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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Remove the browned steak to a casserole dish and set aside.
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.
Pour in a tin/carton of chopped tomatoes and a generous pinch of thyme which you need to have chopped. Bring to a simmer.
Pour the tomatoes and vegetables over the steak pieces in your casserole dish and stir together.
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’.
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.
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!
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!