Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cottage Cooking Club - September 2014

What a delicious month it's been at the Cottage Cooking Club as we continue to cook our way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book, River Cottage Veg. Every recipe was a winner and I made six of them plus a few extra!  

On to the food.... 

Pinto Bean (Black Bean) Chili (page 23) 
This was a huge hit! Chock full of garden fresh end of summer zucchini and sweet bell peppers, this chili was perfect for transition into fall: it looked hearty but with such a large proportion of vegetables, it was much lighter than most and it had a very quick cooking time.
I made some minor adjustments using dried oregano instead of fresh, and black beans I had cooked and frozen instead of pinto. With its combination of aromatics, fresh chiles and dried spices (including allspice!) like most chilies I've made/eaten, this one had big flavour, but the surprising sweet element the vegetables brought to the dish set it apart from others.

I served it in baked whole wheat tortilla bowls with the suggested lemony guacamole and some yogurt to help cool it down. I'll definitely be trying the winter variation of this recipe. 
Lemony Guacamole (page 296)
To serve with the spicy chili, I did a make up of a May recipe, the lemony guacamole, chosen before I joined the group. This was a basic version with just lemon juice, fresh chile and cilantro included, but it had a very zingy flavour and was a favourite with those who aren't fans of raw onion or garlic. I don't usually use oil in my guacamole so omitted it from this recipe; I don't think the texture suffered any. 

This was very fast and easy to put together (I've made it several times now) and perfect for when you need something cool and creamy to help tame the heat of the main dish.

Fennel and Goat Cheese (page 102)
Raw fennel gets a little lift from a lemon juice-olive oil dressing and some tangy goat's cheese in this easy salad. I used one of my (now) favourite kitchen toys, my mandoline, to shave the vegetable, though thinly slicing it would work just as well, and when making the dressing, I included the zest to add more lemon flavour.

I loved this one - no surprise here since I'm a big fan of fennel, raw or cooked, and lemony dressings. The creamy cheese provided great textural contrast to the crisp vegetable and reinforced the tangy flavour of the salad. This would make a great starter salad to wake up the taste buds.

Green Lentil and Spinach Soup (page 162) 
Who knew lentil soup could look this good? And it tasted even better!
I made the River Cottage Garlicky Flat Breads to serve with the soup and had quite a bit of the flavoured oil remaining so used that to sauté the carrots and shallots at the start for an extra garlic hit! Even with just those few ingredients, the nutty Puy lentils, which retain their shape nicely when cooked, and good vegetable stock (I still haven't tried Hugh's recipe!), the soup would have been tasty. Fresh tomatoes brightened the flavour and fresh spinach and the carrots added pretty pops of colour.

Another success!

River Cottage Garlicky Flat Breads (page 176) 
First of all, mine looked nothing like the photo in the book! As thinly as I rolled them, they insisted on puffing up in the pan like a pita! Applying pressure with a spatula kept them at bay but they didn't get the thin crisp edge I was hoping for. They tasted wonderful, regardless, especially eaten with the lentil soup.
I've been experimenting with the magic bread dough recipe, the basis for these breads, gradually using more and more whole grain flour. This time, I used all whole wheat bread flour with great success. After an overnight rest in the fridge, the dough was very easy to handle. 

To finish the flat breads, they were brushed with garlic-infused olive oil and I added a sprinkle of za'atar, the Middle Eastern spice blend of toasted sesame seeds, sumac, oregano and thyme. 

I'll definitely make these again but with a few adjustments: I'd make only half the oil since I had so much left over, and I'd make them a little smaller (at least 10 instead of 8). 

Oven-Roasted Roots Frittata (page 234)
With overflowing baskets of late summer produce, I really didn't have too many root vegetables to draw from to make this frittata, but relying on just my year round pantry staples of carrots and potatoes with some shallots included in the mix, it was simple but still delicious!
Having to roast the vegetables first, this dish did take a little extra time to make, but was well worth it for the flavour that resulted from this step. I loved the economy of using the same roasting pan to bake the eggs in afterwards. I flavoured them with fresh dill, parsley and green onions and topped the frittata with Pecorino Romano cheese before baking.

This was easy to put together and with a simple green salad made a fantastic meal. I'm looking forward to trying different combinations of root vegetables but will always include potatoes since their neutral flavour was a great buffer for the sweeter ones.

Mushroom "Risoniotto" (page 258)
I often serve sautéed mushrooms flavoured with garlic and thyme as a simple side dish. In this recipe, Hugh takes that family favourite and transforms it into a ragoût with the addition of white wine, balsamic vinegar and a little cream and adds some cooked rice-shaped pasta to make a delicious, comforting meal.  

Even made with a very basic mix of cultivated cremini and white button mushrooms, the flavours were harmonious and with the small amount of cream adding richness, reminiscent of a slowly and lovingly cooked risotto, minus the time and effort - but not the love ;)! It was wonderful as is but I can't help but think how much better it would be made with more flavourful wild mushrooms (or at least a more interesting blend of cultivated!). Next time.....

Cauliflower Pakoras with Tamarind Raita (page 318)
The cauliflower haters in the family have been converted, actually admitting that the vegetable tastes good, and this was without trying to disguise it as per my usual methods to get them to eat it. This recipe actually glorifies its flavour, which is mild and sweet when cooked, encasing it in a spicy, nutty, crispy coating.
The batter for these was very easy to put together, just a slurry of chickpea flour (besan), cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and water. I did need to thin it out with some extra water and I added extra cayenne pepper as well. There was enough batter for my rather large (1.2kg trimmed of leaves) head of cauliflower. Cooked in three batches in a deep fryer, these took no time at all to make and were fantastic with the tangy yogurt-tamarind-coriander dip, the perfect cooling accompaniment for the spicy golden nuggets.

They were fun to try and we loved them, but despite how good they were, because they are fried, it's unlikely I'll make them again. 

With such a successful month behind me, I'm looking forward to next month's selection of recipes with the Cottage Cooking Club. Visit here to see what the other members made.


  1. Hi Zosia. Your chili looks lovely and too the fennel with goat cheese that I did not try but it does look simply good. Very much enjoyed your pictures and this months overview! See you next month!

  2. HI Zosia, all of your recipes look wonderful especially your flatbread and cauliflower, after seeing your pictures wish I had prepared them too. Another great month of recipes.

  3. The Pakora looks fab, I hear you about the frying but I bet they were delicious. The Frittata was my favourite this month, although the roasting took time it is very hands off so will definitely be making this again. Amazing job on all your dishes!

  4. Zosia, all of the dishes that you prepared from the September line-up as well as the ones not on the list look outstanding. I love how you discuss each and every one, the steps needed and the way you prepared them - the photos make all your food look absolutely delicious and will hopefully inspire many readers and followers of your lovely blog!
    Thank you for participating again this month, it is a pleasure to cook along with you and read that you family is enjoying your cooking adventure so much as you!

  5. It looks like September was a delicious month at your house, Zosia. I want to try the frittata and the flatbread. I made the mushroom risoniotto also. I love it. So much flavor for not much effort at all.

  6. Look at all the yummy dishes you made, Z!
    Impressive. Everything looks so delicious. I love how your chili turned out just like Hugh's.

  7. Zosia, all your photos are beautiful! I love that you served the chili in tortilla bowl! I noticed the sweetness in the chili as well, which I found quite pleasing. The fennel and goat cheese salad was probably my favorite - along with the mushroom sarnie. The flat breads look fabulous - what a perfect addition to the lentil soup which I thought was delicious, not to mention so colorful. Speaking of colorful, your frittata is beautiful!

  8. I am so impressed, Zosta, really I am. You completed so many recipes from the September List and they all look fabulous. I definitely want to make the Mushroom Risoniotto and the Frittata. Didn't get those done. The flat bread looks delicious. Although I like cooking to "pictures", my finished product often doesn't look like the one in the cookbook. You did yourself proud this September. Good for you.

  9. What a wonderful group of recipes!! It's so fun to read about and see the delicious dishes you made that I didn't get to. I wanted to make the pakoras, but since I didn't have any of the chickpea flour, they will have to wait. I'm glad to hear they were worth the effort!

    All of your dishes look wonderful. I made the breads a while back - it was definitely a trick to get them rolled out thin enough - yours look divine! And great idea with the whole wheat. What a fabulous month of recipes!!

  10. Your presentation of these dishes is beautiful! And it seems like it was a very good month for you, too. The chili and the soup were favourites of ours, but the other dishes we made were fantastic, too.


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