The month of January marks the twenty-first 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 seasonal produce as is reasonably possible.
This month I prepared eight of the ten designated recipes, plus one extra. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.
My first recipe for this Januray post is the colorful Chickpeas with cumin and spinach (page 246) from the chapter "Store-Cupboard Suppers“.
Once you have all the ingredients in place, this is a quick dish to put together. An onion gets sautéed with garlic, chili, cumin, and lemon zest. Then you add tomatoes, either freshly grated or good-quality chopped tomatoes from a can. After a gentle simmer for a few minutes, get ready to add the roughly chopped spinach (we still get good fresh spinach from Italy these days) – stir until wilted and then add the chickpeas and warm gently.
What a lovely side dish, with lots of color and flavor and different textures and with just enough cupboard ingredients to make this one easy dish to cook after a busy day.
The second recipe I prepared was a take on one of my favorite and most beloved recipes from the book. The Flat onion bhajis (page 318) from the chapter „Mezze & Tapas“ is a variation of the „Cauliflower pakoras with tamarind raita“ that we made back in September 2014.
The batter for this intriguing appetizer consists of gram flour, baking powder, ground cumin, corinander, turmeric and cayenne pepper, plus some fine sea salt. It has the most delightful warm color. It is true what they say about gram flour varying greatly. I used some organic one which I have used for pancakes before. I know from experience that it seems to need more liquid than the regular gram flour available around here – so I ended up adding more water to the batter than the recipe called for – I just went by the description of the batter having to have a consistency of „double cream“.
When making a battter like this, I always add sparkling water to it instead of regular water – that ensures that the batter is light, airy and renders crispy fried veg in the end.
Thinly sliced and crunched-up onion slices, coated and fried with this very tasty batter and served warm with a cool mango chutney raita – this is a true crowd pleaser indeed. As I could not find the tamarind paste, I went with the optional mango chutney - a cool, tangy yet slighty sweet dip - wonderful alongside the warm, spicy fried piles of onion.
The third recipe that I made this month was the Curried red lentil soup (page 166) from the chapter of "Hefty Dishes“, a variation of the Curried sweet potato soup that we made back in December 2014. This wonderful warming winter soup is cooked with onions, garlic, carrots, celery, grated fresh ginger, red chilies, garam masala, curry powder, red lentils, and vegetable stock (page 130).
After the soup is puréed, you add coconut milk, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste - finish with some lovely Greek yogurt and fresh coriander (I opted for beetroot, alfalfa and leek sprouts instead).
This is such a fabulous recipe. The soup is rich and creamy, with just the right kick from the spices, and just the right amout of sweetness from the red lentils and the coconut milk - all counter-balanced by the tang from the lime juice and the Greek yoghurt. A must try, no doubt!
The fourth recipe I made in January was the Moroccan spiced couscous (page 231), from the chapter „Store-cupboard suppers“. This recipe is a variation of the Quick couscous salad with peppers and feta that we made back in August 2014, and the Tomato and olive couscous that we prepared in June 2015.
The couscous is easy enough to prepare according tot he package instructions – make sure though to add the spices that Hugh´s recipe calls for, namely cumin and coriander as well as cinnamon. Once cooked, fork the couscous with some olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then add chickpeas, chopped apricots (I opted for gloden raisins instead), toasted chopped almonds and pistachios ans finely chopped herbs – I used parsley and chives as well as a bit of lemon thyme from the garden. A different kind of couscous with lots of different flavors and textures - definitely worth a try.
The fifth recipe this month was the amazing Seared chicory with blue cheese (page 343) from the chapter of „Roast, Grill & Barbecue“ – my personal favorite this month.
Just make sure to serve some lovely crunchy, grilled multi-grain Crostini (page 178 ) alongside and you will be in for a treat.
What an explosion of flavors – this bitterness from the chicory, the smokiness from the BBQ, the saltiness from the Roquefort – truly a dish that you will adore if you enjoy those flavor components. And we did.
The sixth recipe that caught my attention this month was the Squash stuffed with leeks (page 40) from the chapter „Comfort Food & Feasts“. Squash season is coming to an end around here and the choice of squash available is rather limited but my favorite squash to cook and bake with, the butternut squash, is still available – so butternut squash it was for this recipe.
I did veer from the original recipe a bit though – since the squash were so long, I opted for the „open-faced“ version instead of filling the entire squash with the leek mixture. The creamy leek filling is made with leeks, English mustard (available at your favorite British shop), crème fraîche, finely grated Gruyère, sea salt, black pepper, and fresh thyme.
I halved the squash, de-seeded the halves, placed them on a baking sheet and baked the halves for a good 20 minutes. Then filled the squash halves with the leek mixture and baked for another 20 minutes - utterly delightful way to enjoy squash. I will make sure to rememeber this recipe in fall when different kinds of (smaller) squash will be readily available.
The seventh recipe I made was the more than lovely Brussels sprouts, apple and cheddar (page 108) from the chapter of „Raw Assemblies“ that we made back in December 2014. Who would have thought that raw Brussels sprouts were this delicious - I should add that these purple ones were very mild tasting, very reminiscent of red cabbage. We loved the preparation of this dish. Other than thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, you will need a crisp eating apple, nuts (I used hazelnuts) and cheese (I used shaved Parmigiano Reggiano). For the dressing it was lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Such a fresh, beautiful salad with a great balance of flavors - lots of delightful crunchiness from the sprouts, sweetness from the apple and saltiness from the cheese. Always a delight and worth making again and again.
Recipe number eigth was another squash recipe – this time Squash and walnut toastie (page 204) from the chapter of „Bready Things“. A more than lovely mixture of leftover cubed butternut squash, freshly cracked walnuts, thyme, goat´s cheese, some runny honey, salt, pepper and a couple of sprigs of thyme. What a delight!
Instead of spreading the mixture on rustic bread, I chose some split potato rolls instead and we really liked the results. What a fabulous recipe for that leftover squash. Just make sure to enjoy the "toasties" right away, while still warm – maybe with a glass of cold cider.
Last but not least, there was the one dish I was really curious about, the Swede with onion and sage (page 382) from the chapter of „Side Dishes“. Also known as rutabaga, swede is a root vegetable similar to the turnip. Purplish on the outside, it has sweet-tasting yellow or white flesh and can be cooked in much the same way as other root vegetables such as potatoes. It can also be eaten raw in salads. The swede or rutabaga seems to be a highly underrated vegetable around here – we loved the taste of swede cooked in butter and shallots with some lovely fresh sage from our garden – a wonderful side dish and a great way to get the kids to enjoy this „old-fashioned“ veg.
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.
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.
The purple Brussels sprouts look amazing! And your onion bhajis looks amazingly light and airy! Beautiful pictures and writing regards all your chosen recipes for January! A Happy New Year to you and your family!ReplyDelete
Dear Emily, I can only find the purple Brussels sprouts in Belgium and then I always end up carrying bags of it in my "rucksack" all day long while we tour Antwerp - but it is always worth it. And, yes, the Onion bhajis were my very favorite "photogenic dish" this month, without a doubt!Delete
Thanks for stopping by!
What a beautiful set of recipes - I love the onions. I made the squash stuffed with leeks (Mark only likes squashes with savory fillings) and I can vouch for how good that recipe is. I must try the Seared Chicory - it looks amazing. As always, your photos are spectacular. I love the violet plate you used for the spinach! Liebe Grüße aus Tucson, DavidReplyDelete
Dear David, thank you so much! What a nice comment - you know I love comments with respect to my photos (they always take a bit of planning) and my props (the dish with the violets is my latest addition to my prop collection - I found a whole set at a goodwill store and simply could not resist). The Onion bhajis were the most photogenic of the lot and the Seared chicory was the most delicious of the lot - by all means, do try it!Delete
I ladmire your photos Andrea. I have so much to learn. I would love to make the seared chicory with blue cheese as an appertizer . Squash stuffed with leeks , yummy, and the oioion dish, everything looks great .ReplyDelete
Ich wümsche Dir ein schönes und erholsames Wochenende
Dear Gerlinde, if you like chicory (and most of us do, I believe) and if you enjoy the taste of a good blue cheese like Roquefort or Gorgonzola, then the Seared chicory is for you - as soon as the sun comes out again, I shall make my little self another batch.Delete
And thank you kindly for the wonderful words with respect to the photos! Love, love compliments on them!
Liebe Grüße nach Santa Cruz!
Everything looks delicious Andrea, I'm getting hungry reading your post. The Brussels sprouts salad is one of my favourites, one I make regularly now. I skipped the squash dish but I think I may give that one a try since I have all of the ingredients. I just picked up a copy of River Cottage Everyday so I'm looking forward to reading it in the few weeks (I tend to read my cookbooks like novels first - is that strange?).ReplyDelete
Zoasia, in fact, that´s what a lot od´f us do as well - read the cookbooks like novels - you should see my bedside table...in fact, I am guilty of poring over a good food magazine like there was no good book around..and I am already looking forward to continuing our cooking adventure with the CCC very soon!Delete
Thank you for your kind comment,
As always gorgeous photos, Andrea, and I love seeing how the sunlight changes in your part of the world depending on time of year. :) What synchronicity that halfway across the world, we both made the same dish--the brussels sprouts salad! I love the way the purple ones contrast with the lighter colors of the other ingredients. Such a great salad. I will also keep in mind how you baked your bnut squash since, as you know, I had some "fun" dealing with them. Finally, the bhajis look great and they were something I'd hoped to make this month! I'll have to add them to my mental list and thank you, as well, for the sparkling water tip--I've heard that before and likely wouldn't have attached it to this recipe. :)ReplyDelete
Katie, who would have thought that even in the midst of winter, in the month of January there was going to be so much sun and warm weather - I must admit that we have had unseasonally warm temperatures and my herbs are in full bloom as a result of those spring like temperatures. So, with a bit of planning and patience it all turned out well!Delete
Glad you enjoyed your January cook-a-thon as well!
Dear Andrea, As always, an exceptional spread of display. I really like your onion bhajis which look like lovely little flowers on a platter, so pretty, and your idea on using the sparkling water is a good tip to remember for the future even though I don't do a lot of 'frying.' I'm also over the moon on your grilled chicory garnish of beetroot, alfalfa and leek sprouts. I've been seeing these photographed here and about and am just dying to find them someplace and top them on just anything they look so pretty. I am curious on the 'chicory' in your photograph which looks like what we call Belgian endive, with our bright green chicory here being frequently used as a salad lettuce. Another interesting twist perhaps being 'Swede' referred to in the US as Rutabaga. I opt for The Prof who cooks version however, Swede does indeed sound much nicer than the word rutabaga, which I find a delicious vegetable and thought Hugh's version fabulous. Thanks for the inspiring beauty in your use of flowers and photo design. And too, thank you for all you ongoing do to make the Cottage Cooking Club a very special group to be a part of. Big Hugs to you!ReplyDelete
Peggy, actually the term "chicory" is Britsih English and the term "Belgian endive" is more commonly used in the US to describe the very same vegatable - sorry about the confusion. Same, of course, with "swede" and "rutabaga" - sorry again. Since I use the UK edition of the River Cottage, these "hiccups" are bound to happen again in the future. I get the Belgian endive from an endive grower nearby, the rest of the year it mostly hails from the Netherlands and Belgium (HA!). The cress I use can only be found in the Netherlands and is very popular in restaurants around here. Thank you for your wonderful coomment - you are most certainly making me one happy blogger this Saturday morning!Delete
Every month, your recipes are so gorgeous, I hardly know where to start. Although this month I seem to know exactly where to start - both of the squash recipes are calling my name! Hope to try at least one of them this weekend!ReplyDelete
Beth, thank you very much for your kind comment! Both the squash dishes were received rather favorably - both the other CCC members as well as our family really enjoyed them. So, I believe, you cannot wrong with making either of them over the weekend.Delete
Stunningly, gorgeously presented foods. Takes my breath away. Truly.
Do you own a restaurant? What do you do for a living?
Am I being too nosy again?!!! xxx
Dear Kim - HA! You are never nosy, I am just rather private...unfortunately, I do not own a restaurant or small coffeeshop or bakery or...but one day I might go for a small little coffee shop an dif that will not work out, I will finally write that cookbook that I have been talking about for the longest time...but in real life, I am a lawyer...Delete
Thank you for your response.Delete
You are very sweet!!
Love from Minnesota. x
You are quite welcome, dear friend!Delete
Andrea, thank you for putting together this beautiful post of so many great recipes! I have all the ingredients to make the chickpeas with cumin and spinach, so guess what's for lunch today?! And that squash and walnut toastie is something I must try soon! Can't wait.ReplyDelete
Marcelle, you should try the Chickpeas and spinach at least once - I am always surprised at how much the kids adore that dish - your kids are certain to like it as well. And thank you kindly for your wonderful comment!Delete
Hi Andrea, all of the dishes you prepared look so amazing, I am thinking that you are a food stylist on the side, they look so professional. The batter on your onion bhajis looks so light and airy, they remind me of the onion rings we have here. Another great month, thank you for all you do, CheriReplyDelete
Cheri, I added mineral (sparkling water) to the batter to lighten it somewhat - we use that "trick" often here and I did remember the cauliflower pakors to have had a bit of a "heavy batter" - that´s why the nbatter might look "light". And, no, I am not a food stylist not even "on the side"...don´t I wish....Delete
Thank you for your kind comment & your participation in the CCC!
Just amazing - the food, the photos, the commentary. You have a knack for making every recipe look better than it even "should" look. Your garnishes and creative touches are so wonderful and add to the deliciousness (is that even a word?) of the dish. I especially liked your Flat onion bhajis which I had planned to make myself. Unfortunately I didn't have a kitchen, so to speak, in the house I originally rented in Cambria this Winter. I have now moved to a different house and hope that the next 3months will be smooth sailing. What I am enjoying is the artwork that your girls made for me. The winter and Christmas scenes moved "fridges" on Friday and are much happier in their new abode. A wonderful post, Andrea. I liked both of my dishes but I will be glad to revisit this month's choices and make more.ReplyDelete
Mary - now that feels quite wonderful! Loving your comment! And I am glad that the girls´ drawings arrived safe and sound at your place - we did send them to Aspen in December. How is Cambria at this time of year? Probably absolutely wonderful - I would not mind dropping by for a visit and a breath of fresh air from the sea...I have the most dreadful of colds...Delete
Thank you, again, for your thoughtful and kind comment - I most certainly appreciate it!
Andrea all you make look wonderful and delicious.ReplyDelete
Beautiful shots !!
Send you hugs , gloria
Gloris, sounds like you enjoyed my CCC post! Thank you very much!Delete
All your food is enticing as usual---beautifully garnished and dive in ready! Those batter fried onions are the most tempting, but I'd happily eat any or all of these. Hope your week is off to a wonderful start. xoReplyDelete
Very kind of you, Liz! The fried onion bhajis were the most photogenic of the lot and utterly delicious to boot! Certainly a must try recipe this month!Delete
Mary said what I was thinking. You can always make the ones that don't appeal to me on the pages of the book look like something I must try when I see your pictures and read your descriptions. I forgot how many chickpeas were on the docket this month! I hope that you and the family are having a great winter. Thank you for your inspiration each month!ReplyDelete
Betsy, having a goog month, thank you! Just trying to make the dishes appealing to all, especially my trusted taste testersDelete
Everything looks delicious as usual but the Brussels sprout salad sounded especially nice and different. I've never seen purple sprouts before…they added such pretty color to the dish.ReplyDelete
Karen, thank you very much! Yes, the purple Brussel sprouts are quite nice and have a distinctive nutty flavor - love them raw when they seem to be at their very best and most photogenic!Delete
Andrea, I loved reading your post, as always. Each dish looks even more delicious than the last. You've made me really want to try the chicory dish. That's going on my list of dishes to cook. It's so hard to believe that squash season is almost over! The winter is going by so quickly.ReplyDelete
Jora, the chicory dish is one that will forever stick in my "recipe mind" - a quick and utterly delicious recipe to prepare even at the last minute and if you want to impress some guests, this is the dish for you. But you do have to make sure that whoevers eats this, likes blue cheese as well as chicry (Belgian endives).Delete
Thank you for your wonderful comment,
Every dish you made sounds wonderful and looks gorgeous. I really enjoyed the red lentil soup and the chickpeas and spinach - they were tasty, but also so nutritious.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Teresa!Delete
Andrea, I can't decide which is more amazing, your wonderful photos, or just how delicious all of your dishes sound! Just lovely!! Well done as usual. So happy that you enjoyed all of your dishes.ReplyDelete