Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Cottage Cooking Club | May Recipes

The CCC cooking through River Cottage Veg
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

My choices for May are:
(not cooked in order listed)

Grilled Aspargus Spears with Lemon Dressing
 Spicy Merguez Oven Fries with Yogurt Dip
Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad
Cambodian Wedding Day Dip
Pearled Barley Broth 

Pearled Barley Broth

From the title of this recipe, I wasn't expecting such a substantial soup.

This wonderful creamy soup (without any added cream!) is made from onions, bay leaf, thyme, celery, carrot, parsnip, pearl barley, vegetable stock, and parsley; with added spices of coriander, nutmeg, and cayenne (the recipe calls for mace as well, which I thought I had...).

There were three topping alternatives to adorn this lovely soup: croutons, sautéed mushrooms, or simply drizzled with some cream, and sprinkled with a bit of parsley.

I chose the mushrooms. An excellent call, if I may say so myself. Not only visually, but flavor-wise as well.

The soup thickens up considerably as it cools, so it needs to be served soon after preparing. We had leftovers the next day, and I had to add quite a bit more broth to get it to the consistency I liked, which of course dilutes the flavor somewhat.

I also had extra sautéed mushrooms that I stirred into the leftovers. This added an extra delicious dimension to the soup. Next time, I would definitely add mushrooms to the broth in addition to the topping.

Spicy Merguez Oven Fries with Yogurt Dip

These tasty fries are made by cutting potatoes (I used yukon gold) into thick batons, and parboiled for about a minute (personally, I don't think this step is all that necessary), then drained.

The drained potatoes are then tossed in a spice mixture made of cumin seed, fennel seed, coriander seed, caraway seed, peppercorns, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt. The seeds and peppercorns were to be crushed using a mortar and pestle. However, if you have ever tried crushing caraway seeds, you know it is an almost impossible task. You will want to use a spice grinder (I use my coffee grinder) if using them.

The seasoned potatoes are tossed in warm oil (which was heated on the baking sheet itself in the oven while prepping the potatoes) and baked until tender, golden, and crisp. The recipe called for one-third cup of oil, which I found to be too much. Next time, I would just drizzle oil over the potatoes and toss - even skipping the warming of the oil.

The accompanying dip consists of yogurt that is mixed with some of the spice mixture mentioned above, and some crushed garlic. Just before serving, the dip is sprinkled with a little cayenne pepper.

The fries were not as spicy as I was expecting; next round, I will add extra cayenne.

These made a great side, along with the asparagus below, to our grilled market steak.

Grilled Asparagus Spears with Lemon Dressing

This is one of those easy, peasy recipes, that looks so elegant when served. Don't you love those? All you do is grab some asparagus, toss it in a little oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill until tender.

Grilled asparagus is a common side-dish here. We love it. I also make a roasted version. The difference with this recipe is, Hugh drizzles over a lemon vinaigrette, which adds a nice bright touch to the asparagus.

The vinaigrette is made from olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper. Shreds of mint is also added, however, I did not want to buy any for only a few leaves (I don't really ever use mint), so I omitted that ingredient (only to find out it is also called for in the noodle salad recipe.. oh well.)

The grilled asparagus is plated, drizzled with the dressing, and sprinkled with a little salt and Parmesan. Delish.

Cambodian Wedding Day Dip

I had my doubts about this one. As I was preparing the dip, thoughts of "this is a total fail" "I'm so not going to like this" were running through my head.

I couldn't believe that this soupy looking mixture would turn into the chunky dip shown below.  It seemed like it took a very long time to go from liquid to solid (longer than the thirty minutes stated in the recipe), and I was even tempted to stop at one point and just pour it over some rice - but I pressed on. 

The dip is made up of cremini mushrooms, oil, hot fresh red chile (I used an ají amarillo pepper), garlic, curry powder, crunchy peanut butter (I only had creamy, so I added some chopped peanuts), coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, and cilantro.

The mushrooms are diced and cooked until they have released their liquid, and all has evaporated - at which time the chile and garlic are added and cooked for about a minute. The curry powder and peanut butter are stirred into the mixture, then the coconut milk. The recipe states to let it bubble rapidly, stirring occasionally. I let it simmer, rather than boil rapidly, otherwise I would be scraping splashes of it off the ceiling (this may be why it took longer to reduce down). Once the liquid is reduced and thickened, the lime and soy sauce is stirred in. The dip is transferred to a serving bowl, and topped with extra chiles and cilantro if desired.

Hugh mentions that this would also make a great meal, serving it warm over some rice, alongside some steamed vegetables.

I'm glad I persevered. This turned out pretty darn tasty!! I would make this one again.

Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad

This recipe came just at the right time. Our lovely daughter had just challenged me to get five servings of fruit and vegetables everyday for a week; and this one was chock-full of vegetables.

Eating five servings of fruit and vegetables was not as easy as I thought. I love fruit and vegetables, and thought I ate a fair amount. However, keeping a food diary showed me that I was not eating as much as I thought I was.

Sorry to digress, back to this lovely salad with an Asian flair.

As I mentioned, this one was full of vegetables. I added plenty of hericot verts, cucumber, snow peas, scallions and cilantro (mint is also used in this salad, but I omitted it). The recipe calls for fine egg noodles or vermicelli; I used whole wheat thin spaghetti, which I thought was great.

The cooked noodles are rinsed in cold water, then tossed in a bowl with the dressing, which is made of rice vinegar, zest and juice of a lime, fresh red chile, garlic, brown sugar, sesame oil and soy sauce. This is allowed to rest while the vegetables are prepared.

Everything gets tossed together, and the salad is topped with a scattering of unsalted peanuts. Hugh suggests rinsing off the salt and drying the peanuts if you only have salted nuts on hand - which is what I had, but I did not bother with rinsing them.

It was a successful month! Enjoyed each and every one of these recipes.

To see what recipes the other members chose for this month, head over to the the CCC website and look for the May LYL post for a list of their links - or click here to be directed automatically.

We have been asked not to publish the recipes here on our blogs. We encourage you to go out and purchase the book and join us on this fun and healthy adventure!



  1. Your dishes all look so delicious! I was only able to get to two recipes (spouffle and the noodle salad) which were both delicious. I'm really interested in the Cambodian dip - it sounds fantastic!! Grilled asparagus is a pretty typical thing here - sometimes with a lemon vinaigrette even - maybe that's why I passed, but now I'm sorry I did!

    Great that you enjoyed all of your recipes - how fun!!

  2. Cathleen, you made the recipes I want to make but just ran out of time! I think eventually I will make most of the recipes in this book! Your photos look great! I like the collage at the top. I need to learn how to do that! I grow mint in pots. Several pots. It goes kind of crazy here but its great to have on hand; mint makes a lovely garnish for desserts. I'm happy to be cooking with you:) Take care.

    1. Guyla, I have thought of planting mint in pots - I really must do that. As for the collage, I use Picasa, a free basic photo editing software. Very user friendly - I have tried trial versions of more professional software, but became quite frustrated! Happy to see you here at the CCC. :)

  3. Hi Cathleen, boy you really went to town, love all the recipes you choose to prepare. Looks like you put a lot of love and care in your presentation. Great pics! The herby, peanutty, noodly salad was my favorite.

  4. I made most of the same recipes, even down to using the mushroom garnish on the soup and I love your idea of adding mushrooms to the broth. We liked the fries too and I learned the hard way that a mortar and pestle will not crush caraway seeds! The recipe for the Cambodian dip looked a little scary to me, but after reading your assessment, I think I'll give it a try. It looks like it was a great month for you and your photos are beautiful as always.

  5. Hi Cathleen, nice pics for the month, I enjoyed your tips on the baked fries. The Cambodian Wedding Dip looks fantastic and cannot wait to try it, so happy you persevered as it seems you got a nice little recipe to repeat again. I sometimes prepare barley soup with mushrooms so wasn't overly excited to try this one though it looks quite lovely. Great instructional Post. See you soon.

  6. Cathleen, wonderful and amazing photos of your picture perfect dishes, all of them! And you are really taking us on a virtual tour of how to prepare the different recipes, what to look out for and what is especially good and what not - I believe you would be one excellent cooking/baking instructor, dear friend! I so enjoy reading through your posts! The food you prepared is the food I prepared and it is a huge thrill to see your versions of the Barley Soup (with those lovely mushrooms added), the Oven Baked Fries, The Noodle Salad, the Griddled Asparagus and that Wedding Day Dip (which I believe also surprised me the most).
    Wishing you and your family a nice weekend!
    Thank you, again, for your support and participation,

  7. These all look so good - especially the pearled barley broth. Thanks for sharing!!

  8. Thank you, Cathleen, for making three of the recipes I had hoped to make but didn't get done. Your wonderful write-ups have encouraged me to "get to it" and I have promised myself to make the noodly salad and oven fries very soon. I agree with you about asparagus - love it, cannot get enough of it and Hugh's take sounds very flavorful. The Cambodian dip was on my to-do list so will remember your advice on needing more time for cooking. I loved the barley soup. I did not love the number of dishes and pans that were used while making it. I want to make it again but will have to figure out how to cut down on clutter. Such a nice job, Cathleen. Thank you for your efforts. I signed up for your hiking blog today. I will enjoy it. We're almost ready to get into the mountains - still a little snow covering my favorite trails.

  9. Love the look of soup, and the wedge fries, too. Oh, and the noodle salad! Yes, this looks like a great month, although it will be a while before Tucson sees the barley soup! 100° temperatures are here for a while! David

  10. What a nice selection, Cathleen. I also made the noodle salad (yum!) You've tempted me with the others, especially the dip. It's reassuring to know that it tastes much better than it looks. AND the oven fries look great too.

  11. Great looking dishes! I thought your comment about the 5 fruits and veg challenge was quite interesting. I think I eat a lot of them, but I bet if I tracked it wouldn't be enough....Nice idea from your daughter.


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