Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club - March 2015

Last June, I decided to treat myself to a new cookbook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg. A quick look and several flagged recipes later, I checked online to see what others had cooked from it and stumbled across the Cottage Cooking Club, a group dedicated to cooking its way through the book. I joined immediately. It had started the month before, which meant I had missed out on May recipes so for this month's make-up post, I made three, and a few others that caught my eye and tempted my taste buds when others made them. 

Arugula (Mixed Greens), Fennel and Puy Lentil Salad (page 82), a selection from May 2014.
Lentils are usually an easy sell around here without doing much to them apart from cooking them with a few aromatics. So when they're dressed with an olive oil-lemon-mustard dressing (I doubled the lemon juice) and tossed with fresh fennel and peppery greens, I thought this salad would be a hit. Unfortunately, I was missing one of the star ingredients; when I went grocery shopping, there was no arugula to be had! Such is the vagary of our winter produce supply. I substituted with a mix of baby spinach, kale and chard, which was really tasty and held up to the dressing. The dish was good, but I think it would have been better with the peppery bite of the intended greens. 

Stir-Fried Sesame Cauliflower (page 376), a selection from May 2014.
I really enjoy stir-fries; they're an easy way to get good food on the table quickly. This one featured cauliflower. Beige in colour, but with onion, garlic, ginger and hot chiles included, it was by no means beige in flavour. I really liked the method of adding water to the pan with the cauliflower; it allowed it to steam as well as fry so it was perfectly tender-crisp, and it absorbed all of the flavours of the aromatics that had gone in before. I served this as suggested with some steamed brown rice for a vegetarian meal. I will definitely make this again.

Carrot Hummus (page 296), a selection from May 2014.
Made with roasted carrots, toasted cumin and coriander, garlic, tahini, and lemon juice, this hummus was slightly sweet and nicely spiced, and a tasty alternative to a more traditional recipe. I found that the flavours improved the next day with the sweetness taking a backseat to all of the savoury ingredients. Though "Puppy", my faithful companion of 13 years quite liked it also, the rest of the family didn't appreciate it much - too sweet for them. Since I don't relish eating almost an entire batch by myself again, it probably won't be repeated.

Baby Carrot and Fava Bean Risotto (page 269), a selection from June 2014. 
I've wanted to make this dish since seeing the variations made in June but in early March, fresh baby carrots and fava beans aren't available. And, my risotto-loving usually lacto-ovo-vegetarian daughter decided to try a vegan diet for a while. Needless to say, some changes were in order. Of course I omitted the butter and cheese from the recipe, and used frozen fava beans (blanched with skins removed) and large carrots cut into small batons. I followed the cooking instructions: the timing worked perfectly for the vegetables and though I usually add the broth a ladle at a time to risotto, adding larger amounts as instructed worked well. It tasted very good but without the cheese was missing something...some grated lemon zest and a squeeze of juice provided the lift it needed. Delicious! It was like a little bit of summer on a plate, quite welcome on a cold winter day.

Pasta with Raw Tomatoes (page 254), a selection from July 2014
I actually made this back in August, a month after it had been chosen but while tomatoes were at their peak. Hugh mentions substituting olives for capers; I used both! I also used dischi shaped pasta that were like miniature bowls, perfect for holding all of the lovely tomato juices and the odd caper or olive slice. This was really light, flavourful, and so easy to put together. I did peel the tomatoes since the skins were a little tough, but didn't worry too much about removing the seeds. I ended up making this a few times during the month and found it had the best flavour when the tomato "sauce" was assembled in the morning and allowed to macerate all day. It was delicious served hot as the main or at room temperature as a side for grilled meat and fish.

Celeriac with Apple, Raisins (Cranberries), and Parsley (page 107) a selection from February 2015
I've said it before, but I think the "Raw Assemblies" chapter is my favourite in the book; it's introduced me to a delicious world beyond dressed leafy greens. So it's no surprise that I loved this dish: crispy and chewy, sweet, tart and nutty, it was a marvelous mix of raw ingredients enhanced with a mustard vinaigrette. I replaced the raisins with cranberries, a fruit that family prefers, but otherwise followed the recipe. This was a wonderfully refreshing salad, and an excellent complement to the heavier, richer foods we've been eating to help get us through this very long and very cold winter.

I'm really looking forward to reading everyone's posts this month since we weren't limited to ten recipes, but allowed to choose from the one-hundred that have already been featured! Visit here to see what everyone made.


  1. Hello Zosia, what a beautiful selection of recipes for the month. I'm particularly intrigued with the stir fried cauliflower as I see Mary Hirsch also prepared this, both of you presenting quite attractive and flavor filled dishes. I've also prepared the Celeriac with Apple, Raisins, and Parsley and agree with you that the raw assembly chapter is filled with unique fresh combinations, easily prepared, and providing nice alternatives to the simple (but still lovely) tossed greens salad option. Your pasta looks vibrant too in the memory of those once warm days that just won't seem to release into the atmosphere this winter (spring.) It was a fun month picking a few from among the past months choices and making them up in this interim. Thanks for an enjoyable post!

  2. Hi Zosia, great selection of recipes. I've also made the carrot hummus and found it a little sweet but delicious. Lovely pictures and presentation. hard to believe we are already halfway through. Have a great week!

  3. Wow, Zosia, you went all out this month. What great choices. I didn't join until August, but I didn't think to look back to the early recipes because I assumed the vegetables wouldn't be available yet. I would love to try the stir-fried cauliflower.

  4. Beautiful photos as always, Zosia! I really enjoyed the stir-fried cauliflower - always nice to find new ways to serve this under-appreciated vegetable. Being you like stir-fries, have you heard of the book Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, by Grace Young? It's fabulous, authentic Chinese recipes. And there is an online group cooking through this book as well, called Wok Wednesdays.

    1. Thank you for book recommendation Cathleen. I've heard of it but for some reason never stopped to look at it. I now have a copy on hold at my local library.

    2. Glad to hear you will be picking up a copy of the book. I really can't emphasize enough how wonderful this book has been. I'm sure you'll enjoy it! At least I hope so. :)

  5. Wow, great choices this month! It's good to know that vegan risotto works - now that my partner is completely vegan, I'm hoping to make some adjustments to favourite dishes like risotto that work for both of us.

    I'm so glad I joined the group, too. Meeting great bloggers, working through delicious recipes - it's been lovely.

  6. What a great month! So many good choices. I didn't know that you bought the book and then found the group. How cool! I joined the group and then bought the book...I loved the carrot hummus, but I do like things sweet. The stir-fried cauliflower was a favorite of mine too.

  7. Dear Zosia, hope you and your family had a wonderful Easter weekend with lots of wonderful weather and treats! Love all the choices you made this month - of these, my favorite was the pasta and the stir-fry. You did an outstanding job with the presentations - the colors are amazing in all your pictures. I have yet to find frozen broad beans around here (I am rather jealous) - they have turned into my one of my favorite vegetables osince we started this group. You are right about the arugala in the salad, its peppery goodness adds a lot to the mix.
    Thank you so much for being part of our group, I am so much looking forward to cooking along with all of you during the next couple of months.


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