Category Archives: Fruit

Veg box delivery services

I was reading recently that sales of Organic food and beverages in Europe and the US are on an upward trend going into 2016. This is great news.

As some of you may know Scotland has some of the best produce in the world – particularly, in my view, when it comes to the organic root vegetables – largely due to the quality of the soils.

With that in mind I’ve been thinking recently about East Coast Organics – the fresh veg box delivery service and farm from Pencaitland in East Lothian, Scotland. They provide us with a fortnightly delivery of the freshest and most delicious vegetables – nothing like the bland, treated stuff you’d buy in supermarkets.

In choosing a well-run service I was inspired by their business model, sourcing and commitment to ethics and sustainability.

Organic vegetable box

Their produce is grown in 10,000 square feet of polytunnels giving the company a wide potential for growing organic vegetables; such as carrots, beetroot, kale, mushrooms, spinach, leeks, garlic, onions and peppers – to name a few.

We always receive always a nice heap of wrinkly biomass with all sorts of earthly surprises – such as the occasional snail nestled in a head of broccoli – or salad leaves which are often “on-the-turn” before we’ve even opened the bag e.g. the lettuce can sometimes be quite mushy – but who cares: it’s only a lettuce!

The carrots and beets are often caked in soil – having been freshly pulled out of Mother earth. Supermarkets in the UK are restricted from selling “wonky carrots” to the consumer due to some harsh EU regulations on vegetables – with the vegetable box this rule simply does not apply. Also, I personally feel much healthier; there’s a certain vitality that comes with knowing that your vegetables haven’t been heavily treated with insecticides.

We do, however, reach a slight saturation point with the amount of potatoes in the veg box each week. I like a variety of carbs during the week and so, although I love roast tatties, it’s not going to fly night after night.

Overall, the service saves time on the ‘big food shop’ for the convenience of home delivery. It also helps to circumnavigate supermarket supply chains which often involve enormous air miles and spoilage.

On that note I’d like to invite you to sign up for a service with East Coast and check it out for yourself.

Courgette ribbon salad recipe

Courgettes (or Zucchinis) are often seen as a bland, tasteless vegetable, treated more as an afterthought as part of, say, a vegetarian stew or Ratatouille than as a dish in it’s own right.

I can see the reasoning behind this but, for me, there’s a lot more to courgettes than meets the eye.

You can choose to cook courgettes in a range of ways including some recipes using courgette flowers which are attached to little fingerling courgettes during the early stages of growth. These flowers only grow on the female plant – the male counterpart is completely flower-free.

In some recipes the flowers themselves are often served as part of a starter dish on the menus of expensive Italian restaurants. They are often stuffed with the likes of ricotta, goats cheese, garlic, sultanas, pine nuts and herbs.

In Scotland, we’d probably try deep frying them – which sounds equally delicious to tell you the truth!

Other ways of preparing and cooking courgettes offers up plenty of options: stuffed, grated or whole, baked, fried, boiled, steamed or stewed. If you decide to grate courgettes then crispy courgette fritters would make a simple, tasty dish. Alternatively, roasted in a Gratin or lasagne made with sliced courgettes, herbs, aubergine and parmesan cheese makes an appetising supper. I also love courgettes with any type of pasta.

For the recipe below I’ve taken a slightly different approach to the above.

Courgette ‘ribbons’ with sun-dried tomatoes and lambs lettuce salad

This is a very simple to prepare and the slicing technique can be easily mastered.

Courgette ‘ribbon’ salad with sun-dried tomatoes aerial view

Ingredients

  • 3 courgettes
  • 150g sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • a handful of lambs lettuce
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Using a vegetable peeler or mandolin, slice the courgettes into long thin ribbons and place in a  dish.

 DSC_1523 Courgette ‘ribbon’ salad with sun-dried tomatoes sliced

 

Courgette ‘ribbon’ salad with sun-dried tomatoes preparedCourgette ‘ribbon’ salad, sun-dried tomatoes and lambs lettuce

  • To make the dressing, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix together with the rest of the ingredients in a wide serving bowl.

Apricots

Apricots

I love apricots; not only for eating fresh but also for cooking with. There are just so many ways to bring out their incredible tartness. For instance, poaching them in a sugar syrup and served along side a blob of Chantilly cream; or baked with honey, lemon and ground spices like cardamom or cinnamon to really bring a warming glow.

Apricots sold in the UK are most commonly of Turkish, Cypriot or French origin. We usually enjoy them whole, like any other fruit, or made into cakes, jams or stewed in puddings. Dried apricots are great for snacking or added as part of home-made granola to have at breakfast.

The recipes on this page reflect a distinctly British approach to using this wonderful fruit. You wont find any exotic Moroccan tagine recipes but I think these will make a suitable alternative.

Apricot, almond and sultana scones

A wonderful tea time creation from the Scots traditionally made with flour or oats and leavened with baking powder instead of yeast. I absolutely love scones especially packed with dried fruit as you see here. Queen of baking Mary Berry’s scone recipe is also real treat.

Makes 20 scone triangles

Ingredients

  • 250g flour
  • 150g sugar
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150g butter
  • 250g chopped dried or fresh apricots
  • 150g raisins or sultanas
  • 200g chopped toasted almonds
  • 200ml plain yoghurt or milk
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 230C.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter.

Scones with apricots, raisins and almonds flour, sugar and butter

Cut into it with a knife until no large pieces remain and the mixture is coarse and crumbly (or you can ‘rub in’ the butter and flour with your finger tips to get the same result).

Scones mix

Add the chopped apricots, raisins, ground almonds and yoghurt.

Scones with apricot, raisins and almonds

Once all of the liquid has been added, beat together with a wooden spatula until the dry and wet ingredients are combined.

Scones with apricots, raisins and almonds mixed

On a floured work surface, use your hands to finish combining the ingredients and knead together gently.

Scones mixed onto floured surface

This should form a large ball of dough.

Scones with apricots, raisins and almonds kneaded into dough

Divide the ball of dough in half and shape each half into a round disc, about 3/4″ to 1″ thick, on one of the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one comes out clean.

Slice into even sized triangles and serve.

Once cool, keep scones in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Scones with apricots, raisins and almonds  baked and portioned

Apricot flapjacks

Apricot flapjacks

Makes 15 slices

Ingredients

  • 110g porridge oats
  • 225g plain wholemeal flour
  • 75g dark brown soft sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 150g block butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 350g ready-to-eat dried apricots (or dried dates), chopped

Directions

  • Combine the flour, oats, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and add the melted butter. Stir thoroughly.
  • Distribute half of the mixture onto the base of a 20cm/26cm/4cm tin.
  • Arrange the filling carefully all over this. Distribute the rest of the mixture evenly over the filling and press this down firmly with your hands or with the back of a spoon.
  • Bake near the centre of the oven (or just above) for about 20–25 minutes until golden brown. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then cut into 15 squares, cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin.

Figs

British figs have seen a remarkable growth in recent years and it’s easy to see why. Food markets across the UK are bursting with fig-inspired recipes: from cakes and bread loafs to incredible concoctions of chutneys, jams and fruit syrups.

Figs image two

Pairing figs with other ingredients doesn’t take much effort either – as a starter, main or dessert, they are hugely versatile; complementing all manner of salty, savoury and sweet flavours. The appearance, texture and flavour depends on the variety. The outer skin can be either blackish-purple or green in colour, almost leathery in texture, but without much taste; the inner flesh can be pink, purple or amber, with a luscious tartness given off by the pulp and seeds. They don’t have the teeth-shattering sweetness of other fruits either.

Figs are grown on the ficus tree, of the mulberry family. I often have them in my porridge in the morning; I love the chewy texture plus the slight crunch from the tiny seeds. I can eat them either dried (hard) of fresh (softer). Nutritionally, they have a good amount of soluble fibre and are full of vitamins and minerals.

Figs have also played a starring role throughout history, literature and life. For instance, they are mentioned frequently in Biblical lore. They were also the “chosen fruit” of athletes in ancient Greece and were commonly used in ancient Egypt in various burial rights. They are now a globally grown foodstuff, owing to their dispersal throughout history by travelling traders, explorers and conquerors of continents; transported around the Mediterranean and Adriatic regions, the United Kingdom (the Romans) and eventually across the Atlantic by Spanish conquistadors.

Cultivating figs at home is easier than you might think. The fig tree itself will grow perfectly well in gardens in the UK, given the right conditions for heat, light and drainage. One downside is that they do not last terribly long once picked.

For the recipe below, I’ve decided to go savoury and sweet – pairing the figs with nuts and a mild cheese.

Figs with camembert, walnuts and honey

Fig, camembert, walnut and honey dessert image two

This simple Italian-inspired recipe is great as a starter or dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 100g walnut halves, toasted
  • 3 figs, quartered
  • 100g Camembert cheese, sliced into small chunks
  • a drizzle of honey

Directions:

  • Arrange all of the ingredients onto a small plate.
  • Drizzle over the honey and serve.