Tag Archives: food poverty

In my veg box this week – long-awaited greens

7 May

It has been a couple of weeks since we had a vegetable box. Last week Mr Veg and I both took part in the Living Below the Line challenge to raise money for Action Aid. For five days we each had a food budget of £1 a day, and as the vegetable box costs £15 a week it was one of the first things to go. Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that I’m a huge vegetable fan (hence the name), so going from eating a variety of seasonal fruit and vegetables to just eating the absolute cheapest we could find was one of the most difficult parts of the challenge. I had to buy in bulk to get enough to eat, so the only fresh food we had was a huge bag of carrots, two bunches of bananas, and a couple of other bits. I normally aim to eat at least 5-7 portions of different fruit and vegetables a day, so it was a huge shock.

I’ve been interested in food poverty for a while, so to actually experience it, even though it was just for a few days, was a really important experience for me. It was difficult. It was frustrating eating bland and unvaried food. I suffered from caffeine withdrawal, general lethargy, extreme grumpiness, and my health started to suffer. I am immensely grateful that it was just five days, and it has inspired me to do more to help people who aren’t so lucky.

I’ve been blogging about the whole experience on the Living Below the Line website, so if you want to read more about what we did and why, or if you’d like to donate, please visit https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/amydittrich.

So after all that you can imagine that I’m so very thrilled to finally get a box of lovely fruit and vegetables. I’m always excited to get home from work and find the box on my doorstep, but I was especially so today. This week I’m particularly happy to have:

Muddy carrots
Yes, we have carrots every week and yes, we had an awful lot of carrots last week, but proper organic muddy carrots have so much more flavour than the cheap watery ones from the supermarket. Even if they only end up in a salad I will relish every bite.

Real potatoes
Again, we have potatoes every week, but after being stuck with horrible tinned potatoes last week it’s just lovely to have real ones again.

Spinach and spring greens
One of my worst cravings when we were Living Below the Line was for greens, so to have two different greens in one week is amazing! I’ll be putting one in a creamy pasta dish, and cooking the other with some spices, I just haven’t decided which way round yet…

Also received this week: coriander, a leek, mushrooms, onions, oranges, apples, pears, bananas.

Action Aid: http://www.actionaid.org.uk/

Live Below the Line: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/


In my veg box this week – kale, squash, blood oranges

29 Jan

This week we have:

Very popular with vegans, thanks to its high levels of iron and calcium (amongst other vitamins and minerals). I love it stir-fried with a little chilli and garlic, maybe drizzled with a bit of tahini dressing. I also love this kale pesto recipe from low-cost recipe blogger and food poverty hero Jack Monroe (please check out her website at http://agirlcalledjack.com/). I replace the cheese with cashew nuts and a shake of nutritional yeast flakes.

I’m really happy, squash is my favourite vegetable and I’ve been getting a lot of them lately. One of the fun things about getting a vegetable box is the variety of veggies we get. We have had three squashes already this year but they’ve been completely different. This week’s squash is a pale-coloured round squash called a Blue Hubbard. I’m not a squash expert, I’ve just found a really useful website for identifying squash. I think this squash is destined for a stuffing, either with quinoa and vegetables or with spicy polenta and sweetcorn, similar to my stuffed pepper recipe.

Blood oranges
From the outside they look like a regular orange, but on the inside the flesh is somewhere on the orange-red-purple-black spectrum.  It was a bit of a shock the first time but I love them. The more colourful a fruit or vegetable is, the more phytochemicals and antioxidants it contains. Yes, it might stain your clothes if you spill any, but it will stain your insides too and that’s really good for you!

Also received this week: apples, kiwis, pears, a green pepper, a swede, some rather large parsnips, potatoes, carrots, onions.

Parsnip and chestnut soup, for FoodCycle

22 Dec

So you might be thinking by now “Does Mrs Veg know how to make anything other than soup?” Yes, there are quite a lot of soup recipes on my blog already, but I want to use this recipe to tell you about something I’m involved with.

A few months ago, I heard something on the radio about people who were collecting date-expired food from supermarkets and other shops and using it to cook meals for the community. For a long time I’ve being growing increasingly upset by news articles about supermarkets throwing away perfectly edible food just because it was a day older than it should have been, especially when there are so many people in this country in food poverty. This was a way of combating both, and I knew straight away that I had to get involved.

The group is called FoodCycle, and I was really happy to discover that they have a hub in Cambridge, near where I live. In a church hall with its own little kitchen, a group of volunteers meet up every Saturday morning to turn a pile of fruit and vegetables into a three-course, vegetarian meal for around 30 people. Anyone is welcome, but the guests tend to be homeless, or elderly, or with learning difficulties or mental health issues. For many of them it might be the only hot meal they have that week. For others it might be their only opportunity to eat with and talk to other people. Volunteers either come in early and cook, or come along later to greet the guests, serve the food, and clear up afterwards. They can help out as often as they like, I go once a month or so and that’s probably average.

It’s probably no surprise that I prefer the cooking shift. We start off at 9:30am by looking at what’s been donated and coming up with ideas to use as much of it as possible, and then we work as a team to have the meal ready by 12:30pm. I’ve been four or five times now, and in that time we’ve made several different soups, curries and stews, one of the nicest lasagnes I’ve ever had, fruit salad, bread and butter pudding, and fruit crumbles. I’ve met so many interesting people from all over the world. Being a University city there are a lot of students, researchers, and other University staff, but there are people from all walks of life too.

This soup came about last month, when we had a sack of parsnips (no exaggeration), about four nets of chestnuts, lots of other root vegetables, and rather a lot of parsley. We roasted the chestnuts in the oven and then it took three of us what felt like hours to peel all of them, during which time we got to know each other. The resulting soup was warm and spicy from the parsnips, rich and creamy from the chestnuts. It’s amazing to think that the ingredients that went into it were destined for the bin.

I know it’s a little early to be thinking about New Year’s resolutions, but if you’re considering doing something to help people, or if you want to take up a new activity and meet new people, please consider FoodCycle or a similar charity in your local area.


Parsnip and chestnut soup

Recipe (serves 4)

  • one tablespoon of oil
  • a large onion, peeled and chopped
  • a couple of cloves of garlic, smashed and finely chopped
  • about 500g parsnips, peeled and chopped around 1cm thick
  • about 100g carrots, peeled and chopped around 1cm thick
  • about a tablespoon of dried sage
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • 200g peeled cooked chestnuts
  • a handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a low-medium heat. Fry the onions with the lid on, for about five minutes. Add the garlic, parsnips and carrots and fry for about five more minutes, still covered.

Add the sage and hot stock, then simmer without boiling (again, with the lid on) for about 20 minutes, until the veggies are tender. Add the chestnuts and parsley, simmer for a couple more minutes, then blend until smooth. Add more stock if necessary. Reheat, and check for seasoning.

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