Tag Archives: Swiss Chard

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.

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Thai Green Curry Paste & Curries

Older kids, Big People

I adore the fragrancy of Thai food and really miss the Thai restaurants and take aways that are so plentiful in the UK. You can actually buy the odd jarred paste here but on the whole they’re pretty awful. And making my own paste is generally a rare and special treat in rural, and distinctly un-multicultural France. Getting hold of lemon grass and lime leaves is nigh on impossible (well unless I want to make a five hour round trip, or so I’m told), even getting the chillies, limes and fresh ginger can be a tricky affair. As for the coriander you’ve really got to grow your own and if truth be known I struggle with it, over the last year I’ve probably set it off to grow ten times and only harvested a couple of curries worth. But suddenly for no apparent reason I’ve a bumper crop and have been busy using it in all manner of fragrant dishes I don’t normally get a chance to make the last couple of weeks. Joy. Coriander coupled with a very exciting delivery of goodies from the UK, brought over by my brother in law, has meant a fabulously fragrant batch of Thai Green Curry Paste. Though I’m saddened to say after three large curries in the last week it’s now all gone, but I’ve still just enough ingredients to make another. Boy it’s good.

Making a paste is surprisingly quick and easy, simply a matter of throwing all the ingredients in a blender or processor and blitzing. My recipe below makes enough for ten people, and it can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to three weeks, as if you could possibly refrain from using it that long (I managed five days). From then on the curry’s a fast food cinch too as pretty much all the flavouring’s done for you, 25 minutes tops.

The Paste

The last week we’ve had a gorgeous King Prawn, Courgette & Spinach Curry as well as a Chicken, Chard & Courgette one. Both totally divine. I tend to veg up my dinners (though you’ve probably worked that one by now!) but feel free to omit or vary the veggies or the meat.

This is really a dinner for grown ups or big kids that can take a little heat. It can be adapted for littlies by only adding the merest touch of paste and upping the ratio of coconut milk or making a milder paste altogether. Both work for my kids (they’re big Green Curry fans now), and I’m planning on blogging a specificly child friendly version shortly.

The Paste

enough for 10 big people

4 medium green chillies, roughly chopped

2 shallots, roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic

2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, skin removed, grated

a large handful of coriander including the stalks (and the roots as well if you grow your own), washed and roughly chopped

2 lemongrass stalks, roughly chopped

the juice of a lime

the zest of 2 limes (if you’re lucky enough to have kaffir lime leaves then substitute one of the zested limes for 8 leaves)

a tablespoon of coriander seeds, crushed in a pestel and mortar

a teaspoon of black peppercorns, crushed in a pestel and mortar

a teaspoon of ground cumin

2 teaspoons of Thai fish sauce

3 tablespoons of sunflower or vegetable oil

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processer and blitz into a paste. The aroma is simply breathtaking!.

Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Chicken, Courgette & Chard Thai Green Curry

The 3 Cs, Chicken, Courgette & Chard

enough for 4 big people (with big appetites!)

2 tablespoons of sunflower or groundnut oil

a large onion, diced

2 heaped tablespoons of Thai Green Curry Paste (either the above homemade paste or shop bought)

3 or 4 free range chicken breasts, cut into large chunks (about 5 or 6 per breast)

400ml of coconut milk

Thai fish sauce

a pinch of sugar

2 courgettes, quartered lengthways then sliced

a couple of handfuls of swiss chard, the stems separated from the leaves and both shredded separately

juice of a lime

a large bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped (including the stalks)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, deep sided frying pan or wok (preferably something you have a lid to) on a medium heat. Throw in the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a minute or so more stirring constantly. Add the chicken pieces and briefly coat in the paste before pouring in the coconut milk, a generous shake of Thai fish sauce and a pinch of sugar. Give everything a good stir and cover for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes throw in the the sliced courgettes and shredded chard stems. Stir and cover and cook again for about 8 minutes. Now add the shredded chard leaves, stir and cover again. Leave to wilt down for a couple of minutes. Once all the veggies and chicken are cooked and tender, take off the heat and stir in the lime juice and coriander. Have a taste check and season with more fish sauce to suit.

Serve immediately with steamed Thai Jasmine Rice.

King Prawn, Courgette & Spinach Thai Green Curry

King Prawn, Courgette & Spinach Thai Green Curry

Enough for 4 big people:

2 tablespoons of sunflower or groundnut oil

a large onion, diced

2 heaped tablespoons of Thai Green Curry Paste (either the above homemade paste or shop bought)

300g of fresh or frozen uncooked king prawns (defrosted if frozen)

2 courgettes, quartered lengthways then sliced fairly thinly

400ml of coconut milk

Thai fish sauce

a pinch of sugar

4 very large handfuls of spinach, washed and shredded

juice of a lime

a large bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped (including the stalks)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, deep sided frying pan or wok (preferably something you have a lid to) on a medium heat. Throw in the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a minute or so more stirring constantly. Add the prawns and courgettes and coat everything briefly in the paste before pouring in the coconut milk and a generous shake of the Thai fish sauce. Give everything a good stir and cover for 8 minutes.

Now stir in the spinach and cover again. Leave to wilt down for a couple of minutes. Once all the veggies and prawns are cooked and tender, take off the heat and stir in the lime juice and coriander. Have a taste check and season with more fish sauce to suit.

Serve immediately with steamed Thai Jasmine Rice.

How about trying some of my other curry recipes? Chochori, Swiss Chard & Potato, Beetroot, Spinach & Chickpea, Aloo Gobi Kaddu


June Veg of the Month: Swiss Chard

As my veggie patch, or potager as they’re known here in France, is coming into its full glorified bloom and all my hard work’s paying off with a freebie larder of veritable goodies, I’ve decided to start something new on the blog, A Veg of the Month round up. Each month I’ll be choosing my most prolific in season veggie and blogging all the ways I’ve used and cooked with it, and asking readers to contribute their own recipes and ideas. This month I’ve chosen the humble yet magnificent Swiss Chard, not the most obvious choice for a June veggie I know, but along with the more popular spinach it’s been one of the first abundant veggie’s of the season at Chez Foti.

It’s a fabulously easy veg to grow, readily germinates, takes up relatively little space, seems to require little or no additional watering, grows quickly and profusely with individual plants lasting up to a staggering 18 months (and mine have) and is pretty darned hardy to boot!

Interestingly it’s been a veggie generally unknown to most folk, myself included, apart from the allotmenteers and grow their owners, until the recent advent in popularity of the organic veg box schemes. Being such an easy crop to grow it’s no wonder it’s became a regular feature of the boxes. Chard is also a particularly heathy green leafy veg having high levels of vitamins A, K and C, and rich in minerals, dietary fibre and protein.

Freshly picked chard and the first potatoes of the year

Not only is it my wonder veg to grow it’s fabulously versatile in the kitchen too, and can be used a lot like spinach. The leaves can be picked young and small and eaten whole and raw in salads (which admittedly I have yet to do, as they seem to grow so quickly here!). Or they can be left to mature and the leaves separated from the stems. The stems are a little like celery and require slicing and cooking for a few minutes longer than the green leaves which are pretty much the same as spinach (though with a wee bit more oomph in the flavour department).

As a veggie side chard is great sautéed for a few brief minutes in garlic and plenty of olive oil, adding a wee squeeze of lemon and a generous pinch of salt and black pepper at the end. Throwing in a tinned anchovy or two with the garlic and/or a finely sliced chilli works a treat; chard takes particularly well to strong salty flavours.

Last week I made a delightful Chard & Broad Bean risotto (using my recipe for Lemon, Pea & Asparagus Risotto but switching the veggies). Earlier in the month I made Ewan Mitchell’s Pasta with Chard which provided us a very tasty mid-week supper in minutes.

A very successful mid-week supper of Pasta & Chard

And I spiced it up in a wonderful Chochori, a Chard and Potato Curry courtesy of Nisha Katona’s Curry in a Hurry video. I’ve also added it shredded (at the last minute) to Frugal Feeding’s fabulously aromatic Slow Cooked Beef Curry and my own Prawn Thai Green Curry (recipe to follow).

A wonderfully spiced Swiss Chard & Potato Curry

I’ve been adding Chard a plenty to my Chicken, Egg and Veggie Fried Rice or more often than not ditching the meat for a vegetarian freebie alternative (which the kids adore equally), throwing bundles of it into Pork & Noodle Stir Fries (and again various meat free versions), Kids Bolognese and Super-Vegged up Chillies. It’s also been a welcome green in many a soup, including my Cream of Veggie Souper Soup and Caldo Verde (Portuguese Greens Soup) and blitzed into a super nutritious Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce.

Noodles with Pork & Veggies

So that’s it for my first ever Veg of the Month Round-Up. Feel free to join me in my celebration of the Chard Wonder Veg with your comments, ideas or recipes! I think we’ll be having chard in surplus supply for a good while yet so I’m looking forward to trying out some new ideas.


Chochori, Swiss Chard & Potato Curry

Bigger Kids, Grown Ups

We seem to have been eating quite a bit of meat lately, at least on the cyber world of the blog we do anyway, and I thought it time for a few more veggie dinners especially as my veg patch is busily coming into its own. This was one of our first ‘free’ dinners of the year with the two main ingredients, swiss chard and potatoes, both being picked and dug fresh from the garden minutes before. In fact these were our first potatoes of the year, and I can think of no better dish right now to celebrate them more than this fabulous curry. It still gives me a buzz to eat things I’ve grown myself and I’m convinced they always taste just that little bit more amazing. And it goes without saying they’re naturally all 100% organic.

The recipe, at least in the main, came from the lovely Nisha Katona of Curry in a a Hurry and her maa. Weirdly enough I was thinking of making a chard curry when would you adam and eve it, up popped a tweet from Nisha about her maa’s chard curry video. I watched, laughed (her maa’s a star!), absorbed and set to to make my own using all the same spices but guessing on quantities. So my apologies now to you both if I’m way out but the resulting curry was no less than wonderful in my opinion. And further apologies to maa that I didn’t use mooli, there’s no way I’d be able to source it in rural and notably un-multicural rural France! The spices I was lucky enough to have in, and I could even make by own fabulously fragrant Indian 5 spice seed mix called Panch Phoron (equal quantities of fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds and celery seeds, the latter added to replace the traditionally included black mustard seeds that I didn’t have).

Indian 5 spice seeds, Panch Phoron

I’m thinking you could happily use any veggies in this curry substituting part or all of the chard or spinach, but I was on a mission to use up as much chard as I could in one dinner so kept it simple. Great as a very healthy main served with steamed rice and/or chapattis or as a side accompanying other dishes.

Enough for four as a main or lots more as a veggie side:

4 tablespoons of sunflower oil
3 heaped teaspoons of Indian 5 Spice seed mix, Panch Poran
an onion, finely diced
500g of potatoes, new or old, roughly chunked (I left the peel on mine)
2 whole dried chillies (I used birds eyes)
700g of Swiss chard, spinach or other veggies (including mooli if you can source)
a heaped teaspoon of turmeric
½ a teaspoon of dried chilli powder
a generous pinch of salt
a heaped teaspoon of English mustard powder thinned down in a tablespoon of water

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and throw in the 5 spice. Cook for a couple of minutes or so until you can really smell the spices, but not so much the spices blacken.

Tip in the onion, potatoes (and any other slow to cook veggies you may be using) and whole dried chillies. Cover and cook for about ten minutes until almost soft, stirring regularly so nothing catches, and adding a splash of water rather than more oil if the pan dries out.

Meanwhile prepare your chard or spinach. If using chard tear any thick stems from the leaves, slice the stems and shred the leaves, keeping both separate. Shred the spinach.

Throw in the chard stems to the curry and cook for a few minutes. When the potatoes and chard are soft and cooked through add the chilli powder, turmeric, salt and shredded chard leaves or spinach. Cook for a moment or two longer until the leaves are wilted then take off the heat. Season with the thinned down mustard and a little more salt to taste.

Serve with steamed rice and/or chapatties, lovely with a little homemade mango chutney on the side.

How about trying some of my other curry recipes: Aloo Gobi Kaddu (Potato, Cauliflower & Pumpkin), Beetroot, Spinach & Chick Peas, Jamie’s Empire Chicken & Bombay Potatoes, Sweet Potato Daal for Babies & Toddlers

Be sure to check out some of Nisha’s excellent home curry making videos, a great way to quickly and easily learn how to cook authentic indian fodder.


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