Category Archives: Vegetarian

Happy New Year, and a Parsley Pesto to you!

Parsley Pesto

Well christmas was mayhem at Chez Foti. Lots of friends and family guests, way too much food and good wine, late nights, plenty of doggie walks in the glorious (and surprisingly mild) sunshine and a couple of days of sledging in the Pyrenees. A fabulous time. And now the house is quiet, well as quiet as it gets with a two and a four year old and two chaotic doggies. Here’s hoping you all had a fab festive time and wishing everyone the very best for 2013.

I have to admit to very little on the cooking front since New Years Day. After weeks of pre-christmas freezer-filling baking and cooking it’s been a welcome break to gorge on the leftovers and eat simple pasta suppers. But I have been making plenty of my own pesto, which is ridiculously quick and simple to make. I’ve been using parsley instead of basil, and almonds instead of pine kernels, with fabulous results. My basil finished weeks ago in the garden but the Parsley’s still in happy abundance. And you really can’t beat a bowl of pasta served plainly and simply with lashings of homemade pesto. Though if you want to veg things up a little, as I always do, it’s wonderful with a handful or two of steamed french beans or courgette strips running through the pasta too.

Being of largely herby composition I’m entering my pesto to Lavender and Lovage’s  Herbs on Saturday challenge, this month hosted by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash Chat. 

herbsonsaturday

Spaghetti with Parsley Pesto

Parsley & Almond Pesto

Enough for 4 servings:

40g of parsley, thick stalks removed, washed

a clove of garlic, finely chopped

40g of Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese

60g of whole almonds

75ml of good quality extra virgin olive oil

a squeeze of lemon juice

salt & pepper

Simply place all the ingredients, bar the lemon, salt and pepper in a food processor and whiz until you have a your desired pesto texture. I like mine fairly rustic with a few lumps and bumps. Or place all the ingredients in a bowl and blitz with a stick blender. Both work equally well. Taste and season with a little lemon juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Et voila, you have super-quick super-tasty homemade pesto. Serve with pasta and/or veggies of your choice.

Bonne annnée everyone!

Parsley Pesto


Parsnip and Pear Soup

Parsnip & Pear Soup

There’s been a frenzy of activity in the Chez Foti kitchen this last week, brought on by my sudden and slightly panicked realisation we will be ten for christmas. Which obviously is very wonderful but I’ve got my work cut out! And after a few trials this is the soup I’ve decided to kick off christmas day lunch with, using our lovely parsnips and the last of the pears from the garden. It’s quite a light, yet creamy, soup flavoured with plenty of nutmeg and white pepper, and will be served with Parsnip Crisps (time permitting on the day!) and Mini Pear, Stilton & Shallot Tarts (blog coming soon!).

Parsnips

We’ve opted out of turkey for the main event this year and I’ve purchased a rather large piece of  imported British Beef instead (thanks to the lovely people at the Singing Frog Farm). The Roast Beef will be served with Yorkshire Puds, Chipolatas, Duck Fat Roasted Spuds, Roast Parsnips, Sprouts with Chestnuts, Roasted Pumpkin with Lardons and Lemon Butter Carrots. With lashings of Red Wine Gravy and Horseradish Sauce of course. As for the pud they’ll be my Great Granny’s Christmas Pudding, that my mum’s very kindly made this year and will be bringing over by special delivery. And for the christmas pud haters a Chocolate & Chestnut Bouche Noel (or Yule Log to you and me, but sounds a tad more sophisticated in French, made, photographed and now frozen and also coming to you in a blog very soon!). Oh I’m hungry just thinking about it. 10 days to go,  yikes!  Here’s a sneeky peek of the log:

My Chocolate & Chestnut Buche Noel, coming in a blog very soon!

My Chocolate & Chestnut Buche Noel, coming in a blog very soon!

Being full of seasonal goodness I’m entering my Soup to Ren Behan of Fabulicious Food‘s Simple and in Season bloggie event, this month hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage.

Simple and In Season

Parsnip & Pear Soup

Parsnip and Pear Soup

Serves 8 to 10

2 tablespoons of olive oil

25g of butter

a very large onion, or 2 mediums, diced

a kilo of parsnips, scrubbed and peeled

220g of pears, peeled and cored

a level teaspoon of ground white pepper

a level teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

2 bay leaves

2 litres of good quality chicken or vegetable stock

5 heaped tablespoons of half fat creme fraiche

A little milk for thinning (optional)

Heat the oil and butter in a very large pan on a gentle heat. Add the onions and saute gently for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile prep the parsnips. As mine are organic and homegrown I tend to leave the skins on but it’s probably best to peel them otherwise. Cut into 2 to 3 cm chunks. Throw the parsnips into the pan. Allow to cook for a further 10 minutes, regularly giving the pan a good stir so nothing catches.

Stir in the pears, white pepper, nutmeg and bay leaves. Then pour over the stock. Bring to a simmer. Allow to bubble away for 15 to 20 minutes or until the parsnips are very soft. Take off the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Remove the bay leaves then blitz in a food processor or blender or with a stick blender until silky smooth. Stir in the creme fraiche until it’s perfectly incorporated. I like my soups around this thickness but you may wish to thin some more with a little extra milk.

Serve immediately!

Here’s some other Chez Foti seasonal soups:

Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

Pumpkin & Bacon Soup

Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup)

Parsnip & Pear Soup


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


Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza

There’s been a good deal of wild mushroom foraging recently at Chez Foti. Magnificent Parasol Mushrooms have been popping up literally all over our garden the last couple of weeks and I’ve been on a bit of a picking and eating frenzy. I wasn’t too sure what they were at first but after consultation with two sets of very knowledgeable neighbours and my trusty mushroom book I was pretty excited to find they were exceptionally good to eat!. And in fact some of the finest mushrooms I’ve ever tasted. We also have ceps and chanterelles growing in our garden, but there’s been very few this year (and neither in my opinion have been as good as the Parasols).

And so there’s been no end of wonderful freebie wild mushroom dinners lately at Chez Foti. Mushroom bruschetta, tarts, pizzas and risottos a plenty. Times like this make living here pretty special, when you really can eat off the land.

Parasol Mushroom

I make a lot of pizzas as at Chez Foti. Mainly because we have an original wood-fired bread oven in the lounge of our house which bakes amazing pizzas throughout the colder months (it’s too hot to light up most of the summer). But this pizza was actually baked in my new oven, testing out it’s pizza baking capabilities. And I wasn’t disappointed, it did the wonderful foraged mushrooms the justice they deserve.

I’ve been experimenting lately with tomato-less bases or ‘white’ pizzas, well since the tomatoes finished anyway (although it seems I have half a freezer of tomato sauce to use up!) . The ricotta, lemon zest, chili and parsley base on this pizza complements the heavenly rich roasted garlic and thyme wild mushrooms. Incidentally don’t skip on the pre-roasting of the mushrooms; roasting gives them a much stronger, richer and somehow more meaty texture and flavour. Truly divine.

If you can’t forage or buy your own wild mushrooms choose some interesting shop bought ones, big or small. Ideally anything but the boring and bland button mushies anyway!.

Jacques looking pretty happy with our find

I’m entering this blog to a couple of bloggie challenges. Firstly, as there’s a fair flavouring of herbs, to the lovely Herbs on Saturday challenge, the baby of Karen @ Lavender & Lovage, and this month hosted by Blue Kitchen Bakes.

And secondly to Simple and in Season, held by Ren Behan of the fabulous Fabulicious Food blog!

Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza

Serves 1 – 2 (depending on your appetite for pizza!)

One quantity of pizza dough (I usually stick to a Jamie Oliver recipe, using part semolina flour when I can get it)

175g of wild or interesting shop bought mushrooms, wiped but not washed

2 tablespoons of olive oil

20g of butter

a few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half

salt & freshly ground black pepper

120g of ricotta

zest of ½ a lemon, plus a little juice

½ a red chili (or a whole one if you prefer), seeds removed and finely sliced

a heaped tablespoon of finely chopped flat leaved parsley

a heaped tablespoon of finely grated parmesan

extra virgin olive oil or truffle oil to finish

Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC.

Start by roasting off your mushrooms. Tear or cut the mushrooms into large bite size pieces. Combine in a small baking dish with the olive oil, butter, thyme, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, giving everything a good move around half way through.

Meanwhile prepare the ricotta base. Mix together the ricotta, lemon zest, chili, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Once the mushrooms have roasted remove the garlic from the pan and finely slice. Add the garlic back to the mushrooms. Turn the oven temperature up to the hottest it will go and put your pizza stone or baking tray in to heat up.

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

Spread the ricotta evenly over the base. Scatter on the mushrooms and sliced garlic and sprinkle over the grated parmesan. Finally give the pizza a squeeze of lemon and a generous drizzling of some very good extra virgin olive oil OR if you’re lucky enough to have any (I’m not!) I’m pretty sure truffle oil would be sublime.

Place in your extremely hot oven and cook until crisp and golden. This could be anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes! Our woodfired bread/pizza oven usually takes less than 5 minutes.

Lots of lovely Parasols

Master J having a good look through Mummy’s Mushroom Book!

Butternut, Feta and Red Onion Tart with Thyme

I’m loving the Butternut and Pumpkin season at Chez Foti. To be honest it’s making a welcome change from all those tomatoes of the summer, not that they’ve completely finished yet!. And it’s been lots of fun getting a little more inventive with them than the usual soups and stews. One of my biggest successes was the Chocolate Pumpkin Cake, but I’ve also been making all manner of other sweet and savoury baked goodies that I haven’t found the time to blog yet. My latest mission has been to develop an interesting Butternut Tart and I’m finally happy with the results and ready to share the recipe. A Shortcrust pastry base (homemade or shop bought), a meltingly soft layer of red onions topped with roasted butternut cubes, crumbled feta cheese, toasted pine kernels, a generous sprinkling of fresh thyme and finally a drizzle of  balsamic for a little zing. Not only is this a great family-friendly mid-week supper or lunch tart, it’s a more interesting than normal vegetarian dinner party option too.

I have to hold my hands up and admit I do use ready-made shortcrust or puff pastry occasionally, particularly to make a quickie mid-week supper. In France both pastries are readily and cheaply sold in a roll, ready rolled and ready to place directly onto a (round) baking tin or tray. How’s that for super-cheating? Even better that it can sometimes be very good quality pastry, but like most things you get what you pay for. I believe in the UK you can only buy frozen shortcrust or puff pastry that needs to be rolled out? I do obviously make my own pastry quite often too!

You could happily also use a flavoursome pumpkin for this tart, and in fact I used a mixture of pumpkin and butternut here as I was using up what I happened to have in the fridge. Though my normal warning with using pumpkin standsmake sure it’s a sweetie! Pumpkin can all too often be bland and devoid of flavour, particularly the pumpkins sold for Halloween in the UK. I’m luckily enough to have really flavoursome ones at Chez Foti, but then I’m also lucky enough to have long sunshiny summers!.

Since thyme is a crucial flavouring to my tart I’m entering my recipe to Lavender and Lovage’s October Herbs on Saturday blog challenge.

I’m also entering it to the One Ingredient Challenge for a second time this month, hopefully this is allowed?! The One Ingredient Challenge  is a monthly blog event, held jointly by Laura @ How to Cook Good Food and this month by Nazima @ Franglais Kitchen, picking out a particular ingredient each month, and this month it so happens to be Pumpkin or Squash. Perfect!

Butternut, Feta and Red Onion Tart with Thyme 

Serves 3 to 4 people, or a family of 4:

400g of Butternut squash, peeled

a tablespoon of olive oil

salt & pepper

1 very large or 2 medium red onions

35g of butter

250g of shortcrust pastry, either homemade or shop bought

25g of pine kernels

a medium free range egg, lightly beaten

130g of feta cheese, roughly crumbled

a few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed

balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper

Special Equipment: A large oblong or round baking sheet or tray

Start with roasting your 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 the squash is soft and slightly browned.

Meanwhile finely slice the onions. Heat the butter in a frying pan on a low heat and saute the onions for 25 to 30 minutes until meltingly soft.

Roll out the pastry (or de-roll in my lazy case!) into a circular (roughly 30 x 30cm) or oblong (roughly 35 x 20cm) shape. Place on an appropriately sized and shaped baking sheet or tray. Lightly prick the surface all over with a fork. Bake blind in the already pre-heated oven (200ºC) for 10 minutes.

Now to toast the pine kernels. Heat a frying pan on a medium heat and once hot throw in the kernels. Shake every few moments until you have been lightly toasted. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Once the onions are cooked allow to cool for a few minutes before mixing them with the beaten egg and a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.

Once the butternut has finished roasting, the onions are ready and pastry baked blind you can begin your assembly. Evenly spread the onion mix over the pastry, followed by the roasted butternut cubes then a scattering of the feta and pine kernels. Generously sprinkle on the thyme leaves and a little more black pepper. Carefully drizzle a few drops of Balsamic evenly all over.

Place back in the already heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes (200ºC). Remove when the pastry is golden at the edges. Slice and serve. Lovely with a tomato or green salad.

How about trying some of my other related recipes Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons, Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese,  Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Beans, A Couple of Tomato Tarts, Leek & Goats Cheese Tart


Spaghetti alla Puttanesca with fresh Tomatoes

Ordinarily this a wintry mid-week supper favourite at Chez Foti; a handy and quick store-cupboard dinner using tinned tomatoes. But with so many fresh tommies to hand it’s been made numerous times over the summer in my efforts to use up some of the glut. And it’s good, so much the better to be made with perfectly ripe, flavoursome, sweet and in-season tomatoes. You won’t be disappointed.

A bit of an Italian classic, Puttanesca is a heady mix of tomatoes, anchovies, capers, garlic, chili and olives. In Italian it literally translates as ‘whore’s spaghetti! Lovely. And it is. If you’ve never tried or made it you should. Deliciously simple.

I have no problem with using the tomato skin or seeds in recipes like this, but purists would balk. It’s up to you. If you want to remove the skins immerse the tommies in boiling water for 30 to 40 seconds then in a bowl of really cold water, they’ll then slip off easily. I use my plum tomatoes (which are the best for cooking with) for this sauce, but any very ripe, sweet tomatoes will be wonderful.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca 

Enough for 2 grown up folk (with hearty appetites!):

2 tablespoons of olive oil

a clove of garlic, finely chopped

a red chili, finely chopped (or less if you’re adverse to too much heat!)

4 anchovy fillets

450g of fresh chopped tomatoes or a 400g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes

a large pinch of freshly ground black pepper

a pinch of sugar

60g of stoned black olives

a dessertspoon of capers, rinsed

250g of spaghetti

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a gentle heat. Fry the chili, garlic and anchovies for a couple of minutes until the anchovies are almost disintegrated. Slide in the tomatoes and add a generous pinch of coarsely ground black pepper and a small pinch of sugar. Give everything a good stir. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the spaghetti to packet instructions.

The sauce is ready when it’s thickened and very flavoursome. Stir in the olives and capers. Have a taste check adding more black pepper to suit. Obviously you could add salt but there’s a fair whack already in there from the anchovies and capers so it’s unlikely you’ll need more.

Run the sauce through the spaghetti and serve immediately.

Here’s some other quickie mid-week supper ideas: Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone, Garden Pasta, Cheese, Courgette & Tomato Bread & Butter Pudding, One Pot Ratatouille, Tomato Tarts, 70s Flashback Stuffed Marrow, Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto, Noodles with Pork & Veggies


Homemade Sun (aka Oven) Dried Tomatoes!

As regular readers will know it’s been a tomatoey summer at Chez Foti, and I have to admit my interest is now waining slightly. Though my 68 plants (beyond ridiculous I know, but down to an over-exhuberence in seed sowing and an ever growing number of fruitful self-seeders!) are most definitely not waining and unlike last year there’s not a diseased leaf in sight. And I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at this!

Of all the ways to attack a glut of tomatoes this is without question my favourite. Many a batch has been made and enjoyed over the course of our summer, and I’ve just realised I’ve not blogged how to make them. And lots of people have been asking. But beware they’re fabulously addictive. I’d hate to know how many I’ve consumed the last few weeks, but I can promise you I won’t ever be buying another shop bought jar again. The homemade ones are simply sublime beyond sublime. And I’d go as far as to say they are the single most tastiest thing I’ve EVER made! Amazing in pasta dishes, sandwiches, pizzas, salads, or served as an antipasto with drinks. The latter being my favourite way so you can truly appreciate their flavour (if stored in the fridge make sure you serve them at room temperature).

A basket of plummies!

I have to admit I’ve not made mine in the most orthodox way. After much googling it seems that few people bother with attempting real ‘sun’ dried tomatoes as it’s a pretty tricky and lengthy affair, even if you do have guaranteed hot sunshine for several days. Pretty much all commercial ‘sun’ dried tomatoes are oven dried, as are the home produced ones. So an oven is required, but all searches on google required an oven that would heat to a mere 100 to 120°C (and to bake the tomatoes for around 6 to 12 hours, depending on their size and water content). My temporary gas oven most certainly goes no where near this low so I improvised. By placing the trays in the coolest part of the oven and periodically switching the oven on and off to it’s lowest setting over the course of 24 hours (admittedly I wasn’t dedicated enough to do it through the night!) I’m pretty confident I achieved the same results. And it shouldn’t go without saying saved a good deal of energy on the normal method. A total success.

My other googling find was that plum (also known as Roma) tomatoes work the best, mainly because of their lower water and seed content and larger proportion of fleshy bits. Handily I’ve lots of those!

The Pre-baked Sun Dried Tomatoes

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes

As many tomatoes as you want to use, preferably plum tomatoes

a little salt

a little pepper

a little sugar

several sprigs of thyme

extra virgin olive oil

Decide how you’re going to bake your tomatoes. If your oven can be set to as low as 100º or 120º you could go with this and bake the tomatoes for around 6 to 12 hours, checking every hour or so whether they’re ready. Alternatively you could bake them like myself at a temperature of around 160º but turning off the oven every time it reaches this temperature and leaving the tomatoes within to cool down and slowly dry out. This will take around 24 hours and 5 to 8 turning on and off sessions (not including the night!). You must take care not to forget and that they don’t stay too hot for long or they’ll colour and taste burnt in a matter of minutes (this happened with one batch of mine!)

Pre-heat your oven to the desired choice of heat setting.

Cut each of the tomatoes in half lengthways. Using your finger carefully scrap out most of the juice and seeds. Place each cut side up on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Continue until all the tomatoes are halved and prepared. I do at least a couple of trays at a time, but this is an awful lot of tomatoes!

Sprinkle over the merest amount of black pepper, sea salt and sugar on each tomato half. Drizzle on a tiny amount of the olive oil and a generous sprinkling of thyme.

Place in the coolest part of the oven and bake according to your chosen heat setting.

The sun dried tomatoes are ready when the liquid has evaporated, they are considerably reduced but are still flexible to touch, a very deep red and are a little chewy or tacky. The best way to judge them in my view is to taste a couple every now again! You’ll know when they’re perfect.

I stored mine, once cooled, in a jar of olive oil with a few slivers of garlic, in the fridge. They also kept very well for several days in the fridge just plain. Believe me you won’t be able to keep them long anyway! Try not to eat them straight out of the fridge, let them warm to room temperature first.

Here’s some of my other recent tomatoey recipes: A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces, One Pot Ratatouille, A Couple of Tomato Tarts, Garden Pasta, Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone

The post-baked finished sun dried tomatoes


Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tarts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tarts

Makes 24 mini tartlets:

For the Pastry:

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

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

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

a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

a generous pinch of salt

an egg yolk

For the Tarts:

3 tablespoons of olive oil

3 red onions, very finely sliced

2 dessertspoons of balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper

12 to 15 very ripe figs (about 320g)

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

a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed

a little more extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Special Equipment: 

2 small x12 tart or fairy cake tins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Courgette Soup with Parsley & Parmesan

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

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

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

Courgette Soup with Parsley & Parmesan

To make 8 servings:

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 onions, diced

6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 kilos of courgettes or marrows, diced

a litre of chicken or veggie stock

a heaped teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

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

2 heaped tablespoons of creme fraiche, half or full fat

75g of Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, finely grated

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

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

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

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


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.


%d bloggers like this: