Tag Archives: Garlic

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca with fresh Tomatoes

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

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

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

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca 

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

2 tablespoons of olive oil

a clove of garlic, finely chopped

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

4 anchovy fillets

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

a large pinch of freshly ground black pepper

a pinch of sugar

60g of stoned black olives

a dessertspoon of capers, rinsed

250g of spaghetti

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

Meanwhile cook the spaghetti to packet instructions.

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

Run the sauce through the spaghetti and serve immediately.

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


A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces!

It’s the war of the tomatoes this week (and month) at Chez Foti, there’s a daily battle between myself and the ridiculously extravagant sixty three tomato plants I’ve somehow ended up with (an over exhuberance in seed sowing and a problem number of  self-seeders literally fruiting up all over the plot!). Every day I fill an enormous basket worth (with the help of my two little tomato pickers – see pics below) and use up every minute of available time (which is never all that much with a two and a nearly four year old to entertain too) transforming them into something tasty for the future. An inordinate amount of my time seems to be spent chopping tomatoes. But there’s always a tray full of surplus at the end of the day, and today I now have two trays worth. And we’re only at the beginning of the tomato season. Our new chest freezer’s meanwhile filling up nicely, it arrived last week just in the nick of time. I fear we’ll be ordering another before the end of the summer.

My daily pickings, beef and cherry tomatoes mainly at the minute but the plum tomatoes are just starting too

Today in the Chez Foti Battle of the Tomatoes it was the turn of the pasta sauces, a roasted in the oven with thyme and garlic Cherry Tomato Sauce and a slow cooked on the hob with garlic and plenty of oregano Beef Tomato Sauce. Both are divinely simple but packed full of intense  flavour through slow cooking, good quality olive oil and plenty of fresh from the garden herbs. Great to use just as they are as a pasta or pizza sauce or sublime with a stirring through of a little creme fraiche and/or balsamic, fresh basil or oregano….and then topped with a further drizzle of good quality olive oil (or chili oil) or Parmesan. Happy days! I’ve also used these as a base for a very rich tomato soup or thinned down (with milk and water) as a sauce for meatballs.

My kids adore both these sauces as much as we do, and they make a super quick and healthy pasta supper when short on time. Which is just as well as I now have half a freezer full. I tend to stir a little creme fraiche into the sauce for the littlies making it extra creamy, and I also go easy on the salt content.

Pasta & Tommie Sauce in my gorgeous Oogaa bowls

As a fair whack of my herb garden has been going into these tomato sauces I thought it more than appropriate to enter this post to the lovely Herbs on Saturday blog challenge held by Karen at Lavender and Lovage. There’s always plenty of gorgeous herby recipes to check out each month so keep the page bookmarked!

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce with Thyme and Garlic

About a kilo of cherry tomatoes

Maldon sea salt (or similar)

Freshly ground black pepper

Several sprigs of fresh thyme

6 cloves of garlic (un-peeled)

3 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil

Heat your oven to 160ºC.

Fill an oven tray with whole cherry tomatoes (which is about a kilo, maybe a little more). Sprinkle over a generous pinch or two of black pepper and Maldon (or similar) sea salt. Remove the leaves from some of the thyme sprigs and scatter over, leave some whole. Nuzzle in the whole sprigs and un-peeled garlic cloves where you have space. Drizzle over the olive oil.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until the tomatoes are completely soft and collapsing.

Remove the thyme sprigs and garlic. Tip the tomatoes into a food processor or blender, making sure you fully scrape off all the lovely residue and oil from the tray. Squeeze out the goey goodness from each of the garlic cloves into the tomatoes too. Whiz until you have a super smooth sauce. Alternatively tip the tommies and garlic into a bowl and use a stick blender to do the whizzing (my preferred method as there’s less washing up!). Have a taste check and add more salt and pepper to suit.

A Slow Cooked on the Hob Tomato & Fresh Oregano Pasta Sauce

About a kilo of larger than cherry tomatoes, any variety. I used beef as that’s what I have

6 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil

8 cloves of garlic

a teaspoon of sugar

a couple of pinches of Maldon sea salt (or similar)

a couple of generous pinches of freshly ground black pepper

a few sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves removed. Be generous!

Chop up all your tomatoes to a medium dice. I tend to use the skin and seeds but not everyone likes to, so remove if you wish.

Heat the oil in a very large saucepan or stock pot on a lowish heat. Fry the garlic for a couple of minutes and at the point when it’s just starting to take on some colour tip the tomatoes into the pan. It’s important not to burn the garlic or this will taint the sauce.

Stir in the pepper, salt and sugar and bring to a simmer on a medium heat. Once simmering turn the temperature down to the lowest setting and allow to bubble away for about an hour until much reduced and considerably thickened. Half way through the cooking time stir in the oregano leaves.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before whizzing up in a processor or blender, or a stick blender straight into the pan, until you have a super smooth sauce. Have a taste check and add more salt and pepper to suit.

My two little tomato picker helpers having fun

A touch of tomato balancing envy!


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?


Pasta & Meatballs!

Everyone loves meatballs don’t they, veggies aside obviously? I really should make these more often as they’re such a savoured treat in our house and always put a smile on the dinner table faces. A perfect weekend family dinner. We had these last Saturday and they went down a storm with all of us, even Jacques managed to munch his way through THREE WHOLE meatballs (and he’s only 21 months old!). Totally delish.

The recipe I’ve always used for Meatballs is actually based on Nigella’s (from her Nigella Bites book) and to be honest you can’t really fault it! Wonderful half pork, half beef ever so slightly cheesy meatballs. All cooked and served in a lovely tomato sauce on a bed of pasta. Nigella makes her sauce with tomato passata, but as I rarely have it in I tend to make my own from a can of chopped tomatoes and a little tomato puree. I also like to add the merest touch of chilli to my tomato sauce, but feel free to omit if you don’t like the heat.

She also makes her own tagliatelle in the recipe. In my pre-children days I often used to make my own pasta, but I simply don’t have the same luxury of time these days and tend to use dried as a perfectly good substitute. But if you do have a little more time than me GO FOR IT, homemade pasta is unbeatable, and actually pretty simple when you’ve made it a few times.

I haven’t specified any weight for the dried pasta (spaghetti, tagliatelle or linguine all work particularly well) as I find pasta is such a variant and my family have particularly enormous appetites for it!. Just cook the same amount you would normally for yourselves for a bolognese or similar.

Makes about 14 small meatballs, and enough for a family of Four:

200g of good quality pork mince

200g of good quality beef mince

2 tbsps finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

1 egg

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 heaped tsp of dried oregano

2 heaped tbsps of breadcrumbs

salt & pepper

For the Tomato Sauce:

olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp of dried oregano

the merest pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)

a pinch of sugar

1 desert spoon of tomato puree

1 400g can of chopped tomatoes

200ml of water

100ml full fat milk

salt & pepper

and Pasta of your choice, fresh or dried spaghetti, tagliatelle or linguine

Start with making your meatballs. Simply add all the meatball ingredients to a large bowl and mix very thoroughly, the best way to do this is by hand squidging the mix through your hands and fingers (and if feels soooo lush!). Once well combined shape into smallish balls, by taking a little of the mixture and rolling it around in your hands a little. They should each be a smidgen bigger than a walnut. Aim for about 14 balls. Once made place on a layer of cling film on top of a plate or tray. Cover with another layer of cling film and place in the fridge until ready to cook.

Now for the sauce. In a large wide saucepan or casserole dish (that you have a lid for) add a generous glug of olive oil and heat. Add the diced onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes on a gentle heat, stirring regularly. Now add the chilli (if using) and oregano and cook for a moment or two more. Then add a pinch of sugar, tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Take off the heat and whiz the sauce up, preferably with a stick blender straight into the saucepan. You could obviously use a food processor too but that creates too much washing up for me!. Taste the sauce and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to suit. Now add the milk and stir well.

Place the sauce back on the heat and bring to a simmer again. Now it’s time to add the meatballs. Carefully drop them individually into the sauce. Don’t stir them at all at this point, you must wait until the meatballs have turned from pink to brown as you don’t want them to break up.

Cook for 20 minutes with the lid partially covering the pan. Towards the end of this time you can stir the meatballs a little to turn them over.

Whilst they’re cooking cook your pasta to packet instructions.

Have a final taste check of the sauce and serve the meatballs and sauce immediately on a bed of pasta with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.


Sausage & Bean Stew

It’s been a bit cold here as winter finally settles in, and I’ve had my usual annual hankering for warming stews and casseroles. With only a few sausages in the fridge a couple of days ago and fancying something substantial and flavoursome I put together this sausage and bean stew, and it really was lovely. In fact one of the tastiest dinners I’ve had in a while! And so very easy and quick to put together. Fresh rosemary aside (though I’m lucky enough to have it growing in abundance at Chez Foti), it’s made from standard store cupboard ingredients. You could obviously use dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked for an hour and a half, but as this was a fairly last minute dinner I used a few trusty tins.

A hearty and on the whole pretty healthy dinner for the whole family, but if your wee ones don’t like any heat omit the chilli flakes.

Enough for 4 hungry grown ups:

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

a pinch of dried chilli flakes

6 – 8 Toulouse Sausages, each cut into 4 pieces

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

3 x 400g tins of Cannellini beans, drained

2 very large handfuls of spinach/chard/savoy cabbage, washed and finely shredded

salt & pepper

Heat a glug of olive oil in casserole or very large saucepan. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until softened a little. Add the chilli flakes, sausages and rosemary and continue to cook for a few more minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and a little seasoning. Bring to a simmer and gently cook for 20 minutes. Now add the beans and spinach/chard/cabbage to the party and cook for a further 20 minutes with the lid on.

Adjust the seasoning to suit. And it really is as easy as that! Serve in a bowl with a large hunk of bread.


Jamie’s Empire Roast Chicken, Bombay Potatoes & Gravy

A grown up dinner today, although without the chilli (or just the merest touch) I’m sure little ones might enjoy this too. But for us it was the perfect excuse to have a late evening Sunday supper on our own, cooking in the original wood burning bread oven that’s in our lounge. I’ve been watching Jamie Oliver’s latest series Great Britain these last few weeks, and just how excellent was it?! His midlands show had this recipe for Empire Roast Chicken served with Bombay Potatoes and Gravy that literally had me dribbling and I just had to make it. He used a wood fired oven on the show and totally inspired me to try it in ours. It was great to put it to use for something other than pizza. And what a fantastic success, although a tad on the hot side. I will definitely be experimenting a little bit more with cooking in ours. Obviously if you don’t have a wood oven you can use a conventional gas or electric one!

Our 1788 original bread oven!

This is a bit of a lazy blog today, as it’s entirely not my recipe AND I’m not even going to write it out. To read Jamie’s recipe click on the link below. I can honestly say I didn’t change anything at all, nor would I want to….it was perfect.  It’s a fantastic recipe, please try it, I know you won’t be disappointed. A great dinner if you have friends over, or just an indulgent night in for two. If I had to make one suggestion though, bump up the amount of Bombay Potatoes if you’re cooking for four or more people. Somehow or other Phil and I managed to chomp our way through the lot when there was supposed to be enough to feed four to six. But then we are rather greedy and couldn’t actually move afterwards. They were way too good to leave.

The recipe:
Jamie’s Roast Chicken & Bombay Potatoes Recipe

Thanks so much Mr Oliver!


Roasted Veggie Lasagne

Everyone loves lasagne don’t they?  Even the most dedicated of meat eaters might just tuck into a vegetarian dinner if it happened to be lasagne?.  I make this quite often as the kids like it about as much as we do, and it’s much quicker to put together than a bolognese one.  Plus it’s a fab way to use up the excess veggies that always seem to be lingering.  You can add pretty much any veggies you want; once they’re roasted and covered in cheesy pasta layers they all taste pretty damned fab (and I’m sure your kids will agree).  I used in mine a possibly odd combination of red peppers, mushrooms, celery, french beans, aubergine, baby beetroot, carrots and a little swiss chard (the latter I added raw, finely chopped), but it worked very nicely!  A handful or two of cherry tomatoes work particularly well if you have them, as do courgettes, squash, pumpkin, mushrooms, spinach (no need to roast)…..the list could go on and on, but just chuck it in!

I tend to add quite a few fresh herbs to my lasagne as I grow them in abundance.  If you don’t have them to hand, don’t go to the trouble and expense of buying any especially to make this as it can manage without.  I either roast my veggies with lots of fresh thyme, or as I did today added a large handful of chopped parsley and basil to the veggies once they were roasted. I also used Grana Padano rather than it’s more expensive cousin Parmesan.  When making cheese sauces I always add a little english mustard. It somehow managed to eek out a stronger cheesier flavour, but it’s not essential and again if you don’t have it to hand don’t worry.

Serves 4 – 6

olive oil

a red onion, roughly diced

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

750 g of mixed veg, cut into a rough 1cm dice

a handful of black olives – roughly chopped (omit if you’re cooking for kids who really don’t like them)

a handful each of fresh parsley and basil – roughly chopped (optional)

salt & pepper

50g butter

40g plain flour

500ml milk

50g Parmesan or Grana Padano, plus extra for the topping

½ tsp of english mustard (optional)

220g dried lasagne sheets – normal or green

2 balls of Mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat your oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.  Place your veggies, onion and garlic 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 25 minutes (turning at least once) until the veggies are all cooked through and starting to brown a little.  Once roasted turn down the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Meanwhile make your sauce. Place the butter in a large saucepan and heat over a very gentle heat until melted.  With the pan still on a little heat add the flour and stir quickly and vigorously with a wooden spoon or a balloon whisk until combined.  Add a little milk and continue to stir or whisk vigorously, continue to add the milk in this way until you have incorporated it all.  Don’t worry if you have a few lumps at this stage, they’ll eventually go. Continue to stir or whisk the sauce constantly over a gentle heat until it is fully thickened and starting to simmer, this will take a few minutes. When simmering, take the pan off the heat and stir in the mustard (if using) and Parmesan or Grana Padano.

Now you’re all ready to assemble.  Into a large ovenproof dish add about a third of your veggies and about a third of the olives and a generous sprinkling of basil and parsley (if you’re using). Layer the lasagne sheets on top and spread a third of the cheese sauce over plus a third of the Mozzarella slices.

Continue with another couple of these layers until you’ve used all your ingredients up, and you’ve finished with a thick layer of cheese sauce and plenty of Mozzarella.  Now add a fine layer of grated Parmesan to finish.

Place the dish in your preheated oven for about 30 to 40 minutes until the lasagne is cooked through and the cheesy layer on the top is nicely browned.


Coq au Vin

I thought it was about time I actually put a French recipe on here and you can’t get much more peasant classic French than good old Coq au Vin. Absolutely divine and divinely easy to make.  It’s one of my standard dinners when we have lots of people staying, as it’s easy to make in large quantities and can be made in advance and re-heated when needed. In fact it’s even better made a day or two before.  With two small children I simply don’t have the time to be preparing dinner late afternoon or early evening and instead rely on cooking in their post-lunch nap time or once they’ve gone to bed after about 7 or 8.  Which is obviously fairly limiting on a number of lovely dinners I could be making, but makes anything stewed, slow cooked or casseroled my best friend these days.

I use pretty rough, and cheap, red wine for this as it does call for quite a lot. Here in France I use the wine I buy for a Euro a litre from the local market (which is surprisingly very quaffable). I rarely use anything too special in cooking as I personally can’t tell the difference.

For 4 adults:

4 whole chicken legs, skin on, preferably free range

1 litre of red wine

4 sprigs of thyme

4 bay leaves

salt and pepper

olive oil

1 small onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely diced

2 stick of celery, finely sliced

180g lardons or streaky bacon (if bacon, cut into small pieces)

250g mushrooms, preferably smallish ones left whole – if large halved or quartered

10 shallots, peeled and cut into half

500 ml chicken stock

Firstly marinade your chicken by placing the chicken legs, wine, bay leaves, thyme and some salt and pepper in a non-metalic bowl. Preferably leave to marinade overnight, or at least for a few hours, in the fridge.

Once marinaded, take out the chicken and dry on some kitchen paper, reserving the marinade for later use.  Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole and fry the chicken on both sides until slightly golden. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Now add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery to the pan.  Cook for about 10 minutes on a gentle heat until softened slightly .  Add the chicken to the pan again, along with wine marinade.  Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes or so without a lid, until the wine is reduced by half.

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan add the lardons or bacon, mushrooms and shallots.  Fry for about 10 minutes until the onions and mushrooms are softened and the lardons slightly browned.

Once the wine has reduced add the cooked lardons, mushrooms and shallots to the chicken pan, along with the stock. Bring back to a simmer and cook for a further 30 to 40 minutes with the lid on.  The chicken should be falling off the bone.  Adjust the seasoning to taste.

This is lovely served with a mound of buttery mashed potato and a nice steamed green vegetable, plus a hunk of bread to soak up the lovely juices. And it should go without saying a large glass of vin rouge!

Enjoy!


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