Meals on Fire

I make no apology for another Thai inspired, heat inducing, salad. The days are still chilly. This one starts with home grown broad beans and my new favourite vegetable: kholrabi `Azur Star’ from the veg to grow box.

What a nice tidy habit it has sitting there waiting to be plucked out of the ground and straight into a salad. Even the leaves won’t go to waste. It has to be one of the best convenience foods you can grow.

I have to say Jim’s broad beans didn’t look that appetising, all covered in black aphids but close up the infestation is only superficial and the beans inside are perfect in their blankety bed.

I pushed a few of the smaller beans whole, through the bean slicer (brilliant invention) and increased the bean count with a handful of nice fat beans from this week’s veg box.

Peeling the kholrabi and slicing into thin strips was a joy (cooks call it julienning) it’s oh, so fresh. I added a tin of organic chick peas to give more substance and texture, and combined all together with a salad dressing based on the Thai Som Tam recipe:

Take: 1 tbsp roasted salted peanuts, or 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter, 1 tbsp lime juice, red chillies, chopped and de-seeded according to how much fire you like in your salad, 1 tbsp fish sauce and a clove of garlic, chopped. 1 tsp of chilli jam or sugar/honey to sweeten.

Slip all the goodies into a jam jar and shake rattle and roll until all the flavours have turned into one big party, make sure the lid is on tight, otherwise make a less frenetic version and frisk it all up in a bowl.

To finish I sprinkled a few chopped leaves from my Vietnamese coriander plant. This dish has all sorts of potential to be be played up or down on flavour. Just pick a country and run with your imagination. Let me know if you do … every cook has their own favourite dressing, I’d love to hear yours.

Mission Impossible

I’m on a mission this week to find out how much it would cost to buy the equivalent organic contents of this week’s veg box in my local shops. This is more out of curiosity and because I think I should.

Weighed all the veg and made a list: Carrots 420g/Savoy cabbage 440g/Sweet potato 500g/Leeks 520g/Mushrooms 100g/Tomatoes 400g/Beetroot 580g.

I started with a short walk to the Co-op and then drove a mile and a bit to the award winning Farm Shop, then two miles to Tesco and finally Waitrose, eight miles away.

The cost of the Riverford mini veg box is £10.35 including delivery, items are not priced individually so the comparison can only be by total veg box contents.

Here’s the results of my comparisons around the veg counters:

1 Organic vegetables are few and far between in my locale. Only two out of the seven organic veg listed in my box were available in Waitrose and a different two were available in Tesco. The Co-op and the Farm Shop had none of my veg as organic options.

2 The Co-op, no organic, no beetroot and no sweet potato. Cost of five veg £5.32

3 Farm Shop stocked everything but no organic. Cost of seven veg £8.69

4 Tesco, only two organic (carrots and mushrooms) no beetroot.  Cost of six veg £4.20

5 Waitrose, only two organic items (leeks and mushrooms) no beetroot. Cost of six veg £6.47

More curiosity: price comparison for leeks, Savoy cabbage, carrots and tomatoes per Kg:

6 Leeks:  Co-op £3.78 /  Farm Shop £2.99 / Tesco £2.00 / Waitrose Organic £4.99 / Waitrose Organic on-line £4.99

7 Savoy Cabbage each: Co-op £1.04 / Farm Shop £99p / Tesco 76p / Waitrose 80p

8 Carrots: Co-op £1.75 / Farm Shop £99p / Tesco £1.25 organic / Waitrose £1.26 / Waitrose organic on-line £1.78

9 Tomatoes: Co-op £2.59 / Farm Shop £4.99 / Tesco 1.99 / Waitrose £2.00

Too much information? For sure a wide range of price differences on four everyday items. Co-op prices are higher than I would have expected.

Buying all this week’s veg (non organic) at the Farm Shop would have cost £8.69 excluding delivery. Makes the Riverford mini veg box look good value for money.

My veg box organic contents could have been bought on line from Waitrose and would have cost £11.08 (substituting white cabbage for Savoy cabbage) excluding delivery. Works out more expensive than Riverford.

So does £10.35 for my organic box seem like good value? Compared to Waitrose on line and the local Farm shop, it does. But it also depends on how you approach food buying and meal planning week by week as well as how much you want to spend on vegetables, organic or otherwise. It works for me because I’ve changed my eating habits to fit around the contents of my weekly veg box and then I budget for other food to make up a varied healthy diet. I also like reading about what’s going on down at the farm where my food comes from, finding recipes in my box fresh from the field kitchen and enjoy reading Guy Watson’s rants every Wednesday morning.

Footnote: Should Riverford be telling their customers the price per Kg for each vegetable in the box? Should customers be asking? I imagine it’s not easy balancing complex farm supply and demand rules and getting the contents of the boxes right week after week, season by season. I like the idea of someone else figuring out what goes in my box and trying to balance the books on a fixed budget every week. Maybe I could work out the cost of each veg with a bit of nifty maths work by checking the prices listed on the Riverford website and comparing to what’s in the box. Does it matter?