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.

21 comments:

  1. I have to say that the celery gratin and the upside down onion tart really appeal to me, even at 6:30 in the morning! It is making me regret that I loaned my River Cottage Veg book to a friend, and don't remember to whom! I hope they bring it back, because I need to make these! Liebe Grüße, und bis bald! David

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    1. Dear David, well, then, if I were you, I would try to get hold of my copy of this very lovely cookbook again - I cannot stress enough how much we enjoy the recipes!
      Liebe Grüsse,
      Andrea

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  2. Hello Andrea, each of your dishes for the month look so lovely, as always. The Hummus looks so creamy I feel like I could dip it off the page. I thought the Penne Pesto dish was nice too and everyone enjoyed it, same as the upside-down onion tart where I used a combination of white and red onions in the same tart dish, the scent was amazing. The chilies stuffed with beans was a dish I never got to as planned, but they look beautiful as you prepared them and I hope they were enjoyed by your taste testers. It has been another fun month of preparing and sampling from among the many delicious flavors of River Cottage veg everyday, through the Cottage Cooking Club. Thanks for all!

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    1. Peggy, my dear, glad we seem to all agree on the Upside-Down Onion Tart - it is so very pretty when serve on a big, beautiful platter - fit for company, that´s for sure! Preparing onions this way makes them a sweet, sticky delicious treat with a fabulous smell! I will follow your sage advice and bring along the Pasta with new potatoes, green beans and pesto to our next picnic - with plenty of good-quality green olives on the sdie - for that extra little deliciousness!
      Thank you for cooking along with us again this month,
      Andrea

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  3. Pure gorgeousness. You are a poet w/ food!
    The Upside-down onion tart looks FABULOUS.
    xxx love from MN

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    1. Kim, thank you my dear, always love all your wonderful comments!

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  4. Wow, Lady, you had quite the month - and, you were able to make all these wonderful dishes also. I used both yellow and red onions in my tart and prefer the sweeter yellow onions. Love that recipe. You are the third club member who raved about the mushroom soup. Definitely high on my must-make list. The celery gratin, not so much. Right now we are getting terrible celery, really terrible produce, in our local store. If I don't get to Whole Foods, 30 minutes away, my selection is very poor. I was intriqued by the salad also. The hummus, which was even better on the second day, is a good substitute for mayo and butter. So many different colors this week in your lovely photographs. Loved this post, Ms. Lioness.

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    1. Mary, my dear, I am looking forward to your post already - I hope that your blog/computer is fixed by now and that you will surprise us yet again with another wonderful post! I already know that you prepared the one recipe that I did not get around to preparing, curious to see wether you enjoyed it as much as Zosia did. The Celery Gratin will not be repeated but it is difficult for this vegetable to be the star of a dish when faced with so much delicious competition in any given momth. I am putting together the list for May today - springtime everywhere I hope and lots of wonderful treats in store for us all!
      Thank you for yor kind words and for participating this month,
      Andrea

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  5. Andrea, your photos make every single recipe look wonderful. I have really enjoyed all the recipes I've tried in the book, but the photos aren't the best. Yours are MUCH BETTER. I enjoyed the mushroom soup too. And wasn't so wild about the celery gratin. I'm quite tempted to try the onion tart, the pasta, and the salad with egg and croutons. The salad reminds me of a vegetarian version of Salad Lyonnaise. Once again, thank you for creating this group. I enjoy trying new recipes and seeing everyone's reviews every month.

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    1. Betsy, we agree on both the Creamy Mushroom Soup as well as the Celery Gratin - one was fabulous, the other one was liked less - but you cannot win them all...I sincerely appreciate your commenting on the pictures - there is tad bit of an effort that goes into the "food styling" part of these posts and the photos are always so very close to my heart. So, a Big Fat Thank You! for commenting on my pictures is in order!!!
      Thank you also for participating again this month, dear friend! Glad we are making our journey through this cookbook together!
      Andrea

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  6. As soon as I get home I will order the book. Your photos and presentations are so beautiful that you just want to make it.

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    1. Gerlinde - then I have the moxt wonderful idea - once you get home, order the book asap and join us in The Cottage Cooking Club - I already know that we agree on a lot of different recipes, so I am confident that you will agree with me not only that the recipes from this book are outstanding but also that the wonderfully talented and enthusiastic members of the Cottage Cooking Club are a fabulous online cooking group and that one simply MUST join them in this cooking adventure!
      Liebe Grüsse - bist du in Urlaub...
      Andrea

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  7. OMG Andrea...everything looks so good and the pictures just translate all the yumminess of the dishes...the salad so pretty and the onion tarts...I so wish for a slice of it...thank you so much for the inspiration!
    Hope you are having a fabulous week :)

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    1. Juliana, so kind of you to stop by and thank you so much for your wonderful comment - I always appreaciate hearing from you! And it is nice to read that you so enjoy this blog post!
      Wishing you a wonderful week,
      Andrea

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  8. Oh my, these look divine..

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  9. Wow! Everything looks so delicious! I was surprised that I liked the pasta dish as much as I did; I was wary of the starch + starch combination but it worked. And I love Peggy's idea of bringing it to a picnic. Your two renditions of the onion tart are just beautiful! After reading all of the glowing reviews, I'm determined to make this, even if it's just a mini version for me! I love the garnish on that delicious mushroom soup - so much lighter and prettier than the cream I used. The choices for April were wonderful but I am looking forward to the May selections, visiting the farmers' markets that open up here next weekend and getting my hands on some local spring produce.

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    1. Zosia, thank you for the comment - we are all looking forward to the spring produce making an appearane at a farmers´ market near us - the lightness of spring will return to The Cottage Cooking Club in this lovely month of May, promised.
      Andrea

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  10. Once again, Andrea, you have outdone yourself! The presentations are fabulous. I want to dig in and devour your pasta dish! I unfortunately used a brand of store bought pesto that I had not used in the past, and did not care for. L O V E the look of the red onion tart! As I was preparing the tart, red onions crossed my mind, and now I know I want to make one with the red onions. Stunning! The bowl in which you served the soup - is just beautiful. It sounds as if everyone liked the soup. I will have to give it a try. If Hugh has a reprint of this book, he needs to use your picture for the lettuce, egg, and fried bread salad. When I read it was a choice for this month, I was on it, until I saw the photo in the book - looks so drab. Passed it up. At least you were able to get red peppers! I used green poblano peppers - not quite so pretty; but still oh so delicious! Your flat breads - I want those now! Another recipe I passed on, since my last two recipes using the magic dough did not work in my favor (though I have had success in the past..) I think there was only one other person besides myself that liked the gratin. Have a wonderful week ahead, Andrea!

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  11. Andrea, as always, you just serve up the most beautiful food!!

    Finally getting to the posts, I only made the lettuce salad and the pasta/pesto. I really want to make the onion tart - one of the first things that caught my eye. I know you expected me to make the stuffed chiles - Now that I see all of the results, I should have. I couldn't wrap my head around the filling though - since they are something I make pretty often with different ingredients.

    As always, stunning photos. And all of your "props" that I know you love so much make every dish that much more special. Blog envy. :)

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  12. Andrea, I am always so jealous of your taste testers. What lovely meals you serve. Both onion tarts are especially gorgeous. Also the bread salad, which I too adored. Are those edible flowers? So pretty.

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