Tag Archives: Couscous

One Pot Ratatouille

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ratatouille

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

4 tablespoons of olive oil

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

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a large aubergine or two small

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

2 courgettes

a small glass of white wine (optional)

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

3 bay leaves

several sprigs of fresh thyme (be generous!)

a teaspoon of sugar

salt and pepper

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

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

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

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

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

Eat and enjoy as you so desire!

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

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Chicken & Apricot Tagine

Toddlers and Young Children, The Whole Family, Just Grown Ups

Another firm family favourite in the Chez Foti household. The addition of dried fruit to tagines, curries or stews always goes down well with my kids and probably with most others too. I remember the first time I made this for Francesca, when she was little over a year old, she wolfed it down like I’d never seen her eat before and devoured a further two bowls. Now anyone who knows Francesca knows this is not normal for her. She’s a painstakingly slow and generally pretty uninterested eater. Although she actually eats most foods she’s definitely not a natural foodie like her little brother. So tagines subsequently feature pretty often in our house.

Interestingly the reason I came to make it for her in the first place was due to the daily report cards issued to parents, from her nursery at the time, reporting that she was eating two ‘large’ portions of tagine whenever it was served, be it lamb, chicken or veggie based. The food they gave the kids was usually amazing and inspirational.

You can make this in all in one go, but it’s best planned ahead and the chicken left to marinade overnight the day before. Feel free to substitute any of the veggies, I tend to use whatever I happen to have in. Squash, pumpkin, aubergines, courgettes, turnips, swede or parsnips all work equally as well as my choices of peppers, sweet potato and carrots.

This is a fab dish for all the family and can fed to real littlies too, once they’re eating proteins. Babies love the sweetness of the apricots. Either blend a little with a stick blender or cut finely and/or mash with the back of a fork.

Serve with couscous, again a very firm favourite grain in our house.

Enough for 4, or a family of 4 with a few leftovers:

4 whole free range chicken legs, skin removed

the juice of 2 lemons

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a teaspoon of ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoons of turmeric

a teaspoon of ras-el-hanout, or mild curry powder

a teaspoon of cinnamon

a tablespoon of olive oil

1 onion, large dice

2 carrots, sliced

a small sweet potato, large dice

a red pepper, large dice

85g of dried apricots, each chopped into 8 to 10 pieces

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

600ml of chicken stock

Place the lemon juice, garlic, cumin, turmeric, ras-el-hanout (or curry powder) and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir around a bit and add the chicken. Ensure the chicken is well coated, cover with cling film and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least a few hours but preferably overnight.

The next day remove the chicken from the marinade, retaining the lovely marinade. Heat the oil in large casserole dish on a medium heat and fry the chicken for a couple of minutes on all sides. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions, carrots, sweet potato and pepper to the same pan, or whichever veggies you’ve chosen. Place back on a medium heat and cook for ten minutes. If the pan’s a little dry add a splash more olive oil or a little water.

Place the chicken back in the pan along with the rest of the marinade, the thyme, chopped apricots and stock. Give everything a good stir around.

Bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and leave to bubble away on the lowest heat setting you have for an hour. Alternatively you could put the casserole dish (or tagine if you’re lucky enough to have one) in a pre-heated to 200ºC oven for an hour and a half. Check every now and again throughout the cooking process and if things start to dry out add a little water.

Have a taste check adding a little salt and pepper to suit (no salt for littlies). Serve hot with couscous.


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.


Couscous with Roasted Veggies & Feta

A very easy recipe today, but oh so tasty; one of my standard dinners when I’m feeling a bit on the lazy side. It was my Big Bro Ben who first dished this up for me several years ago, and I’ve been making it pretty regularly ever since!  I actually always keep a slab of feta in the fridge for this very dinner.  Great for all the family too, and a good way to inject your wee ones with oodles of lovely veggies.  Mine love the natural sweetness of roasted veg, and always seem to eat way more than if they were just plain steamed or boiled.

If you want to meat-up your dinner it’s lovely served with some spicy sausages on the side, Philipe likes a couple of Merguez.  Merguez are spicy North African lamb or beef sausages that are soooooo good……and oh sooooooooo bad for you and are easily available to buy here in France, but a little harder to come by in the UK or elsewhere.

Like all my roasted veggie recipes you really can use pretty much any veggies you have lurking in your cupboards, fridge or garden.  For this dinner I used all veg picked from my garden and roasted up some lovely baby beetroot (their inaugural use of the season!), a carrot, some squash, half a courgette, a couple of baby aubergines (sadly almost the last of the year) and a couple of small peppers (also nearly finished).

Chop all the veggies to a similar bite size piece, though I tend to cut harder root vegetables a little smaller than others, and fill up an oven tray or baking sheet until it’s full. Don’t fill any more than a single layer or the veggies will be a tad on the soggy side rather than crisply roasted.  Whilst this always looks like an alarming amount of veggies, they really do cook down a great deal so make sure you fill it up!  And even if you do have some leftovers they’re great eaten the next day in a sandwich with a bit of goats cheese, feta or hummus.

I like adding a touch of balsamic vinegar at the end of roasting, it adds an extra level of sweetness which is a particularly nice contrast to the salty feta.

For a family of four:

1 onion (preferably a red onion), roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, left whole with skin on

Enough veg to fill a single layer on your baking sheet or roasting tray, cut into bite size chunks (you could use any combination of courgettes, peppers, aubergines, carrots, parsnips, squash, pumpkin, beetroot, swede, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, green beans….)

olive oil

salt & pepper

a handful of parsley, stalks removed and roughly chopped

balsamic vinegar (optional)

200g feta, roughly chopped

200g couscous

Preheat your oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.  Place your veggies, onion and garlic cloves on a large baking sheet or tray, and combine with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a generous grinding of black pepper and a little salt. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes (turning at least once) until the veggies are all cooked through and a little browned.

While your veggies are roasting, prepare the couscous.  Because couscous varies in size, it’s best to cook to packet instructions. With the couscous in a largish bowl, I ordinarily  I add the same quantity in boiling water as weight of couscous, for example for 200g of couscous I would add 200ml of boiling water.  I also add a touch of olive oil and a little salt and pepper, then cover the bowl tightly and leave for 5 minutes. Fluff up the couscous with a fork and add a little more boiling water if it seems dry.

Once the veggies are cooked remove the tray from the oven, add the parsley, the roughly broken up feta (I crumbled the feta on my veggies afterwards today, but it’s also pretty nice warmed up in the oven until it goes slightly gooey) and a dash of balsamic vinegar if using, stir around a little and put back in the oven for a minute or two to melt the feta a little.

Serve the veggies on top of the couscous. Yum…..I hope you agree?!


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