Today, marks the seventh 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 international online cooking group is meant to be a project aimed at incorporating more vegetable dishes in our everyday cooking, getting to know less known vegetables, learning 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. With that goal in mind, during the month of November, I prepared a nice array of vegetable dishes from the recipe line-up.
Let us start with a picture that reflects the season that is upon us – today is the last day of November and around these parts, we celebrate the beginning of the Advent season on this first Sunday of Advent. I hope all of my friends celebrating Thanksgiving had a wonderful time with family and friends – no matter what we celebrate these days, it seems to be a time for peace and quiet and reflection upon the previous months.
Since I prepared nine out of ten recipes, I will write about each dish according to the order in which they appear in the book. My first recipe for this November post is the „Stuffed cabbage leaves " (page 38), from the chapter "Comfort Food & Feasts".
This was the most labor-intense yet also most fun to prepare of all the dishes this month. When making this dish, you will be required to follow a few steps. The first step is the preparation of the slightly chunky and thick tomato sauce with carrots, celery, tomatoes, garlic and thyme. By now, I believe I am able to prepare a tomato sauce with my eyes closed. When the sauce was simmering, I made the filling with pearl barley, onion, garlic, currants, walnuts, lemon zest, lots of chopped fresh parsley and dill, chili flakes for some heat and an egg to bind it all.
Then onto the cabbage leaves – buy a really nice Savoy cabbage (know as „Wirsing“ in these parts), choose one with big, dark green leaves, separate the leaves and blanch in well-salted boiling water for a few minutes - you have to make sure to remove the though parts of the ribs before blanching the leaves. Then fill up the leaves, roll and fold and place in baking dish. Spoon the tomato sauce over, dot with sour cream and bake for a good half hour.
The lengthy preparation of this dish was truly a labor of love! It took forever and tasted divine – the kids ate vegetarian cabbage rolls and mopped up the rest of the sauce with a few slices of rustic bread. And so did we. A success story.
The second recipe this month was „Couscous salad with herbs and walnuts“ (page 89), from the chapter "Hearty Salads".
The recipe lists „giant“ wholemeal couscous as the main ingredient. After searching high and low for this ingredient, it proved to be impossible to get a hold of. So I decided to substitute large pearl barley. Other than that particular ingredient (I am still looking for it), I had most of the other components on hand. Toasting spices such as cumin and fennel seeds, is certainly a welcome activity these days, it smells amazing while you do that. And the month of November seems to be all about smells. Always is.
After the couscous (pearl barley) is cooked, it gets mixed with the previously prepared spice mixture and the sautéed onion, garlic, chopped celery and fennel, as well as lemon juice, chopped parsley, chives, terragon and walnuts – this is one way to use those walnuts that I bought at a country fair the other day – I kept the kids busy for a while cracking the fresh nuts and getting them ready for the salad.
This is a salad loaded with herbs and sweets nuts – definitely one that you should try if you enjoy those components – the herbs could also easily be just parsley or maybe parsley and basil if that is what you like and /or have on hand. And if you do not like nuts in your salad, you could just leave them out and it would still be delicious.
The third recipe was the easiest and fastest to prepare. The „Chicory, pears and salty-sweet roasted almonds“ (page 118), from the chapter "Raw Assemblies".
Ever since I started cooking from this book, I have developed a true liking for these „raw assemblies“. And this recipe was no exception. I adored the combination of the crunchy, salty-sweet almonds, the slightly bitter local chicory and the perfectly sweet, yet firm pears form my favorite farmer.
I prepared the almonds in my tried-and-true cast-iron skillet – easy to nibble away at them after they have had a chance to cool down a bit. Be careful, they are molten-lava hot at first. The dressing is quickly made with olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then assemble the chicory leaves, the pear slices, the dressing and the almonds on a platter and enjoy the combination of flavors as well as textures – it is one that you will come back too once you tasted it, trust me!
The fourth (and fifth) recipe must be one of my very favorite seasonal soups of all times, the „Chestnut and sage soup“ (page 158), from the chapter "Hefty Soups" that I served together with the „Crostini“ (page 178), from the chapter "Bready Things".
There is a chestnut tree in our garden and every year I look forward to the harvest season – this year I used the chestnuts for baking my favorite chestnut cake, made this amazing soup and kept the remainder for roasted chestnuts.
This is such an elegant and velvety soup, I cannot get over the taste – the finished soup got a nice garnish of sliced chestnuts and sage leaves from my garden, fried in some light olive oil – serve this soup nice and hot and you will know what I mean – it is absolutely fabulous and perfect for serving to guests. Make sure to make some „Vegetable Stock“ (page 130) beforehand and serve some Crostini (page 178) alongside – no, no toppings for my Crostinis, just plain but pretty and delicious.
The sixth recipe were „Twice baked potatoes“ (page 226) from the chapter "Store-Cupboard Suppers“ – one of the two kids favorites this month.
Large potatoes get baked for an hour, then halved – while you prepare the filling, you return the skins to the oven „to dry“. The filling consists of the scooped out insides of the potatoes, sour cream, grated cheese (I chose Emmenthal), spring onions (I used fresh chives instead), sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper (I also added grated nutmeg).
My next stop will be filling them with spinach and Gruyère, a combination that is suggested by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the end of the recipe – the kids cannot wait.
The seventh recipe this month were the other crowd pleasers, the „Patatas bravas“ (page 322) from the chapter "Mezze & Tapas".
This recipe is based on a classic Spanish tapas dish. The potatoes get a two-part treatment, first you boil the cubed potatoes, then you fry them. And serve them together with a piping hot spicy tomato sauce that you can easily prepare in advance. It is also nice to let the eaters adjust the spicyness of their dish by serving a bit of chili flakes on the side.
These potatoes in tomato sauce are wonderful when you serve them alongside a few other lovely little dishes such as olives and make sure to also serve some nice rustic bread alongside, for that extra sauce.
My eighth recipe this month were the delightful „Roasted parsnip chips“ (page 357) from the chapter "Roast, Grill & Barbecue". Now what is not to love about parsnips that get roasted with shallots, olive oil, pepper and salt until crisp and caramelized on the outside and creamy in the middle – unless, of course, you do not care for those fall vegetables.
Last but not least, I made the „Creamy potato and celeriac mash“ (page 388) from the chapter "Side Dishes". A nice, comforting side-dish of cooked potatoes that you pass through a ricer and mix together with celeriac that was cooked in milk and puréed in a food processor – these two vegetables make a wonderful, slightly sweet mash – just before serving you can drizzle a bit more melted butter on top and add a bit of ground nutmeg to round things off.
Another month full of wonderful vegetable dishes – we certainly enjoy 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 Cottage Cooking Club members and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book. 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 November, please go here.