Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club - February 2015

The Cottage Cooking Club, organized and led by the fearless Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness, has reached a huge milestone this month: as a group, we have cooked our way through half the recipes in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's fabulous book River Cottage Veg. I've had so much fun cooking and sharing and reading about everyone elses experiences, the time has just flown by. This month, the recipes I made were as delicious as usual:

Avocado and Ruby Grapefruit Salad (page122)
This was a refreshing salad that couldn't have been simpler. The creamy avocado provided a flavour and textural contrast to the segments of juicy ruby grapefruit with added brightness from fresh coriander and a little chile heat. I loved it and thought that with its lively flavours it would make a great starter to awaken the palate. I was alone in this opinion since I'm the only one here who likes grapefruit...that was all right though, it just meant that there was more for me!

 Nachos with Refried Beans (page 190)
Now this recipe was met with a completely different reaction from family! I had made flatbreads with the Magic Dough for CCC in September so decided to make the Nacho variation of the Refried Beans Foldover instead. Made with white beans and tomatoes, this dish of refried beans flavoured with onions, garlic and oregano had an almost Italian spin on it. I used frozen cooked white kidney beans and canned tomatoes and used the mixture to top some baked whole wheat tortilla "chips", finishing with Monterey Jack cheese, Greek yogurt and a tomato-kumquat salsa. Without the traditional black beans and cumin, the flavour of this was totally unexpected but really tasty. A new family favourite that will definitely be made again.

Cheesy Peasy Puff Turnover (page 220) 
We all need recipes like this in our lives: fun and very quick to put together with pre-rolled frozen puff pastry and frozen peas. The recipe calls for strongly flavoured cheese but I used a last bit of Gruyère I had in the fridge and since it didn't have a very strong flavour it really allowed the sweetness of the peas to come through which, baked from frozen, were bright green and fresh tasting. This made a really delicious snack that was a huge hit with family but I think it would make a nice lunch with a salad as well.

Winter Stir-Fry with Chinese Five-Spice (page 288) 
Simply fabulous! Including parsnips and brussels sprouts certainly set this stir-fry apart from anything I've ever made before but it was the Chinese five-spice that was responsible for the dish's heavenly aroma and complex flavour. I particularly loved how it played off of the sweetness of the carrots and parsnips - such a great combination. I think I'll use it to season my next batch of roasted carrots and parsnips.

Roasted Squash and Shallots with Merguez Chickpeas (page 365)
Loved this! Consisting of squash roasted with garlic and shallots, and chickpeas flavoured with myriad spices, many of which were first toasted, then ground, each of the components was delicious on its own but together they were fantastic! I did cook the chickpeas for this dish as per the recipe which took considerable time but next time, I'll just use some of my frozen stash. Another success!

Potato Rösti (page 391)
What's not to love about potatoes fried until golden and crisp? Nothing! I doubled the recipe to feed five and since I was dealing with a kilo of potatoes, used the food processor to make the job of grating them a little quicker. Since they were partially cooked, I was concerned about them disintegrating, so used the coarser shredding disk. Big mistake! Relying only on the starch from the potatoes - there's no binder in the recipe - I had a lot of difficulty in keeping the little cakes together while they cooked. I think finer shreds with their much larger surface area would have held together better. Of course they still tasted as good as I and everyone else anticipated, especially served with Hugh's Honey Roasted Cherry tomatoes, page 343 (fantastic in summer but still pretty good in winter) and Poached Egg, page 210 (I still aspire to make one as perfect as Mary's).

Next month, Andrea is giving us the chance to play catch-up and make recipes that were featured in previous months. There are so many I wish I had made - we'll see how many I can squeeze in! In the meantime, visit CCC to read all of the February entries.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Skillet Chicken Parmesan with Broccoli and Green Beans - IHCC Potluck

I'm still exploring the chicken dishes of I Heart Cooking Clubs' featured chefs, past and present, for potluck week. A lighter and easier version of an Italian-American classic from Giada de Laurentiis was this month's choice.

Traditionally made with chicken breast cutlets that have been breaded and fried, smothered in tomato sauce and cheese and baked, this recipe for Chicken Parmesan omitted several time consuming steps (and lots of oil and fat) without compromising flavour. 
The chicken was first seasoned with fresh herbs then seared briefly with minimal oil. Leaving the chicken in the skillet, a judicious coating of marinara sauce, a little mozzarella cheese and some grated Parmesan was added before the whole thing was popped into the oven to finish cooking, to emerge golden and bubbling just a few minutes later. I used chicken breasts pounded thin (approx 170g each) instead of cutlets and omitted the butter. 
To go with the chicken, I made a simple and fresh tasting vegetable side of blanched broccoli and green beans quickly sautéed in garlic and red chile pepper infused olive oil. I used 2 tbsp oil and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.
The herbed chicken was juicy and tender and with just enough marinara sauce and cheese to enhance it, really tasty. Served with the vegetables and garlic bread (à la Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking), this was a quick and easy weeknight meal.

The recipes for Marinara Sauce, Chicken Parmesan and Broccoli and Green Beans are from the book Everyday Italian but (slightly different versions) can be found online - just click on the recipe name for the link.

What did everyone else bring to potluck? Visit here to find out!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pink Grapefruit Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie project was the very pretty Pink Grapefruit Tart from Baking Chez Moi. I happen to love grapefruit and was looking forward to this but with four tasters who don't care much for the fruit combined with a very short shelf life, this tart was a candidate for minification. A multi-component dessert, a halved recipe of each fit perfectly into a 6-1/2" tart pan.
First up was the crust made from the Sweet Tart Dough (page 414). It was my first time making this and was very pleased with how easily it came together in the food processor and rolled between sheets of parchment. I baked the shell from frozen on serving day and chose not to heed the warnings of other bakers in the group who thought the oven temperature too high....lets just say it was (unintentionally) French-baked ;)!

The other components were just as simple to put together: a lemon-almond cream made with ground almonds and lemon zest, and a crémeux that started life as a grapefruit curd only to be transformed into a luxurious, creamy layer with the addition of (lots of) butter. One of my daughters is vegetarian so I omitted the gelatin and whisked powdered agar agar directly into the filling just before pouring it into the crust. Two teaspoons for a half recipe produced a nice, soft set.
The end result was a company-worthy dessert that presented beautifully and had a lovely combination of flavours and textures. I had expected, and hoped, that the crémeux would taste more of grapefruit; instead, it was very rich and buttery, almost approaching (Italian meringue) buttercream in flavour and consistency, but was pleasantly bittersweet. Apart from the fresh fruit garnish, the grapefruit was so subtle you really didn't need to love the fruit to love this tart. Family's enjoyment of their little wedges was proof of that!

Visit here to see the other beautiful tarts.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gołąbki (Polish Cabbage Rolls)

The ultimate comfort food: savoury rice and meat wrapped in a tender cabbage leaf and smothered in tomato sauce, served with a little rye bread.

Gołąbki (Polish Cabbage Rolls)
makes approx. 16

Prep time: approx 1 hour
Roasting time: 1-1/2 - 2 hours


4 slices/125g bacon, finely diced
1 large or 2 small yellow onions (230-250g), finely chopped
200g/1 cup long grain white rice, preferably parboiled/converted
500g/1-lb extra-lean ground beef
2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp black pepper

1 small head (1.5-1.8kg) green cabbage

120ml/1/2 cup water

480ml/2 cups tomato juice

medium skillet/fry pan
medium pot with fitted lid
large pot (large enough to accommodate the head of cabbage)
shallow roasting pan or casserole dish (4-5 litre capacity or 28cm x 33cm/11"x13") with lid (or foil)

1.  Cook bacon in the skillet over medium-high heat. Once it has been sizzling for 2 minutes and has started to render some of its fat, reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring periodically, for 5-7 minutes or until the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place in a medium sized bowl to cool. Pour off all but 2 tbsp of the bacon fat.

2.  Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until very soft and translucent. Add to the bowl containing the bacon.

3. Meanwhile, cook the rice. Place the rice in a medium sized pot and add 480ml/2 cups cold water. Place on high heat and bring to a low boil. When craters appear on the surface and start to pop, cover and reduce heat to low, maintaining a gentle simmer. Cook for 8 minutes, drain and add to the bowl with the bacon and onion. The rice will be only partially cooked, very firm with an uncooked centre.

4. Once the bacon, onions and rice have cooled, add the ground beef, salt and pepper to the bowl. Stir to combine.

5. For the cabbage, bring a large pot of water to a boil on high heat. Place the cabbage on a cutting board, core side up. Cut around the core with a sharp knife.
6. Place the head of cabbage in the boiling water. Don't worry if it's not completely immersed, just rotate it every few minutes to make sure all of it is in the water at some point. Cook for about 2 minutes and gently remove the outermost leaves. Leave the loose leaves in the water to cook for an additional 2-5 minutes or until they are pliable but not soft and the area around the stem is no longer opaque. Remove cooked leaves to drain and cool. Continue cooking the head of cabbage, removing leaves every 1-2 minutes, cooking them and then draining them. Continue doing this until you have about 24-26 cooked leaves.

7. Preheat the oven to 165C/325F. If using a metal roasting pan, line with foil.

8. Set aside 3-4 of the outermost leaves which are too tough for the cabbage rolls and 3-4 of the innermost leaves that are too small, thick or curly. To stuff the remaining leaves, first trim the raised part of the stem on the outside of the cabbage leaf so it's the same thickness as the rest of the leaf. 
leaf leaf1 leaf2
Place about 80ml/1/3 cup filling inside the leaf close to its base. Roll just until the filling is encased, shaping it into a cylinder. Tuck the ends in. 
stuffing stuffing1 stuffing2
Continue rolling to the end of the leaf and tuck the ends in again. 
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9.  Place the cabbage rolls seam side down in the roasting pan. Pour 120ml water into the pan and arrange the unstuffed leaves you've set aside on the top. Cover the dish with its lid or cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.
pic name pic name

10. Remove the lid/foil and layer of cabbage leaves. If there's no liquid in the pan, add 60ml/1/4 cup water. Pour the tomato juice evenly over the top of the cabbage rolls. Place the cabbage leaves back on top and cover once again with either the lid or foil. Bake an additional 30-60 minutes, checking after 30 minutes, until the cabbage is fork tender.

They're delicious freshly made but even better reheated. Enjoy!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Crimson & White Salad - IHCC Curds & Whey

With a theme that focused on yogurts and cheeses, I made Diana Henry's Crimson and White from A Change of Appetite for this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs' challenge. 

This was a simple raw salad that celebrated some of the fresh produce available at this time of year. Grapefruit, fennel, radishes, and radicchio (in place of red Belgian endive) were dressed with a lightly sweetened lemon vinaigrette and topped with feta cheese.
There were some really lovely flavours in this light and refreshing salad, with sweet and bitter nicely balanced, and with feta adding a salty note. It would make an excellent starter for a winter menu or a meal at any time of year.

Visit here to see the other members' dishes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Marquise au Chocolat - Tuesdays With Dorie

This week, Tuesdays with Dorie group members baking through the book Baking Chez Moi made Marquise au Chocolat, a decadent frozen chocolate mousse "cake" that dates back to the 17th century. 

Made by combining melted chocolate and butter with egg yolks and sugar, then lightening this with some cold whipped cream, this dessert was surprisingly easy to put together.
The mixture didn't quite fit into the 8-1/2" x 4-1/2" pan I'd prepared - I can personally attest to the fact that this is delicious even in its pre-frozen state ;) - which foiled my plans for a crumb crust, so I went the traditional route Dorie mentions and served it with Crème Anglaise (page 441) and a little Raspberry Coulis (page 449) as well, both excellent recipes from the same book.

We loved this! It had a deceptively light and velvety texture but was quite rich and über chocolatey. The vanilla sauce balanced it nicely and the fruit cut the richness a little. I made this for family and we enjoyed it over several days but this would make great dinner party fare since it can be made ahead and dressed up as you wish.

Visit here to view all of the beautiful renditions of this dessert.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Scandi(navian) Salmon Burger on Black Bread - IHCC Mystery Box Madness Challenge

I love the Mystery Box Madness Challenge at I Heart Cooking Clubs. We're given ten ingredients from which we must choose at least three to make a dish from any of our featured chefs, past or present. This month the ingredients were: cabbage, mustard, yogurt, freekeh/bulgur wheat, za'atar, tomatoes, sausage, carrots, basil, almonds.

I envisioned a hearty dish of braised sausage and cabbage served over a bulgur wheat pilaf but when I started to look, and that's half the fun of this challenge, nothing like that called to me. But Scandi Salmon Burger with Dill and Tomato Sauce, a lighter summery dish from Diana Henry's book A Change Of Appetite did.
Finely chopped salmon bound only with a little yogurt and mayonnaise made a fragile burger but among the best I've had. I omitted the cooked onion (and butter) and added spring onions for extra flavour. The yogurt-tomato topping flavoured with fresh dill was perfect with it.

These were supposed to be served on rye bread but I think a burger needs a bun. So I made Diana's Black Bread from the same book, a Russian-style loaf that I shaped as buns. I'd used yogurt and tomatoes, two of the mystery ingredients, for the burger; the third was in the bread. Can you guess what it was?
That's yeast bread. A first for me. But carrot turned out to be the least unusual ingredient in this savoury bread that included cocoa and coffee as well! The buns had a very complex flavour and a soft, fluffy interior. They were a delicious vehicle for the salmon patty.
In assembling the burgers, I did add a fourth box ingredient, spreading the buns with some grainy mustard. But if you've ever watched an episode of the TV programme "Chopped", you'll know that that wouldn't have impressed the judges at all since the ingredient wasn't transformed ;)! These were fantastic and will definitely be made again.

Visit IHCC to see what the other members have created with the box ingredients.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Chicken and Butternut Squash Tagine with Couscous - IHCC East Meets West

With Asian flavours and an ingredient that's indigenous to North America (pumpkin), Diana Henry's Chicken and Pumpkin with Soy and Star Anise from A Change of Appetite was my choice for this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs' theme "East Meets West". A braised dish that required very little liquid, I thought it would be well suited to tagine cooking. Since I was using a North African cooking vessel, I went with Spring Couscous, a recipe from Plenty, for the side.
The ingredient list for the chicken dish looked rather daunting but it took just minutes to measure everything out: soy sauce, rice vinegar, fish sauce, brown sugar, red chile, garlic, ginger, orange zest, star anise, orange juice.....I was starting to imagine just how fantastic this dish would taste! I used a whole chicken, cut up and skinned, and butternut squash. Cooked stove top in the tagine, it took only 25 minutes.
The side dish couldn't have been simpler to make, pouring boiling stock over the couscous and then waiting. The whole grain couscous needed 60ml extra liquid to fluff up properly and I used only 1 tbsp olive oil (instead of 6!). Lemon juice and zest, toasted almonds, and parsley finished it nicely.
Wow! This was good! The chicken was moist and with a drizzle of the sauce, very flavourful. The squash, having absorbed all of those beautiful flavours, was fabulous and "didn't taste much like squash" according to family. The couscous was a good neutral side for this boldly flavoured main. Definitely a dish to be repeated.

Next week's theme is "Mystery Box Madness", my favourite of all of the challenges. Until then, visit here to see all of the other fusion dishes at IHCC.