Today we are starting a new 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“.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a well-known British chef, TV personality, journalist, food writer and "real food" campaigner, known for his "back-to-basics philosophy". He is best known for hosting the River Cottage series, in which audiences observe his efforts to become a "self-reliant, downshifted farmer in rural England", his aim is to feed himself, his family and friends with locally produced and sourced fruits, vegetables, fish, eggs and meat.
The Cottage Cooking Club online cooking group is meant to be a project aimed at cooking more vegetable dishes, learning new ways to prepare tasty and healthy dishes and share them with family and friends.
We will make an effort to use as much local, regional, organic and also seasonal produce as is resonably possible. With that goal in mind, I prepared quite a few wonderful dishes from the book already.
My first recipe for the May post is the Courgette and Filo Rice Pie. For the filling of the pie you will need grated courgettes (I used yellow as well as green ones), long-grain rice, red onion, grated hard goat´s cheese, two eggs, fruity olive oil, some freshly chopped dill and flat-leaf parsley plus some freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. The pastry consists of ready-made filo pastry (I used ten sheets) and melted, unsalted butter.
This is a recipe with easy to find ingredients. We thought that this very delicious savory pie also looks pretty enough for company, especially when served in a nice baking dish.
Once the baked pie has had a chance to rest for a while, you can easily cut into it and serve nice slices to everyone around the table.
This pie is very pretty with the folded, crunchy filo sheets on top, it is easy to put together and we were very pleased with the way it tasted – together with a salad, this makes the perfect weeknight dinner for the whole family.
The second recipe from the book is Radishes with Butter and Salt, a colorful, time-honored springtime appetizer.
Eating radishes with salt and butter is not unusual around here and we always enjoy the peppery crunch of those lovely red radishes. Obviously, the fresher the radishes are that you are using, the better this simple dish will taste. I also suggest using a really good-quality butter and a nice salt such as Maldon sea salt or maybe skip the salt altogether and use a wonderful salted French butter.
And, of course, you could also vary the kinds of radishes that you are using.
The third recipe I prepared is the outstading Asparagus Pizza.
Once you have prepared the Magic Bread Dough from the book, you are ready to put this very seasonal pizza together in no time.
We really enjoyed the topping of buffalo mozzarella, a generous grating of Parmigiano Reggiano, sea salt, black pepper, some very fruity olive oil and the freshest regional green asparagus that I could find. A definite hit with the kids. Rather than make a free-form asparagus pizza, I chose to use my trusted vintage pizza pan and added a bit more asparagus than the recipe called for.
Now onto the fourth recipe that I prepared, this was my personal favorite one this month, the Spring Onion Galette, now there is a winning recipe.
Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall comments in his recipe that „the spring onions should be just charred in places and slightly chewy on the outside, yet steamed-tender in the middle“ – that is exactly how the spring onions turned out to be. Once they were baked for a good 20 minutes at about 200 degrees Celsius, they just tasted like sweet perfection.
The base of the galette is a puff pastry.
And other than fresh spring onions, olive oil, pepper and salt, you will only need some tasty hard cheese. I chose a Pecorino Romano. A cinch to put together and such a delight to eat. The spring onions are rather bulbous at this time of year and while that look is rather pretty, it might be advisable to halve the onions before placing them on the galette – puff pastry is a nice treat and this galette is best enjoyed while still lukewarm. Love that recipe.
As a fifth recipe, I made the Quinoa with Courgettes and Onions. With the tender courgettes, the sweet onions, some lovely thyme from the garden and a bit of young garlic, this was such an unbelievably tasty salad. It does get even better when it had a few hours rest prior to serving.
The recipe calls for flat-leaf parsley, I used fresh basil instead and left out the pine nuts – my taste testers do not really like nuts in their salad – but other than these minor change, I stayed true to the recipe and really enjoyed it. Just remember if you are planning to make this salad a few hours ahead of serving it, you will have to taste for seasoning again just before serving, I ended up re-seasoning with pepper and salt and a lot of lemon juice – I also served some fresh lemon wedges on the side with this salad – it really tastes fabulous with a last-minute squeeze of lemon juice.
The sixth recipe is Lemony Guacomole. The ingredients for this recipe are small chilies, chopped coriander, freshly squeezed lemon and/or lime juice, ripe and creamy avocados, rapeseed oil, fine sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and some optinal yoghurt (I used 10% Greek yoghurt). Easy to find fresh ingredients, the remainder are pantry items. Perfect for a weekday evening. Got lucky and found two perfectly ripe avocados sans blemishes for this recipe.
I decided to make some homemade pita chips with fresh chives for dipping and served freshly cut limes on the side.This was a very well-received nibble/appetizer and while the kids support some spiciness in their food, I made sure not to overdo it - we all agreed that this is a fabulous recipe. This guacamole is equally delicious as a topping for burgers and as a dip for oven-roasted potatoes and freshly cut vegetables such as carrots and celery sticks. It can also be served as an accompaniment to fajitas, along with sour cream.
You can make it chunky or smooth, according to taste. Whichever way you serve it, if you do make it in advance, do remember to sprinkle the guacamole with lemon or lime juice and cover well with plastic wrap because avocados turn brown quite quickly once they are exposed to air.
The seventh recipe is Roasted Aubergine Boats. I decided to serve these warm with some lovely cold, thick Greek yogurt and a homemade wild garlic pesto. It certainly never hurts to have another aubergine recipe on hand and we enjoyed the contrasting flavors of the sweet, creamy, chili-oil spiked roasted aubergine, the cool yogurt and the fresh, peppery taste of the wild garlic pesto.
Last but not least, I prepared the Asian inspired Stir-fried Sesame Cauliflower. Cauliflower is available year round, and we have been able to find some really nice cauliflower this month, making this lovely vegetable a good choice for the eighth recipe from this book.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall comments his recipe with the following words “cauliflower takes strong seasonings exceptionally well and this easy stir-fry – flavoured with chili, garlic and ginger – is a good example”. After taking one bite of this dish, I could not agree with him more.
This vegetable stir-fry is quickly put together and you can enjoy this as a full meal or as a side-dish. The cauliflower florets get a ten minute soak in cold water. The sesame seeds get toasted for a good minute or two until fragrant. In the meantime, you need to stir-fry some onion, two garlic cloves, chili and freshly grated ginger. Then add the drained cauliflower florets and continue to stir-fry. Finally, add the sesame seeds, good quality toasted sesame oil, low sodium soy sauce and finish with fresh coriander - although I took the liberty of adding coarsely chopped Italian parsley instead, as my dear family is not all that crazy about fresh coriander.
All of us really enjoyed this stir-fried sesame cauliflower – the fresh ginger and the chilies are wonderful in combination with the mild, delicate flavor of the cauliflower. It is true that this vegetable can certainly take some strong seasonings such as the soy sauce and the toasted sesame oil without being overpowered. This recipe seems to be nice variation on the other cauliflower recipes that I usually prepare. I also appreciated the fact that the stir-fried cauliflower florets kept their shape and still looked nice when plated.
Overall, we are extremly pleased with the way these recipes tasted and I am quite happy to report that this cookbook has become one of my favorites these days as the kids really enjoy the different dishes that I prepared from the book so far - it is truly a wonderful vegatable cookbook.
And I cannot stress enough that the recipes are easy to follow, with ingredients that are not difficult to find, making it a cinch to cook seasonally.
Please note, that for copyright reasons, we will not publish the recipes - maybe I can encourage you to buy this book and cook along with our wonderful group - we certainly would not mind some friendly company. For more information on the participation rules, please go here.
The designated recipes for the month of May were the following:
Courgette and rice filo pie (page 51), Rocket, fennel and puy lentil salad (page 82), Radishes with butter and salt OR Fennel and goat´s cheese (page 102), Pea and parsley soup (page 141), Asparagus pizza (page 185), Spring onion galette (page 220), Quinoa with courgettes and onions (page 279), Lemony guacamole OR Carrot hummus (page 296), Roasted aubergine boats (page 344), Stir-fried cauliflower (page 376).
To see which wonderful dishes the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club prepared in the month of May, please go here.