On to the food....
Pinto Bean (Black Bean) Chili (page 23)
This was a huge hit! Chock full of garden fresh end of summer zucchini and sweet bell peppers, this chili was perfect for transition into fall: it looked hearty but with such a large proportion of vegetables, it was much lighter than most and it had a very quick cooking time.
I made some minor adjustments using dried oregano instead of fresh, and black beans I had cooked and frozen instead of pinto. With its combination of aromatics, fresh chiles and dried spices (including allspice!) like most chilies I've made/eaten, this one had big flavour, but the surprising sweet element the vegetables brought to the dish set it apart from others.
I served it in baked whole wheat tortilla bowls with the suggested lemony guacamole and some yogurt to help cool it down. I'll definitely be trying the winter variation of this recipe.
Lemony Guacamole (page 296)
To serve with the spicy chili, I did a make up of a May recipe, the lemony guacamole, chosen before I joined the group. This was a basic version with just lemon juice, fresh chile and cilantro included, but it had a very zingy flavour and was a favourite with those who aren't fans of raw onion or garlic. I don't usually use oil in my guacamole so omitted it from this recipe; I don't think the texture suffered any.
This was very fast and easy to put together (I've made it several times now) and perfect for when you need something cool and creamy to help tame the heat of the main dish.
Fennel and Goat Cheese (page 102)
I loved this one - no surprise here since I'm a big fan of fennel, raw or cooked, and lemony dressings. The creamy cheese provided great textural contrast to the crisp vegetable and reinforced the tangy flavour of the salad. This would make a great starter salad to wake up the taste buds.
Green Lentil and Spinach Soup (page 162)
Who knew lentil soup could look this good? And it tasted even better!
I made the River Cottage Garlicky Flat Breads to serve with the soup and had quite a bit of the flavoured oil remaining so used that to sauté the carrots and shallots at the start for an extra garlic hit! Even with just those few ingredients, the nutty Puy lentils, which retain their shape nicely when cooked, and good vegetable stock (I still haven't tried Hugh's recipe!), the soup would have been tasty. Fresh tomatoes brightened the flavour and fresh spinach and the carrots added pretty pops of colour.
River Cottage Garlicky Flat Breads (page 176)
First of all, mine looked nothing like the photo in the book! As thinly as I rolled them, they insisted on puffing up in the pan like a pita! Applying pressure with a spatula kept them at bay but they didn't get the thin crisp edge I was hoping for. They tasted wonderful, regardless, especially eaten with the lentil soup.
I've been experimenting with the magic bread dough recipe, the basis for these breads, gradually using more and more whole grain flour. This time, I used all whole wheat bread flour with great success. After an overnight rest in the fridge, the dough was very easy to handle.
To finish the flat breads, they were brushed with garlic-infused olive oil and I added a sprinkle of za'atar, the Middle Eastern spice blend of toasted sesame seeds, sumac, oregano and thyme.
I'll definitely make these again but with a few adjustments: I'd make only half the oil since I had so much left over, and I'd make them a little smaller (at least 10 instead of 8).
Oven-Roasted Roots Frittata (page 234)
With overflowing baskets of late summer produce, I really didn't have too many root vegetables to draw from to make this frittata, but relying on just my year round pantry staples of carrots and potatoes with some shallots included in the mix, it was simple but still delicious!
This was easy to put together and with a simple green salad made a fantastic meal. I'm looking forward to trying different combinations of root vegetables but will always include potatoes since their neutral flavour was a great buffer for the sweeter ones.
Mushroom "Risoniotto" (page 258)
Even made with a very basic mix of cultivated cremini and white button mushrooms, the flavours were harmonious and with the small amount of cream adding richness, reminiscent of a slowly and lovingly cooked risotto, minus the time and effort - but not the love ;)! It was wonderful as is but I can't help but think how much better it would be made with more flavourful wild mushrooms (or at least a more interesting blend of cultivated!). Next time.....
Cauliflower Pakoras with Tamarind Raita (page 318)
The cauliflower haters in the family have been converted, actually admitting that the vegetable tastes good, and this was without trying to disguise it as per my usual methods to get them to eat it. This recipe actually glorifies its flavour, which is mild and sweet when cooked, encasing it in a spicy, nutty, crispy coating.
The batter for these was very easy to put together, just a slurry of chickpea flour (besan), cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and water. I did need to thin it out with some extra water and I added extra cayenne pepper as well. There was enough batter for my rather large (1.2kg trimmed of leaves) head of cauliflower. Cooked in three batches in a deep fryer, these took no time at all to make and were fantastic with the tangy yogurt-tamarind-coriander dip, the perfect cooling accompaniment for the spicy golden nuggets.
They were fun to try and we loved them, but despite how good they were, because they are fried, it's unlikely I'll make them again.
With such a successful month behind me, I'm looking forward to next month's selection of recipes with the Cottage Cooking Club. Visit here to see what the other members made.