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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.




Cottage Cooking Club: January 2016

Dumpling Squash

In northern climes, cooking vegetables in the winter can get a little dull.  For someone who tries to keep to seasonal vegetables, in the months when nothing is growing outside, the choices are mainly root vegetables and various crucifers.  As much as I love most of these vegetables, especially roasted, I can also get bored.

One of the percs of cooking with the Cottage Cooking Club is finding inspiration in the seasonal selections made by our leader Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s vegetarian cookbook River Cottage Veg.  These ideas are helpful to making the dinner table more exciting, especially this time of year.

Because the other eater at my house doesn’t enjoy the flavor of curry, I limited by choices to two of the recipes.  I also threw in a makeup.  In no particular order, here’s my review.

The first thing I made was the Rutabaga (Swede) with Onion and Sage.  Cubes of rutabaga are slowly sautéed with onions, which caramelize during the long cook.  Once the rutabaga is tender, the dish is strewn with chopped fresh sage.  I’ll admit that I struggle to enjoy this particular vegetable (turnips, too).  Though the onions were sweet, the rutabaga itself didn’t sweeten quite enough for me.  Roasting does a better job of that.  I did like the flavor combination, so perhaps I would add onions when next roasting rutabaga and finish it with sage, being inspired by Hugh’s recipe even if I don’t repeat his version.

Rutabaga with Onion and Sage

Next I tried Squash Stuffed with Leeks.  The problem with winter squash is that sometimes it’s sweet and flavorful, and other times it’s bland and mealy.  There doesn’t seem to be any way to tell just by looking at the vegetable.  I had some dumpling squash that I’ve been storing since late fall.  Unfortunately, it fell in the bland and mealy category.  On the other hand, the leek filling was delicious!  It reminded me of the topping for leek and cheese toasties that we made back in August.  The filling didn’t turn the stuffed squash into a hit, but it did make the whole thing edible.  I was disappointed that the squash didn’t pull its weight.  I may try this again some time, or try to figure out something else to stuff.  I can’t blame Hugh’s recipe for my mealy squash.  Certainly, the presentation was pretty even if the overall taste didn’t match up.

Squash Stuffed with Leeks

Finally, I made the Pizza with New Potatoes and Blue Cheese, a choice from June 2014.  One of the supermarkets near me sells frozen wood-fired pizza crusts.  I used one of these rather than making my own crust.  If you plan ahead and have the ingredients on hand (cooking the potatoes ahead of time), this pizza accompanied by a green salad is a quick and delicious weeknight supper.  The caramelized onions with garlic and rosemary provided a sweet foundation for the bland potatoes and piquant blue cheese.  I enjoyed Hugh’s version of white pizza (i.e. no tomato sauce).

Pizza with Potatoes and Blue Cheese

February’s vegetables at the market won’t be much better than January, so I’m looking forward to Andrea’s choices for next month to liven things up.  In the meantime, check out my fellow Cottage Cooking Club member’s blogs to read their reviews of January’s recipes.  Maybe you will be inspired too!