The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Harper Collins, 2001.
I ignored the River Cottage tv series for quite a while and then it reeled me in. The appeal is simple but delicious food made with fresh seasonal produce. I bought the River Cottage Cookbook, read and enjoyed it and left it to languish on the shelf. I have sometimes referred to the River Cottage Chutney on p117 when a work colleague brought me in the excess bounty from his garden. Note you will never find me adding sultanas to chutney. You make up your own mind. However, pigs’ trotters, ears, beef tail, tripe, hare, pigeon, not really things I have on hand. We don’t have the hedgerows you find in the British countryside and so this book has sat unused, until last winter when my friend, Helen, sent me home from her olive grove in the Wairarapa with a bucketful of nettles. Out came the River Cottage Cookbook. You will find the perfect soup recipe on p422, (the page following jugged hare). Helen made the recipe from the River Cottage website but it was a bit more fancy. This version is a quick after-work soup.
For four people you will want around ½ a carrier bag of nettle leaves. That’s about 100g and as we don’t have carrier bags these days you will probably collect them in a bucket. Whatever you do, wear gloves and do not touch the nettles. Wash them thoroughly, remembering to keep your gloves on. I wear long rubber gloves with my sleeves pulled down to ensure no stray leaves attack me.
Melt a knob of butter in a large soup pan and sweat finely chopped onion, celery stick, garlic and a finely sliced leek, for about 10 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add a tbsp of basmati rice and 750g stock, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the nettles, stirring as they wilt and cook another few minutes. Season to taste. Once cooked the nettles are safe to eat. Helen’s husband was concerned they would sting his tongue. I was a little uncertain myself. Puree the soup and serve with a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkling of snipped chives. Joy in a bowl.
I acquired a bag of Jerusalem artichokes along with the nettles and Hugh came up trumps with a recipe for a nettle and Jerusalem artichoke gratin. This can be found in River Cottage Everyday on p 320. I have made this many times, substituting chard for the nettles.
There were no nettles this year, but I did get out the book and three more delicious meals.
I made the beetroot soup with feta on p92. I am a fan of beetroot soup, in fact all things beetroot, and this is delicious. The feta is a nice touch.
Then I made radicchio and chilli pasta. This reminded me of the radicchio sauce I had with gnocchi in Verona. I used pipe rigati which is a ridged hollow curved pasta that looks similar to a snail shell. It has a wide opening at one end and the other end has a flattened opening so that it is mostly closed. It pairs well with cream sauces.
Lastly we had celeriac and chilli gratin. Not really a recipe. Thinly sliced celeriac tossed with chilli flakes, finely chopped garlic, cream and a couple of tbsp olive oil then layered in a lightly oiled dish and baked at 190° for 40-50 minutes. I served this alongside leeks with greens from Everyday p300. This involves cooking sliced leeks in butter and oil until soft and adding thinly sliced greens which you wilt down to a consistency that you like. This has long been a staple in our house and I use any green I have on hand.
Now I have made four recipes from this book, five if you count the chutney. The book contains 447 pages. Shall I pass it on to a more deserving cook?