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.

Venison Tagine

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We love venison as its such a rich and lean meat that’s full of flavour and I was lucky to have been given a 3kg haunch of venison a while back by a colleague in exchange for making her daughter’s Christening cake. Her husband shot and butchered the venison, so I can be sure of it’s provenance.

 After boning the joint of meat, I divided it and used one portion to make a tagine in my slow cooker as follows:

500g Venison, cubed (you can use beef or lamb if you prefer)
30ml Rapeseed oil
2 Onions, sliced
2 Cloves of garlic, crushed
1tbs Ground coriander
1tbs Ground cumin
2tsp Ground ginger
1tsp Ground cinnamon
250ml Beef stock
400g tin Plum tomatoes
100g Dried apricots, chopped
2tbs Ground almonds
400g tin Chick peas, drained and rinsed

1. Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan and fry the venison in batches until browned.
2. Transfer the venison into the base of your slow cooker.
3. Gently fry the onion & garlic in the pan for 5 minutes until softened, then add the ground coriander, cumin, ginger and cinnamon and fry gently for 2 minutes.
4. Add this onion & spice mixture to your venison in the slow cooker.
5. Pour your stock into your frying pan to deglaze and heat until just boiling.
6. Pour this stock mixture over your meat and spice mixture.
7. Add the plum tomatoes, chopped apricots, ground almonds and chick peas.
8. Stir well then place the lid on top.
9. Cook in the slow cooker on low for 12 hours or on medium for 8 hours.

Serve with cous cous and a little fresh, chopped coriander to garnish.

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.


Virtual Come Dine with Me with Russell Hobbs and Chicken Liver Pate

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I was invited to create and share the first course of a ‘Virtual Blogger Come Dine with Me’ event for Russell Hobbs using one of their exciting, newly launched, Illumina range of kitchen equipment.  I was sent the 3-in-1 Hand Blender with has an RRP of £49.99 to try out.  This is a sleek and stylish looking black and stainless steel gadget that packs a powerful 700w punch of power.  Add this a coloured illuminated ring with colour coded speeds which you choose and nothing can be simpler!  It includes the stick blender; great for purees, smoothies and shakes.  The whisk that you can whip up a decadent topping of cream for any dessert or your smoothies, for a (not so calorie free) treat.  The 1000ml beaker supplied is great to use with the stick blender to make your smoothies in, whilst the 750ml chopping bowl is perfect for breadcrumbs, herbs, vegetables and fruit.

Using this easy to create recipe for my Chicken Liver Pate, I’m kicking off this week’s cyber Come Dine with Me party.  I can’t wait for the main course that Carmela’s creating for you on Wednesday and of course, as every girl loves, the dessert which is being created by Julie on Friday!

4 Shallots
100g Butter, unsalted
1tsp Oregano
1tsp Sage
1tsp Thyme
400g Chicken livers
2tbs Madeira
Salt and Pepper to taste

Peel the shallots and cut in half.  Place in the hand chopping bowl and pulse on speed 3 (green – Purees/Chopping) until roughly chopped.

Wash and trim the livers then cut into evenly sized pieces.

Melt the butter in a non stick frying pan over a gentle heat and cook the shallots until transparent. Be careful not to burn the butter.

Add the herbs, livers and Madeira.

Cook over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until cooked through.

Allow to cool for a few minutes then tip into the beaker.

Using the stick blender on speed 3 (green – Purees/Chopping) puree the pate until smooth.

Tip into an earthenware dish, decorate with fresh bay leaves and chill until cold and set.

Serve with crackers, a bit of fresh salad and some of my homemade Apple & Sultana Chutney with a Chilli Kick.

So, now you’ve seen what I started the meal with, please go and see what Carmela has cooked up for the main course for you on Wednesday.

The obvious beauty of a non-TV version of Come Dine with Me is that there’s no strangers sitting on my bed, opening my cupboards and looking through my drawers!

Thanks to Russell Hobbs for sending me the Illumina 3-in-1 Hand Blender to review and also for the Sainsbury’s shopping voucher to compensate for the time and ingredients for this event.