Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Veg Box Company experiment: the verdict

So a few weeks ago, I jumped on the veg box bandwagon and received my first delivery from The Veg Box Company. £12 got me the couple's fruit and veg box, packed with more than enough to feed two people for a week. The challenge was this though: could I actually use it all in a week to create lovely, healthy recipes? Or would it end up shrivelled in its box, forgotten about while I was easily persuaded to go out for dinner after work, or low and behold, pop into Tesco?

In the end, I surprised even myself. A week after it had been delivered, all that was left was a single orange. It probably goes without saying, but one of the best things about getting a veg box is that you don't know what you'll be getting, other than that it'll be local, seasonal produce. Planning what you'll make therefore turns into quite an exciting little project.

Everything was used without too much ado, and it was actually quite nice to make meals led by the content of the veg box rather than having to think of endless ideas off the top of your head. All the produce was really fresh and high quality, and my only complaint would be that there was nothing too 'out of the ordinary'. Probably a plus really, in terms of getting everything used, but it would have been nice to see something that you might usually have to go out of your way to find. The content of the boxes changes weekly though, so maybe next time I'll be able to have a moan that I don't know what to do with all these weird and wonderful vegetables.

I made frittatas, stir fries, numerous honey roasted vegetable side dishes, a Sunday roast with all the trimmings, and on lazy evenings, just whatever was in the fridge with a tray of roasted vegetables. A caramelised onion and tomato tatin was a particular success. Yes I cheated and used ready made pastry, but really, who has time to make their own on a weeknight?

Recipe serves 4.

You'll need:

500g puff pastry
75g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and cut into thick slices
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
400g tomatoes, cut into large chunks (or use whole cherry toms)

  • Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan assisted/gas mark 6. Heat a heavy based pan over a medium heat and melt two thirds of the butter with 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook for about ten minutes, or until golden. Add 1 tsp sugar and balsamic vinegar, stir well so all the onions are coated, and cook for another few minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Heat the remaining butter and olive oil in the pan and once melted, add the remaining sugar, garlic, and tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes.
  • Pour the tomatoes into a tart tatin tin. If you don't own one, any large ovenproof bowl can be used. Scatter the onions over the top.
  • Roll out the pastry so it's slightly bigger than the top of your tin. Lay the pastry over the top and tuck in at the edges.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes before turning out of the tin. This is the only tricky part of the whole recipe. Place an upturned plate over the tin and quickly turn over. No messing around here. Edge it out slowly and you'll end up with a broken tart.
Serve with new potatoes and green beans or salad.

All in all, my little veg box experiment was a resounding success. Buying from local suppliers such as The Veg Box Company isn't going to change the world, but it will mean that you have lovely local produce at fair prices while supporting people who are passionate about what they do. Buy a box. You won't be disappointed.

Electric East, Newcastle

Anyone who enjoys getting fed seems to be raving about Electric East at the minute. Previously operating as Barn Asia, the Thai, Vietnamese and Cambodian fusion restaurant was a jewel in Newcastle’s culinary crown, winning the North East’s only addition in the Times Top 100 Best Restaurant list and a Remy Martin Award for Excellence. Sadly, I’d never quite gotten round to eating at Barn Asia before it closed its doors for the last time in October, another casualty of the recession. But no sooner had it gone the distance, it was reopened as Electric East. Same staff, same management, and a bloody good excuse to have an evening out...

This was a guest post for You can read the full review over at their website.