Monday, December 28, 2015
The Cottage Cooking Club - December Recipes
The month of December marks the twentieth 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".
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.
This month I prepared three of the five designated recipes, plus a few extra ones. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.
My first recipe for this December post is the colorful Spicy carrot and chickpea pockets (page 193) from the chapter "Bready Things“.
This dish is all about buttery carrots and creamy chickpeas and cumin and that Spanish hot smoked paprika – a perfect dish for the holidays as the ingredients that this recipe calls for can easily be bought way in advance or, depending on how well stocked your fridge and cupboards are, can easily be prepared at a moment´s notice.
I chose to serve the Spicy chickpeas and carrots as a starter with freshly backed warm Turkish Flatbread with Sesame Seeds instead of serving them with pita pockets. Those pita pockets are so omnipresent around here these days, that I presently find myself getting just a bit tired of those bready pockets. I also thought that serving Greek yoghurt alongside – to soothe some of the heat from the hot smoked paprika – was a really good and tasty idea. If you are a bit of a spice lover and enjoy eating chickpeas and carrots, then this dish is definitely for you.
The second recipe I prepared was a take on one of my favorite and most beloved recipes from the book, the Blue cheese and chives tart (page 216) from the chapter of "Store-Cupboard Suppers“.
This is another recipe that can come in very handy in the month of December when we are all so very busy with cooking up a storm for the holidays. With but a handful of ingredients, this is one of the best and most flavorful tart recipes that you can make. Storebought puff pastry, tomatoes, a good olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and a bit of sea salt – plus that lovely French Roquefort (or other blue cheese) and freshly cut chives from the garden. Could not be easier or more tasty than that.
I have made this tart more times than I can remember using feta or mozzarella and different herbs such as thyme or fresh basil (added after baking) – it is always a hit and I am always grateful for this recipe.
My third recipe this month was a dish that I missed last month, the Jerusalem artichoke frying pan gratin (page 382) from the chapter of "Side Dishes“. We love a good gratin, especially potato gratin, so I was curious to see how well this gratin would be received by the crowds – the cooking technique here is a bit different. As the title implies, first you pan fry the Jerusalem artichoke slices than you grill them.
The first step in this recipe is to fry an onion in some butter and olive oil, then add the sliced Jerusalem artichockes with thyme, salt and pepper and a bit of water (or stock, in my case) simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. The second step is to transfer the cooked mixture to a gratin dish (or individual dishes in my case) add crème fraîche and cheese and place under the grill for a few minutes – done.
While the sliced Jerusalem artichokes are prepared with herbs and cream and cheese, their distinct flavor is still very present. So, if you enjoy the taste of Jerusalem artichockes, this gratin is definitely for you. We enjoy eating them in different kinds of dishes and I love them in soup (even won a cooking competition with them in October) but, again, this is a question of personal taste as the flavors in this dish are rather a bit unusual.
The fourth dish was a repeat for me – another recipe I keep coming back to. Aren´t these the best cookbooks that have you come back to the same recipes again and again?! For Christmas day, I served an entrée of Chestnut and sage soup (page 158) from the chapter of "Hefty Soups“ that we first made back in November 2014.
Although I have made and written about this soup on more than one occasion, I still love it with fresh and abundant sage from our garden and I still consider it to be my favorite soup from the book.
What is not to love about the taste of creamy and velvety chestnuts. When we have fresh chestnuts from the tree in our garden, I use those. Later in the season, I buy vacuum-packed ones from France (as the recipe suggests). When I make this soup. I like to add the white parts of a leek for even more taste and instead of the crème fraîche, I sometimes go for milk (3.5%) and foamed milk. For the drops of oil, I like to use a really deeply flavored cold pressed pumpkin seed oil from my local oil mill. We love that soup and it made for a nice and elgant festive first course.
The fifth dish I made this month was a recipe that we made back in June 2014, the Pizza with new potatoes and blue cheese (page 182) from the chapter of "Bready Things“.
This time instead of the blue cheese, I used goat cheese with a red wine rind from my favorite regional goat cheese manufacturer. When we visited them the other day, I had brought back more cheese than we could handle all at once and I kept wondering what to do about this one with the red wine rind – I also had some wonderful small potatoes left over from Christams dinner, the gnarly ones called "les rats“ or "the rats“, so what better way to use those two lovely left-overs than to make this much beloved pizza of a different kind – with no tomatoes in sight but tasty potatoes, fresh goat cheese and fragrant rosemary from our garden.
The sixth recipe I made was actually in the December line-up of recipes, the Chachouka (page 20), from the chapter of "Comfort Food & Feasts“. This is a North African pepper and tomato stew with eggs baked on top, not unlike the famous Italian Peperonata that we made back in July of this year.
This was a first for me and the kids loved it – with onions, garlic, red peppers and tomatoes as well as cumin seeds, Spanish hot smoked paprika, saffron and eggs, this was a true winner of a recipe – I might not have cooked it quite as down as Hugh did but my taste testers preferred it that way and who am I to argue with them?!
The seventh dish I made this month is our all-time favorite potato salad from the book, the New potato salad „tartare“ (page 79) that we made back in June 2015 and that I have served many times since. We love the mixture of tangy Cornichons and capers, fresh dill and softly-boiled eggs and small French potatoes. One of the best potato salad recipes out there, trust us, we are know a thing or two about potato salads around here.
In summary, another month full of wonderful vegetable dishes – this month we were delighted to enjoy a few new as well as some much beloved recipes, main courses as well as side dishes or appetizer for lunch and dinner.
What a year 2015 has been - lots of wonderful vegetable dishes and I am quite proud of all my devoted taste testers and owe them a huge "Thank you!" for their enthusiasm! Another heartfelt "Thanks!" goes to my fellow members of The Cottage Cooking Club for their enthusiastic support of our international online cooking group! Hopefully, in the coming year we will continue to cook together as a group and move to a different book from the same author!
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.
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!