Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Abel and Cole

Mon 15 Dec 2008

In the run-up to Christmas I was lucky enough to receive an Abel and Cole mixed organic veg box. For quite a while I've thought about committing to an organic vege box but I've never actually got around to it. There's actually not many reasons not to: Abel and Cole (and other vege box schemes across the country) will deliver to your place of work if need be, it's not that expensive (if you buy supermarket fruit and vege you are already paying so far over the odds it's untrue!), and often you can build up a profile that means you won't receive bucket loads of oranges if you don't like them.

Another plus with a vege box is the novelty value. If you shop at a supermarket, the chances are you're slowly becoming less aware of seasonality. This is actually a bad thing. The number of times I've heard people complain that the only vegetables available in winter are potatoes and parsnips shows how disconnected we can become from what we should be eating (yes, it's winter - eat something big, hearty and starchy!) and that we end up eating tasteless asparagus from Peru all year round.

Anyway, food politics aside ... the vege box arrived on the Monday morning of a week off. The first thing I noticed was that there was a lot of fruit in it. Actually - this means there were apples, satsumas and bananas: but a generous helping of each. The individual fruits were smaller than you'll be used to if you normally munch giant fruit from the supermarket but, as a non fruit eater, I have to say that the apples were really good. They smelt of apple, they tasted of apple, they were crisp and they were juicy. And this is coming from someone who eats about one apple a year (unless it's in a cake - that's the only way I do fruit). Andy (the fruit expert) reports that the satsumas were good and the bananas were really good - as they were actually ripe and didn't go from under ripe to spoilt in a split second.

The box also contained mushrooms, leeks, parnsips, potatoes, carrots, onions and a savoy cabbage.

While this is quite a lot for two people to eat in a week, the great thing about root vegetables is that they last, so we focussed (initially) on using up the more perishable items. The cabbage was used both as an accompaniment (creamed cabbage) and in a stir fry. The mushrooms were used on pizzas (this was our one bit of real wastage from the box - as Andy doesn't eat mushrooms and there were too many for me to eat all by myself) and the remainder of the vegetables were used in a variety of dishes - from mashed potato, to roasts, to soup.

A couple of the parsnips were very large, so they were immediate candidates for a very simple curried parsnip soup. The great thing about using parsnips for soup is that they're already starchy so you don't even need potatoes to help thicken things up.

Begin by softening a chopped onion in little oil (or olive oil and butter). Mix in a tablespoon of good quality curry powder (or less - this is very much 'to taste'). As the emphasis here is quick don't muck around with individual spices! Peel and chop your parsnips (I used two huge ones) and add to the onion. As parsnips will discolour, immediately add about 500mL of vegetable stock or plain water. Bring the mix to the boil and wait for the parsnips to cook.

Once the parsnips are soft, use a blender or stab mixer to puree the mix. If it needs letting down, use milk, water or stock. Adjust the seasoning. Serve - perhaps topped with a little sour cream or a drizzle of chilli oil.

As I can't photograph soup ... here is a picture of the vege box instead:

Spot the monster parsnip in the foreground!

Because of the limited number of ingredients you can have this soup on the table in little more than the time it takes to cook the parsnips. If you have a little more time to play with, you could roast the parsnips (perhaps with some garlic) or you could play around with a more adventurous spice mix.

Not only is this dish vegetarian friendly, but it's also quite easy to ensure it's vegan friendly: stick to oil for sweating the onions and offer your chilli oil or sour cream separately.

Our vege box experience was a very positive one and we both felt that the quantity, diversity and quality of the vegetables would be worth the money - and I even ate some fruit! I'd definitely recommend a box for any busy family who finds themselves stuck in a rut buying the same selection of vegetables from the supermarket. It's also a great way to support smaller businesses.

Other soup ideas: cauliflower and almond, roast garlic, or squash. Really - almost anything you can boil up and puree can be turned into a soup!
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Blogger Andrew said...

This is the problem I have with veg boxes, as much as I would love to have them delivered regularily, I just know (being a single bloke) that half the stuff will just go off before I get round to eating it. I have seen the A&C van around my way though...

8:12 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

I think it probably does take a lot of discipline for smaller households to avoid wastage. I guess the way to do it would be to find someone to split the box with - or get a large freezer and make lots of soups and purees!

6:04 pm  

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