Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club - August Recipes

Today, marks the fourth 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 online cooking group is meant to be a project aimed at incorporating more vegetable dishes in our everyday cooking, learning new ways to prepare tasty and healthy dishes, and sharing them with family and friends.

We 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 that month of August, I prepared a few wonderful dishes from the book and made my utterly devoted taste testers quite happy!

Let us start with a picture of these bright yellow  "Pumpkin Blossoms" that one of our daughters picked for this post!

My first recipe for the August post is the „Pasta with Fennel, Rocket and Lemon“ (page 262). For this lovely summery pasta dish to come together, you will need to sauté the thinly sliced fennel with the garlic until tender. I found the ten minutes time in the book a bit short and ended up sautéeing the fennel for a good twenty minutes instead. Fennel is one of our favorite vegetables as we enjoy its mild aniseed flavor which seems to be more prominent during the summer months. In general, we like fennel to be slightly caramelized, not really that crunchy in sauces, therefore, the increased amout of time for sautéeing seemed just right as it made the fennel sweet and tender.

Once the fennel is cooked to your liking and you prepared your pasta (fettuccine in my case), you will add some peppery, slightly bitter rocket to the fennel, stir until wilted, then add organic lemon zest, crème fraîche, freshly ground pepper and some nice sea salt.

While you cook the pasta, it is a pretty good idea to keep a little bit of the pasta water to help loosen everything as well as bind everything together. There is starch in the water from cooking the pasta and when you add some of that water to your creamy pasta sauce, it helps a lot in making this a really wonderful pasta sauce. A summery sauce with a great balance of flavors, sweetness from the fennel, freshness from the lemon zest and a peppery punch from the rocket. Do not forget to keep some of the fennel fronds to finish this dish.

Alongside the Pasta with Fennel, Rocket and Lemon, we enjoyed the Tomato Bruschetta (page 199) as well as the Courgette Bruschetta (page 200). Admittedly, the later was not in the August line-up, but on the day I made the pasta, I had a rather hungry crowd at my hands.

We are in late summer and tomatoes are everywhere, so you can choose from a large variety these days when making the bruschetta. I chose to use only red tomatoes, a really good olive oil , sugar (to waken up the juices in the tomatoes), some pepper, salt and fresh basil from the garden – pile that on a nice slice of toasted sourdough bread that you rubbed with some garlic while still hot, and you have a simple, incredibly flavorful bruschetta.

The second bruschetta calls for my other favorite summer vegetable, courgettes. I cannot seem to get enough of them. And the smaller they are, the more flavor they have. Courgettes taste great combined with goats' cheese or garden herbs, so this recipe was calling my name when I saw it.

Courgettes (or zucchinis) are quite watery vegetables so they do need to be cooked with care. Once you fried the courgettes slices with some garlic and olive oil and smashed them up slightly, you will pile them on the same kind of sourdough bread slices as the tomato bruschetta, add a bit of thyme and crumbled goats´ chesse and serve while still warm. These two kinds of bruschetta go excetionally well with the pasta and we loved the combination of flavors.

Onto the fourth recipe „Caramelised Carrots with Gremolata“ (page 355). This dish has become a regular one at our house, as I have made it many times since I saw it first.

This recipe is extremely easy to make as Hugh Fearnley-Whittigstall so aptly points out “the contrasts of sweet, caramelized carrots and easy gremolata is brilliant – and it looks great too”. The steps to this delicious side dish are but a few. You simply put the carrots in a large roasting dish. Pour over the olive oil, season well with freshly ground pepper and sea salt and stir to coat. Roast for about 30 minutes while covered, than again for about 20 minutes uncovered until the are tender and golden brown in places. Meanwhile, you prepare the gremolata. Roughly chop a bit of garlic (young garlic is best here), add the Italian parsley and lemon zest to the board, and chop and mix until very fine. As soon as the carrots are roasted, toss the gremolata with the carrots, so the heat from the carrots can take the raw edge off the garlic. Add more salt and pepper to taste and serve straight away.

What´s not to like about this stunning side-dish – I have used the “first roast, then immediately toss with the gremolata method”, as I have taken to call this way of preparing and serving roasted vegetables, many times since I first saw it in the book. It is a simply fabulous method to add extra taste to your already delicious, naturally sweet roasted root vegetables. You can rest assured that there will be no sharp taste from the garlic.

Recipe numer five is called „Tahini-dressed Courgette and Green Bean Salad“ (page 74) – it could also be called „Late Summer Salad“. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall comments this recipe with the following words " this lovely recipe is as much about the dressing as the salad". That is quite true because what he calls the "thick, trickling dressing" seems to be particularly good when you add chargrilled summer vegetables such as courgettes and tomatoes to the fresh salad greens.

For the salad greens I used a head of romaine lettuce and some rocket and added a few fresh basil leaves to the mix. For the vegetables I used chargrilled cherry tomatoes as well as summer squash and courgettes. And steamed some lovely French beans. The tahini dressing also works very well with lentils, barley and other legumes. It contains the following ingredients, namely a bit of garlic, sea salt, tahini (a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds), the zest and juice of a lemon, juice of an orange, some local honey, fruity olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. Tangy and a bit thick this "trickling dressing" was very well received at our house.

While all those lovely courgettes and summer squashes and cherry tomatoes are still abundantly available, I like the fact that I can double up on the Chargrilled Summer Veg (page 332), serve some of them the first day just as is with some fresh lemon juice and keep some of them for the next day and make this colorful and hearty salad. Perfect family meal particularly if you serve a lovely loaf of bread alongside.

Then there was a very colorful  „Asian-inspired Coleslaw“ (page 115).

An easy, delciously crunchy coleslaw made with white cabbage, orange, yellow and purple carrots and chives. The dressing consists of soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, white vinegar, toasted sesame oil and some olive oil. Delicious, fresh summerfare, loved by all as a side dish.

Last but not least I made the „Roasted Tomato Ketchup“ (page 392). That was my first time making ketchup but certainly not the last time.

The first step is a "Roasted Tomato Sauce" (page 366) - I used about two kilos of sweet, red summer tomatoes for this and as per the recipe added three cloves of finely chopped garlic, a few sprigs of thyme and marjoram, olive oil, pepper and salt. Marjoram is such a fragrant culinary herb and very popular in Mediterranean cookery. So is thyme with its heady, aromatic flavor. The house smelled like an Italian restaurant while the tomatoes were happily roasting in the oven for a good hour - incredible.

Once the Roasted Tomato Sauce had cooled off for an hour, it was time to pull out my beloved vintage "mouli" or "Flotte Lotte" (love, love that name) as we call it in German and pass the sauce through there - I was left with a rich, flavorful tomato purée.

Then the second step. The Roasted Tomato Sauce will have to be cooked down with soft brown sugar, cider vinegar, ground mace and mixed spice as well as hot smoked paprika. Mace (the lacy outer layer that covers the nutmeg) adds a mild nutmeg flavor to dishes. Mixed spice, which is very similar to France's sweet quatre-épices, typically incorporates cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves or allspice. And hot paprika or Spanish pimentón, as it is also known here, is often smoked, giving the sauce a unique, earthy flavor. All of those flavors combined made this one delicious Roasted Tomato Ketchup with a thick texture, a bit reminiscent of a very good and flavor-intense tomato sauce. What a nice way to use up some of the abundant crop of summer tomatoes. Even convinced those sceptics.

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 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 August, please go here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Visit to Antwerp (Belgium) - Part II - Market Day

With commerce in its blood since first founding Antwerp, Belgium  has always been a city of markets. Even in the 16th century it was known as a "triomfelycke coopstad" (a triumphant shopping city). That mercantile fervor remains to this day, and the city hosts countless weekly markets, and several more themed markets each month.

If you happen to visit the beautiful City of Antwerp on a Saturday, do not forget to drop by the the so-called „International Exotic Market“ for some wonderful foodie treats. The market takes place every Saturday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at „Theaterplein“ (one of Antwerp’s biggest squares) and it is quite popular with the locals.ith commerce in its blood since first founding.

Many visitors gather to browse the different market stalls in search of special ingredients, wonderful spices, a good deal on vegetables or to eat something while visiting there. You will be able to choose from a variety of offerings such as freshly roasted coffee, teas, Moroccan pancakes, freshly chucked French oysters with a glass of champagne or white wine, Mexican churros, Vietnamese egg rolls, Dutch, French or Greek cheeses, Spanish or Italian hams, French dry-cured sausages, North African herbs and spices, nuts, olives or dried fruits, fresh pastas, breads and many seasonal fruits and vegetables. You will also find a goat farm offering a variety of cheese products. And different vendors selling mustards, jellies and jams or wonderful fresh as well as dried flowers.

There were very colorful bouquets of dried flowers – once you get them home safely, they will keep for quite some time.

A sign from "Heerlyk & Eerlyk Deli"  leading to this specialty vendor of mushrooms, truffels, balsamic vinegar, different oils, specialty foods and other seasonal products.

Défendons le goût du frais“. Hear. Hear.

Bunches of red grapes and homemade jellies and jams.

Different kinds of fresh pasta from „Pastaman - da´s pas pasta" - selling freshly made pasta with numerous flavors including spinach, basil, saffron, curry, paprika, tomato and many more. As well as pestos, tapenades and pasta sauces.

Bunches of carrot- and celery tops.

Small, oblong red and white radishes, red-skinned fresh onions and artichokes.

If you need a pick-me-up and maybe some pains au chocolat with your morning brew, you will be glad to stand in line at this micro-coffee-roaster called "".


…and more cheese. Look, taste, smell, and then buy some.

Why bother with a menu – the writing on the tabletop indictes that a glass of wine will cost you 5 Euros, a bottle 25 Euros.

Colorful Moroccan earthenware – loved those tajine pots.

Greengages "Reine Claude" (my very favorite stonefruits - for my rendition of a famous recipe with these, you can take a look here), plums…

…and apricots.

Many visitors to the market take a well-deserved lunch break.

An array of green and black olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

Fresh oysters - shucked while you are watching and waiting - with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or maybe some tabasco sauce.

Cheese – as far as the eye can see.

More olives, and caper berries. And preserved lemons.

More shucked oysters and mignonette (finely diced golden shallots in aged red wine vinegar).

And some white wine to enjoy alongside the oysters.

Lots of different nuts and dried fruits, such as apricots, dates and plums.

Antipasti and capers.

Garlic and shallots and onions.

Tasting some saucisson, or "saucisson sec"…

...a variety of thick, dry cured sausage that originates in France. Typically made of pork, or a mixture of pork and other meats.

Baguettes galore.

Cutting into an jamón ibérico.

Jamón ibérico also called pata negra and carna negra is a type of cured ham produced mostly in Spain, but also in some Portuguese regions. The jamón ibérico may be made from black Iberian pigs, or cross-bred pigs as long as they are at least 75% ibérico.

Foodtruck vendor of Vietnamese eggrolls, called „loempia“ in Dutch. A popular lunchtime snack in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Olive tasting.

Kaas muisje. That is Dutch for „cheese mouse“. Selling traditional cheeses while offering you a taste.

Cheese wheels.

The International Exotic Market on Theater Square with its many offerings of both local, home grown specialties as well as exotic products certainly has a unique atmosphere. A visit to this market is one of many good reasons why you should visit Antwerp on the weekend. We loved to visit, shop and eat there.

Part I of my mini series revolved around the breathtakingly beautiful City of Antwerp itself and can be found here. Part III will focus mainly on one of the most beloved and utterly delightful cookie bakeries in Antwerp and will revolve around an Antwerp cookie specialty. So make sure to look out for Part III. Coming very soon.

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For more information:
The Exotic Market
Oudevaarplaats, Theaterplein (Theater Square) and surrounding
both local Belgian specialties, as well as Turkish, Maroccan and southern European specialities
2000 Antwerp, BE
every Saturday from 8am-4pm