This blog is contributed by Madeleine Young, who lives with her husband & children in Haddenham. As one of Ten Mile's regular customers, she has some great ideas on getting creative with your weekly organic veg box.
Veg Box Dining (part one)
As someone who guiltily ignores 'produce of Kenya' as I pop perfectly manicured beans into my shopping trolley, the arrival of the Ten Mile Menu weekly organic veg box was truly exciting. The fact they were covered in mud was a thrill for my children, the fact there was such a wide variety was a thrill for me. In the box there were beetroot, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, leeks, a cabbage and a small pumpkin/squash thing (not peeled and chopped into 1 cm dice). All organic and all £15.
Now what? There were no labels, no instructions and no sell by dates, I panicked a little. Of course I buy vegetables in fact we eat loads but all my veg previously did come in bags, soil free, uniform in size, shape and colour. And they had a label so I knew what they were or at the very least I could google it. This type of buying however is what has created the enormous waste problem in this country from both packaging and produce, as imperfect but edible vegetables are rejected for supermarket quality control. I know I won't be ditching the supermarket veg for good - I love a frozen pea - but if I could use the contents of the box to replace most of my vegetable shopping then that would be a step in the right direction.
Now part of me was tempted to simply chop the whole lot up and boil it and call it a casserole but in order to get the most out of each weeks box and to increase my cooking repertoire I am going to find some interesting recipes to cook and share with you.
I am a beetroot fan, not everyones cup of tea but I think cooked in the right way you may be converted to the purple beauties. The veg box beetroot do not come immersed in vinegar in a jar. They come straight out of the ground ready for a wash and some cooking. My favourite way to eat them is roasted with a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. They are especially delicious with cold roast beef, some rocket and a blob of horseradish sauce. For a bit of a change though I decided to go sweet...
Chocolate & Beetroot Brownies
I have always been meaning to try out this recipe. I love beetroot, I love chocolate brownies and it just sounds interesting. According to the recipe these brownies do have half the fat of ordinary ones but still contain a generous amount of sugar and chocolate so not really a health bar. The inclusion of beetroot means they are extremely moist and I found more forgiving than normal brownies which can be undercooked one peek in the oven and then over cooked a minute later. They do taste a bit of beetroot - recipes always say they don't and it might be that my veg box beetroot had a stronger taste but there is a slight beetroot taste which I think that is delicious so I was happy with that. They are also have a rather pleasing pinky/red tinge to them. I ate them with warm chocolate sauce and ice cream (in for a penny etc...)
This recipe is from BBC GoodFood, I didn't wear rubber gloves by the way (living on the edge...)
500g whole raw beetroot (3-4 medium beets)
100g unsalted butter , plus extra for the tin
200g bar plain chocolate (70% cocoa)
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g golden caster sugar
100g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
Wear a pair of rubber gloves to stop your hands from staining, then top, tail and peel the beetroot - you'll need about 400g flesh. Roughly chop and put into a large bowl. Add a splash of water, cover with cling film, then microwave on High for 12 mins or until tender.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. While the beetroot cooks, butter then line a 20 x 30cm traybake or small roasting tin. Roughly chop the chocolate and cut the butter into cubes. Tip the cooked beetroot into a sieve, drain off any excess liquid, then put into a food processor or blender with the chocolate, butter and vanilla. Whizz until the mix is as smooth as you can get it. The chocolate and butter will melt as you do this. (Mine didn't so I popped it in the microwave for a minute)
Put the sugar and eggs into a large bowl, then beat using an electric hand whisk until thick, pale and foamy, about 2 mins. Spoon the beetroot mix into the bowl, then use a large metal spoon to fold it into the whisked eggs. Try to conserve as much air in the mixture as you can. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder, then gently fold these in to make a smooth batter.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 25 mins or until risen all over, with just the merest quiver under the centre of the crust when you shake the pan. Cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares (the recipe said it makes 15 to 20 but that depends how big you cut them).
Veg Box Dining (part two)
Potatoes. Potatoes Potatoes Potatoes!
So I have potatoes in my veg box - I don't know what type they are - does that matter? Normally I would scour the supermarket potato aisle looking for the waxy, smooth, floury, poncey variety (last one is made up) necessary to cook my recipe but instead I will just be safe in the knowledge that they are delicious, organic spuds, pulled from the earth not very far away from where I live.
In days of yore (not that long ago actually) every plate of food served had to have potato on it. We thought the meal was unbalanced without its presence, the plate looked a bit empty. They were also cheap, plentiful and filled you up.
In recent times with a change to peoples diets - an increase in cutting out the carbs, consumers becoming more experimental with other starchy foods such as couscous, rices, lentils etc... and now with the disastrous harvest, the potato is becoming a less common sight on the side of our plates. For this reason we need to start treating the British potato as something special not everyday and make the potato dishes we serve as exciting and delicious as possible.
I love them mashed with my bangers and roasted for my Sunday lunch. For a special treat Gratin Dauphinois is always a winner - not too much garlic and no cheese thank you.
However my new favourite potato recipe has been handed to me by my mum who, like many cooks in the 80s, went through phases in their dinner party cooking. The souffle phase was fun, the liver phase has left me traumatised, the Delia Summer collection phase has never quite disappeared. But my most fondly remembered phase was when my mum tried out the recipes of Madhur Jaffrey from Indian Cookery.
I was about 8 when this phase was in full swing and I never touched any of the food that was made as it was spicy and I was 8 and liked fish fingers (I ate my first korma at 20). However the memory of the delicious smells has lived with me and I have finally found the recipe for the crispy potatoes my mum made to accompany the creamy chicken curry. I can't tell you the title as it has been obliterated by oily, spicy splashes. We just called them spicy potatoes. They have a kick due to the cayenne. Without wanting to patronise make sure the tablespoons and teaspoons don't get mixed up.
Madhur Jaffrey's Spicy Potatoes
fresh ginger 5x2.2x2.5 cm
3 cloves garlic peeled
3 tbsp water
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
5 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp whole fennel seeds (optional but I would definitely add them)
Boil the potatoes in their skins. Drain them and let them cool completely. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 2-2.5 cm dice.
Thanks Madeleine! If you would like to get involved & contribute to our guest blog (on any subject within reason!), then get in touch! Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject 'I have something to say & want everyone to hear it!'