Tag Archives: Carrots

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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The Healthy Epicurean's Almond Chocolate Cake

The Healthy Epicurean’s Almond Chocolate Cake

Rhubarb Crumble Muffins

Rhubarb Crumble Muffins

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A very retro Sweet ‘n Sour Pork

Sweet & Sour Pork Recipe

So we’re now in the third month of the Swallow Recipes for Life Challenge and the chosen three ingredients were a potentially tricky Pork, Sweetcorn and Tomato. I have to admit to pondering for quite some time before coming up with my Retro-tastic Sweet & Sour recipe. And my sincere apologies now for the absence of any authenticity, and if you’re likely to be offended please look no further!. But I can nevertheless assure you it’s a pretty tasty dinner.

Admittedly not a dish I’m usually a big fan of, and I’m always a bit sniffy of the take-away version, but this homemade recipe was a bit of a hit in the Chez Foti household. The kids happily chowed down and successfully consumed a healthily pleasing quota of veggies, but then anything inclusive of fruit and/or sweetcorn and served with rice is usually onto a winner with them. I really should confess to very much enjoying it myself too, way more than I thought I would, though I did perk mine up somewhat with an additional (very) hot chili. And it proved a delightful and worthy use of the very last of my Homemade Tomato Ketchup.

swallow-recipes-for-lifeJust in case you missed the earlier challenges, the lovely Vanesther of Bangers and Mash Chat has tasked fellow bloggers to come up with wholesome, delicious and easy-to-cook recipes using three key ingredients, that members of the Swallow cookery club can cook themselves. Swallow is a Somerset based charity that help adults with learning disabilities to lead more independent lives, including the running of cookery courses and the preparation of meals for themselves.

Sweet & Sour Pork

Sweet & Sour Pork

Great for: Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Kids, Tomato Ketchup Fans, Family Dinners, Grown Ups, Mid-Week Suppers, Retro Foodies

Enough for a Family of 4:

For the Sauce:

a 227g tin of Pineapple Slices in Natural Juice, drained and juice retained, slices cut into chunks

a level tablespoon of Cornflour

2 tablespoons of Tomato Ketchup, Homemade or bought

2 tablespoons of Soy Sauce

2 tablespoons of Chinese Rice Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar

a dessertspoon of Honey

For the Stir Fry:

2 tablespoons of Groundnut or Sunflower Oil

300g of lean Pork loin or fillet, cut into fine inch long strips

a small Onion, diced

a Carrot, sliced into very fine inch long strips

a Red Pepper, large dice

a clove of Garlic, finely sliced

a thumb sized piece of Ginger, grated or finely chopped

0 – 2 Red Chillies, finely sliced (depending on your heat tolerance)

a Courgette, sliced into inch long strips

a 150g tin of Sweetcorn (or you could use a handful of Baby Sweetcorn)

Start with prepping your sauce. Mix the cornflour with all the retained pineapple juice, then stir in each of the other ingredients. Set aside.

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large sauce pan to a very high temperature. Carefully add the pork to the hot fat and cook for a two or three minutes, moving the pork around regularly so it cooks on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Into the hot pan add a further tablespoon of oil and carefully add the onion, carrot, red pepper, garlic, ginger and chillies (if using). Cook for three minutes on a very high heat, continuously moving everything around. If the veggies are sticking to the pan throw in a splash of water. Stir in the courgette and continue to c0ok for a further three minutes.

Finally stir in the set aside pork strips, pineapple chunks, sweetcorn and the sauce. Stirring regularly allow to bubble away for a few minutes and take off the heat when you have your desired state of veggie tenderness. I personally prefer a healthy crunch to mine but the kids favour their’s a little on the softer side. So I settle for somewhere in the middle.

Chow down with noodles or steamed rice. Maybe a cheeky prawn cracker or three on the side.

Sweet & Sour Pork

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Homemade Tomato Ketchup

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

Noodles with Pork & Veggies

Noodles with Pork & Veggies


A Winter Roasted Roots and Gruyere Pie!

Roasted Roots Pie

It’s still mightily cold isn’t it? I’m in the midst of the never-ending Winter that is the UK this week, and this morning has witnessed my third siting of snow since I’ve been here. Unbelievable. Not helped by the frequent Skype sessions to the littlies in France who are clearly enjoying the first few sun-drenched ‘strawberry days’ of the year. ‘Strawberry Day’ being a Francesca-ism for a warm sunny day. Each and every day her first question upon awakening is invariably ‘is it a strawberry day mummy?’. The answer (usually to the negative) not only giving her the potential to pick a strawberry from the garden (bless her, she’s perpetually confused as to why it can be sunny yet there’s none to be found) but more importantly would allow her to put on the summer dresses and shorts that she’s been so longing to wear again since October. So much for my non-girlie girl! She may have only friends that are boys but she’s turning out to be a right little fashionista.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Seeing as it’s still full blown winter in the UK I’m bringing you my recipe for a wintery Roasted Roots Pie, and sincerely hoping this might be the last wintery food blog for quite some time! The recipe for this pie came about on a recent family get together when I tasked myself with putting on a bit of a Pie Night. The meat one was a cinch to decide, opting for my Beef, Beer and Stilton Pie that I recently wrote for Delicieux and went down stormingly well with my pie-eating family!. But I wanted to match it’s decadent richness with a special veggie option for the non-meat eaters of which there’s a few dotted around our lot. Being a bit partial to my seasonal Rosemary Roasted Roots I opted for an interesting selection of Celeriac, Butternut, Sweet Potatoes and Carrots and encased them in a rich Gruyere, Parmesan and Wholegrain mustard sauce. And topped off with the same homemade Rough Puff pastry (you could obviously cheat on this bit and use ready made Rough) as it’s meaty brother pie. I’m very pleased to report the pie was an equal hit and the perfectly interesting and substantial veggie option, that even the ardent meat eaters couldn’t resist nibbling into. In fact I’ve already made it again since. It’s a keeper. Rock on the next Pie Night I say!

Being heavy on the Rosemary (most of my food seems to be these days!) I’m entering Lavender and Lovage’s lovely Herbs on Saturday challenge again, this month hosted by London Busy Body (you’ll be sick of my emails by now!). And since it’s a made from scratch meal, to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays challenge. And last but certainly not least once again to Simple and in Season, the seasonal blogging challenge of Ren of Fabulicious Food and this month hosted by myself.

herbsonsaturday

Made with Love Mondays

Simple and In Season

Roasted Roots Pie

Roasted Roots & Gruyere Pie

Serves 6 to 8

Great for Pie Nights!, Dinner Parties, Vegetarians, Family Dinners, Special Occasions, Week-end Slowies, Winter Warmers

1.2 kilos of mixed Root Vegetables (I used a fairly even mix of Celeriac, Butternut, Carrots and Sweet Potato. You could also use Swede, Turnips, Pumpkin, Beetroot or Parsnips)

2 large Onions, large dice

6 cloves of Garlic, left whole with skin on

a heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh Rosemary

Salt and Pepper

4 tablespoons of Olive Oil

50g of Butter

50g of Plain Flour

700ml of Whole Milk

180g of Gruyere, grated

30g of Parmesan, grated

a tablespoon of Wholegrain Mustard

Salt & Pepper

450g of Rough Puff or Shop Bought Pastry (about 2/3rd of this recipe)

an Egg, beaten

Special Equipment: 2 x large roasting tins

Preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Dice all your veggies, bar the carrots, to a similar 2-3cm chunk size. Cut the carrots into inch long narrow battens. Place in the roasting tins, along with the diced onions, garlic cloves, rosemary and a generous pinch or two of black pepper and salt. Drizzle over the olive oil and give everything a thorough mix with your hands. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, turning the veggies twice during the cooking time.

Meanwhile make the cheese sauce. Using the roux method gently heat the butter in a medium sized saucepan until it’s melted. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and with the pan still over the heat slowly and gradually add the milk. You may want to switch the spoon for a balloon whisk at this point, whisking thoroughly between milky additions, until all the milk is incorporated. Continue stirring with the whisk or wooden spoon until the sauce is simmering. Stir in both the cheeses, mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Remove the whole roasted garlic from the Roasted Roots and squeeze out the loveliness contained into the sauce. Give a final thorough stirring.

Combine the sauce with the veggies and place in your pie dish.

Roasted Roots Pie

Turn down the oven to 190ºC/Gas Mark 5.

Cover the top of the veggies in a layer of Rough Puff Pastry, crimp the edges. Brush with the beaten egg.

Roasted Roots Pie

Place in the pre-heated oven for 40 to 45 minutes until the pastry is fully cooked, puffed up and golden brown. Slice and eat. With lashings of buttery mash to ward off the cold.


Roasted Roots and an Easy Roasted Roots Pizza

Roasted Roots Scone-based Pizza swallow-recipes-for-lifeWhat to do with Carrots, Beetroot and Cheese? These were the three ingredients chosen for March’s Recipes for Life challenge, a new monthly event held by Vanesther at Bangers & Mash. The challenge is run in partnership with the Somerset based charity Swallow who work with adults with learning difficulties. Every month they’ll be a new trio of ingredients and bloggers are challenged to come up with tasty, healthy and easy to prepare dishes that may even appear in Swallow’s new cookbook. What a lovely challenge I say!.

Admittedly not an obvious choice of ingredients at first but after a few brief moments of ponder I realised this remit would not only include one of our regular quickie dinners at Chez Foti, Roasted Veggies with Feta and Couscous but also my Roasted Veggie Lasagna too. My wholehearted apologies for the awful photos on both these blogs, but in my defense they were taken in my very early days of blogging!. I’m a bit of a regular veggie roaster and tend to make huge seasonal batches that get used over the course of a few days. Not only are they an interesting veggie side to a roast dinner or even bangers and mash but they’re perfect in a lasagna or thrown on a tart or pizza, wonderful in a sandwich (hot or cold, with cheese or hummus or just plain) or simply enjoyed in their own right with couscous, pasta or brown rice or as an antipasta.

Roasted Roots with Feta and Couscous

Roasted Roots with Feta and Couscous

For today’s recipe I have my seasonal Roasted Roots. I’m particularly partial to my Roasted Winter Roots as they bring such flavour and cheer to an otherwise verging-on-dull selection of veggies. Go for whatever you have to hand but beetroot, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and red onions all work marvellously together and tend to cook in the same amount of time. I like to boost flavours with plenty of fresh chopped Rosemary but you could happily substitute with fresh Thyme or dried herbs.

Winter Roots

My entry for  the challenge is an easy-peasy Scone-Based Wholemeal Pizza topped with plenty of Roasted Roots and a ball of Mozzarella (or Cheddar, Goats Cheese or Feta if you prefer). Funnily enough I haven’t eaten a scone based pizza since I was a child myself (they seemed to be all the rage in the 80s!) but have been eager to give one a whirl for ages now. Mainly as they’re so easy and quick to put together with no need for kneading or rising. Results were very good though admittedly incomparable to a thin crust homemade bread dough. But very tasty nevertheless, and my kids happily wolfed it down for their tea roasted roots and all!. The perfect instant and healthy pizza if you ask me, and one I shall definitely be baking again.

Roasted Roots

simple2012smallSince you can’t get much more Seasonal than my Roasted Roots I’m also entering my blog to Ren’s Simple and in Season challenge which so happens to be being hosted by myself this month!.

And as there’s fresh rosemary or thyme with the Roots I’m also entering it to Karen of Lavender and Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday event, this month hosted by London Busy Body.herbsonsaturday

Credit-Crunch-MunchAnd last but not least as this so happens to be a particularly frugal eat I’m entering it to Credit Crunch Munch, a joint event by Camila of Fab Food 4 All and this month by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours.

Roasted Roots

Roasted Roots

Great for Pizza (see below!) or Tart toppings, Lasagnas, Sandwiches, Antipasta, Veggie Sides or eaten with Couscous, Pasta or Brown rice. 

To make enough for at least two meals for a Family of Four (halve the quantity if you wish to make less)

2 Red Onions, very large dice

6 cloves of Garlic, left whole with skin on

3 Carrots*, peeled and sliced into 0.5 cm slices

2 – 3 Beetroot*, scrubbed (skin left on) and cubed to a 1.5 cm dice

1 – 2 Parsnips, peeled and cubed to a 1.5 cm dice

300g of Sweet Potatoes, Butternut Squash or Pumpkin* (or a mixture of any of these), peeled and cubed to a 1.5cm dice

300g of Celeriac*, peeled and cubed to a 1.5cm dice

a tablespoon of chopped fresh Rosemary OR 2 teaspoons of fresh Thyme or dried Oregano or Mixed Herbs

Salt and Pepper

4 tablespoons of Olive Oil

Special Equipment: 2 large oven baking trays

* Feel free to vary your veggies!

Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC.

Simply place all the peeled and cut veggies on two large baking trays. Sprinkle with the herbs, a large pinch of salt and pepper and the oil. Using your hands ensure all the veggies have an even coating.

Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. Turn twice during the cooking time. The veggies should all be very tender and a little golden.

Scone based  pizza recipe

Easy Scone-based Wholemeal Roasted Root Pizza

Great for Toddlers and Young Children, Bigger Kids, Family Dinners, Mid-Week Suppers, Vegetarians, Quick Homemade Pizza.

Serves a Family of 4:

125g Wholemeal Self-Raising Flour

100g of White Self-Raising Flour, plus a little extra for rolling

a teaspoon of Baking Powder

a pinch of Salt and Pepper

30g of Butter

1 Egg, lightly beaten

a little Milk

a heaped dessert spoon of Tomato puree, plus 2 dessert spoons of water

2 large handfuls (or more!) of Roasted Roots

100g of sliced Mozzarella OR 75g of cheddar/goats cheese/feta

Special Equipment: A baking tray, rolling-pin

Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC.

Place the flours, baking powder, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and combine together. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the egg and using your hands try to get the mixture to come together. You may need to add a little milk, keep adding until the mixture comes together in one piece.

Turn out the dough onto a work top or large board, shape into a ball and carefully roll out with a rolling-pin until you have your desired pizza size and thickness (as thin as possible is best, but harder to do with scone dough!).

Combine the tomato puree with the water and spread over the pizza base. Scatter over as many Roasted Roots as you can fit and then finish with a layer of cheese.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes. The pizza’s ready when the cheese is golden and bubbling.

You might also like: 

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni with Hidden Veggies Tommie Sauce

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni with Hidden Veggies Tommie Sauce

Super-Vegged Up Chilli con Carne

Super-Vegged Up Chilli con Carne


Sausage, Bean and Veggie Hotpot

Sausage & Bean Hotpot

Now I love a bloggie challenge and when Vanesther, of the gorgeous family food blog Bangers and Mash, launched her new Recipes for Life Challenge I was really excited, particularly as it’s right up my foodie street. Each month she’ll be picking three ingredients and challenging fellow bloggers to come up with something tasty, wholesome and easy-to-cook with them. And the best recipes will be included in a new cookbook for the Somerset based charity Swallow. Swallow support adults with learning difficulties to lead more independent lives, including the running cookery courses to help members learn to prepare simple, inexpensive and nutritious meals.

swallow-recipes-for-life

This month the three ingredients are Sausages, Onions & Tomatoes and I knew exactly what I wanted to make for Swallow. My much-loved family favourite Sausage, Bean & Veggie Hotpot that I’ve thus far failed to get snapped and blogged. It’s a lovely winter warmer one pot wonder dish, that’s so easy to throw together yet hearty, healthy and heavy on the veggies. And my kids LOVE it as much as us grown up folk. And you can chuck in whatever beans or veggies you so happen to have in, anything goes!.

Sausage, Bean & Veggie Hotpot

Sausage, Bean & Veggie Hotpot

Great for family or grown up dinners, toddlers, bigger kids, vegetarians (using veggie sausages obviously!), mid-week suppers, weekend slowies, winter warming

Serves 4 to 6 big appetites (or a family of 4 TWICE!)

a tablespoon of Sunflower Oil

6 – 8 Sausages, meaty or veggie

an Onion, diced

2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

2 Carrots, sliced

a Parsnip*, diced

300g of Pumpkin or Butternut Squash*, large dice

a generous pinch of Chili Powder

2 teaspoons of dried Oregano or Mixed Herbs**

2 x 400g tins of Chopped Tomatoes

2 x 400g tins of Beans (Cannellini/Butter/Kidney/Haricot/Flageolet all work brilliantly or a mixture of any of them!), drained and rinsed

Salt & Pepper

600g of washed and peeled Potatoes (about 3 medium sized), finely sliced

300ml of hot Beef Stock (or veggie stock if you’re using veggie sausages)

Special Equipment: A Large Lidded Oven-proof Casserole Dish that can also go on the hob

* Please feel free to vary your veggies as to what you have in, you can happily substitute with any sturdy veggies like sweet potatoes, swede, turnip, peppers, celery, celeriac, chard, green beans, cauliflower etc.

** Or fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme all work wonderfully if you so happen to have any, my preference is for fresh rosemary.

Pre-heat your oven to 190ºC/Gas Mark 5.

Heat the oil in the Casserole Dish. Fry the sausages until a little browned all over. Set aside to cool, and when cool enough to handle cut into 3 or 4 pieces. Set aside until later.

In the same casserole dish add the onions and garlic and fry in the fat left from the sausages on a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly so nothing catches. Then throw in the carrots, parsnip and pumpkin or butternut (or your other chosen veggies). Continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring at intervals.

Stir in the chili powder and herbs, quickly followed by the chopped tomatoes, beans and the set aside sausages.

Bring everything to a simmer and season generously with salt and pepper.

Sausage, Bean & Veggie Hotpot

Take off the heat and arrange the sliced potatoes over the top of the hotpot. Pour the hot stock over the potatoes, place the lid on the top and slide into the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for a further 45 minutes.

Hotpot

The hotpot’s ready when the potatoes have browned a little on top and are completely soft and tender.

Sausage, Bean & Veggie Hotpot

simple2012smallCredit-Crunch-Munch

I’m also entering my recipe to Ren of Fabulicious Food‘s Simple and In Season challenge, since it uses plenty of seasonal goodies. This month the event’s hosted by Cake, Crumbs and Cooking. And to Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla of Fab Food 4 All‘s Credit Crunch Munch event, as this is a particularly frugal munch!.

A Year Ago on the Blog: Cheesy Biscuits for Half Term

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Chicken, Borlotti & Pumpkin Stew

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Chicken & Apricot Tagine


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.


Super Vegged-Up Chilli

Toddlers & Young Children, Big Kids, Grown Ups.

I haven’t made a Chilli con Carne in ages and thought it was about time. I usually make mine with big chunks of braising beef marinaded in cumin, coriander, chilli and cinnamon following one of my favourite ever Leon recipes (The Best Chilli con Carne ever!). But this time I thought I’d go a bit more 80s retro and make something more suitable for the wee ones using good quality mince but with a super-vegging Chez Foti overthrow!. These days I seem unable to make too much without throwing in a barrage of veg, as you’ve probably noticed. As my son becomes increasingly fussy about eating his plain veggies I’m becoming increasingly cunning in my vegged up disguises! Ha, you will eat your 5-a-day my boy.

As for your choice of veggies, you can pretty much add anything you happen to have in, though I like to go with tradition on the carrots and pepper. I threw in some frozen chopped french beans (I’m trying to clear out the freezer before this year’s glut starts) and a couple of large handfuls of swiss chard from the garden. If cooking for kids go easy on the chilli. I use just ½ a teaspoon of hot chilli powder, though personally I’d like a little more heat so feel free to bump it up if you’re a chilli fiend.

Use good quality lean beef mince here, preferably some that you’ve seen the butcher mince in front of you. It really does make a difference.

This makes quite a vat of chilli, but keeps very well in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen. The first night we ate it with rice and the second in wraps with grated cheese, sour cream, lettuce, sliced tomatoes and avocados (again very 80s retro tex-mex, but nevertheless pretty darned tasty!).

Enough for 4 to 6 grown up folk, depending on greed!. Or two family dinners. 

3 tablespoons of sunflower oil

2 onions, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely diced

a red pepper, diced

2 teaspoons of ground cumin

a heaped teaspoon of cinnamon

a pinch of salt

a large pinch of freshly ground black pepper

½ to 2 teaspoons of hot chilli powder (depending on who you’re cooking for!)

500g of good quality lean minced beef

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons of cocoa powder

a handful of french beans or any other veg you so happen to have in

2 x 400g tins of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

a couple of very large handfuls of spinach or chard, finely shredded

Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan on a medium heat. Throw in the onions, garlic, carrots and pepper (or any other hard veg you want to use) and cook for about ten minutes, stirring regularly.

Stir in the cumin, cinnamon, chilli powder, salt & pepper and cook for a couple of minutes whilst continuously stirring. Add the beef and allow to brown, stirring every now and again.

Once the beef’s browned stir in the chopped tomatoes, cocoa powder and any softer veggies you’re using, in my case the french beans (but not the spinach or chard which is added later).

Cover and allow to gently bubble away on a very low heat for at least an hour adding a little water if it looks like it’s drying out. Now throw in the final ingredients of the kidney beans and spinach or chard and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Have a taste check and add more salt and pepper to suit (though no additional salt if making for littlies).

How about trying some of my other super vegged-up recipes? Kid’s Bolognese, Lou’s Chicken Fried Rice, Noodles with Pork & Veggies, Cream of Veggie Super Soup or my Chicken & Apricot Tagine

Ha, the boy happily eating his veggies!


Cream of Veggie Super Soup!

6 Months +, Weaning, Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Children and Adults

Okay I know it’s June and I really shouldn’t be soup making but it’s been more than a tad cold at Chez Foti lately. It’s certainly not been the gloriously sunshiny south of France I signed up for. Besides my kids’ll happily eat soup any day of the year. In truth I’ve made very few soups recently, my interest wained once the pumpkins finished. But this week the humble veggie soup has been revived and my kids just couldn’t get enough of it!.

Soups are a fab way to get your littlies to eat a copious amount of veggies, you can cunningly throw in all the ones they’re none too keen on and they’ll never know. I sneakily add a little tomato puree to disguise the green veggies. Works every time. Most kids seem particularly partial to tomatoey flavours, as they do to the addition of creamy creme fraiche. I tend to bulk out with carrots as we always have them in and particularly like a little zing of red pepper, but feel free to add absolutely any veggies you  have lurking. Everything’s substitutable.

I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon for veggie soups which is a particularly flavoursome base. If you’re making soup for babies either use plain water or get hold of some baby stock cubes (available in bigger Boots stores in the UK) which have no added salt.

If you want to make the soup a wee bit more substantial add a handful of cooked pasta shapes and/or top with grated cheese. I serve mine with wholemeal toast ‘dippers’. This recipe makes a pretty thick soup which is easier for little ones to eat, but older kids and grown ups might like to thin it down a little with more stock, water or milk.

Messy pics I know, but this was Jacques’ third bowl and he’d kind of done with eating by the time the camera came out!.

Enough for 8 to 10 little servings or 4 grown up ones:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

an onion, diced

4 carrots, thoroughly washed and sliced (no need to peel)

a medium potato, washed and diced (no need to peel)

½ a head or broccoli (stem inc), or a handful of green beans or any other green or other veg you have lurking, diced

a red pepper, diced

a litre of vegetable stock

1.5 tablespoons of tomato puree

2 tablespoons of creme fraiche

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add the onion and stir. Add the other veggies as you wash and dice them. There’s not too many timing rules here! Stir from time to time so nothing catches.

Once all the veggies have been added to the pan pour over the hot veggie stock and stir in the tomato puree.

Bring to a simmer then turn down the heat to low. Cover and allow to bubble away for 15 to 20 minutes until the veggies are all tender.

Take off the heat and blitz until very smooth in a blender or food processor or with a stick blender. Stir in the creme fraiche.

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


Sweet Potato Daal for Babies & Toddlers!

6-8 months +, older babies, toddlers & young children

In launching my series of baby and toddler food blogs in conjunction with Oogaa feeding products, I thought it only right to kick off with my own two little monster’s favourite baby purée, a simple gently spiced and fragrant sweet potato and lentil daal. As wee babies they both adored their lentils and just couldn’t get enough of them, though admittedly the nappies were sometimes a little on the interesting side! I’m a firm believer in introducing flavour and spice into a babies diet from a very young age to prepare them for the big world out there, though obviously going extremely easy on any chilli with the very little littlies.

Once you’ve got your baby onto eating simple pureed fruits and veggies this is a very good second stage purée introducing them to the world of proteins. The sweet potato gives your wee one a bombardment of vitamins and fibre and lentils are a great source of protein and more fibre.
For the very little ones serve just on it’s own, but be careful not to give too much at first as lentils could cause wind to little tums unused to legumes. Serve with rice to older babies and toddlers.

I tend to make all baby foods in fairly large batches so that any leftovers can be frozen in individual portions for later use.

To make a large batch (around 10 to 12 servings):

a tablespoon of olive oil

a small onion, finely diced

a clove of garlic, finely chopped

½ a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated

a carrot, finely diced

a sweet potato (about 250g), finely diced

a teaspoon of ground cumin

a teaspoon of ground coriander

a pinch of finely ground black pepper

400ml of water

65g of red split lentils

Heat the oil in a saucepan on a low heat, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Saute for 5 minutes until very soft, stirring regularly so nothing catches.

Add the carrots and sweet potato to the pan and continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Now stir in the cumin, coriander and pepper and allow to cook for a minute before pouring in the water and lentils.

Bring to a simmer, and cook on a gentle heat for about 20 minutes until the lentils are mushy and vegetables very soft.

Purée with a Baby Bullet, stick blender or processor and serve.

Here’s Jacques chowing down on his rice and daal, he still loves his lentils now!


Classic Bolognese

I feel a bit of a con blogging a recipe for bolognese sauce, as I’m pretty sure everyone can rustle up a simple spag bol. Nevertheless I’d like to share with you the recipe I invariably use after many years of bolognese making. I’ve experimented with adding pork mince, white wine, different veggies, chicken livers etc and whilst they’re all lovely in their own right this is very definitely my personal favourite and indeed the most traditional.

The key is in plenty of red wine, good quality low fat beef mince (ideally get your butcher to mince it in front of you so you know exactly what you’re getting), lardons or streaky bacon, good tinned tomatoes, and a very long slow simmering, at least two but preferably nearer three hours. It might take a long time to cook but the preparation is literally only minutes, especially if you happen to have a food processor to do all the chopping for you. Another top tip is to throw in any Parmesan cheese rinds you have lurking, it’s amazing how much flavour can come out of the rind with a long slow cooking. Never ever throw them away again!

I make mine in large quantities (at least double the ingredients below) so that I can make lasagnes too (recipe blog coming up) and store the rest in the freezer for lazy instant dinners.

My kids eat this with us, but I also make them a Kids Bolognese sauce sometimes minus the wine and lardons and packed full of lots of lovely veggies.

Enough to feed a family of 4 twice:

1 large onion

1 carrot

2 sticks of celery

3 tablespoons of olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

600g of good quality low fat beef mince

180g of lardons or streaky bacon

320g of mushrooms, finely sliced

3 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of dried oregano

a large pinch of black pepper

a teaspoon of Worcester sauce

400ml of red wine

2 x 400g cans of good quality chopped tomatoes

parmesan rind (optional)

grated parmesan – to serve

Begin with very finely dicing the onions, celery and carrot. If you have a food processor use it, it’ll pulse up everything in a flash. I like my onions and veggies diced particularly small so they unidentifiably blend into the sauce.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and throw in the onion, celery and carrot together with the finely chopped garlic. Cook on a gentle heat for 5 minutes stirring regularly so nothing catches. Turn the heat up and add the minced beef. You want the meat to caramelise slightly and be fully browned all over. Stir every few minutes.

Whilst the beef is browning fry the lardons or streaky bacon in a separate frying pan. You don’t need to add any additional fat. Mop up any excess water or fat from the bacon with kitchen roll as you go along, if there is any. Fry until slightly golden.

Once the beef is browned add the finely sliced mushrooms, cooked lardons, bay leaves, oregano, black pepper and Worcester sauce. Cook for a further couple of minutes stirring regularly. Pour in the red wine and bring to a gentle simmer.

Once most of the wine has evaporated add the chopped tomatoes and any Parmesan rinds you have lurking.

Bring back to a simmer, cover, and leave to gently bubble away on the lowest heat setting you have for two to three hours.

Serve with a generous grating of fresh Parmesan on the top on a bed of spaghetti or pasta of your choice.

Have you tried some of my other pasta dishes? How about Roasted Veggie Lasagne, Sausage & Courgette Pasta Carbonara, Pasta & Meatballs, Smoked Salmon & Broccoli Penne or Jamie’s Baked Pasta with Tomatoes & Mozzarella?


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