Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cottage Cooking Club - April 2016

When I first purchased the book River Cottage Veg by Hugh-Fearnley-Whittingstall, I set a goal to actually make all of the recipes I'd flagged on my first pass through it (rather than just thinking about making them and then shelving the book) and to hopefully increase my family's consumption of vegetables in the process. Thanks to the Cottage Cooking Club, its incredible founder and leader Andrea and all of its wonderful members, I made those recipes plus more, over 130 in all, produced some fabulous food that family enjoyed (and yes, they do eat more vegetables now), and had great fun doing it.  

For our final month of cooking together with this book, I completed seven recipes:

Various Rarebits (page 209)
Cooking from this book, I've learned many things from the author, one of which is just how good an open-faced sandwich loaded with stuff, often leftovers, and popped under the broiler, can be.
With this recipe, he brought us one of the classics, cheese on toast. The cheese wasn't just any good melting cheese but a cheesy béchamel or mornay sauce that had the consistency of a thick spread. I made both the Welsh and Tomato Rarebits and both were delicious with the tomato variation the favourite, but I would have preferred it a little saucier. I'll definitely make this again but with just a little less flour in the sauce.

Raid-the-Larder Spelt Broth (page 243) 
If ever there were a soup to make one feel virtuous, this is it. It's simply brimming with high fibre, low fat and nutrient dense ingredients. You could use just about any grain, bean and vegetable combination and it would still taste great as long as you started with a flavourful stock. I used farro, white beans, carrots, kale and edamame. Yum!

Linguine with Mint and Almond Pesto and Tomatoes (page 266)
Everyone knows how perfectly basil and tomatoes go together but I discovered the beautiful combination of mint and tomatoes in Hugh's recipe for Tomatoes with Thai Dressing so I was quite excited to try this pasta.
The dish began with a pesto of almond and mint which had a lovely flavour, much gentler than a traditional basil pesto. I did hit a little snag while making it; it was originally too thick to coat the pasta, nothing a little pasta cooking water couldn't fix, but that diluted its flavour so some extra mint, garlic, lemon zest etc was needed as well. Tossed with cooked pasta and sweet cherry tomatoes, it was very light and bright.

New Potato Gnocchi (page 284)
Hugh says that "these may well be the easiest gnocchi you'll ever make" and I have to agree. The dough was incredibly easy to handle and shape, soft but not sticky, and the cooked gnocchi were airy little pillows subtly flavoured with goat's cheese. I served them as suggested with Roasted Tomato Sauce, basil and some Parmesan. Absolutely delicious!

Roasted Tomato Sauce (page 366)
This sauce, made last summer, really captured the flavour of tomatoes picked at their peak. My batch was on the thin side because of the variety of tomato I used so I simmered it for a bit to thicken before serving it with the gnocchi. With its notes of thyme and garlic, it was fresh tasting and delicious.

Spinach and Thyme Pasties (page 326)

My family will eat just about anything in a hand pie but spinach-cheese filling is a favourite so I wasn't at all surprised that they loved these. And I really enjoyed making them. The crust was very cooperative, baked into flaky goodness, and wasn't particularly greasy in the hand, important for a hand-held pastry. And the filling, made with a little ricotta and Parmesan and a lot of spinach, was very flavourful. 

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille (page 362)
Ratatouille is one of my favourite dishes; I think the combination of peppers, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes is perfection.
I've tried many recipes and enjoyed most the ones where each of the vegetables retained some of their original integrity. So I wasn't sure at first about making a tomato sauce separately to be added to the roasted vegetables as we do in this recipe. But it worked...extremely well. The sauce, a tasty stand alone tomato sauce, provided the moisture the caramelized vegetables needed as well as loads of flavour. I served the ratatouille with bread and salad as suggested and with the leftovers and a bit of frozen puff pastry, made these:

The group is moving on to another of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's books, River Cottage Everyday, and much as I enjoy the author's approach to food and his recipes - and there appear to be quite a few gems in this book - cooking through this book is not something I can commit to right now. However, I will certainly continue to follow the cooking exploits of this fantastic group. 


  1. Hi Zosia, you outdid yourself, everything looks fabulous. Will have to make the spinach pasties they look wonderful. Wish miss your posts in the next book, your pictures are always so beautiful. Take care!

  2. Zosia! You really went on a cooking spree! Everything looks awesome! I want a bowl of your gnocchi with tomato sauce. And some raid the larder soup on the side! Everything looks so so good! : )

  3. Hi Zosia, what a lovely collection for the month, each looks delicious. I'm liking the spinach hand pie and must give it a try. See you around along the route!

  4. Zosia, a beuatifully written post. While I am sad that you will not continue on with our groups and while I will miss your fabulous and spot-on-comments with respect to every recipe you made, I know that you will happily cook and bake your way through a ton of wonderful recipes in the future. And that you will continue to make your family very, very happy! You are one very talented lady and I know you will not let your talents go to any waste whatsoever!
    I will make an effort to drop by as often as time will allow me!
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support, friendship and everything you did while cooking along in our group!
    "See" you very soon,

  5. Hi Zosia,
    What an amazing array of dishes you made for April, absolutely delicious post! As you know I only joined CCC last year so I have lots of recipes to catch up with, so I shall be continuing with those I have yet to do along with the new book (I am skipping the 'leftovers' as there is only two of us at home and I don't cook enough for any leftovers!). Why don't you finish up those recipes you have yet to make?

    1. Thank you Emily. There are a few more recipes I'd like to make but I have a some other vegetable cookery books sitting on my shelves - unused - that I'd like to tackle for Cookbook Countdown.

  6. What a lovely wrap up post! I'm impressed that you made over 130 of the recipes, too. I haven't counted how many I made, but it's not nearly that many. I'm going to miss seeing your gorgeous photos and descriptions of each month's dishes, but I'm glad we can keep up on Tuesdays with Dorie!


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