Cottage Cooking Club: December


Back in August, I took on the challenge of another cooking group. The Cottage Cooking Club is cooking through British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook, River Cottage Veg. This group is more relaxed than French Fridays. Each month, the group’s leader, Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, selects a group of seasonal recipes to choose from. The plan is not for each person to cook every recipe in the book. We each pick from the month’s choices and across the group, the recipes all get made.  At the end of the month, everyone posts about what they made.

Some of our group members are ambitious and make most of the selected recipes. I’ve been more cautious and have committed to making just one or two each month. So far, all the recipes have been worth trying and this month’s were no exception.

First, I made Leek and Chestnut Risotto. This is a pretty basic recipe with only leeks added to the rice. The sautéed chestnuts aren’t sprinkled on top until the end. This recipe follows the traditional method for making risotto, requiring lots of time stirring the pot. I used squash stock I had made from the seeds and pulp from a butternut squash I cooked earlier in the week. We found the risotto to be on the bland side, but I think my stock was light on salt, and I didn’t season the final dish heavily enough. Truffle salt sprinkled on leftovers made a big improvement.


leek risotto

My other choice was a winner: Corner Shop Spanakopita. I love spinach pie when I’m in a Greek or any other Middle Eastern restaurant that offers it, however, it’s not something I’d typically make at home. Fussing with the phyllo dough tries my patience. This recipe takes a different approach, topping the spinach filling with puff pastry. Brilliant!

This spanakopita starts with frozen spinach. The recipe specifies whole leaf spinach. I’m not sure why it doesn’t call for the chopped variety because after defrosting, you coarsely chop the spinach anyway. Having made this once, I would buy chopped spinach next time. The spinach is combined with onions, cumin seed, and thyme that have been sautéed together, plus some egg for binding. Two layers of spinach separated by a layer of crumbled goat cheese and toasted pine nuts are topped with puff pastry and popped into the oven. I always have problems rolling out store-bought puff pastry after it gets unfolded, so, as crazy as it seems, I make my own “rough puff” and use that instead. It’s actually easier for me.


First Layer

I served the piping hot spanakopita with a simple salad: baby arugula dressed with mustard vinaigrette. It was the perfect dinner on a winter’s night. This recipe earns a spot in my repertoire and will be repeated.


Spinach Pie and Salad

As we approach the end of 2014, I want to wish all the cooks in the Cottage Cooking Club happiness and good health in the year ahead! I’ve enjoyed cooking with you over the past few months and look forward to finishing this project with you in 2015. Happy New Year!!!

If you want to try this, here’s a version of the recipe here, though the original uses 2 pounds of frozen spinach. You can check out reviews of the other recipes selected for December here.


Posted on 28 December 2014, in Cottage Cooking Club and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. peggygilbey814628432

    Hi Betsy! Loved your choices for the month and I just know the spanakopita will be the hit of the month, a dish I did not get around to. The risotto looks good. Wishing you a very Happy New Year 2015! Bon Appetit and Cheers!

  2. You are the second CCC colleague who has made the risotto. I wasn’t tempted by that until I read your two write-ups. I am happy you liked the Spanakopita and am very impressed you made the puff yourself. I used caraway seeds and feta so I suppose it tasted differently for the 3 of us (you, me and Howard). Betsy, I really enjoy this cookbook and plan do be a bit more ambitious this winter when I have more leisure time and a better stove and kitchen. FYI, Diane B. just found out, when checking this morning, that they lost their bees. I hate that happening to her also. The second year in a row. It’s a tough “hobby”, isn’t it. Happy New Year to you and Howard. Love working and cooking and knowing you.

  3. Ooooh….truffle salt on the risotto sounds like a fabulous addition. My family complained that it was too sweet but some Parmesan cheese fixed that. Your spanakopita looks beautiful as a pie, and with homemade puff pastry no less. I think this recipe may be the universal favourite this month.
    Looking forward to cooking with you in 2015. Have a wonderful New Year!

  4. Hi Betsy, oh the leek and chestnut risotto looks amazing, good idea to add the truffle salt. Wish I would have prepared that one as well. My favorite was the spanakopita, love the flavor. Happy New Years!

  5. Dear Betsy, you made two wonderful recipes – we enjoyed both of them. I had never heard of a squash stock before – but I am quite intrigued now. And truffle salt sounds like a fabulous foodie item to own as well – glad that you enjoyed the Spanakopita as much as we did – I am quite impressed with your homemade puff pastry, I never bother but I know that I should, because it probably tastes much more delicious than the store-bought one.
    Thank you very much for being part of this online cooking group – I appreciate all your kind comments and your support!
    Wishing you, Howard and your family a Happy and Healthy start to the New Year – looking forward to another year of cooking adventures!
    Liebe Grüsse, Andrea & Co.

  6. Happy New Year Betsy!
    I made the risotto as well, and I have to admit to a dash of truffle salt myself! :) I thought it was pretty good, though I am not generally a fan of risotto, and never make it, so I wanted to give it a try. Did not get to making the other recipes I was “supposed” to.
    Your spanakopita looks delicious! I am reminded that I really want to try your pastry. It always looks so wonderful, and you keep telling us (me!) how easy it is. I’m happy that you enjoyed it!

  7. Squash stock? Intriguing! Love the sound of it. The spanakopita seems to be a hit this month – I’ll have to give it a try.

  8. I wanted to make the risotto, but didn’t have time to fit it in. Reading the descriptions from those who made it is making me want to get to it soon! The spanakopita looks wonderful, too. Glad to hear it’s going into your regular repertoire.

  9. Lovely! I want to get back into CCC, hopefully once life calms down we will back on track.

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