This savory tarte tatin is the first recipe I bookmarked when I got my copy of River Cottage Veg and the dish I most anticipated cooking and eating. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's take on the French dessert is the perfect example of the wonders of vegetable cookery. Beets—the candy of the vegetable world—are excellent in the role of apples in this tart. Paired with buttery puff pastry and pungent shallot-parsley vinaigrette, they are sweet and savory all at once. Each bite is a treat.
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You won't miss the meat in this vegetarian biryani from River Cottage Veg. Served with fluffy saffron basmati rice, the base is a richly spiced stew of potatoes, peas, and carrots, fragrant with cardamom, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and coriander.
Caponata is one of my favorite dippy things to whip out for summertime entertaining. A tangy sweet-and-sour melange of eggplant, tomatoes, and briny olives, the dish plays well with summer staples like grilled bread, grilled chicken, and grilled...well, anything. This version, from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's version in River Cottage Veg, calls for an ingredient that I'd never thought to include in my caponatas: chocolate.
As Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall grumbles in River Cottage Veg, arugula has become too popular for its own good. His arugula-fennel-lentil salad is an attempt to celebrate the green on its own merit. Earthy lentils and the crunchy, anise notes of fennel do indeed balance the peppery lettuce, and bright lemon zest enlivens the mix.
Steamed fish doesn't exactly have the best reputation outside of spas and health-centric restaurants, but in the hands of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher, gently cooked fillets are anything but dry and boring. Dubbed "steam-braising" in The River Cottage Fish Book, their method consists of using a rich (read: butter and olive oil) sauce full of herbs, wine, and garlic to gently steam (and braise, I suppose) small medallions of sea bass (or most other white, flaky fish). The emerges from the pan tender and contributes its subtle brininess to the sauce.
In The River Cottage Fish Book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher offer a slight variation on the standard stuff-the-trout-with-herbs-and-grill-it method. Instead of picking soft, delicate herbs, they call for overgrown, wild fennel. Then, they not only place the floral, herbaceous plant into the fish cavity (with garlic and bay, of course), but also use the woodiest herbs as a kind of grate for cooking the fish. These woody stems smolder as the fish cooks, adding another layer of smoky flavor to the fish.
Roasting whole fish has got to be one of the simplest ways to impress a table full of diners—throw in a fancy British fish name or two and you've got yourself a winner of a party. Plaice is one of the most common flatfishes eaten in Europe, and lucky for us, it and some of its more familiar neighbors are being fished in sustainable manners here across the pond.* In The River Cottage Fish Book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher espouse the wonders of whole plaice, praising its subtle, sweet salinity. To bring out the sweetness of the fish, they roast cherry tomatoes alongside, which caramelize and burst in the hot oven, adding their own luscious nectar to the roasting pan.
Squid are kind of a gateway shellfish. They're not terribly fishy and they're relatively easy to clean and prepare.
Both salmon and mackerel are sweet, oily fish, so it's an easy swap to make. Whole mackerel comes cheap at most fish markets, and they're (fairly) easy to fillet following the hilariously detailed instructions in the River Cottage Fish Book. It's a unique alternative to gravlax that you can make with just a 48-hour cure.
Taking a cue from Cornish pasties (know in West Cornish dialect as tiddy oggy (!), these are little moon-shaped handheld pastries filled with savory ingredients. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall offers up three filling variations in River Cottage Every Day—leftover stew, lentil and squash, and chicken and leek.
Simple, beautiful, and and astonishingly easy to prepare, these Scallops with Pea Purée and Ham are a plate that you'll want to make over and over again until the last of the spring peas are gone. It's got "dinner party" written all over it—the sort of dish that elicits all sorts of oohs and aahs but doesn't require any sort of cheffy skills or serious time commitment in the kitchen.
The classic French version is studded with cherries and baked but the same recipe could be used for nearly any spring or summer fruit. This Rhubarb Clafoutis from River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall begins with stalks of rhubarb briefly roasted with orange juice and cinnamon. Once cooled and arranged in a baking pan, an eggy batter is poured over them and the cake is baked until slightly browned and puffy.
This Chorizo Carbonara from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Every Day combines Italian dinner with Mexican breakfast by subbing in spicy crumbled chorizo for bacon or guanciale. Chorizo is crumbled and browned and cooked pasta is added to the pan, mixed with the sausage nuggets, and dressed with beaten eggs and heavy cream. The cream, eggs, and juices from the chorizo cook in the heat from the pasta making, tightening up a bit and making a sauce that coats each strand of spaghetti with sauce that has great dairy richness and an insanely porky smokiness.
The salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and olives is wonderful on its own, full of bright Mediterranean flavors with just the right amount of heat, but once you put a slice or two of quick-fried halloumi on top all bets are off—it's almost like a Greek salad gone wild. Dipped in flour spiked with smoked paprika, the cheese has a wonderful crust and a moist, salty center, making it into something that you could easily serve (minus the salad) as an hors d'oeuvre or classier version of mozzarella sticks.
Most of us consider cheesecake something to enjoy after a meal, not first thing in the morning, but this Baked Breakfast Cheesecake from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Every Day is full of breakfasty ingredients such as orange juice, oats, eggs, and jam, making it entirely morning-friendly.
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"Searing the ear in my skillet was the most fun I've had with cast iron in a long time." Photographs by Chichi Wang One of the greatest things about working with offal is that you and your butcher will never...