Category Archives: Toddlers & Pre-schoolers

Halloumi and Roasted Veggie Kebabs

Halloumi Kebabs

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

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

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

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

Roasted Veggie & Halloumi Kebabs

Halloumi & Roasted Veggie Kebabs

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

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

Makes 6 – 8 Kebabs Sticks

1 small courgette

½ aubergine

1 red pepper

1 white or red onion, large

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt & pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon oregano leaves, roughly chopped

1 pack Halloumi cheese, 225g or 250g

Pre-soaked bamboo kebab sticks or metal skewers

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roasted Veggie & Halloumi Kebabs

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

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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.

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Blue Cheese Barbecue Burgers


Strawberry and Banana Yoghurt Pops

Francesca: strawberry & banana yogurt pops

Wowsers things are busy round here. Packing and organising for the BIG move to the UK, working on a migration to a new blog (more on my exciting venture soon!), a trip to London for Food Blogger Connect last weekend (again more on this wonderful weekend shortly), snippets of time visiting friends for good byes AND it’s the big ten week school holidays here so have two kids desperate for some holiday action!. Needless to say there’s been many a trip to various water parks, swimming pools and lakes. So I offer my sincere apologies for the sporadic blogging now and over the next few weeks.  The simply aren’t enough hours in the day for all I have to do!.

In view of my extreme state of busyness here’s a real quickie of a recipe today, Strawberry and Banana Yoghurt Pops which could probably be made and bobbed in the freezer in less than two minutes flat. And they’re good, really good. More importantly the kids LOVE them, and since they’re considerably healthier than any lolly you could possibly buy, containing only fresh fruit, natural yogurt and a weeny bit of honey to sweeten, that’s a very good thing in this baking hot weather we’re currently having!. Homemade lollies are definitely the way forward, and if you don’t have any lolly makers why not invest in a set or two, mine cost a mere two euros! And if you don’t want to use fresh fruit you could always just fill and freeze them with fruit juice (which is actually what I do more often than not!).

Feel free to vary your fresh fruit, a few days ago I also made a batch with raspberries and peaches (though admittedly I did add a little more honey), just use up whatever you have lurking. A great way to get your kids eating plenty of fruit, and to quickly use up any gluts.

Strawberry & Banana Lolly

Credit-Crunch-MunchBeing notably cheaper than bought lollies I shall be entering this post to Credit Crunch Munch’s event, co-hosted by Camila of Fab Food 4 All and Helen of Fuss Free Strawberry-FundasFlavours, and this month by Sian of Fishfingers for Tea. I recently happened to notice a new challenge on the block called Strawberry Preservation Fundas, hosted by Techie Cookie Freaky calling for bloggers to submit their strawberry preservation recipes, so naturally I thought of entering my lollies!.

Yogurt Lollies

Strawberry and Banana Yogurt Pops

Great For: Toddlers and Pre-schoolers, Big Kids, Grown Ups, Summer, Parties, Snacks, After School Treats, Fruit Gluts

Serves: Makes 6 Lollies (though this will depend on the size of your lolly maker)

Special Equipment: a hand held stick blender OR food processor or liquidiser, lolly makers

125g strawberries, washed and hulled

a large banana

125g plain yogurt, greek, cows, sheeps, goats are all fine (I’ve tried them all!)

dessertspoon of runny honey

1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and whiz with a stick blender until the consistency of a smoothie. Or place in a processor or liquidiser and blitz.

2. Pour into your lolly moulds and place in a freezer for a few hours or overnight until they’re set.

And that really is all there is to it!. Off to do some packing…..

Strawberry & Banana Yogurt Pops

Strawberry & Banana Yogurt Pops

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Roasted Tomato and Feta Risotto

Roasted Tomato Risotto

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

Jacques eating Roasted Tomato Risotto

One happy Jacques with his olivey risotto!

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

Even Francesca enjoyed it, tommies and all!

Even Francesca enjoyed it, tommies and all!

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

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

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

Made with Love Mondays

Credit-Crunch-Munch

Roasted Tomato & Feta Risotto

Roasted Tomato & Feta Risotto

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

Serves: A Family of 4

Total Cook Time: 45 minutes

450g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt & pepper

a few sprigs fresh thyme. leaves removed

small onion, finely diced

1 small red pepper, cut into fine strips

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

220g arborio risotto rice

large glass white wine

700ml hot vegetable stock, I use Marigold

1 small courgette, diced

60g green or black pitted olives, halved, optional

120g Feta cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

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Roasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto


Minted Pea and Feta Dip

Pea & Feta Dip

I make a lot of dips at Chez Foti. The kids love them, usually, and they strike me as one of the best and easiest ways to pump lots of raw veggies into little tums. They’ll happily munch away on pepper, carrot and cucumber sticks with a tasty dip but rarely touch them otherwise. Especially not in a form of salad. Oh no, not a salad. It’s funny now kids just don’t ‘do’ salad eh? I wonder at what age they’ll happily tuck into a plate of dressed leaves, 10?, 18?. Please do let me know what tricks you deploy, or at what age they’ll get salad?. I fear we’re a long way off from reaching that milestone.

So dips and sticks it is for a while. But dips are good anyway, and can be made from pretty wholesome ingredients. And they’re so conveniently quick, a couple of minutes of assembly followed by a further couple of whizzing and dolloping and hey presto a homemade dip in probably less time than you’ve take to select a supermarket ready-made one. Here’s a couple of my previously dippy posts: A Couple of Fishy Dippy Dip Dips and A Trio of Dips for Babies, Toddlers & Big People.

And this is a goodie of a dip, and could even be made from store cupboard ingreds. Simply peas (fresh or frozen) whizzed up with feta, lemon zest & juice, fresh mint and a little olive oil and black pepper. Very very tasty. And met with 50% approval from the kids. Jacques wolfed it down, and Francesca reluctantly tried after several minutes of complaining that she didn’t like ‘green sauce’ (meaning pesto which she has a weird and inexplicable fear of!) and ate some. Not too bad a result. And I’ll be happily polishing off the rest for my own dinner of dips and sticks later. Though possibly with wine.

Pea and Feta Dip

Dips also give me an excuse to bring out my new and very gorgeous Oogaa divider bowls. Thanks so much to my friend Sam for sending them over, and indeed for designing such wonderful products in the first place!. Pretty fab I think you’ll agree. And my kids LOVE them, such fun and vibrant colours and designs.

fsf-summerJust a couple of challenges to enter. Firstly my very own co-hosted Four Seasons Food challenge, this month hosted by Anneli over at (award winning!) Delicieux with the theme of Outdoor Nibbles and Picnics. Would you believe this’ll be entry numero 48?. Cooking-with-HerbsNot bad for our first month! And secondly to the lovely Karen of Lavender and Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday challenge. And finally for my first ever time to Anyonita Nibbles’ Tasty Tuesdays

Minted Pea & Feta Dip

Minted Pea & Feta Dip

Great for: Finger Foods, Toddlers & Pre-schoolers, Bigger Kids, Grown Ups, Picnics, Lunches, Nibbles, Snacks

200g fresh or frozen peas

75g feta, crumbled

½ lemon, zest & juice

1 dessertspoon finely chopped fresh mint

black pepper, to taste

1. Steam or boil the peas for a couple of minutes. Drain and cool in cold water.

2. Place the cooled peas together with all the other ingredients in a bowl and whiz with a stick blender OR in a food processor.

Easy as that!. Hardly a recipe today I’m afraid, but busy, busy times.

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Spinach and Feta Filo Pie: Spanakopita

Spinach & Feta Pie Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

Spinach & Feta Pie Recipe

Spinach & Feta Filo Pie: Spanakopita

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

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

Serves: 4-6 large slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, medium sized, medium dice

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

500g fresh spinach, washed & dried and roughly shredded

2 heaped tablespoons chopped parsley

200g Feta cheese, crumbled

50g pine kernels

3 free range eggs

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard

pepper

4 large or 8 small sheets filo pastry

40ml olive oil

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

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas 6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chicken, Asparagus and New Potato Traybake

Chicken Traybake

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

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

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

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

Chicken, Asparagus & New Potato Traybake

Chicken, Asparagus & New Potato Traybake

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

Serve with: plenty of steamed veggies

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

600g new potatoes, scrubbed but skin left on

2 tablespoons olive oil

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

1 dessertspoon fresh thyme leaves

4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole

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

salt and pepper (no salt for toddlers)

1 bunch of asparagus, washed

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

Special Equipment: a large hob-proof roasting tin

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas 6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Super-Healthy Carrot, Pineapple and Coconut Oil Cake dedicated to Jacques and his Grandpa

Carrot Cake RecipeNumerous events have occurred lately that have made me take stock and have a serious think about mine and my family’s diet. Two of which I’m going to tell you about today, hopefully without boring you too much! Firstly there’s Jacques. The boy with a terrible phlegmy night-time cough that he’s had all too regularly from the tender age of 8 months, keeping us awake for many an hour and many a night, sometimes for several months at a time. Numerous trips to the doctors when he was younger confirmed nothing. Then a few weeks ago, at a particularly sleep deprived time around his 3rd birthday we started to do lots of reading around the issue, and to my surprise discovered the cough may be down to a cow’s milk allergy. I have to confess to being a little sceptical as allergies, fortunately, don’t run in either of our families. But I thought I’d give it a go, immediately cutting out all cows milk, yogurts and cheeses. And do you know what, the cough dramatically stopped that very first night! Bearing in mind he’d been coughing every night for at least an hour for the previous few weeks this was a bit of a breakthrough. To say the least.

And since then I’ve on the whole been sticking to it, not regimentally as he obviously doesn’t have a severe allergy, but definitely making sure there’s no (cow’s) dairy in the late afternoons and evenings. And for a boy that adores his after-dinner yogurts (clearly where the problem lay!) this meant switching to sheep’s milk ones instead, which interestingly happen to be far tastier and handily readily available in yogurt-loving France. Luckily he’s never been a milk fan. And he’s barely coughed since. How wonderful is that?!. The (somewhat bitter) downside of his better nights of sleep are the ever-earlier wake ups, but that’s another story!

Jacques with his Grandpa

Jacques with his beloved Grandpa

Now the second event was a chance viewing of ITV’s DayBreak show (actually a friend called me up to watch it) and an interview with a young chappie, Kal Parmar, who claimed his father’s Alzheimer’s had dramatically reversed as a result of taking a regular dose of Coconut Oil. Following the show I turned to google and found quite a few people in the States were making similar claims. And Kal, being a budding film maker, is making a film about his dad, which I’ll be most excited to see. My own father has Alzheimer’s and was diagnosed a year and a half ago. So naturally he’s on strict instructions to take his Coconut Oil! And Coconut Oil being the wonder fat and food that it is, it strikes me he’s absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

But more on the wonders of Coconut Oil in a later blog (of which I have quite a few baked and planned!), but for now I’ll crack on with today’s recipe. A very low-sugar, low-fat, cow’s milk-free and pretty darned healthy Carrot & Pineapple Traybake Cake in honour of both Jacques and my dear Dad, who happen to share a very special bond. It uses Coconut Oil and Yogurt (Sheep’s in my case) in replacement of the usually large measure of Sunflower Oil, which make the cake a good deal healthier as well as being exceptionally moist. Despite it’s healthy line-up of ingredients this cake is impressively high in the taste stakes and we all loved it. And I know my Dad will too, nudge nudge Mum….

If you can’t source or don’t want to use coconut oil, just replace with sunflower. And if you want to naughty things up somewhat this would be sublime with a cream cheese frosting…

Carrot & Pineapple Cake

Carrot & Pineapple Traybake Cake

Great for toddlers, bigger kids, grown ups, dieters, healthy eaters, baking with kids, elevensies, lunch boxes, afternoon tea, after school treats, carrot cake fiends

Makes 20 – 25 small pieces

300g of Plain Flour

2 heaped teaspoons of ground Cinnamon

a heaped teaspoon of Baking Powder

½ a teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda

150g of dark Soft Brown Sugar

4 medium Free Range Eggs

180ml of Plain Yogurt, Sheeps or Cows

60ml of Coconut Oil (softened) or Sunflower Oil

zest of an Orange

zest of a Lemon

220g of finely grated Carrots

120g of Sultanas

227g tin of Pineapple pieces, in natural juice, drained

Special Equipment: a 20cm by 20cm square baking tin, or similar

Pre-heat your oven to 150°c and line a small baking tin (about 20cm by 20cm) with baking paper.

Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and bicarb into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar.

My chief stirrer!

My chief stirrer!

In another bowl lightly beat the eggs with a whisk, then whisk in the  yogurt, coconut oil and orange and lemon zest. Employ a whisker and a stirrer (i.e. small child) if you have one.

Pour the egg and yogurt mix into the flour and sugar and stir well with a wooden spoon. Then mix in the carrots and sultanas. Cut the pineapple pieces into small chunks and stir these in too.

Scrape the cake mix into the lined tin.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Turn out of the tin and allow to cool a little on a cooling rack. It’s truly wonderful eaten fresh out-of-the-oven-warm. With a cuppa for the grown up folk.

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An Asparagus and Gruyère Tart

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

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

Asparagus & Gruyere Tart

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

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

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Asparagus & Gruyère Tart

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

Enough for 4 – 6

For the Pastry:

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

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

pinch of Salt & Pepper

an egg yolk and a little cold water

For the Tart Filling:

a 450g bunch of Asparagus, washed

3 free range Eggs

200ml of half fat Creme Fraiche

a heaped teaspoon of Dijon Mustard

100g of Gruyère, grated

Salt & Pepper

a tablespoon of finely grated fresh Parmesan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lightly grease your chosen flan case with butter.

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

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

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

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Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

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

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

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

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

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

Smoked Salmon Fishcake

Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

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

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

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

150g of Smoked Salmon trimmings, roughly chopped

2-3 Spring Onions, finely sliced

zest of a Lemon

2 heaped tablespoons of chopped Parsley

a heaped tablespoon of Capers, rinsed

2 teaspoons of Creamed Horseradish

Salt and Pepper

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

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

Sunflower Oil for frying

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

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