Cottage Cooking Club: December 2015
I’ve been cooking with the Cottage Cooking Club since last summer as the group collectively makes their way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s vegetarian cookbook River Cottage Veg. This month, our “chief chef” Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, offered us half the number of selections to be sure we could fit some Cottage Cooking into the busy month of December. I was up for the challenge and incorporated a few choices into the menu.
Every month (week, day, etc.), so many new recipes catch my eye. The source is varied, perhaps one of the many cooking magazines that arrive in my mailbox each month, a cookbook on my shelf, a recipe card at the grocery store, an email newsletter in my inbox, a stack of torn out or printed out recipes in one of my numerous piles (my sisters better not laugh) or just browsing the internet. I never lack inspiration, but I have a hard time keeping track of what I want to make. This month, I’m trying a new tactic to help myself. You might already do this, but it’s new for me. I’m keeping a running list on the refrigerator. At a glance, I can be reminded of appealing recipes and plan to make one. The satisfaction of checking off what I’ve made helps me resist making the list pages and pages long! Adding the Cottage Cooking recipes to the list ensured that I made them well before the end of the month deadline. If you have a technique for keeping track of recipes you want to make, please share! I’d love to improve on my organization.
This month, I chose two recipes from Andrea’s selection. The first one I made was Chachouka, a North African tomato and pepper stew served with eggs cooked right in the stew. I had a nearly-full jar of roasted peppers in the refrigerator, so I used them instead of fresh ones – the tomatoes were canned – so this became a pantry meal as well.
I love eggs for any meal, and though this was suggested for an easy supper, I served it as a lazy weekend morning breakfast (two mornings in a row). I made the stew the night before, then reheated it before adding the eggs and popping it in the oven. I found that it took about 15 minutes for the egg whites to set. My mother-in-law has made us the Israeli version (shashouka) before. Once she adds the eggs, she just covers the pan and continues to cook it on the stovetop. Honestly, that seems simpler. As far as I remember, both recipes are equally delicious, the main difference being the toasted cumin seeds in Hugh’s. I would make this again, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, though I would definitely double the stew base next time.
My other choice this month was the Mushroom “Stoup” – stoup being something between a stew and a soup. As much as we liked the chachouka, this was even better. This “stoup” was a simple and hearty vegetable soup with the emphasis on mushrooms. There are two kinds of mushrooms, fresh button mushrooms and dried porcinis. The recipe called for 2 ounces of porcini. At $6.50 per ounce, I opted to use just one ounce, and it was fine. I used vegetable stock made from Hugh’s recipe, intending to add mushrooms to turn it into his mushroom stock variation, but I forgot to add them in. I was surprised at the depth of flavor of the soup as the other ingredients (onion, garlic, carrot, celery) were the typical workhorse accompaniers, but nothing special.
Turning this into a meal were the herby dumplings that cooked in the soup. I never made dumplings before. They are similar to matzo balls, which I make often, though a tad more delicate. I don’t know if that’s because I substituted vegetable oil for the shortening or for another reason. Regardless, they tasted delicious, and I’ll continue to experiment with dumplings to get it right.
I hope all of my Cottage Cooking Club friends had a wonderful holiday season and Christmas. To find out what they thought of their selections this month, follow their links here.
Happy New Year to all! I hope 2016 will be filled with delicious food shared with those you love.