bay leaves

a red pepper

a green pepper

a medium aubergine

a large courgette

100g of stones green olives

2 tablespoons of chopped parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large deep casserole or saucepan, one big enough to easily hold the chicken and that has a lid, on a low heat. Season the chicken all over with a little salt and black pepper, massage into the skin. Place the chicken in the pan and turn every few minutes until it’s golden brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Place the garlic, onion and celery in the same pan and saute on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.  Stir in the paprika and allow to cook for a minute, whilst continuing to stir. Pour in the wine, water and chopped tomatoes, and add the tomato puree, thyme, bay leaves and a generous grinding of black pepper. Place the chicken back in the pot and bring to a gentle simmer and cover. Allow to bubble away for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the other veggies. Slice the peppers into strips by slicing each pepper in half lengthways, then each half into quarters lengthways and each of those into 3 or 4 narrow strips. Dice the aubergine into about 1.5 cm pieces. Cut the courgette into 4 quarters lengthways and dice each of the quarters into 0.5 to 1cm pieces.

Heat another 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a low heat in a large frying pan or saucepan. Once hot add the peppers and aubergine. Allow to cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Now add the courgette and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Once the chicken has been simmering for 45 minutes stir in the cooked veggies and the olives. Cover and cook for a further 45 minutes. The chicken should easily fall off the bone, if it doesn’t cook for a little longer.

Have a taste check adding more salt and pepper to the sauce to suit. Stir in the chopped parsley. Carve the chicken and serve with a generous ladleful of the Mediterranean veggies over the top. It’s great served on a bed of couscous.


March in the Garden

I’m pleased to be able to report a fair bit of garden action last month after the long lull of winter. The weather’s warmed up, my patch has been rotivated (thanks to our trusty tractor driver friend), anti-chicken and other feathered or furry beast fencing has been installed (thanks to Phil), the poly tunnel has been re-installed, the plot layout finally decided on (roughly!), seeds a plenty have been sown and I’ve even started a little planting out. Yippppeeee, I love gardening season! The knock on effect is sadly my lack of blogging action. There seem to be so many things to juggle these days. So apologies now for my reduced posting over the spring and summer, but I’ve got veggies to grow!

So here’s the new fencing and enlarged plot, ha ha you’re well and truly scuppered my feathered friends:

Most of my seedlings are fairing pretty well out in the poly tunnel though mysteriously several of my wee tomatoes died off a couple of weeks ago. So far I’ve set off 3 types of tomato (plum, beef and cherry), peppers (also having problems with germination, but hopefully I’ll have enough come good), celery (this year they’ve miraculously germinated unlike my total failure last year), cucumbers, aubergines (again a 100% success), peas, globe artichokes (for the first time!) and butternut squash. And they’ll be lots more seeds sown this month!.

Peas...in toilet rolls!

Aubergine seedlings

A cucumber seedling

A Surviver of the Tomatoes

As for the stuff in the ground. I’ve given the herb bed a little overhaul and below the mountain of weeds and leaves I’ve found quite a few plants survived the minus 16 temperatures we had a few weeks ago. We have chives, flat leaved parsley, lots and lots of thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon and oregano. I’ve also sown coriander and basil and more parsley and tarragon and have extended the bed somewhat.

Meet the Herbs

Shallots and red onions have been sown, notably in lovely neat straight lines this year….I have succumbed to the inner Virgo and said goodbye to my random sporadic planting of last year (that no doubt disturbed my fellow gardener neighbours).

My Virgo lines of loveliness!

I’ve also split the plot this year into four main groupings, to be rotated on an annual basis. Apparently this is the only way to do things if you want to be organic. So I have one space for potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. One for roots and onions. Another for legumes (peas and beans etc) and last but not least one for the brassicas (broccoli, cabbages, cauliflowers and the like).  There’s also a perennial bed for my herbs, strawberries, artichokes, raspberries and rhubarb. And all those other things like melons, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, salads etc can just be slotted in wherever there’s space. And please note that each of my plots has been exactly calculated, measured and divided with string. The unleashed virgo.

My perennial bed has been planted with lots more strawberries this month so I’m hoping Phil and I might actually get to taste a few this year, and get past the greedy fingers of our kids! I’ve also put in a few raspberry canes and rhubarb plants. I was amazed to find the rhubarb at our local market last weekend, I’ve been looking for some plants for ages and came to the conclusion the French just don’t do rhubarb.

One of my new strawberry plants

A raspberry cane

Rhubarb!

And last but most certainly not least I’ve finally started on the extremely arduous task of potato planting. Actually the planting of potatoes itself is none too bad, it’s the digging and breaking down of the tough clay soil in areas that have been previously unworked that’s a killer. But bit by bit and row by row I should be there within a couple of weeks….I have a LOT of potatoes to plant! Two types of ‘old’ and one of new.

So that’s it for the March round up. I’m reckoning April will be even busier. Happy days.

Lou x


Here come the Chickens!

Since the first day we arrived at Chez Foti back in November 2010 we’ve wanted chickens, and it seemed we were the only ones living here without them! A while back some of our neighbours asked if we’d like theirs when they went off travelling for 5 months, so we’ve kind of been waiting until now to have their brood. And what a lovely gang they are too. Seven hens and a mighty fine and very gentle cock, named Rocky the Rooster. We’re so loving having them and I’m certain this is the just the start of our chicken owning lives.

Over the last few months Phil’s been gradually preparing their new home, converting a section of the original pig sty into a chicken shed. They now have a new roof, strengthened structure, new mud brick walls (which I hasten to add I also got my hands mucky in helping construct!), and a window and shutter.

After a couple of days in their new chickenopolis they were set free to roam around as free range as free range can be. And I think we have some very happy hens as they’ve not stopped laying ever since.

As for the kids, they’re more excited about the chickens than christmas! Every day Francesca wakes up and begs us to let her go and let the chickens out and check for eggs. And on her way home from school, she’s literally exploding with excitement to check the chicken house again!  Little Jacques spends hours studying them totally and utterly enchanted, and squeals with delight at their every move. When he’s in the house, he’s always pushing chairs up to the windows so he can be high enough to look out at them. It certainly beats tv. Even Freddy the dog seems to have taken to them, always eyeing them up with a good deal of curiosity….though luckily not in a lunch or dinner kind of way!

And as for the eggs, they’re obviously totally yummy. The kids are going crazy for dippy eggs and solders which they seem to be having rather too often lately!. As well as lots of poached and scrambled eggs, we’ve also been gorging on some fantastic omelettes and I even put them into some lovely homemade custard at the weekend. Watch this space for lots of eggy recipes!


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