Tag Archives: Squash

Roast Butternut Risotto with Butternut Crisps

Butternut Risotto

We’ve still lots of lovely butternuts left from my autumn harvest, and thankfully they keep really well in a cool dark place for several months. They’re most definitely one of my very favourite veggies and so usefully versatile getting regularly thrown in many a Soup, Curry, Stir Fry or Stew and even in pasta dishes (think Carbonara or Mac ‘n Cheese). They even shine on a Tart or Pizza too. But a Butternut Risotto happens to be one of my favourite uses of this glorious veggie, and is a firm Chez Foti winter comfort food favourite.

This is actually a recipe I make with the littlies in mind and uses cream cheese, but if you want to make a  more grown up version replace the cream cheese with a goats cheese. I use plenty of fresh sage which I’m particularly partial to with squash or pumpkin and cheese, but if your kids are herb adverse then leave out. If making for very little littlies then omit the wine too and use ‘baby’ stock cubes available from most major chemists or supermarkets.

After watching Nigel Slater’s recent series I now always keep my Butternut Skin shavings and briefly roast them in the oven (which you’d be using anyway for this dish) in a little olive oil, salt & pepper and make some totally delish freebie Butternut Crisps. They’re wonderful served as a little crispy side to soups or risottos.

Cubes of Butternut

Since I’m using fresh sage in my recipe I’m entering my post, for the second time this month, to Lavender and Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday challenge, this month hosted by Vanether at Bangers and Mash Chat. Please do go and check out all the entries, there’s sure to be something you fancy!

herbsonsaturday

Butternut squash risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto with Butternut Crisps

Toddler and Young Children, Bigger Kids, Family Dinners, Mid-Week Suppers, Grown Up Dinners

Enough for a family of 4:

a largish butternut squash, peeled (keep the peelings if you want to make crisps!), seeds removed (these can also be deliciously roasted) and cut into 1.5cm cubes

2 tablespoons of olive oil plus a drizzle for the crisps if making

salt & pepper

3 shallots or a small onion, finely diced

2 sticks of celery, finely diced

20g of butter

220g of risotto rice

a glass of white wine

a litre of chicken or veggie stock, piping hot

a dessertspoon of finely chopped fresh sage

75g of soft cheese or goats cheese

a heaped tablespoon of Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese

Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4. Place the butternut cubes on a large baking tray and drizzle over a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Ensure the cubes are equally coated and place in the hot oven to roast for about 35 minutes. They’re ready when they’ve taken on a little colour and are completely tender and soft.

During this cooking time place the peelings on a separate baking tray and drizzle with a wee bit of olive oil and a little salt & pepper. Place in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until crisped up, checking regularly as they’re quick to burn. Once ready remove from the oven and drain on kitchen paper until you’re ready to serve.

Now to make the risotto. Heat the butter and another tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan on a gentle heat. Add the shallots or onion and celery and saute for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Stir in the rice ensuring the grains get a good coating of the butter and oil. Pour in the wine and stir. Allow to simmer away on a gentle heat. Once most of the wine’s evaporated pour on a ladleful of hot stock together with the sage. Continue to stir at regular intervals adding further ladlefuls of hot stock every time the last one is nearly all absorbed.

When the rice is on the edge of being ready and tender stir in the roasted butternut cubes and cream cheese/goats cheese. Allow to bubble away for a few minutes more before finally stirring in the Parmesan or Grana Padano. Taste and season with black pepper to suit. You probably won’t need to add any additional salt as there’s plenty in the stock and cheese.

Serve the risotto with a few butternut skin crisps on the side. A word of warning, whilst the crisps look pretty served on top of the risotto (as per my pic) they quickly become soggy from the steam!.

Here’s some other Chez Foti risotto recipes: Spinach, Courgette &  Pesto Risotto, Asparagus, Pea & Lemon Risotto, Sausage & Courgette Risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto

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October and November Veg of the Month: Pumpkin and Squash

We’ve had quite a harvest of pumpkins and squash this year and they should see us through to spring next year, if they’re able to keep good that long. Such fun veggies to grow and easy too. I rarely watered the plants nor gave them any attention at all past the seedling stage, and they happily brought themselves up and just got on with it, fruiting gloriously all over the patch. If only my children were as easy! And like everything here they’re totally organic. A wonderful veggie to grow for a beginner, albeit you do need quite a bit of space…and dare I say it, sunshine.

Pumpkin Tower

They also happen to be one of my favourite veggies to cook with, being so incredibly versatile as they are. Virtually every dinner  or snack has some form of squash or pumpkin in these days at Chez Foti, even the cakes and muffins!. My Chocolate Pumpkin Cake is always a big hit with the littlies, both to bake and eat. And the fact that it contains one of your five-a-day is a happy bonus. Jamie’s delightful recipe for Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top have also proved popular as are my savoury Pumpkin, Cheese & Red Onion Muffins.

Chocolate  Pumpkin Cake

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Butternut, or flavoursome pumpkin, make a wonderful tart too, especially when combined with a little salty cheese like feta, Butternut, Feta & Red Onion Tart with Thyme. And it’s equally as tasty on a pizza, I’ve made several of The Garden Deli’s Autumn Pizzas now, and this has to be one of my favourite pizza combinations ever now, thanks Sarah!.

Butternut, Feta & Red Onion Tart with Pine Nuts and Thyme

Butternut, Feta & Red Onion Tart with Pine Nuts & Thyme

Obviously you can make super soups with pumpkins and squash though I’ve yet to experiment with any new recipes this year. Last year I blogged the simple Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup then paired it up with a little bacon for my Pumpkin & Bacon Soup and Chorizo for one of my favourite soups ever in my Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo CroutonsI recently made a fabulous and health inducing Roasted Pumpkin Mulligatawny Soup, thanks to a recipe I chanced upon from Gastrogeek.

Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

This magical duo also go superbly well in a curry, one of my favourite recipes being a veggie curry I blogged last year, Aloo Gobi Kaddu (Potato, Cauliflower and Pumpkin Curry). I also happened upon a wonderful recipe from my beloved Mr HFW for a very tasty Butternut Squash Curry which I’ve now made a couple of times. It’s also a fab veg to add to a stir fry, squidging down and soaking up the flavours, and has been happily added to my Noodles with Pork & Veggies  recipe many a time. I also have my eye on trying Shabby Chick’s Noodles with Squash, Chard & Prawns some day soon.

Potato, Cauliflower & Pumpkin Curry

Aloo Gobi Kaddu, Potato Cauliflower & Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin and squash are a fabulous base vegetable for most stews and casseroles, adding a subtle sweetness which my kids particularly favour, one of their favourites being my recently blogged Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Stew and last years Pork, Pepper & Pumpkin StewI also add plenty of finely diced pumpkin to my Cottage Pie and Kids Bolognese recipes, loving the way it melts down into the sauce.

Chicken, Borlotti & Pumpkin Stew

Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Stew

And if this isn’t enough cucurbitas in your diet, then you can always happily add them to many a pasta dish too!. Favourites in the Chez Foti household happen to be Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese and Pumpkin CarbonaraAnd then there’s always risottos, my Butternut & Sage Risotto recipe will be coming shortly.

Pumpkin Carbonara

Pumpkin Carbonara

I’ve also been serving up pumpkin or squash as a veggie side dish to a sunday roast. Either chunked and roasted with just a little olive oil, salt and pepper or with a pinch of cumin and coriander too. Pumpkin’s also totally divine roasted with a few bacon lardons and sage.

And don’t forget the glorious seeds and skin. Both squash and pumpkin seeds can be roasted in a frying pan or the oven with just a smear of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Great tossed into a salad or served as a snack with drinks. After watching Nigel Slater recently I’ve started roasting off strips of Butternut skin to make lovely freebie crisps, and also noted Shabby Chick’s Pumpkin Crisps blog.

Other squashy ideas that have grabbed my attention are Fishfingers for Tea’s Butternut Squash Falafel recipe, which no doubt would go very well with the Roasted Pumpkin Hummus that I made last year (and should really get around to blogging!), and Lavender and Lovage’s Roast Pumpkin Salad with Panchetta, Grana Padano & Pumpkin Seeds. And I couldn’t not mention Anneli of Delicioux’s Super, Sexy, Strange: Spaghetti Squash recipes. I can’t wait to get my hands on one!

Well that’s it for this month’s round up, other than to say PLEASE do have a look at the fabulous array of squash and pumpkinie recipes in October’s  One Ingredient Challenge and We Should CocoaPrepare to be amazed! And my December Veg of the Month is the humble Parsnip, and we’ve got quite a few of those to get through too at Chez Foti. I’d love to hear of your favourite recipes to try out!,

Louisa

August & September Veg of the Month: The Tomato

July Veg of the Month: The Courgette

June Veg of the Month: Swiss Chard

The first pumpkin of the year!

The first pumpkin of the year!

Chez Foti Pumpkins and Squash


Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Stew

Unfortunately there’s been a distinct lack of blogging action of late and way too many nasty germs floating around at Chez Foti. Viruses, bugs and colds a plenty but I’m keeping everything crossed the family’s all better by the end of the weekend. Even Dotty the pup was rushed to the emergency vets with a life threatening tick bite. Yes really!. Without the hefty injection and drugs he gave her she wouldn’t have made it much more than another 12 hours apparently. Luckily I myself have managed to escape the worst of all this sickness, bar the usual night nurse sleep deprivation and requirement to watch round the clock CBeebies anyway.

This was our first stew of the winter. A gloriously warming, boldly flavoured and slightly sticky stew of Chicken, Pumpkin and Borlotti Beans. The ingredients are loosely based on a Leon recipe I made a few times last year, but I’ve chopped and changed everything around quite a bit from the original here. The kids both loved it, and as Jacques’s going through a particularly fussy stage these days I was delighted that he devoured his bowl. Flavoured with plenty of rosemary, red wine vinegar, a little chilli, garlic and honey, what’s not to like?

Move over Ratatouille!

My official wee taste tester, move over Ratatouille!

I used my homegrown borlotti for the first time in the stew and was very happy with the results. Whilst the yield from the plants was more than a little disappointing the small harvest I have will allow for three or four more hearty family meals over the winter. I think I’m going to give them another whirl next year, even for the gorgeous pods alone:

My ever-so-pretty Borlotti Beans, when fresh the pods look like the beautiful one on the right, when dried out and ready to pick like the one on the left

Try to marinade the chicken the night before, or at least a few hours, to boost the wonderful flavours. I served it for the kids with mash as they love their mash, and for us with couscous. The latter being a little hit and miss with the littlies these days and thus unworthy of the rejection risk!.

If you don’t have any flavoursome pumpkin it can happily be substituted with a tasty squash.

I’m entering this blog to November’s Lavender and Lovage‘s Herbs on Saturday recipe challenge, this month hosted by Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes.

herbsonsaturday

Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Stew

Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Stew

Toddlers & Young Children, Bigger Kids, Family Dinners, Just Grown Ups

Serves 4

For the Marinade:

2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard

a tablespoon of honey

a tablespoon of olive oil

a heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

a fresh red chilli, seeds removed and finely sliced (less for kids or those adverse, if they don’t like a little heat)

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a generous pinch of black pepper

4 free range chicken thighs, skin removed

For the Stew:

a large onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

500g of flavoursome pumpkin or squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into chunks

400g can of chopped tomatoes

400g can of borlotti beans, drained, or 125g of soaked and pre-cooked dried beans

500ml of chicken stock

Place all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and combine, then thoroughly rub into the chicken thighs. Cover and leave in the fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

Once marinated remove the chicken from the bowl and set aside the lovely marinade which you’ll use later. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large casserole or heavy based pan. Fry the chicken until golden on all sides, remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion to the same pan. Fry for 5 minutes before adding the carrots and pumpkin. Continue to cook for a further 5 minutes before throwing in the rest of the marinade, chicken thighs, chopped tomatoes, borlotti beans and stock.

Give everything a good stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and allow to slowly simmer for an hour. Et voila, one big pot of healthy loveliness!. Taste and season to suit and serve.

You might also like:

Chicken & Apricot Tagine: Boeuf en Daube

Chicken & Apricot Tagine with CouscousBeef in Daube recipe


Pumpkin Carbonara

I finally picked the rest of our pumpkins and squash yesterday. Frosts are on their way and I wanted to get them under cover sharpish. I have to admit most are looking more that a tad sorry for themselves and in need of some strong sun to finish ripening, and being a bit of a novice at these things I’m not really sure what to do! I grew lots of pumpkins last year in my first season of growing but they were all fully ripened and orange by now. Should I keep them inside and bring them out on sunny days? Or resurrect and put in the poly tunnel? Or should I just eat them as they are? Any pumpkin professionals out there willing to offer me some advice?

The last of the pumpkins & squash!

Luckily I’ve already picked lots of fully ripened radiantly orange pumpkins and so it’s pumpkin with everything these days at Chez Foti. And as usual I’m loving adding a seasonal touch of healthiness to our favourite family suppers. It was the turn of the carbonara this week. Much as I love carbonara made traditionally with just eggs, bacon and parmesan it’s not exactly nutrient rich and I’m reluctant to give it to my kids in its basic form. Whilst Mr F and I will happily eat a large leafy salad on the side the kids won’t, so I like to add some veggie goodness to the sauce. Pumpkin works wonderfully with both parmesan and bacon and so it’s a natural for carbonara, and I also like to add a little fresh sage which is the perfect paring for pumpkin and bacon.

The first pumpkin of the year

If you don’t have any flavoursome pumpkin to hand (and believe me it’s not nice to cook with if it isn’t!) you can happily use butternut instead.

Since my carbonara is flavoured with sage I’m entering the recipe (for the second time this month!) to Lavender and Lovage’s October Herbs on Saturday blog challenge.

Pumpkin Carbonara

Enough for a hearty meal for a family of four:

500g of flavoursome pumpkin or butternut, peeled

a tablespoon of olive oil

salt & pepper

240g of dried pasta of your choice, or equivalent in fresh

200g of streaky bacon or lardons, cut into small strips

a heaped teaspoon of finely chopped fresh sage leaves

1 large or 2 medium garlic cloves, finely slices

3 eggs, free range

3 heaped tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

Start with roasting your pumpkin or butternut. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6. Dice into smallish 1 to 1.5cm cubes, toss in the olive oil and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Place on a roasting tray and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until soft and slightly browned, turning once or twice during the cooking time.

Cook your pasta to packet instructions. Try to time so your pasta is cooked and ready at the same time as the pumpkin roasted and bacon browned.

Meanwhile heat a frying pan on a medium heat and fry off the lardons or streaky bacon (in their own fat) with the sage and garlic. Drain off any excess fat. Fry until the bacon is a little browned.

While the bacon’s frying, whisk the eggs lightly and stir in the Parmesan and a generous pinch of black pepper (you shouldn’t need any further salt as there’s plenty in the bacon and parmesan).

As soon as the pumpkin, pasta and bacon are all cooked and still piping hot throw them all together in one pan and thoroughly stir in the egg and Parmesan mix. Don’t put the pan back on the heat or you’ll have pasta with scrambled eggs! What you want is a lovely glossy eggy coating. Taste and add further pepper if it needs it  (I do like lots of pepper on my food!).

Related Posts: 

Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons

Pumpkin & Bacon Soup

Sausage & Courgette Carbonara

Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese


Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie!

There’s more than a chill in the air and finally it’s time to bring on the pies and stews. I love my winter food. As you’ll see from my last year’s Comfort Cottage Pie recipe normally I love nothing more than a super-meaty cottage pie with no more veggie additions than a little carrot and celery. However, my son Jacques (who’s now two and a half) is back on his Mission of Veggie Refusal and I’m back on my Mission of Veggie Disguise (a blog I wrote a few months ago getting kids to eat more veg). And this revised and super-seasonally vegged-up recipe has an umpteem of hidden veggies that will please even the most ardent of carnivores.

My basket of veggies freshly picked to make my Vegged-Up Cottage Pie, including carrots, parsnips, butternut, swiss chard, green beans and thyme

Interestingly the wee fella loves his fruit, particularly if he’s picked it himself which he often does, gorging himself on figs (his favourite), blackberries (second fave), plums, greengages and the odd pear from the garden. And he’ll happily eat a banana. And yet virtually all veggies are a complete no go these days, even his once beloved peas and sometimes low and behold even sweetcorn! He’ll happily watch and join in as I pick green beans and tommies, lift the carrots and parnsips, cut the brocolli or sweetcorn from the garden..but when it come to eating them, you’re having a laugh! It’s always a whiny ‘dont like’ coupled with a pushing away off the plate or even worse a full blown, increasingly more frequent, tantrum. I’m still lucky Francesca will eat pretty much all veggies put her way, admittedly not with great gusto (but then she doesn’t particularly like most foods!) and always under a certain amount of duress. But she does love her carrots, because horseys do.

My little veggie-refuser Grubster happily tucking into a fig

Jacque sagely eying up the veggies he’d just help to pick

This cottage pie is an out and out winner with them both and with us too, and provides us with a couple of very healthy and pleasing family dinners. Whenever I’m making these slow-to-cook meaty dinners I tend to double (or treble) up on quantities making at least enough for two family dinners, freezing half or keeping it in the fridge for later in the week. Halve the below ingredients list if you want to make enough for just one dinner.

Feel free to vary the veggies, use whatever’s seasonal or you have in. My weights are only what I so happened to have picked and are included for a guideline only, so please vary accordingly. I used swiss chard, carrots, french beans, celery and butternut squash in the meat sauce and parsnips and potatoes in the topping. The first parsnips of the year actually, and the first parsnips I’ve ever grown. Pretty impressive size I thought, Jacques and I were a bit surprised when we lifted them together! You could also use pumpkin, spinach, mushrooms, runner beans, swede, sweetcorn, peas, broccoli, cabbage, kale or peppers and probably loads of other veggies I can’t think of right now!

I also have a tendency to leave the skins on my carrots, parsnips and potatoes (and give them a jolly good scrub obviously!), but then mine are all organically home grown. It’s up to you.

Titchy carrots and whopper parsnips!

As an added meal enhancer try baking your kids their dinner in individual bowls, mine love eating theirs straight out of my gorgeous Oogaa bowls, which being silicone can handily be oven baked and microwaved.

This is also a recipe that can easily be adapted for weaning babies. Omit the Worcester Sauce and use baby stock cubes which are available at most big chemists, then whiz up the cooked beef and veggie sauce in a processor before piling on the topping.

The kids love their Cottage Pie baked in my individual Oogaa silicone bowls

Since my recipe is full of seasonal goodies I’m entering it into Fabulicious Food’s Simple and In Season challenge, this month hosted by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen

Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie

Toddlers, Bigger Kids, Family Suppers, Just the Grown Ups too!

Enough for a family of four TWICE!:

For the Meat & Veggie Sauce:

a large onion

2 sticks of celery

2 carrots

300g of butternut or pumpkin

2 tablespoons of sunflower or olive oil

600g of good quality beef mince

1 tablespoon of plain flour

800ml of beef stock

1 heaped tablespoon of tomato puree

2 teaspoons of Worcester Sauce

3 large sprigs of thyme

3 bay leaves

black pepper

100g of french or runner beans, finely diced

200g of chard or spinach, separating any thick stems from the leafy parts and shredding separately

For the Topping:

850g of potatoes peeled or un-peeled, chopped into large chunks

500g of parsnips, peeled or un-peeled, chopped into large chunks

50g of butter

50ml of milk

2 teaspoons of creamed horseradish, optional

salt & pepper

Finely dice the onion, celery, carrots and butternut or pumpkin. I usually pulse these veggies in a food processor both for speed and to get them reasonably fine (and well hidden!).

Heat the oil in a very large saucepan and throw in the onion, celery, carrots and butternut or pumpkin. Cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft, stirring regularly.

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

Stir in the flour, quickly followed by the stock, tomato puree, worcester sauce, thyme, bay and a generous pinch of black pepper.

Now prepare the rest of your veggies, dicing them to an appropriate size for your kids i.e. the finer the dice the less likelihood of rejection!. Add them to the sauce. If you’re using swiss chard, include the diced stems at this stage but add the green leaves later (the same for spinach). Cover and leave to simmer for at least 30 minutes. If the sauce looks like it’s drying out, add a little water.

Meanwhile pre-heat your oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6, and make your potato & parsnip 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 (go easy on the salt or none at all for littlies).

Once the sauce is cooked, stir in the spinach or chard leaves if using and  have a final taste check, adding a little more pepper and some salt if necessary (no salt for littlies and you shouldn’t need to add any anyway as there’s plenty in the stock).

Pour it into a large openproof dish (remembering to remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, which I usually don’t!) or smaller individual dishes.  Spoon on the mash. Shape your mash with the back of a fork as desired, I like a nice swirl!.

Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden on the top (and if it’s not you can alway pop it under the grill). Individual dishes will need substantially less time.

My other whoppers of veggie disguise are Kids Bolognese, Chicken, Veggie & Egg Fried Rice, Super-Vegged Up Chili, Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce and Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes

And here’s the little monkey wolfing down his super-vegged up Cottage Pie! Result.


Pumpkin & Bacon Soup

I cut into the last of our pumpkins to make this soup. I never actually thought we’d get to the end of our almighty Autumn harvest but now we’re on the last one I’m more than a touch sad!. Though I’m very excited about growing plenty more of these wonderful orange monsters again this summer, despite spending most of the last one cursing them for the enormity of space they took up and vowing never to bother again! My opinions however quickly changed after our first homegrown pumpkiny dinner (I think it was indeed a roast pumpkin soup), far more delicious and sweet than I thought possible of the humble pumpkin. The ones you buy in the UK, particularly around Halloween time, can be so bland and devoid of any real flavour, and I assumed our orange monsters would be the same. So wrong! I think the hot Southern French sun worked it’s magical wonders on my patch, each and every one were delicioso.

Not only are pumpkins so incredibly easy and fun to grow, albeit taking up way too much room, they are wonderful and versatile to cook with providing they have a half decent sunkissed flavour that is. I’ve added diced pumpkin to virtually all my stews and casseroles throughout the autumn and winter, stir fries, pasta dishes, curries, and obviously soup a plenty. It’s also a great veg to accompany a roast dinner, cut into large chunks and roasted in the oven with a little chilli and/or bacon pieces and plenty of black pepper.  Porky flavours work really well with pumpkin and squash which is how I came to concoct this soup. Might sound a little weird but it’s oh so lovely!.

Enough for a couple of servings each for a family of four:

1 kilo of flavoursome pumpkin or butternut squash, skin removed and cut into 2cm chunks

olive oil

salt & pepper

the merest pinch of dried chilli flakes

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

80g lardons or streaky bacon, diced

600ml of chicken stock plus a little more water to thin down

Rub a tablespoon of olive oil into the pumpkin chunks along with a little salt, a generous grinding of black pepper, and the chilli flakes, rubbing the oil onto all sides of the pumpkin. Place on a baking tray in a preheated oven for about 25 minutes at 220°C. The pumpkin is ready when it’s soft and starting to brown a little. Turn at least once during the cooking time.

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 lardons or bacon. Continue to cook on a medium heat for a further 7-8 minutes  until the lardons or bacon are browning, stirring regularly so nothing catches.

Once the pumpkin is roasted add it to the onions and bacon and cook for a further couple of minutes then add the stock. Bring to the boil and leave on a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

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 a generous grinding of black pepper to suit, it’s unlikely you’ll need more salt as there’s plenty in the bacon and stock. Thin down with water to make to your desired thickness. We tend to eat our soups really thick as they’re easier for the wee ones to spoon.

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

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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?


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.


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