Friday, November 28, 2014

Cottage Cooking Club - November 2014

November was a really busy month for me as I'm sure it was for many, but we did have to eat. One of the things I love about the recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Veg is that they fit in nicely with my regular meal plans; I'm usually buying the same ingredients I normally would, but doing something a little different and more exciting with them. This month, I made four recipes.

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (page 38)
I regularly make Polish meat and rice stuffed cabbage rolls but I've failed in my attempts to develop a vegetarian version - the filling is often bland, too dry, over or undercooked...the list of problems goes on. I hoped this recipe would be the solution.
Stuffed with crunchy walnuts and chewy farro and barley (I omitted the fruit), and topped with a chunky tomato sauce, the flavour of these was really very good, and even better the next day. But I had issues with the cabbage. I used green cabbage since it looked far better than the savoy the day I went shopping, and more than just blanched the leaves before filling, cooking them until they were pliable. They didn't cook any further during baking. In my opinion, there's a time and place for crunchy cabbage, in a cabbage roll is not one of them. Perhaps the savoy cabbage called for in the recipe would have been better.

Couscous (Freekeh & Brown Calrose Rice) Salad with Herbs and Walnuts (page 89)
This hearty salad that I made with a mixture of freekeh and brown rice had wonderful texture: the grains were chewy, the walnuts crunchy and the vegetables still had a little bite to them after sautéing. My initial reaction to the flavour was very positive; I loved all the anise notes from the celery, fennel and fennel seed in the dish but after a few bites it didn't seem quite as exciting. I thought it was okay but not something I'd make again. Surprisingly, it was a hit with the carnivores (I've given up trying to predict what they'll like) who enjoyed it as a side to their grilled Italian sausages!

Patatas Bravas (page 322)
I didn't realize I was in a tomato sauce rut until making some of the River Cottage Veg recipes this month! First the cabbage rolls smothered in a chunky sauce flavoured with thyme and bay and now this one with paprika and hot chiles! Served with fried potatoes, which retained their crisp crust and flavour, this was a delicious dish, a little sweet and spicy and tangy. Traditionally served as tapas, Hugh mentions that it would go well with frittata so I served it as a side dish to the Cauliflower Cake from Yotam Ottolenghi's newest book, Plenty More, for a simple vegetarian meal.

Roasted Parsnip "Chips" (page 357)
As with some of the other roasted vegetable recipes in this book, this one was more a technique than an actual recipe, and it was a technique that worked. The parsnip spears did resemble "chips", crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and roasting brought out their sweet, earthy flavour. It was a great way to serve this vegetable that's often overlooked in my kitchen. Definitely something to make again.

I don't own another cookbook that I've wanted to cook from as much as this one or one with the same success rate: I've made over half the recipes chosen so far and enjoyed most of them (there are only a few I wouldn't repeat). So even in a month that wasn't quite as successful as some of the others, I still enjoyed cooking from the book and am looking forward to December's selections.

Visit the Cottage Cooking Club to see what everyone else made. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cranberry Crackle Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

One of the first things I did once I decided to join this group in baking through Baking Chez Moi was to invest in some mini baking pans for those weeks when a smaller version of the recipe would be more fitting. With baking to be done for my son's birthday and a bridal shower, this was one of those weeks. Initially considering skipping it altogether, I decided instead to make a half recipe in my new 6" pie plate.
And I'm so glad I did because this tart was absolutely wonderful. Dorie describes it as "homey" but I thought it very pretty with the red fruit and white meringue, like rubies in snow. The galette dough (page 420) provided the perfect flaky base for the mound of fluffy, sweet meringue with its crisp shell and tart fresh cranberries. A study in contrasting flavours and textures, this was one delicious tart. Everyone loved it and complained about the small portion!!! A full-sized version may be making an appearance at Christmas dinner.

We're not publishing the recipes from the book but I encourage you to buy it, you won't be sorry. And visit TWD to see everyone's gorgeous tarts.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chicken with Cilantro and Spinach Rice - IHCC Potluck

It's potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs which means we can cook with any of the featured chefs, past or present. I made chicken dishes for the last 2 potlucks and thought I would continue the theme with Tessa Kiros who took me to Peru with this fantastic chicken and rice pilaf from Falling Cloudberries.
She also took me a little outside of my comfort zone. The dish started with sautéed garlic, carrots, sweet bell peppers and peas...nothing unusual there. But then a purée of fresh cilantro and spinach was added which ultimately became the flavour base of the entire dish. Mixed with water, it formed the braising liquid for the chicken and the cooking liquid for the rice. The ingredients completely melded together during cooking to create a wonderfully complex flavour. 
The chicken was fall of the bone tender but it was the rice that was the star, absorbing the flavours of the vegetables, herbs and spices. A dollop of cumin-flavoured yogurt and drizzle of hot chilli oil finished the dish nicely. Definitely one to repeat.

Visit IHCC to see what everyone else brought to the potluck!

I'm also sharing this post with Cook-Your-Books, a monthly cooking/baking event hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Grilled Fish and Saffron Broth with Corfu Garlic Sauce - IHCC Sweet Cloves & Liquid Gold

Cooking with sweet cloves of garlic and liquid gold olive oil is the theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Grilled Fish and Saffron Broth with Corfu Garlic Sauce, a recipe from Diana Henry's book A Change of Appetite was my choice to celebrate these two ingredients.
This was a dish of pan grilled fish served atop shallots, leeks and fennel that had simmered in saffron infused fish stock with cooked potatoes added at the end. Golden in colour and laced with the earthy flavour of saffron, the vegetables went beautifully with mild Pacific "snapper" (actually not snapper at all but a sustainable variety of Pacific sea bass) to create a delicately flavoured dish.
It was the Corfu sauce featuring the "sweet cloves" and "liquid gold", as well as toasted walnuts, bread and red wine vinegar that added a spark. The pungent sauce, which you may know as Greek bread skordalia or Turkish tarator sauce, was very strongly flavoured and just a little stirred into the broth went a long way.

Family and I enjoyed it so I'll definitely make it again but I'll have to simplify the method next time since made as written, it produced piles of dirty pots and pans! Skipping the fish marinade that didn't seem to add much to the dish, and cooking the potatoes with the other vegetables may be a few places to start.

Visit IHCC to see other Diana Henry dishes using the featured ingredients.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Palets de Dames - Tuesdays with Dorie

I can say unequivocally that Dorie Greenspan taught me to bake. Years ago, my repertoire consisted only of muffins, quick breads and the occasional coffee cake. Then I discovered Tuesdays with Dorie. I followed the members' baking adventures as they worked their way through Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home To Yours and was finally convinced by their successes to buy the book and bake. I didn't have a blog then to be able to share my results, but I have one now, so it's a real pleasure to be joining this group in baking through this beauty of a book, Dorie's latest, Baking Chez Moi.
Palets de Dames, Lille Style, a pretty little iced vanilla cookie, was our first recipe. With a cake-like texture and tangy glaze (I used lemon juice only), these easy to make cookie buttons were a nice little treat with a cup of coffee.

We're not publishing the recipes from the book but I encourage you to buy it, or pick up a copy from your local library to give it a test run - you won't be sorry. Visit TWD to see everyone else's lovely cookies.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Roasted Tomatoes, Hummus, and Spinach on Pita - IHCC Mystery Box Madness

There's a fun new feature at IHCC this month, Mystery Box Madness. Our challenge was to make a dish from our current or a past featured cook that used at least three of the mystery box ingredients: harissa, eggs, saffron, pumpkin, maple syrup, dates, rose water, oranges, spinach and chickpeas.
I made Roasted Tomatoes, Hummus and Spinach on Toast from Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite, using harissa, spinach and chickpeas. This is a multi-component sandwich that at first seemed like it might be a bit of work, but as the author points out, the homemade hummus and roasted tomatoes are items you can make in advance and have on hand for other meals or snacks.

The hummus, made from canned chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and cumin went together quickly in the food processor. I couldn't get it as smooth and silky as my favourite recipe, but it tasted far better than store-bought.
The tomatoes available now aren't nearly as flavourful as they are in the summer, but roasting them with harissa and balsamic vinegar transformed them into something utterly delicious, and the highlight of the sandwich.

Assembly took only moments, piling a warm, multi-grain pita high with hummus, baby spinach leaves and harissa-roasted tomatoes, and it didn't take much longer than that to enjoy!

If you would like to try it, the recipe can be found here. Visit I Heart Cooking Clubs to see how others used the Mystery Box ingredients.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Strawberry and Passionfruit Jam - IHCC Stock Your Exotic Pantry!

Our theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs was to stock our pantry with exotic preserves, condiments, spice mixes, or whatever else suited our fancy using a recipe from our featured chef, Diana Henry. I went outside my little cooking box to make something I've never made before: jam!
For the Strawberry and Passionfruit Jam, I used part of the stash of local berries residing in my freezer, picked at their peak in June, and one of my favourite fruits, the exotic passionfruit, quite expensive here but needed in only a small amount. The challenge for me was figuring out the pectin: I know you need a specific ratio of sugar:acid:pectin for successful gel formation (that's the organic chemist coming out in me), but putting into practice in your kitchen what you know to be true on paper is often entirely different. I went with a "light" pectin product (12g) that required less sugar to set and 138g sugar to make up the weight of the "sugar with added pectin" ingredient in the recipe.
This was a perfect recipe for a jam-making novice: the batch was small, cooking time was very short (and I did achieve a soft set so I did something right!) and the flavour was fantastic. Sweet and tart, the strawberry and passionfruit flavours were perfectly balanced without one overpowering the other. And look at that colour!
To test it out, (and to stop me eating it out of the jar!!) I made the suggested Buttermilk Scones, a sweet treat that baked up tall and flaky, perfect with my newest creation!

Both recipes can be found on the Telegraph website.....just click on the recipe name for the link.

I'm excited to see the other members' exotic pantry items at IHCC, aren't you!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Cranberry-Pumpkin Rolls - Avid Baker's Challenge

Sweet or savoury? I was initially confused by this month's Avid Baker's Challenge pick, a yeast-raised bread that contained quite a few sweet ingredients and some pumpkin-friendly spices. But in looking at the amounts, I decided it fell on the savoury side of the fence.
The recipe comes from King Arthur Flour, with whom we've been baking for almost two years, and I had intended to make it exactly as written; I knew I had all of the ingredients including the crystallized ginger, though I couldn't recall when I'd used it last - never a good sign - but when I finally located it, I found that it was rock hard, so omitted it :(!
As with most of the bread recipes I've made from this site, the dough was very easy to make with my stand mixer doing the work, and also easy to handle and shape after proofing. I did knead the cranberries in by hand for more even distribution and shaped the dough into 12 sandwich sized buns, approx. 105g each, that baked in 20 minutes. The bread was lovely and soft and the pumpkin and spice flavours were quite subtle.
They were perfect for our day after Thanksgiving roast turkey, back bacon and cheddar sandwiches!

The recipe for the Cranberry-Pumpkin Rolls can be found here, and do visit ABC to see the other members' variations.