Cottage Cooking Club – April 2017

Black pepper, rosemary, & smoked paprika cornbread

April was a whirlwind for me, so I’m only just posting my contribution to the Cottage Cooking Club now.

I’ve been trying a lot of cornbread recipes lately, both savoury and sweet, trying to find one that’s a good fit for some of the soups and stews I’ve been making this rainy spring season. The cornbread from River Cottage Everyday bridges the gap between savoury and sweet nicely for me and it just may become the house favourite here.

There’s only a tablespoon of honey in this bread, but it’s enough for me, especially for the variation I improvised with rosemary, black pepper and smoked Paprika. I also substituted some bacon fat for half the butter in this recipe, which made it even smokier. This recipe is infinitely variable, I used yogurt, but buttermilk is also an option. Add-ins include grated cheese or fresh corn, minced jalapeño or green onion, all sorts of spices and herbs – whatever piques your interest or suits your menu.

It paired well with the soup I keep making (and changing) this spring, a smoky turkey and green split pea soup that’s thick and rich, perfect for rainy day eating. I’m going to share the “recipe” with you, but it’s really just a jumping off point. This soup changes based on what’s in my fridge – my latest version included a quick stock made from the leftovers of a rotisserie chicken, some diced turkey, and (brilliantly) some diced leftover roasted sweet potato that had been seasoned with rosemary and chili flakes. The sweet potato would carry a vegan version of this soup very well.

Smoky Turkey and Green Split Pea Soup

Smoky Turkey & Green Split Pea Soup

  • 2 tbsp. butter, oil, and/or bacon fat
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small leek, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 tsp. dried basil (or 1 tbsp. fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano (or 1-2 tsp. fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups turkey or chicken stock and/or water
  • 2 cups green split peas, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
  • a rind from some smoked Parmesan
  • 1 cup diced cooked turkey
  • a dash of pomegranate molasses or the juice of half a lemon (optional)
  • a few slices of cooked bacon, chopped (optional)
  • grated smoked Parmesan (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the fat in a large soup pot over medium heat, add the onion, then turn heat to low. Add the onions with a little salt. Stir occasionally, until they are starting to brown a little. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes translucent. Turn the heat to medium and add the leek, carrots, and celery, then cook until they begin to soften. Add the herbs and spices, with a few grinds of pepper and a little more salt, then stir them around a little to help release their flavour.

Add the stock and/or water and split peas, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat until the soup is at a simmer. Drop in the smoked Parmesan rind, then cook until the split peas start to become tender. If the soup starts to become too thick at any point, add more water or stock as needed.

Add the diced turkey and continue to simmer the soup until the split peas are soft – usually 30-40 minutes, but it may take longer. Check for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper, if necessary.

When ready to serve, stir in a dash of pomegranate molasses or the juice of half a lemon, if desired. Garnish with chopped, cooked bacon and/or grated smoked Parmesan, if desired.

This soup is adaptable to whatever you’ve got on hand, but here are a few ideas:

  • Use diced chicken in place of the turkey
  • Add diced roasted sweet potato with the turkey
  • Use a rind of Gruyère in place of the smoked Parmesan and season with thyme and rosemary
  • Skip the animal products and use a touch more smoked paprika, for a hearty vegan soup

You can find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers while creating some wonderful meals.

Cottage Cooking Club – March 2017

Ten Minute Chocolate Chip Cookies

This month hasn’t been one for cooking very much from cookbooks for me. There have been a lot of improvised meals and dishes that I cook from memory and adjust to what I have on hand. The list of dishes that I can rely on that way has grown year-by-year and I have my love of cookbooks to thank for that, along with the guidance of many good cooks, starting with my mother.

I include chocolate chip cookies on the list of foods I can make without reference to a recipe, but I’m always interested in trying new recipes for them. I don’t have a Platonic ideal recipe for these cookies – I am happy whether they’re chewy, crispy, cakey, or barely there between chunks of chocolate. I’ve enjoyed them with all sorts of flour combinations, add ins, and variations. So I’m open to any new twist or trick I can add to my chocolate chip cookie repertoire.

This recipe promised a crispy cookie, but I ended up with one that was fluffier, instead. I’m not sure if it was the addition of oats (a variation on the oatmeal raisin variation given in the recipe), if it was my conversion of the recipe from weights to cups, or if it was a misinterpretation of a British ingredient. I suspect it was the conversion. No matter, though, because the cookies were delicious, even if they looked nothing like their inspiration.

I added a little more salt, along with some cardamom and nutmeg, to the recipe, otherwise I think they’d have been under-seasoned. That might be my North American palate speaking, or the garden-variety butter I used.

I expect I’ll cook a little more from cookbooks next month, especially as spring has begun in earnest here and early local produce will soon appear. I’ve got some River Cottage recipes bookmarked for just that reason.

You can find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers while creating some wonderful meals.

Cottage Cooking Club – February 2017

River Cottage Everyday & Love Your Leftovers

The Cottage Cooking Club is back, for a six-month journey through two more River Cottage cookbooks, River Cottage Everyday and River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers. Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness is taking a more free-wheeling approach to this iteration of the club, asking members to choose whichever recipes strike their fancy and post about them on the 28th of each month.

River Cottage Veg is one of my go to cookbooks for simple weeknight eating, so I was happy to add River Cottage Everyday to my collection. And I fell in love with Love Your Leftovers when I reviewed it just before the holidays.

I hope to cook a little more from both books over the next few months, but for this month, I’m starting with a snack that is cheaper and better for you than its supermarket counterparts.

Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars

Honey and Peanut Butter Booster Bars

I couldn’t wait until these were cooled completely to cut a couple of tester squares. If I’d waited until they were completely cool, they would have had straighter edges, but it was worth it. These bars are a perfect snack, warm or cold. They have a fair amount of sugar and butter in them, but they’re also full of dried fruit and seeds. I chose dried cranberries, hemp hearts, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Along with the chunky peanut butter and oats, I’d say they make these bars a healthy choice.

They’re naturally gluten-free (as long as you use gluten-free safe oats) and they’d be easy to make vegan, with golden syrup in place of honey and a healthy-ish margarine standing in for the butter.

I love this kind of recipe, because the results can be as varied as the contents of your pantry and you can customize them as much as you like. I’ve found this to be a hallmark of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes, one of the many things that brings me back to his cookbooks so frequently. I’m sure I’ll find a host of new favourites while working through this round of the club.

You can find the rest of the group’s posts, here. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers while creating some wonderful meals.

Holiday Cookbook Reviews – River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers

Ribollita

I received a review copy of River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

And so, it’s time to wrap up this year’s Holiday Book Review Series. It’s been an especially good one, don’t you think? I want to thank Raincoast Books for generously sending me review copies of the six books in this year’s series and especially for giving my Canadian readers the opportunity to win a copy of one of them.

I’m ending with a cookbook that will serve you in good stead come January and resolution season. I’m not big on resolutions, but I do hold some intentions each new year. One that’s always on my list is to reduce the amount of waste in my life and to make the best use of the resources I’m lucky enough to have access to. A big part of this for me is reducing my food waste and that’s where River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers comes in. It’s a cookbook, certainly, but it’s also a handbook for making the most of your food and keeping as much as possible out of the waste stream.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has broadened his definition of leftovers to include more than what’s left in the serving dish after a meal. His recipes tackle the food that often gets discarded in the course of food preparation, like leaves, peels, bones, and rinds. He also includes the results of big batch cooking (or, as he calls them, ‘planned overs’) under the book’s umbrella, so that your fridge and pantry are filled with prepared foods, without the packaging and sometimes dubious quality of the store-bought variety.

The book is organized a little differently than most cookbooks, with chapters built around categories of leftovers, rather than meals or types of recipes. He begins with a discussion of planning for leftovers, with sensible advice from shopping through storage. Before the recipes begin, he shares an infographic of frequently occurring leftovers that serves as an alternate table of contents. His chapter on Launchpads for Leftovers is a condensed version of a conventional cookbook format, running through base recipes for everything from stocks to desserts.

The rest of the book is given over to recipes under categories of the most common leftover foods. He tackles meat, fish, and starches, but also trickier foods like greens, dairy, and eggs. These are the ones that I find most likely to languish in the fridge waiting for inspiration, then ending up in the compost.

Vegetable Peel Crisps

And your compost bin will be nearly empty, if you use the many nose-to-tail recipes Fearnley-Whittingstall includes in this book. Fish skins and trimmings can sub in for bacon, potato peels transform into a comforting, creamy soup, and broccoli stems can take the place of meat or fish in a carpaccio. His Vegetable Peel Crisps are typical of this approach. There’s no reason that root vegetable peelings should have to go into the compost, as long as they’re clean and free from bad spots. He tosses them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasts them in a slow oven. When they come out, you can add a sprinkling of smoked paprika, as I did. I used a mix of potato, parsnip, carrot, and yam peelings. I liked them better than potato chips and they’re definitely healthier.

Many Bean Salad

The crisps made a great lunchtime pairing with his Many Bean Salad, which is almost infinitely variable, depending on what you have on hand. I used a mix of beans, but it would have been equally good with lentils, chickpeas, or just about any other sort of pulse. I threw in some tuna (I liked that he specified sustainably fished tuna), celery, Malossol cornichons, celery, red onion, and grated parmesan. I used his recipe for mustardy vinagrette, with pickle brine in place of the vinegar. It’s the kind of salad you can find in other River Cottage cookbooks, but with an extra emphasis on using what you’ve already got on hand.

The leftover ingredients used in each of the recipes is highlighted, so that when you’re skimming through the book, you can note which work with the leftovers you’ve got on hand. It’s another design feature that is meant to make it easy for you to find ways to use up the contents of your fridge and pantry.

Leftover Ribollita

A time-honoured method of cleaning out the fridge is to make a soup, and Fearnley-Whittingstall includes a number of soups across his leftover categories. His take on Ribollita was especially inviting during the cold snap we’ve been experiencing in Vancouver. We’ve had snow sticking around for over a week, with more on the way. Warm, rich, filling soup is something I’ve been making a lot of lately.

The Love Your Leftovers version can help use up roasted roots, soup stock, Parmesan rind, pulses, and leftover greens. I skipped the rind and chose vegetable stock, as I’m planning to share the soup with a vegan this week. That didn’t stop me from adding a little Parmesan to my serving, and with the garlicky toast in the bottom of the bowl, it was perfectly delicious.

I’ve been trying to stock my fridge with ‘planned overs’ like big containers of roasted roots for a while, but I can be inconsistent. I keep intending to soak batches of beans on a more regular basis, so I can reduce my use of canned goods a bit (I don’t think I’m alone in this one). I can also be a little forgetful when it comes to leftover stock – there’s really no excuse for throwing out stock, but it’s something that’s happened more than I care to admit.

Scheduling recipes like this soup could help me to get a bit more consistent in the batch preparation I’d like to do more often, while keeping me from wasting staples like stock and greens – so many greens.

I don’t have permission to share the recipe with you, but you can find it on the River Cottage website:

Leftover Ribollita

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River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 22nd: Win a copy of River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers*

I’ve been a fan of Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes for quite a while, especially after working through his River Cottage Veg with the Cottage Cooking Club. However, it’s his approach to food that’s stuck with me even more than his recipes. He uses what’s fresh and seasonal, certainly, but he also stocks his pantry with good quality canned and dried goods, so that delicious weeknight eating is something that can be accomplished year-round.

In that way, this cookbook is the perfect extension of his food philosophy. Not only are his recipes flavourful and accessible, they’re also making the best of every part of the good food he stocks in his kitchen. As much as I like project cooking and baking, special occasion recipes, and rich comfort foods, Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes are a better representation of how I prefer to eat most of the time. With River Cottage: Love Your Leftovers on my shelf, I’ll be able to do so even more effectively and sustainably. I think I’d even make a resolution to that effect.

Gift Giver’s Guide: For the thrifty cook, the environmentalist eater, the seasonal gourmet, and the comfort food connoisseur.

*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 3 X 64 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

You can find links to the rest of my Holiday Cookbook Review Series giveaways here. They’re all open until December 22nd.