Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club - November 2015

November has come and gone very quickly and once again, our lovely Cottage Cooking Club founder and leader Andrea chose a great cross-section of recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book, River Cottage Veg. Some were quick and easy, some were more involved, but all featured a variety of seasonal produce. I made eight of the ten, plus one I wasn't supposed to. I was clearly a little distracted that day, which may also explain why my soup didn't turn out that well! 

Chile, Cheese and Rosemary Polenta with Tomato Sauce (page 58)
I love cheesy polenta and pairing it with tomato sauce seemed an excellent idea. I was right - this dish was a hit! I use instant polenta in baked goods calling for cornmeal when I want the corn flavour and some texture without the grit but I've never actually cooked it. It didn't seem as creamy as the regular but for the end purpose it worked very well, firming up nicely in the fridge and keeping its shape while I grilled it. It was wonderfully flavourful and the simple garlicky tomato sauce was the perfect complement. 

Celery, Orange, Pecans (page 116)
This was the last recipe to be made from my favourite chapter in the book, "Raw Assemblies", and we ended on a high note with this one. Incredibly, it took only three ingredients (and no dressing) to produce this lovely, bright and fresh tasting salad. A definite keeper!

Parsnip and Ginger Soup (page 157)
This recipe came as a surprise. I expect cream soups to be quite mellow but that was not so with this one. It was robustly flavoured with alliums, spices and ginger, and had a strong parsnip presence. I ended up adding extra milk and stock, not to intentionally thin the soup though that was one of the effects, but to dilute the flavour a little so family would eat it. I did like all of the spices and ginger with the parsnip but if I were to make this again, I would replace some of the parsnip with potato to subdue the flavours a little while retaining the soup's texture.

Squash and Walnut Toastie (page 204)
I had some leftover roasted squash and fennel and remembering that a squash dish from the "Bready Things" chapter was one of my choices for this month, I made these toasties to serve with the parsnip soup, only to realize later that it was the wrong recipe. We enjoyed these open-faced sandwiches of roasted herby veg, melted cheddar cheese and crunchy walnuts (added after the photo was taken because I forgot them) nevertheless. A tasty way to repurpose leftovers.

Hot Squash Foldover (page 189) 
This was the recipe I was supposed to make but having already made cheesy squash toasties, I changed it up a little. I roasted the squash with garlic and added hot chiles as per the recipe but finished with green onions, coriander and a squeeze of lime instead of cheese. Delicious as I'm sure the original recipe was, we loved this bright version.

Kale "Speltotto" (Spinach Farrotto) with Goat's Cheese (page 280)
Cooked like risotto, this dish wasn't nearly as creamy but it did have a nice texture and great flavour. The recipe seemed quite involved, with each of the components cooked separately, so I changed the method a little and cut back on the number of dirty pans produced by cooking the leeks with the onions and using fresh spinach added directly to the pan towards the end of the cook time. Hearty and delicious, especially with the goat's milk cheddar cheese I used, it was perfect fall weather fare.

Beet and Walnut Hummus (page 300)
This beet hummus was as vibrant in flavour as it was in colour. Made with roasted beets, it had a few unexpected ingredients along with the usual lemon juice, garlic and tahini: toasted walnuts and stale bread! As with most recipes for hummus that I've tried, I found that the flavour was better the next day. It became more savoury than sweet with the lemon and garlic receding to the background and the walnuts added a pleasant nuttiness. I did find the cumin to be a bit strong so would reduce that next time. I halved the recipe and enjoyed it over a few days for lunch and snacks.

Roasted Potatoes with Two Mojo Sauces (page 358)
What a fun way to dress up roasted potatoes! Both uncooked sauces complemented the roasted Yukon Gold wedges but one was a clear winner for us. 

The mojo picón, made with roasted peppers and dried chiles, (lots of) garlic, cumin and smoked paprika was quite complex with its layers of flavour: smoky, sweet, tangy. I used a Spanish sherry vinegar in this recipe, which I think produced a mellower tasting dip than intended. We loved this one.
I stuck to the recipe for the mojo cilantro sauce and used white wine vinegar. It was sharp and vinegary and dominated by the raw garlic so a very small amount went a very long way. I think if you like vinegar on your fries, you would be a fan but it wasn't a hit here, at least not with the potatoes. In considering the ingredients, I decided to use the leftover as a marinade for some boneless chicken breasts that were to be pan-roasted. Now they were a hit! 

Jerusalem Artichoke Frying Pan Gratin (page 382) 

I do like sunchokes as they're known here but they're quite expensive despite being indigenous to this part of Canada (they're considered more of a nuisance to farmers than a cash crop), so I don't cook with them as often as I would like. But this luxurious dish was worthy of the expense. Sautéed onion and thyme added lots of flavour to the thinly sliced tubers, and homemade crème fraîche and grated Gruyère added the decadence. Easy to make and fairly quick-cooking, this was company-worthy fare that the family enjoyed.

I'm now looking forward to December's choices. Until then, I'll enjoy reading about what the other members made this month.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pear-Cranberry Roll-Up Tart - Tuesdays with Dorie

One of my favourite fall crisp recipes includes sweet, juicy pears and tart cranberries so I was very excited to make this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection from Baking Chez Moi.  
The fruit filling for this tart was encased in galette pastry, a dough I've made a few times now and one that's easy to work with. I added sparkly sugar for a little crunch and made candied cranberries, Dorie's recipe on page 451, to adorn the plate.

The flavour was fantastic, especially with ginger adding its warmth to the already delicious filling, but the tart had a very high pastry to fruit ratio. I wanted more fruit. Next time, I'll dispense with trying to shape it into a roll and just make it as a free-form galette with twice the amount of those fabulous gingery pears and cranberries.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Baba Julka's Chicken & Potatoes

I'm very late to the braising game. The first time I ate a braised dish, I didn't even know how it was prepared. All I knew was that the chicken was fall-off-the-bone tender and the potatoes were unlike any potatoes I'd ever had, infused with incredible flavour. 
That was a meal of many firsts: my first braised dish, my first time meeting my future grandmother-in-law, and for Baba Julka, it was her first encounter with someone who doesn't eat chicken skin (I did try to that time!). My husband doesn't remember much about that lunch but he does remember Baba's reaction to that! Everyone remembers it, or variations of the story that came later that I'll never live down ;)!!!
Years later, cooking from Yotam Ottolenghi's book Jerusalem, I rediscovered the flavours and textures of that meal in his Chicken Sofrito. The Sephardic dish, seasoned with paprika, onion, garlic, a little earthy turmeric and some lemon, uses an interesting braising-steaming method of cooking that produces melt-in-your-mouth tender meat without much liquid. The recipe calls for frying the potatoes and garlic before adding them to the chicken. I did that the first time but have since switched to browning them off in the oven at a high temperature with just a small amount of oil.
As a side, I made Charred Okra with Tomato, Garlic and Preserved Lemon from the same book. The quick cooking method adds a wonderful smoky flavour to the vegetable and avoids the sliminess of some preparations. I didn't have preserved lemon this time but the tomatoes and lemon juice alone were enough to add zing to the dish.
Though simple, the chicken and potatoes are very rich and need something bright and breezy to go with them. I usually serve a green salad but the okra-tomato side made a nice change. It provided fresh flavours and a crunchy texture to complement the main.

Since Yotam Ottolenghi is a former I Heart Cooking Clubs featured chef, and this week's theme is potluck where we're allowed to cook with them, I'm linking this post to IHCC. Visit here to see what everyone else has made.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Chocolate-Banana Bundt Cake

This beautiful bundt cake holds a wonderful surprise. It looks like a deliciously moist, über chocolatey, fudgy cake - you can see the melted chocolate chips in every slice - surprise! It's equally rich in banana flavour.
I happen to love the banana and chocolate combination but find that in most recipes the fruit is overwhelmed by the chocolate. This cake manages to find that perfect balance. 
It's very easy to make and uses basic baking pantry ingredients, even relying on cocoa powder for the intense chocolate flavour. And I really like the fact that the author provides the weights of all of the ingredients including the bananas. Too often, I've found that my idea of a small, medium or large banana doesn't agree with the author's so I end up with a too wet or too dry cake. Not so with this one. It's perfect every time.
It's a large cake so it's wonderful for feeding a crowd and on top of that, it keeps well for several days. I'm so happy to have found this recipe; it's in the fantastic cookbook Modern Jewish Cooking, by Leah Koenig. 

I'm sharing this post with Cook-Your-Books, hosted by Joyce of kitchen Flavours.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Chocolate-Covered Toffee Breakups - Tuesdays with Dorie

Dorie likens this week's Tuesdays with Dorie pick from Baking Chez Moi to Heath and Daim candy bars which I've never had. To me it was an upscale version of a Skor bar, a sweet treat of crunchy, buttery toffee enrobed in bittersweet chocolate and finished with toasted almonds and a little vanilla salt.
The ingredients for it were basic and the technique much simpler to execute than it seemed during my first read through the directions but I did have to improvise with the equipment: my instant read digital thermometer worked fine in place of the recommended candy thermometer though I'd love to figure out a way to secure it to the pot with the probe suspended in the boiling concoction next time; lacking cutting boards that were large enough, I used baking sheets to flip the candy.

I'm a newbie to candy making and I was fascinated by all of the changes the toffee mixture underwent as it cooked, from filling my kitchen with the fragrance of browning butter as it first started to take on colour, to emitting the distinctive aroma of burnt sugar as the shade deepened and my thermometer told me it was done. 

Savoured slowly, the candy went perfectly with a cup of coffee as Dorie suggested, or a cold glass of milk, as my family preferred. This was a delicious and decadent treat worthy of gifting, and since the recipe made such a huge amount, that's what I did with most of it, much to my family's chagrin!

Visit here to see the rest of the group's Chocolate-Covered Toffee Breakups.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Jamaican Meat Patties

These hand-held savoury pies filled with spiced beef are one of my youngest daughter's favourite snacks. The recipe comes courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, one of the first stars of the food channel and a chef who actually cooked on his show and inspired his audience - including me - to do the same. I can't speak to the authenticity of this recipe, only to the patty's deliciousness! 
The recipe starts with the dough, a basic shortcrust made with flour, water, and both shortening and butter to ensure a tender but flaky pastry. Not so basic is the inclusion of turmeric, an earthy-flavoured spice known as much for its health benefits as its flavour. That makes this pastry a health food, right?
Turmeric is also used as a natural dye. I can attest to its efficacy in transforming everything it touches into a lovely shade of golden yellow, so protect your work surface, your clothing, your hands......
I usually divide the dough in two to make a much more manageable amount for me and my work space. This is a good time to make the filling since the dough needs to rest in the fridge for a while.
The photo above shows some of the ingredients that flavour the beef: alliums like onions and garlic, herbs like thyme and parsley and innumerable spices, some of which you wouldn't expect to find in a savoury dish like cardamom and allspice.
And then there's this little guy: a scotch bonnet pepper that's up to 100 times hotter than a jalapeño chile. Emeril has this listed as an optional ingredient but it adds such a great kick to the patty, I wouldn't omit it. The recipe calls for one but the heat level of fresh chiles varies so I usually taste the mixture part way through cooking to see if more is needed. The meat and flavourings are simmered slowly with tomatoes (I use 400ml canned Italian plum tomatoes) and stock until the flavours meld and most of the liquid has cooked off. 
Once everything is properly chilled and cooled, it's time to make the patties. I can usually get 10 - 15cm circles from the dough if I re-roll the scrapsI used a 1/4 cup of filling per patty for this batch and had a little leftover so 75ml would work better. The egg wash helps to seal the little pies and adds a nice finish to them. I use 1 whole egg rather than yolks alone and water instead of rum. At this point, they can be baked to enjoy right away or frozen to enjoy at a later date.
 Either way, they're delicious! 

If you would like to give them a try, the recipe can be found here