Cookbook: River Cottage Every Day

Last week, I tested recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new American edition cookbook, River Cottage Every Day. Hugh is the founder of the River Cottage in the UK. His mission: “good food prepared from fresh ingredients—ideally seasonal and locally sourced—can and should to at the heart of every happy, healthy family kitchen”.

First off, cooking from scratch everyday can be really hard with a job and a growing family. I obviously don’t have a family but spending a week at my sister’s house with two parents working and two kids in school has given me a taste of the chaos. I honestly don’t know how parents can possible commute, do homework, exercise and make dinner night after night. Cooking from scratch everyday involves a lot of thought and planning, which can be really rewarding and fun but kinda exhausting at the same time.

I love the act of cooking but not everyday. I cut corners and sometimes just put a pot of whole wheat pasta on the stove, have a bowl of granola (I make a batch every 2 weeks) with fruit for dinner or reheat some leftovers and add a salad. I do believe in making whatever you can from scratch. Not only does it taste amazing but it’s not packed with extra foreign preserving ingredients and calories.

I tried seven recipes from the new book. The recipes were simple but do involve a little prep and multiple pots. Hugh does offer shortcuts like not toasting the spices or making the dough a day ahead. He also includes a whole chapter dedicated to the Weekday Lunch Box; the couscous below is a great example. You could easily pull this dish together on a Sunday night with weekend leftovers and add dried fruit or nuts. I think with any new recipe once you get the feel for it, you close the cookbook, make it your own way and the process speeds up. Below photos from each recipe I tried including my favorite new variation of classic fast food: Mussels with Cider, Leeks, and Pancetta.

Spiced Lamb Burgers: Super yum! I made the lamb into balls like falafel and sliced in half. A cumin/coriander yogurt gives the dish some kick.

Chicken Couscous, Honey, and Cinnamon: A great do ahead dish that could be made with leftover chicken. Perfect for a packed lunch.

Baked Chicken Curry: I could eat curry everyday of the week. This recipe is pretty easy but involved a lot of pots but once you got it all together it went straight into the oven for an hour; even better the next day.

Cauliflower Cheese: This seems to be the hot dish right now for families. Similar to mac & cheese but a bit healthier with an introduction of cauliflower.

Beet and Cumin Soup with Spiced Yogurt: I really want to like beet soup but I don’t. The cumin was a nice addition and would make a great starter.

Gill’s Poached Leek and Blue Cheese Tart: Similar to a quiche with a bit more zang from the blue cheese.

Mussels with Cider, Leeks, and Pancetta
Adapted from The River Cottage Every Day

2 pounds mussels
1 tablespoon butter
1–2 tablespoons canola, olive or sunflower oil
3 ounces unsmoked streaky bacon or pancetta, chopped
1 large or 2 medium leeks, white parts only, finely sliced
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 cup medium-sweet cider (I used white wine)
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
2–3 tablespoons heavy cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lots of chopped parsley, to serve

Scrub the mussels and remove the wiry little ‘beards’ that are attached to the shells. Discard any open mussels that don’t close when given a sharp tap.

Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the butter and oil. When the butter is foaming, add the bacon or pancetta and cook for 4–5 minutes. Stir in the leek, thyme and bay leaf and cook for 2–3 minutes, until the leek softens a little. Turn the heat up high, pour in the cider and bring to the boil. Stir in the mustard, then tip in the mussels and place a lid on the pan. Steam the mussels for 2–3 minutes, giving the pan a good shake once or twice. When the mussels have nearly all opened (discard any that remain firmly shut), stir in the cream.

Season with salt and pepper and serve in deep bowls, scattered with parsley and accompanied by plenty of bread – or, even better, home-cooked frites – to soak up the sauce.

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  1. So glad I googled weck jars this morning and found your blog.

    This cookbook is a real keeper; I love flipping through it. Have you tried the genoese sponge cake? I made it with whole wheat flour a few weeks ago and thought it was fantastic.


  2. I love that book – try the egg tartare (in the lunch section). We have that on toast for breakfast, but perhaps not everyone could stomach it at that time of morning :-) Your photos are lovely!


  3. Yum! Very impressive. They all look delicious.
    Your house is coming along great, I live right next door in Salem but hope to move to M.H. at some point.


  4. Note to self: do not read this post at lunchtime. Oh my gosh. Deliciousness.

    Love love love your blog! I read often but I think this is my first comment!


  5. Hi, I have been enjoying reading your blog:)
    I am a big fan of Hugh as well.. but never really tried his recipes (I dont have any his cooking books but watching his show all the time). As my partner is a vego, sometimes his show is too much.. like killing pigs.. but my partner and I love his countryside life like growing own vegetables!

    Your Beet and Cumin Soup with Spiced Yogurt looks sooo yummy!


  6. I *love* all of the cookbooks from River Cottage… not just the recipes but also the look and feel of the books. Looks like I will have to get this one too :)
    xo~ Hannah B.


  7. Hi Katy,
    I heart your blog so much, I pass it onto as many friends and family as possible in the hopes they will be hooked like I am. I have a friend looking for (the perfect) 10 ft farm table for a house in cape cod… Do you know of any interesting places they could look? Right now they are leaning toward Restoration Hardware, and that just seems, well, standard?


  8. oh, so fun to see the pics of what you’ve been cooking!

    i adore this cookbook, i made the couscous, fried halloumi salad, squash and nut butter soup, 5 root veg soup, one of the frittatas, and seedy spinach salad over the past couple of days.

    it’s all ridiculously good and i love anything hugh does (we’ve got the meat book, family cookbook and one of the bread books). definitely watch the tv shows if you can find them, they’re really inspiring and nothing like traditional “cooking” shows.


  9. Wow, Katy, beautiful food! I bet the beets would be better if they were roasted whole with the spices and then cut into wedges, with the spiced yogurt drizzled on top. I am dying to try using beets to dye with, is that something you’ve tried before?


  10. Hi Karia!

    I also have River Cottage Family’s cookbook which is also filled with some great recipes. I gotta check out Jamie’s too. I think it’s important to give ourselves a break and remember we can make super healthy dinners from scratch in under 30 minutes. It’s ok if they’re really simple and not every meal needs to be a mind blowing feast. Sneak in some fruits and veggies and you’re good, right?


  11. Hi Katie,

    So lovely to see a Uk book promoted here and i am a big fan of the River cottage books, to be honest i like Hugh’s programmes about chicken farming etc even more but the recipes are time consuming!!!! I work full time and my passion is baking at the weekends however throwing together something different, healthy and from scratch during the week is a real challenge…
    I think you are a much more accomplished cook then I am ( being very impressed by the pictures here) but if I can throw another book into the mix then it is Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meals. Hey, 30 minutes I can do after work and It’s fresh and healthy. The book is great and I don’t know whether you can watch the tv version of it in the states but they are really good.

    Hungry now…


  12. You’re very influential, Katy. I made the curry chicken recipe last night after I saw your tweet earlier this week. I did it the quick and easy way (one pot) and it turned out pretty good. Next time I’m going to add mushrooms and another can of tomatoes.

    Housework is a full time job!


  13. yes and yes. cooking from scratch–always feel worth it, often feel exhausting. i’m a big fan of leftovers–making things last just a little bit longer.


  14. These look fantastic! I’m a bit limited right now due to cooking for two little boys, but I’m bookmarking this for the future. I do try to cook from scratch every night, and it does require a lot of planning. I also give myself a break at times too, relying on leftovers, soup/grilled cheese, and other old standbys. It’s really hard to do every night, with the job and the commute and the kids. But it’s important, so I do try.


  15. Great recipes!

    I’m in the same boat with cooking from scratch every night… on top of a 15 hour work day, it rarely happens. But I’ve been marking some recipes and planning a bit better lately, so it’s happening more and more often!