Tag Archives: Peppers

A Couple of Fishy Dippy Dip Dips

Smoked Salmon & Red Pepper Dip

To be truthful things have been a little on the busy side at Chez Foti lately. Make that insanely hectic. Way too much flitting to and from the UK for a multitude of reasons, four times in the last few weeks!. Which is all very tiring, both emotionally and physically, and has sadly meant less time to potter in the kitchen putting together new recipes and ideas. Not that we haven’t eaten well, very well indeed. But there’s been a greater reliance on those firm family favourites and the pulling together of goodies from the freezer. I’ve also been on somewhat of a mission to cook and eat my way through five enormously fruitful PSB plants, and probably been a little too reliant on my PSB Pasta and Tart recipes for quickie mid-week suppers. Plus there’s been PSB pizzas, PSB pesto pastas, PSB stir fries and PSB crostini and bruschettas a plenty!

Between the flitting and Mission PSB I’ve managed a few catch ups with friends, involving various nibbles and numerous drinkies. Nibbles at this time of year, as the weather’s happily warming up, usually means a plate of assorted Crostini (including one with the the aforementioned PSB, cooked with anchovies, garlic and chili) and a dip or two with various dipping accompaniments.


Both these dips are made in minutes, which is always a bonus in my book. Both are very tasty indeed but I wouldn’t necessarily serve them together, possibly being a little bit too similar. And both have funnily enough been stolen from other people!. The first is a Smoked Salmon & Roasted Pepper Dip, which also makes for a wonderful sandwich filling, pate or crostini topping. It’s a recipe I ‘stole’ from a friend of mine, Anita, who nearly always turns up at social occasions with a pot of this pink loveliness. It’s a heavenly blitzed-up mix of creme cheese, smoked salmon, roasted red peppers (I use the jarred ones), a little red onion, horseradish, lemon zest and juice, and plenty of black pepper.

My second recipe is for a Tuna & Caper Dip, which I stole in idea from my big brother Julian. Again it’s wonderful in sandwiches or on crostini too.. And no blitzing required, just a stirring of creme cheese, tuna, capers, parsley, lemon zest and juice and black pepper. So so simple, and perfect for impromptu drinks parties.

And they’re not just for the grown up folk. My kids love these ‘fishy dippy dip dips’, and dips are a fine (and manipulative) way to get your kids eating more raw veggies and lots of them. Namely carrot, pepper, celery and cucumber strips. So along with my faithful hummus I make dips pretty frequently at Chez Foti. For more baby and toddler-friendly dippy ideas please do bob over to a blog I wrote last year: A Trip of Dips for Babies & Toddlers.

Since there’s parsley involved I shall be entering my blog to Lavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday challenge, this month hosted by Anneli over at Delicieux.

Smoked Salmon & Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Smoked Salmon & Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Smoked Salmon & Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Great for Parties, Drinks and Nibbles, Starters, Picnics, Kids, Finger Foods, Grown Ups, Sandwiches, Crostini Toppings

150g of Creme Cheese, full fat, light, or extra light depending on how virtuous you’re feeling!

100g of Smoked Salmon trimmings

80g of Roasted Red Peppers – about 2 or 3  (you can make your own but I use the jarred shop bought ones for speed), drained of all oil

zest of ½ a Lemon plus a couple of generous squeezes of juice, to taste

¼ of a small red onion, diced

a heaped teaspoon of Creamed Horseradish

a large pinch of freshly ground Black Pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until you have a smooth and creamy texture. Or alternatively blitz with a hand held stick blender. Season with more black pepper and lemon juice to suit. Eat and devour.

Tuna & Caper Dip

Tuna & Caper Dip

Tuna & Caper Dip

Great for Parties, Drinks and Nibbles, Starters, Picnics, Kids, Finger Foods, Grown Ups, Sandwiches, Crostini Toppings

a 185g tin of Tuna, drained

150g of Cream Cheese, full fat, light, or extra light

a tablespoon of Capers, drained and rinsed

the zest of a Lemon plus a squeeze or two of juice to taste

a heaped tablespoon of chopped Parsley

a large pinch of coarsely ground Black Pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Taste and season with more black pepper and/or lemon  juice. Eat. So so easy.

You might also like: 

A Couple of Winter Crostini: Lovely Cannellini Beans & Homemade Tapenade

A Couple of Winter Crostini: Lovely Cannellini Beans & Homemade Tapenade

Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta

Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta


A very retro Sweet ‘n Sour Pork

Sweet & Sour Pork Recipe

So we’re now in the third month of the Swallow Recipes for Life Challenge and the chosen three ingredients were a potentially tricky Pork, Sweetcorn and Tomato. I have to admit to pondering for quite some time before coming up with my Retro-tastic Sweet & Sour recipe. And my sincere apologies now for the absence of any authenticity, and if you’re likely to be offended please look no further!. But I can nevertheless assure you it’s a pretty tasty dinner.

Admittedly not a dish I’m usually a big fan of, and I’m always a bit sniffy of the take-away version, but this homemade recipe was a bit of a hit in the Chez Foti household. The kids happily chowed down and successfully consumed a healthily pleasing quota of veggies, but then anything inclusive of fruit and/or sweetcorn and served with rice is usually onto a winner with them. I really should confess to very much enjoying it myself too, way more than I thought I would, though I did perk mine up somewhat with an additional (very) hot chili. And it proved a delightful and worthy use of the very last of my Homemade Tomato Ketchup.

swallow-recipes-for-lifeJust in case you missed the earlier challenges, the lovely Vanesther of Bangers and Mash Chat has tasked fellow bloggers to come up with wholesome, delicious and easy-to-cook recipes using three key ingredients, that members of the Swallow cookery club can cook themselves. Swallow is a Somerset based charity that help adults with learning disabilities to lead more independent lives, including the running of cookery courses and the preparation of meals for themselves.

Sweet & Sour Pork

Sweet & Sour Pork

Great for: Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Kids, Tomato Ketchup Fans, Family Dinners, Grown Ups, Mid-Week Suppers, Retro Foodies

Enough for a Family of 4:

For the Sauce:

a 227g tin of Pineapple Slices in Natural Juice, drained and juice retained, slices cut into chunks

a level tablespoon of Cornflour

2 tablespoons of Tomato Ketchup, Homemade or bought

2 tablespoons of Soy Sauce

2 tablespoons of Chinese Rice Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar

a dessertspoon of Honey

For the Stir Fry:

2 tablespoons of Groundnut or Sunflower Oil

300g of lean Pork loin or fillet, cut into fine inch long strips

a small Onion, diced

a Carrot, sliced into very fine inch long strips

a Red Pepper, large dice

a clove of Garlic, finely sliced

a thumb sized piece of Ginger, grated or finely chopped

0 – 2 Red Chillies, finely sliced (depending on your heat tolerance)

a Courgette, sliced into inch long strips

a 150g tin of Sweetcorn (or you could use a handful of Baby Sweetcorn)

Start with prepping your sauce. Mix the cornflour with all the retained pineapple juice, then stir in each of the other ingredients. Set aside.

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a wok or large sauce pan to a very high temperature. Carefully add the pork to the hot fat and cook for a two or three minutes, moving the pork around regularly so it cooks on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Into the hot pan add a further tablespoon of oil and carefully add the onion, carrot, red pepper, garlic, ginger and chillies (if using). Cook for three minutes on a very high heat, continuously moving everything around. If the veggies are sticking to the pan throw in a splash of water. Stir in the courgette and continue to c0ok for a further three minutes.

Finally stir in the set aside pork strips, pineapple chunks, sweetcorn and the sauce. Stirring regularly allow to bubble away for a few minutes and take off the heat when you have your desired state of veggie tenderness. I personally prefer a healthy crunch to mine but the kids favour their’s a little on the softer side. So I settle for somewhere in the middle.

Chow down with noodles or steamed rice. Maybe a cheeky prawn cracker or three on the side.

Sweet & Sour Pork

You might also like:

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

Homemade Tomato Ketchup

Noodles with Pork & Veggies

Noodles with Pork & Veggies

Spanish Stylie Baked Chicken and Rice

Spanish Style Baked Chicken & Rice

I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for nearly a year and a half and this firm family favourite of weekend dinners has thus far failed to make an appearance. It’s a recipe I originally stole from my Mum, who stole from Delia, that’s chopped and changed dramatically over the years and probably bares little resemblance to it’s original form. Changed to make it quicker, easier and more suitable family fodder, and it never disappoints my lot. It’s a cheap and frugal dish (the one pot usually stretching to at least two dinners), flavoursome (think smoked paprika, chorizo, orange, olives), wholesome (brown rice and a barrage of veggies), hearty and substantial. And can handily be partly or wholly made in advance. Perfect for a weekend lunch or dinner and the tasty leftovers re-heated for a quickie dinner in the week, or even eaten cold for lunch. And my kids LOVE it, Jacques devours it. But then they are fiends for anything rice these days. If your monsters are veggie adverse like mine it’s a handy dish to hide a multitude of the good stuff, just chop them unidentifiably small!.

Spanish Chicken and Rice

Chop and change your veggies as to what’s in season. In this particular recipe I used red pepper (the only veggie I would highly recommend you always add) chopped pumpkin (as we still have an inordinate amount to get through!), celery, carrots and french green beans from the freezer. Courgettes, peas, squash, sweet potato, broccoli or mushrooms all work equally as well, just mix and match as to what’s seasonal and you have in.

Since I’m using seasonal veggies aplenty I’m entering this post to Simple and In Season, a monthly challenge that showcases seasonal produce and is the baby of Ren of Fabulicious Food.  This month I so happen to be hosting the event!. I’m also entering Javelin Warrior‘s Made with Love Mondays, as it’s a dish made from scratch, and finally to Credit Crunch Munch as it’s a pretty frugal dish that stretches a long way. Credit Crunch Munch is held jointly by Camilla of Fab Food 4 All and this month by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours. Now on with the recipe….


Simple and In Season

Made with Love Mondays

Jacques tucking into to his chicken and rice. He's still not a pretty eater.

Jacques chowing down on his beloved chicken and rice. He’s not a pretty eater!

Spanish Stylie Baked Chicken & Rice

Great for Toddlers & Young Children, Hiding Veggies, Bigger Kids, Family or Grown up Dinners, Mains, One Pot Wonders, Week-end Slowies

Serves 6 or a family of 4 twice

a tablespoon of Olive Oil

6 free range Chicken pieces – legs or thighs or a mixture of the two, skin removed

a large Onion, large dice

3 cloves of Garlic, finely sliced

a stick of Celery, finely sliced*

2 Carrots, fine dice*

300g of Pumpkin or Butternut, large dice*

2 Red Peppers, large dice

150g of French Green Beans, cut into inch long lengths*

120g of Chorizo, sliced into 0.5cm thick slices

a heaped teaspoon of Hot Smoked Paprika

300g of Brown Rice

200ml of White Wine

500ml of Chicken Stock

a 400g can of Chopped Tomatoes

2 Bay Leaves

a small bunch of fresh Thyme sprigs, tied together

Black Pepper

½ an Orange, cut into 6 segments

60g of de-stoned Black or Green Olives

Special Equipment: A large lidded ovenproof casserole or Le Creuset style dish that can go on a hob

* Please feel free to vary your veggies as to what’s in season or you have in

Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4.

Heat the oil in your casserole or Le Creuset on a medium to high heat. Once hot fry off the chicken pieces until golden on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Turn down the heat and add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots, there should be plenty of residual fat from the chicken, but if not add a splash more olive oil. Saute for 5 minutes before adding the pumpkin and peppers. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

Now throw in the green beans and chorizo and cook for a further few minutes until the chorizo is oozing it’s lovely juices.  Stir in the hot smoked paprika and cook for a moment or two before stirring in the rice. Ensure all the grains are coated in the oily spicy loveliness before pouring in the white wine, chicken stock, chopped tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme and a generous pinch or two of black pepper. Give everything a thorough stir and bring to a gentle simmer.

Take the pot off the heat and place the set aside chicken pieces on the top, pressing them down into the rice. Slot the orange segments where ever there’s space and scatter over the olives. Place the lid on the pot and slide into the oven.

Bake for 45 minutes. The rice and veggies should all be perfectly tender. Eat and enjoy!.

You might also like:



Mediterranean Pot Roast Chicken

Mediterranean Pot Roast Chicken

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni with Hidden Veggies Tommie Sauce

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

It’s really REALLY cold here. Bitter. Wet. Icy. Windy. Needless to say I’m avoiding leaving the snugly fires of our house as much as possible, even to go shopping. And being the frugal month of January I’m attempting a fridge, freezer and cupboard blow out using up a whole host of lurking need-to-be-used ingredients. On a recent inspection I handily discovered a tub of almost-out-date ricotta as well as a ball of just-out-of-date mozzarella, dried cannelloni that I’ve had for too long to mention, frozen spinach that somehow never gets used in our house and frozen chopped tomatoes that are still cramming up the freezer from last summer’s enormous glut, plus some pumpkin (I still have six to munch through!) and a random red pepper. So I set to to make stuffed cannelloni placating any requirement to leave the confines of Chez  Foti and brave the weather.

So a vegged and healthied-up version (I can’t help it!) of a Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni (flavoured with a little Parmesan and Nutmeg) was born, covered with oodles of Tomato Sauce enriched with Celery, Carrot, Pumpkin & Pepper. Then topped with a little Mozzarella and Parmesan and baked in the oven.  And the kids ate it. Even enjoyed it. Admittedly not without a good deal of ‘encouragement’ at first, but that was to do with the off-putting (to them) abundance of green in the cannelloni, which on tasting they did actually like. Job done. Oodles of veggies filling those precious wee tummies. And one happy Mummy. And us grown up folk enjoyed it too!

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

Incidentally this is a great tommie sauce to serve on it’s own with pasta, I’ve been making a version of it (Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce) for years for my monsters and they always love it. It’s also a great way of ‘healthying-up’ a homemade pizza, and they’ll never know!

I’m entering my blog, for the first ever time to the first ever Pasta Please, a monthly blogging event held by Jacqueline of the wonderfully inspirational Vegetarian blog Tinned Tomatoes. This month’s theme happens to be Cheese and since my dish contains a trio of Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan I think I qualify!

pasta please

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni with Hidden Vegetables Tomato Sauce

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni with Hidden Veggies Tommie Sauce

Perfect for Toddlers and Young Children, Bigger Kids, Family Dinners, Mid-Week Suppers

Serves 4 hearty appetites (or a family of 4 with plenty of tasty leftovers):

For the  Hidden Veggie Tommie Sauce:

a tablespoon of Olive Oil

a small Onion, diced

2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

a large Carrot*, diced

a stick or two of Celery*, diced

200g of Pumpkin or Squash*, diced

half a Red Pepper*, diced

600g of Chopped Tomatoes (a can and a half)

a heaped dessertspoon of Tomato Puree

130ml of water

a teaspoon of dried Oregano or a dessertspoon of chopped fresh Oregano

Salt & Pepper

a pinch of Sugar

* Please use whatever veggies you happen to have in, though to aid your disguise it’s best to stick to neutral or orange/red coloured ones!

For the Stuffed Cannelloni:

160g of dried Cannelloni

350g of frozen Spinach, defrosted (or finely shredded and steamed fresh spinach)

a 250g tub of Ricotta

40g of Parmesan (or Grana Padano), finely grated

a large pinch of Nutmeg

a large pinch of Black Pepper

a squeeze or two of Lemon juice

For the Topping:

a 125g ball of Mozzarella

30g of Parmesan (or Grana Padano), finely grated

Pre-heat your oven to 190ºC.

Start with making your sauce. Heat the oil in a saucepan on a medium heat and add the onion. Fry for 5 minutes before adding the garlic and all other veggies bar the tomatoes.

After 10 minutes throw in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, dried oregano (if using), water and a pinch each of pepper, salt and sugar. No salt for very little littlies! Allow to simmer away for 20 minutes or until all the veggies are very tender.

Once cooked take off the heat and stir in the fresh oregano (if using). Blitz the sauce with a stick blender or in a processor until smooth. Taste and season if necessary.

Meanwhile prep the cannelloni. Mix together the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and pepper. Season with a squeeze or two of lemon juice. Now for the messy business of filling up the cannelloni tubes!. I found a very good tip on Jamie Oliver’s site of using a plastic bag with a snipped corner to pipe the filling in. It worked wonderfully and was no fiddle at all.

Filling cannelloni

Filling the Cannelloni with the snipped corner of a plastic bag!

Place your filled cannelloni in the bottom of a greased (with a little olive oil) small baking tray or oven dish. The pasta should fit snugly.

Now smother in the Tommie Sauce. Top with the mozzarella slices and the parmesan. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the pasta’s cooked through and the cheese golden and bubbling on the top.

Go eat. My kids ate there’s as is, but us grown up folk had a simple green salad on the side.

Here’s some of my other spectacularly well Hidden-Veggie dinners that go down well with the wee folk!:

Kids Bolognese
Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie
Cheese, Courgette & Tomato Bread & Butter Pudding
Chicken & Apricot Tagine
Chicken, Veggie & Egg Fried Rice
Super-Vegged Up Chilli
Kids Fish Pie
Noodles with Pork & Veggies
Cream of Veggie Super Soup
Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes
Cheese, Courgette & Cherry Tomato Bread & Butter Pudding

Savoury Bread & Butter Puddin

Kids Fish Pie in Oogaa bowls

Kids Fish Pie

Super Vegged Chilli con Carne

Super Vegged-Up Chilli con Carne

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.


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?


Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Children, Grown Ups

My apologies for the lack of blogging action of late, we’ve had my MIL staying the last week and time has been more than a tad short. I’m hoping to get back to normal blogging soon, though we do have a line of guests coming early summer so it could be tricky. And my poor veggie patch is suffering enormously again. So much to do, and always so little time.

In case you didn’t see it I wrote a guest post for Foodies 100 which appeared on their site last week, it’s listing my Five Favourite Family Foodie Blogs. Well worthy of a read if you want to check out some other great family foodies, and there’s some truly brilliant ones around!

The essence of summer I made this paella for our balmily hot sunday dinner last weekend and it was a hit with everyone, littlies and all (and they particularly enjoyed the mussels!). Ever so impressive yet surprisingly easy to assemble and if you’ve not made one before you really must give paella a go. A perfect dish for big family gatherings or parties, or like us a special sunday lunch. I’ve listed ingredients to serve four (big) people, but double or treble up or more for larger parties. You do need a very big frying pan for any more than six people, or preferably a paella pan (I have one on my wish list!).

A great summery dish at it’s best served with ice cold vino blanco …. and maybe the odd finger bowl or two….it’s a messy business!

Enough for Four:

3 tablespoons of olive oil

a large pinch of salt & pepper

4 chicken legs or thighs (each divided into two) or 8 chicken drumsticks, free range, skin removed

100g of chorizo, sliced into 5mm slices

a large onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

a red pepper, thinly sliced

120g of french green beans, sliced into 2.5 cm lengths or frozen peas

a teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika

a large pinch of saffron

170g of spanish paella rice

600ml of hot chicken stock

500g of large mussels (washed and de-bearded and any opened ones discarded)

8 or more large whole raw king prawns

lemon and parsley to serve

Rub a little salt and black pepper into your chosen chicken pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide frying pan or paella pan on a medium heat. Fry the chicken a little on all sides until lightly golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the chorizo to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, turning occasionally. Remove with the spoon and set aside with the chicken.

Turn the heat to low and throw in the onions and garlic to the pan. Gently saute for 5 minutes until softened. Add another tablespoon of olive oil together with the sliced pepper, beans if using ( if using peas they are added later) and smoked paprika. Cook for another couple of minutes stirring regularly.

Stir in the saffron, rice, and peas (if using) ensuring the rice has a good coating of the oil. Pour over the chicken stock, and place the set aside chicken and chorizo back in the pan. Gently bring to a simmer, and allow to bubble away for 12 minutes, stirring only occasionally.

Place the mussels evenly around the pan, pushing the shells into the rice so that they have an opportunity to cook. Cook for a further 5 minutes without stirring the paella.

Evenly place the prawns over the top and cook for a further 6 minutes (turning them over half way through), but not stirring the paella. The rice and chicken should now be tender and cooked through and liquid evaporated. Cook for a few moments longer if not.

Serve with a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley and lemon wedges….and a glass of white wine.

Cream of Veggie Super Soup!

6 Months +, Weaning, Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Children and Adults

Okay I know it’s June and I really shouldn’t be soup making but it’s been more than a tad cold at Chez Foti lately. It’s certainly not been the gloriously sunshiny south of France I signed up for. Besides my kids’ll happily eat soup any day of the year. In truth I’ve made very few soups recently, my interest wained once the pumpkins finished. But this week the humble veggie soup has been revived and my kids just couldn’t get enough of it!.

Soups are a fab way to get your littlies to eat a copious amount of veggies, you can cunningly throw in all the ones they’re none too keen on and they’ll never know. I sneakily add a little tomato puree to disguise the green veggies. Works every time. Most kids seem particularly partial to tomatoey flavours, as they do to the addition of creamy creme fraiche. I tend to bulk out with carrots as we always have them in and particularly like a little zing of red pepper, but feel free to add absolutely any veggies you  have lurking. Everything’s substitutable.

I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon for veggie soups which is a particularly flavoursome base. If you’re making soup for babies either use plain water or get hold of some baby stock cubes (available in bigger Boots stores in the UK) which have no added salt.

If you want to make the soup a wee bit more substantial add a handful of cooked pasta shapes and/or top with grated cheese. I serve mine with wholemeal toast ‘dippers’. This recipe makes a pretty thick soup which is easier for little ones to eat, but older kids and grown ups might like to thin it down a little with more stock, water or milk.

Messy pics I know, but this was Jacques’ third bowl and he’d kind of done with eating by the time the camera came out!.

Enough for 8 to 10 little servings or 4 grown up ones:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

an onion, diced

4 carrots, thoroughly washed and sliced (no need to peel)

a medium potato, washed and diced (no need to peel)

½ a head or broccoli (stem inc), or a handful of green beans or any other green or other veg you have lurking, diced

a red pepper, diced

a litre of vegetable stock

1.5 tablespoons of tomato puree

2 tablespoons of creme fraiche

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add the onion and stir. Add the other veggies as you wash and dice them. There’s not too many timing rules here! Stir from time to time so nothing catches.

Once all the veggies have been added to the pan pour over the hot veggie stock and stir in the tomato puree.

Bring to a simmer then turn down the heat to low. Cover and allow to bubble away for 15 to 20 minutes until the veggies are all tender.

Take off the heat and blitz until very smooth in a blender or food processor or with a stick blender. Stir in the creme fraiche.

Here’s some other Chez Foti soupy recipes: Pumpkin & Bacon Soup, Butternut Squash & Chorizo with Chorizo Croutons, Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup), Creamy Roasted Pumpkin

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.

Greek Stylie Pork & Veggie Kebabs

‘Tis barbie season finally and we’ve been making the most of it this week, partly because of the great weather and partly because we’ve had our seventeen year old nephew James staying with us. I’m not terribly sure how we’re going to cope without his super-nannying skills when he leaves this afternoon (both with kids and dogs!). I’ve mainly been doing a few of my usuals on the barbie, various veggie and meat kebabs, my fat b*****d blue cheese stuffed burgers, chilli pork chops etc, all recipes that I’ll be blogging shortly plus a few exciting newbies on the block.

For today it’s my Greek Stylie Pork and Veggie Kebabs with fresh oregano. I’ve no idea how many times I must have made these last summer. At least twenty times I’m reckoning, and later in the summer using peppers, aubergines, courgettes and onions fresh out of the garden. I can’t wait to be able to do that again, rock on summer! They tend to be more of a side dish rather than a main event for me, but served with hummus and/or tzatziki, a greek salad and pitta bread they make a very substantial main. Great also with chicken instead of pork or without any meat at all (just up the quantity and variety of veggies).

The meat and veggies are best left to marinade for a good few hours, so try to make in advance if you can. And if you’re short on time, as I always am, it’s particularly handy to get all the hard work done in advance anyway, then all you have to do is a bit of skewering up just before barbecuing.

As I grow oregano in abundance I love to use it as generously as possible. It’s the chief flavouring in these kebabs, but if you don’t have a source of fresh oregano you can replace with three teaspoons of dried. I’m entering this post to the Herbs on Saturday blogging challenge held by the lovely Karen at one of my favourite blogs, Lavender & Lovage. I’ve been meaning to take part for quite a while now, but my organisational skills are not the best at times! Have a look at her blog as there’s sure to be plenty of herby and other delights on offer.

Oregano growing in my garden

If you do lots of barbecues I’d think about investing in some metal skewers, they’re so much better than the flimsy easily burnable throw away ones. My Mum and Dad gave me a set years ago that they’d brought back from Istanbul. To be honest they sat at the back of a drawer unused for some time before I got into barbecuing recently, and now they’re used countless times every summer.

Enough for six to eight kebabs:

a medium onion, white or red

a large pepper (any colour)

½ an aubergine or a small courgette or both!

the juice of a lemon

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

a generous pinch of salt

a handful of fresh oregano sprigs, leaves removed and roughly chopped or 3 teaspoons of dried oregano

350g of pork loin pieces

Start with preparing your meat and veggies. They should all be cut to a similar size so everything cooks fairly evenly. Half the onions, then half again then again into eighths. Then roughly separate the layers. Cut the aubergine in quarters lengthways then slice into pieces about 6/7mm thick. If using courgette slice  into 6/7mm thick rounds. Cut the pepper to a similar size. Finally dice the pork the same size as the veggies.

Now put together the marinade ingredients in a large non-metalic bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt & black pepper and oregano leaves.

Tip the pork and veggies into the marinade and give everything a thorough stir. I use my hands. Cover with cling film and leave to marinade away in the fridge for a few hours.

Just before barbecuing, remove from the fridge and skewer up, alternating the veggies, onions and pork. Brush any remaining marinade over the kebabs.

Cook on a hot barbecue, turning every few minutes until they’re evenly browned on all sides and the pork and veggies are thoroughly cooked through.

Great served hot with pitta breads, hummus, tzatziki and a large greek salad on the side (again made with plenty of lemon juice and fresh oregano) or as a side dish to the rest of the barbecue. Any leftovers are fab eaten cold in a pitta sandwich.

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.

%d bloggers like this: