Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cottage Cooking Club - January 2016

January 2016, the beginning of a new year and we're off to a delicious start at The Cottage Cooking Club, as we near the end of our journey cooking through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's cookbook, River Cottage Veg. This month, I prepared a meatless main and a vegetable side, both of which were enjoyed by all.

Chickpeas with Cumin and Spinach (page 246) 
This was a very quick and tasty pantry-friendly dish, one of those recipes I like to have up my sleeve for when I'm rushed or completely uninspired. Hugh has a few of those recipes, thank goodness.
It was flavourful and filling with tomatoes and lemon adding freshness to a hearty chickpea-onion mixture. I served it with naan but I think it would be delicious with some diced potatoes (leftover or cooked with the tomatoes before the greens go in), sort of like a potato chickpea stew.

Rutabaga with Onion and Sage (page 382)
Rutabaga doesn't have too many fans here. Even I don't much like it cooked; eaten raw as I prefer, its inherent sweetness is more apparent than its bitterness and it has a lovely crunch to it. Cooking it as I have in the past always seemed to bring out its most undesirable characteristics. 
But the method used here, a combination steam-sauté (in only 2 tbsp olive oil) produced tender, caramelized cubes that were sweet and mellow. Onions cooked until golden and sage were the perfect complements. Another keeper.

Only three months remain before we reach the end of the book and I'm looking forward to each and every one of them. To see what the others cooked up, visit here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Fluted Carrot-Tangerine Cake - Tuesdays with Dorie

A lovely, moist cake with pretty fluted edges was one of the January Tuesdays with Dorie baking projects from Dorie Greenspan's latest book, Baking Chez Moi. It was very popular with most of the baking group's members who made it earlier in the month and I have little to add to their praise.
Made with carrots and tangerine juice and zest, it was deliciously fruity with a soft and fluffy texture. I was excited about the fresh ginger in the recipe but really couldn't detect it in the end. Oh was a big hit regardless and I'll definitely make it again but with extra ginger. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Quick Mexican Bean and Lentil Soup with Baked Tortilla Chips

Quick and easy, this zesty soup brings some Mexican heat to the table to help warm you inside and out. It's brimming with vegetables and tomatoes that flavour the broth, red lentils that help thicken it, and beans that add substance, and it relies mainly on pantry ingredients so can be made in no time at all.
I like to add a little fresh lime juice at the end to brighten the flavours and serve it with some baked tortilla chips but you could add all sorts of toppings: grated cheese, chopped avocado or guacamole, sour cream or Greek yogurt, etc
Quick Mexican Bean and Lentil Soup
serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ancho chile powder*
1 tsp chipotle chile powder*
1-796ml can whole plum tomatoes
900ml low-sodium vegetable stock
80ml red lentils, rinsed and picked over 
2-540ml cans beans (black, red kidney etc), drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
juice of 1/2 lime (optional)
2 tbsp chopped coriander or parsley (optional)

*You can substitute with your favorite chile powder.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onion, stir to coat with oil and cook 8-10 minutes or until golden. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the oregano and chile powders. Stir and cook 1 minute. 

Add the tomatoes and break them up with a spoon or potato masher until the pieces are quite small. Stir in the stock and red lentils and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the drained, rinsed beans and simmer an additional 15 minutes. 

Season with salt and pepper to taste (and additional spices if necessary), and stir in the lime juice and chopped herbs if using. The soup keeps well in the fridge and freezer just make sure to store it in an airtight container.

Baked Tortilla Chips
serves 6 

10-18cm whole wheat flour tortillas
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin (other spices like smoked paprika, chile powder, cayenne pepper can be used also)
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Have 2 cookie sheets ready.

Using a pastry brush, brush 1 side of a tortilla very lightly with oil. Dust the oiled side with a pinch of cumin and a smaller pinch of sea salt, if using. Cut it into 6 wedges and place them on a cookie sheet in a single layer; it's okay if there's some overlap. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. To speed up this process, I usually stack 3-4 seasoned tortillas on top of each other and cut through all the layers to make the wedges. 

Bake 8-10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned and the chips are crisp. Cool and store in an air tight container; they'll stay crisp for 3-4 days.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Lentil Soup

One of my favourite soups to help ward off the winter chill is Marcella Hazan's hearty Lentil Soup from her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. With one of her fabulous tomato sauces as its base, how can it be anything but delicious! The soup is even better the next day so I often make a double batch so there are leftovers to enjoy.
As is my wont, I've adapted the ingredients a little  - reduced the fat, eliminated measuring chopped ingredients etc. If you'd like to make this vegetarian, just omit the pancetta and use vegetable stock.

Lentil Soup
serves 4-6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
50g pancetta, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
240ml canned plum tomatoes, mashed
230g green or Puy lentils
1 litre low-sodium chicken stock
salt and pepper
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

The original recipe and cooking instructions can be found here.
I served it with Marcy Goldman's Garlic-Slathered Stretch Bread (adapted) from her book A Passion for Baking, cut into fingers - perfect for dunking. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Lemon Squares, French Style - Tuesdays with Dorie

Like last month, members of the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group are baking the two recipes chosen for January in the order they wish. I started with the lemon bars, which happen to be among my favourite desserts, along with lemon meringue pie, lemon curd by the spoonful.....

The recipe from Baking Chez Moi was quite different from most I've made with ground almonds in the shortbread crust and with part of the dough for the cookie base used as a crumble topping.
And then there was the enormous amount of butter in the curd. I couldn't bring myself to add it all and used only 43g (instead of 255g), and since I was changing the recipe, decided to try something I've wanted to do for some time, replace 1/2 the butter in the cookie dough with coconut oil to further reduce the butter flavour I'm not fond of. I made a half recipe of the dough, a full recipe of the curd but used only about 2/3 (with the rest squirrelled away for the baker to enjoy by the spoonful), and baked it in a 23cm square pan.

My cookie base was crunchy, not tender like shortbread.....because of the coconut oil? or a few minutes of over-baking? I'm not sure. Regardless, we loved them! They were a little less rich and buttery than the author intended but they were everything I love about a lemon bar plus more: tasty cookie base, bursts of zingy lemon with every bite, and the added crunch of an almond streusel topping. I'll definitely be repeating this one.

Visit here to see the other bakers' goodies.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Cheddar Potato Soup

Winter arrived with a vengeance this week, if only for a few days ;)! Spoiled by the almost balmy weather we've been having, I was quite unprepared for a temperature of -15°C with a windchill of -25°C! This called for soup.
Rich and creamy, and as warm and comforting as a hug, this Cheese and Potato Soup was just what was needed.

It used basic ingredients and came together quite quickly but since I'm not a fan of measuring chopped ingredients, especially for a soup, and I prefer to use Yukon Gold potatoes that hold their shape when cooked (the flour did admirably as a thickener without the added starch of a russet potato), I adapted the ingredients slightly. I also used vegetable stock and omitted the ham to keep it vegetarian.
Cheese and Potato Soup
makes 4-6 servings

2 tbsp olive oil
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped 
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
480ml vegetable broth
480ml milk (I use 1%)
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 400g), peeled and diced
115g sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
salt and pepper
hot pepper sauce to taste (optional)
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)

For the method and the original Bon Appétit recipe, visit here
Served alongside was a crisp winter salad dressed with a balsamic-walnut oil vinaigrette, an adaptation of Arugula, Pear, and Walnut Salad from The Best Vegetarian Recipes, by Martha Rose Shulman.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Edamame and Sautéed Vegetable Soup

Soup is a great vehicle for using up odds and ends of vegetables remaining in the crisper drawer, and puréeing it is a perfect way to hide from the keen eyes of picky eaters exactly what went into it, so this one is already a "win" on at least two counts!
And then there's the flavour. This recipe uses a rather modest selection of vegetables but relies on the technique of caramelizing them first to bring out their best. The result is a richly flavoured soup with zing provided by the tomatoes and a little sweetness from the red peppers. Pasta and edamame beans add substance but the soup is delicious without them. 
The recipe comes from Bon Appétit magazine and can be found on Epicurious. I generally follow it as written - why mess with a good thing - but I think it would lend itself to a variety of vegetables.

I served this batch with delicious Ham, Cheese and Leek Scones from my newest baking book, The Violet Bakery Cookbook, for a warming January lunch.