Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Cottage Cooking Club - Three Green March Recipes

March marks the eleventh 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.

The month of March was our Make-up Month, giving all the members of The Cottage Cooking Club the opportunity to re-visit one or more recipes that they truly enjoyed preparing in the past, as well as, or, to prepare some of the dishes that they meant to prepare in the months before but did not get a chance to do so. - This is my small selection of green dishes for the month of March!

There are not a lot of dishes that I did not make before and some of the vegetables are not seasonal right now, so for my first of the three green recipes, I took the opportunity to prepare something that the kids fell head-over-heels for when I made it for the first time last month, the Cheesy peasy puff turnover (page 220) from the chapter „Store-Cupboard Suppers“ with peas and grated and melted cheese. Ever since I made some of the recipes from this wonderful book that call for ready-made puff pastry, I always make sure to have some in the fridge, always.

In order to change things up, this time I made the turnovers with spinach, ramson aka wild garlic (we even have some growing in our garden) and locally produced goat´s  cheese. I came across this amazing cheesemaker who produces artisan, fresh goat cheese a while back and have been going to the cute goat farm ever since. The kids visit the goats while I shop. Who could ask for more.

This version was delicious and it was liked even a bit better by all my devoted taste testers including myself – just showing how versatile the recipes from this book are.

My second recipe was our very favorite salad recipe from the book, the Broccoli salad with asian-style dressing page 316) from the chapter "Mezze & Tapas".

This is broccoli served at its best. With a delightfully fresh dressing of freshly grated ginger, young garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds and fresh chives - plus the very first fresh peas of the season (that I steamed together with the broccoli florets) - this was a true spring time treat - we love, love this salad with variations as well. And who could resist adding those sweet fresh peas to the mix - they harmonize so well with the broccoli.

One of the dishes that I am particularly fond of, is also the third one I made again now, the Pasta with greens, garlic and chilli (page 261) from the chapter "Pasta & Rice". I keep repeating that any student should know how to make this. Toss in some slightly wilted spring arugula instead of the winter kale or Savoy cabbage and you will effortlessly have turned a winter pasta dish into a springtime pasta. Such a breeze to prepare with shallots, garlic chilli, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Finish with shaving of your favorite hard cheese to add saltiness. And do not forget to use a fun-shaped pasta, such as the so-called ufo pasta that I used this time. Using different shapes of pasta for the same recipes is always a good idea - keeps all those hungry eateres interested and curious.

Many, many other recipes have become regulars (if I may say so) at our lunches and dinners -  the Spelt salad with squash and fennel (page 72), the Fennel and goat´s cheese (page 102), the Puy lentil and spinach soup (page 162), the Magic bread dough (pages 172-74), the Tomato, thyme and goat´s cheese tart (page 216), the Mushroom risoniotto (page 258), and the Stir-fried cauliflower (page 376) - also top the list – to name but a few.

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, we are „only“ half-way through this amazing 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 March, please go here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

French Fridays with Dorie - Côte d`Azur Cure-all Soup

Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is Côte d`Azur Cure-all Soup, a classic Southern-French healing dish, a soup with egg yolks and lots of garlic. According to Dorie, the basis for this soup is either water or chicken broth. I chose to make a chicken broth. The secret to good chicken soup is oftentimes fiercely guarded, and everyone has their own version. It has a smell that gives us a hit of nostalgia and makes us feel instantly comforted. But there is more to it than nostalgia, though. Broths made from bones are a good source of amino acids, important for bosting our immune systems.

The second step in this recipe is to toss a whole head of garlic (cut into very thin slices) into your stock pot, then add a bouquet garni (fresh sage, bay leaf and thyme) and the chicken soup and let everything simmer along for a good thirty minutes. Then stir together farm fresh egg yolks (about five or six of them) as well as finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano and gradually whisk the egg mixture into your soup.

Everybody loves a warming bowl of soup to pick you up in winter or early spring and, speaking of nostalgia, this soup definitely reminds me of one of my favorite soups of my childhood – sans the garlic though. As a child, I loved to eat chicken soup with an egg yolk – it would always be served piping hot and with the yolk still intact and I loved stirring the yolk into the soup and enjoying the delicious results.

Instead of adding all the thinly sliced garlic to the simmering stock, though, I decided to fry some of the slices in a mild olive oil and added the Garlic Chips with Sea Salt as the garnish to the finished soup – made the soup look nice and added a welcome bit of crunch.

To make this a delicious as well as a satisfying lunch, I also decided to bake some Ramson-Potato-Buns. The dough is made with baked potatoes, farm fresh, thick buttermilk and fresh yeast. I found the first ramson (also known as wild garlic) this week and every year I use as much of it as reasonably possible in my recipes. This seasonal ingredient gives off an incredibly pungent smell in the wild. Unlike common cultivated garlic, it's the leaves that are eaten rather than the bulbs. The taste is more delicate too, similar to the flavor of chives. My favorite dish to create with those lovely dark green leaves is a Ramson and Spring Herb Salad. But I also love to use ransom in my baking and those rolls harmonized so well with this Côte d`Azur Cure-all Soup

There is definitely something restorative and satisfying about this Côte d`Azur Cure-all Soup. It is like nostalgia in a bowl and magic medicine at the same time and we all enjoyed it.

To see whether the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group enjoyed this week´s recipe, please go here.

For copyright reasons, we do not publish the recipes from the book. But you can find the recipe for this Côte d`Azur Cure-all Soup on pages 70-71 in Dorie Greenspan´s cookbook "Around my French Table".

Ramson-Potato Buns

Ingredients for the Dough

250 grams potatoes (about 2 medium)
250 grams AP (plain) flour, plus some for the work surface
a pinch of fine sea salt
1 tsp sugar
20 grams fresh yeast (or 2 1/2 tsp dry yeast)*
100 ml buttermilk

*2+1/2 tsp (one package) active dry yeast = 18 gm cake fresh yeast
-Carol Field, "The Italian Baker"

Ingredients for the Ramson Butter Filling

100 grams fresh ramson leaves, washed and dried
80 grams soft, unsalted butter
a pinch of fine sea salt

For the glaze

1 egg (M), free range or organic


a muffin tray for 12 muffins
12 paper liners


1. Wrap two potatoes in baking paper, then in aluminium foil and then bake in a pre-heated oven at 160 degrees Celsius/320 degrees Fahrenheit until tender when pierced with a fork (depending on the size of the potatoes, this can take up to one hour). Peel the potatoes while still hot and using a potato ricer (or simply a fork) mash them.
2. In a bowl, mix together the 250 grams flour, salt and sugar. Add the crumbled yeast (or the dry yeast) and the buttermilk and stir well. Add the mashed potatoes to the flour mixture and using the dough hooks of your stand mixer, mix the dough until it comes together. If the dough is extremely sticky, add a bit of flour. Then cover the dough with saran wrap while preparing the ramson butter.
3. Take the stems off the ramson and chop. Mix together the chopped ramson, butter and salt.
4. Line the muffin tray with the paper liners. Knead the dough on your well-floured work surface and roll out to about 30 x 40 cm (11.8 x 15.7 inches). Using an offset spatula, spread the ramson butter across the dough, leaving a border. Roll the dough up from the long side facing you. Cut into 12 slices. Add the slices to the muffin liners. Cover with saran wrap and let rest for about 25 minutes in a warm spot.
5. Using a fork, mix the egg and using a soft pastry brush, brush the buns with the egg.
6. Bake the buns in a pre-heated oven (220 degrees Celsius/425 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 15 to 18 minutes.
7. Cool for a few minutes on a wire rack and enjoy while still warm.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Vanilla Bean Petticoat Tails Shortbread

This rather dainty looking Shortbread is called Petticoat Tails Shortbread, a large disc of shortbread with a decorated edge and cut into elegant triangles. The texture is rich and buttery with a distinct vanilla flavor. It is not too sweet and has the most delightful pale yellow hue from the cornmeal that is used for making the dough. Let us not forget that it is ideal for sharing and perfect to compliment tea, whether you enjoy black, green or herbal tea.

The Petticoat Tails Shortbread is said to gain its distinctive shape and name by resembling the pieces of fabric used to create the elaborate petticoats of the 12th century – including that of Mary Queen of Scots. Other sources suggest that the name could derive from the French petits cotés, a type of pointed biscuit that was eaten dipped in sweet wine, or the old French term for little cakes, petites gastelles. Personally, I prefer the more romantic idea of the petticoats and the lacy fabric they were made of.

Whatever the real source of the name, they are definitely a perennial favorite and Mary, Queen of Scots was reputed to have been particularly fond of these buttery cookies.

The Petticoat Tails Shortbread is very easy to make. I decided to add a nice dose of pure vanilla flavor to the dough. To give your shortbread that extra bit of wonderful flavor, you can either use the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean or you use that wonderful vanilla bean paste – it works equally well. Other than that, all you need is caster sugar, real good quality butter (use either unsalted or salted butter. If you chose to use salted butter, then you have to skip the salt in the dough) and flour (I like to use white spelt flour for these but you can use regular wheat flour). All that is left to do after making the easy dough is to roll it out, trim it and shape it. The only other important thing to remember is to make sure that once the dough is cut and shaped, it should be chilled for about thirty minutes before you bake it, that way, it will keep its distincive pattern and shape.

Having made this Shortbread more times than I care to remember, I know that the shaped dough can easily be kept in the fridge for a day or two – just make sure to cover it well with cling wrap. Then, it can be baked fresh on the day you plan to serve it – pretty convenient if you ask me.

Vanilla Bean Petticoat Tails Shortbread

  • 250 grams really good quality unsalted butter, softened (OR use salted butter, then skip the additonal salt)
  • 100 grams caster (superfine baking) sugar
  • scraped seeds from a vanilla bean from Madagascar or Hawaii, if possible
    (keep the pod for making vanilla sugar*) OR you could use 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste instead
  • 250 grams white spelt flour (OR use regular wheat flour), plus a little extra for rolling out the dough
  • 100 grams fine corn flour (not corn starch and not polenta), also know as corn meal (finely ground)
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • icing sugar, for dusting

Equipment needed
  • baking sheet
  • baking parchment 
  • wooden skewer or fork
  • lace doily
  • small sieve

  1. Scrape the insides from a vanilla bean into a large mixing bowl.
  2. In same bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. OR put the butter, sugar and scraped seeds of a vanilla bean in a food processor and whizz until pale and creamy OR rub the butter and sugar by hand, then add the seeds of the vanilla bean.
  3. Add the flour, corn flour and salt, and beat until mixture is well combined. OR pulse until the mixture clumps together into small pieces.
  4. Tip onto a lightly floured work surface and bring the dough together as a ball – take care not to overwork the dough.
  5. Roll the dough to a 25cm circle, about 1cm thick. Trim around a large plate to give a really neat edge.
  6. Transfer to a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment.
  7. Use two fingers to crimp all the way around the edge of the dough then, using a fork or wooden skewer, mark dotted lines to portion the shortbread into 8 wedges.
  8. Cover the prepared dough loosely with cling wrap.
  9. Place the baking sheet in the fridge and chill for at least thirty minutes and up to a day.
  10. When you are ready to bake the shortbread, pre-heat your oven to 180° Celsius (160° Celsius for convection ovens).
  11. Bake the shortbread for about 25 minutes or until golden and cooked through.
  12. Leave to cool completely on the baking sheet or the shortbread will break.
  13. To decorate, place a lace doily over the shortbread and using a small sieve, dust with a generous layer of icing sugar. Pull the doily away to reveal the beautiful lacy pattern. Keep in a cookie tin or glass container for up to five days (after a few days, the vanilla taste will lessen but I seriously doubt, that it will last for a few days anyways.)

I truly love the smart decoration technique for this classic tea time treat, namely to use a doily to dust on a pretty lace pattern in icing sugar.

This rich home-baked treat is a real crowd-pleaser. It is a not too sweet, melt in the mouth shortbread that goes perfectly with that cup of tea in the afternoon. Or maybe serve it with fresh seasonal fruits and berries or that homemade ice cream.

I always have a soft spot for baked goods that have a bit of a story to them. It is lovely to think that there is tradition and history in what we are eating and sharing with our family and friends.

*Homemade Vanilla Sugar

Since Pure Vanilla Sugar can be a bit difficult to find in stores it might be best to make your own and keep it in a jar. It has an almost indefinite shelf life and the taste is worth the little effort it takes to make your own. You can add it to your baked goods by simply substituting vanilla extract by vanilla sugar.

  • caster (superfine baking) sugar - you can use one cup or more
  • one vanilla bean (from Madagascar or Hawaii)

Put the sugar in a glass jar and split the length of the vanilla bean and cut into sections (leave the seeds in OR use scraped vanilla beans for baking these lovely Vanilla Bean Petticaot Tails). Place the sections into the sugar. Shake, cover and store in a cool and dark place for about two weeks before using.


Friday, March 13, 2015

French Fridays with Dorie - Veal Marengo

Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is Veal Marengo, a hearty veal stew from Provence with tomatoes, mushrooms, olive oil and herbs.

Oftentimes, French cuisine is full of myths and fables. Classic recipes frequently have disputed origins, as with this dish, named „Marengo“, after the June 14, 1800, Battle of Marengo in northern Italy between French forces under Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian forces. Napoleon wanted a celebratory meal and legend has it that Napoleon’s cook, a Swiss chef named Dunand, the son of a chef for the Prince of Condé in France, assembled some meagre provisions available to him in his battlefield kitchen. Blessed with boundless talent, the cook created a dish of chicken, tomatoes, craw fish, eggs and water and presented it to the famous Commander after the decisive clash. Napoleon liked it so much that he demanded to eat the dish after each and every victory.

Some writers suggest that over the years, Chef Dunand replaced the chicken with veal, dropped the crayfish, fried eggs and toasted bread and added mushrooms and wine. Be that as it may, Dorie´s recipe which is based on a recipe from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, calls for veal shoulder, onions, tomatoes, white wine, bouquet garni, cipolline, mushrooms and baby potatoes to serve.

For today´s recipe you have to toss cubed boneless veal shoulder in well-seasoned flour to coat. Then in a lovely cocotte, heat oil over medium-high heat and brown the veal cubes. Transfer the browned veal to a plate. In the same cocotte, over medium-high heat, cook onion, tomato paste and tomatoes. Add white wine and a nice bouquet garni (fresh thyme, parsley, rosemary and and a bay leaf). Add the veal back to the cocotte, season with freshly ground black pepper and some sea salt, cover and cook on low for about 30 minutes. In the meantime you cook the pearl onions (since I could not find those, I used French shallots instead  and mushroms (I used baby portabellas) separately. Do not forget to boil some nice, small potatoes in the meantime. To serve, add all the cooked components to your plate and serve the boiled potatoes alongside.

Instead of adding the chopped Italian parsley to the veal stew, I tossed the small potaoes in parsley-chive butter – my grand-mother used to serve potatoes this way and I have a soft spot for serving spuds prepared the same way she did as these simple potatoes are a delicious accompaniment to hearty stews like this Veal Marengo.

For Parsley-Chive-Potatoes you simply put the unpeeled potatoes in a large pot and add water to cover the potatoes by 2 inches. Season the water with salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced, about 10 to 12 minutes, depending on their size and weight. Drain the potatoes well, peel and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the butter, chopped parsley as well as chives and carefully toss to coat. Serve immediately while still nice and hot.

We all loved, loved this stew and the kids could not get enough of it – absolutely delicious. Tender meat, very tasty sauce with lots of mushrooms and shallots, just the way we like it. A celebratory dish indeed, it is rich and tasty and would also be perfect for a dinner party.

And what better recipe than this one to show off my new, absolutely beautiful, show-stopper of a bright red cocotte from Staub Germany that I just received last week!!! Thanks so much to the kind folks at Staub!!!

To see whether the other members of the French Fridays with Dorie group enjoyed this week´s recipe, please go here.

For copyright reasons, we do not publish the recipes from the book. But you can find the recipe for “Veal Marengo “ on pages 264-66 in Dorie Greenspan´s cookbook "Around my French Table".

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Springtime Baking: Lemon Cake with Almonds & Poppy Seeds

Come to think of it, I always have lemons in the house. I want a full bowl all year round, as they are an ingredient I use almost every day, for savory as well as sweet recipes. And at this time of year, I will often squeeze a bit of lemon juice into my cup of fine hot black tea, especially on those chilly early spring days.

Lemons are available year round and when they are prolific, there are many ways to take advantage of the glut, make some lemon curd, preserved lemons, marmalade, drinks such as lemonade, or use them in your vinaigrette. But I love to have a cake for the weekend, so I decided to bake a lemon cake, different from the Lemon Buttermilk Bundt that I usually bake with that incredibly thick and rich buttermilk from my favorite farm.

After a bit of reseach, I settled on this Lemon Cake with Almonds & Poppy Seeds. The recipe is a good way to use some of my lemons – the recipe uses the zest and juice of three ripe, juicy, medium-sized lemons. I love the clean flavor of the lemons, together with the sweet, rich taste from the almonds and the nutty crunch from the lovely poppy seeds. Fabulous taste and beautiful texture, you will love this cake!

Cannot stress enough that in early spring, when there are some nice days but still a lot of cold and rainy days, I do not always want a hot and heavy dessert. I want something that will brighten my mood as well as the dark day. So a lemony cake will do just fine.

Choose lemons with a reasonably unblemished skin for this recipe. Organic and/or untreated lemons are ideal. You will be more likely to find these at a farmers market or at a specialty seller as they are not always widely available. As you will be adding quite a bit of zest here, try to avoid the regular lemons from the supermarket.

Lemon Cake with Almonds & Poppy Seeds
(inspired by a recipe from the very talented Mr. Jamie Oliver)

  • 180 grams unsalted butter, softened, plus a little extra for greasing the baking pan
  • 180 grams plus 1 ½  tbsp  superfine (caster) sugar
  • 6 eggs,(L), free-range or organic, separated
  • fine outer zest and juice of 3 organic (untreated) medium-sized lemons
  • 90 grams white spelt flour, sifted (feel free to use wheat flour)
  • a good pinch of fine sea salt
  • 180 grams ground natural almonds
  • 3 tbsp milk, room temperature
  • 115 grams poppy seeds

To finish the Cake
  • 50 grams icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp mixed spice* (available at your local British shop or online)
  • crème fraîche, to serve
  • some more lemon zest

  1. Preheat your oven to 180ºCelsius (350ºFahrenheit).
  2. Grease a 26-28 cm springform baking pan with butter, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter again.
  3. In the bowl of your mixer, beat together the butter and 180 grams sugar until light and fluffy (this will take about five minutes).
  4. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, while the motor is running, then beat in the lemon zest and juice. 
  5. When the mixture is nice and smooth, add in the flour, salt and almonds and finally the milk. Be careful not to overmix the batter - just enough to combine.  Stir in the poppy seeds and put aside.
  6. In a very clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Beat in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon of sugar until smooth. 
  7. Fold a third of the beaten egg whites into the batter. This is best done using a wide rubber spatula. Than add the rest of the egg whites and fold together carefully – you do not want to beat the air out of the egg whites. 
  8. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the mix out evenly with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. 
  9. Place on the middle shelf of your preheated oven and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes until cooked through, risen and golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. When cool, release the cake from the baking pan and sift the icing sugar and mixed spice over the top of the cake and serve with dollops of crème fraîche and a bit more finely grated lemon zest. NOTE: This moist cake will keep well for a day or two, make sure to wrap the cake well and keep it in a dry, cool place. Then dust liberally with icing sugar and mixed spice (if using) just before serving.

*Mixed Spice Blend
(if you cannot find Mixed Spice online or at your favorite British shop, you can put together a homemade combination of spices following this easy recipe

  • 1 tbs ground allspice
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground mace
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground ginger


Blend all spices together, and store in a sealed jar away from light.

This is a simple, moist, lemony cake with the wonderful added taste and crunch from the poppy seeds. It tastes wonderful served with thick, creamy crème fraîche or even Greek yoghurt. Add a bit of finely grated lemon zest for an extra boost of lemon flavor. This Lemon Cake with Almonds & Poppy Seeds is a fabulous recipe to get your springtime baking off to a great start. And it is truly a great family treat for any weekend!

While I used a Jamie Oliver recipe as the inspiration for this cake, I decided to make a few changes, one of them being that I increased the batter by a third, to make a somewhat larger cake – the amounts in the recipe above are for a 26-28 cm springform pan. I also did not use the self-rising flour as in the original recipe, but used white spelt flour and added 2 teaspoons of baking powder to the batter instead. I have been baking with different kinds of flour lately and I am loving the results. An ancient relative of modern wheat, the spelt grain (triticum speltum) was already widely grown by the Romans. If you decide to use white spelt flour in your baking instead of the regular all-purpose wheat flour, you will notice that from a quantity-wise point of view, the flours can be used interchangeably.

If you enjoy this recipe, I would love to hear from you - I always apprecaite a bit of positive feedback from my lovely readers! More Springtime Baking to appear on this blog very soon, so make sure to drop by again!