Category Archives: Toddlers & Pre-schoolers

White Chocolate and Cranberry Christmas Cookies

White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

I’ve had a bit of a spate of cookie baking lately. Due in the main to my new cooker and in keeping my promise to Mr F that it would feed him with a regular supply of biscuity goodies. He is rather fond of his biscuits to say the least, and gets very grumpy if there happen to be less than two spare packets in the cupboard (the number of which he can easily polish off in a single tea dunking session). And cookies I find are the perfect almost instantaneous biscuit hit. The dough’s frighteningly easy and quick to make and can handily be made in advance and stored for several days in the fridge or considerably longer in the freezer. Then simply brought out when the urge for a cookie takes over or guests arrive, cut up (even straight from the freezer) and placed on a baking tray. And voila 9 minutes later you have the most perfectly naughty fresh cookies to munch.  Or in my case one very happy husband.

Three sausage rolls of Cookie Dough

Three sausage rolls of Cookie Dough, ready to be cut and baked

And so here’s my recipe for Christmas Cookies with White Chocolate Chunks and Dried Cranberries. This makes enough for about 30 large cookies, but I split the dough into thirds and only bake one lot at a time. Which will be particularly handy for sudden guests over the festive period. I’m planning on stockpiling quite a bit of cookie dough over the next couple of weeks!

breakfast-club-logoI’m entering my recipe to a couple of bloggie events that are running this month. Firstly for my first ever time to the Breakfast Club challenge created by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours to encourage more interesting breakfasts. This month it’s being hosted by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash Chat and has the theme of ‘Brunch’. And as it’s Christmas my cookies make a wickedly good brunch snack with a cup or two of coffee (I can vouch for this).

Christmas TTTI’m also entering this month’s Tea Time Treats, an event held jointly by What Kate Baked and Lavender and Lovage. The theme this month is Chocolate and these cookies so happen to be equally good with a cuppa at the end of the day (which I can also vouch for!).

White Chocolate & Cranberry Christmas Cookies

Makes 30 large cookies:

225g of butter, very soft

175g of light muscovado sugar

175g of caster sugar

2 medium free range eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

350g of plain flour

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon of salt

200g of white chocolate, chopped into small chunks

150g of dried cranberries

Simply beat the butter until very soft (which is much easier to do if it’s been left to warm up out of the fridge for a while). Then beat in the sugars, then the eggs and the vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and creamy. Employ any spare children to do this bit for you!

In another bowl combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Slowly add the dry mix to the wet until  fully combined. Stir in the chocolate and cranberries. That really is all there is to it!.

Divide the mixture into three. Dollop each third onto a length of cling film. Using the cling film to hold the mixture together (it’s very soft and almost unworkable with bare hands) form into a long sausage shape, about 20 cm long and 5 cm wide. Twirl the ends of the cling film to secure into shape and pop into the fridge to firm up. Repeat with the other two thirds.

It’s good to use after about 30 minutes of firming up time. The dough will keep like this for several days in the fridge or much longer in a freezer.

When ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 190º/Gas 5. When it’s up to temperature, remove a section of dough from the fridge or freezer. Cut the sausage dough into 1.5 cm rounds, and simply place the rounds as they are, but very spread out, on a large baking sheet. They’ll melt down into a flat cookie shape all by themselves, my kids love to watch this.

Pop in the oven for 9 to 11 minutes. They’re ready when almost firm in the middle and a little brown. Remove from the tray immediately and cool a little on a rack before eating.

White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

You might also like:

Cheesy Biscuits:                                     Super-Fruity Banana Mini-Muffins

Cheesy Biscuits

Francesca Super Fruity Banana Mini Muffins


Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Stew

Unfortunately there’s been a distinct lack of blogging action of late and way too many nasty germs floating around at Chez Foti. Viruses, bugs and colds a plenty but I’m keeping everything crossed the family’s all better by the end of the weekend. Even Dotty the pup was rushed to the emergency vets with a life threatening tick bite. Yes really!. Without the hefty injection and drugs he gave her she wouldn’t have made it much more than another 12 hours apparently. Luckily I myself have managed to escape the worst of all this sickness, bar the usual night nurse sleep deprivation and requirement to watch round the clock CBeebies anyway.

This was our first stew of the winter. A gloriously warming, boldly flavoured and slightly sticky stew of Chicken, Pumpkin and Borlotti Beans. The ingredients are loosely based on a Leon recipe I made a few times last year, but I’ve chopped and changed everything around quite a bit from the original here. The kids both loved it, and as Jacques’s going through a particularly fussy stage these days I was delighted that he devoured his bowl. Flavoured with plenty of rosemary, red wine vinegar, a little chilli, garlic and honey, what’s not to like?

Move over Ratatouille!

My official wee taste tester, move over Ratatouille!

I used my homegrown borlotti for the first time in the stew and was very happy with the results. Whilst the yield from the plants was more than a little disappointing the small harvest I have will allow for three or four more hearty family meals over the winter. I think I’m going to give them another whirl next year, even for the gorgeous pods alone:

My ever-so-pretty Borlotti Beans, when fresh the pods look like the beautiful one on the right, when dried out and ready to pick like the one on the left

Try to marinade the chicken the night before, or at least a few hours, to boost the wonderful flavours. I served it for the kids with mash as they love their mash, and for us with couscous. The latter being a little hit and miss with the littlies these days and thus unworthy of the rejection risk!.

If you don’t have any flavoursome pumpkin it can happily be substituted with a tasty squash.

I’m entering this blog to November’s Lavender and Lovage‘s Herbs on Saturday recipe challenge, this month hosted by Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes.

herbsonsaturday

Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Stew

Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Stew

Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Kids, Family Dinners, Just Grown Ups

Serves 4

For the Marinade:

2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard

a tablespoon of honey

a tablespoon of olive oil

a heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

a fresh red chilli, seeds removed and finely sliced (less for kids or those adverse, if they don’t like a little heat)

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a generous pinch of black pepper

4 free range chicken thighs, skin removed

For the Stew:

a large onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

500g of flavoursome pumpkin or squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into chunks

400g can of chopped tomatoes

400g can of borlotti beans, drained, or 125g of soaked and pre-cooked dried beans

500ml of chicken stock

Place all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and combine, then thoroughly rub into the chicken thighs. Cover and leave in the fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

Once marinated remove the chicken from the bowl and set aside the lovely marinade which you’ll use later. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large casserole or heavy based pan. Fry the chicken until golden on all sides, remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion to the same pan. Fry for 5 minutes before adding the carrots and pumpkin. Continue to cook for a further 5 minutes before throwing in the rest of the marinade, chicken thighs, chopped tomatoes, borlotti beans and stock.

Give everything a good stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and allow to slowly simmer for an hour. Et voila, one big pot of healthy loveliness!. Taste and season to suit and serve.

You might also like:

Chicken & Apricot Tagine: Boeuf en Daube

Chicken & Apricot Tagine with CouscousBeef in Daube recipe


Pumpkin, Cheese & Red Onion Muffins

I’m baking more and more with my littlies these days which is wonderful. At the ages of 2 and 4 they really enjoy getting involved at all stages. Every wednesday, as there’s no school on Wednesdays here in France, we bake at least one thing together, usually some sort of muffin, cake or biscuit. They love doing all the stirring, whisking, dolloping, sprinkling, decorating. Then obviously the scoffing.

We’ve made these muffins many a Wednesday baking session lately and I’ve only just realised they’ve yet to be blogged. So easy peasy to make, especially for little hands that like to do stirring, and pretty healthy to boot with all that deliciously sweet roasted pumpkin and red onion. I’m sure they must count as at least one of your five a day? If you or your kids are cheese fiends (like all of us!) then savoury muffins are the way to go, great for snacks, lunches and lunch boxes, picnics and even tea time treats. Fresh out of the oven is best, but they still hold their own cold.

Unusually for me I made large muffins this time round, I usually prefer to make smaller mini sized ones in fairy cake cases. It’s up to you. As for the cheese, I used about half Cheddar and half Parmesan in this batch but you could use all Cheddar or all Parmesan equally as successfully. You can happily substitute the pumpkin for butternut.

Cheesy Grins for Cheesy Muffins!

Pumpkin, Cheese & Red Onion Muffins

Makes 12 large muffins or 24 small mini-muffins

500g of pumpkin or butternut squash, skin and seeds removed

a large red onion

a tablespoon of sunflower oil

275g of plain flour

1 tablespoon of baking powder

½ a teaspoon of English mustard powder

salt & pepper

85g butter

2 free range medium sized eggs

200ml of milk

100g of grated Mature Cheddar or Parmesan or a mixture of the two

Special Equipment: Cake or Muffin Trays, Cake or Muffin Cases

Preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Start with roasting off your pumpkin. Cut into large chunks and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until pretty soft and cooked through, turning once or twice during the cooking time. Once roasted place in a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Set aside cool a little. This part could always been done before when you happen to be using the oven for something else. Over the pumpkin season I tend to always have some pre-roasted pumpkin in the fridge to be used in cakes, muffins, pasta dishes or soups.

While the pumpkin’s roasting, finely slice the red onion. Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion for 10 to 15 minutes until softened.

Sift the flour, baking powder and mustard powder into a large bowl. Stir in a pinch of salt and pepper.

Melt the butter and allow to cool a little. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, then whisk or stir in the milk. Once the butter’s cooled a little whisk into the eggs and milk.

Attention littlies, lots of stirring action now required!. Throw the wet mixture into the dry and stir, stir, stir. Once combined chuck in the roasted and mashed pumpkin, red onion and ⅔ of the cheese.

Dollop the mixture into cake or muffin cases in cake or muffin trays. It’s about a dessertspoon of the raw mixture for a fairy cake sized mini-muffin or a heaped tablespoon for a large muffin. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the tops.

Bake in the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes for mini-muffins or 40 to 50 minutes for normal full sized. They’re ready when they’re golden on the top, firm to touch and an inserted cake skewer or fork comes out crumb free.

Remove from the trays and cool on a cooling rack. Particularly lovely eaten warm, and if you want to be exceptionally naughty, ahem, break in half and smear in butter.

You might also like:

Super-Fruity Banana Mini Muffins     

Pumpkin Carbonara

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake                          

Cheese, Ham & Sweetcorn Muffins


Pumpkin Carbonara

I finally picked the rest of our pumpkins and squash yesterday. Frosts are on their way and I wanted to get them under cover sharpish. I have to admit most are looking more that a tad sorry for themselves and in need of some strong sun to finish ripening, and being a bit of a novice at these things I’m not really sure what to do! I grew lots of pumpkins last year in my first season of growing but they were all fully ripened and orange by now. Should I keep them inside and bring them out on sunny days? Or resurrect and put in the poly tunnel? Or should I just eat them as they are? Any pumpkin professionals out there willing to offer me some advice?

The last of the pumpkins & squash!

Luckily I’ve already picked lots of fully ripened radiantly orange pumpkins and so it’s pumpkin with everything these days at Chez Foti. And as usual I’m loving adding a seasonal touch of healthiness to our favourite family suppers. It was the turn of the carbonara this week. Much as I love carbonara made traditionally with just eggs, bacon and parmesan it’s not exactly nutrient rich and I’m reluctant to give it to my kids in its basic form. Whilst Mr F and I will happily eat a large leafy salad on the side the kids won’t, so I like to add some veggie goodness to the sauce. Pumpkin works wonderfully with both parmesan and bacon and so it’s a natural for carbonara, and I also like to add a little fresh sage which is the perfect paring for pumpkin and bacon.

The first pumpkin of the year

If you don’t have any flavoursome pumpkin to hand (and believe me it’s not nice to cook with if it isn’t!) you can happily use butternut instead.

Since my carbonara is flavoured with sage I’m entering the recipe (for the second time this month!) to Lavender and Lovage’s October Herbs on Saturday blog challenge.

Pumpkin Carbonara

Enough for a hearty meal for a family of four:

500g of flavoursome pumpkin or butternut, peeled

a tablespoon of olive oil

salt & pepper

240g of dried pasta of your choice, or equivalent in fresh

200g of streaky bacon or lardons, cut into small strips

a heaped teaspoon of finely chopped fresh sage leaves

1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves, finely slices

3 eggs, free range

3 heaped tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

Start with roasting your pumpkin or butternut. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6. Dice into smallish 1 to 1.5cm cubes, toss in the olive oil and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Place on a roasting tray and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until soft and slightly browned, turning once or twice during the cooking time.

Cook your pasta to packet instructions. Try to time so your pasta is cooked and ready at the same time as the pumpkin roasted and bacon browned.

Meanwhile heat a frying pan on a medium heat and fry off the lardons or streaky bacon (in their own fat) with the sage and garlic. Drain off any excess fat. Fry until the bacon is a little browned.

While the bacon’s frying, whisk the eggs lightly and stir in the Parmesan and a generous pinch of black pepper (you shouldn’t need any further salt as there’s plenty in the bacon and parmesan).

As soon as the pumpkin, pasta and bacon are all cooked and still piping hot throw them all together in one pan and thoroughly stir in the egg and Parmesan mix. Don’t put the pan back on the heat or you’ll have pasta with scrambled eggs! What you want is a lovely glossy eggy coating. Taste and add further pepper if it needs it  (I do like lots of pepper on my food!).

Related Posts: 

Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

Pumpkin & Bacon Soup

Sausage & Courgette Carbonara

Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese


Homemade Tomato Ketchup

I was very kindly given this glorious recipe last week by a friend and neighbour of my Mum and Dads in Herefordshire, Janette. My Mum had happened to mention quite how overrun I was with all our homegrown tommies and Janette suggested I used them to make Tommie Sauce and promptly emailed me the recipe that her mum had passed on to her that she’d always eaten as a child. How wonderful is that?.

I immediately set to to make it, just in the nick of time picking the last of our beef and plum tommies and a few of the still prolific cherries, and I couldn’t think of a better recipe to celebrate the end of one extremely hectic tomatoey summer. Incase you missed reading about all our tomatoes here’s my Tomato Veg of the Month Round Up. And although the tomato season is pretty much over for most people I couldn’t help myself  in blogging it now rather than wait until next year, when undoubtedly I’ll be making many further batches!.

I should also mention that Janette is generally known to us as ‘Chocolate Janette’ as she so happens to own a small chain of gorgeous artisan chocolate shops in Ludlow, Worcester and Shrewsbury and an online business too, www.chocolategourmet.co.uk. Now that’s the sort of neighbour everyone needs!.

I have to admit to being extremely skeptical that a Homemade Tommie Sauce would meat the mark. The mark being the big H brand so known and loved. And how wrong was I? This recipe is superb, the kids couldn’t tell the difference and I would honestly go as far to say I preferred it, though it’s remarkably similar. I know we’re now at the end of the tomato year, but if you happen to come across some cheap and flavoursome tommies I urge you to make this, or bookmark it for next summer. It doesn’t take long at all, is foolproof simple and oh sooooooo good. I now have a serious addiction. In truth I’ve never been that huge on Tommie K though I do love it on a bacon butty, but now I’ve made my own it’s going on everything. I even made some homemade chips at the weekend to give it a thorough road test, and I don’t ever eat ketchup on chips. And I don’t have to tell you how good it was.

I’m not sure you can beat a bacon butty with homemade Tommie K, this was the second of the weekend!

Similarly my kids aren’t huge Tommie K addicts like some kids, but then I probably haven’t allowed them to be. It’s only ever brought out with chips, which are a pretty rare treat at Chez Foti. But now it’s on free flow they’re asking for it with everything!. It’s actually called ‘Bop Bop’ sauce in our house, bet no one can guess why?!

Jacques safeguarding his precious bottle of Bop Bop Sauce, that he enjoyed for lunch yesterday with his cheese on toast

As homemade Tommie K is technically a Preserve I’m also entering it to this month’s Tea Time Treats  challenge, and it’s certainly a popular Tea Time Treat in our house now!. The blogging event it held jointly by Karen @ Lavender and Lovage and this month by Kate @ What Kate Baked.

The recipe below is pretty much exactly how Janette emailed it to me, though I used cider vinegar instead of the malt. Not to posh it up in any way, but you can’t buy malt vinegar in France. I also used a little less sugar as I didn’t feel it needed it all, but then my tommies were extremely ripe and sweet. I skinned my tomatoes first, which is really not at all tricky. Simply immerse them in boiling water for a minute then plunge into cold for a few moments, the skins will then effortlessly slip off. I didn’t bother with the straining (actually I started then promptly stopped as I didn’t want to waste so much goodness!) but gave the finished sauce a very good blitzing with a hand blender.

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

2700g (2.7 kilos) of ripe tomatoes

570ml of malt vinegar

225g of sugar

25g of salt

½ a teaspoon of allspice

½ a teaspoon of ground cloves

½ a teaspoon of cinnamon

a pinch of cayenne pepper

Special Equipment: Sterilised bottles or jars

Skin your tomatoes if preferred.  Cut into rough quarters and simmer with the salt and vinegar until soft and broken.

Strain if you have not skinned then return the puree to the pan, add the sugar.  Continue to simmer until the ketchup starts to thicken. Then add the spices a little at a time stirring thoroughly until the flavour is to your taste. I probably added a little more of each than the recipe called for.

When the ketchup is reasonably thick pour into sterilised hot bottles or jars and seal.

Please note it will be thicker when cold than hot, so don’t reduce it too far. If you like a more rustic texture with the seeds still in the sauce miss out the straining process.

And before I go, why ‘Bop Bop’ sauce? When the squeezy Tommie K sauce bottles are coming to an end (which ours is at the minute) the kids think the sound is hilarious, like a ‘bop bop’, which in case you (probably) need further explanation the kids call a ‘fart’ or bottom. And so Tommie K has become the ‘Bop Bop’ sauce!. My kids are very little, and Bops Bops are still one of the funniest things in their worlds!

Related blogs:

August & September in the Garden

Homemade Sun (aka Oven) Dried Tomatoes

A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Yesterday it was Wednesday and there’s no school in most parts of France on Wednesdays so the littlies were at home. A bit odd at first but quite nice for the kids to have a day off half way through the week, especially as the school hours of 9 to 5 are so long (for Frannie anyway). Over the last few weeks it’s become a bit of baking day at Chez Foti, trying out a new cake or muffin recipe or two and getting the littlies to help with the weighing, pouring, whisking, stirring and of course most importantly the tasting. Yesterday it was the turn of a Chocolate Pumpkin Cake, not only one of the ‘healthiest’ cakes I’ve ever made but one of the moistest and most temptingly delicious. And the kids LOVE it. I think this’ll be a regular Wednesday bake!.

The stirring and tasting team

I love experimenting with veggies in cakes, much to the horror of the French who still haven’t really got to grips with the humble carrot cake. I made many a Courgette Cake with homemade Lemon Curd over the summer, and lots of Chocolate Courgette or Marrow Cakes of late using up the last of the glut. I’ve also baked quite a bit with Butternut Squash in Muffins and Cakes and once even made a gloriously coloured Beetroot Chocolate Cake. But using Pumpkin was a newbie to me, and after a couple of attempts I’ve perfected my recipe and it really is a winner. Low in sugar, and only using healthier unrefined Light Muscavado anyway, and richly flavoured by Roasted Pumpkin, Cocoa and a little warming Cinnamon.

We’ve more than a few pumpkins at Chez Foti, to be honest I’ve not counted them but there’s a lot. They should definitely see us through the winter and I have a feeling the blog will be moving from it’s recent tomato red to pumpkin orange. I’ve picked a few already but most are still out on the patch and will stay there slowly ripening until there’s a risk of frosts.

The Leaning Tower of Pumpkins!

I’m entering this blog for my first ever time to the We Should Cocoa challenge, held by Choclette of the Chocolate Log Blog and the Chocolate Teapot Blog and this month guest hosted by Hungry Hinny. This month’s challenge is to pair Pumpkin with Chocolate or Cocoa.

I’m going for a double whammy and also putting it forward to the One Ingredient Challenge, as this month the ingredient so happens to be Squash or Pumpkin!. The challenge is held jointly by Laura at How to Cook Good Food and this month by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen.

I baked my cake in a medium sized baking tin and made a wee extra in one of my Oogaa bowls for the kids. Being silicone they’re perfect for baking cakes in. Incase you haven’t already dropped by, the Oogaa Recipe site is now up and running and features several Chez Foti baby and kids recipes. You can even add your own recipes!

The kids love their cakes baked in an Oogaa silicone bowl

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Makes one very large traybake (20 x 35cm tin) or a smaller tin and a few individual cakes. Can be frozen.

700g of pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, and cut into very large chunks

120g of unsalted butter, room temperature

120ml of sunflower oil

260g of light muscovado sugar

3 medium free range eggs, lightly beaten

130ml of milk

350g of plain flour

50g of cocoa powder

2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder

2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Special Equipment: 20 x 35cm baking tin lined with baking parchment, or 6 silicone Oogaa bowls 

Begin with roasting your pumpkin. Place the very large chunks on a baking sheet in an oven pre-heated to 190ºC/Gas Mark 5. Bake for about 40 minutes until they’re pretty soft, turning once or twice during the cooking time. Once cooked remove from the pan, place in a bowl and thoroughly mash with a potato masher. Leave to cool a little. This part could always be done before, when you happen to be using the oven.

Meanwhile start the cake batter. Place the very soft butter, sunflower oil and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir or whisk until well combined.

Whisk in the eggs, followed by the milk.

Now gradually sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and cinnamon to the cake mixture, stirring until well combined with each sifting.

Finally stir in the slightly cooled mashed pumpkin and spoon out into your lined baking tin or bowls. Bake big cakes in the preheated oven (190ºC/Gas Mark 5) for 30 to 40 minutes and smaller ones for around 25 minutes. They’re ready when they’re firm to touch on the top (but still feeling a little squidgy), and an inserted skewer comes out clean of crumbs.

Cut into squares and serve as soon as cool enough to eat. You won’t be able to resist long!

Here’s some other Chez Foti sweet treats: Easy Chocolate Birthday Cake, Courgette Cake with Homemade Lemon Curd, Chocolate Brownies, My Girly Fairy Cake Heaven, Super-Fruity Banana Mini Muffins.

Little Miss F having an approving taste!

Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie!

There’s more than a chill in the air and finally it’s time to bring on the pies and stews. I love my winter food. As you’ll see from my last year’s Comfort Cottage Pie recipe normally I love nothing more than a super-meaty cottage pie with no more veggie additions than a little carrot and celery. However, my son Jacques (who’s now two and a half) is back on his Mission of Veggie Refusal and I’m back on my Mission of Veggie Disguise (a blog I wrote a few months ago getting kids to eat more veg). And this revised and super-seasonally vegged-up recipe has an umpteem of hidden veggies that will please even the most ardent of carnivores.

My basket of veggies freshly picked to make my Vegged-Up Cottage Pie, including carrots, parsnips, butternut, swiss chard, green beans and thyme

Interestingly the wee fella loves his fruit, particularly if he’s picked it himself which he often does, gorging himself on figs (his favourite), blackberries (second fave), plums, greengages and the odd pear from the garden. And he’ll happily eat a banana. And yet virtually all veggies are a complete no go these days, even his once beloved peas and sometimes low and behold even sweetcorn! He’ll happily watch and join in as I pick green beans and tommies, lift the carrots and parnsips, cut the brocolli or sweetcorn from the garden..but when it come to eating them, you’re having a laugh! It’s always a whiny ‘dont like’ coupled with a pushing away off the plate or even worse a full blown, increasingly more frequent, tantrum. I’m still lucky Francesca will eat pretty much all veggies put her way, admittedly not with great gusto (but then she doesn’t particularly like most foods!) and always under a certain amount of duress. But she does love her carrots, because horseys do.

My little veggie-refuser Grubster happily tucking into a fig

Jacque sagely eying up the veggies he’d just help to pick

This cottage pie is an out and out winner with them both and with us too, and provides us with a couple of very healthy and pleasing family dinners. Whenever I’m making these slow-to-cook meaty dinners I tend to double (or treble) up on quantities making at least enough for two family dinners, freezing half or keeping it in the fridge for later in the week. Halve the below ingredients list if you want to make enough for just one dinner.

Feel free to vary the veggies, use whatever’s seasonal or you have in. My weights are only what I so happened to have picked and are included for a guideline only, so please vary accordingly. I used swiss chard, carrots, french beans, celery and butternut squash in the meat sauce and parsnips and potatoes in the topping. The first parsnips of the year actually, and the first parsnips I’ve ever grown. Pretty impressive size I thought, Jacques and I were a bit surprised when we lifted them together! You could also use pumpkin, spinach, mushrooms, runner beans, swede, sweetcorn, peas, broccoli, cabbage, kale or peppers and probably loads of other veggies I can’t think of right now!

I also have a tendency to leave the skins on my carrots, parsnips and potatoes (and give them a jolly good scrub obviously!), but then mine are all organically home grown. It’s up to you.

Titchy carrots and whopper parsnips!

As an added meal enhancer try baking your kids their dinner in individual bowls, mine love eating theirs straight out of my gorgeous Oogaa bowls, which being silicone can handily be oven baked and microwaved.

This is also a recipe that can easily be adapted for weaning babies. Omit the Worcester Sauce and use baby stock cubes which are available at most big chemists, then whiz up the cooked beef and veggie sauce in a processor before piling on the topping.

The kids love their Cottage Pie baked in my individual Oogaa silicone bowls

Since my recipe is full of seasonal goodies I’m entering it into Fabulicious Food’s Simple and In Season challenge, this month hosted by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen

Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie

Toddlers, Bigger Kids, Family Suppers, Just the Grown Ups too!

Enough for a family of four TWICE!:

For the Meat & Veggie Sauce:

a large onion

2 sticks of celery

2 carrots

300g of butternut or pumpkin

2 tablespoons of sunflower or olive oil

600g of good quality beef mince

1 tablespoon of plain flour

800ml of beef stock

1 heaped tablespoon of tomato puree

2 teaspoons of Worcester Sauce

3 large sprigs of thyme

3 bay leaves

black pepper

100g of french or runner beans, finely diced

200g of chard or spinach, separating any thick stems from the leafy parts and shredding separately

For the Topping:

850g of potatoes peeled or un-peeled, chopped into large chunks

500g of parsnips, peeled or un-peeled, chopped into large chunks

50g of butter

50ml of milk

2 teaspoons of creamed horseradish, optional

salt & pepper

Finely dice the onion, celery, carrots and butternut or pumpkin. I usually pulse these veggies in a food processor both for speed and to get them reasonably fine (and well hidden!).

Heat the oil in a very large saucepan and throw in the onion, celery, carrots and butternut or pumpkin. Cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft, stirring regularly.

Turn up the heat and add the beef. Cook for about 5 minutes until browned.

Stir in the flour, quickly followed by the stock, tomato puree, worcester sauce, thyme, bay and a generous pinch of black pepper.

Now prepare the rest of your veggies, dicing them to an appropriate size for your kids i.e. the finer the dice the less likelihood of rejection!. Add them to the sauce. If you’re using swiss chard, include the diced stems at this stage but add the green leaves later (the same for spinach). Cover and leave to simmer for at least 30 minutes. If the sauce looks like it’s drying out, add a little water.

Meanwhile pre-heat your oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6, and make your potato & parsnip topping.

In a large pan of boiling water boil the potatoes and parsnips until soft. Drain and allow them to steam  and dry out for a few minutes. Mash with the butter, milk and horseradish.  Season to taste (go easy on the salt or none at all for littlies).

Once the sauce is cooked, stir in the spinach or chard leaves if using and  have a final taste check, adding a little more pepper and some salt if necessary (no salt for littlies and you shouldn’t need to add any anyway as there’s plenty in the stock).

Pour it into a large openproof dish (remembering to remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, which I usually don’t!) or smaller individual dishes.  Spoon on the mash. Shape your mash with the back of a fork as desired, I like a nice swirl!.

Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden on the top (and if it’s not you can alway pop it under the grill). Individual dishes will need substantially less time.

My other whoppers of veggie disguise are Kids Bolognese, Chicken, Veggie & Egg Fried Rice, Super-Vegged Up Chili, Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce and Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes

And here’s the little monkey wolfing down his super-vegged up Cottage Pie! Result.


My Girly Fairy Cake Heaven!

After all those tomatoes here’s a bit of cakey relief! It was my daughter’s fourth birthday a couple of weeks ago and I copped out of making a big show stopper iced cake and opted for these quickie, but nevertheless impressive (to a four year old anyway), pink iced glittery and oh so girly fairy cakes.

Unfortunately what she really wanted was a ‘horsey’ cake, but I’d made her a ‘horsey’ cake last year to the very best of my cakey baking and icing abilities. After initially recoiling in horror at the prospect of shaping and icing a horses head and/or body I had a major brain wave last year to construct a substantially simpler rectangular field of (plastic shop bought) horses complete with choccie finger fencing. It was a success. A huge success. But not a success I could beat this year…unless obviously I made her the exact same cake!

Last year’s third birthday ‘Horsey’ Cake!

So huge apologies Little Miss F, but I am not, nor ever will be a prospective candidate for the GBBO and thus it’s highly unlikely I’ll be carving that horses head too soon my lovely. Shame. She’s completely and utterly ridiculously infatuated with horses, and has been from a year old. Interestingly it’s come from no-where as we’re not horsey people at all. It’s the only thing she’s ever been interested in, every conversation or question she’ll without fail relate back to horses in some way. She only eats in the belief that one day she’ll grow enough to reach the stirrups (she’s no foodie, but does have a particular partiality for carrots, you guessed it, because horses do), the only film she’s EVER watched the whole of is Black Beauty (and I have no idea HOW many times she’s now watched it), she dreams of horses and riding EVERY night and loves nothing more than to watch the horse racing on TV, or worse in the local bar with all the drunken men folk whilst supping on an apple juice. Her life really is horses. And she’s going to be expensive.

So anyway back to the cakes, horsey cake request aside my pink and glittery job lot of fairy cakes seemed to be a good second best and she was, luckily, suitably impressed. Albeit most of her birthday party guests, being boys, weren’t so impressed. She doesn’t seem to have many girlie friends does funny Little Miss F!

Incidentally don’t be put off by the number (48), they’re really a doddle and don’t take long at all to bake, ice and decorate. Albeit I did bake them in a couple of batches as I don’t have that many cake tins or a big enough oven for that matter. The good thing about lots of little cakes is if you balls up on the decoration no one will notice….unlike on a big show-stopper cake. And they’re easy for your party guests to pick up and scoff and take home.

Pink & Glittery Fairy Birthday Cakes!

To make 48 small buttercream-iced fairy cakes:

For the Cakes:

330g of caster sugar

330g of butter, room temperature

6 medium eggs, free range, lightly beaten

3 teaspoons of vanilla extract

330g of self-raising flour

For the Buttercream Icing:

200g of butter, room temperature

400g of icing sugar

a few drops of red food colouring

For the Decoration:

Anything small, edible and pink/glittery

Mini smarties or other mini sweet or chocolates

Hundreds & Thousands

Edible glitter or sprinkles

Silver balls

Candles

Special Equipment:

4 small x 12 fairy cake tins and a large oven! Or 2 tins and 2 batches of half quantity cake mix and a smaller oven! 48 fairy cake cases

Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4. Line the fairy cake tins with the cake cases.

In a large mixing bowl beat together the room temperature butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs a little at a time. Then stir in the vanilla extract.

Fold in the flour using a large metal spoon until well combined.

Spoon a teaspoon of the cake batter into each of the cake cases. Place in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until firm to touch and golden brown on the top (you could also insert a cake skewer and if it comes out clean they’re ready).

When baked place on a cooling rack to cool.

Meanwhile make your icing by beating the butter until very soft. Add half the sieved icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth again.

Now add a few drops of the red food colouring and beat until you have an even colour. You can’t really tell from the pictures but I iced half my cakes in a pale pink and the other half in a slightly deeper pink. If you want to do this just divide the icing in half and add a little more colouring to one of the halves.

Now for the fun bit!. Spoon about a half a teaspoon of the icing onto each fairy cake and smear evenly over. Gather your decorations and get creative! Kids love doing this so get them involved if you can (although not so good if it’s their birthday cake as it may just spoil the surprise!). I love this part, and it’s surprisingly quick to decorate 48 cakes!.

Arrange on a plate or cake stand. Add the appropriate number of candles and there you have it, Girlie Fairy Cake Heaven!

For Jacques’ birthday I made him this easy peasy Chocolate Birthday Cake. Here’s some other party food ideas: Cheesy Biscuits, Cheese, Ham & Sweetcorn Mini Muffins, Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tartlets (good for the mums and dads!), Chocolate Brownies (always a winner), A Trio of Dips for Babies, Toddler & Big People.


Back from our Holidays, and a Cheese, Courgette & Cherry Tomato Bread & Butter Pudding

Well we’re back from our jolidays in the UK, back home to a gloriously hot and sunny September here in France. It’s been a fab time away though and even the weather managed to hold out at it’s best for us. We primarily went for my Big Brother Si’s wedding to Meilee up in Peebles, Scotland (which admittedly was wet and a little on the cold side!) and a fab time was had by all. An amazing hotel (The Cringletie House) and totally stunning food.

Not the most pro or conventional of wedding photies but a fun one of all my family at my Big Bro Si’s wedding, that’s him on the left then my Mum, the bride Meilee, myself (in the flowery dress), Mr F at the back with Master Jacques, my Dad with Miss Frannie, Sis in Law Shelly, and my other brothers Ben and Julian

We also managed to catch up with lots of friends around England that we don’t get to see too often, and had a good few days of chill out time at my Mum and Dads in Herefordshire. Even Mr F came along for the trip, and he really doesn’t ‘do’ holidays or anything that involves leaving Chez Foti really. The doggies and  chickens were left in the good hands of my brother-in-law for the first week then our friend Debbie. A huge thank you to you both for housesitting and leaving us with an impeccably clean and tidy house and happy animals, and to Debbie for the lovely fishcakes and a greengage & blackberry crumble (picked from the garden) to come home to. We really should go away more often!

I hate to say it but the tomatoes are still rather prolific at Chez Foti. Several kilos each and every day. My Tomato Veg of the Month is very much continuing into September, and I’ll be doing a huge round-up at the end of the month…..so there’s still time to forward me your favourite tomatoey recipes to try out. And as for the courgettes/marrows, I thought they were on their way out before we left but clearly not:

Some of my post-holiday Veggie Haul!

Not only has Mr F been warned of our impending vegetarian status for the next few weeks, but I feel it’s only fair the kids do their bit too. My Cheese, Courgette & Cherry Tomato Bread & Butter Pudding happens to be one of their favourite veggie dinners, and one that they can be expecting to be eat on a pretty regular basis over the next few weeks!. The savory bread and butter pudding is actually an idea I’ve adapted from Annabel Karmel, and seems to be pretty pleasing to most littlies as well as grown up folk. Perfect for a quick to assemble mid-week family supper, or for just the kids.

Cheese, Courgette & Cherry Tomato Bread & Butter Pudding

Toddlers & Y oung Children, Bigger Kids, Family Dinners, Grown Ups

Enough for a family of four:

a tablespoon of butter

3 thick large slices of white or wholemeal bread

½ a small red onion

a small courgette

15 cherry tomatoes

90g of mature cheddar cheese, grated

3 eggs, free range

260ml of milk

a heaped teaspoon of dijon mustard

a pinch of black pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.

Start with buttering a small ovenproof dish. Then butter the slices of bread. Cut each of the slices into six to nine pieces.

Prepare the veggies. Finely slice the onion. Cut the courgette into four quarters lengthways, then finely slice. Quarter the cherry tomatoes.

Line the bottom of the buttered dish with half the bread pieces. Follow with a scattering of half the onion, half the courgette slices, half the tomatoes and half the grated cheese. Then repeat with the remainder of the ingredients but not the cheese.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard and pepper. Pour evenly over the pudding. Top with the remaining cheese.

Place in the pre-heated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until puffed up and golden on the top.


One Pot Ratatouille

Baby Foods & Weaning 7-9 Months plus, Toddlers & Small Children, Older Kids, Grown Ups

We love ratatouille at Chez Foti, and it’s a regular feature on our dinner table throughout the summer. Originally from Provence, it’s a classic Southern French veggie side dish, and made with good quality (preferably organic) tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and aubergines it’s utterly delicious and bursting with vibrant summer flavour. My kids have always loved it too, they eat it these days on a bed of pasta or couscous with a few cheesie sprinkles (they LOVE their sprinkles!). Last summer when they were considerably smaller (and fussier) I diced all the veggies to a smaller size, as large chunks seemed to put them off. And when Jacques was really tiny and weaning I whizzed up my ratatouille with a stick blender and served it to him with baby pasta stars. If you’re making for babies or little kids do not add any salt.

Us grown up folk prefer to eat our ratatouille in a large shared bowl (with a luxurious drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the top) with plenty of fresh bread and maybe the odd sneaky merguez sausage on the side. It’s great served as a veggie side dish to a roast or cold cuts too, or with pasta or couscous like the kids.

My ratatouille recipe is probably somewhat old school now, in that it’s made as I’ve always made it with all the veggies in one big pot. It seems that most modern recipes call for the roasting or sauteing then layering of each of the veggies separately and diss my old fashioned all-in-one stew method. I personally like it both ways, but Mr F (who’s a big ratatouille fan) and the kids prefer this one pot wonder way….which is also quicker and requires less washing up!

Like all our dinners over the summer the veggies were all freshly picked from the garden, though admittedly I had to buy some peppers as mine are very slow to fruit this year. The courgettes, tomatoes (well obviously!), aubergine, garlic, onions, thyme and bay were all Chez Foti. It really is rather special being able to walk out of the front door and pick all your dinner’s ingredients, and after a year and a half of growing my own the novelty most certainly isn’t waining. And I hope it never does.

I’m entering this blog to the lovely Herbs on Saturday challenge, held by Karen at Lavender and Lovage.

Ratatouille

Enough as a main for four big people, or several more as a side dish:

4 tablespoons of olive oil

a very large or two medium white or red onions, medium dice

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a large aubergine or two small

2 peppers (preferably a red and a green one, or two reds)

2 courgettes

a small glass of white wine (optional)

700g of fresh chopped tomatoes (3 or 4 very large) (OR 600g of good quality tinned chopped tomatoes)

3 bay leaves

several sprigs of fresh thyme (be generous!)

a teaspoon of sugar

salt and pepper

Dice your veggies. If cooking for bigger kids and adults try to cut the peppers, aubergines and courgettes to a similar 3 cm ish slice size. I slice the aubergines into rounds (of about 4 to 5mm thick) then quarter the slices (or eighth if very large). The courgettes are sliced to the same thickness then cut in half (or quartered if very large). If making specially for babies (that do lumps) or toddlers cut to a much finer, more acceptable to them, dice.

Make a small bouquet garni of the herbs by tying together the bay leaves and thyme sprigs with string.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole. Add the onions and saute on a medium heat for 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and allow to cook for a further minute. Next throw in the aubergines and peppers followed by the courgettes about 5 minutes later. Stir frequently so nothing catches.

Pour in the white wine (if using) and allow to simmer for a few minutes until much reduced. Now stir in your chopped tommies, bouquet garni, sugar, a generous amount of back pepper and salt (go easy on the pepper and no salt for babies and small children). Bring everything to a simmer, stirring from time to time, and allow to cook on a fairly gentle heat for about 45 minutes partially covered with the lid. The veggies should be very tender and tomatoes much reduced.

Have a final taste check, adding more pepper, salt and sugar to taste (no added salt for babies or small children though). Fish out the bouquet garni and serve hot or cold.

Eat and enjoy as you so desire!

How about trying some of my other summery recipes? Garden Pasta, Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone, Paella, 70s Flashback Stuffed Marrow or A Couple of Tomato Tarts?


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