Friday, May 15, 2015

FFwD: Jamie Olivers Food Revolution Day 2015 & Wild Garlic and Ham Quiche

Today, Friday May 15th, 2015 marks the fourth annual Food Revolution Day. This is a day of global action created by Jamie Oliver and the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation to engage and inspire people of all ages to learn about food and how to cook it. This year, Food Revolution Day is a global campaign to put compulsory food education back on the school curriculum. Jamie Oliver passionately believes that by educating children about food in a fun and engaging way, we can equip them with the basic skills they need to lead healthier, happier lives, for themselves and their future families.

So today´s task for the French Fridays with Dorie group is to choose a recipe or a technique we have learned from Around my French Table that we think is a “must know”.

First off, I have to admit that around here getting (other people´s) children interested in learning about the foods they eat and the way to prepare them, is not always the easiest of tasks and it is a bit like walking a fine line between wanting to teach children and being considered a bit of a show-off. My dear fellow compatriots always look for what they call "qualifications" - what exactly "qualifies" you to teach my children about are what...a food blogger...who is Jamie Oliver (he does speak English after all)...what exactly is the "what do you call this"...Food Revolution Day...(I shall spare you the rest, which oftentimes includes some very discernible smirks...). Unfortunately, there was also no way I could have cooked with children in the school´s kitchen. No such luck as there are the present holidays, the lack of insurance, etc. And my own personal kitchen is most definitely too small.

But I have participated for the third time this year, albeit in a more quiet way. I believe that I have taught our own children so much about food in the last couple of years, that I am quite sure that they will grow up to make a lot of right choices when it come to their eating habits.

So, to stay true to my own philosophy about food, food preparation and ingredients and to share a passion of mine - we decided to particpate this year by inviting a small group of our children´s friends over for a walk through our favorite park and some "hands on education" about local herbs and wild plants - for today we chose to concentrate on wild garlic.

Wild garlic can be found in meadows all over this country in April and May. It has a wonderful earthy flavor. Around here you can even stumble across some at a local park, as we did, so make sure to keep your eyes open. But if not, you should be able to get hold of some wild garlic at good green grocers or your local farmer's market. You can also sort of mimic the flavor of wild garlic by adding some fresh young spinach and a couple of cloves of regular garlic to this quiche, so you still get a wonderful garlicky taste.

We were lucky with respect to the weather - a gorgeous day - and spent the day playing, learning about lots of different local wild plants and herbs, picking fresh wild garlic and enjoying an absolutely delicious Wild Garlic and Ham Quiche. Here is where today´s assignment comes in, I used Dorie Greenspan´s Tart Dough (page 498-9) that I think absolutely every child/student can learn how to make and should know - there is no, absolutely no end to the possibilities of what you can add to quiche. But I have a very soft spot for this particular quiche. I love, love using seasonal, local herbs in my cooking and try to share that passion with our children. It is so important to show children that some of the best ingredients grow right in front of their noses, all they have to do is learn about them and always keep their eyes open. An important lesson. No doubt.

There is no better place to enjoy a piece of still warm quiche (I wrapped them in towels and more towels) while sitting in your favorite local park - just ask my very happy picnic participants.

Time to relax with good, homemade food and share it with family and friends must be one of the great luxuries of life.

Taking our Food Revolution activities outside was a great idea - something that I am looking forward to repeating - Mother Nature has so much to offer and it is certainly a more relaxed environment for everyone than my teeny, tiny kitchen.

So, equipped with copies of Dorie´s Tart Dough recipe (in the translated version, of course)  as well as The Kitchen Lionesses Wild Garlic and Ham Quiche recipe and bags full of freshly picked wild garlic - to make their own quiches at home -  I believe our own reflective, more quiet version of the Food Revolution Day 2015 was a nice success.

To see what initiative the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group came up with on this day, please go here.

To take a look at Dorie Grenspan´s recipe for the Tart Dough, you can go here.

To get s copy of my Wild Garlic & Smoked Ham Quiche, just stay tuned.

By educating children about food in a practical, fun and engaging way, we can provide them with the knowledge and skills they so urgently need to lead healthier, happier lives. We need to make practical food education a compulsory part of every school curriculum across the world, and that’s why I’ve launched a petition calling on all G20 countries to action this. With enough support from millions of people around the world, I truly believe that we can create a movement that’s powerful enough to make governments take action.” Jamie Oliver

Hear, hear!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Strawberry-Rosemary Tart - Erdbeer-Rosmarin Tarte

By following my blog, you might have noticed that I have a very special relation to all herbs, many of them happily growing in our garden. Herbs and sweet treats are by no means a new concept, but oftentimes when we hear or read the term "herb", a savory dish is what comes to mind first. The fact of the matter is that herbs harmonize in the most wonderful of ways with desserts and go so incredibly well with fruits and berries such as ripe, juicy strawberries, apricots, bluebeeries, raspberries or the delightfully tangy plums.
Meine besondere Aufmerksamkeit gilt schon seit langem den Kräutern in meinem Garten. Wer mein Blog regelmäßig liest, weiß das nur zu gut. Kräuter und Süßes sind keine unbekannte Kombination mehr, aber ist von Kräutern die Rede, denkt man aber oft noch zuerst einmal an das Würzen von herzhaften Speisen. Dabei harmonieren Kräuter ganz wunderbar mit Süßspeisen und passen auch besonders gut Obst wie den reifen, süßen Erdbeeren, Aprikosen, Blaubeeren, Himbeeren oder auch den angenehm säuerlichen Pflaume.

Lemon balm, lavender, basil, thyme, verbena or sage - pure herbal delights. And there are many more other herbs out there that merit our attention and that lend unique flavors to many a sweet dish. You can create the most amazing baked goods with a herbal touch. So why not use herbs for that extra special accent when baking cakes, cookies, biscuits, jams, creamy parfaits or when you brew your next batch of ice tea in summer time.
Zitronenmelisse, Lavendel, Basilikum, Thymian, Verbene oder Salbei – das ist Kräutergenuss pur. Diese und viele andere Kräuter verleihen so mancher süßer Köstlichkeit ganz einzigartige Geschmacksnoten. Man kann unglaublich viele verschiedene, wunderbare Kuchen, Gebäck, fruchtige Konfitüren, cremige Parfaits und Eistees mit Kräutern herstellen.

The most popular herbs that are suitable for combining with your desserts include rosemary, thyme, lavender, basil, lemon balm, mint, or lemon grass and are rather easily accessible to anyone. Nowadays you can find them at your greengrocers, the farmers´ market or even in most supermarkets that carry fresh produce.

When it comes to the somewhat less known varieties of herbs, you will have to resort to different ways of obtaining them like growing them yourselves or ordering them online.
Die beliebtesten Kräuter die sich besonders gut bei der Nachtisch Herstellung eignen, sind Kräuter wie Rosmarin, Thymian, Lavendel, Basilikum, Zitronenmelisse oder Minze und sind relativ leicht zugänglich. Man bekommt sie bei jedem gut sortierten Gemüsehändler, auf dem Wochenmarkt und in den meisten Lebensmittelgeschäften.

Bei den ausgefalleneren Kräutern muss man schon ein wenig Initiative entwickeln und sie entweder selber ziehen oder online erwerben.

To plant most herbs, you do not really need a garden. In fact, a sunny window sill or a small balcony are oftentimes all that is needed. Potted herbs will make it much easier to access fresh herbs year round.
Für die meisten Kräuter gilt, dass man über keinen großen Garten verfügen muss, um diese anzupflanzen. Eine sonnige Fensterbank oder ein kleiner Balkon genügen schon, um einige Kräutertöpfe aufzustellen.

For my lovely Strawberry-Rosemary Tart, I got my inspiration from the first sweet regional strawberries as well as the abundance of my beloved rosemary bush in our garden.

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs and the first strawberries of the season are always wonderful after that long winter and spring wait. These two harmonize in the most delcious of ways in this tart.
Für meine Rosmarin.Erdbeer-Tarte habe ich mich von der ersten süßen, regionalen Erdbeeren und dem vielem Rosmarin in meinem Garten inspirieren lassen.

Rosmarin ist eins meiner Lieblingskräuter und Erdbeeren im Mai sind eine wahre Freude nach dem langen Warten auf frische Beeren. Hier harmonieren die Beiden auf wunderbare Weise.

To that add the mild sweetness of the almonds in the Almond Shortcrust Pastry and that wonderful layer of dark chocolate.
Dazu kommt noch die milde Süße der Mandeln in dem Mandelmürbeteig und die angenehm herbe Note der Zartbitterkuvertüre.

Strawberry-Rosemary Tart with Almond Shortcrust Pastry and Strawberry-Rosemary Jam

Ingredients for the Strawberry-Rosemary-Jam
  • 250 grams of fresh local strawberries
  • 125 grams superfine sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (organic if possible)
  • 2 rosemary twigs (if possible from your garden as they tend to be much more aromatic than the ones from the store)
Erdbeer-Rosmarin-Tarte mit Mandel-Mürbeteig und  Erdbeer-Rosmarin  Marmelade

Zutaten für die Erdbeer-Rosmarin Marmelade
  • 250 Gramm Erdbeeren (möglichst aus der Region)
  • 125 Gramm Zucker
  • Saft von ½  Bio-Zitrone
  • 2 Zweige Rosmarin (möglichst aus dem Garten, die sind meist aromatischer)

Preparation of the Strawberry-Rosemary-Jam
  1. Clean the strawberries and cut them into smallish pieces. Place them in a medium sized saucepan together with the sugar and crush lightly using a fork or potato masher.
  2. Then add the lemon juice and the rosemary twigs and let the whole macerate for about an hour. After an hour has passed, bring the berry mixture to a boil on medium heat, stirring frequently.
  3. Boil the berries (still on medium heat) for about twenty minutes or until the mixture has reached a nice and thick consistency- always paying attention to any foam that might form on the surface - if there is any, remove carefully with a metal spoon.
  4. After your jam has reached its desired consistency, take it off the heat and let cool.
  5. Before continuing on with the recipe, do remember to remove the rosemary twigs.
  6. Fill any left-over jam in properly sterilized jars.

Zubereitung der  Erdbeer-Rosmarin Marmelade
  1. Die Erdbeeren putzen und klein schneiden. Zusammen mit dem Zucker in einen kleinen Topf geben und mit der Gabel oder einem Kartoffelstampfer etwas zerdrücken.
  2. Dann den Zitronensaft und die Rosmarinzweige hinzu geben und mindestens 1 Stunde ziehen lassen. Danach zum Kochen bringen, ab und zu rühren.
  3. Bei mittlerer Hitze zirka zwanzig Minuten kochen, oder solange, bis die Marmelade dicklich eingekocht ist – dabei darauf achten, eventuell entstehenden Schaum zu entfernen und immer wieder umzurühren.
  4. Dann vom Ofen nehmen und abkühlen lassen.
  5. Vor der Weiterverarbeitung die Rosmarinzweige entfernen.
  6. Die restliche Marmelade in sterilisierte Gläser füllen.

Ingredients for the Almond Shortcrust-Pastry
  • 210 grams of unsalted butter
  • 2 grams of fine sea salt
  • 120 Gramm confectioners´ sugar (sieved)
  • 50 grams ground natural almonds
  • scraped seeds from one vanilla bean
  • 1 egg (L), organic or free range
  • 300 grams wheat flour, plus some flour for your work surface
Zutaten für den Mandel-Mürbeteig
  • 210 Gramm Butter
  • 2 Garmm feines MeersalzSalz
  • 120 Gramm Puderzucker (gesiebt)
  • 50 Gramm gemahlene Mandeln
  • Mark einer halben Vanilleschote
  • 1 Ei (L), Bio-oder Freilandhaltung
  • 300 Gramm Weizenmehl (Type 550), plus etwas Mehl zum Bearbeiten

Preparation of the Almond Shortcrust Pastry
  1. For the shortcrust pastry, mix together butter, salt, confectioners´ sugar, almond meal, and the vanilla seeds, then stir in the egg.
  2. Then add the flour and mix all the ingredients until they come together. Stop your mixer as soon as the ingredients have turned into a homogenous dough.
  3. Wrap the dough with food wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least three hours or longer.
  4. Thirty minutes before you are ready to prepare your pastry shell, take the chilled dough out of the refrigerator.
  5. Line your tart pan with parchment paper.
  6. Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface to your desired size - about 4 cm larger than your tart pan.
  7. Place the rolled-out dough in your tart pan, press the sides to the pan, cut off an extras - you are not supossed to have any cracks in the dough.
  8. Dock the dough using the tines of a fork and dust ever so slightly with flour.
  9. Cover with food wrap and place in the refrigerator for an additional sixty minutes.
  10. Pre-heat your oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit and take the tart pan out of the refrigerator.
  11. Line with crumbled parchment paper, fill-up with pie weights and bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes at 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
  12. Take the baking pan out of the oven, remove the pie weights and the parchment paper and bake again for another 10 minutes.
  13. The pastry case should not brown too much, it should be of golden color.
  14. Let it cool completely on a wire rack before proceeding with the recipe.
Zubereitung des Mandel-Mürbeteigs
  1. Für den Mürbeteig Butter, Salz, Puderzucker, Mandeln, Vanille vermischen, dann das Ei unterrühren.
  2. Zuletzt das Mehl hinzugeben und alles leicht weiterrühren. Sobald der Teig homogen ist, sofort die Küchenmaschine ausschalten Nicht überkneten.
  3. Den Teig in Frischhaltefolie einschlagen und mindestens drei Stunden im Kühlschrank ruhen lassen.
  4. Den Teig zirka 30 Minuten vor der Weiterverarbeitung aus dem Kühlschrank nehmen.
  5. Den Boden einer Tarteform passend mit Backpapier auslegen.
  6. Den Mürbeteig auf der leicht bemehlten Arbeitsfläche zu einem Rechteck ausrollen (zirka 4 cm größer als die Tarteform).
  7. Die Form mit dem Teig auslegen, den Rand gut andrücken, den überstehenden Teig abschneiden: Es darf kein Riss im Teig sein.
  8. Teig mehrmals mit einer Gabel einstechen, ganz leicht mit Mehl bestäuben.
  9. Mit Frischhaltefolie abdecken und mindestens eine Stunde in der Form kalt stellen.
  10. Den Backofen auf 180 Grad Celsius vorheizen und die Tarteform aus dem Kühlschrank nehmen.
  11. Mit Backpapier abdecken und Hülsenfrüchte oder Backbohnen zum Blindbacken darauf verteilen und im vorgeheizten Ofen bei 180 Grad auf der untersten Schiene 15 Minuten backen.
  12. Hülsenfrüchte mit Backpapier entfernen und den Boden weitere 10 Minuten backen.
  13. Der Teig muss sollte hell bleiben.
  14. Auf ein Kuchenrost stellen und vollständig abkühlen lassen. 

Ingredients for the Filling
  • 100 grams dark chocolate couverture
  • 500 grams ripe small strawberries (local if possible)
  • some strawberry-rosemary jam (see recipe above)
  • confectioners´ sugar (for dusting)
Zutaten für den Belag
  • 100 Gramm Zartbitterkuvertüre
  • 500 Gramm vollreife kleine Erdbeeren (möglichst regional)
  • Erdbeer-Rosmarin Marmelade (Rezept siehe oben)
  • Puderzucker zum Bestäuben

Preparation of the Filling
  1. Carefully melt the chocolate couverture in a water bath and using a pastry brush, brush the base of the pre-baked and cooled tart with the chocolate.
  2. Wait for the chocolate to set properely before continuing on with the recipe.
  3. Then gently heat some of the strawberry-rosemary jam and spread it in an even layer on top of the chocolate.
  4. Ever so gently wash and dry the strawberries, quarter them and then arrage them on top of the jam, making sure to fit in as many as possible.
  5. Dust lightly with confectioners´ sugar, decorate with an additional rosemary twig and serve either as is or with some lightly sweetened whipped cream on the side. I always use confectioners´ sugar in my whipped cream
Zubereitung des Belags
  1. Die Kuvertüre im Wasserbad schmelzen und auf dem vorgebackenen Tarteboden verteilen.
  2. Beiseite stellen bis die Kuvertüre aushärtet.
  3. Dann etwas von der Erdbeer-Rosmarin Marmelade kurz erwärmen und ebenfalls auf dem Boden verstreichen.
  4. Die Erdbeeren vorsichtig waschen, putzen und vierteln und dicht an dicht auf den Boden aufstellen.
  5. Mit Puderzucker bestreuen, mit Rosmarinzweig dekorieren  und sofort servieren, wenn gewünscht mit ein wenig leicht geschlagener, Sahne. Zum Süßen der Sahne nehme ich immer ein weinig Puderzucker.

Because of the fresh strawberries, obviously this tart is best eaten as soon as it is finalized. But since the baked tart dough has a thin layer of dark chocolate as well as a thin layer of your strawberry-rosmary jam, that are applied for taste as well as to prevent any sogginess and therefore you can make this tart a few hours (not more or the strawberries will suffer) ahead of serving, without any problems.
Natürlich schmeckt die Tarte am allerbesten sobald sie fertig geworden ist, aber durch das Bestreichen des gebackenen Tartebodens mit der Zartbitterkuvertüre und etwas Erdbeer-Rosmarin Marmelade, hat die Tarte einen isolierten Mürbeteigboden und weicht nicht in Windeseile durch. Man kann die Tarte also durchaus auch einige Stunden aufbewahren. Aber bitte auf keinen Fall länger, da sonst die geschnittenen Erdbeeren an Qualität verlieren.

Oftentimes, a dessert is meant to be the crowning finale to a wonderful dinner and this tart would be absolutely perfect as a summertime dessert. But it is equally wonderful when served in the afternoon with that cup of coffee or tea.

It is certainly worth the extra effort to try out some lovely fresh garden herbs in your desserts - rosemary and strawberries are an utterly delightful combination of flavors. And then this tart has the additional bonus of being quite pretty as well - when you serve it, you are sure to impress family and friends alike and sure to please all palates.
Es ist ja oft so, dass ein Dessert ein Menü krönt und diese Tarte wäre ein schöner Abschluss eines solchen aber genauso gut eignet sie sich zum Nachmittagskaffee.

Es ist durchaus einen Versuch wert Kräuter sein Gebäck geschmacklich mit frischen Gartenkräutern eine wunderbare Geschmackskomponente zu geben – Rosmarin und Erdbeeren sind ein köstliche Kombination und diese sehr hübsche Erdbeer-Rosmarin-Tarte wird allen sicherlich unglaublich gut schmecken.

So, next time you are looking to make a dessert with that extra special touch, there is no reason anymore to shun those lovely herbs. Go out there and pay a vist to your herbs in your garen (or the market) and get inspired.

But there is more to come. I am presently working on another fabulous recipe - more desserts with a herbal touch will make an appearance on this blog very soon...
Also, wenn man demnächst mal einen Nachtisch oder ein Gebäck machen möchte, dem das gewisse Extra nicht fehlen sollte, dann nichts ran ans Kräuterbeet und sich inspirieren lassen.

Es wird in nächster Zeit noch mehr Süßes mit Kräutern auf diesem Blog geben - ich arbeite gerade an meinem nächsten Post über Kräuter in Nachtischen...also auf hoffentlich bald.

Friday, May 8, 2015

French Fridays with Dorie - Seafood Pot-au-Feu

Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is Seafood Pot-au-feu. Traditionally, a pot-au-feu is a traditional French beef stew that translates literally to „Pot on the Fire“ – Dorie´s version with different types of fish and shellfish is essentially a seafood stew and rather easy to reproduce in your home kitchen.

Pot-au-feu usually combines several cuts of meat and marrowbones into a broth with vegetables, and can constitute a three course meal all on its own. The broth is served as a soup, the meat with mustard, the marrow with bread.

It is considered to be the quintessence of French family cuisine, this must be the most celebrated dish in France. It honors the tables of the rich and not so rich alike. Despite its lack of sophistication, it has survived the passage of time. Pot-au-feu has been referred to as „a triumph of simplicity“ (what a rather unique way to describe this) and the inspiration for many other dishes, such as poule au pot, potée au choux, navarin, daubes, carbonnades and not forgetting the beautiful chicken soup. You can feast on it for several days.

Dorie´s recipe is at the same time traditional and non traditional – the essence of the pot-au-feu is retained with the preparation of the broth and the vegetables but the meat is taken out and replaced with seafood (fresh salmon and prawns in my case – as I could not get my hands on mussels today).

For the vegetables, I went with new potatoes, spring onions, carrots, leeks, baby portabellas, and peas. A nice mix of tasty and colorful.

To serve, you could simply serve the pot-au-feu straight from the casserole and let your delighted diners help themselves, but serving will be easier if you portion the vegetables as well as the seafood in your kitchen. Divide the fish between warm soup plates, surround with the vegetables and pour on some of the cooking liquid. Finish with fresh basil leaves or sprinkle with chopped parsley and accompany with homemade pesto (I prepared a wild ramp-basil pesto), aïoli or a rouille provençale (I used garlic, saffron, cayenne pepper, egg yolk, a mild olive oil, French sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper) and grilled slices of French baguette.

A delicious, colourful springtime or summer dish, full of flavor from the vegetables and the fresh seafood. Combining fresh fish and fabulous vegetables this way in a dish, is really very simple, and it renders a very satisfying and nutritious meal with a touch of elegance...

To see whether the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group enjoyed this week´s recipe, please go here.

For copyright reasons, we do not publish the recipes from the book. But you can find the recipe for the Seafood Pot-au-feu on pages 308-10 in Dorie Greenspan´s cookbook "Around my French Table".

Friday, May 1, 2015

French Fridays with Dorie - Cheesecake Tart

Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is Cheesecake Tart. With a creamy top and buttery base, who can resist this classic dessert.

Dorie uses pâte sablée (sweet tart dough base) in her version of a cheesecake tart  – it is more fragile and delicate than pâte sucrée (sweet shortcrust pastry), but melts in the mouth like no other pastry.

When I make a pâte sablée I always heap the flour on my work surface and make a well in the center. Then I put the cold, unsalted butter, confectioners´ sugar and salt in the well. With my fingertips, I mix and cream the butter with the sugar and salt, then add the egg yolk and work it in delicately with my fingertips.  Then little by little, I draw the flour into the center and work the mix until I have an even dough. Using the palm of my hand, I push the dough away from me 3 or 4 times until it is completely smooth. I then roll it into a ball, wrap it into saran wrap and refrigerate until I am ready to proceed with my tart.

For this recipe I chose my French tart pan, my very favorite one, the tried and true, the no-fuss one, with a removable bottom and high sides. The one that makes a very simple tart like this, look like a very elegant tart, with its raised border and nice scalloped edges. This tart pan allows me to bake my tarts with a tart dough that is not too thick, yet sturdy enough to hold a creamy filling like this one.

For Dorie´s tart base you will have to roll out the pastry to a round and line your lightly greased tart pan Then you chill it again in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven, prick the base of your pastry case with a fork (docking), line with baking parchment and evenly fill with baking beans (either special ceramic ones or dried beans that you can use again for this purpose) to hold the pastry down. Bake the case in the oven (baking blind) for 30 minutes. Take the pastry out of the oven, remove the beans and paper and return to the oven for 5 minutes, then set aside to cool while you make the filling.

For the filling you finely grate the zest from half an organic lemon and then set aside. Whisk together cornstarch and milk (to thicken the filling). Also set aside. Mix together the fromage blanc, egg yolks, sugar, pure vanilla, zest, and a pinch of sea salt as well as the milk mixture. Scatter golden raisins over the bottom of the pastry. Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for about 50 minutes. Place on a wire rack and leave for about 20 minutes before removing the tart pan. Either enjoy while still lukewarm or let the tart cool completely, then place in the least cool part of your fridge until you are ready to serve.

Cut the cheesecake into portions using a very sharp knife. And enjoy to the fullest as we did – no, no suprise there, we are Europeans and we love Dorie´s European desserts. Simple. Elegant. Clean flavors. Not overly sweet. No adornments required. None. Apart from my beloved flowers, of course.

Cheesecakes like Dorie´s are very popular around here, very popular. We loved this one to the very last crumb, as did all our guests. When we are invited, I often get requests for bringing along this type of „European“ cheesecake and I always happily oblige.

Today is not only the „day of the last Dorie dessert recipe from the book“ but also May Day. This is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and a public holiday around these parts. Flowers are always a big part of May Day celebrations.

May Day not only brings the image of collecting flowers but throughout its history, May Day has also always been a joyous celebration of spring and the coming summer. So, of course, there are a lot of flowers playing an important part in today´s post – come to think of it, they always do, I would not be me if I did otherwise! But those of you that have been kind enough to follow my blogging adventures for the last couple of years know that of course…

To see whether the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group enjoyed this week´s recipe, please go here.

For copyright reasons, we do not publish the recipes from the book. But you can find the recipe for the Cheesecake Tart on page 469 in Dorie Greenspan´s cookbook "Around my French Table".

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Cottage Cooking Club – April Recipes

April marks the twelth month of our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. As a group, recipe by recipe, we are cooking and learning our way through a wonderful vegetable cookbook written in 2011 by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, called „River Cottage Everyday Veg“.

The Cottage Cooking Club is meant to be a project aimed at incorporating more vegetable dishes into our everyday cooking, learning about less known, forgotten or heritage vegetables, trying out  new ways to prepare tasty and healthy dishes, and sharing them with family and friends.

All the members of this cooking group will make an effort to use as much local, regional, organic and also seasonal produce as is resonably possible.

Since I prepared nine out of ten recipes this month, I will write about each dish according to the order in which I prepared them. My first recipe for this April post was Pasta with new potatoes, green beans and pesto (page 256) from the chapter "Pasta & Rice".

We still have some rather cool days and nights– so this was a rather welcome hearty pasta dish in early April.

With basically three components, this was a different and delicious kind of pasta dish. First, make sure to prepare the pesto, I used basil and Italian parsley here – then boil the potato wedges together with the pasta and add the string beans for a few minutes to the same cooking water. Make sure to keep some of that patsa water. The third step requires you to mix the pesto with the pasta and veg and then finish the dish with a generous touch of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, some more pepper and salt, a bit of good olive oil and some chopped green olives, done.

I loved the ease of boiling the potatoes together with the pasta and the beans and was rather pleasantly surprised just how nice this dish tasted – pasta and potatoes do work together after all. If pressed for time, a good-quality store-bought pesto could be easily substituted here – making this dish even easier to put together.

The second recipe that I prepared was the Upside-down onion tart (page 218) from the chapter „Store-Cupboard Suppers“.

The first time I made this tasty tart I used yellow onions and a white balsamic vinegar to deglaze the onions before proceeding to place the puff pastry on the pre-cooked onions.

The second time I made this tart I used Spanish red onions and an aged balsamic vinegar to deglaze the onions. This resulted in a more sticky, dark-burgundy colored and different tasting onion tart.

We enjoyed both versions – cooking onions this way transforms them into a sweet, sticky, addictive vegetable – hard to resist when paired with buttery puff pastry and quite the looker when turned upside down like a tarte tatin.

The third recipe I made this month was the Cannelli bean hummus (page 300) from the chapter „Mezze & Tapas“. An easy hummus dish with tinned and drained canelli beans, a bit of garlic, tahini, olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice (essential), thyme, sea salt and pepper. You can serve this hummus with fresh, raw vegetables, pita or flatbread or roasted vegetables (which is the version I am aiming for next time I make this).

Such a no-fuss recipe for a hummus dip that got even tastier when paired with the paprika oil – that consisted of just two ingredients, namely a really good olive oil and Spanish smoked sweet paprika (you could also use the spicy paprika here). I chose to serve the paprika oil on the side since the hummus itself is already quite substantial.

The fourth and fifth recipes for the month of April was the Creamy mushroom soup (page152) from the chapter „Hefty Soups“ that is prepared with a Mushroom stock (page 130).

The first step is evident – the mushroom stock. That is worth the extra effort as it lends a „good, deep, earthy base“ to the final mushroom soup. For this you will add a variety of fresh and dried mushroom (plus their strained soaking liquid) to a vegetable stock that contains onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf, thyme, parsley, pepper and salt.

The second step calls for more mushrooms, leeks, garlic and thyme. Saute´the leeks (so many wonderful, slender leeks from Belgium available around here) and mushrooms (I used baby portabellas, also called cremini mushrooms) in some butter, dust with flour, add the mushroom stock, and boil for about 20 minutes. Then blend until smooth, add Sherry, more pepper and salt to taste and some cream – this is where I veered off the recipe and instead of cream added frothed milk and homemade Jerusalem artichoke chips with Fleur de Sel (my favorite vegetable chips of all times) – I served this soup to the adult fraction of the taste testers (there being Sherry and all in this soup) and we qute enjoyed it. Cream soups are a great treat when the weather is not that warm yet and the depth of flavor from the mushroom stock and the sautéed mushrooms was absolutely wonderful.

The sixth recipe was the marvelous Lettuce, egg and fried bread salad (page 80) from the chapter „Hearty Salads“. This is a salad I have made many times over and it is a huge hit with all of us.

A simple salad of mixed lettuces works best here –I love to use a mix of arugula, baby spinach, and chard. Then a dressing made of Dijon mustard (sometimes I will use grainy mustard or honey Dijon), garlic, cider vinegar, olive oil, sugar, black pepper and salt.

Last but not least you will need some croûtons – what is not to love about those chunky, golden, fried cubes of bread?! And those soft-boiled eggs that ooze their yolky deliciousness onto the salad greens. Ah! Can only be topped if you serve this salad with the above-mentioned lovely creamy mushroom soup.

The seventh recipe was something that I had never prepared before, Chillies stuffed with beans (page 36) from the chapter „Comfort Foods & Feasts“. Since I could not get hold of poblano chillies for this recipe, I used pointed red peppers instead – they look rather pretty.

After I grilled them and peeld them as best as I could – I made the stuffing with borlotti beans, shallots, garlic, grated tomatoes, fresh Italian parsley (as the one herb we do not like is coriander), ground cumin, hot smoked paprika, salt and pepper. A bit of a fuss to make but the whole dish smelled wonderful while baking in the oven for the last leg of the recipe. Since I am not so much into peppers, I served these to my happy taste testers with the Garlicky Flatbread and forgot all about the nice Garlicky Yoghurt that I had prepared in advance and stashed in the refrigerator – out of sight, out of my mind…

The Garlicky Flatbread (page 176) from the chapter of „Bready Things“ is a fun recipe. I love making breads, especially yeast breads.

I would prefer to have the River Cottage look to these – they look thin and crisp in the picture in the book but mine looked different – although I did weigh the dough balls as stated in the recipe but still, we love this recipe, the Magic Bread Dough (page 172) is so easy to make and very versatile indeed – make pizzas, flatbreads, pittas or breadsticks with the dough and maybe use different kinds of flour. I used the strong flour here that the recipe calls for as well as spelt flour instead of the wheat flour – both flours hail from my very favorite local flour mill.

The last recipe was the Celery Gratin (page 380) from the chapter „Side dishes“. I also had never prepared celery this way. Baked for about forty minutes with butter, thyme and a bay leaf, the celery stalks got a good sprinkling of Parmesan and breadcrumbs before going in the oven for an additional twenty minutes -  I think although the celery developped a nice, sweet taste in the oven that I liked, I kind of prefer other veg in my gratins. But I do not regret trying this recipe.

Another month full of wonderful vegetable dishes – we certainly love the recipes from this cookbook.

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the wonderfully talented and enthusiastic members of the Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book. Better yet, do make sure to join us in this cooking adventure! There is still time!

For more information on the participation rules, please go here.

To see which wonderful dishes the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club prepared during the month of April, please go here.