Blog Archives

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cottage Cooking Club: August 2015

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Wow! I’ve definitely fallen out of the blogosphere. I haven’t posted since last month’s Cottage Cooking Club. I need to get with the program. There’s plenty of cooking happening in my kitchen, but clearly not a lot of writing at the computer. I am sorely out of practice. I will try to get back into the game this fall.

 

Fall? It’s the end of August, so that means that summer is almost over. I feel it in the air with slightly chilly mornings and gradually shortening days. Fortunately, the harvest is still going strong, and we’ve been enjoying wonderful local produce from the local farms and farmers markets, and a few things from our backyard garden. Tomatoes and corn are always at the table right now and will be until the season is over.

 

For this month’s Cottage Cooking Club, the on-line group cooking through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg, our inspiring leader Andrea from The Kitchen Lioness chose a menu of recipes that were hard to choose from. Here’s the rundown on what I picked, in the order I made them.

 

With the earliest of tomatoes, I threw together Tomatoes with Thai Dressing. This, like so many of the recipes in this book, showcases top-notch vegetables with just the simplest of accompaniments, here, a light Asian-flavored dressing. I wouldn’t say the dressing tasted very Thai to me, or all that Asian.  It was refreshing, and I did like the fresh mint sprinkled on top.  This quick salad was nice enough, though not interesting enough for me to make again.

 

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Next up was the Leek and Cheese Toasties. This open-faced sandwich has the most amazing topping: sautéed leeks combined with thyme, cream, and Cheddar cheese. A lightly-toasted slice of bread is slathered with the cheesy leek spread, sprinkled with more cheese, and broiled until bubbling and browned. This was my favorite recipe this month. I made a double batch and ate it for lunch every day for a week. The topping is probably a bit too heavy for the hot dog days of summer, but I’ll remember this for the cooler weather and make this one again and again.  Plus it reminded of my mother’s special sandwich, a “Bunni special”, the lunch we often requested or she made without us asking because it was so good and easy to put together.  My mom’s sandwich was different, sliced cheese and tomato sprinkled with dried Italian herbs and broiled, but they were similar enough to make me smile.

 

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Finally, I made Summer Garden Lentils Niçoise. If I haven’t mentioned it before, lentils are my favorite of all beans and legumes. I’ve seldom met a lentil dish I didn’t like. This lentil salad, which can be served warm or cold, includes my favorite flavors of summer: cherry tomatoes, olives, green beans, and red onion, pulled together with a mustardy vinaigrette. The cherry tomatoes were from my garden and the green beans from a local farm.  Eggs transforms the salad to a meal. The first night, I chose to serve it warm with poached eggs on top. Yum! And, then the next day, eggless, this was the perfect side to the zucchini tart I had for lunch.  I also liked adding herb stems to the lentils as they cooked.  I threw in some basil because I picked too much from the garden.  I will definitely make this combination again.

 

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My favorite part of this group is checking out everyone else’s posts to both compare notes on the recipes I made and to figure which other recipes to add to my “must make” list.  You can check out everyone’s links here.