Category Archives: Cottage Cooking Club

Cottage Cooking Club: December 2015

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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.

Chachouka

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.

Pepper Sauce

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.

Mushroom Stoup

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.

Dumplings

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.

Cottage Cooking Club: November 2015

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I’ve really fallen down on the job as a blogger. I cook daily, delicious things, but so often I neglect to take photos and then it’s all gone, or I take photos, but don’t sit down to write about my latest favorite dish. I’m promising myself to get back to a more regular schedule of posts in the new year, or before. In the meantime, my participation in the Cottage Cooking Club provides an occasion for sharing my thoughts on a few new recipes I tried this month.

If you don’t already know, the Cottage Cooking Club is an on-line group of bloggers who, under the leadership of the lovely Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, has been cooking recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg. Each month, Andrea selects one recipe from each chapter, each participant chooses the ones she wants to try, and at the end of the month, we share our experiences. I usually pick the ones are the most appealing to my palette. It’s great fun to read everyone else’s posts, and based on their reviews, add additional recipes to the never-ending list of ones to try.

Here are my thoughts on the recipes I chose, in the order I prepared them.

Potatoes with Green Mojo Sauce

First up, I made the Roasted Potatoes with Two Mojo Sauces. I actually roasted potatoes on two separate occasions and each time served the potatoes with a different mojo sauce. Roasting potatoes is a straightforward thing, but these instructions resulted in a crispier exterior than I usually get, so I was delighted to have a new trick up my sleeve. I made a half batch of each sauce because I could tell each made a large quantity. We enjoyed both the red and the green sauce which had a (American) Southwest flavor profile – a bit surprising from a British cookbook. The sauces went well with the potatoes and also on top of simply roasted chicken. (Can I say that when this book is supposed to be about the vegetables?) This was my favorite of this month’s recipes.

Next, I made the Kale Speltotto, though it would be more accurate to say I made Kale Farrotto. This recipe is similar to risotto, using spelt (or in my case, farro) instead of Arborio rice. Hot broth is gradually added to the grain, letting it absorb completely between batches. I made a squash stock from seeds I’d scooped from a winter squash earlier in the week.

As for the grain, I had whole-grain spelt in the pantry, but was worried that, because it wasn’t pearled, it wouldn’t cook in time for dinner. I couldn’t find any pearled spelt at the store. After reading the package of the brand of farro I had at home, it seemed like its cooking time would work. Of course, when I got home, I found that I didn’t have nearly enough farro OR pearl barley on-hand. I did have plenty of parboiled farro, which typically cooks up in 10 minutes. I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but it was a success. It took longer than 10 minutes to cook, but was done when pearled spelt would have been. I used kale I had picked myself after a volunteer shift at the farm.

Kale Farrotto

The combination of kale and leek was delicious. I was also out of goat cheese (normally a staple), so I topped this with grated Parmesan.

Lesson learned: Take a better inventory of what you have before deciding what to make for dinner, though if you misjudge, it almost always works out with whatever you have.

The final recipe I prepared from this month’s choices was the Beet and Walnut Hummus. I love beets. Beet-Walnut Salad is one of my favorite ways to eat roasted beets. This dip had similar ingredients, but the final result wasn’t a favorite. The beets overpowered all the other flavors except the cumin. And it was extremely sweet – too sweet for our taste buds. The sesame flavor of the tahini didn’t stand out at all. We prefer either the creamy texture of hummus made with chickpeas or the chunkier texture of my usual beet salad.

BeetHummus

In addition, I finally made the Twice-Baked Potatoes the group made last November. They were fabulous. My mother used to make a simpler version of this, simply scooping out the potatoes, mashing the innards, refilling the potato shells, and generously sprinkling the top with paprika before rebaking. Hugh’s version is much more decadent. The filling is like a loaded baked potato, mixed with sour cream and cheddar cheese and studded with scallions. This is a vegetarian cookbook, but crumbled bacon would be at home in the filling. These are a new favorite, and they were perfect to serve to company!

Our Thanksgiving table wouldn’t be complete without roasted Brussels sprouts. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is Hugh’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots. Since the group first made this last October, I frequently revisit this recipe, and I baked a batch to bring to the Thanksgiving feast we attended with friends.

I hope all of my American Cottage Cooking Club friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, sharing good food and company with family and friends. I look forward to catching up with all of you again in December.

To find out what the other Cottage Cooking Club bloggers thought of their selections this month, follow their links here.

Cheers! (P.S. WordPress tells me this is my 500th post! Hard to believe…)