February’s THIRD and Final Veggie-in-the-Spotlight: Salsify

16 02 2009
salsify plant

salsify plant

Salsify is on its way out until October, but we didn’t want our newest addition to the VegBox Recipes tribe to disappear without a send off.

A member of the dandelion family, Salsify is really quite a versatile plant. As well as being pretty good-looking in the garden, you can eat the sprouting seeds, the young shoots and the flowers as well as the roots. The roots, once matured, have an oyster-y taste, earning Salsify its nickname of “Oyster Plant”.

Spotlight One – How to Choose Salsify

Salsify roots look a bit like a bundle of grubby black candles! Look for firm smooth ones when you’re shopping.

Spotlight Two – How to Store Salsify

Best kept in the fridge in a sealed container.

Spotlight Three – How to Prepare Salsify

Salsify discolours very quickly once peeled, so it’s best to peel and chop it quickly, dropping the chunks into water that has either lemon juice or vinegar in it.

Spotlight Four – Salsify Recipes

We’re delighted to have finally been able to add two brand new Salsify recipes to the VegBox Recipes database.

salsify gratin

salsify recipes

Salsify Gratin – This recipe is the first we’ve added for this unusual root vegetable and has been generously provided to us from the lovely book “Veg: The Cookbook” by Greg Wallace.

Simple Salsify Fritters – This simple recipe, generously provided for us by Abel & Cole, makes a brilliant lunch or a special side for a bigger meal.

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve cooked Salsify recently.

The VegBox Team

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Save Our Cauliflowers!

16 02 2009

chartWe suspect that you, dear reader, are NOT a statistic on a Government chart when it comes to cauliflowers.

Because apparently sales are declining, forcing production to fall. Which in turn has prompted the Brassica Growers’ Association to launch a campaign to Save Our Cauliflowers.

S0, to shamelessly steal a slogan, have YOU forgotten how good cauliflowers taste?

We can’t believe you have, but just in case … Let’s get recipe swapping.

Here’s our contribution for an early Spring lunch-box filler:

our recipe

our recipe

Cauliflower and Chickpea Pitta Pockets

This is a lovely way of enjoying cauliflower. The chickpeas give the meal a nutty flavour and the watercress means it’s packed with nutrients. If you can get hold of tahini (sesame seed butter), it adds to the flavour and is also full of calcium and essential fatty acids.

What have you been doing with your cauliflowers then, cauliflower-eating comrades?





February’s Second Veggie-in-the-Spotlight: Rhubarb

9 02 2009
have you seen any this year?

have you seen any this year?

The main season for rhubarb is from April through to July. Unless you buy forced rhubarb, which may be around as early as this month.

“Forcing” rhubarb isn’t quite as cruel as it sounds – it simply means that it’s grown in the dark, which means it sprouts earlier, is more vibrantly pink and has a less intense flavour.

What to look for when you buy rhubarb – Make sure it’s nice and red or green or pink and free from brown mushy bits or obvious bangs and bruises. Go for straight, firm stalks rather than curling or limp ones. Avoid rhubarb with black or brown leaves.

How to store it – In a bag in the fridge for up to a week. Cut the leaves off first. Or freeze it. First cut it to a length that will fit into your container, and then boil it for one minute only before freezing, to help it retain its flavour. It can also be frozen raw or completely cooked.

How to cook rhubarb – Rhubarb isn’t eaten raw. It’s traditionally baked with something to sweeten it, and can be cooked either peeled or with the skin still on. It’s better to cook in non-aluminium pans because of its highly acidic nature. The easiest and healthiest way to sweeten it is with orange juice or apple juice. For really sour rhubarb, you’ll want to add sugar or honey.

beware!

beware!

Never eat the leaves – they’re poisonous! We’re not sure how poisonous, but we’re also not about to try it to find out!

Little Known Rhubarb Facts

  • To be accurate, rhubarb is a vegetable, and to be even more pedantic, it’s actually classified as an “edible stem”. Oooooh!
  • It has been known for people to use rhubarb for cleaning blackened spots from pots and pans. And apparently some people use it for hair colouring. Just a little known fact for you – not something we’re recommending you try at home!
  • Finally, rhubarb isn’t just a great ingredient for crumbles… it goes brilliantly with fish and seasonal meats. Which leads us on to our “Spotlight” recipe.
rhubarb chutney recipe

rhubarb chutney recipe

TV Chef and proprietor of The Foxhunter in Nantyderry, Matt Tebbutt, has very generously provided us with this new recipe for rhubarb chutney to share with you. Unlike all the other recipes we currently list, this is for serving with savoury dishes. Just click the picture to the left.

You can find this recipe in Matt’s new book “Matt Tebbutt Cooks Country“, and we’ve included it in our database courtesy of Mitchell Beazley and Octopus Books. Thanks folks!

If you’ve already had some rhubarb this year, we’d love to hear from you. Just use the comments box below.

The VegBox Team





February’s First Veggie-in-the-Spotlight: Chicory

9 02 2009
red chicory is common in italy

red chicory is common in italy

This month we interviewed Denise Tolson, who discovered chicory at the tender age of 18 whilst doing a grand tour of Europe. Years on, she’s still a fan with a rather tasty chicory recipe up her sleeve.

VBR: Hi Denise – thanks for spending some time with us talking about Chicory. Not everyone has eaten this veggie. When did you discover it?

Denise: I discovered chicory when I went to Italy aged 18 with my sister aged 17.  We were doing one of those ‘take a flight and see what happens’ holidays with hardly any money and no sense to speak of.  Anyway, we tended to eat in very cheap places where you ate what you were given. One day we got chicory in some sort of salad.  It was a bit of a shock as it was quite bitter but we definitely developed a taste for it.  In Italy you can get glorious red chicory as well as the beautiful pale green version you more commonly see in this country. I think Waitrose do it sometimes.

VBR: What was the first meal you ever cooked using it?

Denise: I started off just mixing in in with other salad stuff and putting french dressing on it which was very nice. I grew up on those round floppy lettuces with cucumber and tomato and plenty of salad cream when salad was on offer at home but after Italy I got a lot more adventurous.

VBR: What does Chicory taste like to you?

Denise: Chicory tastes quite bitter but much less so than it used to. I wonder whether English growers have bred some of the bitterness out to make it more palatable to the British market. Either that or my tastebuds are jiggered! I think it is a really pretty vegetable and it also has a good texture, especially at the white end so it gives a bit of crunch to your salad.

VBR: Do you know any strange facts about chicory?

Denise: I know that it is sometimes called Belgian endive which can be a bit muddling as to me that is a different type of lettuce.

VBR: Care to share your favourite Chicory recipe with us?

Denise: Sometimes I make a caesar salad with half little gem and half chicory and that is nice. I have two sorts of dressings that I use just with chicory and they are both Nigella Lawson ones: Mustard dressing and Anchovy dressing.

Here’s a full recipe for any fish eaters out there – it also uses beetroot, another veggie that’s currently in season.

use any white fish

use any white fish

Cod with Chicory and Baby Beetroot

VBR: So are you a vegetarian, Denise?

Denise: I am not a vegetarian myself although I was for about 20 years.  I have eaten fish for about the last 10 years and I have managed to end up in a family of carnivores, don’t know how that happened, punishment for sins in a previous life probably.

I studied nutrition at university in the early 80’s and I think that made me very thoughtful and curious about the food I was putting in my mouth. One of the reasons I stopped eating meat was that at that time it was factory farmed meat or nothing and I couldn’t see that those intensive farming methods could be good for either us or the animals involved in the process.  People used to laugh at me for that but they went surprisingly quiet after BSE.

VBR: Do you get a vegbox?

squash

squash

Denise: I used to grow my own veg before organic became available. Now I am a mother and work full time I’ve become very lazy and use a box scheme.  We grow tomatoes and squash in the summer for fun and because I am a food bore and want the sprogs to know where there food comes from. I will probably go back to grow your own at some point. I’m hoping to buy some chickens for my son’s birthday in the spring (really an indulgence for me thinly disguised as generosity).

I do use the supermarket for most of my shopping but I also like the local farmer’s market (only comes once a month sadly) and the local Saturday market.  I try not to buy out of season stuff like strawberries in winter and I only ever buy English asparagus because it is the best and we are really lucky to have a farm down the road so we get it really fresh.

VBR: How did you first discover VegBox Recipes?

Denise: I get a bit bored with root veg in the winter. We started looking at the recipe site to get ideas about what to do with root veg as boiling and mashing or roasting can get very dull.  There is also a great vegetarian cookery writer in the weekend Guardian magazine called Yotam Ottolenghi. He recently did a two potato curry using sweet potato (which I don’t like much) and ordinary potato, it was delicious and will become a favourite. We have also used organic meat boxes and they are very good.

VBR: Do you like the vegetables available at this time of year, or is there another time of year you prefer?

Denise: I’m more of a leafy / green veg / salad kind of gal.  Though I am rather fond of the old jerusalem artichokes as our friends know to their cost…

VBR: Denise, thanks so much for helping us get to know February’s first Veggie-in-the-Spotlight.

Denise: You’re very welcome. I hope the recipe goes down well. I’m off out now for a spot of snowball throwing!

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Over to you! Tell us what you love (or loathe!) about chicory by using the comments box below.

The VegBox Team





What’s in Season in February?

2 02 2009
jerusalem artichoke soup

Well for starters, SNOW seems to be in season!

Which means that here at VegBox Recipes, garden activity has ground to a halt and we’re considering wrapping the composter in bubblewrap and carpet to keep the bacteria warm and working. Whilst pondering, we’re making cosy Jerusalem Artichoke soup and working in front of the fire. Lovely …

Here’s the run down on what’s in season during the shortest month of the year …

Beetroot
Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage (white, red and Cavolo Nero)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celeriac
Celery
(on it’s way out, now)
Chard
or “Swiss” Chard
Chicory (watch this space for a special feature!)
Jerusalem Artichoke
Kale
or “Curly” Kale
Kohlrabi
Leeks
Mushrooms
Onions
Parsnips
Potatoes
(from store)
Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Rhubarb (watch this space for a recipe donated by our favourite TV chef)
Salsify(on its way out)
Spinach
Squashes (last ones from store)
Swede
Turnips

What are you eating this week?

The VegBox Team





Cavolo WHAT? I Just Want a Cabbage Recipe!

26 01 2009
Cavolo What?

Cavolo what?

Black Nero Cabbage? CAVOLO Nero Cabbage?

“Why don’t YOU try asking [for it] at your local Tescos? Make sure you get the facial expression down on your digital.”

So protested Jackaranda Rainbow in a recent email to us.

And we have to confess, JR has a point. If you get a veg box, or you have a local organic store, you’re probably in luck. But if you shop in a supermarket …

I have heard Cavolo Nero / Black Nero Cabbage described as a ‘sexy’ member of the cabbage family. Now I accept that for many people, someone’s unavailability can kind of make them sexy … You know, forbidden fruit and all that … But does this hold for cabbage?!

I put my money where my mouth is, and checked out Tesco online. Nope. Not a whiff of a Cavolo anything. Next I checked out a local, more specialised supplier of organic veg, and yep, they had it. And yep, it was, er, slightly more expensive than a Tesco’s white cabbage. £1.99 versus £0.31 for the same amounts.

So returning to the Cavolo Nero as ‘sexy’ veg theory, maybe it’s not just its unavailability that makes it such a turn on, but also how much money it’s worth. By this reasoning, perhaps I should be leaving VegBox Husband for Simon Cowell?!

Yikes!

steamy date

steamy date!

In conclusion, if you’re getting a veg box delivered, and it has some Cavolo Nero in it, brill. I can heartily recommend the Black Nero Soup (which doubles up as a deeply scrummy pasta sauce). I picked up (ha ha ha) 200g of our elusive brassica last week for a steamy dinner date and was not disappointed.

But if you’re buying your seasonal veg yourself from the supermarket, and you’re watching the pennies, the great news is that white cabbage can be just as delicious. In particular, I’d point you in the direction of our recipes for Mustard Cabbage and Spicy Cabbage Soup.

What recipes do you love to dig out for regular old white and savoy cabbages? Do share them and let us know if we can add them to our main recipes listings. Of course we’ll include a big credit to you in the text!





How to Cook Purple Sprouting Broccoli

12 01 2009

Broccoli is a member of the brassica family, like cabbage.

The plant produces green flower heads on thick stalks. They are picked and eaten before the flowers bloom. Broccoli and calabrese are often confused.

calabrese

calabrese

sprouting broccoli

sprouting broccoli

Calabrese is the large headed variety (see the picture on the left) that most of us call Broccoli (confused yet?!). The other is a sprouting variety (on the right), with individual stalks for each flower clump.  It is usually purple, or sometimes white, and is often known as PSB – short for Purple Sprouting Broccoli.

“PSB” is a delicious spring vegetable that can start to appear as early as the end of January and has a long season. It cooks quickly and is packed with nutrients, with a more delicate flavour than full heads of calabrese.

We already feature one recipe on the site especially designed for sprouting broccoli – Sprouting Broccoli with Toasted Seasame Seeds.

Now we’re pleased to bring you a recipe for Spicy Purple Sprouting Broccoli Pasta, courtesy of Abel & Cole.

Ingredients

*  500 g purple sprouting broccoli
* 1 medium sized fresh red chilli
* 2 cloves garlic, peeled
* 1 small tin of anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained (optional, if you’re anything like me!)
* good quality olive oil
* 350 g pasta: fusilli, oriecchiette, penne rigate or conchiglie
* parmesan or hard pecorino cheese to grate

Method

  1. Trim the outer leaves and woody stalks from the broccoli.
  2. Wash and chop into 1 cm sections.
  3. Cut the chilli in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds.
  4. Chop the chilli, the garlic and the anchovies finely.
  5. In a pan, warm 4 tablespoons of olive oil and add the chilli, garlic and anchovies.
  6. Sweat these for a minute or so and add the broccoli, season with a little salt and pepper, then continue to cook gently.
  7. Drop the pasta in boiling water and stir immediately.
  8. Grate 4 tablespoons of the cheese and reserve.
  9. After the pasta has been cooking for 5 minutes transfer a small ladle of the cooking water to the broccoli.
  10. Keeping over a high heat, add another 2 tablespoons of oil and add the cheese.
  11. Cook for a couple of minutes, then toss with the pasta and serve immediately.

So has PSB shown up in your box yet? If it has, we’d love to know where in the country you lucky folks are!

The VegBox Team