Opening up a copy of River Cottage Veg is like being invited over to a good friend’s house for dinner after a long and tiring week of work. You might be exhausted, but you know that being with a few close friends, eating really good food, and sharing in laughter will rejuvenate you and set your weekend up for goodness. It’s the kind of dinner party you go to as much for the food and wine as you do for your friends. And that’s a compliment—to both to the chef and your friends. At dinner parties like this, the wine flows freely as the night lingers on, and you’re always amazed at how the food tastes better than any you’ve had before. Mom says it’s because food always tastes better when someone else makes it for you. With this book, I really get that feel.
The author of the book Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall is a kind of a big deal in the food world. He is the head honcho of River Cottage, the picturesque 17th century farmhouse that is home to a chef school, cooking classes, restaurants, and of course, inspiration for the 15 plus books that have grown out of there. They have cooking classes in bread making, cheese making, wild food, fish, chocolate, and even gluten-free classes, to name a few. There’s even a course that teaches you how to build your own clay oven and cook in it! What makes River Cottage so spectacular though, is their focus on locally sourced, ethical and sustainable food. They seem like the coolest people on the planet. Hugh, if you’re reading this and you’d take me on, I’d love to come and learn from you. My passion for food rivals M.F.K. Fisher’s (though my writing may not!) and I wash a mean dish. But I digress. This wonderful cookbook is a reflection of everything River Cottage… in vegetarian form.
With chapter headings like comfort food & feasts, raw assemblies, bready things, hearty salads, meze & tapas, pantry suppers, and many more there is something for every season, occasion, and person. The food, layout, and thoughtful collection of recipes all reflect what I imagine River Cottage to feel like—a warm invitation to sharing a dinner with friends. In this book of over 200 recipes (over 60 of which are vegan), I would make almost all of them; and that’s no small feat! More importantly, I would make most of them for my friends. In fact, I already ventured down that road with these Mini Kale and Onion Pizzas and they were a huge success. The pizza topping recipe is from the River Cottage Veg book. It was perfect. So simple, just kale, onion, garlic, and a quality aged cheddar. The pizza crust was (ever so slightly) adapted from the Wheat Belly Cookbook. Since gluten doesn’t always go over well in our neck of the woods, we wanted to play it on the safe side. There are many gluten-free pizza recipes that mimic traditional pizza dough, but I’m confident that this one is one of the best. For this occasion though, we were looking for something a little heartier. This dough has more of a nutty, cracker-like feel and is delicious paired with the kale, onion combination. If you can eat gluten, then you should definitely make Hugh’s ‘magic bread dough‘ with which Hugh will show you how to make pitas, breadsticks, and flatbreads as well.
I’ll be making these pizzas again, without a doubt. But with Summer just around the corner (tomorrow!), next on my list is Hugh’s pistachio dukka, the tahini-dressed zucchini and green bean salad, the tomato bruschetta, the new potato gnocchi, and the River Cottage summer garden soup. Confession: I already have my Fall and Winter lists prepped too.
- HERBED GLUTEN-FREE PIZZA DOUGH
- ¾ cup warm water (100–110°F)
- 1¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 cup almond meal/flour, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour
- ½ cup ground flaxseeds
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp fresh, finely chopped rosemary *You can also use dried.
- KALE & ONION TOPPING
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1.5 large onions, cut in half and sliced into half moons
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 200g kale (about 6 cups) *I used baby kale. If you use regular, remove the stems.
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Approximate 1 cup of grated aged cheddar
- HERBED GLUTEN-FREE PIZZA DOUGH
- In a small bowl, whisk together the water and yeast until the yeast dissolves. Let stand for 10 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond meal/flour, garbanzo flour, flax-seeds, salt, garlic powder, and herbs. Add the oil and the yeast mixture and stir for 5 minutes, or until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed and a loose ball of dough forms. This is best done in a stand-mixer, but if you’re up for an arm workout, do it yourself.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour. While it’s resting, make the kale and onion topping (see below).
- After the dough has rested, divide it into 6 equal pieces.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Place a piece of parchment paper on the work surface. Place 1 piece of dough on a piece of parchment paper and top with a second sheet of parchment paper. Flatten with a rolling pin into a circle about 4″. The dough can be sticky and I found it easier to roll out after sprinkling a bit more almond flour on it.
- Peel back the top layer of parchment. Now with the dough still sticking to the paper, place the dough on the baking sheet. Carefully remove the other layer of parchment paper. If you want, you can use a spoon or your hands to form a crust edge. (I didn’t do this.) Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and top each with ⅙ of the kale and onion topping. You may have a little left over. (I’d say that’s perfect for lunch the next day.) Top with desired amount of cheese and bake for 8-10 minutes or until heated through.
- KALE & ONION TOPPING
- While the dough is rising, shred the kale leaves into ¼ inch ribbons and set aside.
- Heat a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the oil until it starts to warm. Add the onions right away. Once sizzling, lower the heat and cook gently until golden, adding the garlic halfway through. This should take about 10 minutes.
- Stir the kale into the onions into the onions and cook for another 5-ish minutes, or until the leaves are wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.