Tag Archives: Thyme

Roasted Tomato and Feta Risotto

Roasted Tomato Risotto

This was actually a fabulously tasty dinner borne out a random fridge emptying operation!. You know those times when there doesn’t appear to be anything too interesting and you rustle up what there is anyway, and hope for the best. And actually it was really rather good and has since been made a couple of times, and not just when I’m in fridge clearing mode! What’s more the kids ate it, Jacques in the main because it contained an ample amount of his beloved olives (especially taking into account his sister’s discarded ones), and Francesca who claims to not like tomatoes happily ate these sweet roasted ones. Result. And us big people loved it too, so a perfect family dinner all in all.

Jacques eating Roasted Tomato Risotto

One happy Jacques with his olivey risotto!

To be fair I probably wouldn’t be feeding this risotto to an Italian or Risotto Aficionado. I mean feta in a risotto?. It’s all a bit wrong really. But hey this Greek/Italian fusion worked for my lot and interestingly, while I was stirring away, as you do with a risotto, I couldn’t help but think it all looked a bit like a hot greek salad. And besides, since it has no cow’s dairy but sheep’s milk Feta it’s something I can happily give to Jacques who appears to be dairy intolerant.  It’s certainly one of my healthier risottos and a fab way of getting lots of the good stuff into little (and big) tums!

Even Francesca enjoyed it, tommies and all!

Even Francesca enjoyed it, tommies and all!

Simply oven roasted cherry tomatoes (with fresh thyme if you have any), roasting while you make the risotto. Then stirred into a super-healthy risotto of  red pepper, courgette, olives (black or green) and blasphemous Feta cheese. De. Lish. Ous.

Since there’s fresh thyme involved I’m entering this post

Cooking-with-Herbsto Karen of Lavender & Lovage Cooking with Herbs challenge. Also as it was a genuine fridge-clearing concoction to Credit Crunch Munch, hosted by Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours and this month by Sian at Fishfingers for Tea. To to Javelin Warriors Made with Love Monday’s event, as this is a made from scratch meal. And finally as tommies are now in season to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season challenge. Phew that’s quite a few entries!Simple and in Season

Made with Love Mondays

Credit-Crunch-Munch

Roasted Tomato & Feta Risotto

Roasted Tomato & Feta Risotto

Great for: Toddlers & Pre-schoolers, Bigger Kids, Grown Ups, Family Dinners, Mid-Week Suppers, Risotto Fans, Vegetarians. Not for Risotto Aficionados

Serves: A Family of 4

Total Cook Time: 45 minutes

450g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt & pepper

a few sprigs fresh thyme. leaves removed

small onion, finely diced

1 small red pepper, cut into fine strips

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

220g arborio risotto rice

large glass white wine

700ml hot vegetable stock, I use Marigold

1 small courgette, diced

60g green or black pitted olives, halved, optional

120g Feta cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC

2. Place the halved cherry tomatoes cut side up on a large roasted tin. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt, black pepper and the thyme leaves. Finally drizzle over 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place in the hot oven for 25 minutes.

3. Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, prep the risotto. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan on a gentle heat. Sweat the onion and red pepper strips for 10 minutes with the lid on, stirring every now and again and adding a splash of water if the veggies look a little dry and are sticking.

4. Stir in the garlic and allow to cook for a moment or two before stirring in the risotto rice, ensuring the grains get a good coating of the oil. Poor in the wine and stir.

5. Allow to simmer (uncovered) on a gentle heat until most of the wine has evaporated/absorbed then stir in a ladleful of the hot stock together with the diced courgette and olives (if using). Continue to stir at regular intervals adding further ladlefuls of stock every time the last one’s almost absorbed.

6. When the rice is tender stir in the roasted tomatoes, together with any juices from the tray, and the crumbled feta. Place the lid back on the pan and allow the flavours to rest and mingle for a couple of minutes.

7. Taste and season to suit. No added salt for littlies. Serve as is or with a sprinkling of grated fresh Parmesan.

You might also like:

Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

Roasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto

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Chicken, Asparagus and New Potato Traybake

Chicken Traybake

Why oh why it’s taken me so long to discover the wonderous simplicity of savory traybakes is a mystery?. An impressively tasty meal with minimum prep, mess or fuss that the whole family can enjoy. And great to place on the dinner table for everyone to hungrily dig in to and help themselves, which is always fun and sociable. They’re definitely the way forward to perfect family fodder in my book. Since my ‘discovery’ I have to confess to their over-zealous appearance on the Chez Foti table, but when the kids are eagerly tucking in, as without fail they do to a traybake, how can I not?!.

Jacques ChickenAnd this particular one’s most definitely my Traybake du Jour, with asparagus suddenly appearing at more reasonable end of season prices. Simply chicken pieces, new potatoes and asparagus all roasted together in a yumminess of lemon, garlic, fresh thyme and green olives. Since Jacques has recently acquired a taste for olives (bordering screaming obsession!) I seem to be adding them to everything these days; luckily his olive adverse big sister’s quite happy to pick them out and pass them over his way. And if you’ve never tried asparagus roasted with such heady flavours believe me you’re missing out. Divine. And always a bit of fight as to who gets the last spear….

Admittedly this is hardly a recipe, rather a throwing together of a few select ingredients. Traybakes are obviously open to a good deal of seasonal variation…and a handy way of clearing out your fridge! Carrots, parsnips, squash, peppers, courgettes, sweet potato and onions all roast handsomely and you could also vary your meat to pork or sausages (or leave out altogether), and of course opt for ‘old’ tatters when the newbies aren’t around. And as for the herbs, throw in whatever you have! Orange segments are also a tasty variation to the lemon, particularly with chicken, red pepper and black olives.

Made with Love MondaysNow for the challenges, as there’s plenty of thyme involved to Cooking-with-HerbsLavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday event. To Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays as it’s a made from scratch meal. And finally to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season as asparagus is unquestionably still in season!. Simple and in Season

Chicken, Asparagus & New Potato Traybake

Chicken, Asparagus & New Potato Traybake

Great for: Toddlers & Pre-Schoolers, Big Kids, Grown Ups, Family Dinners, Week-end Slowies, Mid-week Suppers

Serve with: plenty of steamed veggies

Serves: a family of four, just throw in as much as you think you’ll all eat (I always add a few extra potatoes for tasty leftovers):

600g new potatoes, scrubbed but skin left on

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 – 6 chicken pieces, I usually opt for thighs or legs, free range

1 dessertspoon fresh thyme leaves

4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole

1 lemon, one half juiced the other half cut into 6 segments

salt and pepper (no salt for toddlers)

1 bunch of asparagus, washed

a handful or two of green olives, optional (feel free to omit if you’re not olive lovers)

Special Equipment: a large hob-proof roasting tin

1. Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/Gas 6.

2. Cut any of the larger potatoes in 2 or 3 and leave smaller ones whole. Par-cook them for 8 minutes in boiling water. Drain and set aside.

3. While the potatoes are boiling heat the oil in a large hob-proof roasting tin. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides and take off the heat.

4. Once the chicken’s browned throw the potatoes into the tin along with the thyme, garlic cloves, juice of half a lemon, and a pinch of salt and pepper (no salt if you’re making for toddlers). Give everything a good stir around and place in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes.

5. Prepare the asparagus by bending each spear and snapping off the woody ends, discard the ends.

5. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and throw in the asparagus spears, lemon segments and the olives if using. Give everything a good stir and place back in the oven for a further 20 to 25 minutes. Take out of the oven and stir everything around a little a couple of times during this period.

6. It’s ready when the chicken and potatoes are fully cooked through and golden.

7. Place on the dinner table and let everyone help themselves. Perfect family fun fodder!

You might also like:

A Summery Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet

A Summery Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet

Beef in Daube recipe

Boeuf en Daube


Roasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Mushroom Risotto

Pearl barley risottos seem all the rage of late and it was really about time I got around to trying my hand at one. I had fully intended on making Anneli’s (of the fabulously inspiring Delicieux blog) Marvelous Mussel Puttanesca Pearl Barley Risotto and even bought the mussels especially in for the very recipe. But somehow after a couple of glasses of vino they got used in making an impromptu Moules Frites supper one night instead. Oops, sorry Anneli, but rest assured I will be trying your delightfully interesting recipe very soon!. Moules-less but still determined to give a pearl barley risotto a crack and happening to have an abundance of mushrooms begging to be used I opted for my favourite Roasted Mushroom Risotto instead, just replacing the rice with barley.

I actually made this for my Mum and Dad as I was with them in the UK at the time, helping out whilst my Mum recuperated from a nasty dose of pneumonia. Luckily she’s now firmly on the mend. Both parents gave the risotto the thumbs up, and there’s even an extra couple of portions waiting to be re-heated in their freezer (along with a whole host of fish pies, stews and soups I made for them whilst I was there!).

IMG_0494

On the whole I was pretty pleased with the barley risotto. An interestingly nutty texture and taste which I actually really liked, but on the down side it didn’t half take a long time to cook! Nigh on an hour, probably at least double the time of the rice version, which seemed a little on the lengthy side. But with a glass in hand (it seemed wrong not to finish the purposefully-opened-for-the-risotto bottle of white) I was quite happy to potter around the kitchen whilst it bubbled away.

You may recall my earlier obsessions with the aforementioned Roasted Mushrooms, namely my Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza or the Stilton, Parsley & Walnut Pesto Spaghetti with Roasted Thyme & Garlic Mushrooms. And I’m still obsessed. Love them. Can’t bring myself to cook a mushroom any other way. And they’re amazing in a risotto, especially paired with a little lemon, Parmesan and plenty of parsley. If you don’t fancy whiling away an hour feel free to substitute with arborio risotto rice instead. Or a top tip I gleamed on Twitter was to soak the barley for an hour beforehand in boiling water.

As Thyme and Parsley are key flavours in my risotto I shall be entering this post to the lovely Karen of Lavender and Lovage‘s Herbs on Saturday challenge. And as there’s Grana Padano to the One Ingredient Challenge which has the theme of Cheese this month, an event co-hosted by Laura of How to Cook Good Food and this month by Nazima of Franglais Kitchen. And finally since pearl barley is considerably cheaper than risotto rice this makes the dish a pretty frugal munch and a deservant recipe to enter to Credit Crunch Munch, a monthly challenge held jointly by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and this month hosted by Camilla of Fab Food 4 All.

herbsonsaturday

One-Ingredient-April-Cheese-300x247

Credit-Crunch-MunchRoasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto

Great for: Bigger Kids, Grown Ups, Family Suppers, Mid-Week or Week-end Slowies, Vegetarians, Wild Mushroom Foragers, Roasted Mushrooms Obsessives

Serves 4:

For the Risotto:

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 medium or 4 small Shallots, finely diced

a clove of Garlic, finely sliced

a stick of Celery, finely diced

280g of Pearl Barley (or Risotto Rice if you prefer)

200ml of White Wine

1.5 litres of weak hot Veggie or Chicken Stock (about a litre if using Risotto Rice)

a heaped tablespoon of Creme Fraiche (half or full fat)

a small bunch of Parsley, or 3 – 4 tablespoons, chopped

80g of Grana Padano, finely grated

a squeeze or two of Lemon Juice, to taste

Salt & Pepper

For the Roasted Mushrooms:

600g of Mushrooms, as interesting/wild as you can find – but Chestnut would be fine

4 cloves of Garlic, skin intact

a few sprigs of Thyme, leaves removed

Salt & Pepper

3 tablespoons of Olive Oil

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan on a gentle heat. Add the shallots, garlic and celery and saute for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Stir in the barley or rice ensuring the grains get a good coating of the 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 or two of hot stock. Continue to stir at regular intervals adding further ladlefuls of hot stock every time the last one is nearly all absorbed.

Meanwhile prep the mushrooms. Pre-heat your oven to 200°C. If you’re using smaller or button mushrooms leave them whole. Tear or chop larger mushrooms into two or four. Place on a baking tray with the garlic, thyme and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and using your hands ensure the mushrooms are evenly coated. Spread out over the tray and place in your pre-heated oven. Bake for 25 minutes, turning once or twice during the cooking time.

When the barley or rice is tender (which could take up to an hour!), stir in half the roasted mushrooms, the creme fraiche, parsley, cheese and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Squeeze out the flesh from the roasted garlic and stir into the rice too. Cover and leave the risotto to stand for a few minutes whilst the flavours mingle. Taste and season with black pepper and more lemon juice to suit. You probably won’t need any additional salt as there’s plenty in the stock and cheese.

Serve topped with the rest of the mushrooms. Enjoy!.

You might also like:

Butternut Squash Risotto with Butternut Skin Crisps

Butternut Squash Risotto with Butternut Skin Crisps

Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto

Rosemary & Cannellini Bean Risotto


The best Garlic Bread, and a Chorizo, Potato and Rosemary Pizza

Garlic Bread

It’s most definitely pizza weather here at Chez Foti. We’ve had seemingly ceaseless rain, gales and miserable cold for way too long now, since New Year’s Day to be exact. And it’s getting kind of depressing now, in a British wintery kind of way. Our garden is one big muddy swamp and the wee pond a lake, just a shame we don’t have any duckies to appreciate it. Bet they’re the only ones happy round here. And the forecast for the next week is still more rain, a little snow, and grey, grey, GREY. AHRRRRRR. Where’s that gorgeous south of France sunshine and glorious blue sky that amazed and cheered me through the last two winters?  OK, enough said, weather rant over (well I AM English!) and on with a couple of recipes to insulate against the outside nasties.

You really can’t get much better winter warming and cheery fodder than a homemade pizza, especially a heftily insulating one with a gutsy topping of Potatoes, Chorizo and Rosemary. Admittedly not one of my healthiest of recipes, but hey ho everything in moderation, and it is rather good. And if you want to omit the Chorizo it’s equally as tasty with just Potatoes and Rosemary. Don’t be put off by the way with the idea of potatoes on a pizza (and try not to think about the carb overload), they really work!

Chorizo, Potato & Rosemary Pizza

Living so close to Spain Chorizo is cheaply abundant in these parts and I cook with it regularly, though much more so in the winter. It’s one of my staple store cupboard ingredients and gets used to liven up many an Omelette or Tortilla, Salad (Chorizo & Manchego Salad), Veggie Side ( just a little is fabulous sauted with Cabbage, Chard or Spinach and even roasted with Pumpkin or Butternut) or Soup (Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons, Caldo Verde). And then there’s obviously Paella and other rice based dishes that it works so well with. But there’s no qualms about it, Chorizo’s not the healthiest choice of ingredients, but a little really does go a long way in the flavour stakes and it can be used remarkably sparingly. Though perhaps, ahem, not so sparingly on this particular pizza!

And I also have my favourite Garlic Pizza Bread, made exactly in the same way as pizza but simply containing a topping of Garlic (lots of), fresh Parsley or Rosemary (lots of) and good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (again LOTS OF). It’s that simple. Whenever we have a pizza night I always start with one  or two of these naughty little herby numbers to get things going. And it’s equally as delish with rosemary or parsley, just go for what you fancy or happen to have in, but be generous!

I shall be entering my herby post to Karen of Lavender & Lovage’s February Herbs on Saturday challenge.

Herbs on Saturday

Garlic Pizza Bread with Parsley or Rosemary

The Best Garlic Bread!

Serves 4 as an appetiser

One quantity of Pizza Dough (I use this Jamie Oliver recipe, using part semolina flour when I can get hold of it)

2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

Salt & Pepper

2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus a little extra for drizzling

a few sprigs of Parsley or Rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped, be generous!

Special Equipment: a Pizza Stone, Pizza Baking Tray or an ordinary Baking Tray

Pre-heat your oven to as hot as it will go. Place your pizza stone or baking tray in the oven to heat up.
Start with making your oh so simple topping. Crush the chopped garlic with a little salt using the flat edge of a large knife. Mix the garlic with the olive oil, a generous amount of black pepper and the parsley or rosemary. Leave to infuse while you prep the pizza base.

Roll out your pizza dough to your desired size and thickness. I like mine very thin, particularly as this is only an appetiser. Place on your hot pizza stone or baking tray.

Evenly spread over the garlic and herby oil and place in your very hot oven for a few minutes until golden and crisp. It should only take about 5 to 8 minutes and watch as it can burn very easily.

Drizzle with a little more olive oil, slice and serve.

 Chorizo, Potato & Rosemary Pizza

Chorizo, Potato  & Rosemary Pizza

Serves 1 to 2 (depending on how much of a pizza monster you happen to be!)

One quantity of Pizza Dough (as per Jamie Oliver recipe if you wish)

2 – 3 tablespoons of Tomato Pizza Sauce (see below) or my slow cooked fresh tommie sauce (which I so happen to have half a freezer of still!) A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces

150g of small Potatoes, washed but with skins on, waxy ones work the best but any will do really!

80g of Chorizo, skin removed and finely sliced

2 or 3 sprigs of Rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped

a 125g ball of Mozzarella, sliced

Salt & Black Pepper

Special Equipment: a Pizza Stone, Pizza Baking Tray or an ordinary Baking Tray

Pre-heat your oven to as hot as it will go. Place your pizza stone or baking tray in the oven to heat up.

Cook the potatoes until almost tender. Once cool enough to handle slice.

Now for the pizza. Roll out your pizza dough to your desired size and thickness. I personally prefer mine very thin. Place on your hot pizza stone or baking tray.

Smoother the base with your tomato sauce, followed by an even scattering of the chorizo, potatoes, rosemary and mozzarella. Finely add a generous grinding of black pepper and a little salt.

Place in your extremely hot oven and cook until crisp, golden and bubbling all over. This could be anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes! Our woodfired bread/pizza oven usually takes less than 5 minutes and the electric oven around 10.

Slice and enjoy. With a salad if you want to feel just a little less indulgent!

Tomato Pizza Sauce

Enough for two large pizzas:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

a clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

a 400g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes (or fresh obviously!)

a generous pinch each of sugar, salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on a gentle heat and fry the garlic for a few moments, ensuring you do not burn the garlic. As soon as it takes on any colour and you can smell it cooking throw in the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and give everything a good stir. Cook gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit. You can either use the sauce as it is or blitz with a stick blender or processor for a smoother texture (I rarely bother!).

You might also like:

Pizza Puttanesca

Pizza Puttanesca

Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza Recipe

Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza


Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza

There’s been a good deal of wild mushroom foraging recently at Chez Foti. Magnificent Parasol Mushrooms have been popping up literally all over our garden the last couple of weeks and I’ve been on a bit of a picking and eating frenzy. I wasn’t too sure what they were at first but after consultation with two sets of very knowledgeable neighbours and my trusty mushroom book I was pretty excited to find they were exceptionally good to eat!. And in fact some of the finest mushrooms I’ve ever tasted. We also have ceps and chanterelles growing in our garden, but there’s been very few this year (and neither in my opinion have been as good as the Parasols).

And so there’s been no end of wonderful freebie wild mushroom dinners lately at Chez Foti. Mushroom bruschetta, tarts, pizzas and risottos a plenty. Times like this make living here pretty special, when you really can eat off the land.

Parasol Mushroom

I make a lot of pizzas as at Chez Foti. Mainly because we have an original wood-fired bread oven in the lounge of our house which bakes amazing pizzas throughout the colder months (it’s too hot to light up most of the summer). But this pizza was actually baked in my new oven, testing out it’s pizza baking capabilities. And I wasn’t disappointed, it did the wonderful foraged mushrooms the justice they deserve.

I’ve been experimenting lately with tomato-less bases or ‘white’ pizzas, well since the tomatoes finished anyway (although it seems I have half a freezer of tomato sauce to use up!) . The ricotta, lemon zest, chili and parsley base on this pizza complements the heavenly rich roasted garlic and thyme wild mushrooms. Incidentally don’t skip on the pre-roasting of the mushrooms; roasting gives them a much stronger, richer and somehow more meaty texture and flavour. Truly divine.

If you can’t forage or buy your own wild mushrooms choose some interesting shop bought ones, big or small. Ideally anything but the boring and bland button mushies anyway!.

Jacques looking pretty happy with our find

I’m entering this blog to a couple of bloggie challenges. Firstly, as there’s a fair flavouring of herbs, to the lovely Herbs on Saturday challenge, the baby of Karen @ Lavender & Lovage, and this month hosted by Blue Kitchen Bakes.

And secondly to Simple and in Season, held by Ren Behan of the fabulous Fabulicious Food blog!

Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza

Serves 1 – 2 (depending on your appetite for pizza!)

One quantity of pizza dough (I usually stick to a Jamie Oliver recipe, using part semolina flour when I can get it)

175g of wild or interesting shop bought mushrooms, wiped but not washed

2 tablespoons of olive oil

20g of butter

a few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half

salt & freshly ground black pepper

120g of ricotta

zest of ½ a lemon, plus a little juice

½ a red chili (or a whole one if you prefer), seeds removed and finely sliced

a heaped tablespoon of finely chopped flat leaved parsley

a heaped tablespoon of finely grated parmesan

extra virgin olive oil or truffle oil to finish

Pre-heat your oven to 200ºC.

Start by roasting off your mushrooms. Tear or cut the mushrooms into large bite size pieces. Combine in a small baking dish with the olive oil, butter, thyme, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, giving everything a good move around half way through.

Meanwhile prepare the ricotta base. Mix together the ricotta, lemon zest, chili, parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Once the mushrooms have roasted remove the garlic from the pan and finely slice. Add the garlic back to the mushrooms. Turn the oven temperature up to the hottest it will go and put your pizza stone or baking tray in to heat up.

Now for the pizza. Roll out your pizza dough to your desired size and thickness. I personally prefer mine very thin. Place on your hot pizza stone or baking tray.

Spread the ricotta evenly over the base. Scatter on the mushrooms and sliced garlic and sprinkle over the grated parmesan. Finally give the pizza a squeeze of lemon and a generous drizzling of some very good extra virgin olive oil OR if you’re lucky enough to have any (I’m not!) I’m pretty sure truffle oil would be sublime.

Place in your extremely hot oven and cook until crisp and golden. This could be anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes! Our woodfired bread/pizza oven usually takes less than 5 minutes.

Lots of lovely Parasols

Master J having a good look through Mummy’s Mushroom Book!

Butternut, Feta and Red Onion Tart with Thyme

I’m loving the Butternut and Pumpkin season at Chez Foti. To be honest it’s making a welcome change from all those tomatoes of the summer, not that they’ve completely finished yet!. And it’s been lots of fun getting a little more inventive with them than the usual soups and stews. One of my biggest successes was the Chocolate Pumpkin Cake, but I’ve also been making all manner of other sweet and savoury baked goodies that I haven’t found the time to blog yet. My latest mission has been to develop an interesting Butternut Tart and I’m finally happy with the results and ready to share the recipe. A Shortcrust pastry base (homemade or shop bought), a meltingly soft layer of red onions topped with roasted butternut cubes, crumbled feta cheese, toasted pine kernels, a generous sprinkling of fresh thyme and finally a drizzle of  balsamic for a little zing. Not only is this a great family-friendly mid-week supper or lunch tart, it’s a more interesting than normal vegetarian dinner party option too.

I have to hold my hands up and admit I do use ready-made shortcrust or puff pastry occasionally, particularly to make a quickie mid-week supper. In France both pastries are readily and cheaply sold in a roll, ready rolled and ready to place directly onto a (round) baking tin or tray. How’s that for super-cheating? Even better that it can sometimes be very good quality pastry, but like most things you get what you pay for. I believe in the UK you can only buy frozen shortcrust or puff pastry that needs to be rolled out? I do obviously make my own pastry quite often too!

You could happily also use a flavoursome pumpkin for this tart, and in fact I used a mixture of pumpkin and butternut here as I was using up what I happened to have in the fridge. Though my normal warning with using pumpkin standsmake sure it’s a sweetie! Pumpkin can all too often be bland and devoid of flavour, particularly the pumpkins sold for Halloween in the UK. I’m luckily enough to have really flavoursome ones at Chez Foti, but then I’m also lucky enough to have long sunshiny summers!.

Since thyme is a crucial flavouring to my tart I’m entering my recipe to Lavender and Lovage’s October Herbs on Saturday blog challenge.

I’m also entering it to the One Ingredient Challenge for a second time this month, hopefully this is allowed?! The One Ingredient Challenge  is a monthly blog event, held jointly by Laura @ How to Cook Good Food and this month by Nazima @ Franglais Kitchen, picking out a particular ingredient each month, and this month it so happens to be Pumpkin or Squash. Perfect!

Butternut, Feta and Red Onion Tart with Thyme 

Serves 3 to 4 people, or a family of 4:

400g of Butternut squash, peeled

a tablespoon of olive oil

salt & pepper

1 very large or 2 medium red onions

35g of butter

250g of shortcrust pastry, either homemade or shop bought

25g of pine kernels

a medium free range egg, lightly beaten

130g of feta cheese, roughly crumbled

a few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed

balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper

Special Equipment: A large oblong or round baking sheet or tray

Start with roasting your 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 the squash is soft and slightly browned.

Meanwhile finely slice the onions. Heat the butter in a frying pan on a low heat and saute the onions for 25 to 30 minutes until meltingly soft.

Roll out the pastry (or de-roll in my lazy case!) into a circular (roughly 30 x 30cm) or oblong (roughly 35 x 20cm) shape. Place on an appropriately sized and shaped baking sheet or tray. Lightly prick the surface all over with a fork. Bake blind in the already pre-heated oven (200ºC) for 10 minutes.

Now to toast the pine kernels. Heat a frying pan on a medium heat and once hot throw in the kernels. Shake every few moments until you have been lightly toasted. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Once the onions are cooked allow to cool for a few minutes before mixing them with the beaten egg and a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.

Once the butternut has finished roasting, the onions are ready and pastry baked blind you can begin your assembly. Evenly spread the onion mix over the pastry, followed by the roasted butternut cubes then a scattering of the feta and pine kernels. Generously sprinkle on the thyme leaves and a little more black pepper. Carefully drizzle a few drops of Balsamic evenly all over.

Place back in the already heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes (200ºC). Remove when the pastry is golden at the edges. Slice and serve. Lovely with a tomato or green salad.

How about trying some of my other related recipes Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons, Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese,  Chicken, Pumpkin & Borlotti Beans, A Couple of Tomato Tarts, Leek & Goats Cheese Tart


Homemade Sun (aka Oven) Dried Tomatoes!

As regular readers will know it’s been a tomatoey summer at Chez Foti, and I have to admit my interest is now waining slightly. Though my 68 plants (beyond ridiculous I know, but down to an over-exhuberence in seed sowing and an ever growing number of fruitful self-seeders!) are most definitely not waining and unlike last year there’s not a diseased leaf in sight. And I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at this!

Of all the ways to attack a glut of tomatoes this is without question my favourite. Many a batch has been made and enjoyed over the course of our summer, and I’ve just realised I’ve not blogged how to make them. And lots of people have been asking. But beware they’re fabulously addictive. I’d hate to know how many I’ve consumed the last few weeks, but I can promise you I won’t ever be buying another shop bought jar again. The homemade ones are simply sublime beyond sublime. And I’d go as far as to say they are the single most tastiest thing I’ve EVER made! Amazing in pasta dishes, sandwiches, pizzas, salads, or served as an antipasto with drinks. The latter being my favourite way so you can truly appreciate their flavour (if stored in the fridge make sure you serve them at room temperature).

A basket of plummies!

I have to admit I’ve not made mine in the most orthodox way. After much googling it seems that few people bother with attempting real ‘sun’ dried tomatoes as it’s a pretty tricky and lengthy affair, even if you do have guaranteed hot sunshine for several days. Pretty much all commercial ‘sun’ dried tomatoes are oven dried, as are the home produced ones. So an oven is required, but all searches on google required an oven that would heat to a mere 100 to 120°C (and to bake the tomatoes for around 6 to 12 hours, depending on their size and water content). My temporary gas oven most certainly goes no where near this low so I improvised. By placing the trays in the coolest part of the oven and periodically switching the oven on and off to it’s lowest setting over the course of 24 hours (admittedly I wasn’t dedicated enough to do it through the night!) I’m pretty confident I achieved the same results. And it shouldn’t go without saying saved a good deal of energy on the normal method. A total success.

My other googling find was that plum (also known as Roma) tomatoes work the best, mainly because of their lower water and seed content and larger proportion of fleshy bits. Handily I’ve lots of those!

The Pre-baked Sun Dried Tomatoes

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes

As many tomatoes as you want to use, preferably plum tomatoes

a little salt

a little pepper

a little sugar

several sprigs of thyme

extra virgin olive oil

Decide how you’re going to bake your tomatoes. If your oven can be set to as low as 100º or 120º you could go with this and bake the tomatoes for around 6 to 12 hours, checking every hour or so whether they’re ready. Alternatively you could bake them like myself at a temperature of around 160º but turning off the oven every time it reaches this temperature and leaving the tomatoes within to cool down and slowly dry out. This will take around 24 hours and 5 to 8 turning on and off sessions (not including the night!). You must take care not to forget and that they don’t stay too hot for long or they’ll colour and taste burnt in a matter of minutes (this happened with one batch of mine!)

Pre-heat your oven to the desired choice of heat setting.

Cut each of the tomatoes in half lengthways. Using your finger carefully scrap out most of the juice and seeds. Place each cut side up on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Continue until all the tomatoes are halved and prepared. I do at least a couple of trays at a time, but this is an awful lot of tomatoes!

Sprinkle over the merest amount of black pepper, sea salt and sugar on each tomato half. Drizzle on a tiny amount of the olive oil and a generous sprinkling of thyme.

Place in the coolest part of the oven and bake according to your chosen heat setting.

The sun dried tomatoes are ready when the liquid has evaporated, they are considerably reduced but are still flexible to touch, a very deep red and are a little chewy or tacky. The best way to judge them in my view is to taste a couple every now again! You’ll know when they’re perfect.

I stored mine, once cooled, in a jar of olive oil with a few slivers of garlic, in the fridge. They also kept very well for several days in the fridge just plain. Believe me you won’t be able to keep them long anyway! Try not to eat them straight out of the fridge, let them warm to room temperature first.

Here’s some of my other recent tomatoey recipes: A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces, One Pot Ratatouille, A Couple of Tomato Tarts, Garden Pasta, Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone

The post-baked finished sun dried tomatoes


Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tarts

We’re in the midst of fig season here in France and I’m loving it. Without a doubt they’re one of my favourite fruits and as we’re relative newbies here only in our second fig season they still feel rather decedent and exotic. Sadly we’re the only people I know of without a single fig tree in the garden so I have to rely on friends and a couple of our holiday home neighbours’ trees to feed my indulgence. I really must get around to planting our own trees next spring.

Last Saturday we were happily invited to my friend Debbie’s house for a spot of fig picking and horsey riding for Francesca. Five kilos later we came home (not counting the umpteen in our tummies). I’m afraid to say I put most of them in the freezer to make into jam when I’ve a little more time on my hands than this week. The rest were made into several batches of these gorgeous wee Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tartlets and a fabulous Fig & Pear Crumble (which I shall be blogging shortly too).

Master J adores his figs too, though they’re not the choicest of foods for a lad going through potty training. Last Autumn I took my daily walk with Jacques-on-my-back past one particular fig tree which he’d scream at as we got closer, screaming for me to pick him some. Funny at first, but the screaming carried on for the subsequent four months until well into January and there was snow on the ground, and each time with me painstakingly trying to explain the figs were all gone and he’d have to wait until next September. Anyway at least September’s come around again and he’s one very happy wee (and exceptionally regular) chappie. And a happy chappie with a few more words than last year, namely ‘Mummy pick fig NOW!’.

Anyway enough fig talk, on with the tarts, or tartlettes if I want to be really posh. I made several batches of these last year too, and always a success. The sweetness of the figs and balsamic caramalised red onions is cut through with a little sharpness from the goats cheese and the savory notes of thyme and addition of black pepper to the pastry. Perfect for parties and buffets, or as a nibble served with pre-dinner drinks or a starter with a few dressed leaves on the side. Admittedly they’re a tad on the fiddly side but can be made in large batches and handily frozen. And so well worth the effort.

I’m going for my first ever trio of bloggie competitions with this recipe, so keep on in there while I detail them all. Firstly, I was very pleased to see September’s One Ingredient Challenge is the Fig, a wonderful competition held jointly by Laura at How to Cook Good Food and Nazima at Working London Mummy (this month is Laura’s turn).

As thyme is such a crucial ingredient to my tarts I’m also entering Karen at Lavender and Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday Challenge (again I know, but it’s such a lovely competition!)

And last but most certainly not least my tarts are also entering Ren Behan’s Fabulicious Food Simple and in Season Competition, this month hosted by Katie at Feeding Boys and a Firefighter.

Phew, that’s a whole lot of competitions, now on with the recipe!

Fig, Goats Cheese & Red Onion Tarts

Makes 24 mini tartlets:

For the Pastry:

200g of plain flour, plus a little extra for rolling

100g of butter, cut into small blocks, straight from the fridge

100g of hard vegetable fat, cut into small blocks, straight from the fridge

a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

a generous pinch of salt

an egg yolk

For the Tarts:

3 tablespoons of olive oil

3 red onions, very finely sliced

2 dessertspoons of balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper

12 to 15 very ripe figs (about 320g)

150g of goats cheese (preferably in a log shape)

a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed

a little more extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Special Equipment: 

2 small x12 tart or fairy cake tins

Start with making your pastry. I use a food processor for speed but you can make it by hand too. If you’re using a processor place all the ingredients (bar the egg yolk) in the bowl and whiz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and continue to whiz. When it starts to come together in a ball it’s ready, add a few drops of very cold water until this happens. Remove from the processor and shape together. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using.

If you’re making the pastry by hand place all the ingredients (bar the egg yolk) together in a mixing bowl. Rub the fat into the flour with your hands until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk splash and mix into the flour and fat with your hands, trying to bring it all together. When it comes together in a ball it’s ready. You may also need to add a few drops of water for this to happen. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC (gas mark 5, 375ºF).

Whilst the pastry’s resting make your filling. Heat the oil in a saucepan on a gentle heat. Add the finely sliced onions and cook slowly for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until very soft. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and a pinch each of salt and ground black pepper. Allow to bubble for a minute or two before setting aside to cool.

Meanwhile cut each of the figs into 6 segments, and cut the goats cheese into 24 thin rounds.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface as thinly as you can, to a one to two millimeter thickness. Cut into rounds with a 8cm diameter pastry cutter (or like me an upturned thin wine glass – every time I make tarts I curse myself for not having a correct sized cutter!). Re-work the leftover pastry until you have 24 pastry rounds.

Lay the rounds in the two tart or cake tins and press down lightly. Place a small teaspoon of the red onions at the bottom of each, followed by a slice of the goats cheese, a scattering of thyme leaves. Finally place three fig segments on the top of each, plus a fine grinding of black pepper and the merest drizzle of olive oil.

Place in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the pastry’s golden brown and crisp.

How about trying my other tart recipes? A couple of Tomato Tarts or Leek & Goats Cheese Tart.


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.

Ratatouille

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?


A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces!

It’s the war of the tomatoes this week (and month) at Chez Foti, there’s a daily battle between myself and the ridiculously extravagant sixty three tomato plants I’ve somehow ended up with (an over exhuberance in seed sowing and a problem number of  self-seeders literally fruiting up all over the plot!). Every day I fill an enormous basket worth (with the help of my two little tomato pickers – see pics below) and use up every minute of available time (which is never all that much with a two and a nearly four year old to entertain too) transforming them into something tasty for the future. An inordinate amount of my time seems to be spent chopping tomatoes. But there’s always a tray full of surplus at the end of the day, and today I now have two trays worth. And we’re only at the beginning of the tomato season. Our new chest freezer’s meanwhile filling up nicely, it arrived last week just in the nick of time. I fear we’ll be ordering another before the end of the summer.

My daily pickings, beef and cherry tomatoes mainly at the minute but the plum tomatoes are just starting too

Today in the Chez Foti Battle of the Tomatoes it was the turn of the pasta sauces, a roasted in the oven with thyme and garlic Cherry Tomato Sauce and a slow cooked on the hob with garlic and plenty of oregano Beef Tomato Sauce. Both are divinely simple but packed full of intense  flavour through slow cooking, good quality olive oil and plenty of fresh from the garden herbs. Great to use just as they are as a pasta or pizza sauce or sublime with a stirring through of a little creme fraiche and/or balsamic, fresh basil or oregano….and then topped with a further drizzle of good quality olive oil (or chili oil) or Parmesan. Happy days! I’ve also used these as a base for a very rich tomato soup or thinned down (with milk and water) as a sauce for meatballs.

My kids adore both these sauces as much as we do, and they make a super quick and healthy pasta supper when short on time. Which is just as well as I now have half a freezer full. I tend to stir a little creme fraiche into the sauce for the littlies making it extra creamy, and I also go easy on the salt content.

Pasta & Tommie Sauce in my gorgeous Oogaa bowls

As a fair whack of my herb garden has been going into these tomato sauces I thought it more than appropriate to enter this post to the lovely Herbs on Saturday blog challenge held by Karen at Lavender and Lovage. There’s always plenty of gorgeous herby recipes to check out each month so keep the page bookmarked!

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce with Thyme and Garlic

About a kilo of cherry tomatoes

Maldon sea salt (or similar)

Freshly ground black pepper

Several sprigs of fresh thyme

6 cloves of garlic (un-peeled)

3 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil

Heat your oven to 160ºC.

Fill an oven tray with whole cherry tomatoes (which is about a kilo, maybe a little more). Sprinkle over a generous pinch or two of black pepper and Maldon (or similar) sea salt. Remove the leaves from some of the thyme sprigs and scatter over, leave some whole. Nuzzle in the whole sprigs and un-peeled garlic cloves where you have space. Drizzle over the olive oil.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until the tomatoes are completely soft and collapsing.

Remove the thyme sprigs and garlic. Tip the tomatoes into a food processor or blender, making sure you fully scrape off all the lovely residue and oil from the tray. Squeeze out the goey goodness from each of the garlic cloves into the tomatoes too. Whiz until you have a super smooth sauce. Alternatively tip the tommies and garlic into a bowl and use a stick blender to do the whizzing (my preferred method as there’s less washing up!). Have a taste check and add more salt and pepper to suit.

A Slow Cooked on the Hob Tomato & Fresh Oregano Pasta Sauce

About a kilo of larger than cherry tomatoes, any variety. I used beef as that’s what I have

6 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil

8 cloves of garlic

a teaspoon of sugar

a couple of pinches of Maldon sea salt (or similar)

a couple of generous pinches of freshly ground black pepper

a few sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves removed. Be generous!

Chop up all your tomatoes to a medium dice. I tend to use the skin and seeds but not everyone likes to, so remove if you wish.

Heat the oil in a very large saucepan or stock pot on a lowish heat. Fry the garlic for a couple of minutes and at the point when it’s just starting to take on some colour tip the tomatoes into the pan. It’s important not to burn the garlic or this will taint the sauce.

Stir in the pepper, salt and sugar and bring to a simmer on a medium heat. Once simmering turn the temperature down to the lowest setting and allow to bubble away for about an hour until much reduced and considerably thickened. Half way through the cooking time stir in the oregano leaves.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before whizzing up in a processor or blender, or a stick blender straight into the pan, until you have a super smooth sauce. Have a taste check and add more salt and pepper to suit.

My two little tomato picker helpers having fun

A touch of tomato balancing envy!


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