Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cottage Cooking Club - December 2014

This month's Cottage Cooking Club had me delving into my freezer pantry for vegetables to make some of the recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg cookbook, something I'd yet to do. I have no prejudice against frozen vegetables; they're picked and frozen at their peak and are far better quality than some of the "fresh" produce in my grocery store that's come from thousands of kilometres away. I do find that the texture of some is compromised by the process so I don't buy very many, but the few that were needed this month are staples for me: spinach and corn. Other ingredients that came from my frozen pantry were: puff pastry, pine nuts, chickpeas (that I cooked from dry and froze), and chickpea flour. Now on to the recipes.....

Corner Shop Spanakopita (page 54)
Spanakopita is a favourite around here. My go to recipe hails from the book The Olive and the Caper and is flavoured with green onions, parsley and lots of fresh dill, and made with phyllo dough. But I was game to try any variation, including one that used the rather non-traditional puff pastry. I cooked off the defrosted spinach in the pan with the onions rather than steaming it and went with the fennel seeds and feta to flavour the filling. I made this on a day of crazy family schedules where a sit down dinner wasn't going to happen so I baked them as turnovers, an easy grab-and-go meal with a salad, Greek of course, packed separately. 

These were really good - not as fresh tasting as the recipe I use with all of those herbs, but still perfectly delicious. I'd love to see how it turned out baked as a pastry-topped pie.
Brussels Sprouts, Apple, and Cheddar (page 108)
Cabbage/Brussels sprouts + apple = delicious; apple + cheddar = delicious; the three ingredients combined with toasted hazelnuts and lemon vinaigrette = fantastic! This was a great lettuce-free salad that fulfilled my craving for fresh and crisp foods with bright flavours, one that doesn't go away even though the weather is cold and snowy and slow-roasted and braised foods are the order of the day. I will definitely be making this again.

Bruschetta with Curly Kale (page 200)
The kale lovers including myself really enjoyed this quick open-faced sandwich of toasted garlic bread topped with barely cooked garlicky kale and cheese. We so enjoyed the kale and cheddar pizza topping from October's CCC, that that became our cheese of choice. But that ingredient was secondary; this was a recipe where the kale was allowed to shine. I used curly since that's much more readily available here than Tuscan/lacinato, and good though this was prepared as per the recipe, it was fabulous after a stint under the broiler that crisped the kale and melted the cheese! 

Quick Chickpea Pasta (page 246)
A dish that definitely lived up to it's name in that it was very quick, not taking much longer than it did to bring water to a boil and cook pasta. It was a little dry but some pasta cooking water I had rescued from the pot before draining the pasta and chickpeas solved that issue, and combined with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, Thai bird chile and Parmesan, made a light but flavourful sauce for the dish. This was tasty and quite satisfying and something I would definitely make again.

Leek Risotto with Chestnuts (page 270)
This was a lovely seasonal risotto flavoured primarily with leeks, some wine and good vegetable stock finished with the crunch of some crumbled, fried chestnuts. I used the author's method of adding one-quarter of the stock at a time, one that seemed less fiddly than adding it by the ladle-full but still produced good results. This was a simple, comforting dish which I quite enjoyed...for family who complained that it was too sweet, there was a bowl of grated Parmesan on the table!

Sweet Corn Fritters with Cilantro Raita (page 325)
These crispy fritters reminded me of the cauliflower pakoras we made in September with a similar spice profile and the rather distinctive flavour of chickpea flour. A little hot, spiced with warm earthy flavours, and pops of sweetness from the corn, they were a taste of summer in the depths of winter. The dipping sauce of yogurt and goat's cheese had lots of flavour and tang to complement the fritters.......the perfect accompaniment.

This was a very delicious month at Cottage Cooking Club and I'm just sorry I didn't have time to try more of the dishes (especially the salsify!). I can't wait to see what everyone else made! Visit here to find out....

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year!


  1. You shouldn't apologize for not making more of the recipes this month, you made quite a few. I loved the spanakopita too, as a big pie, but just love the look of your turnovers. I'll try that variation another time. Your renditions of the corn fritters and chickpea pasta also tempt me to add those to the list of recipes to try soon. This book is filled with so many winners, don't you think? I hope you and your family have a Happy New Year 2015, Zosia! I've been enjoying cooking with you this year.

  2. Let's see, you made six recipes this month. December. A crazy, busy month for even ambitious cooks. I also liked the chickpea pasta and corn fritters and will be blogging about them soon. Did you use a mandoline for your brussels sprout salad? There are so many delicious bsprouts recipes out there but I am afraid to slice them with my mandoline. Onions, yes. Tiny bsprouts, maybe not.

    1. Everything looked so good this month, I wanted to try them all! In answer to your question regarding the Brussels sprouts, since I like to keep my digits intact, I used a good, sharp knife to slice those babies!

  3. Hi Zosia, Wow! you were busy, 6 out of ten, that's pretty amazing! Love how your spanakopita turned out. Happy New years to you!

  4. Hi Zosia, your dishes look spectacular and I would like to be at your house for a take-away meal, the spanakopita alongside a Greek salad sounds wonderful. I didn't have time for the sweet corn fritters though when I make them plan on using just a nonstick pan rather than deep frying as with the cauliflower pakoras. Loved the Brussels sprouts with apples and cheddar so much so that I served it as the first course for Christmas dinner! Wishing you a very Happy New Year and look forward to our continued sharing with the Cottage Cooking Club! Cheers!

  5. Zosia, so many wonderful dishes you prepared, love all of them but I really enjoy the idea of packing the Spanakopita into puff pastry triangles - great idea for the family, very smart, dear friend! And very pretty too, my kids would have loved to munch on those! Makes me so happy to see that we agree on a lot of this month´s recipes!
    It has been such a joy to cook along with you in the Cottage Cooking Club - we are proud to count you as one of our enthusiastic members!
    Thank you for all your great support and participation these past months and I wish you and your entire family a very Happy and Healthy New Year!
    All the very best and "see" you soon,

  6. Zosia, your dishes look so fabulous! I too love the idea of the Spanakopita made into hand-held pies. I am inspired by the comments about the Brussels sprout salad too. I only made the risotto this month due to a ridiculous schedule, but I'm so happy to see your successes. Oh, and I need to get out and buy more chickpea flour, now that I have a couple of recipes to try!

    Happy New Year!

  7. Zosia , what are wonderful pastry filled with spinach and cheese isn't or cheese it looks great love it and I hope you had a great Christmas and a happy new year, come stop by and see my post, The twins grandsons 1st birthday cake I made.

  8. Nice spread! Everything looks wonderful. Beautiful photos, Zosia - my favorite being the salad. Were you ever able to make the soup? If so, I hope you enjoyed it. I like that you made small individual pies - I will have to remember this, for I want to make that recipe.

  9. Your spanakopita turnovers look perfect! I love all the choices you made this month, especially as I made none of them myself. It's so nice to get to see the recipes I didn't make and your photos are beautiful!


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