Tag Archives: Pumpkin

Beef in Guinness

This is about as winter warming and comforting as food can be, and just perfect for all the snowy weather we’re all getting at the minute! I made this last weekend when it was minus 9 outside and in the midst of a snow storm!. I didn’t actually set foot outside all day. We all tucked in and devoured it with fervour.

Strangely enough the first time I ever cooked beef in Guinness, or black beer, was in the semi tropics of Bolivia. Staying in a picturesque mountain side hut overlooking the Andies with my friend Enda we made the most of having our very own outdoor kitchen for a few days and cooked up some triumphs with great local produce from the village a steep 3km trek away. Not only did the village have fresh homemade pasta for sale (this is extremely rural South America, not Italy, we’re talking about!), but we managed to find some very novel in those parts black beer (and some pretty good local red plonk to boot too!). And as the beef looked particularly scraggy and distinctly unappetising I figured the best treatment for it was to stew it up for a few hours in the beer. And what a result, I remember it being the best meal we’d had in weeks. Admittedly not the best choice of dinner to be eating in 35 degrees of heat but nevertheless it tasted damned good at the time. Happy happy memories!

Our wonderful outdoor kitchen

The view from the upstairs sleep deck, that's the bottom of my sleeping bag!

Anyway, I digress! Here’s a considerably more refined recipe for Beef in Guinness cooked with winter veggies and pearl barley. I used some pumpkin in mine which melted beautifully into the gravy, but I’ve usually used swede or parsnips in the past, even some turnip, but more often than not a mixture of what I happen to have in. These root veggies hold their shape a good deal better than my pumpkin.

For a family of four:

800g of braising steak

2 tbsps of plain flour

salt & pepper

olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, sliced (a little thicker than a pound coin)

2 sticks of celery, sliced

500g of pumpkin/squash/swede/parsnips/turnips or a mix of a few of these. Peeled and cut into a 2 cm dice

2 tbsps of tomato puree

750ml of Guinness – equates to 1 and a half cans (some unfortunate person gets to finish the can!)

500ml of beef stock

4 bay leaves

4 sprigs of thyme

125g of pearl barley

Place the 2 tablespoons of flour in a large bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Cut the beef into 3 to 4 cm chunks and roll around in the flour until evenly coated.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large casserole or saucepan and brown the beef off on a medium heat. Turn the meat every few minutes until all sides are browned. Once browned remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Into the same pan add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. If there’s not much fat left from the beef add another tablespoon of olive oil. Continue to cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring everything regularly so nothing catches.

Add the browned beef to the pan along your chosen veggies and 2 tablespoons of tomato puree. Give everything a good stir then add the Guinness, beef stock, bay leaves and thyme. You can leave the thyme sprigs whole, and remove the empty stalks at the end of cooking just as you would the bay leaves (far less fiddly than removing the leaves I find). Last but not least stir in the pearl barley.

Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 2 hours with the lid on. Stir periodically so as to ensure nothing catches on the bottom of the pan. The stew is ready when the beef is very very tender.

Serve with oodles of mash and the rest of the Guinness, or like myself a large glass of vin rouge.

Have you tried my other winter warming recipes? How about my Sausage & Bean Stew or Comfort Cottage Pie,


Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

We’re still munching our through all our lovely homegrown squash and pumpkins and in an effort to add a little variety to our staple pumpkin or squash soups I’ve been experimenting with adding new flavours, and the addition of a little Chorizo is a definite favourite in the Foti household! The kids and Phil go crazy for it. Admittedly a pretty heavy soup, especially with the addition of homemade Chorizo flavoured croutons, so probably best kept for the depths of winter like we’re in now. A very comforting and filling ‘meal’ of a soup.

Living so close to Spain Chorizo is really cheap and easily available here, and so I tend to cook with it quite a bit these days. It is however also pretty easily available in UK supermarkets. It’s a great flavour and colour enhancer to meaty stews, casseroles and soups and I regularly add a little to salads, omelettes, pizzas and pies.

I’ve used Butternut Squash in this recipe, but you could substitute with any other flavoursome squash or pumpkin. I didn’t bother to peel my Butternut as the skin is perfectly edible when cooked…and as it’s to be whizzed up you can’t tell the difference. By roasting the squash first you intensify it’s sweetness which works wonderfully with the intense meatiness of the Chorizo.

Enough for 4 grown ups:

850g Butternut squash, cut into 2 cm dice

olive oil

salt & pepper

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

70g Chorizo, finely diced

600ml of chicken stock

For the croutons:

70g stale chunky white bread, cut into about 1.5 to 2cm cubes

olive oil

25g Chorizo finely diced

a pinch of Spanish sweet smoked Paprika (optional)

salt & pepper

Combine the squash with a tablespoon of olive oil, a little salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Place on a baking tray in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes at 220°C. The squash is ready when it’s soft and starting to brown a little.

Meanwhile heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the diced onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes until softened a little, now add the Chorizo. Continue to cook on a gentle heat for a few more minutes, stirring regularly so nothing catches.

Once the squash is roasted add it to the onions and Chorizo and cook for a further couple of minutes before adding the stock. Bring to the boil and leave on a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering prepare the croutons. Add a good glug of olive oil to a frying pan and heat. Add a pinch of Spanish sweet smoked Paprika if you have any (it’s one of the main colourings and flavourings in Chorizo), the Chorizo pieces, a little salt and a good grinding of pepper. Heat until the Chorizo is starting to ‘bleed’ it’s lovely oil and colour. Now add the bread pieces to the hot oil. Cook on all sides until the cubes are coloured and crunchy, making sure they are regularly turned.

After ten minutes of simmering remove the soup from the heat and whiz thoroughly, I usually use a stick blender to do this as it’s much less washing up than a processor or blender!. Taste the soup and add plenty of freshly ground black pepper to suit, it’s unlikely you’ll need more salt.

Serve piping hots with a generous scattering of the fried Chorizo pieces and croutons.

Here’s Jacques enjoying his crispy croutons!:

If you like this, have you tried my Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup recipe?


A Simple Chicken Stew

Hoping you all had a wonderful christmas with lots of tasty fodder, and wishing a very happy and prosperous 2012!. My apologies for over three weeks absence from the blog, but Chez Foti all went to England for Christmas and although it was my best of intentions to continue blogging, time was most definitely short….and the laptop I intended to use was festively soaked in rather too much vin rouge (luckily it’s now made a full and dried out recovery).

To kick off the New Year I’m blogging my very simple, and not to mention very healthy, Chicken Stew recipe. I tend to make this with the kids in mind, though more often than not it’s our family supper too. Any leftovers get put into small portion sized tupperware pots and frozen for a later convenience dinner for the wee ones.

You can add lots of different veggies to the stew, depending on what’s in season or what you have lurking. Today I used cauliflower, carrots, some pumpkin and a few green beans from the freezer. Peppers, squash, mushrooms, swede, parsnips, sweet potato, cabbage, peas, spinach etc are all great additions. This stew’s a lovely way to fill up those wee little tummies with an abundance of good veg.

Enough for 8 children’s portions or a family of 4:

3 whole chicken legs, skin removed

olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, sliced

2 sticks of celery, sliced

500g of other veggies, cut into appropriate sized pieces

a large glass of white wine (optional)

a heaped tbsp of tomato puree

3 bay leaves

2 sprigs of thyme (optional)

500ml of chicken stock

black pepper

Add a good glug of olive oil to a large saucepan or casserole and place on the heat. Add the chicken legs and fry on  both sides until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and fry for a few minutes until softened, adding a little extra olive oil if necessary. Now add the carrots and celery and all the other veggies, though if you’re using less robust veggies like cabbage, spinach or peas add these towards the end of the cooking process. Cook all the veggies for a few minutes, stirring regularly.

Return the chicken to the pan, along with the white wine if using, the tomato puree, the bay leaves and thyme (if using). Pour in the chicken stock and add a good grind of black pepper.

Bring to the boil and cover and simmer gently for one hour, until the chicken is falling off the bone and the veggies are very tender.

Remove the chicken from the bone and return the meat to the stew.

Serve with a big pile of fluffy buttery mash.


Aloo Gobi Kaddu – Potato, Cauliflower and Pumpkin Curry!

I love veggie curries. Even though I’m a meat eater I’ve always loved, and usually preferred, the veggie sides when it comes to Indian food. A few days ago when faced with a very empty fridge bar one huge cauliflower and half a pumpkin I thought I’d make a veggie curry.  Aloo Gobi, a curry of potatoes and cauliflower is one of my all time faves, a wonderfully comforting combo, and definitely my favourite way of eating cauliflower (even above cauliflower cheese which I adore!).  I thought I’d try it out with pumpkin too, Kaddu in Hindi, and it really was rather a delicious combo. I’m also happy to report that both the kids loved it too, in fact rather surprisingly after ten days of being a little ill and only picking at his food Jacques really tucked in….even with the addition of a couple of dried chilis!. I think it’s a good thing to get your kids eating a touch of chilli at an early age, then there’s no great surprises or aversions when they’re a bit more grown up. Mine definitely have a taste for a little heat and spice, but then they were weaned on lots of yummie lentil dahls.

You could either serve this as a meal in it’s own right, as I did, with some plained steamed basmati rice and chapatis on the side, or as a veggie side accompanying a larger meal.

Enough for a main meal for 4:

1 onion, halved and sliced

sunflower oil

2 small dried chilis, or 1 fresh, thinly sliced

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated

a large thumb size piece of fresh ginger, grated

1 tsp medium curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp brown onion seeds

2 potatoes, peeled and diced into 2cm chunks

3 heaped tbsps ground almonds

a handful of sultanas

350ml water

300g cauliflower, cut into florets

300g pumpkin or squash, peeled and diced into 2cm chunks

1 400g tin of coconut milk

juice of ½ lemon

a handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

salt

In a large saucepan heat a little sunflower oil and add the onion. Cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent.

Add the chilli, garlic and ginger to the pan, along with the curry powder, turmeric and onion seeds. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often. Add the potatoes and ground almonds. Stir well. Add the sultanas and 350ml of water.

Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower, pumpkin and coconut milk. Continue to simmer for 30 to 40 minutes with the saucepan lid on, until the potatoes and veggies are all very tender.

Stir in the lemon juice and coriander. Taste and add salt to suit.


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!


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.


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!


Pork, Pumpkin & Pepper Stew

A gentle warming stew that’s perfect for these cooler Autumnal evenings.  And like most stews, so very very easy to put together.  And another great way to use up yet more pumpkin!  A word of warning on the pumpkin though.  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 in the oven before using, just to have a taste check.  You could always substitute Butternut squash as a more reliable tasty alternative.

To add a bit of extra spark I tend to add a touch of chilli, but really it’s not necessary

Enough for four:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 small peppers or 1 very large one, preferably red, roughly chopped into big chunks
1/2 red chilli or good pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
600g pumpkin, cut into 2cm chunks
a small apple, peeled cored and chopped into fairly small pieces
500g pork (lean and boneless), cut into 2cm chunks
2 bay leaves
1½ tbsp fresh chopped sage leaves, or 2 tsp of dried sage
1½ tbsp tomato puree
250ml dry cider
450ml chicken stock
salt and pepper

In a large saucepan or casserole dish place the olive oil and onion, cook for a few minutes until the onion has softened a little.  Then add the peppers, chilli (if using), pumpkin, apple and pork. Stir fairly regularly so nothing catches and burns, cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the bay leaves, sage and tomato puree and cook for another moment or two before adding the cider.  Allow the cider to cook down for about 5 minutes or so before adding the stock.

Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pork and vegetables are all soft and very tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with plenty of mash, and maybe a nice steamed green vegetable on the side.


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