Cottage Cooking Club – December 2014

Wow, oh wow there was a delight in this month’s offering. In the hectic December feast month I managed to squeeze in two recipes from the list, Skanakopita and Curried Sweet Potato Soup. Both were a hit with my family and both were easy to make.

1. Corner Shop Skanakopita (p.54)

I especially liked the store cupboard challenge that prompted Hugh to create this easy version using frozen spinach and ready-made puff pastry. I love the way he provides options in his recipes, in this instance I chose fennel seeds – I had all three in stock but fennel is a favourite. I also opted to increase the feta cheese. Firstly, I didn’t think I would use the small amount leftover from the carton and secondly, when I spread it over the spinach it didn’t seem like a lot. Definitely a make again recipe.

Spanakopita

2. Curried Sweet Potato Soup (p.166)

This was delicious and probably our favourite recipe in this book so far. The only change I made was to omit the fresh chiles so that my children would eat this, oh and I didn’t have any cilantro – I don’t think it was a big loss, it still tasted fantastic. Incredibly fragrant and a great combination of flavours with the ginger, coconut milk, curry spices, sweet potato and squeeze of lime at the end. I am definitely adding this to my favourite recipes.

Sweet Potato Soup

Check out what the rest of The Cottage Cooking Club made in December here.

The Cottage Cooking Club – November

This month wasn’t a great month for River Cottage Veg. Not that there was anything wrong with the selection or the book, but rather I didn’t get round to making the dishes I planned.  I have no excuse and can’t explain the reason but the only thing I whipped up was the Twice-Baked Potatoes (p. 226). The Stuffed Cabbage Leaves and Patatas Bravas were the things I most wanted to try but it just didn’t happen – they are definitely going to be on my catch-up list (which embarrassingly seems to be getting longer and longer).

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The potatoes scraped in probably because they were easy and a kid-friendly dish. Although, ironically I could have made life even easier for myself and skipped the twice baked part as both my children only ate the filling! My other half really enjoyed this although I thought it could do with  something more – paprika? Mustard? Or a leek and bacon and cheese combo? Hugh does provide alternate fillings and this is a recipe that could lend itself to all sorts of combinations and really could be whatever you have in your pantry.

My potatoes weren’t the best. I used local (from Lebanon) and the skins were very thin which made it difficult to scoop and they didn’t retain their shape well; I had to cram them together in the pan so they could stay upright and not collapse.

Will definitely make these again although I will tweak the filling and choose a different potato with a sturdier skin.

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, check out the Cottage Cooking Club website.

The Cottage Cooking Club – September

I really enjoyed the selection for September from River Cottage Veg and managed to cook four out of the ten dishes. The fifth dish, fish-less salad nicoise, didn’t happen because I couldn’t persuade my other half on the merits of a salad nicoise without the tuna – the no-tuna thing just isn’t sitting well with him. I have all the ingredients so will try to make it tonight, perhaps as a side… or perhaps I will admit defeat and crack open a can of tuna and allow him to eat it with his portion.

In order of preference, here are the dishes I made.

Mushroom “Risoniotto” (p258)

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This was a real winner and went down very well with the whole family. It was easy to put together and although made with regular button mushrooms, the addition of the balsamic made it something a bit more than just some mushrooms and pasta. I have used orzo before but the only rice pasta shape I could find was a Carrefour own brand called “barley”. I was dubious as to the quality but it worked well. The parsley is essential (I made it again another night without) as it adds another level of freshness and flavour and, let’s be honest, the appearance of brown food is definitely improved with speckles of vivid green.

Oven-Roasted Roots Frittata (p234)

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Wow, this one was fabulous. I would have put it at the top of my list but I seemed to like it more than the rest of the family. I love that Hugh provides options for the roots – I went for potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions and beetroot. I also really love the fact that the egg mixture goes straight over the roasted vegetables in the same dish – thank you for giving me one less dish to wash! This tasted really amazing. I have made and eaten frittatas before and sometimes they can be a bit bland. Roasting the vegetables makes a real difference here. We had this warm from the oven and cold from the fridge the next day. I prefer the warm version but would still be very happy to eat it the next day as a lunch and it would make great picnic fare. I made a crème fraiche herb mustard sauce to serve with it (I am addicted to the Maille three green herb mustard the colour of avocado).

Roasted Squash (p346)

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This was easy and the squash delicious. The garlic and rosemary are both very fragrant and squash tastes so different when roasted. The skin on the garlic is essential – one clove lost its skin and became a black lump of inedible charcoal. I also took off the skin and chopped the squash into smaller pieces. I had originally planned to use the squash in a risotto however decided to make pizza instead using the Magic Bread recipe from the book. The pizza base was straightforward and I like the fact that it uses both all-purpose flour and bread flour as the bread flour is very expensive and sometimes hard to get here. I had to add more water to the dough as it wasn’t anywhere near sticky as described in the recipe. It took about 2 hours to double up and made 3 large pizza bases. Next time, I think it would easily make 4 good-sized pizzas (and there will be a next time). I made a simple margarita pizza for the kids and a goats cheese, roasted squash and onion pizza for the grown ups. The contrast of the tangy goats cheese and the sweet and soft squash was perfect. Next time I might mix the goats cheese with a little crème fraiche as it was a tad dry after baking.  We had a fun night of pizza making (and eating) and have decided that a pizza stone and wheel should go on the Christmas wish list as the pizzas were so good that we will definitely be making them again.

Pinto Bean Chili (p23)

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This was our least favourite recipe. My finished dish looked nothing like the recipe photo; my chili looked like brown unappetising mush. I made this the day before and reheated it; usually these sort of recipes improve in flavour after a day or two – maybe that was a mistake. For some reason, the recipe tasted blah. It was missing something but I’m not sure what as the ingredients list was reasonably extensive. I already make a vegetable chili from the Silver Palate New Basics Cookbook which is fantastic and very popular with my family – this recipe just didn’t compare and unfortunately compare we did. I definitely won’t be making this one again and will stick to the Silver Palate recipe which is a real winner using chick peas, kidney beans and lots of vegetables, herbs and spices.

I had also planned on making the Green Lentil and Spinach Soup (p162) but the weather has been so hot and humid here that we really didn’t fancy it. So, I will save it for later in the year when the weather is less than a gazillion degrees.

To see what others in the group made for September from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book “River Cottage Veg” check out the CCC site here.

July – River Cottage Veg

I managed to cook four recipes from the Cottage Cooking Club list for July 2014:

Chocolate & Beetroot Ice Cream

Now, we love beetroot in this house in both savoury and sweet dishes (chocolate beetroot brownies are fab) but this ice cream wasn’t a winner for us. It wasn’t difficult to make but there were quite a few steps (and dishes) which made me really want it to be good, but unfortunately it wasn’t. My first problem was getting the beetroot puree smooth – this failed me completely. Mine was grainy which of course led to a grainy ice-cream, not a good texture for ice cream.

Stirring in the beetroot puree.

Stirring in the beetroot puree.

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Great colour, shame about the texture.

The intensity of the dark chocolate and the earthiness of the beetroot were too predominant and many didn’t think it was sweet enough. I can’t give this ice cream away – definitely won’t make this one again.

Marinated Courgettes

We are going on vacation next week so I made a substitution here. The recipe calls for Mozzarella however I had some Halloumi in the fridge that I needed to use up so fried that to serve with the courgettes for supper – and I wasn’t sorry!

Local Courgettes, small but good!

Local Courgettes, small but good!

I am really glad that Hugh gave the weight measurement for the courgettes as the local variety in the UAE are baby sized compared to the courgettes in Europe which makes adjusting based on quantity a lot of guesswork. I wasn’t sure if my family would like this. My husband isn’t a huge lemon with savoury fan but amazingly he loved it. I served it with the halloumi and some crusty bread but think it would be fantastic served with grilled chicken – a great BBQ side that can be made in advance.

Ready to serve with grilled Halloumi cheese.

Ready to serve with grilled Halloumi cheese.

Frying the courgettes was a little time consuming (and messy) and think it might work well grilled on the BBQ or in the oven in one go. Definitely a keeper!

Tomato, Thyme & Goat’s Cheese Tart

I managed to find all-butter puff pastry in the freezer section of my local supermarket (no mean feat here). I love that Hugh offers alternatives to the goat’s cheese and thyme – makes this a great pantry pull together dish. Blue cheese sounds lovely but I wanted to serve this to my family so stuck to the goat’s cheese. I couldn’t find fresh thyme so had to use basil instead but don’t think it made a huge difference. This was very easy to make and was a huge hit with my family.

Make this. You will not be sorry!

Make this. You will not be sorry!

In the past I usually just mark an indent in the pastry around the edge, I have never actually cut and stuck a border on. The border puffed up and was quite fragile so next time I might just resort to my method. This tart tasted and looked like a lot more effort to put together than it was. I will be stocking up on puff pastry so that I can make this more often.

The tastes of summer, delicious.

The tastes of summer, delicious.

This tart cries out for an al fresco lunch with a cold glass of Portuguese Vinho Verde!

Pasta with Raw Tomatoes
Not the most appetizing of names. I usually make a version of this from “The Silver Palate cookbook” which includes brie cheese. Interested to try this lighter version.

I have to admit to being a little bit lazy about peeling and de-seeding tomatoes  – this was fiddly. I didn’t have the small pasta called for so used regular sized Penne. This was a mistake and I think a spaghetti or a smaller pasta shape would work better with such a light sauce.

Raw tomato sauce.

Raw tomato sauce.

This dish requires the very best tomatoes and really good olive oil. We enjoyed this but will add some cheese next time as I did feel like it was missing something. And next time I will probably skip the de-seeding (and possibly even the peeling) to make it a quick supper dish.

To see what the other members of the Cottage Cooking Club made check out the CCC blog, by clicking here. Please note that we have been asked not to publish the recipes on our blogs as we encourage you to go out and purchase a copy of the book.