Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Cottage Cooking Club - April 2017 Recipes

The month of April marks the third month of our second project for our international online cooking group, The Cottage Cooking Club. Presently we are cooking our way through a wonderful family-friendly cookbook written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, entitled „River Cottage Every Day". And the optional „Love your Leftovers“ by the same author.

This month I prepared six recipes from River Cottage Every Day. I will write about each dish in the order in which I prepared them.

The first recipe for my April post is the Thyme and Caramelized Onion Mash (page 311) from the chapter Vegetable Galore.

This mash most definitely goes so well with sausage, chops, or roast chicken or lamb. And it is equally good with fish.

With just a few ingredients for the mash (russet potatoes, milk, butter, pepper and salt) – I like to keep the caramelized onions separate and add them as a topping rather than mixing them into the finished mash – that way people can add as many or as little caramelized onions to their mash.

The caramelized onions usually take about 30 to 40 minutes before they turn really sweet and caramelize. I love the added flavor that thyme brings to sweet onions and I always make sure to add quite a bit of thyme from my herb garden to this dish.

The second recipe for the month of April was a Frittata (page 106) from the chapter Weekday Lunch (Box). For my Frittata, I chose green asparagus, baby spinach, peas, cherry tomatoes and Belgian goat cheese – and as herbs I used fresh Italian parsley, chives and wild garlic from our garden.

I must say that I loved, loved this recipe so much – although I chose to add different seasonal veggies than Hugh´s recipe calls for, I was quite pleased with the outcome.

And I so enjoy adding a slice of cold, left-over Frittata to the kids´ lunchboxes the next day. Such a versatile, delicious and healthy recipe. A must make, no doubt about it.

The third recipe was the Seedy Spinach Salad (page 293) from the chapter Vegetables Galore.

A lovely spring salad with lots of baby spinach leaves and a dressing made of lemon juice, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of sugar and some olive as well as sunflower oil. And for the „seedy“ part some lightly toasted pumpkin as well as white sesame seeds.

Since we some some wonderful fresh eggs, I added a soft-boiled egg to each salad plate. Eggs go so well with spinach and a nice tangy dressing, we couldn`t get enough of this.

The fourth recipe is one of my go-to recipes from this book, the Pizza (page 84) from the chapter Daily Bread. And this past month, I made two versions. The first one I made was the Pizza Bianca or White Pizza.

A wonderful Pizza without tomato sauce, the Pizza Bianca has a topping of sweet onions, seasoned with thyme and enriched with a little bit of crème fraîche. The first step is to make the easy pizza dough with all purpose flour, bread (strong) flour, sea salt and olive oil. Then, while the dough is rising, you prepare the onion topping. Easy as can be. And very similar to the recipe for caramelized onions that I wrote about at the beginning of this post.

It is nice to have some basic techniques up your sleeve – for example how to caramelize onions, it is good to know that you will need a bit of time for this, ten minutes will not do. You are more likely to spend a good half hour with your onion mix.

For the second half of the pizza dough, I went with a topping of cherry tomatoes on the vine and generous slices of my favorite goat cheese log. I also added some rosemary, olive oil, pepper and salt.

I find that Hugh´s easy recipe for pizza dough is perfectly suited for two pizzas, medium size and since I am not lucky enough to own pizza stones, I bake my pizzas in a very hot pre-heated oven on very hot baking sheets that I dust with a bit of semolina flour prior to baking, so the pizzas will not stick.

Sometimes I like serving two differently topped pizzas as appetizers, maybe with a little seasonal side salad or just on their own. It is fun finger food for the kids and it makes me happy to know that they enjoy goat cheese on their pizza as much as I do.

Then I made recipe five and six together. First the Pea Soup (page 270) from the chapter Vegetable Galore. And then the Asparagus Soldiers with Soft-boiled Egg Hollandaise (page 254) from the same chapter.

The Pea Soup is is not only the essence of high summer when fresh garden peas are in season from early June until late July but also the essence of spring since frozen peas are available year round and work perfectly well in this soup.

The soup base is made with onions, garlic and celery (but I like to opt for a good-sized leek here), peas (I used small sized frozen peas here), and a nice homemade Chicken Stock (page 192) or Vegetable Stock (page 266). I usually throw in a few potatoes (to thicken) and like to finish the soup off with either a bit of crème fraîche or sour cream. I also like to add a bit of watercress as a garnish and also for taste.

The watercress leaves have a mustardy bite that pairs particularly well with the sweet peas. Plus the pretty leaves add a nice visual accent to this bright green soup that I love to serve in my collection of green cappucino and espresso cups.

The most photogenic dish in my book were the Asparagus Sodiers with Soft-Boiled Egg Hollandaise. This is such a fun way to enjoy fresh seasonal asparagus and an eggy Hollandaise. The day I made this dish I also served bi-colored radishes together with the very shortly steamed asparagus.

All you need to do for this recipe is to steam the asparagus after you trimmed them and boil some fresh eggs for about four minutes. Then drain the asparagus as soon as it is cooked. Then you crack the eggs, take off the top and drop a little butter, a few drops of cider vinegar and some salt and pepper into the yolk, stir with the asparagus, dip and enjoy! What a wonderful, easy, fun recipe from this book!

In summary, we loved each and every recipe this month – again, a lot of familiar River Cottage flavors, a lot of well-known techniques and reliable, family-style recipes that we all enjoy so much.

And again, this is still fun and I still love cooking from the River Cottage family of cookbooks!

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the wonderfully talented and enthusiastic members of #The Cottage Cooking Club and their wonderful posts can convince you to get a copy of this lovely book or both books. Better yet, do make sure to join us in this cooking adventure.

To see how wonderful all the dishes from my fellow Cottage Cooking Club members turned out this month, please make sure to take a look at their personal links and to do so, just visit here.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Bunny Sugar Cookies - Happy Easter!

These adorable Easter Bunny Sugar Cookies will hop off the plate faster than you can bake them. And they happen to make a great Easter activity for kids or an extra special Easter gift for friends and family.

Why not celebrate the Easter holiday with a special Sunday lunch, lots of chocolate eggs, and springtime baking. If possible, enjoy time with friends and family over the long weekend and nibble away on some of these cute bunny cookies.

Easter Bunny Sugar Cookies
(Author: The Kitchen Lioness)

Ingredients for the Cookies
  • 300 grams (2 1/2 cups) AP (plain) flour
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 175 grams (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 200 grams (1 cup) fine baking (caster) sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla sugar
  • 1 egg (L), free range or organic
  • grated zest of an organic lemon

For decoration (optional)
  • eggwash
  • some raisins for the eyes
  • pearl sugar*

NOTE: *Pearl sugar is a type of specialty sugar that is often used in baking in Scandinavia and other countries in Northern Europe. Despite the name, this sugar is not completely round like pearls. It is compacted, which is why it does not melt easily during baking. Mixing pearl sugar into baked goods will give them extra sweetness and crunch. Sprinkling it over the top of a bread or pastry will do the same, and will also give your baked good a nice finishing look. If you live outside of Europe, you can find it at some specialty cooking stores, like Sur La Table, and at Scandinavian import stores, like the food section at Ikea. And, of course, you can also find it online.

Preparation of the Cookies
  1. Sift together the flour and salt. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. 
  3. Reduce the speed to medium, slowly add the sugar and the vanilla sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Add the egg and lemon zest and beat for 1 minute, stopping the mixer once to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. Add half of the flour mixture. Beat on low speed until most of the flour has been absorbed, about 1 minute. Add the remaining flour and continue beating until all of the flour has been absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into 2 equal balls. Shape each into a disk and wrap separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  7. When you are ready to bake the cookies, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperaturte for 10 to 30 minutes. 
  8. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough, one disk at a time.
  9. Preheat your oven to 175° Celsius (350° Fahrenheit).
  10. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment paper.
  11. Cut out bunnies, using your favorite Easter bunny cookie cutter. 
  12. Using a small offset spatula, transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 2.5 cm (1 inch) apart.
  13. Reroll the scraps and cut out more cookies.
  14. Repeat with the second dough disk.
  15. Brush the cookies with some eggwash and sprinkle with a pearl sugar, and use cut-up raisins for the eyes.
  16. Bake the cookies until golden brown around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes.
  17. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the racks and let cool completely.
  18. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

These cute buttery vanilla sugar cookies are easy to make and take very little time. And they do make the perfect Easter treat.

I would like to take this opportunity and wish all of my friends, followers, readers, and their families a very Happy Easter! Frohe Ostern! Buona Pasqua! Bonnes Pâques! Vrolijk Pasen! 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Monthly Cooking Event for a Cause - Über den Tellerrand kochen, Bonn (Germany)

Here is just a little up-date of another delightful cooking event to better the integration of immigrants and refugees from many different countries into German society. As a group, we meet up every first Sunday of the month to cook and bake together in the afternoon and then enjoy the fruits of our labor in the evening. 

On Sunday we enjoyed various dishes including "Ojji" (Syrian Omelette with herbs), "Hummus" (Chickpea Dip), "Ful Mudammas" (Fava Beans with Tahini) and a "Chopped Vegetable Salad" and "Arabic Flatbread".

And for dessert we baked Easter-themed "Sugar Cookie Cutouts", we dyed lots of Easter eggs, baked an "Apple Tarte with Fragipane" and enjoyed "Easter Bunny and Lamb Marble Cakes".

As always, hugh thanks to all the wonderful participants, sponsors, organization team (including Anke Krämer and Sara Meiers) and the Katholische Familienbildungsstätte Bonn for letting us cook and bake in their wonderful kitchen!

We will be cooking and baking again on the first Sunday in May - be prepared to learn more about some delicious food and seasonal desserts from many different parts of the world!

For more information, feel free to take a look at the FB page for the Über den Tellerrand kochen, Bonn group here and follow along, if you like!