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.

Roasted tomato, pepper & garlic soup

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It’s New Years Day 2016; the start of a new calander year for us all. Despite a very late night watching a film with my family into the ‘wee small hours’, the body clock kicked in and wouldn’t let me have a lay in, sadly, so it was time to get up, have breakfast and create my first dish of the new year then!

Roasted tomato, pepper & garlic soup

Having bought 3 nets of reduced tomatoes in Tesco a couple of days ago (29p/pack), as well as a pack of Romaro peppers (reduced to 39p), along with a couple of yellow peppers and garlic from my fridge, basil growing in a pot on my kitchen windowsill and some fabulous basil infused extra virgin olive oil from Pomora that I picked up at the BBC Good Food Winter show in November, I set about prepping and making a delicious soup for today’s lunch.  Measurements aren’t an exact science here; it’s more about the flavour and your own personal taste guiding you through to the finished product, but to give you an idea what I threw together to make my soup, here’s what I used:

25 salad tomatoes

2 Romaro red peppers

2 Yellow peppers

4 cloves of garlic

6 Stems of fresh basil (stalks and leaves)

15ml Pomora basil extra virgin olive oil

Pinch sea salt

15ml Tomato puree

15ml Sugar

5ml Turmeric powder

Black pepper

15ml Balsamic vinegar

 

1. Preheat your often to 180℃.

2. Halve the tomatoes. Remove the stalks, seeds and pith from the peppers. Peel the garlic and put all of these into a large, heavy based roasting dish (my Le Creuset roasting pan is ideal for this).

3. Throw in the basil, then sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with oil.  Toss or stir together until all the vegetables are coated in the oil.

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4. Roast for 30-40 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and pulpy and the peppers and garlic are cooked.

5. Remove the tomato skins into a sieve and squeeze the juices from them back into your roasting dish (no point in wasting that delicious, roasted flavour, eh?!)

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6. Transfer the roasted tomatoes, peppers, garlic etc. from your roasting pan to a blender (I use a Kenwood blender jug attachment on my trusty Kenwood Major Titanium stand mixer).  Add the tomato purée, sugar, turmeric and a good grinding of black pepper, then blitz until smooth.

7. Pour the soup into a saucepan, add the balsamic vinegar and heat through, tasting and adjusting your seasoning if required.

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8. Serve with a splash of double cream and some lovely, crunchy croutons.

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The Pomora Extra Virgin Olive Oil was a free sample I picked up at the BBC Good Food Show.  It was not provided in order for me to develop or publish a recipe on behalf of Pomora.

Have a happy, tasty new year!

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.

Colmans Season and Steam Sachets with Crispy Sage & Onion Stuffing

Using some more of the ingredients from the kit I was sent by the Unilever kitchen, I created a whole tasty meal, which I’ll share with you here:
CHICKEN
4 chicken breasts, cubed
15ml Rapeseed oil
50g Paxo Sage & Onion Stuffing Mix
50g Flora buttery
4 Cloves garlic
1. Cube the chicken into bite sized pieces.
2. Place into an oven roasting dish.
3. Drizzle with oil.
4. Sprinkle with the stuffing mix and dot over with the flora buttery.
5. Throw in the whole cloves of garlic.
6. Roast at 180C for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile…
POTATOES
500g Potatoes
100ml Water
1 Sachet of Colmans Season and Steam Garden Herb & Potatoes mix
30ml Rapeseed oil
1. Cube the potatoes into even sized pieces.
2. Place the potatoes into the steam bag and sprinkle with the Season Mixture in accordance with the instructions on the back of the sachet.
3. Add the water and use the to tie the top of the steam bag. Shake well to coat the potatoes with the Garden Herb mix.
4. Cook in the microwave on high power for 9 1/2 Minutes, according to the timings provided for your microwave.
5. Remove from the microwave and allow to stand for 1minute, then drain.
6. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the potatoes until nicely browned all over.
VEGETABLES:
150g Courgettes, sliced 1cm thick
1 Medium red onion, diced
120g Red pepper, cubed
130g Vine ripened tomatoes, quartered
Colmans Season and Steam Mediterranean Vegetables mix
1. Prepare the vegetables as above and place into the steam bag.
2. Sprinkle the season mixture over the vegetables and use the tie to seal the bag, in accordance with   packet instructions.
3. Shake the bag to coat evenly.
4. Microwave on high for 5 1/2 minutes according to the timings provided for your microwave.
5. Remove from the microwave and allow to stand for 1 minute.
 Serve