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.
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.
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.