Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cottage Cooking Club - May 2015

Spring has definitely sprung here with locally grown produce readily available now at grocery stores and markets. Andrea, the founder and host of the Cottage Cooking Club, encouraged us to be creative with this month's chosen recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book River Cottage Veg and use as much of this vegetable bounty as we could. I did make some substitutions but not many since most of the recipes were wonderful as is.

Spinach, Penne (Fusilli) and Cheese "Spoufflé" (page 43)
Described as a "one-pot" dish, I was very excited to think that I could toss ingredients into a pot willy nilly and have it emerge from the oven as a fluffy soufflé.
That is actually what you do in this recipe....maybe without the "tossing willy nilly" .....but only after first cooking pasta, making a béchamel sauce, cooking spinach, grating cheese and whipping egg whites, finally combining these components to put into the baking dish. I don't have much experience with soufflés - this one's a "spoufflé" because it includes pasta - so I'm always thrilled when they work out. And this one did, puffing up beautifully in the ramekins. Everyone loved it and thought it well worth the sink full of dirty dishes (which they didn't have to wash!). I really enjoyed it but thought the onion flavour didn't come through and would steep it longer in the milk or perhaps mince and sauté it next time - what's one more dirty pan after all!

Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad (page 71)
This is what I want to be eating on a hot day. Light and fresh tasting, this Thai-inspired salad was bursting with lime and herb flavours. The author makes some ingredient suggestions so I went with rice vermicelli, and mint and coriander were my herbs of choice. My own not so very creative substitution was Chinese long beans/snake beans for the green beans. I loved that the components could be made in advance and assembled just before serving, making it an excellent choice for a packed lunch. This dish is destined to be made often during the summer months.

Kohlrabi "Carpaccio" (page 116)
I'm quite happy to eat plain pieces of kohlrabi as a snack so if I'm going to go to the trouble of making a salad with it, it has to be worth my while. I really enjoyed the goat's cheese and thyme with it but dressed with just a dribble of lemon juice and olive oil, I didn't think this one was worth pulling out the mandoline for. I had enough kohlrabi for a second salad so I made it again but used the honey-mustard dressing from the shaved summer vegetables recipe (page 100). Now that was worth the effort.

Pearled Barley Broth (page 160)
There was no wow factor here, just the pleasant flavours of a simple, homey soup with barley, an assortment of vegetables, herbs and spices. Since mushrooms and barley are such a natural pairing, I made the alternative garnish of sautéed cremini mushrooms. Served with a simple salad, it made for a very family friendly meal.

Asparagus (Fiddlehead) Pizza (page 185) 
I know spring is really here, not when I spot the first local asparagus or discover pea shoots or ramps, but when fiddleheads start popping up at markets and in grocery stores.
They're treated like a vegetable, but they're actually ostrich ferns picked during the bud stage, before they unfurl into feathery fronds. They grow only in the wild, are harvested by hand and have a very short growing season. I'm lucky to live in an area where they abound but they're still a rare treat. 

Since Andrea invited us to be creative with spring produce this month, I decided to use fiddleheads in a dish from this book but I wanted to choose one that would showcase them. As she pointed out in the p's and q's, they are similar to asparagus in flavour and can often be used as a substitute. Unlike asparagus, they shouldn't be eaten raw or even partially cooked, only fully cooked. 
I decided to do a make-up of a recipe chosen last May that met with rave reviews, the asparagus pizza. Apart from the substitution, I made one change which was to precook the fiddleheads and toss them with a little olive oil and garlic for extra flavour before putting them on the pizza.

Hugh's Magic Bread Dough turned out well again, providing a crisp and chewy base for the sautéed onions, mozzarella, Parmesan and fiddleheads. Fabulous! And worthy of this delicacy.

Spicy Merguez Oven Fries with Yogurt Dip (page 225) 
I could probably put anything on a fried potato and it would get eaten here, but this spice mix of cumin, fennel, coriander, caraway and smoked paprika happened to taste fantastic.
I made a mistake while measuring it out and doubled the cumin, doubling the entire recipe in the end to correct for it. But no regrets, it was worth making extra to have on hand for the next batch. After parboiling the potatoes, they were oven-fried (in only 3 tbsp oil) so they were crisp with a fluffy centre. I think I would have had similar results without pre-cooking so I'll skip that step next time. 

When I see the word "spicy", I think "hot". But unless you went wild with the cayenne, these potatoes were just very flavourful. The accompanying tangy yogurt dip, to which I added an entire clove of garlic, complemented them perfectly. Needless to say, these were a huge success.

Grilled Asparagus Spears with Lemon Dressing (page 339)
Young asparagus, grilled until tender and dressed with a little lemon juice and a sprinkling of fresh herbs is a delicious but not particularly revolutionary recipe. However, Hugh's technique of threading the spears on wooden skewers that had first been soaked in cold water was absolutely brilliant. I tried it with blanched broccoli as well and it worked perfectly. I grill vegetables all the time and didn't think I needed a recipe for them, but I'm so glad I tried this one. No more vegetables lost to the grill ever again!!!!

I can't wait to see what the other members did with the recipes this month. Visit here to find out. 


  1. All of your dishes look amazing! I made the spouffle and the herby noodle salad too. Loved them. I have never had fiddlehead ferns, so it was interesting to read about them. So many recipes to try! Yours all look wonderful. Happy that you enjoyed things so much!

  2. Zosia, everything looks excellent! I am not familiar with fiddlehead ferns but I've been seeing them on blogs quite a bit lately. I don't think we have them in Oklahoma but maybe I will run across them in my travels one day. You did an excellent job on all the recipes!

  3. Hi Zosia, I agree most recipes are just perfect as they are written. Looks like you really went to town with all the dishes you prepared. Love your asparagus fiddlehead pizza. Great pics!

  4. Zosia, what an impressive post and broad selection among all of the ingredients! Your photographs are terrific too. Wow on your fiddlehead Pizza, just wow. The oven fries look super good, and that Spouffle- sounds delicious and do plan on preparing this one at some juncture soon. Awesome month, thanks for all the sharing.

  5. Dear Zosia, beautiful presentation of all your dishes. Of course, the lovely fiddleheads are showstoppers. As I mentioned before I have enjoyed them in Québec and I have been searching for them ever since but I just cannot get my greedy little fingers on them, unfortunately, they are not available in our neck of the woods. The Fries/Chips and the Spoufflé were real hits with our kids it seems - that is just wonderful because that is what the CCC is all about. Cooking healthy everyday types of food for family and friends. A wonderful month and there is much more to come!
    Thank you so much for your continued support and enthusiasm!
    Have a great weekend and "see" you very soon,

  6. My goodness, dear lady, I certainly have Zosia-envy this month. What a wonderful job you did with these eight recipes. Really, quite an amazing post. I knew the high-altitude (almost 9000') would not be kind to my spoufflé but decided to make it anyway. I didn't get the pouf that you did so, of course, it tasted a bit heavy. I am trying to figure out how to correct that because I like the frlavors. And, yes, that barley soup did use a few too many dishes, in my opinion. I served it to my nature study group for lunch on a snowy May day and we enjoyed it. As you said, worth the dishes!!! I was disappointed not to get the noodly salad and oven fries made this month. Your write-up made me know I missed something special so will get to them eventually. Too many delicious recipes. Too little time. Your fiddleheads. Perfect. Such a nice, nice post, Zosia.

  7. Just fabulous, Zosia! The spoufflé looks awesome! I made several of the same dishes - the noodly salad, soup, asparagus, and fries, and enjoyed them all. The pizza looks so fun! I have never had fiddleheads - hope to try them one day.

  8. So many of your choices look fabulous, Zosia. I also made the noodly salad, which I loved. I love the fiddlehead pizza you made. I've never gone beyond just sauteeing them, but I'm going to remember that idea for next year when they are in season again. Brilliant.

  9. Zosia, I absolutely love the cheese souffle and would of love to have your recipe. ..

    1. Hi Rosa, everyone really loved this one. If you'd like to try it, the recipe is here:

  10. So interesting. My husband (our griller) hated that I skewered the asparagus. He (for reasons I can't understand) thought it made them harder to grill. I loved the dressing, though. It was delicious. I'm so jealous of your fiddlehead ferns. I would love to try them, but never see them around.


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