The month of May marks the thirteenth 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.
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.
Since I prepared all ten recipes this month, I will write about each dish according to the order in which I prepared them. My first recipe for this May post is the Pearl barley broth (page 160), from the chapter "Hefty Soups“.
The base of this soup is a vegetable stock (page 130), a recipe in this book that I keep coming back to on a regular basis. The finely diced vegetables in this pearl barley broth include onions, celery, carrots, and parsnip. The spices used are ground coriander, nutmeg, cayenne pepper and mace. Then as herbs some fresh thyme and a bay leaf from the garden and, of course, medium sized pearl barley. Around here, the stores carry pearl barley in three different grades, the medium one being my favorite to use in substantial soups like this one. There was lots of flavor from the spices, the veg and the soup base. Just remember that the pearly barley will absorb quite a bit of liquid and you will end up with a rather thick soup if you prepare it in advance.
Add some wonderful crunchy, homemade croutons and a bit of sour cream and you end up with our kind of comfort-style, feel-good kind of soup. When frying the bread cubes for the croutons, I always add a clove of crushed garlic to the olive oil - that way, they get a hint of garlic taste to them which we really enjoy.
The second recipe that I prepared is the Kohlrabi carpaccio (page 116) from the chapter „Raw Assemblies“. Before getting started on this recipe make sure to go for small sized kohlrabi (or as hugh points out, "not bigger than an apple") – I used to be a real kohlrabi addict as a child and I still know that when it comes to this lovely veg, the smaller it is, the sweeter it is and the less fibrous it is likely going to be. Always buy the freshest produce you can when putting together these raw assembllies recipes – you do need the crunchiness of the vegetable to stand up to the bold dressings.
Slice as thinly as possible, make a dressing with lemon juice, mild olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and fresh thyme – this is where I used "my darling lemon thmye" that makes this dressing extra special and lemony tasting.Then top with some hard goat cheese. I also added a bit of cress for a bit of sharpness. This is a very elegant dish and I loved serving it on a large white platter that I placed in the middle of the table so everyone could serve themselves.
The third recipe for May are the very summery and bright green looking Garlicky, minty mushy peas (page 387) from the chapter of „Side Dishes“. Lots of green color from the peas (frozen – as the fresh ones were not appealing – not quite the best season yet) – I do not think that the taste of this dish is affected by frozen versus fresh peas.
All you need apart form those peas is some of the cooking liquid, shallots, garlic, salt, pepper and mint (no – I used Italian parsley because mint and fresh coriander are the only herbs that we do not like in our food). And some fresh vegetables for dipping or a bit of bread to spread it on. Next time I make this, I would love to add some of the pea purée to my salmon burgers, I think that would make a darn good taste combination and be very pretty to look at too.
The fourth recipe is the Courgette bruschetta (page 200) from the chapter of „Bready Things“. A recipe that I turn to quite often. Love bruschetta and fresh courgettes and grilled bread and goat cheese. Who does not?!
This bruschetta pairs extremely well with tomato bruschetta and it is one of the true rustic treats to enjoy in late spring and then all summer long.
The fifth recipe is the recipe that I would consider to be a „must know“ for all of us, and especially students. The Pasta with Broccoli (page 261) from the chapter of „Pasta & Rice“ is so tasty and so easy to put together, that it is quite simply a cinch to put together. Plus it has very few ingredients and yet it is still one of those very tasty pasta recipes that will come in very handy on those very busy days/evenings when everyone is craving a nutritious home cooked meal with tons of taste.
Boil some fun shaped pasta, add fresh broccoli florets to the cooking water during the last few minutes (if you are pressed for time you can always add frozen broccoli florets here). Warm olive oil with some chili and garlic. Mix everything together. Add fresh basil and shaved parmesan on top and you are all set to enjoy a wonderful dinner.
The sixth recipe for May is the Griddled Asparagus with lemon dressing (page 339) from the chapter „Roast, Grill & Barbecue“.
We are in the midst of asparagus season around here. The season lasts „officially“ until the 24th of June. And presently there is asparagus everywhere. Each and every market offers it and we eat it almost daily. Since there is mostly white asparagus being planted here, that´s what I used for this lovely recipe.
The previously blanched asparagus gets threaded on skewers. Then you brush them with a bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and grill either in a griddle pan or on the BBQ outside – this is a recipe that works well wherever your grill or grill pan is.
Serve the hot asparagus with some lemon dressing poured over and some more on the side – so, so good. The dressing with the lemon juice and chopped basil, Italian parsley and chives complements griddled asparagus in the most delicious of ways.
Onto recipe number seven, one of my kids two favorites this month, the Herby, peanutty, noodly salad (page 71), from the chapter of“ Hearty Salads“.
For the noodles I chose to use wholewheat spaghetti instead of the egg or rice noodles that the recipe calls for – I like their nutty taste and that they hold their shape so well when cooked al dente and when paired with a hearty salad dressing.
The dressing consists of rice vinegar, zest and juice of a lime, chili, garlic, brown sugar, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. The veggies I chose to add to the cooked noodles were green asparagus, string beans and an English cucumber. I replaced the coriander and the fresh mint with basil and the peanuts with sesame seeds – I did change the recipe according to what is available and fresh as well as to what we like. Nothing wrong with adjusting recipes to your family´s taste and preferences. It is a wonderful basic recipe that I think calls for some creative interpretations. I must admit that I really prefer a light dressing such as this one to one of those heavy ones with peanut butter added to it – I never liked those salads and was pleased as punch to prepare an Asian-inspired vinegary dressing for this one.
Recipe number eight is the top favorite recipe at our house this month – the Spicy merguez oven chips with yoghurt dip (page 225) from the chapter „Store-cupboard suppers“ is quite simply put a stellar recipe and, according to the kids, „out-of-this-world delicious“.
Use good potatoes here, the ones that can withstand a lot of heat without falling to pieces. And par-boil them only shortly before adding all those spices to them that are meant to mimic the spiciness of the French merguez sausages. And no need to peel the potatoes, if you give them a good scrub and especially if you bought them at a farmer´s market.
The spices used here are cumin, fennel, coriander, caraway, black pepper, Spanish sweet smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and fine sea salt. Time to get out my wonderful pestle and mortar once again, this is one kitchen gadget that although I do not use it too often, I actually love to use.
Roast potatoes and spices in a hot oven for about 45 minutes and prepare the dip in the meantime with plain yoghurt, a bit of garlic and some cayenne sprinkled on top. And. Enjoy!
Onto recipe number nine for May, the Cambodian Wedding Day Dip as Hugh calls it or the Tyrolean Wedding Day Dip as one of our daughters calls it (hence the bowl I served it in). The recipe can be found on page 299 in the chapter „Mezze & Tapas“.
The dip is wonderful with pita chips or fresh vegetables on the side and consists of chestnut mushrooms, chili, garlic, curry powder (I used a mild one), crunchy peanut butter, coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce and chopped coriander (I used Italian parsley here).
We loved the bit of heat from the chilis, the sweetness from the peanut butter and the creaminess from the coconut milk – an utterly delightful combination of flavors and textures, not to be missed when preparing your next mezze spread.
The last recipe is the Spinach, penne and cheese spoufflé – yes spoufflé, not soufflée (page 43) from the chapter of „Comfort Foods & Feasts“. With cooked pasta, fresh spinach, a sauce béchamel, grated cheese, egg yolks and beaten egg whites – this recipe had a few steps that you had to follow before it was ready to be baked in the oven. I decided to add some chopped fresh wild garlic to the spinach mix.
The kids loved it and I served it with some grilled chicken as a side dish – texture wise, this was my personal least favorite one of the line-up and I think I would be better off using a smaller vessel for t the spoufflé than I did but it was still worth making and I like the idea to use left-over pasta and spinach in a dish that the kids will happily eat.
Another month full of wonderful vegetable dishes – we certainly love 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 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!
„The Kitchen Lioness – Home is where you can be yourself“
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To see which wonderful dishes the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club prepared during the month of April, please go here.