Cottage Cooking Club: April


It’s another month in the Cottage Cooking Club, a project led by Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, that is a combined effort of several bloggers to cook all the recipes in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook, River Cottage Veg. This vegetarian cookbook contains a variety of recipes ranging from the simple to the complicated, all meant to encourage your palate and your kitchen to embrace more vegetables in your daily life. Andrea’s sensibilities follow the season, so when she chooses the recipes each month, she tries match up to what’s growing in the typical Northern clime.

April is a hard month for local produce in my neck of the woods. Happily, winter has departed, but it’s still early in the season. In my home garden, early herbs (chives and tarragon) are thriving. The radish, arugula and pea seeds we planted have germinated, but it will be weeks before anything is ready for harvest. The local farms are in the same boat. I volunteer weekly at the local community farm and the past month I’ve been in the greenhouse, transplanting seedlings from tiny to larger cell packs. The farmer just planted the first seeds and seedlings in the ground the past weekend.

With no hope of local vegetables, I limited my selections for this month to recipes that use vegetables that I typically buy at the supermarket all year round: celery and mushrooms.


First up was a Celery Gratin. This was a much different presentation of celery than I’ve seen. Usually, celery is just a bit player in the sautéed aromatics for a dish or chopped into a stock. Usually the only time celery plays a starring role is cut up as a crudité for dipping or snacking. For the gratin, the celery is roasted with herbs and butter until tender, then topped with breadcrumbs and cheese. It was a beautiful looking dish, but to be honest, this is my least favorite recipe I’ve tried from the book so far. The celery, while tender, still required a knife to cut through the strings. Also, it was bland. It didn’t even taste all that celery-y. We finished it, but were not fans.


On the other hand, the Creamy Mushroom Soup is one of the best mushroom soup recipes I’ve ever made. Leeks and a variety of mushrooms (shiitake, cremini, and Portobello) are sautéed and then simmered in homemade Vegetable Stock with a sprig of thyme. This fragrant soup is then pureed in the blender. To round out the flavors, some heavy cream, sherry, and nutmeg are added, giving the soup deeper flavor without making it too heavy. I was excited to garnish the soup with snipped chives from my backyard herb garden (yay, spring is here). The only change I might make next time is to add additional dried thyme when sauteeing the vegetables for a more pronounced herbal tone (and thyme is my favorite herb). The mushroom soup is definitely a winner!

Chives in My Herb Garden!

Chives in My Herb Garden!

If you’d like to check out the recipe reviews for April from the other Cottage Cooking Club participants, check out their links here.


Posted on 29 April 2015, in Cottage Cooking Club and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Betsy, how nice that you are voluteer at a local community farm – I do not think that we have any around here – but it sounds like a great idea. If I lived closer, I would tag along…The Celery Gratin was pretty but I have the very same feelings about it – too stringy, even after all that time in the oven. Maybe if we pulled the strings off more carefully? I do not know – too many other wonderful recipes in the book, such as the Creamy Mushroom Soup which we adored – earthy flavors and a true winner. I like that you garnished it with the first chives from your garden – I certainly hope that you will be graced with lovely pring and summer weather very soon!
    Thank you kindly for participating again this month!
    “See” you on Friday – we just finished eating the Chessecake Tart…

  2. peggygilbey814628432

    Hi Betsy, great to see you on the CCC this month. Interesting selections you share. I pulled the strings on the celery before baking and then baked it for far longer than indicated in the recipe, of course still requiring a knife, but the flavor liquids with the half and half and topping I did enjoy. We have so many mushroom soup recipes in PA, being a huge mushroom producing state, I make a good one as well that I plan to do a post on, so I tend to not prepare the recipes that I’m planning to do in another way- nevertheless, perhaps I’ll give it a shot at some juncture, your description looks delicious. Happy Spring!

  3. Everyone who made the mushroom soup says the same thing – it’s their favorite. Definitely need to get that made because I love mushroom soup. I seem to shy away from any recipe that calls for Vegetable Stock because it seems to have no flavor. Of course, that’s the grocery store variety and I notice that yours is homemade. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to try that. You are not the first to give the celery gratin a thumbs down. Cathleen liked it but I think she’s the only one. Glad that your are seeing some signs of Spring. We aren’t !!! I won’t be able to put my herbs out until June. (Pathetic, I know.) My Post is all set to go. Needed to get some computer burps handled.

  4. I love that you made your own stock for the soup. It was good with just vegetable stock but I can imagine how much more delicious it was with the mushroom. And yes, the celery gratin was a bit of a disappointment but when I look at all the recipes I’ve made, the success rate is pretty impressive. Our farmers’ markets are starting up next weekend and I’m really, really looking forward to visiting them (though perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so excited!).

  5. Sounds like most of the members did not care for the gratin – me – I thought it was great. And I love to be able to use up a bunch of celery at one time. The soup looks beautiful! I do like mushroom soup, but did not choose this recipe. I will have to mark it, to make later.

  6. I didn’t even consider making the soup, since we’ve had our share of “beige” soups at FFWD, but your description sounds great, and I love a good mushroom soup! Looks delicious!!! I didn’t make the gratin, though the first post had someone loving it. I contemplated, but then decided against, since celery isn’t actually one of my favorites. But at least I got to 2 recipes, even though only posted today (I’m trying to catch up!!!).

    Happy that spring is finally arriving. I love my herb garden, and hopefully by now you have some fresh thyme to provide your “fix” – it’s one of my favorites too.

  7. I’m belatedly catching up on everyone’s CCC posts. We were completely with you on the celery gratin. I made myself finish it (I hate throwing food away!), but even with all that baking the celery just wasn’t easy to eat.

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