The month of August marks the sixteenth 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, entitled „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.
One of the declared aims of our cooking group is to make a decided effort to use as much regional, organic and also seasonal produce as is reasonably possible.
Since I cooked nine of the ten August recipes, I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.
My first recipe for this late summer post was the colorful and very inviting Summer spelt salad (page 72), from the chapter "Hearty Salads“, this recipe is a variation of the Spelt salad with squash and fennel that we prepared back in January 2015 - I have made that recipe many times since then (you can take a look here).
Our kids are drawn to these kinds of salads, it seems that I can never make enough of them. As usual, I used a medium-size pearl barley here instead of the pearled spelt. Pale brown in color and resembling wheat berries, barley is believed to be the oldest cultivated cereal. And it is extremely versatile. Around here, we love adding pearl barley to soups and stews but by now, I believe our family is addicted to pearl barley salads with grilled vegetables and lots and lots of fresh herbs.
To make a long story short, what is not to like about this beautiful salad with grilled cubes of aubergine, yellow summer squash, zucchini, fresh peas and French beans, with tons of added Italian parsley, green as well as purple basil and chives. Definitely my kind of recipe that leaves a lot of room for personal and seasonal interpretation.
The second recipe that I prepared was Broad (French) beans with herbed goat´s cheese (page 316) from the chapter „Mezze & Tapas“. Always game for trying out some new variations of preparing a topping for all kinds of breads that we enjoy, I was quite sure that we would love this recipe and we did.
The first time I made this I used broad beans, and piled the cheesy, herby bean mixture on top of toasted, garlic-rubbed country bread. The second time I made this recipe I could not find any more fresh broad beans for the life of me and used French beans instead. I was torn at first between adding peas or French green beans and decided to go with the later. I chopped up the beans after blanching them to make them more convenient to eat and serve. So, the second time around, I ended up serving this as a late summer appetizer on mini rounds of lovely, dark and sweet German Pumpernickel - a little bit 70´s style.
I must admit to being rather partial to the contrast of flavors here. The tangy fresh goat´s cheese and the creaminess of the Greek yogurt, those herbs and just the right hint of garlic, taken all together, made my day.
My third recipe for this month was the Tomato and mozzarella risotto from the chapter (page 272) of „Pasta & Rice“ – although this recipe was a tad bit more involved, I loved making it. I started out with preparing the Roasted tomato sauce (page 366) in the morning – this is pretty much a no-brainer. Take lovely summer tomatoes, cut them in half, add garlic, thyme, and marjoram, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and pass the results through a sieve (or, in my case, a vintage food mill - always love an excuse to pull that lovely old kitchen utensil out of the cupboard). Measure about 300 ml and you are all set for the risotto.
Risotto rice is easy to come by and we all know how to prepare a risotto and are forewarned not to leave the kitchen whilst preparing a risotto which can be considered as somewhat of a difficult or moody side dish to prepare. Add your tomato sauce or passata di pomodoro at the end, then add cubes of buffalo mozzarella for a real treat. If you love the creaminess of risotto and melted cheese in addition to the taste of a wonderful homemade herby passata – then this is a recipe for you.
For the fourth recipe, I chose the delightfully summery Leek and cheese toastie (page 202) from the chapter "Bready Things". Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall describes this leek-based, cheesy topping as „the simplest and most midweek-friendly“ of his leek toppings and right he is.
The delicious and easy topping consists of but a few ingredients, namely some good quality butter, sliced fresh leeks and fragrant thyme - cook gently for about 10 to 15 minutes and then all that is left to do is to stir in some double cream, simmer some more, fold in some grated cheese such as Cheddar, add sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, then toast a few slices of sourdough bread (or other bread that you prefer), spread with the still warm topping and top with more cheese, then grill until golden - pure midweek deliciousness if you ask my family and me.
Thyme grows in my garden, fresh leeks can be easily found locally, the bread is from my favorite bakery nearby and the cheese I used was Emmenthal. We were all more than pleased with this with its sweetness from the leeks, creaminess from the cheese and cream and just the right amount of woodsy herb flavor from the fresh thyme.
Again, this is like a different kind of bruschetta and Hugh´s recipe brings out the mild, sweet flavor that leeks have and showcases it so well. Make sure to use your favorite country-style, rustic bread like a lovely sourdough.
Onto recipe number five the Stuffed peppers with new potatoes, feta and pesto (page 349) from the chapter „Roast, Grill & Barbecue“. This is definitely a fun recipe - you could use different varieties of peppers here and use store-bought or homemade pesto, depending on your schedule.
I believe that it is a true pleasure to cook this Italian-style vegetarian dish of colorful stuffed peppers in late summer, when home-grown red peppers are at their sweetest. Just make sure to roast them for an adequate amount of time.
The somewhat unusual filling in Hugh´s recipe not only calls for cubed boiled new potatoes, but also for feta cheese and homemade pesto (page 256) – as we have eaten a lot of pesto lately, I decided to opt for a delightful Walnut tapenade instead. Good choice. This dish is a bit different and combines flavors that I would usually not serve in this combination but glad I did when I made it.
Recipe number six ranks as my personal favorite this month, the Aubergine and green bean curry (page 29) from the chapter of „Comfort Food & Feasts“.
The first step in this recipe requires you to make a curry paste of shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, green chilies, ground cumin, coriander and turmeric. What a fragrant paste. Next you fry the aubergine, then the curry paste. Add the aubergine to the warm curry paste, add homemade tomato sauce and coconut milk, then some French beans, and simmer until they are tender – which takes about 5 to 10 minutes. I decided to go with yellow string beans here as opposed to the ever present green variety at our house . I believe that the yellow ones are sweeter than the green ones which makes for a nice contrast in this somewhat spicy dish.
As a side dish, I served some lovely basmati rice with black and yellow sesame seeds and topped with fresh cress. And I put out a plate with fresh lime wedges for everyone.
This dish is a late summer/early autumn dish, richly flavored with just the right amount of heat – who would have thought that tomato sauce, coconut milk, spices, aubergines and French beans all put together can work their magic on your palate. No doubt in my mind that I will be making this dish again soon.
The recipe that I chose as my seventh one this month was the Cheat´s cauliflower cheese (page 378) from the chapter „Side Dishes“. Made individual portions for the kids in those cute mini cocottes and they loved it - a nice way to serve that cauliflower and flavorful enough. Definitely a nice variation of the traditional English "Cheddar cauliflower cheese gratin" and not as rich either. Serve it as an accompaniment to a main course or even with a seasonal salad and maybe some homemade bread and butter or steamed summer greens.
Onto number eight. The Summer garden lentils niçoise (page 237) from the chapter „ Store-cupboard suppers“. For the lentils I chose the french Le Puy lentils, a variety of lentils that I enjoy quite a bit – they have great flavor, wonderful color and they hold their shape so well after cooking and when mixed into a hearty salad like this one.
Flavorwise, this salad is basically a lentil salad dressed up as a salade niçoise – and true to „the original salade niçoise, apart from the lentils, you will need cooked French beans, shallots, black olives and cherry tomatoes – plus some soft-boiled eggs on top. If the yolks are still soft, they mix rather nicely with the mustardy vinaigrette – another immensely popular hearty salads at our house. We loved, loved this one and I know that it does keep well because I made way too much for us to eat in one session.
The last recipe I prepared from this month´s line-up was the Tomatoes with Thai dressing (page 121) from the chapter „Raw Assemblies“.
So. what´s not to love about a variety of the freshest tomatoes avaiblable (including zebra, yellow, orange and red cherry tomatoes and some beefsteak tomatoes from Belgium) – the dressing consists of chili, garlic, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, sesame oil and honey – to that I added freshly grated ginger – plus lots of chives (instead of the mint) and Italian parsley. Quite delightful.
In summary, another month full of wonderful vegetable dishes – this month we were delighted to enjoy a number of late summer recipes for lunch, dinner and, best of all, for relaxed al fresco dining. What can possibly be better than to cook with fresh ingredients at this time of year.
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!
To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please visit here. They would all appreciate a visit!