Have you eaten your vegetables today? For some, eating lots of vegetables just plain comes naturally. For others, well, outside of salads, eating vegetables just may require a bit more prompting, especially if combined with a bit of uncertainty on the many creative possibilities that exist in their preparation.
Eating from among a broad variety of vegetables every day was in the designed purpose of our fearless leader, Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, notes from a very small German Kitchen in creating the cookbook group called ‘Cooking Along with the Cottage Cooking Club’ or nicknamed by some, the CCC. In the Cottage Cooking Club a group of food bloggers around the world monthly gather, posting vegetable dishes they chose to prepare from among Andrea’s given selection of seasonally inspired vegetable dishes in the cookbook “River Cottage veg everyday!” by British author and television cooking celebrity, Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall.
Now we don’t print the recipes on our blogs and part of that, I suppose, is to encourage folks to get the cookbook which I in fact, very much highly recommend as a part of anyone’s cookbook library. Some of the recipes are basic, easy preparations of ingredients, in my case, ways that I already similarly have been preparing certain vegetables or dishes for many years. Others among the recipes, well, join along in this months January Cottage Cooking Club discoveries, for some of these selections are plain out fantastic, dishes good enough even to serve company, as well as to prepare again and again for many years ahead, the first of these, my favorite dish of the month, Kale and Mushroom Lasagna.
The Kale and Mushroom Lasagna I prepared twice. The first time around, early in the month, sharing some with a friend at the bus stop, who incidentally, also loved it. The second preparation, last weekend, when my youngest daughter Alex visited home for the weekend from Baltimore. Having been on business out at the baseball stadium in Arizona the week prior, and consuming far more than a desired share of burgers and hot dogs, her biggest request was to please prepare a lot of vegetables over the weekend. And so I did. First, I set off cooking a box of lasagna noodles, greasing them lightly with olive oil, once drained, and lining the pasta onto a baking sheet before covering. After cleaning and chopping a couple of bunches of kale, toppled into a big pot, just covered with cold salted water, the greens were brought to a boil before simmering for just a couple of minutes. Easy enough right?
So while slicing up around a pound of mushrooms for the lasagna, having a good bunch extra, I realized that another among the month’s choices was Big Baked Mushrooms. Unlikely would be the purchase of large stuffing mushrooms over the month, so decided to give these a go in a smaller version, simply removing the caps, greasing a gratin style dish, topping the crimini’s center with butter bits, some chopped garlic, kosher salt and pepper, finishing off then with some fresh grated Parmesan before baking a bit longer than fifteen minutes, convection. Set upon a ripped paper lunch bag, the finished mushrooms readied for anyone to pop these edibles right into their mouth, they went fast. Home run. Another hit among the months selections.
Mushrooms, I simply love them, especially in the fall and winter months. This is particularly convenient given that I reside less than an hour away from Kennett Square, the mushroom capital of the country, or is it the world? Anyway, in Pennsylvania we have plenty of fresh mushrooms available most anytime. Once sprinkled with some kosher salt and pepper while sauteed to a near fabulous finish of perfection among these earthy delights, some chopped garlic and fresh thyme was then added. Another step done.
Creamy. Creamy and tasty filling. Simply achieved with a roux and combined warm milk prior infused with bay leaf, an onion, celery, some black peppercorns, all finished off with a bit of Dijon mustard. Did I mention creamy and tasty?
After the usual combining and layering when one prepares lasagna, the finishing touch, the sauce, and fresh grated Parmesan. OK, I admit it, I also added in just a little something extra, some fresh grated provolone cheese. Hey it was in my fridg, shouting out at me, use me up baby, take all of me, it all seemed so promising. There was no choice but to yield temptation. Delight. Oh, sweet, lovely, savory sin.
Somewhere in between two completely wiped out Kale and Mushroom Lasagna’s was another among the month’s selections, Curried Bubble and Squeak. Now this dish caused tremendous delight, not the least that it provided a balanced integrated flavor between ingredients, but also provided a big chuckle with my family in its preparation, finally having had the opportunity to experience one of the dishes mentioned in the Disney movie, Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Bubble and Squeak is one of the dishes requested by Charlie when unexpectedly being placed into the household of Angela Lansbury with his two other orphan siblings during World War 1. I also believe he asks for Toad n Eel, whatever that is. And yes, I’ve already checked. It mustn’t be vegetable sourced as it in not found in our veg index. Nevertheless, I suspect it was the sounding of the Toad in de Eel that set sites of Bubble and Squeak either being some sort of a joke, or otherwise easily being something positively horrid.
Bubble and Squeak is merely a fried up mixture of onions, cooked potatoes, and cold cooked cabbage, or as our buddy Fern prepares it, combined with a bit of garlic, and curry powder or paste. I used curry powder producing quite a nice flavor. Of course, remembering proper seasonings of salt and pepper too. A rather tasty and hearty dish. Along with a reminder and good opportunity to re-visit one of my all time favorite movie scenes, ‘Portobello Road’, where I actually once purchased an old antique fishing net while on a visit, though no happy dancing or singing in the streets ensued.
Next up, I prepared from among last months selections, Corner Shop Spanakopita. Using similar, traditional, filling ingredients in common preparation, spinach, onion, pine nuts, and crumbled feta cheese, the unique twist on this recipe, using puff pastry in lieu of phyllo dough. Also then, the spinach combination served without a bottom crust. Most all of our CCC members prepared this dish last month and thought it quite good and with many raves, I concur. Very enjoyable, pleasant combination, and lovely to serve at a luncheon, or, as one of the members earlier suggested, well suited for a pot luck.
Yet another bravo soup from River Cottage veg everyday, Fennel and Celeriac with orange zest. Lovely. It’s a beauty too, don’t you think? Combined flavors between the fennel and celery root work so well together producing a uniquely delightful flavor. This is a filling soup, finished off in one meal, barely serving more than a cup each, my family was hardly hungry for the other side items earlier prepared for dinner.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Vegetable Biriyani, also a dish among last months selections. Prepared early on last month, this dish was a huge hit at the salon of my eldest daughter, Sooky. Of course, despite early rising in it’s preparation to insure a warm dish upon delivery, it was not only too dark for photographing, but Sooky was also in a hurry to leave, so there went that opportunity. Then again, when Alex visited home for the weekend I prepared this dish on the alternate night of the Kale and Mushroom Lasagna. Again, its timing provided not the best lighting for a photograph, not to mention everyone’s eagerness to dive right in.
Ah, the photo, there is outright nothing to be done on this. I just couldn’t make it better and so decided not to share it, but then because I liked the recipe so much decided to just share it. So with all the decision making surrounding this photo that I didn’t want to share, might you think I would have left off the now common watermarks with my name right across it?! So, while having a little laugh on this visual atrocity at my expense, consider it as ‘taking one for the team.’
And what a team we have, preparing and eating our lots of vegetables, and the many creative possibilities that exist in their preparation, just another great month this January Cooking Along with the Cottage Cooking Club. Many thanks to the fearless team coach, Andrea, at The Kitchen Lioness, notes from a very small German Kitchen. And of course, the vegetables cookbook, River Cottage veg everyday!
Big Hugs out there to all of the group. See you in February.
If you are a food blogger and would like to join our group, please contact Andrea: firstname.lastname@example.org
To see what other members of the Cottage Cooking Club prepared this month click here.