Cottage Cooking Club: February 2016

Cottage Cooking Club is in the final stretch of cooking through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg, a vegetarian cookbook filled with new ideas for eating your vegetables.

I had more hits than misses this month. I tried out three of the choices offered by the group’s leader Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness.  Here are my reviews.


The Apple and Blue Cheese Toasties caught my eye as something to enjoy for a quick lunch alongside a bowl of soup.  I always fall for grilled cheese, in any form.  Toasties, which are melted under the broiler, are a great alternative to breaking out the frying pan.


I went all the way and baked my own no-knead whole wheat bread to use for the rustic country bread base.  The topping was a mixture of grated apple, crumbled blue cheese and a touch of mayonnaise to bind it together.  I love apple and cheese together, but to be honest, I found the blue cheese a bit too sharp.  I made these a second time with grated cheddar cheese instead of blue which was a more appealing combination for my taste buds.  I usually have all the ingredients on hand for the cheddar version, so I’ll definitely make these toasties again.



The Squash and Fennel Lasagna was also a hit.  I typically make tomato-sauce-based lasagna, but have enjoyed white-sauce-based versions in the past.  I love when a recipe offers a takeaway tip or technique that I can add to my arsenal to use in other dishes.  Here I learned to steep the aromatics (onion, celery, bay leaf, and peppercorns) in the milk and then strain them out before making the béchamel.  The flavors infused the milk and hence the sauce for an extra depth that surprised me.  This lasagna has one layer of roasted butternut squash cubes and one layer of a mixture of sliced fennel and crumbled goat cheese.  I ended up using a little less sauce over each layer and adding a final layer of lasagna noodles on top of the fennel-goat cheese layer, then crowning it with the remaining sauce and the Parmesan cheese.  I served the lasagna with a green salad to round out the meal.  I always feel like white lasagna is a “dressier” version of the dish, so one that company would enjoy.  This will appear on my table again too.


The final recipe I tried this month were the DIY Pot Noodles.  These were fun to put together and beautiful to look at.  A canning jar is filled with quick-cooking noodles and a colorful assortment of vegetables (grated carrots, shredded lettuce, sliced scallions, a handful of frozen peas) and aromatics (veggie bouillon cube, grated garlic and ginger, a pinch of brown sugar).  To pull it all together, fill the canning jar with boiling water and wait for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  This is long enough to soften the noodles and vegetables.  The final touch is a splash of soy sauce and fresh lime juice .  Now, enjoy a delicious “bowl” of “instant” soup.  This recipe offers a formula to play around.  The combinations are endless.


I need to solve one challenge. When I put this together right before adding the water, it was a magical bowl of hot soup.  I would love to be able to assemble these jars the night before for a quick meal, at work or at home.  When I tried making them ahead and keeping them ready in the fridge overnight, pouring the boiling water into the jar didn’t have the quite same effect.  The contents didn’t soften completely, and the soup was lukewarm.  Any suggestions for perfect this for the lunchbox?

So, another month of delicious recipes down, and a couple more left to come.  As always, I’m looking forward to the recipe reviews of the other Cottage Cooking Club bloggers, which you can read here.

Due to copyright considerations, I don’t share the recipes here, but you can find them in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookbook River Cottage Veg.




Posted on 28 February 2016, in Cottage Cooking Club, lunch, Soup and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Betsy, your dishes look terrific! I made the toasties too, and loved it with Stilton. But your cheddar one sounds really great, and a little more versatile. I didn’t make either the lasagne or the DYI soup. I suspect the temperature of your pre-made jars, but who knows. It seems like a very fun idea. I’ve been known to doctor up a package of ramen, topping with some hoisin, basil and sriracha. Great idea to add the other items.

    Hope you are having a terrific weekend!!!

  2. It’s either feast or famine, isn’t it, Betsy. We’re back to almost a weekly commitment which I tried to maintain when we all were on our “sabbatical” from FFWD. I am going to continue cooking Hugh’s recipes because I also like his various tips and techniques advice. He used the infusion technique with the polenta also which made it a bit richer. It already was quite a flavorful dish because of the mushrooms.Just that you made your own bread is impressive but am sorry the bc/apple combo doesn’t appeal to your tastebud like the cheddar. I think Andrea will be able to help you with the noodles issue, Betsy, because she makes this often for her girls’ school lunches.

  3. Lovely dishes this week! The lasagne looks great and I really regretting not making the toastie, as it sounds perfect for a weekend meal. The DIY pot noodles were on my maybe list, and it seems everyone who made them loved them or were perplexed by them. So, still a maybe. Your bread always makes me want to explore no knead bread. I actually have something out of the library in that regard, so maybe it’s time to fire up the oven.

  4. Everything looks delicious Betsy. We loved the toasties with cheddar – I didn’t even bother trying them with blue cheese – but I wish I’d used a lovely homemade bread as you did. Fantastic! My daughters have been making the DIY noodles for their school lunches for over a year now, since I first made the recipe with them (I was cooking ahead). They’ve never mentioned undercooked ingredients but I suspect that even with insulated lunch bags and freezer packs, they’re not refrigerator cold when they add the water. I’ll have to check with them.

  5. Hi Betsy, i did not make the pot noodles but will check back here to see if someone comes up with a solution. Your lasagna looks fabulous, not sure why I did not prepare that either, sometimes at the end of the month I’m surprised by my pics at the beginning.

  6. I made those 3 recipes as well. Great minds think alike! You were smart to add an extra layer of noodles to the lasagna. I enjoyed it, but found myself wishing there was more pasta.

  7. peggygilbey814628432

    Hi Betsy, your months selection look great. I made the apple toastie too, using cheddar, only because I was out of blue cheese and thought it was sensational! I love Hugh’s milk infusion tip and since then I have been seeing it appear in ingredient, Italian cookbooks, and even a recipe of my Aunt Betty’s. This particular tip has fascinated me from the beginning because I wonder if it had been common anytime in past- but faded out due to the extra time involved- or- even when food was a little more limited in war time or etc… would love to know. The lasagna looks and sounds terrific. Since I am last to Post this month-as I go down the LYL list reading and commenting it has been interesting to observe the DIY Noodles- some ideas as well as potential solutions to what seems a common dilemma. Andrea pre-cooked her soba noodles. To me its worth experimenting having a ramen style noodle craving family and I think this fun jar offers a healthier fresher variety and perhaps an easy lunch. See you soon!

  8. You made three of the recipes I missed (I must try them come make-up month!); you bake bread specially for the toasties too! Salute!

  9. Dear Betsy, I am quite impressed as far as the bread is concerned and I am always a bit sad that I run out of time with respect to baking my own bread – your loaf looks amazingly delicious, such a wonderful crust! The toastie works with different cheeses and that is good news. The lasagna sounds utterly amazing and it is next on my “make-up” list. I want to make that elegant looking dish! And as far as the DIY pot noodles are concerned, I did do some research – there is just two ways to do this, either fresh, with hot water and all ingredients at room temp. Or you prepare this the night before and make sure to pour boiling hot water the next day into the jars but it might be a good idea, just with roasts and meat that we prepare, to take the jar out of the fridge a good 30 minutes before eating, so all ingredients will have a chance to come to room temperature. Hope that helps.Let me know if you have any other questions.
    “See” you soon,

  10. Betsy, I just realized I’d not visited your blog for this month’s post! I see now where I went wrong with my DIY pot noodles: I, too, had pre-made them and then added the boiling water several hours later. I’ll have to try it again with Andrea’s tip above (though not with the curry one as that simply didn’t work out for me). Your lasagne look wonderful! I agree that béchamel tip with the aromatics was really quite great–I loved the subtlety of the result. And, oh man, was that sauce decadent. Phew! Finally, good to know re the toastie. I’m more of a cheddar person, though I never snub my nose at blue cheese dressing, so I’ll have to keep that variant in mind!

  11. Betsy, I am late to the party with comments. I did read it when you published it!!!

    I see Andrea’s comment on the soup, and that makes sense (like if you took it out of the refrain and just let it sit on your desk before finishing it), and also found that she used cooked soba noodles in hers. I don’t really love undercooked instant noodles.. But all of your dishes look fabulous. I am not a huge fennel fan, so didn’t even consider that recipe, but your lasagne does look amazing – and I could see making something similar – you’re right, yours looks so elegant! And the bread… I’ve been making more these days, and getting the ratios better (flour in dry climates – a little tricky – even if you’re weighing the ingredients). Always inspiring!!

Thanks for visiting! Leave me a comment to let me know what you think. I love comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: