Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Tyranny of the Veg Box

My Veg Box is a convenience and comfort.  Generally, I won’t know what’s in it beforehand.  It seems to land effortlessly on my doorstep – requires no shopping list, queuing, nor lugging kilos of potatoes.  I like that, it’s like receiving a present.  And then I’m left to buy the fun stuff – cheese, nuts and spices from the shops I pass and enjoy.

As the week goes on, The Box becomes a bit of a bully.  Once the aubergines and spinach, peppers, and winter leaves have been used up, I am left with the less glamorous stuff.  This week there are two cauliflowers lurking.  And they must be cooked, before more arrive in their seasonal frenzy with my next delivery. One must respond to those last remaining vegetables or they will become waste, and waste is so insulting - to the crop, the growers, to those who struggle to feed themselves.

This evening, my goddaughter and her boyfriend are coming over for a meal and French movie. Our French movie nights are almost a tradition.  Almost, because we’ve only done it twice before, when we watched Le Gout Des Autres and Jean de Florette.  Tonight will be Romuald et Juliette – a film I love. 

The cauliflowers have to fit into the evening somewhere.

I am looking at the Casa Moro cookbook (Sam and Sam Clark) as I feel like that sort of southern Mediterranean food.  I look up ‘Cauliflower’ in the index. I rarely have all the necessary ingredients to hand for a recipe, so quite often I substitute or take short cuts or simply omit. Even when I’m cooking for a dinner party (and am at my most obedient) I won’t follow a recipe exactly. One has to be alert to The Moment while cooking, with all the senses engaged. And that’s why - despite my open-plan kitchen and its sociable, relaxed intentions, I can’t talk and cook at the same time.

I make Cauliflower and Coriander Soup served with a pool of caramelised butter on top.

Once made, I notice the bag of spinach.  Spinach is one of the easy vegetables – so versatile.  Quite often, I make a pesto with it for my 10-year-old.  Predictably, he doesn’t eat spinach.  In fact he thinks it’s a prerogative of his age to reject it.  But I blanche it and mix it with pine nuts (or walnuts), garlic, and olive oil.  It turns out bright green, and more of a generous sauce than a lubricating one.  We all know it’s not real pesto, even he.  But we don’t talk about it.

As it’s a Sunday, I can do something more ambitious - something to compliment the soup. I make Gozleme, a stuffed Turkish flatbread. You can make any kind of filling – potato, meat, or cheese – it’s really adaptable.  On this occasion, I make a simple sautéed spinach filling.  Gozleme would be a perfect dish for the Root Camp menu. It can be prepared in groups, and there’s potential for playfulness and creativity in the fillings. 

And so the day goes on.  Still in pyjama chaos, slipper-ed, bra-less, with glasses steaming on my nose; and wearing my grotty T-shirt and ancient sweatpants, I am hooked on conjuring more dishes.  Those poor courgettes - I should have dealt with them days ago (they lose flavour quickly once out of the ground, and there they are a little spongy to the touch.)  Guiltily, I sauté them in garlic, adding lemon juice and zest, and a sprinkling of basil leaves - a good topping for bruschetta.

It doesn’t end there.  There is a chicken that I’ve jointed, and what about pudding…?
But the point is, The Box is empty – I’m ready for the next.  And the box tyrant has been appeased.

* Veg Box: seasonal vegetables, picked and selected according to what is available.  The produce is as local as possible.  Mine comes from Riverford Organic. 

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