Today, marks the seventh 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 international online cooking group is meant to be a project aimed at incorporating more vegetable dishes in our everyday cooking, getting to know less known 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 November, I prepared a nice array of vegetable dishes from the recipe line-up.
Let us start with a picture that reflects the season that is upon us – today is the last day of November and around these parts, we celebrate the beginning of the Advent season on this first Sunday of Advent. I hope all of my friends celebrating Thanksgiving had a wonderful time with family and friends – no matter what we celebrate these days, it seems to be a time for peace and quiet and reflection upon the previous months.
Since I prepared nine out of ten recipes, I will write about each dish according to the order in which they appear in the book. My first recipe for this November post is the „Stuffed cabbage leaves " (page 38), from the chapter "Comfort Food & Feasts".
This was the most labor-intense yet also most fun to prepare of all the dishes this month. When making this dish, you will be required to follow a few steps. The first step is the preparation of the slightly chunky and thick tomato sauce with carrots, celery, tomatoes, garlic and thyme. By now, I believe I am able to prepare a tomato sauce with my eyes closed. When the sauce was simmering, I made the filling with pearl barley, onion, garlic, currants, walnuts, lemon zest, lots of chopped fresh parsley and dill, chili flakes for some heat and an egg to bind it all.
Then onto the cabbage leaves – buy a really nice Savoy cabbage (know as „Wirsing“ in these parts), choose one with big, dark green leaves, separate the leaves and blanch in well-salted boiling water for a few minutes - you have to make sure to remove the though parts of the ribs before blanching the leaves. Then fill up the leaves, roll and fold and place in baking dish. Spoon the tomato sauce over, dot with sour cream and bake for a good half hour.
The lengthy preparation of this dish was truly a labor of love! It took forever and tasted divine – the kids ate vegetarian cabbage rolls and mopped up the rest of the sauce with a few slices of rustic bread. And so did we. A success story.
The second recipe this month was „Couscous salad with herbs and walnuts“ (page 89), from the chapter "Hearty Salads".
The recipe lists „giant“ wholemeal couscous as the main ingredient. After searching high and low for this ingredient, it proved to be impossible to get a hold of. So I decided to substitute large pearl barley. Other than that particular ingredient (I am still looking for it), I had most of the other components on hand. Toasting spices such as cumin and fennel seeds, is certainly a welcome activity these days, it smells amazing while you do that. And the month of November seems to be all about smells. Always is.
After the couscous (pearl barley) is cooked, it gets mixed with the previously prepared spice mixture and the sautéed onion, garlic, chopped celery and fennel, as well as lemon juice, chopped parsley, chives, terragon and walnuts – this is one way to use those walnuts that I bought at a country fair the other day – I kept the kids busy for a while cracking the fresh nuts and getting them ready for the salad.
This is a salad loaded with herbs and sweets nuts – definitely one that you should try if you enjoy those components – the herbs could also easily be just parsley or maybe parsley and basil if that is what you like and /or have on hand. And if you do not like nuts in your salad, you could just leave them out and it would still be delicious.
The third recipe was the easiest and fastest to prepare. The „Chicory, pears and salty-sweet roasted almonds“ (page 118), from the chapter "Raw Assemblies".
Ever since I started cooking from this book, I have developed a true liking for these „raw assemblies“. And this recipe was no exception. I adored the combination of the crunchy, salty-sweet almonds, the slightly bitter local chicory and the perfectly sweet, yet firm pears form my favorite farmer.
I prepared the almonds in my tried-and-true cast-iron skillet – easy to nibble away at them after they have had a chance to cool down a bit. Be careful, they are molten-lava hot at first. The dressing is quickly made with olive oil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then assemble the chicory leaves, the pear slices, the dressing and the almonds on a platter and enjoy the combination of flavors as well as textures – it is one that you will come back too once you tasted it, trust me!
The fourth (and fifth) recipe must be one of my very favorite seasonal soups of all times, the „Chestnut and sage soup“ (page 158), from the chapter "Hefty Soups" that I served together with the „Crostini“ (page 178), from the chapter "Bready Things".
There is a chestnut tree in our garden and every year I look forward to the harvest season – this year I used the chestnuts for baking my favorite chestnut cake, made this amazing soup and kept the remainder for roasted chestnuts.
This is such an elegant and velvety soup, I cannot get over the taste – the finished soup got a nice garnish of sliced chestnuts and sage leaves from my garden, fried in some light olive oil – serve this soup nice and hot and you will know what I mean – it is absolutely fabulous and perfect for serving to guests. Make sure to make some „Vegetable Stock“ (page 130) beforehand and serve some Crostini (page 178) alongside – no, no toppings for my Crostinis, just plain but pretty and delicious.
The sixth recipe were „Twice baked potatoes“ (page 226) from the chapter "Store-Cupboard Suppers“ – one of the two kids favorites this month.
Large potatoes get baked for an hour, then halved – while you prepare the filling, you return the skins to the oven „to dry“. The filling consists of the scooped out insides of the potatoes, sour cream, grated cheese (I chose Emmenthal), spring onions (I used fresh chives instead), sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper (I also added grated nutmeg).
My next stop will be filling them with spinach and Gruyère, a combination that is suggested by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the end of the recipe – the kids cannot wait.
The seventh recipe this month were the other crowd pleasers, the „Patatas bravas“ (page 322) from the chapter "Mezze & Tapas".
This recipe is based on a classic Spanish tapas dish. The potatoes get a two-part treatment, first you boil the cubed potatoes, then you fry them. And serve them together with a piping hot spicy tomato sauce that you can easily prepare in advance. It is also nice to let the eaters adjust the spicyness of their dish by serving a bit of chili flakes on the side.
These potatoes in tomato sauce are wonderful when you serve them alongside a few other lovely little dishes such as olives and make sure to also serve some nice rustic bread alongside, for that extra sauce.
My eighth recipe this month were the delightful „Roasted parsnip chips“ (page 357) from the chapter "Roast, Grill & Barbecue". Now what is not to love about parsnips that get roasted with shallots, olive oil, pepper and salt until crisp and caramelized on the outside and creamy in the middle – unless, of course, you do not care for those fall vegetables.
Last but not least, I made the „Creamy potato and celeriac mash“ (page 388) from the chapter "Side Dishes". A nice, comforting side-dish of cooked potatoes that you pass through a ricer and mix together with celeriac that was cooked in milk and puréed in a food processor – these two vegetables make a wonderful, slightly sweet mash – just before serving you can drizzle a bit more melted butter on top and add a bit of ground nutmeg to round things off.
Another month full of wonderful vegetable dishes – we certainly enjoy 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 Cottage Cooking Club members and their wonderful posts 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 November, please go here.
Your family definitely ate well this month, Andrea! My favorite was the chestnut sage soup, too. I'm jealous that you have a chestnut tree in your yard. At least the sage was from my own herb garden which hadn't yet frozen (but has now). The other recipes you prepared also look delicious. Of course, I think you could prepare anything and make it look wonderful to eat! Wishing you a happy holiday season now that it has begun!ReplyDelete
Betsy, yes that chestnut tree - love it, love it - chestnuts are really special and for some of us might be acquired taste, but we love them in cakes and soups and other savory dishes. I am glad that we agree on this soup and it is nice that you found the time to participate again this month!Delete
Thank you also for your very kind comment, dear friend - looking forawrd to everyone´s December cooking!
You have been busy! What a terrific selection this month...all lovely comfort foods! The twice baked potatoes are definitely calling my name!ReplyDelete
Liz, it seems to be that time of year - comfort food all abound. Busy month indeed.Delete
Each dish is gorgeous as usual. I know how much work it is to make cabbage rolls we had them last night although mine worn't vegetarian. I know how special Advent is and wish I was in Germany to see and be part of all the festivities. We have spent several years in Germany at Christmas and it is my favorite time to visit.ReplyDelete
Dear Karen, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment - it is wonderful to read that you truly enjoyed spending the special time around Christmas in Germany - it is still a wondrous and magical time as well as a time for reflection.Delete
The cabbage rolls were indeed a labor of love - a lot of work but worth making once in a while - besides, I considered them to be the most photogenic dish of the month and the kids adored them too - what more could one ask for!
Stunning, delectable presentation, Andrea.ReplyDelete
you are an artist.
And I LOVE that red lamp in the first photo!!! xxx
Kim, thank you so much - what a joy that you like this post - the first picture is my personal favorite despite all the work that went into the preparation of all that food (btw I am the proud owner of that red lamp...).Delete
Dear Andrea, As the momentum of the months roll by, I always anticipate reading your CCC Post as kind of the final chapter, after going through all the other members posts compiled. My eagerness certainly parallels the caliber of your presentation, and this month being no different. Since every member has enjoyed the Chestnut and Sage Soup, and Patatas Bravas, must tries, especially given they seem to be the favorites of November. Among your astounding photos, I want that bowl with the soup-quite beautiful, and the spoon with the candied almonds- interesting, the chicory and pear salad within this photo set, was lovely, and enjoyed by friends over a luncheon. I also like how you used the lace beneath the delicious Potato and Celeriac Mash, I've a couple of these handmade style doilies by a late, great, aunt and have never been sure what to do with them- so I'm feeling inspired thank you. Another pleasant month, thank you much Andrea, well done.ReplyDelete
Peggy, thank you very much for your thoughtful comment - the Chestnut and Sage Soup was an absolute must this month - elegant, velvety and special (of course, one has to enjoy the taste of chestnuts). The Patatas Bravas were a huge success at our house, especially with the younger ones and so were the Twice-baked Potatoes - hard not to like these. All in all, a very tasty month, enjoyed by all. Ah, those doilies, I love these vintage ones - sometimes I am lucky enough to find a few at goodwill stores or at flea markets.Delete
Thank you for your support, your kindness and your enthusiam,
Everything looks so pretty and so tasty...I am very intrigued with the chestnut soup...sounds wonderful with sage...ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for sharing this post Andrea...have a wonderful week ahead :)
Juliana, I am quite certain that you would really enjoy a bowl of that soup - its has a wonderful taste and texture and the flavor combination of chestnuts and sage is fabulous.Delete
Thank you for your kind comment,
I'm not sure why I skipped all the potato dishes this month - they all sound so delicious! The chestnut and sage soup was my favourite dish of the month and it's so lovely that you were able to use chestnuts from your own tree. It sounds like everything you tried this month was a success and your presentation, as always, is beautiful. The first Sunday of Advent has always been the beginning of the holiday season for my family, especially since Canadian Thanksgiving is in October. I agree with you, it does usher in a season of reflection, along with the holiday bustle.ReplyDelete
Teresa, thank you for your comment - the potato dishes were just plain fun to make plus I know that the kids always love them, so I just felt the urge to try them all - happy taste testers all around and I am glad that I made them. The Chestnut and Sage soup will be cooked many more times at our house, however, I will have to mahe due with vacuum-packed ones from Italy or France - no more fresh chestnuts left from the tree.Delete
This is indeed not only a time for reflection but also a very busy time, that is so true - I just felt that I needed a breather when I started out with this long post and I always get a little "pensive" when Advent season rolls around.
I am hoping Santa brings me this book for Christmas :) Awesome recipes and of course your photos only make the food look more delicious!! I hope you and your family are enjoying the lead up to Christmas. I am looking forward to all your Christmas baking blogs! Have a great week..ReplyDelete
Karen, oh, yes, the Christmas baking season is upon us - in full swing if I may so so...I have baked and fotographed so many goodies, there is no way I will be able to fit them all in during the next three weeks...we shall see...stay tuned though.Delete
Thank you for your kind comment - do make sure to add that lovely cookbook to your wish list! It makes a wonderful and useful gift.
You chose some delicious recipes for November and you've represented them here beautifully! The patatas bravas was a hit in my family and we loved the flavour of the stuffed cabbage - I'll have to give that one another go with savoy cabbage - but it seems I missed out on some fantastic dishes in the chestnut soup and twice baked potatoes! They've been added to the "must make" list!ReplyDelete
Thank you for organizing this group, Andrea - it's presented such a great opportunity to cook through this fabulous book (so much more fun to do as a group than on one's own!)
Zosia, I try to prepare as many of the dishes from the book as possible but my goal is not so much to cook my way through an entire book, as is it to learn more techniques with respect to preparing vegetable dishes - the day before yesterday, I prepared the Tomato, thyme and goat´s cheese tart (page 216) from our July line-up. And yesterday the Warm salad of mushrooms and roasted squash (page 94) from our October 2014, both amazing, both fit into our regular schedule of everyday cooking - today I shall hunt for the elusive but amazing salsify, aptly called "Schwarzwurzel" in these parts, which, literally translated means "black root".Delete
Happy Decemebr cooking,
Hi Andrea, I bet Germany is so beautiful this time of year with all the festivities. All of your dishes look delicious and your presentation is top notch. Sounds like the chestnut soup was the star this month, I am going to make it over the week-end for my family. Happy Holidays to you!ReplyDelete
Cheri, getting ready for the holidays, that´s for sure but all with a "reasonable speed", not overdoing this year - you should try the Chestnut and Sage Soup if you get a chance. It tastes wonderful with fresh chestnuts but vacuum-packed ones are a very good alternative here.Delete
Thanks for the comment - Happy December cooking,
wow- you have been busy. Every dish looks delicious:) I wish I lived near you so I could stop by for a bite.ReplyDelete
Geraldine, now that would be nice!Delete
Andrea, what a spread you have put on! Everything looks so delicious, and makes me want to make the dishes that I did not, after seeing and hearing of your successes. Looking forward to this month's recipe choices. Have a wonderful rest of the week!ReplyDelete
Cathleen, thank for the comment - glad that you enjoy this post!Delete
Another great roundup of recipes! It's a terrific cookbook.ReplyDelete
Beth, this is indeed a wonderful cookbook.Delete
I'm so sorry to be so behind on reading blog posts, but definitely appreciated the reminder of all of these great recipes. The stuffed cabbage was a lot of work, but it really was delicious. I might even make it again this winter. Everything you made came out beautifully, as always. I hope that Charlotte grows to be as adventurous an eater as your children are.ReplyDelete