Saturday, June 28, 2014

Cottage Cooking Club - June 2014

Within a few days of receiving the cookbook River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I discovered The Cottage Cooking Club founded by Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness (you really must visit her beautiful blog), an online group that's committed to cooking their way through it. With a flexible set up that allows members to make as many or as few of the 10 recipes selected monthly, I thought this would be a great way of working my way through the book. I joined in a little late so made only 2 recipes this month.

I decided it was time to introduce blue cheese to the family and since pizza is a family favourite, I chose Pizza with New Potatoes, Rosemary, and Blue Cheese (page 182), which uses the author's Magic Bread Dough (page 172) for the crust. 
I used a mild, creamy Danish cheese that mellowed a little during baking; the sweetness of the new potatoes and sautéed onions in the topping helped take some of the edge off as well. I served it as suggested with a salad and I made sure to include more of those sweet elements that worked so well with the strong cheese: dried cranberries and a honeyed Dijon vinaigrette.
Common consensus was that goat's cheese would have been preferred, but the pizza was eaten so it was a success in my book! I must say though, that the crust was the star! It was crisp and chewy and because I had made it using half multi-grain bread flour and let the dough ferment overnight, it was very flavourful; it may well be my new go-to crust! 

Vegetable Tempura with Chilli Dipping Sauce (page 308) was the second recipe I made. I'm not a fan of eating fried foods and even less of frying them myself, but I'd never made tempura and I was up for the challenge. 

Since almost setting the kitchen (and myself) aflame years ago with a pot of oil that boiled over onto my stove (fortunately it doused the flame of the gas burner rather than alighting), I'm very wary of large quantities of hot oil in open pots. Enter the electric deep fryer, my least used appliance and one that stays tucked away for most of the year. I'd intended to cook only the beautiful bunch of asparagus I had but there was quite a bit of batter so red pepper strips and baby bellas joined the queue for the fryer.  
Delicious! The batter* was light and crisp and the sweet-tart dipping sauce with its spicy chilli kick was a great accompaniment. 

*There's an error in the batter recipe in the Canadian edition: the (North American) volume requirement of sparkling water should be ~3/4 cup - 1 cup, not 1/2 cup........I think I'll be sticking to the original metric weights and volumes provided from now on ;)!

I'm really pleased with the recipes I tried this month and am looking forward to next month's selection. Visit here to see what other members have prepared.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lamb Chops with Oregano and Tzatziki - IHCC Mediterranean Magic

Nigel was in his garden one August surrounded by flourishing oregano plants when he was inspired to make Lamb Chops with Oregano and Tzatziki. Some beautiful weather, lamb chops in my freezer and this week's theme of Mediterranean Magic at I Heart Cooking Clubs were my inspiration to make this dish of grilled meat with a tangy yogurt-cucumber sauce from his book The Kitchen Diaries.
It's only June and I have no oregano in my garden so rather than creating a paste with the fresh herb and some olive oil and applying it to the chops just before grilling, I marinated the meat overnight with dried oregano, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
The tzatiki, made with thick (Greek) yogurt and grated cucumber, was a little different from some with its focus on mint but that herb is such a wonderful complement to lamb, I wasn't concerned that I would miss the dill that's in my usual recipe. I didn't; it was the perfect pairing for the lamb, but I did miss the garlic so would include a small clove next time. Grilled potatoes, eggplant and zucchini, and a Greek Salad from The Olive and The Caper by Susanna Hoffman rounded out the Greek-inspired meal.

What other Mediterranean Magic have IHCC members conjured up this week with featured chef Nigel Slater? Visit here to find out.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Greek Salad

Until I read Susanna Hoffman's book The Olive and The Caper, I didn't realize that the "Greek Salad" I'd eaten on numerous occasions wasn't authentic but a variation of Greek Village Salad. Apparently Greeks in North America adapted the recipe to suit the produce available in their new homeland, which during some seasons meant mediocre tomatoes, but almost always meant beautiful lettuces.
Cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, Kalamata olives, onions and feta cheese form the basis of the authentic salad. For the Greek-American Rendition I made, my lettuce of choice was romaine, and I omitted the onions since I'm not a fan of raw but included (optional) capers. 
veggies and cheese dressing added
Once the base ingredients are prepared, they're dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, a drop or two of honey and the all-important dried oregano. The washed and dried leaves of lettuce are torn and lightly tossed with the other ingredients.
Crisp and flavourful, the salad is very easy to put together and goes well with Greek-themed meals but really would be welcome at most meals. The recipe is available online here if you would like a little taste of Greece, or Greek-North America, on your menu.

I'm sharing this post with cook-your-books hosted by Joyce of Kitchen Flavours. Visit here to see what everyone else has made this month.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Minted Fiddlehead and Pea Risotto - IHCC Potluck

Though asparagus is the first locally grown vegetable I look for when the weather starts to warm, it's in grocery stores here all year long so it's the appearance of fiddlehead ferns that truly heralds the start of spring for me. Available at the end of April through to June, the unfurled fronds of the ostrich fern, which grow wild in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes and are harvested by hand, have a mild grassy flavour not unlike asparagus and can be substituted for the vegetable in many recipes.
Jamie Oliver's Minted Asparagus and Pea Risotto from his book The Naked Chef looked like the perfect recipe to feature fiddleheads. The base of the recipe is Basic Risotto from the same book, a really flavourful version that includes shallots, garlic and celery and one that is broken down into cooking stages with clear instructions for each, great for anyone making risotto for the first time. The recipe calls for a fair amount of butter to be added at the end, which I generally avoid, but very little fat at the start so I used one tbsp butter in addition to the tbsp of olive oil for sautéing the vegetables and rice and skipped the rest.
Fiddleheads need to be properly cooked before eating to avoid possible illness; blanching isn't good enough and of course they should never be eaten raw. It's not certain what it is that causes illness, but it's been determined that steaming or boiling them thoroughly reduces the problem. So rather than adding partially cooked fiddleheads to the risotto at the end of stage 1 to continue cooking in the rice, I steamed them separately, adding the peas part way through, before stirring them in at the end with the Parmesan cheese.
The flavour of the risotto was wonderful! Mint and peas is a perfect combination but the herb goes equally well with fiddleheads.

This week is potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs so I chose to cook with a previously featured chef. Next week, I'm back with Nigel Slater for some Mediterranean Magic. Visit IHCC to see what other dishes were brought to the potluck.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pineapple-Orange Salad (with a Middle Eastern Twist)

Refreshing and easy to make, this is my favourite type of dessert. Of course it would be welcome at brunch, as a snack, or even in a lunchbox as well. Orange flower water and gentle spicing provide the "twist".

Pineapple-Orange Salad (with a Middle Eastern Twist)
adapted from Bon Appetit magazine
serves 4-6

1 medium pineapple (approx 1.3kg), peeled, cored and cut into bite-size pieces
3 medium seedless oranges, supremed, with the juice squeezed from the membranes and reserved
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp orange flower water
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
a few sprigs of mint 

Combine all ingredients except mint, including the reserved orange juice, and toss lightly to make sure all of the fruit is coated with the sugar and spices.
Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour. If not serving immediately, cover and refrigerate but remove from fridge 1 hour before needed. Add torn mint leaves just before serving.

It will last a day or 2 in the fridge as long as it's tightly covered, but its best eaten with some of the chill off; add the mint at serving time so it doesn't discolour.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Noodle Bowl with Crispy Baked Tofu - IHCC Budget-Friendly

When it comes to costing out a meal, it's usually the protein that's the most expensive component on my plate. To reduce the cost, a more economical protein alternate or a less expensive cut of meat/fish can be used, or a more expensive cut stretched further.
Nigel Slater's recipe for Noodles with Salty-Sweet Grilled Chicken from his book Appetite does the latter, calling for a skinless, boneless chicken breast to serve 2 people. For this week's theme of budget-friendly meals at I Heart Cooking Clubs, I took a different route and substituted tofu, an even more economical choice.
Now I'm not a huge fan of tofu but I've discovered that it's quite good when it's first marinated, then fried, but that's a cooking method I really don't like to use. So I was thrilled to discover this David Lebovitz post for baked tofu that promised the same crispy exterior and soft interior of fried, without the oil and mess.
I've used the technique several times now with different marinades and it's worked each time. This time, I used Nigel's salty-sweet marinade made of soy sauce, rice vinegar and a little sugar (& Sriracha) that was intended for the chicken.
While the tofu baked, the rest of this dish consisting of broth, noodles and greens came together quickly. Nigel has you set up different pots in which to cook the noodles and greens but I like economy to extend to other areas in the kitchen ie reducing the number of dirty pots that need washing ;), so the same pot of boiling water was used first to blanch the yu choy and then to cook the soba noodles. These were then distributed amongst the bowls.
I added the hot stock made with a good vegetable broth flavoured with soy sauce, fresh Thai chillies, spring onions and a squeeze of lemon.
The crisp tofu nuggets were the final touch. Most of these were served on the side and added to the bowl of noodles as we ate (slurped) our way to the bottom.

Visit IHCC to see the other budget-friendly meals from featured chef Nigel Slater.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Asparagus Buckwheat Tart - Bake Along #62

This is my second time participating in Bake Along, a group that meets every two weeks. At times the hosts select a specific recipe for everyone to make, but often it's just a theme that's chosen that leaves the bakers to their own devices, a great opportunity to make a recipe that we've had bookmarked for ages but haven't gotten around to making. That's the case for me this week; with savoury pies and tarts as the theme, I decided to make Clotilde Dusoulier's Asparagus Buckwheat Tart from The French Market Cookbook.
The buckwheat part of the recipe was actually supplied by the crust, a variation of the Yogurt Tart Dough recipe using buckwheat flour. I made the olive oil version and was quite concerned that the dough was too soft and moist to roll, even after refrigeration. With just a light dusting of flour, it was actually very easy to work with.
buckwheat tart dough asparagus
The bulk of the asparagus was roasted with just a little olive oil and salt while the crust baked. The baking time suggested in the book was a little long for both: the asparagus was ready in 15 minutes, the crust in 20.
roasted asparagus salad topping
All that was left was the assembly with the crust first spread with some onions that were sautéed slowly while the other parts baked, then topped with the roasted spears. The final touch was a little asparagus salad made of shaved raw asparagus and strands of lemon zest.
This tart was a delicious way to celebrate asparagus: the crust was crunchy and a little tangy and the earthy flavour complemented the vegetable well. I especially loved the dual treatment of the asparagus, roasted until sweet and in a fresh, crisp salad.
Visit our hosts Joyce, Lena and Zoe to see all of the other wonderful savoury pies and tarts.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Orange and Ricotta Pancakes - IHCC Let's Do Brunch!

I love to make special pancakes when I have extra time in the morning and since brunch is this week's I Heart Cooking Club theme, I took the opportunity to try Nigel Slater's Orange and Ricotta Pancakes from his book The Kitchen Diaries.
The batter ingredients were simple, made up primarily of ricotta cheese and eggs with just a little bit of flour, sugar (I used half), and orange zest, of course. I determined after a few tries (and some burned pancakes with raw centres) that medium-low heat worked best, producing golden pancakes, fluffy and soufflé-like. Because they were quite fragile, smaller was better also, with only 2 tbsp of batter per pancake producing approximately 20, enough to serve 4-6.
Sweet, delicate and redolent of orange, they were very special indeed and perfect for a lovely spring brunch. Variations of the recipe with added fruit can be found online here and here.

Visit here to find out what other Nigel Slater dishes made it to brunch at IHCC!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Raspberry-White Chocolate and Chocolate-Caramel Scones - Avid Baker's Challenge

Not having had much exposure to scones, I have no idea what the ideal is. I've tried several recipes and am no closer to enlightenment since each one yielded such different results, running the gamut from very crisp, buttery and flakey to soft and cake-like, with a few that were like lead weights as well ;)! So if the experts at King Arthur Flour tell me that this starter recipe produces traditional scones, with their crisp exterior and moist, tender crumb, I'll gladly believe them because we loved them!
The basic recipe, which can be found here, just cries out for embellishment. In fact, KAF encourages this, providing suggestions for a variety of add-ins. I took this to heart. To half a batch of dough, I added 1/3 cup mini white chocolate chips and a heaping 1/2 cup raspberries, finishing the scones with a vanilla bean glaze to create Raspberry-White Chocolate Scones.
I experimented a little with the recipe for a second flavour, using half whole wheat pastry flour (by weight) and light brown sugar, adding in a 1/2 cup of mini caramel-filled milk chocolate cups. These were topped with turbinado sugar before baking for the Chocolate-Caramel Scones.
I stored them in the freezer overnight to bake and serve warm for dessert the next day but despite being frozen solid rather than just chilled, my baking time was only 17 minutes. They were as described: crisp and golden with a moist crumb. There was no perceptible difference in texture between the two flavours - a little hard to tell with all of my add-ins - but interestingly, the scones made with whole wheat flour didn't rise as high as the others but spread a little more. Perhaps I should have used all-purpose whole wheat flour with its higher gluten content for more structure. That experiment is for another day because these will definitely be made again.

The KAF recipe for scones is the Avid Baker's Challenge for June. Visit ABC to read what the other members had to say about them.