This month for Cottage Cooking Club, I made two more enticing recipes. This is a cook-along group for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s “River Cottage Veg”, started in May 2014 by the talented German blogger, Andrea, of Kitchen Lioness. Collectively, this group is making all the recipes in this book in one year. That means the goal is for all the recipes in the book to be cooked by some member of the group, but not for each member to cook every recipe. It’s fun, and much less intense than the multi-year project of French Fridays with Dorie.
The first recipe I made was the chestnut and sage soup. I adore chestnuts. I always add them to my Thanksgiving stuffing. Years ago, I used to roast and peel them myself. What a pain! More recently, they are readily available, already cooked and peeled, in jars or bags. While one might argue these aren’t quite as tasty, they are certainly more convenient. The convenience translates into more frequent appearances in my kitchen.
I also adore soup. In the fall and winter, I typically make a pot of soup every week that we can enjoy for lunch. I repeat “old favorites”, but I’m always excited to try new recipes. With the precooked chestnuts, this soup was simple to prepare. First, chopped onions get sautéed before adding garlic and sage. Then, the chestnuts and stock are added and simmered until the flavors meld. Finally, the mixture is pureed until smooth. Each bowl of soup is garnished with chopped chestnuts, fried sage leaves and a drizzle of the oil used for frying the sage.
The soup worked well for lunch, but if served in smaller cups, it would make an elegant starter. The chestnut and sage soup received high marks at my house. I’ll be making it again. If you want to try it, the recipe can be found on-line here.
(Note: I intended to make the crostini to accompany the soup, but I never quite got around to it. I will eventually make the crostini, but it wasn’t in the stars for November.)
The other recipe I tried was Patatas Bravas. This is a Spanish tapas dish consisting of fried potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce. The potatoes were first parboiled in salt water before frying them in oil. Wow! The potatoes were super crispy. The tomato sauce was not all that spicy, but did have some kick.
I followed the directions and tossed the potatoes with tomato sauce before serving. Unfortunately, I found that once covered in sauce, while the flavors were good, the potatoes lost their fabulous crunch. When I’ve ordered patatas bravas in a tapas restaurant, it typically comes with aioli too. Next time, I will serve the potatoes with the tomato sauce AND aioli on the side for dipping each crispy bite.
I served the potatoes as a side dish to accompany roasted chicken thighs with a mushroom-sherry sauce (to keep with the Spanish theme) and roasted Brussels sprouts with shallots, which was among last month’s CCC choices. It would be fun to plan a meal to share these potatoes along with other tapas dishes with friends for a more traditional spread.
I had some of the spicy tomato sauce leftover, which I used as a base for the sauce I used to top storzapretis (Corsican ricotta dumplings) that I made last week.
I’m looking forward to trying a few more recipes next month. River Cottage Veg is filled with simple recipes that combine vegetables with new seasonings or other vegetables, resulting in instant “new favorites” to add to my kitchen’s repertoire. Since I don’t have time to make them all, it’s also fun to read the recipes reviews from the other participants and be inspired about what to try next.
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is something that on the surface would seem more appropriate for an Italian cookbook. Storzapretis are, in fact, Corsican, and the recipe comes from one of Dorie’s friends in Paris who shared her Corsican father’s recipe for these ricotta dumplings.
The alternate name for this recipe is “Corsican Spinach and Mint Gnocchi“, though I found it to be closer to gnudi. Some fingerwork on the internet uncovered the difference between gnocchi and gnudi to be the amount of flour. Gnudi uses very little flour, which was true for storzapretis too. I made gnocchi last year, and the shaping was different too. With the gnocchi, long rolls were cut into the smaller gnocchi, where the storzapretis are formed by making quenelles between two spoons.
Storzapretis are made from a mostly flourless mixture of ricotta, spinach, egg, Gruyère, and fresh herbs. From its alias, I assume the recipe originally used mint, but I love the floral undertones of marjoram (an annual form of oregano) so given the choice in the recipe, I picked marjoram.
After shaping the dough into quenelles and tossed in flour, they are frozen to firm up, then cooked in a pot of the gentlest simmer of water. The way the dumplings sank to the bottom of the pot, then floated up to finish cooking reminded me of making matzo balls, my favorite kind of soup dumplings.
The storzapretis resemble the insides of ravioli, which might be the origin of the name gnudi, which means naked, like ravioli filling without its wrapper.
Finally, the dumplings are laid out in a baking dish, covered with marinara sauce, sprinkled with more Gruyère (the French touch) and baked until it’s heated through and the cheese is melting.
I enjoyed discovered something completely different. I didn’t realize how much work it would be to shape the dough though. I didn’t eat dinner until 8:30 pm, much later than intended. I liked it, but I’m not sure I’d take the time to make storzapretis again. I’m hoping leftovers taste OK because we’re having it again for dinner tonight.
I don’t have any pictures to share, but on Wednesday night, I braved the frigid cold to attend Dorie’s book signing for Baking Chez Moi at the Harvard Book Store. It was so nice to see her again. She is so down-to-earth and genuine. She shared stories about life in Paris for nearly an hour and then entertained a few questions before signing books. When it was my turn, she came out from behind the table to give me a hug and kiss, then signed both the copy of Baking Chez Moi I purchased that evening PLUS my well-used copy of Around My French Table. I’m hoping to occasionally jump on the Tuesdays with Dorie bandwagon to bake from the new book, but I won’t be fully committed.
For my American Dorista friends, because we won’t meet again until next Friday, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving along with safe travels if you’ll be away from home. I give thanks for the many friends I’ve made on this cyber-culinary journey!