Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Cottage Cooking Club - June 2017 Recipes

The month of June marks the fifth 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 five 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 June post is the Leftover Pork with Fennel and new Potatoes (page 212) from the chapter Thrifty Meat. I believe this is a recipe that a few of the CCC members have already prepared and enjoyed very much.

Fennel ranks as one of my very favorite vegetables of all times. I love the taste of caramelized fennel, its anisseed flavor particularly complements pork, fish or chicken so well. My love of fennel started with an Ottolenghi recipe that I first made ages ago and that made me a fennel lover at once – since then I have cooked fennel more times that I care to count. I love it best when thinly sliced, crisp, cold and raw or caramelized, soft and with a distinctive sweetness.

Add some fried new potatoes to leftover pork and sautéed fennel and you will have a new family favorite – if your family is like mine and enjoys the taste of fennel, that is.

This recipe has a very familiar flavor combination. Pork, fennel and potatoes. I used thinly sliced pork tenderloins here and I like to add slices of pan-seared lemon wedges, fennel fronds or chopped fresh dill for added flavor (and for looks, of course). I also love to serve green olives and chuncks of feta or goat cheese alongside. It is also a nice idea to serve a nice loaf of Ciabatta or baguette with this dish, to mop up all the lovely and very tasty pan sauce/cooking juices.

Recipe two is the Corn Bread (page 76) from the chapter Daily Bread. Corn Bread is a type of bread made from cornmeal flour. Corn is a major crop in the US and the southern states in particular use cornmeal to make a wide variety of dishes, including corn bread. Corn bread can include various add-ins such as cheese, spring onions or bacon and is usually baked in a rectangular pan and cooked either thin and crisp or thick, light and airy. It is served with all kinds of dishes, such as deep-fried chicken or bowls of chili, and can be used as the basis of stuffing for turkey.

I usually make the plain version but you can vary the recipe by adding other ingredients, just let your imagination and your left-overs be your guide. This is certainly a a simple, quick, yeast-free bread that can be put together in no time.

Recipes three, four and five for the month of June are the Digestive Biscuits aka Cookies (page 88) from the chapter Daily Bread, the Fridge Jam (page 50) from the chapter Making Breakfast and Macerated Fruits (page 336) from the chapter The Whole Fruit.

In general, digestive biscuits are hard, semi-sweet biscuits sometimes known as sweetmeal biscuits. While Hugh´s recipe calls for baking podwer, other recipes call for baking soda, believed to have a positive effect on digestion, hence the name. Digestives are light-brown in color and the ingredients include whole-wheat flour (I used part whole-wheat, part spelt flour), quick oats, brown sugar (the quantity will depend on whether you prefer them less or more sweet, sea salt, baking powder, and a bit of milk. You should always store the baked Digestives in an airtight container because any moisture will make the biscuits soggy. Uncooked biscuit dough can be frozen for up to two months, I tried it, it works like a charm.

You can either roll the biscuit dough into a log and chill in the fridge, then slice into rounds or roll out the dough on your work surface and use a biscuit cutter or a glass to cut out rounds. For chocolate digestives, place baked and cooled digestives onto a wire rack and pour over melted chocolate, then allow the chocolate to cool and harden before eating. I dipped half of the batch in dark chocolate – I always thought and still think that Digestives are wonderful with a number of add-tos, such as dark chocolate, jams and fruits or berries. It is fun to get a bit creative here.

Hence, I chose to serve the cooled Digestives with Macerated Fruits. Next time you have more apricots, peaches, strawberries, blackberries or raspberries than you know what to do with, just macerate them. This will amplify the flavor of fruits and berries. The process of adding sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (which is what I used) will give additional flavor to fruit and letting it steep over time is known as maceration. The fruit will soften as it macerates, and generate a thin syrup that is saturated with flavor. Because sugar is a natural preservative, macerating is a great method for extending the life of fruits that are less than perfect in appearance or just past their prime.

Fruit prepared this way can last for up to three or four days covered in the fridge. Apricots and sweet cherries is what I had on hand and the Macerted Fruits were indeed wonderful alongside the Digestive Biscuits.

And then there was Hugh´s Fridge Jam. Easy to make and also adaptable to the season. And just perfect with all sorts of biscuits, especially Digestives. Still loving those recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Please note, that for copyright reasons, we do NOT publish the recipes. If you enjoy the recipes in our series, hopefully, the very 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.

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.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tahini Cookies with Halva, white Chocolate & Sesame Seeds - Time for a Sweet Treat

The other day when our youngest daughter went shopping for groceries with me, she took one look at the items that were stacked high in our shopping cart. Her smile signalling content - did you ever realize, she asked me in a hushed voice, that the things weee buy are always sooo different from the things that a lot of other people buy. I nodded. I smiled. I looked at the halva, the tahini and other lovely things that I was about to put in front of the cashier and, don´t get me wrong, but her remark made me feel proud. She is nine years young. She knows a thing or two about food, about eating well and tasting lots of different foods - all with an open mind. All those foods and baked goods and all those explanations of known and new ingredients are bearing fruits, a thought filling me with joy that day.

With that feeling I realized that it was high time for a treat at the end of a busy day and my daughter went home with me and happily helped me bake one of our favorite cookie recipes. She knows how tó bake cookies, she knows the things we need, she knows how to whisk the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients and fold in the add ins. She knows not to overbake them and watch those cookies while they are in the oven and she knows that I always love to serve seasonal fruits or berries alongside freshly baked cookies. And right now I have another two trays of Tahini Halva Cookies in the oven that I usually take out of the oven before they appear fully cooked, so the very heart of these cookies remains slightly chewy.

To me baking cookies is like strolling through my comfort zone, when better to do something familiar than on a day when you are in dire need of feeling comfortable. These days it is something I rarely get the chance to do. Sitting down to coffee or tea and a plate of homemade cookies seems such a luxurious recreational pursuit when we have so much to do.

This is a lovely recipe, just right. Because these treats are baked with rice flour and soft brown sugar, they are tender enough to crumble a little, but well-behaved enough to put in a lunch box. They are studded with creamy white chocolate chunks and sweet halva, with a bit of a salty taste from the sea salt, hints of vanilla and cinnamon as well as a nice amount of black and white sesame seeds for added flavor and texture.

Tahini Cookies with Halva, white Chocolate &  Sesame Seeds  alongside wild Strawberries

  • 100g tahini paste*
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla (I like to use 2 tsps homemade vanilla sugar)
  • 1 egg (M), free-range or organic
  • 250g rice flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 200g plain halva, broken into pieces**
  • 150g white chocolate, broken into pieces (use the very best quality you can find)
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds, for topping (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment or silpat non-stick baking mats. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the tahini, butter and sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add the salt and vanilla (or vanilla sugar), then beat in the egg.
  5. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the rice flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  6. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating just until combined. 
  7. Add the halva and white chocolate pieces, and carefully mix these through the dough.
  8. Scoop portions onto your prepared baking sheets and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).
  9. Bake in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges.
  10. Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks.
  11. Let rest a few minutes on the baking sheets until cool.
  12. Transfer cookies to serving platter.
  13. Serve straight away (which is what I do) or store in a cool place in airtight container/cookie tin between layers of parchment paper for up to three days.

*NOTE: for tahini check out markets in your community that specialize in Middle Eastern foods  or try a natural foods store – to find a brand that you like.
**NOTE: for those of you unfamiliar with halva, as this is a Middle Eastern confection typically made from tahini paste, nut butters and sugar, you may have to go to a specific shop to find it but generally, it is available at larger grocery stores and at Middle Eastern markets. While there are many different varieties of halva available, such as the chocolate-marbled one, you should try to use plain or vanilla Arab-style sesame halva for this recipe. Arab-style halva is said to be the best tasting.

There are tiny wild strawberries also called wood strawberries growing in our garden - these berries are incredibly fragrant and taste amazing. So much better than those large varieties that are sold at most markets these days. And so pretty too. When they are in season, like now, I like to add a sprig or two to my serving platters brimming with freshly baked cookies, still a bit warm from the oven.

So, today turned out to be a day that smells of baking cookies, of warm sugar, chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon all set against a warm Sunday afternoon with lots of sunshine. These treats are sending wafts of delight through our house. Yes, this just could be the day I have been waiting for.