Sunday, June 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club - June 2015

It's that time again when I do a roundup of the dishes I've cooked throughout the month for The Cottage Cooking Club as group members collectively cook their way through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book, River Cottage Veg. Our theme this month: "Be Seasonal"

Beet Greens (or Chard) Ricotta Tart (page 47)
Young beets with pristine greens have started to pop up at my local farmers' market and though my family rather like their leafy greens, only I like beets. Instead of having to eat all the beets attached to those lovely leaves myself, I opted to use Swiss chard for this recipe.
Flavoured with onion, thyme and feta instead of ricotta salata, this custard filling had great flavour. It was quite soft out of the oven but I preferred it at room temperature once it had had a chance to set. 

This was my first time making Hugh's all butter tart shell and the dough was very easy to handle. It baked up very crisp, a great textural contrast to the creamy filling. Trimming the dough after pre-baking was new to me but it worked just fine.

This was a very versatile dish that could be made with whatever greens and cheese you had on hand and would be great at brunch, lunch or supper but be sure to serve it the day it's made as the crust suffers a bit with overnight refrigeration. 

New Potato Salad "Tartare" (page 79)
I loved this! It was tart and tangy with flavours so vibrant they sang. Even better, they didn't remind me at all of mayo-based tartar sauce (thank goodness) which served as inspiration for the recipe. The cooked eggs were a nice addition to take it into main course territory but really not necessary. I served them on the side since not all family like them. This is now my new go-to potato salad recipe and will be making several appearances throughout the summer.

Ribollita (page 151)
Redolent with olive oil and rosemary, this slowly simmered vegetable-bean soup filled my house with a heady aroma as it cooked and tasted even better than it smelled. 
I made it early in the month during a bout of cool, non-seasonal weather when a hearty soup was welcome. I added a Parmesan rind to the herb bundle for extra flavour and used white kidney beans I'd cooked and frozen. The soup was thickened with a purée of half the beans, a technique I'll use again since it added such a nice creaminess to the base while maintaining the integrity of all of the chopped vegetables. Locally grown kale was the final addition.

We really enjoyed this soup served over a slice of garlicky sourdough, and Hugh was right, good as it was freshly made, it was even better the next day.

Macaroni (Gemelli) Peas (page 264)
In my family, there's a fine line between a savoury dish that's pleasantly sweet and one that's too sweet, a line I've crossed many times eg Carrot Hummus that my dog and I ended up sharing. With a concern that this dish might fall into the latter category, I added 150g steamed baby spinach and a handful of fresh basil to the peas and garlic. After blitzing, just a little extra Parmesan was all that was needed to make it really savoury and delicious and a hit with family.

Pistachio Dukka (page 294)
Salty, savoury, nutty, and with a little bit of heat, this traditional Egyptian blend of toasted nuts and spices was the perfect complement to sweet potatoes roasted with a little olive oil and lemon. I did think the mix was a little too salty for me to be used as suggested, dipping bread first in oil then the dukka, but as the only seasoning on the vegetable, the salt level was fine. Until I make the next batch with a little less, I'll continue to use this one as a way dress up cooked vegetables simply and easily.

Halloumi, New Potato, and Tomato Kebabs (page 334)
After complaining about the saltiness of the dukka, here I am admitting I like halloumi, a particularly salty cheese. But it's all about balance and in combination with sweet new potatoes, even sweeter cherry tomatoes, and a herbed honey marinade, the flavour of these little kebabs was just right. I cooked them on the outdoor grill so they picked up the smokiness of that as well. These were delicious little starters that I'll make again, perhaps with a combination of vegetables that cook at the same rate since the little tomatoes were done before everything else.

That's it for this month. Visit here to see what everyone else made.

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Pizza pockets with a gooey cheese and savoury beef filling, these are a hit with kids and adults alike. Great for a casual meal or snack, they can be eaten hot or cold, and they can be made in advance, frozen and baked as needed. 

makes 9 pockets
adapted from Canadian Living
Prep: 30 minutes
Assembly: 15 minutes
Baking time: 25-30 minutes

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
450g/1 lb extra-lean ground beef
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp dried basil
2 tbsp tomato paste
60ml/1/4 cup water
200g/generous 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 

750g/1-1/2 lbs pizza dough

1 large egg, lightly beaten (optional)

In a large, non-stick fry pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 

Raise the heat to high and add the ground beef. Cook, stirring and breaking up clumps until no longer pink. Stir in the salt, pepper, basil, tomato paste and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until almost all of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cool to room temperature.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. If baking right away, preheat oven to 190C/375F.
dough disk meat filling
Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Divide the dough into 9 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Keeping the remaining dough covered with plastic wrap, roll each ball into a 18cm/7" circle. If the dough is very elastic and springs back easily, move on to the next piece and continue until all 9 pieces have been rolled into a small disk. By the time you've done this, the first one will have rested long enough to make rolling into a thinner circle easier. Place about 80ml/1/3 cup meat filling in the centre of the dough.
cheese filling half moon
Place about 60ml/1/4 cup cheese on top of the meat. Bring the top and bottom edges of the dough together to form a half-moon and pinch along the edges to seal.
baking sheet washed
Place the filled pocket on a prepared baking sheet. Continue until all 9 have been filled. If baking right away, brush each kangaroo with the beaten egg (optional) and bake 25-30 minutes or until both top and bottom are golden and edges are crisp. Enjoy!
To freeze, omit the egg wash and place the baking sheets with the kangaroos in the freezer for about 4 hours, or until frozen solid. Transfer them to an air tight container/freezer bag and return to the freezer until ready to bake. Bake on parchment or silicone baking mat lined baking sheets at 190C/375F for 30-35 minutes from frozen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Chocolate-Cherry Brownies - Tuesdays with Dorie

Fudgy and intensely chocolate-y with chewy tart cherries a welcome contrast to the richness, these decadent little squares were this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection from the book Baking Chez Moi.
I used bittersweet chocolate with 70% cacao so they weren't too sweet and rather than opening a bottle of wine, I plumped the dried cherries in cranberry juice from an already open bottle. I baked them for a little over 40 minutes and they were still a bit gooey in the centre but they set up well in the fridge. I had lined my pan with parchment, so once they had chilled, I just pulled the brownie out by the parchment "handles" to slice with a hot knife, no need to invert and then try to right the cake.

I'm no brownie purist but I've never added fruit to them and I usually prefer them a little closer to the cake-y end of the brownie spectrum but these were amazingly good! Sophisticated enough to serve with wine as Dorie suggests, we enjoyed them chilled, with espresso or a glass of cold milk.

Visit here to see what everyone thought about these 2-bite treats.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ratatouille Dip - IHCC Get This Soirée Started

With warm weather comes casual al fresco dining so I know how I'm getting my party started, with Jacques Pépin's Ratatouille Dip from his book, Jacques Pépin's Simple and Healthy Cooking. This classic Provençal dish of eggplant, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes flavoured with onions and garlic is a favourite of mine. I've tried several recipes (including Julia Child's with 4 pages of instructions!), stewed it, steamed it and roasted it but this was the first time I made it as a dip.
With ingredients diced smaller than you normally would for this dish, it cooked quickly stove-top, the perfect type of hot weather cooking. The texture was a little more homogeneous than I'm accustomed to - necessary for a dip, I think - but the flavour was good, sweet and savoury, with a little grassy heat from jalapeños and brightness from tomatoes.

For a casual get together, what better way to serve it than with a good homemade bread, Olive Fougasse, a traditional Provençal flatbread from Dorie Greenspan's Around my French Table.

I wonder how everyone else at I Heart Cooking Clubs is starting their party. Visit here to find out.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Rhubarb-Rose Kompot

Growing up, thanks to a very generous neighbour with a thriving rhubarb patch, we had a steady supply of this vegetable for what seemed the entire summer. Apart from the few stalks I ate raw, dipped in a china tea cup full of sugar (I think the pretty cup was the best part), it all went into making a refreshing drink that was my mum's answer to lemonade.
Kompot is a traditional Eastern European cooked fruit punch that can be made with any kind of fruit, fresh, frozen or dried, but not much compares to this classic. Rose flavouring goes nicely with rhubarb so I've added a little sweet rose syrup but rose water would work as well, just add to taste. Or leave it out if you prefer, the kompot will still be delicious. I like it on the tart side, so feel free to add more sugar.
Rhubarb-Rose Kompot
makes about 1.5 litres

450g/1 lb rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1cm/1/2" long pieces
50g/1/4 cup sugar
1.5 litres/6 cups water
2 tbsp rose syrup
1 tbsp lemon juice
raspberries or strawberries for garnish (optional)

Toss the sliced rhubarb with the sugar in a large pot. Stirring occasionally, cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the sugar has melted and juices are starting to appear. Add the water, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft but most pieces are still keeping their shape.

Stir in the rose syrup and lemon juice, transfer to a heatproof container, and refrigerate until completely chilled. Taste and adjust sugar, and serve over ice with some fresh berries.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Strawberry Shortcakes Franco-American Style - Tuesdays with Dorie

There's no better summer dessert to me than fresh strawberries with a little sweetened whipped cream. With her dessert Strawberry Shortcakes Franco-American Style from Baking Chez Moi, Dorie Greenspan transforms this favourite into something even more special by adding delicate cookie discs and roasting the strawberries for more intense flavour.
The most challenging part of this recipe was the Ladyfinger batter (page 424) and even that wasn't particularly difficult, though I did realize that my piping technique needs work since it determined just how flat or poofy the finished cookies would be (none of them were particularly poofy).

I filled them with Roasted Strawberries (page 458), a recipe Dorie claims will serve 10. If I didn't have to divvy it up among 6 shortcakes, I think I could have eaten the whole batch myself! So good with black pepper and balsamic vinegar. This is definitely a recipe I'll turn to again and again, especially if the berries are a little less than prime. I used another 500g of strawberries macerated with sugar for serving.

This fantastic dessert was made for Tuesdays with Dorie as we bake our way through Baking Chez Moi. Visit here to see what everyone else thought.

Croque Madame - IHCC Fromage S'il Vous Plait

Do you have a cooking and baking bucket list? I do. Some items are about learning a new technique, eg laminated dough, others are classic recipes I'd like to try like Beef Wellington; they're not necessarily difficult or challenging, but they're all new-to-me. Croque Madame, the French version of a grilled cheese sandwich, has been on it for a while. With this week's I Heart Cooking Clubs' theme of cheese, and with Jacques Pépin as our featured chef, it was time to tackle this one.
In many recipes I've come across, the grilled ham and cheese sandwich is topped with béchamel and a fried or poached egg. In Jacques's Croque Madame, from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, there's no béchamel or egg in sight, the ham is replaced with roast chicken slices, and oil is suggested as an alternative to butter (I didn't use either). Baked in a hot oven until the bread is toasted on both sides and the Gruyère is melted, this was a quick and delicious way to use up some leftover chicken, and it's one less recipe for me to try - at least until a new one fills its spot on my list!

Visit IHCC to view all of the cheese-y dishes.