Tag Archives: courgette

In my veg box this week – Halloween pumpkins (well, squashes) and late summer veg

29 Oct

Last Halloween we left it really late to buy a pumpkin to carve. We went to both of our local shops and neither had any left, so we ended up carving a swede instead. Historically in Britain and Ireland it used to be swedes and turnips that were carved at this time of year, but frankly it’s a lot more effort, doesn’t look as cool, and not nearly as tasty either. I’m really pleased to have three squashes to choose from this year. I bought the large one in the middle from the market at the weekend, the butternut and the little one on the right are from this week’s veg box. Whichever one gets carved on Friday will end up roasted or baked over the weekend, and end up in any of the following:

  • with pasta, greens, chilli, seeds, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar glaze,
  • salad with lentils and loads of other seasonal veggies,
  • a creamy curry with chickpeas,
  • soup,
  • cakes or cookies.

This week I was thrilled to get some late summer courgettes and tomatoes. It has been such a long time since I had courgettes. For weeks on end I’d been saving a recipe for the next time I had courgettes (this one with fava beans if you’re interested) and I had actually given up all hope. so it’s a lovely surprise. I’ll enjoy them all the more knowing they’re almost certainly the last courgettes of the year.

Also received this week: onions, carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, grapes, bananas, oranges, apples.

“In my veg box this week…” is not intended as a product review, simply a description of some of the fruit and vegetables that are in season and what I like to do with them. I pay full price for my vegetable box and have no affiliation with the company that delivers them or any of their suppliers.

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In my veg box this week – stripy courgettes, lettuce, whitecurrants

16 Jul

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve written this series, and so much has changed. The endless brassicas and roots are being replaced by salads and fruiting veg. Over winter and spring the fruit in particular got very repetitive, often the same three things week after week, and now we’re getting soft fruits and berries. It’s so exciting! This week we have:

Stripy courgettes
I absolutely love courgettes, they’re one of the things I really look forward to coming into season. I’m even looking forward to my own courgette plants going bonkers and producing them faster than we can eat them, as long as the weather holds out and we don’t get any more pigeon attacks. I’ve got lots of old favourite ways of cooking them, from including them in scrambled tofu or pasta dishes, to preserving them with wine and oil. I’m also really looking forward to trying some new recipes, in particular I’d love to try making courgette cake or muffins. Luckily I can tell the veg box company to stop bringing certain items, so as soon as my own plants start producing more I can switch off the courgette delivery.

Lettuce
I have to admit I am getting a little bit bored with lettuce. We’ve had exactly the same sort of lettuce almost every week for the past couple of months now. It’s lovely and crisp and fresh, and it goes with pretty much anything, but the flavour is not particularly exciting and there’s not many different things you can do with it. Any unusual ideas would certainly be welcome!

Whitecurrants
I don’t think I’ve had these before. They taste very similar to redcurrants, they might be a little bit more tart but that could just be because they’re not fully ripe yet. I could cook these for a dessert, but they’re just as lovely on their own. What I particularly love is their translucency, there’s something about being able to see the seeds that reminds me of eggs or frogspawn – is it weird that I find that appealing?

Also received this week: kale, broccoli, cucumber, carrots, new potatoes, mushrooms, oranges, a lemon, apricots.

Mrs Veg is back

15 Jul

I’m finally back after my annual hiatus! I work as an administrator at a university and around exam time I’m so drained that I can’t quite articulate myself as well as normal, and I have to have a little break from blogging. I’ve not been sitting at home doing nothing though, I’ve been doing all of the usual Mrs Veg things (growing, cooking, and eating vegetables). Here are some of the things I’ve been up to over the last couple of months:

Our gardening so far this summer has been a bit hit and miss. The pigeons damaged our garlic and broad beans which was really frustrating, but I’ve replaced both with courgette plants which have now started producing. Courgettes are one of the things that are definitely worth trying at home – they’re easy to grow and they taste about a million times better than anything you can buy in the shop. Our strawberry plants are taking a while to get established, but we got our best ever crop this year – about seven of the little beauties in total. As with courgettes you just can’t beat home-grown ones.

In June I went to a vegan food event at my local yoga centre. I could tell that most of the people I told about it were a bit baffled by the idea (after all, vegans just eat plain tofu, brown rice, and kale don’t they? What else is there to know?) It was really interesting and I had such a lovely time. We had a really helpful talk on nutrition, which might have been a bit too scientific for some but as I’m a bit of a geek I found it fascinating. After the talk we had a beautiful meal including ful medame (made of fava beans – my new favourite), a vibrant green tabbouleh, courgette rolls, and a few different salads and dressings. The other people there ranged from veg-curious all the way to long-term vegans. I really enjoyed sharing a meal with new people who I had a common interest with, and the the nutritional information that I learned is really sticking with me and guiding my food choices.

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One of the people I met at the yoga centre seemed to be as interested in experimenting with food as I am, and told me about his adventures making his own tempeh. I had eaten and enjoyed tempeh a couple of times before but it never occurred to me that I might be able to make it at home. I bought some tempeh starter and some whole, dried soya beans and tried it myself. Mr Veg helped me make a makeshift incubator using a wire cooling rack set over a terrarium heat mat (pictured above). It was very extremely time-consuming but totally worth it. If you ignore the labour costs of the hours I spent sat in front of the tv dehulling the beans, it works out much more cost-effective than the tempeh you can buy in the shops, and it’s tastier too. I will definitely make it again, but with hulled beans next time. I will take pictures when I do and I will write more about it.

Last week I went to the V Delicious show at Olympia in London. I’ve never been to a vegetarian food exhibition before and I’m so glad I did because I had a whale of a time trying (and buying) different veggie foods. As soon as I decided to go I developed a really strong craving for jelly sweets, which I’ve not eaten for a long time because of the gelatin. When I found the Goody Good Stuff stall I was thrilled, and as embarrassing as this is to admit, when I tried a cola bottle sweet I actually felt a bit emotional, and of course had to buy several bags of them.

Another thing I was particularly interested in trying at the show was vegan cheese. As a former cheese fiend I find the idea of pretend cheese more than a little bit horrifying, but at the same time I’ve been curious to find out what it’s actually like. I tried several of the cheeses made by Vegusto, the texture was a bit too soft and homogeneous, but a couple of them tasted kind of nice. It was interesting to try but I don’t think I’d ever buy it, I’d rather replace dairy with more naturally creamy foods like avocado, tahini, hummus, or cashew cream.

Amongst other things I bought an awful lot of snacks (mostly Nakd bars, which are my absolute favourite), a couple of good books, kombucha (which I’m now thinking about making at home), aloe vera juice, delicious veggie sushi, Round Ups vegan wagon-wheel-style biscuits), tea, crackers, and some habas fritas. It was a great day out and I’d definitely go back or to a similar event again in the future.

Now the hungry gap is well and truly over my vegetable box deliveries are finally interesting again, and the “In my veg box this week…” series will resume this week.

I’m really looking forward to getting back into writing again, and to catching up with people. I’ve got a few recipes and other things to write about and I can’t wait to share them with you.

In my veg box this week – first courgettes and peppers of the year, pak choi

26 Mar

Even though I’ve been getting a veg box for a couple of years now, it’s still really exciting every week when I get home and find it on my doorstep. Some weeks, the mystery and anticipation of bringing it in and unpacking it makes it feel like Christmas morning. Today when I picked up the bunch of bananas and found my first courgette of the year underneath it, I actually squealed with joy. I know I’ll be sick of courgettes by September (especially as I grow my own), but the first few every year are always a real treat. Numerous gluts over the years have resulted in hundreds of ideas for courgettes, but I think my absolute favourite is to add them to scrambled tofu. Yes, courgette for breakfast, I’m a real vegetable addict.

Other treats this week include:

Pointy peppers
Another exciting first of the year. These long red peppers look like giant chillies, but are sweet and fruity rather than hot. They’re another great addition to scrambled tofu, but I think this week they’ll be going into a salad or pasta dish.

Pak choi
Pak choi is a glorious green! The stems are sweet and juicy, the leafy part is similar to spinach. It’s lovely steamed, and incredible stir-fried.

Also received this week: cauliflower, yet more beetroot, onions, pears, kiwis, oranges, bananas.

 

Two-soup Sunday, part one – any veg minestrone

18 Aug

I love soup. It’s healthy, filling, usually cheap, easy to make, requires minimal thought and co-ordination, and best of all, you can put pretty much anything in it. Making soup is a lovely calm activity for a gentle Sunday morning, and if you make a massive batch you’ll have a couple of days worth of packed lunch for work too.

Minestrone is the King of versatility. It surprises me that most recipes give a set list of vegetables with precise quantities. Surely it’s more fun and more practical to just throw in whatever seasonal vegetables you have to hand?! It does make my recipe look a bit strange, but that’s just how I like to do things. The point is, if you open the fridge and feel a bit baffled by the random selection of veggies inside, minestrone is a quick and tasty solution.

Recipe (serves 4-6)

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • a couple of cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (completely optional, but almost obligatory in the Veg house)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or any other herb that works well with what you’ve got)
  • diced fresh veggies – a dinner plate piled fairly high is about the right amount (or 2 carrots, 2 courgettes, 1 red pepper, and a handful of broad beans if you want to follow a list)
  • 120g small pasta or broken spaghetti
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 1 tin any kind of white beans (235g drained weight)
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan with the lid on, sweat the onion in the oil over a medium-low heat for up to 10 minutes, without colouring.

Add the garlic, chilli, herbs, and vegetables, and sweat with the lid on for another 5-10 minutes, again without colouring.

Add the pasta, tomatoes, drained beans, stock, and tomato puree, and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes, until the pasta and vegetables are tender.

Check the seasoning and serve. Top with croutons, cheese, toasted pine nuts, or pesto, or enjoy it naked.

This keeps well in the fridge for a few days but be warned – the pasta will gradually soak up the liquid and it will become less soupy over time, but still utterly delicious!

Growing vegetables without a garden

1 Jul

Home-grown vegetables taste infinitely better than those bought from a shop. Here’s my top three reasons why:

  • Freshness. The flavour of many vegetables degrades with every second that passes. Produce from a shop is at least a couple of days old, potentially weeks or months old. If you grow your own you can eat them within minutes.
  • Breeding. Commercially-grown vegetables are generally bred to be uniform in shape, size and colour, because sadly that’s what consumers and supermarkets want. If you grow your own, you can choose seeds and plants that are bred for flavour.
  • Ownership. If you put time and effort into creating something, it increases your appreciation of the end result.

As a big vegetable fan, it makes sense that I would have a go at growing my own, and getting the best, freshest veggies I can get my muddy little hands on. I’m not going to let a minor detail like not having a garden stop me. We did have an allotment for a couple of years, but it is too time-consuming if you work full time – I’ll leave that sort of thing to my Mum, who is retired and has two amazingly well-kept and productive plots.

There’s plenty of different things you can grow in containers, even in a small space. We have pots and tubs outside our door and outside our kitchen window. Here’s a selection of what I’m growing at the moment.

Broad beans and courgettes (zucchini). I’ve got these growing in two old recycling containers, with drainage holes drilled in the bottom. Courgettes are very greedy plants, so there’s a generous amount of chicken manure in there to help them along.

 


Potatoes. We’ve been growing spuds in a patio potato bag for a couple of years now, with great success. It’s really easy, you quarter-fill the bag with compost and nestle the chitted seed potatoes about halfway down. When green shoots start to show through, cover over with compost, repeat until it reaches the top of the bag (this takes a few weeks). As with spuds grown under the ground, as soon as either the fruit sets or the foliage starts to die back, the potatoes are ready. If in doubt, stick your hand in the compost like a lucky dip and grope around to see if you can find any potatoes. I’m growing pink fir apples this year, which are my favourite potatoes ever – they’re knobbly, waxy, earthy, nutty… heaven!

 
Strawberries. I’ve already mentioned that home-grown tastes better, but wow… strawberries are proof of this. If you’ve never tried a real home-grown strawberry you need to find some and do it. You will never go back to the bland, watery supermarket offerings again.

 

 

 

Herbs. It’s great to get home from work, think “oh, I need a bit of rosemary for my roast potatoes,” and to be able to snap off a sprig before I even get in the front door. Here we’ve got lavender on the left, and rosemary on the right. We’ve also grown thyme in the past. Any woody herbs should work well in a pot.

 

 
Garlic. If you want to grow something easy, garlic is a great way to start. You get a whole bulb of garlic (from a garden supplier, not a supermarket), break it into cloves and stick them in a bit of compost in a container. Six months or so later, each clove will have turned into a whole new bulb of garlic. Let the skins dry out and they’ll keep for months. Here you can see the scapes (flower stalks) are starting to grow. If you cut the scapes down, the resulting bulb will be much bigger, and you can cook with the scapes too, they’re a bit like spring onions or chunky garlic chives.

Harissa spiced roast vegetable pasta

17 Jun

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I’ve not posted very much over the last few weeks because I’ve been super busy at work, which completely saps my creativity. Things are calming down now, and I’ve finally got my cooking mojo back! I’ve been celebrating today with this simple spicy veggie pasta (recipe below).

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Recipe (serves 2)

  • A selection of veggies. I used onion, tomato, aubergine/eggplant, and courgette/zucchini. Other good options include squash, sweet potato, pepper or fennel.
  • Two tablespoons oil
  • 150g wholemeal pasta
  • 1 tablespoon harissa paste, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Chop the vegetables into roughly bite-sized pieces, transfer to a roasting tin, toss in the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and starting to brown around the edges, around half an hour.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and return to the pan. Add the harissa and tomato puree and the roasted vegetables. Mix well, adding a splash of water if it looks a bit dry.

Serve with some tasty protein, such as beans or marinated grilled tofu. We were feeling slightly less classy than that today, so we topped it with some vegetarian hot dogs. Yum.

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