Welcome to our June Cottage Cooking Club gathering together as our group collectively cooks through all of the recipes in the cookbook, River Cottage veg everyday! by British author and television cooking host, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall. Each month our highly talented and fearless leader, Andrea of the Kitchen Lioness, Notes from a very small German Kitchen, provides a list of seasonal recipes from each section of the book. Members then prepare their individual recipe choices from among the selection over the month until we meet again, at months end, sharing online our tables together, our experiences, techniques and observations, including those we shared them with and how they were enjoyed.
The idea of the Cottage Cooking Club is to encourage incorporating more vegetables into our meals. While I grew up with meals each day including a bit of meat or fish or chicken, I also grew up with an aunt, today, 89 year old Conga Line Aunt Betty, who not only cooked an extensive vegetable repertoire but who used to literally serve around 16 different vegetable selections at every holiday meal. We used to count just for the fun of it. One time a guest didn’t like succotash, lima beans mixed with the corn. Can you imagine Aunt Betty jumped right up offering to also prepare either some fresh corn she had shucked and frozen at summers end, or, some corn relish she had put up. With fifteen other choices I think the children at the table should have jumped on the guy and wrestled him. But oh well, that was Aunt Betty. Given that my mothers family had some farming background and were quite fond of vegetables, this might also explain why early on in my blog I prepared a dish called ‘Ten Vegetables in the Beef and Veal Stew.’
I never heard Aunt Betty, or her husband, my Uncle Mike, refer to vegetables as being ‘local,’ but I do recall with fond memory high energy surrounding the seasons of vegetables and fruits, visits to area farms getting this or that which was in season, or picking our own. Uncle Mike had a flourishing garden and all around there was a certain continuous excitement around procuring the best of what was available and preparing it in a simple way, and, always ‘putting up’ extras in the big freezer set at the bottom of the basement, or, alternatively canning foods in a pressure cooker. Now Aunt Betty was a pro with a pressure cooker but I do admit to it being the one continuous lifetime fear I gathered in this process for Aunt Betty and Uncle Mike were so fearful of me getting near this kitchen appliance and being burned that it has sort of stuck with me. I’m hoping to learn to use one shortly. Meanwhile, I’ve a grand new canning pot from a Mother’s Day gift and Aunt Betty and I have a date for canning some pickles and beets and whatever else in the next few weeks.
This value and treasure of fresh simplicity is most what inspires me even today, and a common feeling I hope to instill in my grandson as each day I have him participate in the garden in some way, such as clipping from among the ten plants of rainbow chard that currently line the corner of our vegetable selections for today’s Beet Top (or chard) and ricotta tart. Currently abundant in this vegetable, the J-Dude clipped the leaves from the stalks setting aside a greater number of pink and pale yellow ribs for preparing a rainbow rib gratin. Around once a week I had been cooking sliced onions about ten minutes before adding in some chopped garlic adding the leaves cut chiffonade following their clipping and serving this as one of the vegetable dinner selections so the process of preparing the tart was quite similar to me with the exception of cooking the ribs in with the onions until softened before adding the greens. Most certainly a lovely combination between the chard ribs, greens, and the ricotta. We all enjoyed this Chard and Ricotta tart very much, simple, earthy, and tasty.
I suppose in some ways since I have been gathering and preparing so many vegetables in so many ways for what seems a lifetime that what makes the Cottage Cooking Club most special to me are the people, and our dear leader Andrea who has worked ever so hard to create something special with this group, it is just plain fun. And then, there are the peas. Peas, peas, peas. Yes, like today’s Macaroni Peas. This dish is quite delicious and has an interesting twist whizzing half of the cooked peas together with garlic very lightly cooked in butter, hard cheese, and a bit of the cooking water from the peas. Tossed well with the macaroni and remaining whole peas, seasoned with salt, lots of pepper, of course, all topped with a bit more Parmesan and some snipped fresh basil and parsley from the herbs on my deck, well, lets just say, that when I awoke this morning after Sooky, my eldest, leaving early to take my grandson on a river rafting trip for the day, that the container of remaining Macaroni peas was empty. Can you believe they even heated it and ate it for breakfast? Yes, while I have found that many of the recipes in this cookbook have already always been in my repertoire, still, there have been others quite special and unique, one of these categories in particular, the peas. I have been smitten, for we also really love the unique Cheesy Peasy Puff Turnover, and also the delight on using peas in my summer Vegetable Frittatas. I told you we love those peas.
There were a couple other recipes I would have enjoyed preparing over the month but trying to make the most of the summer events has provided for lots of road trips over the past few weeks, and then, when I am home, needing to cook up what is going on in my own garden, feeling inspired with the energy surrounding the season, treasuring and appreciating those memories earlier shared as a child, with Aunt Betty and Uncle Mike, and those that I hope to pass along too, in a most common natural way to my grandson. Indeed, in the journey of life there are many reasons why incorporating vegetables into our preparations includes even so much more than a nutritional meal.
To see what other members of the Cottage Cooking Club have prepared from River Cottage veg everyday, click here.