Tag Archives: Onions

Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese

I’ve not gone all American, just paying homage to a couple of recipes for Pumpkin Macaroni Cheese that I recently read on US blogs over Thanksgiving time: Brokeass Gourmet and The Garden of Eating. Being new to this world of blogging I’ve being doing a bit of reading myself of other blogs and Twitters, and I’ve found some great sites just like these two.

This recipe has rekindled my old love affair with macaroni cheese.  Mac cheese was always my ultimate comfort food, my mum without fail would make this cheesy treat when I was feeling poorly. The last few years though I’ve rarely made it, in part because my daughter Francesca has never liked creamy cheesy sauces, and it’s fallen out of my comfort food favour, preferring instead a simple casserole or pie. But this one is simply divine, bringing a slightly more grown up depth with the inclusion of pumpkin, onion and thyme. A fabulous dinner for kids, they’ll love it…although I have to admit Francesca still refused to budge on her dislike of macaroni cheese!

I’ve adapted my recipe from both these sites. They finish the dish in the oven with a breadcrumb topping.  I was intending to do this, but had two hungry mouths to feed and simply ran out of time, so I served up straight out of the saucepan. One of the recipes also uses tinned pumpkin which is something that doesn’t exist outside the US, and besides here at Chez Foti we still have a considerable surplus of pumpkins to get through!

If you don’t have any pumpkin or it’s not particularly flavoursome, substitute with butternut squash. I like to add a smidgen of english mustard to my cheese sauce, as it heightens the flavour of the cheese.

Enough for a family of four:

350g pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled

olive oil

salt & pepper

225g macaroni

a small onion, or half a normal sized, finely diced

40g butter

40g plain flour

a few springs of thyme, leaves removed (optional)

350ml milk

90g cheddar cheese

½ tsp english mustard (optional)

Preheat your oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Peel and cut the pumpkin or squash into roughly 1 to 2cm cubes. Place on a baking sheet or tray and rub in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until soft and slightly browned.

Meanwhile cook your macaroni according to packet instructions.

To make the sauce place the butter in a saucepan and melt over a gentle heat. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the onion is translucent. Now add the thyme. With the pan still on a little heat add the flour and whisk vigorously with a balloon whisk until combined. Add a little milk and continue to 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 cheese and mustard (if using).

Once the pumpkin is roasted, mash roughly with the back of a fork and add to the cheese sauce. Combine the sauce with the pasta and serve immediately….unless obviously you have a little more time than me and want to bake it. If you do place in a buttered ovenproof dish and top with a little extra cheese and a handful of breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

Here’s Jacques rather messily tucking into his Mac ‘n Cheese, refusing to use a spoon and only hands today. That’s my boy!


Comfort Cottage Pie

The weather’s suddenly turning a little colder here, you can see the snow on the Pyrenees and we’re lighting fires most days – no central heating @ Chez Foti:-(. So it’s time to bring on the cold weather food. Yipppppeeee.  It’s a close call but I’m reckoning I love all those winter warming slow cooked stews, casseroles, roasts and pies more than summer food.  They reach out and give you a big foodie hug just when you need one. And rich comforting cottage pie, done right with a bit of care and attention, is my winter food heaven.  Love it, the kids love it, everyone loves it don’t they?

Normally when I’m making meaty sauces or bases I bulk out the meat with lots of veggies, but there’s something about keeping a cottage pie intensely beefy and simple, refraining to mess too much. My one veggie addition though is the humble parsnip. Added to the potato topping with a little horseradish, you get a little sweet kick, that’s oh so lovely against the beef.  And horseradish and beef are obviously a match made in foodie heaven!

Enough for 4 adults, (or like us, enough for a family of 4, with portions left over for the kids to eat the next day):

olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

2 small carrots, finely diced

1 celery stalk, finely diced

600g good quality lean beef mince (preferably from a butcher who can mince the meat in front of you)

1 heaped tbsp plain flour

1 large glass of red wine

1 heaped tbsp of tomato puree

500ml beef stock

1 tsp of worcester sauce

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs of thyme

salt & pepper

For the topping:

620g potatoes, peeled and chopped

350g parsnips, peeled and chopped

2 tsp cream horseradish

70g butter

50ml milk

salt & pepper

In a large saucepan heat a good glug of olive oil and add the onion, carrots and celery.  Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft, stirring regularly.

Turn up the heat and add the beef.  Cook for about 5 minutes until browned.

Add the red wine, turn down the heat a little and cook until the wine has nearly all evaporated. Add the flour, stir briskly then immediately add the tomato puree, beef stock, bay leaves, thyme, worcester sauce and seasoning. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile pre-heat your oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6, and make your potato topping.

In a large pan of boiling water boil the potatoes and parsnips until soft. Drain and allow them to steam  and dry out for a few minutes. Mash with the butter, milk and horseradish.  Season to taste.

Place the beef in an openproof dish (remembering to remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs).  Spoon on the mash. I like to shape my mash with the back of a fork, as that’s what my mum’s always done.

Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden on the top (and if it’s not you can always pop it under the grill for a few minutes).

Serve piping hot with a nice green veg on the side.  We had ours with steamed home grown broccoli. Enjoy your winter warming food hug!  Here’s Jacques getting down to a bit of serious eating with his Oogaa bowl and train spoon:


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?!


Boulangére Potatoes

Whilst I absolutely adore Dauphinoise potatoes they aren’t exactly the healthiest of potato side dishes, especially with the amount of cream I love to add. Boulangére potatoes are however an extremely healthy alternative that are in my book equally as tasty.  Try them and you’ll be amazed! Interestingly named as in France they were originally given to the local boulangerie to slowly bake in their bread oven.

Great served with a sunday roast or a rich casserole or stew. You can make them plain or add plenty of fresh thyme or rosemary.  Yesterday I made mine with thyme and served with roast chicken, lovely!

Enough for 4:

750g Desirée or other floury potatoes, peeled and very finely sliced

1 very large or 2 small onions, peeled, cut in half and very finely sliced

a few springs of fresh rosemary or thyme (optional)

200ml vegetable or chicken stock

100ml milk

30g butter

salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 180°C / Gas Mark 4.

Very finely slice your potatoes and onions.  If using thyme strip the leaves from the stalks; if rosemary remove from the stalks and roughly chop.

Grease an ovenproof dish and start assembling with a layer of the potato slices, followed by some onion slices, a fine scattering of thyme or rosemary (if you’re using) and a little seasoning.  Continue layering in this way until all the potatoes and onions have been used (retaining a few of the herbs), finishing with a layer of slightly overlapping potatoes on top.

Mix the stock and milk together and pour over the potatoes.  Scatter over the remaining herbs (if using) and a little seasoning.

Cut the butter into small pieces and dot over the top of the potatoes.

Place in the oven and bake for an hour, until the potatoes are soft and cooked through, and the top layer is crisp and golden.


Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup)

This was our Sunday lunch today!  We tend to have some sort of soup on Sundays for lunch (and Saturdays too for that matter!) followed by a proper ‘sunday lunch’ around 6ish.  Because the kids normally have a sleep at 12 for a couple of hours it’s too rushed trying to get lunch ready before then….nor do we have much of an appetite for a roast and pud at 11.30am! So today’s soup was this new-to-me gem of a recipe (although I’ve now made it three times in less than a week!), and the kids loved it too.

A big thank you to my friend Susie for emailing me it.  Susie and her partner Gary run a training retreat for cyclists and triathletes in the mountains of central Portugal (www.delucci.co.uk), and regularly cook up this fabulous soup for themselves and hungry guests, either as a filling starter or a light lunch or supper served up with a hunk of bread.

Very quick and easy to make, it’s filling, nutritious, warming and bursting with flavour.  You can use any greens in this recipe, I used savoy cabbage as it’s very much in season now (although admittedly I had to buy mine, as my Savoys are in very poor miniscule shape!) and it worked splendidly.  If you want to add less of the greens then do so to make a slightly thinner soup, add more to make it a heavier.

Enough for 4:

1 very large or 2 small onions, finely diced

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

olive oil

150g chorizo, sliced and each slice cut into 6/8 small pieces

600g potatoes (about 4 large ones), peeled and diced into 1cm chunks

700ml of chicken stock

300ml of water

2 bay leaves

salt & pepper

400g savoy cabbage or other greens, very finely shredded

Saute the onions and garlic with a glug of olive oil in a very large saucepan.  Cook until soft and translucent.

Now add the chorizo pieces to the onion and continue to saute for a few more minutes. Add the diced potatoes and stir well.

Pour in the stock and water to the onions and potatoes along with plenty of black pepper (you can add salt if you wish but the Chorizo and stock both contain plenty).  Simmer until the potatoes are soft and cooked through. Mash the potatoes into the stock (by using a potato masher).

Add your finely shredded greens to the soup.  If you want a heavy soup add as much as the soup will take!  If you want it lighter add less than my suggested 400g.

Simmer until the greens are cooked.

Adjust the seasoning and serve immediately with a large hunk of bread.


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!


Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Apologies for yet another pumpkin recipe today, but to be truthful this is about the extent of the Chez Foti diet of the last few days as everyone except me has been sick with a nasty flu bug!  This simple gentle soup has been the only thing anyone’s actually had an appetite for….good job we have lots of pumpkins!

Aside from illness, we seem to be eating some sort of squash or pumpkin soup every day for lunch these days.  This particular soup is lovely and extremely simple to make.  If you want to jazz up the flavour a little roast the pumpkin with half a chopped up chilli or some chilli flakes.  I tend to make this in pretty big batches so I can store in the fridge for the next few days, or in the freezer for a later lazy day.

As per previous blogs, a word of warning on using pumpkins.  Quite often when you buy the very big pumpkins in the UK for Halloween they can be very tasteless for cooking with, no matter how much roasting and flavouring you add they’ll never be great.  If you do have a pumpkin to use try roasting a little of it before using, just to have a taste check.  You always substitute Butternut squash as a more reliable tasty alternative.

To make enough for at least 2 family lunchtimes:                                                        

1 kg of pumpkin, skin removed and cut into roughly 2cm chunks

olive oil

salt and pepper

1 large onion, peeled and diced

1 clove or garlic, finely sliced

500ml of chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want a vegetarian soup)

2 heaped tbsp of creme fraiche

Begin by preheating the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark  .  Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and combine with about a tbsp of olive oil, a little salt and a generous grinding of black pepper (and some chilli if using).  Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes (turning the pumpkin about half way through) until soft and just starting to colour a little.

Meanwhile heat another tbsp of oil in a large high sided saucepan and add the onion and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes until softened a little, stir regularly to avoid catching.  Then add the roasted pumpkin, stir and cook for a further minute or two.  Poor in the stock and bring to a gentle simmer.   Simmer for a further 10 minutes, until the pumpkin is very soft.

Take off the heat and add the creme fraiche.  Blend with a stick blender until smooth and creamy.


Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce

6-8 months +, Toddlers & Young Children

This is a great pasta sauce for babies, toddlers & kids.  It’s quick and easy to make, healthy, tasty and hides an umteen amount of veggies which has got to be good!  I literally throw in any veggies that happen to be lurking and handily clear out my fridge in doing so,  and as they’re all whizzed up with tomato and creme fraiche, they’ll never ever know exactly what you’ve put in it. Excellent if you have difficulty getting your kids to eat their veggies.

I tend to make my sauce in quite large quantities so that I can freeze all the leftovers (in tupperware portions that can be pulled out and made into almost instant dinners).

If making for young babies serve the sauce with an appropriate sized pasta, teeny weeny pasta stars are perfect for weening babies onto lumps in their food. Increase the size of the pasta as they get more accomplished and by the time they’re toddling around they should be eating grown up pasta sizes and shapes.

In this particular sauce I used a courgette, half an aubergine, a handful of french beans and surprise surprise a large slice of pumpkin (yep it really does go into anything and everything these days!).  You really can add a whole multitude of veg, peppers, carrots, squash, peas, celery, broccoli and mushrooms all work really well too.

Enough for several children’s meals
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
600g mixed veggies (see above list)
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
a bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp of tomato puree
100 ml water
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
2 heaped tbsp creme fraiche

Add the oil, onion and garlic to a high sided saucepan and saute for a few minutes, until the onion is soft.  Meanwhile roughly chop your veggie selection into smallish chunks – don’t worry about them all being uniform and neat as you’re going to blitz the mixture later anyway.

Add the veggies to the onion for about 5 minutes, stirring at regular intervals.  If they appear to be catching on the bottom add a splash of water to the pan.  After 5 minutes, stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, 100 ml of water, bay leaf, oregano, pinch of sugar and maybe a little salt and pepper (if your child is very young then obviously don’t add any salt).

Cook the sauce for a further 15 to 20 minutes until all the veggies are soft and fully cooked through.  Take out your bay leaf, add the creme fraiche and blitz the sauce until smooth (and all veggies fully unidentifiable!) either with a stick blender in the saucepan or in a food processor.  Job done!  One huge pan of yummy pasta sauce.

Serve with whatever pasta your precious monsters like most and a sprinkling of cheese on the top.  And I promise you they’ll never guess what’s in it!


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