Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club - January 2015

What a delicious month it's been cooking from River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for the Cottage Cooking Club. I made seven recipes and I would make them all again!

Kale and Mushroom Lasagne (page 34) 
This dish was a huge departure from my usual meat bolognese and cheese lasagne, which is exactly why I wanted to try it! Not certain who would like it - I wasn't even sure that I would with that super rich béchamel - I made a half recipe, sort of. 

I used the full amount of vegetables and mustard for a half batch of the sauce and it turned out quite flavourful. A bland sauce was one of the things I feared about this dish. Combined with the cooked kale, it in no way resembled creamed spinach. The second of my fears proven baseless! I used a little more than half the pasta, six dried noodles (125g) trimmed to make three layers in a small casserole dish. I've never had much luck baking dry noodles in a lasagne so I pre-cooked them.

With layers of garlicky sautéed mushrooms, tender pasta, and creamy, cheesy kale, this turned out to be a hit. Delicious but quite rich, it's a once-in-a-while sort of dish.

Spelt (Farro) Salad with Squash and Fennel (page 72)
I wasn't expecting very much from this recipe; I've made several grain-based dishes lately from other books, many of them a little bland and boring. I was very pleasantly surprised that this was anything but since it turned out to have one of the better combinations of textures and flavours. The sweet, silky fennel and the roasted squash with its crispy, caramelized bits were a nice contrast to the chewy farro and crunchy toasted hazelnuts. Flavoured with garlic, lemon and Parmesan cheese, this was hearty and delicious. I loved it served warm as a side dish or main.

Cauliflower with Toasted seeds (page 108)
Family really enjoyed the bright and nutty flavours of this raw cauliflower salad, and I loved that I had another use for that jar of sumac in my pantry. It was easy to put together but slicing the cauliflower with the mandoline was a messy business with bits flying everywhere. Fortunately my dog wandered by - actually he was waiting patiently for the "ok" to come in to the kitchen - and did the preliminary clean up of the floor for me. 

The toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds complemented the cauliflower nicely and the lemon-sumac dressing added some zing. The dressed salad held up really well and would be perfect for a packed lunch.

Pasta with Greens, Garlic, and Chile (page 261)
Consisting of pasta, wilted greens and a few choice ingredients for added flavour, this dish came together very quickly and easily. I used fresh spinach, which I added not to the pasta cooking water but to the pan of onions, garlic, and chile just before the pasta went in, cooking it briefly to wilt it. This was a simple dish but it had great flavour and I'll definitely make it again.

Artichoke and White Bean Dip (page 303)
I learned just how well artichokes and white beans went together from the warm salad I made for CCC in October and like that recipe, this dish was very easy to make using pantry ingredients. I was only able to find marinated artichokes which provided most of the flavour, with more coming from cooked onions, garlic, red pepper flakes and marjoram, oregano's milder relation, and with the beans adding body. This was very good freshly made but the flavours melded together and improved over time......something to keep in the fridge for snacks and quick lunches.

Roasted Potatoes and Eggplants (page 351)
A great alternative to plain potatoes, in the roasting time provided, the potatoes were crisp with a fluffy interior and the eggplant sweet and chewy, caramelized almost beyond recognition (a good thing around here!). The garlic slices added part way through roasting cooked unevenly and didn't add much to the dish unless you ate a slice, and then it was a bit too much! I think minced garlic might have worked better, or perhaps whole cloves added at the start of roasting. I added optional lemon zest and parsley with the lemon juice to finish, which I'll do again, but hot paprika sounds good as well.

Big Baked Mushrooms (page 385)
These were really tasty! The roasting instructions worked perfectly and the little bit of garlic was perfect with the portobello mushrooms. Since they were destined for some burger buns, I added extra cheese, Gruyère, a favourite here with mushrooms. With having to drain the liquid from the caps and blot them dry first, achieving a cheese topping that was "golden and bubbling" took a little extra effort. Until grilling weather is once again upon us, this will be my go-to preparation for large mushrooms.

This has been a fantastic start to Cottage Cooking Club's new year. Let's see what Andrea of the Kitchen Lioness, intrepid founder and leader of the group, has in store for us in February!


  1. Your write-ups on the seven recipes you made are very, very good, Zosia. I also made the Portobellos and the dip - would make them both again. In fact, I am serving the Portobellos to my daughter when she visits this week-end. Love the added cheese which I did also. Hadn't thought of making them into a juicy hamburger but, yes. Both the lasagna and spelt salad are wasnt-to-dos and just didn't get to the pasta. I like this book very much and eventually will get around to trying many more items. Your Post was a delight to read.

  2. What a great month! Everything you made came out wonderfully. It's funny, I worry every time I make lasagna, but I never bother pre-cooking my noodles and haven't had a problem yet. (Although I probably just jinxed myself!) I bet the hazelnuts added a lot to the grain salad. Good idea.

  3. Hi Zosia, wow, what a productive month you've had creating some great dishes! The Kale and Mushroom Lasagna was a knock out, I made it twice and will probably make it many more times in the future! The artichoke and bean dip looks good, and I appreciate your thoughts on those dishes I've not yet tried but now will upon your recommendation! A fun month indeed.

  4. Hi Zosia, the recipes this month were wonderful, once again you out did yourself, the kale and mushroom lasagna is one that I was thinking about but did not make now after seeing yours I have no choice....... looks amazing. Great pics, so nice getting to know you!

  5. Dera Zosia, outstanding pictures and wonderful explanation for each and every dish! Always such a pleasure to marvel at your pictures and read through all your helpful comments - if I hadn´t been so "under the weather" during the month of January, I would have managed to take pictures of the lasagna but there is the make-up month of March coming up - a chance to catch up on a few dishes. Your mushrooms look wonderful and so does the pasta with the greens and the dip and that spelt salad garnished with all those hazelnuts and all the rest!
    Thank you so much for participating again this month - I am really "proud" (if I may say so) that your family members are such faithful and eager taste testers! Respect!
    Have a wonderful weekend and thank you for participating again this month. I truly appreciate your support!

  6. Your photos are making me feel hungry! Everything looks so good. I'm glad to hear that the recipes worked out for you so well this month. I think grain salads are great, but they can be bland, it's true. Great to know this one wasn't. I made only two of the selections this month, but they were both really good. The artichoke dip is one that I especially wish I'd had time to try.

  7. What a nice set of recipes you chose, Zosia. I'm laughing to think of your dog cleaning up the mess. My dog wouldn't be helpful at cleaning up vegetables. She's more interested in meat or bread. Go figure. I really want to try the lasagna. I never cook my noodles. My friend's Italian mother-in-law convinced her it wasn't necessary, and though I initially doubted it, that's my go-to way now. I made the farro salad, mushrooms, and artichoke dip too. Glad to see you had good results too.

  8. Every one of your photos is amazing! I made the same recipes, except for the mushrooms. I must say, your lasagne looks so beautiful - I had several issues with mine, though it tasted great.


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