The Wonderful Colours of our Winter Veg!

What was striking to me, when I got my box last week (see photo), was the colour factor and the freshness of all the winter veg. I don’t think we think of winter veg as colourful, but it is something that is to be highlighted in the cooking when possible. It is well known that the more colours you have on your plate, the more antioxidants the food will provide you with. So here we go! How can we preserve the colour factor and the nutritional value of each of these veg?

First in my picture on the right is the parsnip. This ‘shy’ vegetable is rather sweet and most of us love roasted whole, halved or quartered parsnips which caramelise in the roasting tray to come out even sweeter; I often roast it in quarters brushed with a little honey (on Christmas day you can mix honey and sherry together in equal quantities to give the parsnips an extra kick), season well with salt and black pepper and cook for 20-25 mins at gas mark 6, 400°F, 200°C or until golden brown. I have made many a parsnip soup too, where I combine the sweetness of the parsnip with the sweetness of carrot and the colour is more appealing. When young, my children loved these soups in the winter; I used to sneak some haricot or butter beans into the blender for extra nutritional value and texture. These soups need to be well seasoned however, otherwise they will taste bland, I find. Parsnip and apple soup (peel the apples) with a hint of lemon is a combination that I worked with in one of my books and the colour comes out white. 

To prepare parsnip as a side vegetable, chop an onion finely and fry until soft (add a little salt to the oil to stop the onion from browning). When soft, add a teaspoon or two of a mild or medium curry powder, then 12oz (350g) cubes of cooked parsnips; carry on gently frying for 4-5 minutes then add 3-5 tablespoons water or double cream. Mash well with a potato masher and season again with salt and black pepper. A little curry powder can really transform a vegetable! The same treatment can be given to a mixture of parsnip and carrot puree, or to a swede puree; I have found our white swedes delicious and the purple ones very good too.

Parsnips, swedes, carrots, leeks and potatoes work extremely well cooked together in the same pot to create a very homely soup; I was brought up on a vegetable soup made with vegetables from the garden every night of the year. My parents had a dairy farm and my mother was a prolific gardener, and she was very attached to her soups in the evening! They were an absolute must! There is very little that you need to add to such a soup; just add some coarse unbleached sea salt or similar and black pepper during the second half of the cooking.

These days, I use parsnips in stir-fries too; I cut them into thin half-moons or matchsticks and use them with onion, carrots, cabbage, ginger, garlic, spinach and some peppers for colour, and whatever else I have. Stir-fries need a good marinade to be tasty; as you wait for a few minutes for the vegetables to finish cooking at the end, mix together in a bowl 3 teaspoons arrowroot (or cornflour), 3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger, 2-3 cloves garlic (grated on the ginger grater), 2 tablespoons Tamari (or good quality soya sauce), ¼ teaspoon chopped red chilli, and 6-8 tablespoons water or more. Mix this marinade until smooth, then pour over the veg in the wok and cook, covered, for half a minute –  it will transform your stir-fry!

Our chard and beet leaves are very colourful too when raw! To preserve their colour, cook the stalks for 4-5 minutes, no longer, then drain straight away. The leaves only need 3-4 minutes. Serve these with a really tasty cheese sauce, as in the picture, or a cream sauce. And if you have some cheese sauce left, serve some with roasted pumpkin, a method of cooking which also preserves the colour and the texture of the pumpkin.

In the winter, you can grate beetroot, a little red onion, carrot and pumpkin (yes, you can eat pumpkin raw!) to make a nice salad; dress with a horseradish dressing if you wish. If you would rather have something hot to eat, then serve cubes of cooked hot beetroot (cooked in boiling water for approx 30-40 mins) with a white sauce flavoured with a little horseradish or some apple sauce.

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40 Things To Do With A Pumpkin (Or A Winter Squash)

Pumpkins and winter squash are really the same vegetable, though different varieties have slightly varying flavours and textures – and of course a wonderful range of colours and shapes! In fact, almost all edible squash varieties fit into three large families, and there are types we'd recognise as 'pumpkins' in every family! Cucurbita pepo includes most summer squash, including all courgettes, pattypan squash (flat, scalloped varieties) and crookneck squash, as well as winter-storing spaghetti squash, acorn squash (ribbed, heart-shaped varieties) and most small, round, orange pumpkins. Cucurbita moschata includes the popular butternut, a few crookneck varieties such as 'tromboncino', and 'cheese'-type pumpkins (wide and flat, like a wheel of cheese, usually with cream or brown skin rather than orange) including the slow-ripening but delicious 'Musquee de Provence' that we have grown this year. Cucurbita maxima contains arguably the most flavoursome squashes, including the largest orange pumpkins such as 'Atlantic Giant' and the 'Cinderella' variety we grew this year, long straight 'banana' squashes, teardrop-shaped 'hubbard' squashes, the small bright orange or blue 'kuri' squashes, 'buttercup' types and the impressive 'Turk's turban'.

All winter squash are low in calories and packed with vitamin A, as well as a multitude of phytonutrients and antioxidants, and significant helpings of vitamin C, B6, magnesium and potassium. They are easily stored at room temperature for many months as long as they're undamaged, so they can be a really valuable source of nutrition through leaner winter months.

With so much going for them, I'm often amazed by how many people think all you can cook with a pumpkin is soup or pie, usually spiced so heavily that you'd barely know there was any pumpkin in there at all. Yes, squashes suit those warming Christmassy spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, allspice and so on – but they go great in a huge range of other dishes too, paired with hotter spices, cheeses, dark leafy greens, nuts, hardy winter herbs (especially sage), salty meats, and flavours that emphasise their sweetness, such as honey, maple syrup or vanilla. So I've written this post to show that squashes and pumpkins of all kinds are useful – and delicious! – in a huge range of savoury dishes as well as the classic soup and desserts, and you'll have no excuse to get bored with the many pumpkins we'll be eating over the course of this winter!
The basics:

1 - One of the simplest ways to cook a pumpkin or winter squash is to cut it into wedges, leaving the skin on but removing the seeds, rub with your choice of oil and spices or seasonings, and roasting for 30-40 minutes. With many varieties, the skin is perfectly edible when cooked well, but if you prefer you can easily peel it off on the plate with minimal waste. Experiment with different spices and flavoured oils – chilli is a popular choice but virtually any aromatic spice suits pumpkin. Or try drizzling with honey or maple syrup to emphasise the sweetness.

2 - If you need pumpkin puree for a recipe, simply cut your squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place the halves cut-side down on a large baking tray with a few millimetres of water in the bottom. Baking time will depend on the thickness of the flesh, but when it's done it should be soft and the skin will peel off easily. Cut up the flesh and leave it to drain in a sieve for a couple of hours – especially with pumpkins which can be more watery than other squash – and then blend to a puree. (Alternatively you can cube the flesh, put it in a saucepan with a little bit of water or butter and steam or saute gently until soft.)

3 - Serve squash mash as a side dish – just add butter and season to taste – or mash it up with other veg if you like. You could also add roasted garlic, or sage and creme fraiche, or other herbs and spices to suit you.

4 - Add squash cubes to a medley of roasted vegetables such as parsnips, beetroots, sweet potatoes, potatoes and carrots, and serve as a side with virtually anything. Again, feel free to experiment with spices, seasonings and oils.

5 - Steam thin slices of squash. Try it with pak choi or bok choi and a ginger-sesame sauce for an Asian-themed side dish, like this.

6 - Squash can be eaten raw – it's similar to melon but less sweet. Grate, julienne or slice thinly into salads, or add to juices and smoothies.

Spice it up:

7 - Squash is great in a curry. Add it to your favourite curry recipe around 20 minutes before the end of cooking, or try this recipe for squash, chickpea and spinach curry.

8 - Also try them in a spicy North African stew like this speckle-eye squash stew!

9 - Put diced squash in a Moroccan-style tagine, such as this one, with chickpeas, sweet potato, sultanas and other veggies, spiced with cinnamon, cumin and coriander, and topped with toasted almonds.

10 - Make a vegetarian chilli with squash and lentils, tomatoes, kidney beans and spices. Here's a slow-cooker pumpkin lentil chilli.

11 - Porotos Granados is a traditional Chilean squash and bean stew, spiced with smoked paprika and oregano and absolutely packed with nutritious veggies.

Salty meats:

12 - Squash goes great with salty meats such as sausages, bacon and chorizo – this sausage and pumpkin casserole is one of my absolute favourites! Don't worry about using dried sage instead of fresh if it's easier, and skip the shallots if you don't have them.

13 - Pair roast squash cubes with chorizo fried until it's sizzling, add roasted shallots or red onions and some spicy rocket, and wrap the mixture in tortillas for a Mexican-themed meal. Serve with classic Mexican sides such as guacamole, salsa, refried beans and sour cream.

14 - Or add roasted squash cubes and fried chorizo slices to a salad with lots of well-dressed leafy greens and some finely sliced onion. (For vegetarians, salty feta cubes make a good substitute.)

15 - Here's a super-easy squash and chorizo stew – it's even better with diced peppers and a can of white beans added too (add the peppers with the onion, and the beans five minutes before serving).

16 - Make a simple squash and bacon hash by frying diced onion, potato, bacon and squash together, and serve with a poached egg. Add chilli too if you like!

17 - How about a tasty squash and sausage stuffing for your Sunday roast or Christmas dinner?

Cheese and greens:

18 - Squash also complements rich, creamy cheeses and dark winter greens such as kale, chard or spinach. This squash and kale tart is a rich, cheesy treat that makes great use of autumn and winter produce.

19 - Mix squash with gnocchi, any dark leafy greens, a hit of chilli and a rich melty cheese of your choice. The blogger who introduced me to this recipe calls it greens and squash gnocchi with chilli and Roquefort. I prefer "squashy gnoshi".

20 - Who could resist an oozy, creamy pumpkin and gruyere gratin...?

21 - Here's a recipe for an awesome vegetarian squash and blue cheese pie:
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  • Sauté about 180g leeks and 180g cabbage in a little oil with a pinch of rosemary for 6-8 minutes, until soft.
  • Add about 480g diced squash and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add 3 tbsps plain flour and stir in thoroughly, then add 400ml stock, stirring well, and simmer for another 10 minutes until the squash is just cooked through. Remove from the heat.
  • Meanwhile, butter a pie dish (20cm diameter and 4cm deep is a good size), roll out two thirds of a block of ready-made pastry and line the dish with it. Roll out the other third to fit the top.
  • Into the vegetable mix, stir about 120g crumbled blue cheese (Shropshire Blue is particularly good for this) and another pinch of rosemary. Check seasoning, then spoon the filling carefully into the pie.
  • Brush the edges of the pastry with water and lay the pastry top over the pie. Crimp the edges with your fingers and cut off the excess pastry. Then brush the top with milk or beaten egg to glaze, poke a couple of holes in the centre to let hot air out, and place in the oven for 25-35 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Serve with buttery mash and peas


22 - Mashed squash is a good base for a pasta bake. Try pan-frying chopped chorizo with red onion, adding chopped chard or spinach until it wilts, seasoning with nutmeg, pepper and sage, then mixing it all up together with mashed roasted squash and cooked pasta, grated cheese and a splash of milk or stock, and bunging it in the oven until golden on top. Or customise the above with your choice of veggies, meats and herbs or spices. Or try adding pecans or hazelnuts instead of chorizo! Or for more cheesy pumpkiny pasta creations try this pumpkin maple macaroni cheese, or this pumpkin parmesan spaghetti.

23 - In fact, the number of pumpkin pasta recipes out there is almost endless: try pumpkin, broccoli and bacon pasta, or pumpkin creme fraiche spaghetti with fried onions and sage leaves, or creamy pumpkin baked rigatoni too.

24 - It's a bit fiddly, but making your own pumpkin ravioli is delicious and sure to impress! Choose a full-flavoured squash for best results – a watery supermarket carving pumpkin just won't do. This recipe comes with a lovely shallot and sage butter sauce and pine nuts (or you could use flaked almonds).

25 - This lentil, olive and pumpkin lasagne, with wine, garlic and feta cheese, looks amazing!

26 - On the Italian theme... soft, sweet squash is perfect for a creamy risotto. Use Antonio Carluccio's recipe or this one with bacon and leeks, or customise any basic pumpkin risotto recipe to your own tastes using chilli, roast garlic, pancetta, crispy sage leaves or crispy fried shallots, different herbs and cheeses, or whatever you fancy... 


27 - As I've already grumbled, most pumpkin soup recipes seem to rely on lots of spices for flavour, but I think it's a real shame to mask the real flavour of the squash instead of making the most of it. Here are four new ways to try pumpkin soup!
  • Hotel Chocolat's London restaurant Rabot 1745, which includes chocolate in every dish, serves a delectable butternut squash and white chocolate soup, which emphasises the sweet and buttery notes of the squash. Roast chunks of squash with a wedge of red onion and a couple of garlic cloves, infuse some good stock with star anise, then blend the roasted veg with the stock (removing the star anise first!), grate in a little nutmeg, add a knob of butter and melt in a few squares of quality white chocolate, to taste.
  • Roast squash cubes together with about half the quantity of tomatoes and a few garlic cloves. Blend with stock (removing tomato skins first) and season to taste - the sweetness of the roasted garlic and the richness of the tomatoes is wonderful with the sweet squash.
  • Try this beer, cheese and pumpkin soup...
  • or this Thai pumpkin soup with coconut milk.

The Rest:

28 - Team squash with buttery pastry, like in this great-looking tarte tatin with squash, red onions and whole roasted garlic cloves.

29 - Pair pumpkin and pesto. Use basil pesto as in this bacon and pumpkin pesto pasta, rocket pesto as in this pumpin and rocket pesto pasta, sage pesto as in this impressive savoury pumpkin galette, or try any other pesto you like.

30 - Spread seasoned squash puree, shredded cheese and sage or other herbs on a pizza base for a pumpkin pizza! Add chorizo or bacon, chopped greens, nuts or fried mushrooms for more variety, or try this recipe with ground beef, olives and rocket.

31 - Add pumpkin to falafels, which traditionally use many of those warming spices so often added to pumpkin anyway, like in this pumpkin falafel bowl with maple tahini dressing.

32 - Make a tasty pumpkin hummus dip. Blend a can of chickpeas with the same volume of squash puree, two tablespoons each of tahini and lemon juice, 2 or 3 cloves crushed garlic, and cayenne, cumin and salt to taste. Add olive oil to loosen the texture if required, and garnish with pumpkin seeds and a pinch of paprika.

33 - Easy, cheesy fritters can by made with all sorts of vegetables and served up with salad as lunch or a starter. Try these pumpkin and parmesan fritters, varying the herbs used as you wish.

34 - Stuff it! With... just about anything you fancy, perhaps taking the list above as inspiration, or perhaps using one of these seven great recipes.

35 - Make pumpkin butter to spread on toast or add to desserts, like in this overnight slow-cooker recipe or this quicker one. (Disclaimer: I've never actually tried this... but it looks yummy!)

36 - Toast the seeds, alone or with spices, to eat as snacks or serve with drinks. Careful – some varieties have quite hard and chewy husks, but boiling them for ten minutes first and cooking them just right, like this, crisps them up and makes them much more palatable.

37 - Use your pumpkin guts – the stringy bits from the inside, minus the seeds – too! Separate them from the seeds and chop finely, in a food processor if you prefer, then add to smoothies, soups, or a cake, pie or bread recipe such as this one for pumpkin guts bread.

38 - Recreate Starbucks bestseller pumpkin spice latte (this version actually has real pumpkin in it!). Instead of canned pumpkin, use homemade and well-drained pumpkin puree, and make up a batch of pumpkin spice using this recipe.

39 - Virtually any vegetable can go into a chutney or pickle, and pumpkin is no exception! Team it with apple or other veggies and spice it up as much or as little as you like. Try Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's 'glutney' recipe, for which he encourages you to change the main ingredients for whatever's in season.

40 - Finally, I can't deny that pumpkin and squash go brilliantly in a multitude of pies, cakes, rolls, breads, meringues, cheesecakes, puddings, biscuits, muffins, cookies and confections. If that sort of thing floats your boat, look here for a range of sweet ideas, including pumpkin pie, pumpkin doughnuts, marbled chocolate pumpkin brownies, pumpkin fudge, and a dark chocolate-espresso pumpkin bread pudding with salted caramel sauce – oh my!

- Naomi    

Greens and beans!

Our member Roselyne, who runs vegetarian and dairy-free cookery courses professionally, has kindly offered to provide recipes and tips for making the most of our produce. They will be posted here every week or two, and we hope you enjoy them!  

I have been delighted to have had arugula or rocket in my veg box every week recently! Rocket is a detoxifying, cancer-fighting superfood; it is a member of the brassica family called cruciferous vegetables; a group known for its nutritional powerhouses: broccoli, kale and cabbage. All these vegetables are high in fibre and antioxidants, but they are also rich in compounds known as glucosinolates, which studies show may reduce the risk of developing lung, colorectal, breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer. In addition, rocket has high levels of chlorophyll; it promotes bone health, reduces chronic inflammation and can protect the aging brain against cognitive decline! To preserve its nutritional values, eat it raw when possible, in salads or as an addition it to your home-made pesto (see below), but you can also shred it and add it to hot dishes.

Kale is next best on the list of green leafy superfoods; kale can find its way into almost any dish! You can roast it with other vegetables, such as squash, peppers, spring onions and mixed herbs, and add that mixture to fill a quiche or a pie to which you may add your favourite other ingredients such as English, French or Italian cheeses, eggs and seasonings. Add shredded curly kale to your stir-fry with other colourful ingredients such as carrots, red and yellow peppers, onions, cashew nuts or peanuts, ginger and garlic, or to your cooked noodles mix with a generous serving of peanut butter sauce. Add kale to your green daily juice to consume it raw!

We have had plenty of rainbow chard too, and these leaves and stalks can be substituted for kale every time. I made a tofu hot and sour soup with a base of dried mushrooms the other day; that soup had the stalks of the rainbow chard in it and some of its leaves shredded too; I also put some of the green beans in and although it was simple, it was delicious with rice vermicelli noodles in it and a good flavouring of plenty of freshly grated ginger, garlic, good quality natural soya sauce, a little bouillon powder and some of our delicious little red chillies.

We have also had plenty of French green beans and runner beans; these I use everywhere too; in a tomato sauce with cooked spaghetti instead of courgette or green pepper (photo below), in my leek and potato soup (top photo), or in a hearty brown lentil casserole, for the cold Halloween night! All are good!

Do not forget to pick herbs when you are at the farm and make your own pesto sauce; just grab a small food processor, put plenty of roughly chopped flat or curly parsley in it, 2-3 cloves of organic garlic, ½ to 1 tsp salt, a handful of cashews or walnuts (or a mixture) and process until the cashews are ground up and look like grated cheese. Add 3-6 tbsps olive oil and 2-3 tbsps grated parmesan cheese if you like, and whizz again; it will give you a paste which you can use with cooked pasta, over bread for antipasti, over toast (to go with your brown lentil casserole), or served with hummus. Raw garlic is such a powerful antioxidant, and parsley such a good blood cleanser! Both are very helpful in keeping us ‘colds-free’ in the winter months.

And, if you find that you have leftover pesto, you can add white or wholewheat breadcrumbs (made in your food processor) to it and this will make a good topping for a vegetable crumble or pie; just pop it in the oven until the topping is crisp and golden on the edges. Mmmm, very warming!

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Late summer salads

Our member Roselyne, who runs vegetarian and dairy-free cookery courses professionally, has kindly offered to provide recipes and tips for making the most of our produce. They will be posted here every week or two, and we hope you enjoy them!  

With the Indian Summer we have been lucky to experience in the last few weeks, and the selection of fresh organic food coming to us straight from the field, I seem to have carried on eating a plentiful range of salads especially for lunch, and my juicing habit is back on track! This is good news as raw foods have plenty of beneficial enzymes, which our body gets depleted of as we get older. Eating plenty of raw foods is also the best way to have a truly plentiful intake of fresh vitamins and minerals!

I have attached some ‘salady’ pictures of dishes I prepared with our produce; the first one above shows how the various delicious leaves, the little yellow and red cherry tomatoes and the fragrant fresh basil combined beautifully with chopped avocado. Next to it is one of the cucumbers (prepared as per the method in post dated 20th August) which gives me delectable soft slices on the side.

My second salad uses some of the runner beans: to prepare these, top and tail and either string carefully or cut down the sides to remove any tough strings. Cut beans in 2.5cm (1 inch) size pieces and boil for 5–10 minutes until just tender, then cool down. Once cold, these can be added to French-style Salade Nicoise or simply a chunky tomato salad, as in the picture. I have served these with another leafy salad and soft boiled egg.  Do you notice my courgette ‘spaghetti’ underneath? This is actually very successful. Peel the skin off a small to medium courgette, cut spaghetti shapes using a canele knife or julienne peeler, season them with a little salt and leave to stand for 5–10 mins. Do not cook; it is a good way to use courgettes in a novel raw food way!

The third picture is a mixed salad made with grated raw courgettes, carrots and beetroots. Dress your salad with a seasoned dressing of balsamic vinegar, a little walnut or organic sunflower oil and this will make another tasty salad. Here I have sprinkled some ground pumpkin seeds over, for extra nutritional value. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of zinc.

Something for the lovers of hot, cooked, warming food now! Use chopped courgettes in any tomato- based sauce or make a hearty Pistou or Minestrone-style soup, which will be very nutritious and filling: Heat up 45ml (3 tablespoons) olive oil in a saucepan and fry your onion and courgettes with or without the skin left on for 10 minutes. Cover with two to three inches of a good flavoursome tomato stock, the contents of a 400g (14oz) tin of drained cannellini beans or white kidney beans and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes; then add a chopped red pepper, plenty of garlic, fresh chopped chilli, season with bouillon powder and salt and pepper. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Chopped spinach or chard leaves can be added towards the end too, or alternatively add small cooked pasta such as ‘angel hair’ or leftover spaghetti, cut into 2.5–5 cm (1–2 inch) long pieces.

Alternatively make a green courgette soup: Melt some butter or 2–3 tablespoons olive oil in a pan and gently fry for 10 minutes 350g (12oz) chopped courgette (with skins on), 300g (10oz) runner beans and 250g (8oz) organic peeled potatoes (chopped into small pieces). Cover with 560ml (1 pint) of water and 2tsp bouillon powder or a crumbled organic stock cube, add a good pinch of chopped fresh or dried rosemary and bring the mixture up to the boil; simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft, then add 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley (optional). Process in a blender for a very short while – no more than 5 seconds!! – so that you are left with texture (and not baby food!) and colour. Adjust the consistency with a little water if necessary and season to taste. Serve with a swirl of cream, if liked.

I also made a carrot and coriander soup with our beautiful yellow and orange carrots: Heat up 1–2 tablespoons organic sunflower oil in a pan and add half a chopped onion and 450g (1lb) carrots chopped into small pieces; cook on a medium heat without browning for 10 minutes. Add 560ml (1 pint) water and 2 teaspoons bouillon powder and simmer for 20 minutes or until the carrots are soft. Process in a blender until smooth, add 3 tablespoons fresh chopped coriander and process for a few more seconds, so the coriander is only partly chopped. Put the soup back into a saucepan and season to taste. If you don’t like coriander, this soup can be made adding 1–2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger with the onions and carrots instead.

After all this, don’t forget to make a lovely apple and blackberry crumble with your apples, or simply peel and cook them for 4-5 minutes with a little sugar and serve them with a home-made confectioner’s custard. Delish!

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Harvest Festival

On Saturday 13th September we held our very first Harvest Festival - a celebration of our first season growing food together and all we've achieved. We invited all our families, supporters, donors and other interested parties for a look around the farm, shared some food and drink, and played games and a raffle to raise some extra money for FoodSmiles. It was a brilliant afternoon and our guests were suitably impressed with our progress - we even added a few new names to our waiting list!

Thanks very much to all who helped make it such a success, and to all those who came along. Those who donated food or raffle prizes include local restaurants Lussman's and That Little Place, The Pudding Stop, The Courtyard Cafe, Charlie's Coffee and Redbournbury Mill - many thanks!

After sowing our very first seeds on 23rd April, we began taking our first harvests on 2nd July, and in the 11 weeks since then we've harvested an amazing 160kg potatoes, 71kg courgettes, 42kg cucumbers, 42kg spinach and chard, 34kg lettuce, rocket and mustard, 31kg beetroots, 20kg carrots, 10kg tomatoes, plus beans, spring onions, chillies, calabrese and more! Teamwork's a wonderful thing :-)

Below are a few pictures of the afternoon, taken by Transition St Albans.


Our member Roselyne, who runs vegetarian and dairy-free cookery courses professionally, has kindly offered to provide recipes and tips for making the most of our produce. They will be posted here every week or two, and we hope you enjoy them!

Pesticides have been linked with Alzheimer’s Disease. The ‘Organic versus Non-Organic’ Newcastle study has shown that organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number or key antioxidants than conventionally-grown ones (antioxidants include Vit A, C, E, carotenoid, selenium, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Co-Enzyme Q10, Reservatrol, etc., all effective at battling free radicals - so called toxins); this study published in the British Journal of Nutrition also shows significantly lower levels of toxic heavy metals in organic crops. Hooray!

The one thing, I think, that still puts some people off eating organic vegetables is the fact that, if the
veg come with extra mud (esp, carrots and potatoes), they have to be washed thoroughly first and it
takes a while longer to prepare them. If this annoys you, you may well find that it is worth investing
in a vegetable brush (I have had mine for approx. 15 years and it looks a bit like an old brown loo brush, I am afraid!) but it is very good at removing the stubborn earth stuck on the veg! Then you can get on with preparing your recipes promptly.

This week and last week, as expected, we had more courgettes in our box; I cut my smaller courgette
in slices and cooked these gently until caramelised (golden on both sides) in garlic, salt and oregano
infused olive oil. I then served these with my meal with a tasty tomato sauce on the side. If you had a courgette flower attached to your courgette and are looking for ideas for fillings, one of the easiest ways is to fill them up (do not overfill) with the leftovers of a well-flavoured risotto or goat’s cheese with herbs, twist the top of the flower closed and dip into a light batter; then deep-fry the flower until golden in hot oil. Drain well on a triple layer of kitchen paper and you will have a successful starter; serve with a tasty home-made tomato chutney and a little side salad.

Courgettes can also be successfully roasted in the oven; cut the courgettes in chunky pieces, leaving their skins on, add half a sliced red onion, some chunkily chopped red pepper and place on a oven-proof tray; then, prepare your special mix to ‘spread’ over the chopped courgettes: chop 4 cloves of garlic and place in a bowl, 2–3 tsp chopped fresh thyme, 1⁄2 to 1 tsp salt and 1⁄4 tsp coarsely
ground black pepper; add 5 tablespoons olive and stir. Place the courgettes on a baking sheet
and add their ‘dressing’, mixing it all well with your hands (if you don’t mind the garlic). Bake in a
preheated oven to Gas Mark 6, 400F, 200C for 25 to 30 mins and serve with a dash of lemon, if liked. Alternatively, these courgettes can be used to top a mixed leaf salad, could be used as part of a
quiche filling or used in a Spanish omelette.

Of course, halves of the whole large courgettes and marrows can be used as a boat and stuffed
with a meaty or veggie filling; the cooking time for this can be quite long, so what I prefer doing is
cut rings off the main courgette (removing the pips and the soft part in the middle) and fry these
gently on both sides in olive oil for 15 minutes in total, using a heavy based skillet; I then cover the
skillet or frying pan for the last 10 minutes of the cooking time. I do this whilst preparing a veggie
Bolognese-style filling; this way, the stuffed courgette rings take very little time to cook in the oven
and the dish can be ready overall in 40 to 45 minutes.

Last week we had a few very cherry tomatoes which I made into a salad, dressed with the very
pungent fresh basil; I made a dressing of olive oil, chopped fresh basil, a hint of wine vinegar and sea salt and black pepper. Freshly picked, the tomatoes tasted deliciously sweet! This week, as
my box had a yellow tomato and some red ones and a mixture of salad leaves (including oak leaf
lettuce), my salad looked and tasted lovely!

I skinned the beetroot and put it through my juicer together with one of the apples; it made the most delicious sweet juice! Some spinach can also be used in green juices with apple and cucumber.

Last week I made a dhal – spicy red lentil soup - with the addition of our delicious diced potatoes,
sweet carrots and chopped spinach leaves (added towards the end of the cooking time); well spiced
and flavoured, that was warming and delicious on the rainy evenings! I would urge you to use some of your spinach leaves in this way.

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Enjoying the organic ‘fruits of our labour!'

Enjoying the organic ‘fruits of our labour!

Our member Roselyne, who runs cookery courses professionally, has kindly offered to provide recipes and tips for making the most of our produce. They will be posted here every week or two, and we hope you enjoy them!

So this week our ‘garden-field’ has produced a colourful selection of a star-studded yellow cucumbers and green cucumbers, purple beetroots, some cherry tomatoes, some multicoloured beets, charlotte potatoes, and small and large courgettes! What an array! Let’s see what can be made with these!

First, I grabbed the home-grown organic green cucumber and prepared it in the way, we French, would do it; peel the tough skin off using a peeler, and slice thinly using a mandolin or the slicer edge of a cheese grater. Sprinkle each layer of cucumber slices with a pinch of sea salt. Cover with a plate and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and serve as part of a plate of crudités. Delicious and fresh, you cannot beat the taste of home-grown cucumber! Half a cucumber will serve one to two people. The same process can be used with the star-studded yellow cucumber.

Then, I took the medium size beetroot to complement my salad plate; peel and grate it raw on the cheese grater side. Dress it with 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice and ½ teaspoon dried basil. Mix well. That’s all, but it will taste delicious!  The nitrates in beetroot are converted into nitrites which help open blood vessels; this helps increase blood flow and bring oxygen to part of the body lacking in it; it is for that reason that betroot is praised as helping to improve the performance of sportsmen and women – and those digging the garden! No doubt!.

Serve the cucumber and beetroot salads with a few cherry tomatoes.

Charlotte potatoes are also delicious cooked and served dressed  as a salad, but here is a Courgette and Potato Gratinee recipe which you can make with them: wash and slice the potatoes thickly (0.5 to 1 cm / ¼ to 1/3  inch) and cook in salted water until the potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, peel and chop an onion and fry in olive oil until soft (approx 8 mins), in a medium to large saucepan or skillet. Chop the courgettes in chunky pieces or thick slices and add to the pan; cook for 4 – 5 minutes, basting them with the oil; you can also add the chopped stalks of the beets at this stage to this gratinee; (the leaves can be cooked like spinach).  if the stalks are tough, you can remove the fibrous part by peeling them with a peeler – like you would celery.  Add either four to five fresh chopped tomatoes or 4 or 5 organic tomatoes (chopped) from a tin, to the pan. Add fresh chopped thyme, plenty of garlic, some cooked peas or flageolet beans and seasoning – salt, pepper and 2 tsp bouillon powder. Mix well but gently, and simmer covered for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and add to the pan. Transfer onto a baking dish, cover with some grated cheese – cheddar or parmesan or both, and pop under the grill until golden. Enjoy the taste of the potatoes, courgettes and beets!

Of course you can make much more using courgettes, soups, purees,  ratatouille, fritters, etc. I am sure that more courgettes will come our way, so more on using courgettes next week!

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Roselyne's Blog - Enjoying the fruits of our labour!

Our member Roselyne, who runs cookery courses professionally, has kindly offered to provide recipes and tips for making the most of our produce. They will be posted here every week or two, and we hope you enjoy them! Here is her first post, on those abundant salad leaves:

I have made very tasty mixed salads with the selection of the various leaves and lettuces harvested, including rocket, red mustard, mizuna, baby spinach, the lovely looking curly lollo biondo, and an amazing cos lettuce – with no bites from slugs!

You may have found that some of the leaves go limp quite quickly, even when kept in the fridge; refresh them by plunging them in cold water for one hour; a little vinegar can be added to help ‘unstick’ and get rid of impurities and insects. Rinse twice under the tap, drain well in a salad spinner and these leaves will keep fresh and crisp for a few days in the spinner or in a Tupperware box in the fridge.

When making your salads, if you find the taste of some a little strong, chop them up into three or four pieces and mix them with other milder leaves. Bitterness in salad leaves is something most of us are not used to having very much of, these days; not like the Italians!

To make your ‘salade verte’ even tastier, add a lovely dressing made by mixing 2 tbsp walnut or olive oil, 1⁄2 to 1 tbsp of red, white wine or cider vinegar and simply a pinch of salt and black pepper. A scant teaspoon of wholegrain mustard or 1 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh basil can be added too.

To make your salads more nutritious try adding some super-tasting Tamari roasted seeds: toast 1 tbsp sunflower and 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds in a dry heavy based, small frying pan and put on a medium heat. Cover with a lid when they start popping and before they all jump out of the pan! Turn the heat off when the sunflower seeds are a light golden colour. Leave to cool for 10 to 15 seconds. Add a dash of either Tamari or Shoyu (good quality soy sauces, or use any decent soy sauce), and stir quickly. Take the lid off and leave them until the seeds are dry, then sprinkle over salads.

Enjoy all these vitamins, minerals and fibre. Fibre is one of the best sources of probiotic you can have! It feeds and helps replenish the friendly bacteria in the gut.

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Welcome to the website of FoodSmiles St Albans, a community food-growing project launched this spring, and just starting to pick the first fruits of our labour!

We will be at St Albans Farmers Market this Sunday 13th July - if you're in the area, why not pop along, say hi, and find out more about the project?

This site is in its early stages, but please have a look around and learn a little about what we do, and if you'd like to get involved, do get in touch using the links provided.