Tag Archives: Courgette

July Veg of the Month: The Courgette

It comes as no surprise that this month’s Chez Foti ‘Veg of the Month’ is the far from humble Courgette. Since my first picking of one on the 21st of June we’ve chomped our way through a considerable number (I’d love to know how many) and in quite an array of meals…and cakes! Barely a meal’s gone by without some sort of courgettie addition or side. It’s a good job I love them so much, which is more than can be said for my husband (his loving or rather non-loving of courgettes I meant). Though I should point out that considering he isn’t exactly their number one fan he’s been exceptionally tolerant of the whole Courgette Situation.

As I said in earlier blogs I didn’t intend to have NINE plants, I was aiming at four, but there was some sort of mix up in the seed planting. Luckily we’ve had people staying most of the last month who’ve helped in the Courgette Cause and I’ve also managed to palm quite a few off on any unsuspecting dropper-byers. So we’re almost on top of the situation, at least for now.

Courgettes are a virgin veggie growers dream. Easy to germinate,  quick-growing (though maybe not this year in the waterlogged UK), free from most diseases and pests and extremely fruitful. Give them a go, you won’t be disappointed.

Courgettes are so incredibly versatile in the kitchen and a wonder veg to cook with. And this last month I’ve certainly challenged their versatility to the max in the Chez Foti kitchen. They’ve been liberally adding to many a gorgeously fragrant Thai Green Curry (they really do work amazingly well in all curries), Ratatouile (recipe soon!), Risottos, Paella, various Omelettes and Tortillas, each and every Stir Fry I’ve made, an assortment of pasta dishes including Courgette & Sausage Carbonara (and also with bacon), my Garden Pasta (recipe coming shortly) and Courgette & Pesto Pasta.

Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

The 3 Cs, Chicken, Courgette & Chard Thai Green Curry

Courgettes have also featured in all our Barbecues (and we’ve been having quite a few this month), they’ve been dipped in lemon, olive oil, sea salt & pepper and barbecued (or on the stove in a griddle pan) in strips as a veggie side or served like this on Bruschetta with Feta & Basil. They’ve been kebabed with other veggies marinated in olive oil and thyme, lemon thyme, oregano or rosemary and made into Veggie Kebabs or Greek Stylie Pork Kebabs.

Veggie Kebabs, marinaded in olive oil, a little lemon & Lemon Thyme

Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta

The neglected ones have been successfully utilised in my 70s Throwback Stuffed Marrow and when we got really bored of eating them they were amazing in Nigella’s Courgette Cake with Homemade Lemon Curd and Lemon Frosting. The kids have loved them in Mamacook’s Courgette & Feta Bites (actually so’ve we, three batches made so far!) which are great for lunches, picnics or afternoon snacks. They’ve even been enjoyed raw in Bangers & Mash Chat’s Courgette & Oregano Flower Salad (quite the prettiest salad I’ve ever eaten) and in HFW’s Curried Courgette Salad (actually I ate this at a friend’s house and I must get the exact recipe).

Mamacook’s Courgette & Feta Bites

Bangers & Mash Chat’s Courgette & Oregano Flower Salad, though hers was considerably prettier than mine!

With so many guests staying this month I actually haven’t got around to trying half as many recipes that I wanted to so here’s a few more ideas that I’m hoping to make before the courgette season’s out. Firstly there’s It’s Well Seasoned’s Lemon Courgette & Minted Feta Salad which I’ve been meaning to make for weeks, Kitchen Ninja’s Courgette Bread (actually Zucchini Bread, it’s American) that sounds divine, Riverford’s Chocolate Courgette Cake (from my Riverford Farm Cookbook), a Feta & Courgette Filo Pie that my mum’s been making for years from Bill Sewell’s From the Place Below book, Fried Courgette Flowers (in the two years since taking up gardening people have ALL asked me if I’ve tried making them, I MUST MUST do it!). Last but most certainly not least I’m seriously considering making Marrow Rum, though as it takes a year in the making could be a serious test of my normally-lacking patience!

So that’s it for this month’s round up, but I’d love to hear your favourite courgette recipes, ideas and uses. I’m certain we’ll be having plenty more courgettes yet this summer and I’m always game to find new and exciting ways of using them!. Whether I’ll still be married by the end of the summer is however not so certain 😉

My August Veg of the Month is to be the Tomato. With 58 plants (cherries, beef and plums) all fruiting I’ll be needing your help in Project Tomato!. Please share with me your recipes and I’ll gladly try to make them over the course of the month.

Thanking you kindly for all the courgettie inspiration!

Louisa

June Veg of the Month: Swiss Chard

I thought I’d end on a sweet note with this extroadinarily moist Courgette Cake


70s Flashback Stuffed Marrow

‘Tis another courgettie recipe today I’m afraid, though this time of the overgrown kind. One somehow went unnoticed and I found myself happening upon a marrow last week. Loving a bit of 70s foodie nostalgia I thought I’d give stuffing it a go. Interestingly it was way tastier than my less-than-fond childhood memories of waterlogged flavour-lacking marrow dinners. This was a meal I would gladly leave future courgettes to grow into gargantuan proportions for, and indeed I am.

It’s also a very simple to put together dish, made in minutes, albeit taking upwards of an hour to bake in the oven.

I’m entering this blog into Lavender & Lovage’s July Herbs on Saturday Challenge, this month hosted by Vanesther at Bangers & Mash Chat.

My homegrown sage

For 2 to 3 big people or a family of four:

a 750 to 1000g marrow or overgrown courgette

2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus a little extra for brushing

a small onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a heaped desertspoon of chopped fresh sage leaves

a small eating apple, skin peeled and core removed, grated

300g of pork mince

salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4.

Slice the marrow or courgette in half lengthways, scoop out all the loose flesh and seeds from the middles to make two boats. Cut up any fleshy parts and set aside, discard the seeds (I actually kept mine to sow next year). Brush the two halves with a little olive oil and place snugly in an appropriately sized ovenproof dish.

Heat the olive oil in a deep side frying pan on a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until a little softened. Stir in the chopped garlic and sage and cook for a minute longer. Stir in the grated apple quickly followed by the pork mince, set aside diced courgette flesh and a generous pinch or two of salt and pepper. Give everything a thorough stir and take off the heat.

Spoon all the filling into the marrow halves. Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes to an hour (depending on the size of the marrow). Remove the foil and bake for a further 20 minutes.

Great served with a simple green salad and plenty of good quality bread to mop up the lovely juices.

Here’s some other courgettie recipes you might like to try, Courgette & Sausage Carbonara, Courgette, Spinach & Pesto Risotto, King Prawn, Courgette & Spinach Thai Green Curry, Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta.


Courgette Cake with Homemade Lemon Curd

Back on with the courgette season and yep, you did read Courgette Cake, and of the sweet variety too!. Just think of an extraordinarily moist carrot cake with green flecks (and no carrots). Filled with super zingily zesty lemon curd and topped with lemon cream cheese frosting. Yuuuuuummmm. It is.

I first made a courgette cake last summer at a time when my husband was threatening to leave me if I cooked another courgette. Seven plants we realised were way too many for a family of four, especially when two of them are tiddlers and one of the grown ups isn’t a big fan. Which is precisely why I’ve come to have nine, yes NINE plants this year. It was an accident, there were supposed to be four but it seems there was a little mix up on the seed front. And now I fear the summer may end in divorce. Which is precisely why we’re back on the courgette cakes; ’tis Mr F’s preferred usage of a courgette. It’s also one of the few cakes that don’t burn their bum in my awful oven. And only my second blogged cake. Whilst recently adding a Recipe Index to the blog it came to my attention I only had one entry under Cake (Jacques’ Chocolate Birthday Cake), which is obviously wrong on many levels.. Considering I actually do make cakes pretty often at Chez Foti I’ll now be making a concerted effort to blog, and eat, a few more!.

I’d love to take credit for the recipe but sadly I can’t, but Nigella can. It’s from her How to be a Domestic Goddess book. Albeit I switched the lime curd for lemon as we’d recently been given some gorgeous lemons picked from a tree in Spain and they needed using up. My recipe for lemon curd is at the bottom of the blog.

Courgette Cake

The Cake:

60g of raisins or sultanas

250g of courgettes

2 large eggs

125ml of vegetable oil

150g of golden caster sugar

225g of self-raising flour

½ a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

½ a teaspoon of baking powder

2 x 21cm cake tins, greased and lined

Lemon Curd Filling:

2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon curd, homemade (my recipe’s below) or shop bought

Lemon Cream Cheese Topping:

200g of cream cheese

100g of icing sugar, sieved

juice of ½ a lemon

2 – 3 tablespoons of chopped pistachio nuts

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4.

Plump up the sultanas or raisins in a small bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

Grate the courgettes coarsely and place in a sieve over the sink or another bowl to drain out the excess moisture.

Place the eggs, oil and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat together until creamy. Sieve in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Continue to beat until well incorporated. Stir in the courgette and drained sultanas/raisins.

Divide the cake mixture between the two tins. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until firm to the touch and slightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for a few tins before turning out onto cooling racks to cool fully.

Meanwhile make the topping. Beat the cream cheese for a few minutes before adding the icing sugar. Continue to beat for a few minutes more before beating in the lemon juice.

Now to assemble the cake. Place one cake on your cake stand or plate. Spread over the lemon curd. Sandwich over the other cake. Now spread the frostring over the top of the cake and scatter on the chopped pistachios.

Super Zingy Zesty Lemon Curd

Makes 2 jars of curd, which keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks

The juice and zest of 4 unwaxed lemons

200g of golden caster sugar

100g of unsalted butter

3 medium eggs plus one yolk, lightly whisked together

Set a large pan of water to boil. When boiling turn down to the gentlest heat possibly and place a heat proof bowl over the top (though the bowl should not be touching the water).

Place the lemon juice and zest, sugar and butter in the bowl and stir every now and again.

Once the butter’s melted whisk in the eggs, continuing to gently whisk almost continuously for about 10 minutes. The curd is ready when it’s considerably thickened and feels heavy on the whisk.

Pour into super clean jars and leave out to cool. Once fully cool, screw on the lids and store in the fridge.


Thai Green Curry Paste & Curries

Older kids, Big People

I adore the fragrancy of Thai food and really miss the Thai restaurants and take aways that are so plentiful in the UK. You can actually buy the odd jarred paste here but on the whole they’re pretty awful. And making my own paste is generally a rare and special treat in rural, and distinctly un-multicultural France. Getting hold of lemon grass and lime leaves is nigh on impossible (well unless I want to make a five hour round trip, or so I’m told), even getting the chillies, limes and fresh ginger can be a tricky affair. As for the coriander you’ve really got to grow your own and if truth be known I struggle with it, over the last year I’ve probably set it off to grow ten times and only harvested a couple of curries worth. But suddenly for no apparent reason I’ve a bumper crop and have been busy using it in all manner of fragrant dishes I don’t normally get a chance to make the last couple of weeks. Joy. Coriander coupled with a very exciting delivery of goodies from the UK, brought over by my brother in law, has meant a fabulously fragrant batch of Thai Green Curry Paste. Though I’m saddened to say after three large curries in the last week it’s now all gone, but I’ve still just enough ingredients to make another. Boy it’s good.

Making a paste is surprisingly quick and easy, simply a matter of throwing all the ingredients in a blender or processor and blitzing. My recipe below makes enough for ten people, and it can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to three weeks, as if you could possibly refrain from using it that long (I managed five days). From then on the curry’s a fast food cinch too as pretty much all the flavouring’s done for you, 25 minutes tops.

The Paste

The last week we’ve had a gorgeous King Prawn, Courgette & Spinach Curry as well as a Chicken, Chard & Courgette one. Both totally divine. I tend to veg up my dinners (though you’ve probably worked that one by now!) but feel free to omit or vary the veggies or the meat.

This is really a dinner for grown ups or big kids that can take a little heat. It can be adapted for littlies by only adding the merest touch of paste and upping the ratio of coconut milk or making a milder paste altogether. Both work for my kids (they’re big Green Curry fans now), and I’m planning on blogging a specificly child friendly version shortly.

The Paste

enough for 10 big people

4 medium green chillies, roughly chopped

2 shallots, roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic

2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, skin removed, grated

a large handful of coriander including the stalks (and the roots as well if you grow your own), washed and roughly chopped

2 lemongrass stalks, roughly chopped

the juice of a lime

the zest of 2 limes (if you’re lucky enough to have kaffir lime leaves then substitute one of the zested limes for 8 leaves)

a tablespoon of coriander seeds, crushed in a pestel and mortar

a teaspoon of black peppercorns, crushed in a pestel and mortar

a teaspoon of ground cumin

2 teaspoons of Thai fish sauce

3 tablespoons of sunflower or vegetable oil

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processer and blitz into a paste. The aroma is simply breathtaking!.

Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Chicken, Courgette & Chard Thai Green Curry

The 3 Cs, Chicken, Courgette & Chard

enough for 4 big people (with big appetites!)

2 tablespoons of sunflower or groundnut oil

a large onion, diced

2 heaped tablespoons of Thai Green Curry Paste (either the above homemade paste or shop bought)

3 or 4 free range chicken breasts, cut into large chunks (about 5 or 6 per breast)

400ml of coconut milk

Thai fish sauce

a pinch of sugar

2 courgettes, quartered lengthways then sliced

a couple of handfuls of swiss chard, the stems separated from the leaves and both shredded separately

juice of a lime

a large bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped (including the stalks)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, deep sided frying pan or wok (preferably something you have a lid to) on a medium heat. Throw in the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a minute or so more stirring constantly. Add the chicken pieces and briefly coat in the paste before pouring in the coconut milk, a generous shake of Thai fish sauce and a pinch of sugar. Give everything a good stir and cover for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes throw in the the sliced courgettes and shredded chard stems. Stir and cover and cook again for about 8 minutes. Now add the shredded chard leaves, stir and cover again. Leave to wilt down for a couple of minutes. Once all the veggies and chicken are cooked and tender, take off the heat and stir in the lime juice and coriander. Have a taste check and season with more fish sauce to suit.

Serve immediately with steamed Thai Jasmine Rice.

King Prawn, Courgette & Spinach Thai Green Curry

King Prawn, Courgette & Spinach Thai Green Curry

Enough for 4 big people:

2 tablespoons of sunflower or groundnut oil

a large onion, diced

2 heaped tablespoons of Thai Green Curry Paste (either the above homemade paste or shop bought)

300g of fresh or frozen uncooked king prawns (defrosted if frozen)

2 courgettes, quartered lengthways then sliced fairly thinly

400ml of coconut milk

Thai fish sauce

a pinch of sugar

4 very large handfuls of spinach, washed and shredded

juice of a lime

a large bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped (including the stalks)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, deep sided frying pan or wok (preferably something you have a lid to) on a medium heat. Throw in the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a minute or so more stirring constantly. Add the prawns and courgettes and coat everything briefly in the paste before pouring in the coconut milk and a generous shake of the Thai fish sauce. Give everything a good stir and cover for 8 minutes.

Now stir in the spinach and cover again. Leave to wilt down for a couple of minutes. Once all the veggies and prawns are cooked and tender, take off the heat and stir in the lime juice and coriander. Have a taste check and season with more fish sauce to suit.

Serve immediately with steamed Thai Jasmine Rice.

How about trying some of my other curry recipes? Chochori, Swiss Chard & Potato, Beetroot, Spinach & Chickpea, Aloo Gobi Kaddu


Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta

Last night we had our lovely friend Debbie over for dinner and coupled with the welcome opportunity of an afternoon sans les enfants I got busy and inventive in the kitchen with our enormous glut of courgettes. Don’t ask me how but I’ve ended up with nine plants this summer. Last year’s seven were excessive despite our stream of guests the entirety of the courgette season.

Yesterday afternoon I was immensely satisfied to use six of the beasts in a three course courgette dinner, and almost get on top of the growing glut. Heavenly bruschetta topped with griddled and marinaded courgettes with lemon, feta and basil to start, followed by a chicken, courgette & chard thai green curry. The curry being a very rare treat as its nigh on impossible to get most of the ingredients here in rural France, but I happened to have a sudden success in homegrown coriander and some recently imported goodies from the UK. Recipe to be blogged shortly. Dinner was finished off rather surprisingly with a green tinged, utterly delicious and moist courgette cake, sandwiched with homemade lemon curd and topped with lemon cream cheese frosting! I’d love to take the glory for the cake but in truth it’s Nigellas from her Domestic Goddess book.

By the way, just in case you hadn’t guessed it, my Veggie of the Month for July is the not so humble courgette. I’ll be reviewing all my courgette recipes and ideas later in the month in a special courgettie round up. In the meantime I’d love to hear your interesting or novel courgette recipes and if I get a chance I’ll try them out before the round up.

Anyway, back onto the Bruschetta. I’m a big bruschetta fan, and this has to be one of my favourite toppings. And so lovely to be able to not only glorify the courgette but my homegrown basil that’s finally big and grown up enough to be picked (considerably later than last year). Griddled or barbecued in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and plenty of black pepper, marinaded in a little more oil, juice and zest and topped with salty feta and torn basil leaves this is to me the essence of summer, and an extremely tasty starter or entree. I regularly griddle or barbecue courgettes in this way, without always the further marinading, to serve as an interesting veggie side, pizza topping or pasta addition.

I’m entering this post to Lavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, held this month by the lovely Vanether at Bangers & Mash Chat.

Marinaded Courgettes

Enough for 4:

2 medium to large courgettes

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil plus a little extra for drizzling

juice of a lemon

zest of half a lemon

a generous pinch of Malden sea salt or similar

a generous pinch or two of coarsely ground black pepper

8 – 12 slices of good quality thickly sliced bread (sourdough works particularly well)

a clove of garlic

60g of feta, crumbled

a few basil leaves, torn

Fire up the barbie or place your griddle pan on a high heat.

Slice the courgettes lengthways into thin strips 2 to 3mm thick. Mix two tablespoons of the olive oil, half the lemon juice and the salt and pepper in a bowl.

Dip each courgette strip into the above marinade and place on the hot griddle. Allow to cook for two or three minutes until coloured and soft on each side. When cooked on both sides remove and place in another bowl and start up another batch until all are cooked.

Griddling

On to the cooked courgettes pour the rest of the marinade, a little more lemon juice (to taste), the lemon zest and another wee drizzle of olive oil. Give everything a good stir and leave to marinade until you’re ready to make the bruschettas.

In the same griddle pan or barbecue toast the bread until coloured on each side (this again will take several batches). Cut the garlic clove in half. As the hot toast is removed from the griddle rub the cut side of the garlic over the hot surface of the toast to impart a little flavour. Drizzle over a little olive oil. Top with a couple of slices of the marinaded courgettes, a little crumbled feta and a few pieces of torn basil and eat immediately. As if you could resist.


Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Kids, Grown Ups

In my continued efforts to blog more veggie dishes here’s another popular family dinner at Chez Foti, my very green super-healthy risotto that I’ve actually been making for years as a quickie mid-week supper. Packed full of the good stuff as well as tastiness from the pesto and sun dried tommies this is an all round pleaser for littlies and big people alike.

It hit me a few months ago that I was sub-consciously shying away from giving the kids green dinners as for some daft reason I thought they wouldn’t buy it. How wrong was I. As long as the base flavour’s good they’ll eat anything, spinach and all. Since my moment of realisation I’ve been bombarding them with spinach and chard based risottos, pasta sauces, stir fries and thai green curries and so far they’ve happily gobbled down each and every one. And pesto being such a pleasing flavour to most littlies provides the perfect flavour vessel. In truth I’ve also shied away from risotto for the kids too as Francesca was never too keen, but she seems to be really enjoying them now. Rock on the risottos!

This was one of our first ‘freebie’ dinners of the year with most of the ingredients being picked fresh out of the garden, and notably used the first of many of the courgettes. I’ve seven plants which should ensure us in consistent supply for some time. The spinach, shallots and garlic were all Chez Foti homegrown too. Admittedly I used shop bought pesto for my risotto this time but I did make my own all last summer. The basil plants are all a little on the weeny side for pesto making as of yet this year.

In writing this post I’m also entering Ren Behan’s Fabulucious Food Simple and In Season blog event, hosted this month by Homemade by Fleur

The First Courgette of 2012!

Popeyetastic Spinach!

Enough for a Family of Four or Three Big People

3 tablespoons of olive oil

a small onion or 2 shallots, very finely diced

a clove of garlic, finely chopped

220g of risotto rice

a small glass of white wine

700ml of hot vegetable stock (I like to use Marigold)

a courgette, diced

200g of spinach, washed and shredded

70g of drained sun dried tomatoes, chopped

3 tablespoons of homemade or shop bought pesto

salt and pepper

grated parmesan, to serve

Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan on a gentle heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Stir in the rice ensuring the grains get a good coating of oil. Pour in the wine and stir. Allow to simmer away on a gentle heat. Once the wine’s almost evaporated add a ladleful of the hot stock and continue to give everything a stir from time to time.

Once the stock has been absorbed by the rice add another ladleful. Once this has been absorbed stir in another ladleful together with the diced courgette. Continue to stir at intervals adding further ladlefuls of hot stock every time the last one is absorbed. If you run out of stock before the rice is tender add a little boiling water.

When the rice is almost tender stir in the shredded spinach, sun dried tomatoes, pesto and a generous pinch of black pepper.

Once the rice is cooked and spinach wilted remove from the heat. Taste and add more pepper to suit. You probably won’t need to add any salt as there’s plenty in the stock and pesto.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan.

How about trying some of my other risotto recipes: Asparagus, Pea & Lemon Risotto, Sausage & Courgette Risotto or Squash & Goats Cheese.


Noodles with Pork & Veggies

Toddler & Young Children, Family Dinners, Only Grown Ups

Another firm Chez Foti family favourite! Both kids love their noodles, or rather ‘wriggly worms’ in our house, as much as we do. A very quick, easy and satisfying dinner that injects a fair amount of lovely veggies into little tums, and you can’t say much fairer than that!. In truth I’ve steered clear of blogging Chinese style recipes for their lack of authenticity, but have decided to occasionally blog my Western stylie family versions as they’re so much enjoyed at Chez Foti. Purests, you’ve been warned!

You really can use an almighty array of veggies in stir fries, use whatever’s in season or you happen to have in. Before growing my own I tended to make Chinese style food with the usual carrots, peppers, broccoli florets, peas, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, mushrooms etc. Once I had my own ready supply of veggies in the garden I soon realised that you really can use almost any veggies in Chinese cookery, or Indian or Thai. As well as the usual suspects above I’ve very successfully cooked with swiss chard, spinach, aubergines, courgettes, asparagus, french and other green beans, broad beans, cauliflower, squash & pumpkin, kale, celery, leeks, sprouts, sweet potatoes, parsnips, beetroot, swede…..I think you’re getting the idea. Vary the cooking time and size of dice accordingly. Anything woody and hard, like a carrot, parsnip or swede should be cut a little finer than other veggies and/or cooked for a little longer. Leafier veggies like spinach, chard leaves or pak choi cook down very quickly and should be added towards the end of the cooking time.

So tonights noodles were made with handfuls of my ‘veg of the month’ Swiss Chard,  a red pepper and a courgette. A couple of my swiss chard plants from last year are back in full glory now (though about to go to seed) and producing an abundance of wonderful leaves. I also planted a whole new row a few weeks ago and these babies are almost ready for the eating too. Chard is a wonderful veg to grow, minimum effort for maximum and very quick return, and the plants can last up to a staggering eighteen months. It’s such a versatile veg too, great in an assortment of Asian curries and stir fries, stews, casseroles and pasta dishes.

You can happily swap the pork for beef, chicken or prawns, or omit altogether for a veggie dinner. My kids like a touch of chilli in their food, but leave out if you or yours don’t. If making for adults only you might want to increase the amount of chilli, fish, oyster and soy sauce, I try to keep my salt levels as low as possible when cooking for kids.

Enough for four:

2 tablespoons of sunflower or groundnut oil

a heaped tablespoon of freshly grated ginger

a dried birds eye chilli, finely chopped, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)

a medium onion, diced

a red pepper, cut into thin strips (about an inch long)

a courgette, cut into thin strips (about an inch long)

200g of swiss chard leaves and stalks, stalks removed and both leaves and stalks shredded separately

300g of pork loin or fillet, cut into thin strips (about an inch long, the same as the veggies)

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

200g of medium egg noodles, cooked to packet instructions and cooled

a teaspoon of fish sauce

2 dessertspoons of dark soy sauce

2 heaped tablespoons of oyster sauce

100ml of hot chicken stock

Heat the oil on a hot heat, in a large high sided frying pan or preferably a wok. Throw in the ginger, chilli, onion and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring briskly and almost continuously.

Add the courgette, pork strips, shredded chard stems and garlic. Stir regularly and cook on a high heat until the veggies are almost tender. This should  be about 4 to 5 minutes. If the pan is very dry add a splash of water rather than more oil.

Stir in the shredded chard leaves, cooked noodles, fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce and hot stock.  Keep on the heat until the chard has wilted and the noodles are piping hot. Have a taste and add a little more oyster and soy sauce if you think it needs it, though it’s not advisable to add any more if cooking for little children.

How about trying some of our other Chez Foti family favourite dinners, Chicken & Veggie Fried Rice, Chicken & Apricot Tagine, Sausage & Courgette Carbonara or Pasta & Meatballs.


A Summery Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet

Family Dinners, Grown Up Dinners

I love cassoulet. It’s probably one of my favourite winter dinners, but boy is it filling. Way too heavy for this time of year anyway. So here’s a fabulous recipe for an altogether much lighter and healthier take on a cassoulet using chicken instead of duck and adding lovely in season asparagus to replace some of the beans.

I wish I could say I devised this recipe myself, but alas no it’s from my beloved Leon book by the inspirational Allegra McEvedy. Ever since I’ve had the book I’ve been excited about trying this particular recipe and have rather impatiently been waiting for the asparagus season to commence. And now we’re in it, I’ve made cassoulet three times already and always a success. Equally great for a family supper, a lunch or dinner party. Everyone seems to love it and it’s surprisingly quick and easy to assemble.

The original recipe calls for chicken supremes but I’ve successfully replaced with cheaper whole chicken legs but feel free to go with the original if you prefer breast meat. When I made the cassoulet for a dinner party I cut down on the asparagus (as 3 bundles was just a tad too expensive at E4.50 a pop!) and used half asparagus, half sliced courgettes and this worked marvellously.  I’d also say that you could omit the chicken altogether and replace the chicken stock with veggie to make a really interesting vegetarian dinner.

Try to start this dish the day before and leave the chicken to marinade in the fridge overnight, or at least for a whole day.

By the way that’s Dotty in the background. She’s the newest member of the Foti clan, a gorgeous little fluff ball of a Collie pup. And no she didn’t get to eat any!.

Enough for 4:

2 unwaxed lemons, zested and juiced

6 tablespoons of olive oil

8 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

6 sprigs of fresh thyme

4 bay leaves

black pepper & salt

4 whole free range chicken leg pieces, skin removed

2 bunches of asparagus, or 1 bunch and 1 large courgette

2 medium onions, diced

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

a large glass of white wine

400ml of chicken stock

8 tablespoons of breadcrumbs plus a little extra olive oil for drizzling

4 lemon wedges to serve

Place the lemon zest and juice, two thirds of the olive oil, half the garlic, the thyme and bay leaves, a generous grinding of black pepper and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade thoroughly in. Cover with cling film and leave to marinade for the day or ideally overnight.

The next day preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Heat the remainder of the olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, set aside the marinade. Fry the chicken on all sides until a little golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion to the pan for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Now add the remainder of the garlic and the marinade and fry for a couple more minutes. Tip in the beans and the white wine. Give everything a good stir and leave to bubble away for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced by half.

Meanwhile prepare your asparagus. Remove and discard the woody ends and cut the stems into roughly one inch lengths ensuring the heads remain whole. Retain four whole asparagus stems for the top. If using a courgette slice in half lengthways then slice across in roughly 0.5cm slices.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the asparagus (and courgette if using). Have a taste check and season really well. Place the beans in an appropriately sized ovenproof dish then tuck the chicken legs in.

Pour over the chicken stock until you can just see the liquid level below the beans.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and place the four whole asparagus spears on the crumbs. Drizzle a little olive oil over everything.

Place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The crumbs should be golden and edges bubbling.

Great served with a light salad and lemon wedges on the side.

Here’s another couple of fabulous Leon recipes to try The Best Chilli Ever, and Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Beans.


Mediterranean Pot Roast Chicken

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

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

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

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

a medium to large chicken, about 1.5 to 2 kgs

salt & pepper

4 tablespoons of olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a large onion, diced

2 sticks of celery, diced

2 teaspoons of sweet smoked paprika

500ml of white wine

200ml of water

2 x 400g cans of good quality chopped tomatoes

a heaped tablespoon of tomato puree

3 sprigs of thyme

3 bay leaves

a red pepper

a green pepper

a medium aubergine

a large courgette

100g of stones green olives

2 tablespoons of chopped parsley

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sausage & Courgette Pasta Carbonara

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We seem to eat carbonara way too often in our house these days, it’s my staple no brainer meal-in minutes-supper that we all adore and we’ve almost always got the ingredients in for, especially now we’ve got a ready and usually very abundant supply of eggs!. And what’s not to like about this killer simple combo of pasta, eggs, bacon and cheese?! In an effort to vary our regular dinner I’ve been experimenting with tradition a little lately, by ‘healthying’ up our carbonara’s with various veggies. Mushrooms, courgettes, broccoli, roasted squash and pumpkin all work great. I went one step further this week and bravely ditched the bacon and replaced it with some very good quality toulouse sausage, and together with courgettes we had one very very tasty carbonara variation which I can thoroughly recommend.

I tend not to add any cream to my carbonara, especially since I’ve been using our own deliciously creamy eggs, but feel free to add a little to your eggs if you feel you should. Most dried pasta works well with carbonara but for some reason I usually use penne or fusilli, though I’m sure it’s more traditionally made with spaghetti or tagliatelle.

For a family of four:
a tablespoon of olive oil
300g of good quality sausages
2 courgettes
a large clove of garlic, finely sliced
240g dried pasta
3 free range eggs
3 heaped tablespoons of grated Parmesan plus a little extra for sprinkling
salt and pepper

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large frying pan and heat. Cut the sausages into small bite size pieces and place in the pan. Quarter the courgettes lengthways then thinly slice, add to the pan too along with the chopped garlic. Cook on a medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly so nothing catches. The sausage should be cooked through and a little browned and courgettes soft.

Meanwhile cook your pasta to packet instructions. Try to time it so your pasta is cooked and ready at exactly the same time as the courgettes and sausages.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and lightly whisk, stir in the cheese, plenty of freshly ground back pepper and a touch of salt.

As soon as the pasta and sausages/courgettes are cooked and still piping hot throw into one pan and immediately add the eggy mix. Stir everything around really well. Don’t put the pan back onto the heat or you’ll have pasta with scrambled eggs, what you’re after is a glossy eggy coating. Taste and add further salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve immediately with a further sprinkling of parmesan.

If you like this how about trying my Pasta & Meatballs, Smoked Salmon & Broccoli Penne, Pumpkin Macaroni Cheese or Roasted Veggie Lasagne recipes?


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