Tag Archives: Dried Fruit

Super-Fruity Banana Mini Muffins

We’re just over the middle of the loooooonnnnng 10 week, yes TEN week summer school holidays here. France reportedly has more school holidays than anywhere else in the world, a great place to be if you’re a teacher. Actually I moan a lot about them but in truth I’m quite enjoying it really, well this holiday anyway. The first half we had lots of visitors which is always fun, and now we haven’t but I’m just enjoying being lazy and not having to get dressed and washed and breakfasted (well eventually we do!) and do the school run (not that it’s terribly stressful round here, 5 kms in about 6 mins, and it’s rare you ever see another car until you get to the actual school and there’s never any hassle parking). This holiday it’s lots of walks around the garden, fruit picking, marathon trampoline and paddling pool sessions, visits to local parks and the odd lake or swimming pool dip. Plus plenty of baking. I’m not going to mention the squabbling, squealing, screaming or sulking. Really I’m not. Ahhhrrrrr.

My daughter’s now nearly four and loves to bake (she’s been at school since she was just over two by the way, they start them young here!). Strangely though she’s not really a big cake fan (we really should have a DNA test done) but does love to eat anything she’s helped make. And Jacques at just over two has now decided he wants a piece of the baking action and is very much my master stirrer. He likes his cake but also has a partiality for savory. So during these long summer jollidays we’ve had many a baking session. Many way too messy to blog and show, but some just about okish!. Today it was the turn of some really-fruity fairly-healthy mini-muffins made with bananas, apricots and sultanas. I like to make my muffins small for the kids (and for me so I can eat twice as many) and tend to make them in the normal fairy cake sized cases and tins, but feel free to make them a normal muffin size too.

Use really ripe, preferably over-ripe with blackened skins, bananas.

Miss F the Urchin Child & Champion Spoon Licker

Makes 24 mini-muffins or 12 regular:

250g of plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

a large pinch of cinnamon

180g of golden caster sugar

2 large eggs

75ml of sunflower oil

75ml of creme fraiche (half fat works fine) or yogurt

2 very large over-ripe bananas or 3 medium sized

80g of apricots, chopped (the slightly squishy ‘ready to eat’ ones are best, but dried work too)

80g of sultanas

Preheat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Sieve the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a largish mixing bowl then stir in the sugar.

In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, oil and creme fraiche or yogurt. And in another bowl roughly mash up the bananas with the back of a fork.

Now for some serious stirring action. Throw the wet mixture into the dry along with the mashed bananas, chopped apricots and sultanas. Stir until well combined.

Place in cake or muffin cases in cake or muffin trays. It’s about a dessertspoon of the raw mixture for a fairy cake sized mini-muffin.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until a little golden on the top, firm to touch and an inserted cake skewer or fork comes out crumb free.

Remove from the trays and cool on a cooling rack for as long as your little ones will allow. Go gobble.

Here’s some other easy peasy baking with kids ideas: Cheesy Biscuits, Cheese, Ham & Sweetcorn Mini-Muffins, Chocolate Brownies

The new Naked Chef, admittedly it was 38°C and we were baking!

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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.


Super-Fruity Homemade Rice Pudding

8 months +, toddlers & young children, grown ups too!

Homemade rice pudding is so super douper easy everyone should give it a go. Most recipes bake it slowly in the oven but I’ve successfully experimented with simmering the milk and rice in a pan on the hob and considerably shortened the cooking time. The addition of lots of dried fruit gives this pud an extra healthy punch, and even kids adverse to dried fruit will probably enjoy it this way being so meltingly soft. If your making the pud for really little ones or kids that truely do not do dried fruit then omit and add a touch more sugar.

I used to make lots of milky puddings when my wee boy was weaning as once he had his first taste of solids he barely drank another drop of milk and I had to make sure he still got plenty of the white stuff down one way or another. Together with a few milky puds, I was always lucky that the little fella loved his yoghurts, cheese, porridge and milky cereals so it was never too much of a problem. He’s just turned two now and still refuses to drink milk on it’s own!.

Milk is the most important source of calcium to little people, as well as containing protein and a whole bunch of vitamins and minerals. Raisins, sultanas and dried apricots not only count towards your child’s five a day but are a wonderful natural sugar and sweetener. I always add a handful to my kids’ porridge and regularly use in puddings and cakes to replace large, and often unnecessary, quantities of sugar.

for a family of four:

90g of pudding rice (½ cup)

30g of golden caster sugar (1⁄8 cup)

675ml of full fat milk (3 cups)

80g of raisins or sultanas (⅓ to ½ cup)

60g of finely chopped dried apricots (just over ⅓ of a cup)

Simply place all the ingredients in a saucepan, stir to combine, and place on as gentle a heat as your hob will allow.

Slowly bring to a simmer and allow to bubble away for 30 minutes, stirring at regular intervals. If the rice looks like it’s drying out add a touch more milk.

The rice should be gloopy and very very soft.  Serve whilst warm or hot.

Here’s some of my other puddings: Sticky Apple Pudding and Bread & Butter Leftovers Pudding


My Great-Granny’s Christmas Pudding!

Yipppppeeee!  It’s the second day of December, the advent calendars are up (and choccies gobbled), decs soon to be up, the kids are excited beyond belief, and father christmas will be coming down that chimney before I can even spare a thought for sending my chrissie cards…as usual!

And it’s time to get cracking with the christmas puds. If you’ve never made one before I urge you to, they really are very easy. And this recipe, that’s been passed through several generations of my mum’s family, is honestly the best christmas pudding I have ever EVER eaten. We’re not sure quite how old it is, but it was certainly the recipe that my Granny and Great-Granny always used, albeit with a little tweaking here and there over the years. My mum’s highly successful tweaking omitted the suet, nor indeed any fat at all, and the result is a much lighter and less cloying, though somehow more delicious pud. And the secret un-tweaked ingredients that make this pud so extra special? Carrots and potatoes! Would you believe? But it really really works!

In writing this post I am also entering the ‘Christmas Carrot Competition’ organised by lovethegarden.com and the brilliant award winning food blogger eatlikeagirl.com to find the most creative and scrumptious carrot recipe. I think you’ll agree you can’t get much more creative with a carrot than the traditional Christmas pudding, my Great-Granny should be proud of herself!

To make 2 medium sized puddings (2 x 2 pint basins, each serving 6 people):

225g mixed dried fruit

225g sultanas

225g potato, finely grated

225g carrots, finely grated

225g breadcrumbs

225g soft brown sugar

115g currants

115g dried apricots, chopped

85g glace cherries, quartered

55g almonds, chopped

a little grated nutmeg

½tsp cinnamon

Place all of the ingredients in a very large bowl and mix thoroughly. The best way to do this is to get right in there and mix with your hands.

Butter your pudding basins and add the mixture evenly. Press it down a little, the puddings should come to about ½ inch from the top of the basin. Place a circle of greaseproof paper on top of the mixture within the basin.  Cover the entire basin and part way down the sides with a couple of layers of foil, tie some string tightly around the sides of the basin to secure in place.

Place each pudding in a large saucepan (you must have a lid for it). The pudding should NOT be tight fitting and there should be ample space around the sides. Poor in boiling water until the level reaches ¾ of the height of the basin. Place on the hob with the lid on and bring back to the boil and simmer gently for 5 hours. As the water level in the pan drops top up with boiling water, you will probably have to do this 3 or 4 times. After 5 hours take off the heat and leave to cool in the pan.

The pudding will now keep for up to a month in the fridge or a year in the freezer. Please note that these puddings don’t keep for lengthy periods in the fridge in the same way as puddings that contain preserving suet do.

When you want to eat your pud, boil for one hour in the same way as above. Turn out of the basin and serve!


Bread & Butter Leftovers Pudding

I don’t make many puddings.  Not because I can’t, but for three reasons. Firstly, my oven is rubbish; it’s a temperamental cheap (and very temporary) gas oven that can only function semi-correctly on one exact shelf position….and even that manages to destroy anything that’s ever so slightly delicate!  All things cakelike, flannish, or puddingy are baked at my own risk and generally come out with a black burnt crisp on their bottom.  Obviously we’re hoping to replace the damned thing with a super-duper all singing all dancing electric oven in the very near future.  The other reason is simply time!  I tend to focus my spare minutes on filling tummies with main courses, and rarely have the luxury of time to put a pud together too.  Reason number three is that neither of my children have particularly sweet tooths and puddings are generally left to the consumption of Philipe and I, and neither of us truthfully need those extra calories!

Bread & butter pudding however ticks all the above problem boxes!   Being quick to cook it never burns it’s bum too badly, is incredibly quick to put together and isn’t too sweet to put the kids off.  And it resolves another problem we have at Chez Foti ….. what to do with all our leftover bread. Today being a Sunday I had a few free minutes and made my pud using just some stale bread, but I often bung in old croissants (wonderfully rich), brioche (even more wonderfully rich) or pain au chocolat (sublime) ….. or more often than not a mixture of all of these!  If you do use these richer breads omit the butter as they already contain a heart stopping amount.

If I do go to the trouble of making a pud, I tend to make a large one so there’s plenty of leftovers for the next day.

Enough for 6

150g leftover bread, croissants, brioche or pain au chocolat – in slices (you need enough to make up 2 layers of your dish)

butter – enough to butter the bread and grease your dish

50g raisins or sultanas

3 eggs

400ml whole milk

50g golden caster sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling on the top

a little nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 180°C/355°F/Gas 4.

Butter your bread and lay half the slices in a buttered overproof dish, filling in all gaps like a jigsaw to make a complete layer.  Scatter over the raisins or sultanas.  Add another layer of bread.

In a large jug or a bowl whisk the eggs lightly and then whisk in the milk and sugar.  When combined pour evenly over the bread.

Grate a little nutmeg and sprinkle a fine layer of sugar over the top.

Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the custard has set and the top is a lovely golden brown.

Serve immediately with lashings of custard.


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