January marks the ninth 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 in our everyday cooking, getting to know less known, forgotten or heritage 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 January, I prepared a nice array of vegetable dishes from the recipe line-up.
Since I prepared seven out of ten recipes, I will write about each dish according to the order in which I prepared them.
My first recipe for this January post was the Spelt Salad with Squash and Fennel (page 72) from the chapter "Hearty Salads". I have made variations of this wonderful salad many times before. Sometimes I will use medium-sized or large pearl barley, or pearled spelt and sometimes wheatberries. Depending on the season, I will also add different kinds of vegtables to it.
This time I added oven-roasted butternut squash and fennel, as per the recipe. The roasting brings out the best in those two lovely vegetables. While roasting, the butternut squash will turn sweet and creamy and the fennel will develop the most wonderful anisseed flavor paired with a distinct sweetness as well. Heavenly.The dressing is quickly prepared with olive oil from the roasting pan, lemon juice, pepper, salt, Parm and chopped Italian parsley – make sure to keep the fennel fronds for the final touch.
This salad is now a true family-favorite and I cannot stress enough that you should really be making this on a regular basis. The left-overs are almost more delicious than the freshly-prepared salad and are perfect for packing-up for the office or for school.
The second recipe was one I was looking forward the most – fennel is my very favorite veg these days and the Fennel and Celeriac Soup with Orange Zest (page 142) from the chapter „Hefty Soups“ really got my attention.
The soup is made with fennel and some celeriac as the vegtable base, then some shallots and homemade vegetable stock (page 130) and a touch of orange zest. Before serving, add a nice dollop of crème fraîche. While roasting makes fennel sweet and tender, cooking fennel in the stock brings out a rather mild aniseed flavor, one that is complemented in the most delicious of ways by the orange zest. The addition of the crème fraîche makes for an even more velvety texture. Fennel is excellent for making soup we really enjoyed it but I like fennel even better when it is sweet and oven-roasted (above) and adorned by nothing else than a really good-quality salt for example.
The third recipe I prepared was the dish with the most lovely name of them all, the Curried Bubble and Squeak (page 228)from the chapter „Store-cupboard Suppers“.
The name refers to the appetizing sound this stir-up of cooked potatoes and greens makes as it cooks. As kitchen recycling goes, this is probably the most useful of all, neatly dispensing with those most difficult of leftovers. I used cold cooked potatoes and Brussels sprouts as the main stars of this dish – then some finely sliced onions, salt, pepper and a mild curry powder. Kids loved this, it is not unlke the pan-fried potatoes that we make around here, except that you can add just about anything edible to it that strikes your fancy. Delicious. Easy. Fool-proof.
The fourth recipe this month was Big Baked Mushrooms (page 385) from the chapter „Side Dishes“. Love at first bite.
This will be my go to recipe for a mushroom side-dish in the future and although I did not find large mushrooms for this recipe, the recipe worked just the same. Dot mushrooom caps with butter, scatter on some garlic, then salt and pepper to taste and bake for a good 15 minutes, then I added some cheese and baked them for a few minutes more. Done.
When served on a bed of various greens such as red baby Swiss chard leaves that taste a little like spinach and gorgeous dark burgundy-colored red beet leaves, these easy mushrooms are the most tempting, utterly delicious side-dish that you can imagine – pure veg bliss on a plate.
The fifth recipe was my favorite dip from this book so far, the Artichoke and White Bean Dip (page 303) from the chapter of „Mezze & Tapas“.
The dip consists of artichoke hearts (a great staple to have), onion, garlic, cannellini beans (another great staple to have), fresh lemon juice, ground red pepper flakes, Greek yogurt, salt and pepper. Heat it all up and give the ingredients a good whiz in the food processor – done.
Add some homemade pita chips with chives to the mix or serve alongside fresh veg (as soon as spring rolls around, that will be my go to option) and you will have a winner. It is a creamy dip, not heavy at all, with just the right tang from the yogurt and the fresh lemon juice – to round out the taste of the dip, I added a few drops of cold-pressed hemp oil – this cold-pressed oil from our beloved oil mill in Bonn, was given to me as a Christmas gift. While this oil is one of the most healthy oils you can use to finish-off a dish, it does have a distinct taste that paired well with the creamy dip. Besides, since my artichoke hearts were packed in water, not oil, the dip was not weighed down at all – just right.
The sixth recipe was Cauliflower with toasted Seeds (page 108) from the chapter „Raw Assemblies“. What a lovely way to enjoy cauliflower.
At first you need to lightly dry-roast sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds. Then you slice some cauliflower florets as thinly as possible. All that is left to do is prepare the vinaigrette using lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest (instead if the sumac), pepper and salt – served on a bed of various salad greens, this makes one wonderful winter salad with lots of diffferent textures. The crunchiness from the nuts and the raw cauliflower and the freshness from the greens easily made this one of my favorite dishes.
The last recipe for this month was the Beetroot Pizza with Cheddar (page 180) from the chapter of „Bready Things“.
Now this is one fun way to enjoy pizza. With a rather unusual topping of homemade tomato sauce (page 58), roasted beetroots (page 92) and one portion of the magic bread dough (page 172), this pizza turned out so fabulous, I could not believe it.
Potentially, this pizza can be put together in no time at all using storebought sauce, pre-cooked beets (available around here in the veg isle) and ready-made pizza dough and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you have the time (maybe on the weekend) to make all the elements of this pizza at home, go for it, at least once, you will not regret it. We loved this smoky-sweet pizza and I cannot wait to make it again.
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!
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 January, please go here.