Wonky Veg Blogger Challenge with Asda

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As a youngest of four children to parents who turned virtually all of their large garden over the growing of vegetables, I grew up knowing and appreciating the hours of hard work, dedication, blood, sweat and tears that goes into producing a harvest of fine fruit and vegetables for the table, not to mention knowing the provenance of my food.  Dad didn’t grown food because it would come out of the ground looking pretty, but because he wanted his family to eat wholesome food that mum would then turn into the most amazing meals for us to eat (IF we left it there long enough to get to the kitchen table that is.  Pods of peas were generally found empty and carrots were pulled and sneakily consumed straight from the garden but us all; including mum and dad!) We didn’t have much of a lawn in our large garden, because dad said “you can’t eat grass!” Our playground was the playing fields, tennis courts and running tracks of the school 2 minutes away at the back of the houses opposite my parents’.

This time last year, after a campaign my Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty on their Friday Night Feast programme, Asda was one of the supermarkets to launch wonky fruit and veg for sale at discounted prices in their stores in a bid to help reduce this abhorrent food waste.  The public embraced this common sense approach and continues to do so today and Asda are now the first major UK supermarket to sell the Wonky Veg Box.  You may even have seen that Jamie and Jimmy featured this on Friday night (5th February) on their Channel 4 Programme highlighting the success of this trial.   Therefore, when I was approached to take part in the Wonky Veg Blogger Challenge in association with the launch of the Wonky Veg Box by Asda, that is being trialled in 128 of their stores I just couldn’t refuse!

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Having been sent a box of vegetables, which Asda say “could feed a family of 4 for a week”, which they’re selling for the bargain price of £3.50, along with a selection of food prep goodies, including a spiralizer, and a gift voucher with which to buy any additional ingredients to compliment my vegetables, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in with my challenge.

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Saturday being a non work day should have equalled a lay in, but oh no, not in my house when I have good food to prepare! At 8:30am I was already in my kitchen, my hair was tied up and my apron was on preparing to cook up a storm!

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Using less than half of the potatoes and a couple of the leeks, along with two onions, I set to making a simple but tasty potato and leek soup for lunch.  Simply chop the onions finely and sauté off in a little bit of butter, to soften, without colouring.

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Sliced the leeks and cube your potatoes and add them to the pan.  Cook out gently for another 6-8 minutes, until the potatoes start to soften too.

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Pour in about 500ml milk and bring to a simmer. Don’t boil it as you can split the milk.  Continue to cook until the potatoes are cooked through.

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Using a stick blender or a food processor, blend the soup until you get the desired consistency; be that with chunks or smooth.  Season with salt and white pepper to taste, and adjust the thickness if necessary with some boiling water.  Serve, with a little bit of sprinkled paprika over the top and some crusty bread. (You can even cube and fry some stale bread into croutons.  Don’t throw that stale bread away; it’s great for making croutons or for blitzing into breadcrumbs, you know).

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Dinner was next on my thought trail, so for this I decided I’d go for a hearty casserole.  The weather this weekend was wet, cold and blustery, so what would be better later than battening down the hatches, and tucking into some delicious and comforting food?  To go with the Wonky Veg from my box, I bought 3 sirloin steaks and a bottle of Merlot red wine, some chopped tomatoes, double cream, Thyme and gruyere cheese.

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Cut the steak into bite sized cubes.  Add to a hot frying pan to which you’ve added a splash of oil and sear all over to colour the outside for that added ‘oompf’ of flavour.

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Remove the browned steak to a casserole dish and set aside.

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Meanwhile cut your carrots, leeks, parsnip, red and green peppers and a couple more onions into even sized pieces and add to the pan that you’ve just removed your steak from (don’t let those amazing pan flavours go to waste!).  Add half a bottle of red wine and cook out for 5 minutes to remove the alcohol, scraping the bottom of your pan with a wooden spoon to release those unctuous meat juices from the bottom.

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Pour in a tin/carton of chopped tomatoes and a generous pinch of thyme which you need to have chopped.  Bring to a simmer.

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Pour the tomatoes and vegetables over the steak pieces in your casserole dish and stir together.

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Put the lid on and cook slowly about 150℃ for 3-3½ hours.  (You could even put this into a slow cooker and let it (as my mum would say) ‘chuggle’ away all day while you get on with whatever you have to get on with.

For my veg accompaniment, I chose to make a take on a potato dauphinoise using the addition of one of the two Savoy cabbages from my box to the equation.

In a large saucepan, add about 300ml double cream, 100ml milk, some grated nutmeg and a clove of garlic (that you’ve bashed open, rather than crushed).  Bring this to a gentle simmer whilst you prepare the potatoes and cabbage.

Peel and slice the potatoes thinly (I use a hand held Oxo Good Grips Mandoline on setting 2 for this) remove the central stalk and and finely shred the cabbage.  Butter the inside of a dish that you’ll be using and add a layer of potatoes, overlapping each slice to create ‘swirls’.  Top this with the shredded cabbage and another layer of the potato slices.  Press down to compress to form a potato/cabbage ‘cake’.

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Add salt and pepper to taste to your cream and milk mixture, then remove (discard) the ‘bashed’ garlic clove and pour this mixture over your potato and cabbage.  Sprinkle generously with some grated Gruyere cheese.  Butter the inside of some tin foil (to stop it sticking to the cheese) and place this over the top of your dauphinoise.

 

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Leaving the casserole in the oven, turn it up to 180℃, place the dauphinoise in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes.  Remove the foil and allow to brown for another 10-15 minutes until the top is golden and the potatoes are cooked when poked with a knife blade.

Serve and enjoy!

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My box certainly won’t be feeding this family of 3 for a week (we’re one member of the family down as he is away at University), but we did get lunch and dinner out of the box, with leftovers of each dish to enjoy tomorrow night.

This is all I have left in my box:  One large and wonky cucumber, five onions, one red pepper and a savoy cabbage.  Not bad for £3.50 eh?  I’ll certainly be buying one in the future!

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I was invited to join the campaign and was sent the Wonky Veg box, along with the vegetable preparation tools and an Asda gift voucher to buy additional ingredients.

My Perfect Barbecue

It’s getting to that time of year, when the evenings are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer and we’re all realising that we can cook and enjoy the outdoors again.  With this in mind, and in association with the Central England Co-Operative, I’ve come up with some delicious ideas that you can use to cook yourself a tasty meal to enjoy outdoors with a cheeky glass of wine (or two).

Beef Burgers:
500g Lean minced beef
1 medium red onion
¼ Red pepper
¼ Orange pepper
Bunch coriander
Salt and Pepper to season
30ml Double Cream

1. Finely chop the onion and the peppers.
2. Chop the coriander.
3. Place the mince, chopped onions, pepper and coriander into a large bowl.
4. Add the cream and season with salt and pepper.

5. Mix together thoroughly and shape into 6 burgers.

6. Chill for 10 minutes in the fridge.
7. Cook on the barbecue until thoroughly cooked through.

Sausage Wheel:
1 Pack of Cumberland Sausages
3 long metal skewers (or use wooden ones that you’ve soaked in water)

1. Untwist the individual sausages and distribute the meat evenly throughout the skin.
2. Roll gently into a spiral.
3. Skewer through from one side, through the centre and back through the other side, evenly using your three skewers.

4. Brush the surfaces with oil and barbecue until cooked through.

Chicken, Pepper & Red Onion Skewers

1 Chicken breast, cubed
1 Red onion
¼ Red pepper
¼ Orange pepper

1. Cut the top and bottom off the onion, then stand it on one of the flat edges.
2. Slice vertically through the onion into 6 wedges.
3. Cut the peppers into pieces the approximate size of your onion wedges.
4. Thread the pieces of chicken, onion and pepper alternately onto the skewers.
5. Brush with a little oil and barbecue until the chicken is cooked.

Pineapple Salsa:
175 Pineapple in natural juice
4 Spring onions
50g Red pepper
15ml Cider vinegar
15ml Dark brown sugar
60ml BBQ sauce
5mm Root Ginger.

1. Chop the pineapple, onions and pepper.
2. Grate the ginger.
3. Place all the ingredients into a saucepan and heat through for 10 minutes.

4. Serve hot or cold with your cooked burgers and sausage wheel.

Soured Cream Mint Dressing:
100ml Soured cream
15ml Concentrated mint sauce

1. Mix the soured cream and the mint sauce together thoroughly.
2. Serve with your cooked meats and salad.

I served my burgers in warmed pitta breads, which I spread with the soured cream mint dressing and stuffed with salad.

I was provided with vouchers from the Central England Co-Operative to purchase ingredients to make my BBQ meal.

Meat Juices Gravy

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When you’ve gone to all the effort and cost of making a roast dinner with a light and crispy Yorkshire Pudding, using whatever is your favourite meat, what better way of using those unctuous juices than in a proper gravy, the way my mum taught me to make it.

Meat Juices from your roast (approx. 250ml)
1 stock cube/Knorr stock pot
45ml (3tbs) Yorkshire pudding mix
30ml (2tbs) Bisto gravy powder
200ml Cold Water
2 or 3 splashes of Tabasco sauce

1. In a saucepan, place your meat juices and stock cube/stock pot.
2. Bring to the boil until your stock cube/stock pot is fully dissolved.
3. Mix the Yorkshire pudding batter mix and your Bisto gravy powder into a paste then add the cold water and mix thoroughly.

4. Pour this into your meat juices and bring to the boil, stirring continuously to prevent lumps forming, until thickened.
5. Add additional boiling water, if the gravy is too thick.
6. Turn the heat down to a simmer and taste.

7. Add a couple of splashes of Tabasco and taste again.  Add an additional splash of Tabasco, one at a time, until you’ve got the most amazing flavour that you can imagine.
8. Serve poured generously over your Sunday roast!

*It’s essential that you stir your gravy continuously when you pour in the Bisto thickened batter mix, or lumps will form as it cooks unevenly. If you don’t and the worst does happen, then whisk briskly until they’ve been broken up. Lumpy gravy is not appetising in the slightest!!!

Meatballs with a Spicy Chilli Sauce

Similar to my other meatball recipe, I made this today but had a play with the sauce to spice it up using a Knorr Mixed Chilli Flavour pot.
2 medium Onions
3 cloves Garlic
Generous handful of fresh herbs (I used basil, sage, thyme, oregano & parsley)
2 eggs
100g Dried breadcrumbs
500g Minced Beef
Sauce
Small handful of fresh basil, sage & oregano
540g Passata sauce
1 medium Onion
4tbs tomato ketchup
1tbs Tomato purée
2tbs Cider vinegar
Knorr beef stock pot
Knorr mixed chilli flavour pot
Extra Virgin Olive oil

1. In a food processor, place the onions, garlic cloves, herbs and eggs.
2. Blitz until they form a thick, foamy paste.
3. In a large bowl, place your breadcrumbs and mince.
4. Pour your onion, garlic, herb and egg paste onto the mince and breadcrumbs and mix together thoroughly, using your hands.  Then wash your hands.
5. Without the need to wash the food processor bowl, add the sauce herbs, Passata and onion.  Blitz these together until they form a smooth sauce.
6. Pour your sauce ingredients into a large saucepan and add the ketchup, tomato purée and cider vinegar.
7. Mix the Knorr beef stock pot in 500ml boiling water until dissolved.
8. Add this to the sauce mixture with the Knorr mixed chilli flavour pot (I only used half of the chilli pot, but add more or less according to your own personal taste).
9. Bring the sauce ingredients to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer.
10. Roll your meatball mixture into small balls, about 2cm in diameter.
11. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and brown the meatballs all over.  It’s best to do these in batches so that they brown and don’t steam.
12. Transfer your browned meatballs to the sauce and shake the pan to coat.
13. Repeat until all of your meatballs are in your sauce mixture.  Try to avoid stirring the sauce so that you don’t break your meatballs up.
14. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add your chosen pasta shape. Return to the boil then simmer until cooked to your liking.
15. Drain the pasta and add to your serving bowl.  Spoon some meatballs and sauce over your pasta.
16. Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.