Autumnal salads from Abel & Cole – Review

I’ve been trying out Abel & Cole’s organic Super Salad Recipe Box for the last 6 weeks now so thought it time to write a review.  At £15 per box it contains the recipe and ingredients for two seasonal salads which it claims will feed two for two main meals or provide side dishes for four at a time.  I’m living on my own so unless I’ve been entertaining I’ve been cooking the recipes for myself.

My delivery day is a Monday and as I have generally been making one of the dishes for my that day’s supper and taking the second portion with me as packed lunch the next day. The second recipe I cook later in the week and again use the 2nd portion for lunch. With many of the recipes I have actually also had enough to use a 3rd portion as an accompaniment to maybe a chicken portion or grilled fish.

At £15 I don’t think it’s a cheap option but as I’ve had about the bulk of 6 meals from each box its certainly not extortionate.

But are the recipes tasty and good to eat? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. I have followed the recipes fairly faithfully although on occasion have reduced the amount of particular ingredients eg red onion and rocket in today’s Italian Roast Sprout & Parsnip Salad. Both of these are strong, even overpowering flavours, and I think the balance was better with only small quantities of these. The recipes are varied so very little repetition and combine ingredients in interesting ways some of which I wouldn’t have considered before.

The idea of ‘salad’ seems on occasion stretched a little far from the dictionary definition of “A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients.” Many of the recipes can be served immediately they’re cooked although most are also fine cold – or my preference at room temperature. The only one I didn’t fancy cold was Rosemary Roast Potato & Mushroom salad.

Eating alone much of the time it can be hard sometimes to shop for small quantities of ingredients or to find the inspiration to cook outside of a limited repertoire of dishes.  This box provides exactly the right quantities for the dishes, so limited waste, and no frustration of thumbing through cook books trying to find a dish that you have all the ingredients for. And as each recipe only takes 30 mins from start to putting on the plate they fit in well with a busy life-style.

As with all the veg I’ve had so far from Abel & Cole the quality of the ingredients has been high and all fresh ingredients have lasted well for several days if not been cooked on day of arrival.

So all-in-all a thumbs up to this box and I shall definitely be continuing with it for the foreseeable future.

 

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My first Super Salad Box from Abel & Cole

I’ve never tried recipe boxes before and despite my reservations about the cost, I thought I’d give the Abel & Cole Super Salad Box a whirl.  They are designed to provide the ingredients for 2 main course seasonal salads for 2 people (or enough for 4 side salads). In my delivery were the ingredients for a Grilled Fennel & Leek Salad with Olives, lemon and buckwheat and also a Caramelised Purple Carrot, Chickpea & Chilli Salsa Salad. The box contains exactly the right amount of ingredients for each recipe with the exception of salt/pepper & oil.

I first tackled the fennel and leek salad and carefully followed the enclosed recipe leaflet. It gave an estimated prep/cooking time of 30 minutes and this was about right. I dutifully griddled my veg and boiled my buckwheat and whilst they were cooking chopped parsley, garlic and olives and mixed them together with lemon juice and the tablespoon of wholegrain mustard supplied in a little packet. It looked good – very similar to the image on the recipe leafet. But then came the moment of testing – yeuch!

It was really unpleasant as a result of the harshness of the mustard dressing and I very nearly didn’t eat it. I was so disappointed with the result – and of course had used all the ingredients and so had enough for another portion the following day. I was sorely tempted to chuck the lot in the bin but instead packed the remains into my lunchtub for the next day.  However, whether by accident or subconcious design I managed to leave it at home the next day and so was forced (!) to buy a jacket potato with tuna mayo for my lunch.  But in the evening it looked reproachfully at me from within its tub and being averse to waste I decided I would have to eat it as an accompaniment to my pan fried trout.  So I steeled myself expecting the worst only to discover that the flavour had completely changed in the intervening 24 hours.  The harshness of the dressing had mellowed and there was no pungent acidity as there had been. The resulting salad (served at room temp) was actually rather tasty and the mustard dressing simply gave a bit of an oomph to the flavours of the veg and the buckwheat.  If I were to make it again I would taste the mustard first and blend it very carefully with the other strong flavours of garlic and lemon.

The other salad I made as an accompaniment to a veggie chilli I made for a few family and friends who gathered in my new house to wish my daughter farewell as she headed off to India for a couple of months. I roasted the carrots and chick peas the evening before the gathering which would have been fine had I then not forgotten I had left them on a baking tray in the oven.  When I heated the oven for something else the following afternoon I suddenly remembered they were there. They weren’t black but they were definitely well done and the chickpeas a little scorched.  I hesitated about serving them but I’d already chopped and mixed the coriander with the carrot tops plus garlic and chilli and oil so I threw it altogether and put it in a bowl on the table at the same time as serving up the nachos.  I have no idea what it tasted like as before I had found a serving spoon in the kitchen the guests had piled into the nachos and had their hands in my carrot salad and were eating it with their fingers! It was declared a success despite the overcooking = so will definitely give this one another go.

Back on Foodie Track

After a difficult year on several fronts and a stressful drawn out house move during which my diet and general well being took a turn for the worse I am now, hopefully, well back on track.  I’ve finally moved house and now have a bigger kitchen – although less work surfaces! And after a couple of week’s with a tiny fridge made even more unusable by the lack of any internal shelves (I shouldn’t really complain as it was left in the house for me by the previous occupant free of charge) I am now the proud owner of a new Liebherr fridge freezer.

It arrived at exactly the same time as my first delivery from Abel & Cole.  My local shops leave a lot to be desired in terms of healthy living – mainly small convenience stores which are ok for picking up a carton of milk but are a bit lacking in fresh fruit and veg and mostly stock uninspiring frozen ready meals.   I’ve long had the bulk of my shopping delivered by Ocado but have taken the decision to eat more organics and have decided to give Abel & Cole a go.  To be fair this isn’t the first time as used to order veg boxes from them several years ago when I was feeding a family but I can’t remember now why I stopped – although suspect it was cost and the variety in the veg boxes.

Now I’m mainly catering for myself with occasional visits from family and friends so feel I can afford to be a little more indulgent in terms of cost. I am hoping that the small boxes won’t be too much for one and intend to split some of the meat/fish packs and freeze portions.

So this week amongst the stack of boxes which arrived were an Extra Small Magnificent Mixed Box containing a mix of fruit and veg, a separate Super Salad Box, ba Fabulous meat & fish box and a monthly cheese box plus miscellaneous individual items.

I was impressed with the quality of all of the items and although there was a little overlap between the veg in the mixed box and the salad box (carrots and spinach) I can avoid that in future by paying a bit more attention to what is in them and swapping items out.  The ultimate test will be in the eating – watch this space…..

 

 

 

 

Pigeon Breasts with sour cherries & walnuts

 

I may be eating a predominantly vegetarian diet – but I do eat fish and occasionally chicken or meat. But I’m trying to follow my local and seasonal principles too when I indulge in a bit of flesh (not easy in landlocked Brum when it comes to fish – but I’ll consider that another time!)

I’m lucky in that as well as now having the Kings Heath Food Assembly to buy from I also live close to one of the best Farmers’ Markets in the country in Moseley http://moseleyfarmersmarket.org.uk/the-farmers/  . Due to often working on a Saturday I am not such a regular attender as I used to be, but I was fortunate to be able to get there yesterday (30th Jan) for the first one of 2016.  I was feeling somewhat under the weather with a nasty cough and general lurgy so didn’t linger too long in the cold winds caused by Storm Gertrude. But I did pick up a couple of treats.

I have never eaten pigeon before but the stall of “Good Game”, operated by Steve Powell of Cleobury Mortimer, had some enticing packs of 6 pigeon breasts for £4. I figured that would do me for 2 meals unless my vegetarian son was tempted. And I also added in a pack of venison liver which still awaits my attention in the fridge.

But I have eaten the pigeon:) I did a quick search online to find cooking method and a recipe and was taken by a Nigel Slater one from the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jul/13/nigel-slater-pigeon-recipes I had everything required apart from the cherries – so I subsituted some dried sour cherries which whilst not being so large and juicy added a sour note that went well with the acidity of the red wine vinegar used in the sauce.

Verdict : a particularly flavoursome dish and I didn’t miss having any carbs to go with it. And I was very impressed by the pigeon breasts – cooked to perfection I think as they were still a little pink inside but not too bloody and very tender. I’ll definitely buy them again. But I may not be able to make eye contact in future with the pigeons that are the only visitors to my numerous bird feeding stations in my garden;)

 

 

 

Sweet Winter Slaw

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Tasked with making a dish to take to my daughter’s housewarming party I opted for my version of Ottolenghi’s Sweet Winter Slaw. I only made a couple of adaptations and they were to substitute Cavolo Nero for Savoy Cabbage and to include hazelnuts as well as macadamias, when I discovered someone  (me?!) had already eaten half the bag.  The celery in the photo is a red herring (!) – I gathered the ingredients from memory and then kept wondering at what stage I should add the celery.

I felt slightly guilty when buying mango and papaya as they don’t fit in with my aspirations to eat local, seasonal food. But hey – it was for a party and they did make a welcome sweet addition and festive touch that I don’t think a wrinkled old apple would have done. And it did result in a brief encounter with a sweet elderly woman who advised me on how to pick the best fruits and told me how she’d weaned her son on papaya fifty years ago when she lived in Africa.

And was it a success – well I guess so because I sent it on ahead and by the time I arrived at the party I was looking at an empty bowl;(

Low Carb Chia Seed & Nut Bread

I’d bought two packets of this Quick Ready Mix pack of Chia Seed & Nut Bread via Approved Food just before Christmas before I’d even started on my Plenty Food Project -I just thought it sounded interesting and was probably trying to add to my order to make the most of the delivery costs;) Anyway I thought I’d give it a go and see the results.

The packet promised “5 mins to Prepare” and that was all it took. Additional ingredients needed were eggs, and wine vinegar (presumably to work with the bicarbonate of soda in the mix to give the loaf some rise)  If you want to see how easy it was to make for yourself you can view the UGG Foods video here: 

The ingredients are :Almond meal(65%), chia seeds (11%), ground flax seeds (11%), coconut flour, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum, pink himalayan salt. Not a grain in sight!

And the results? A winner!  I toasted it, used it in a sandwich, dipped into soup, ate au naturel without any topping and the last bits were used as garlic croutons in Mushroom Ragout with poached egg. I have another packet and so will definitely be making another loaf very soon.

The downside – the price! I bought my packets (344g) at a significant discount (£1.99 each) from Approved Foods and having checked the Ugg Food website I discovered the price for a 454g pack is £7.95.  Even allowing for the difference in packet size it shows that the normal retail price is significantly higher – and sadly outside of my normal budget.

For anyone with real dietary restrictions due to gluten allergy I would wholeheartedly recommend this product as it provides a good loaf with a variety of uses – and it would be a great occasional treat. But for me who is simply trying to reduce my carb intake I think I’ll have to pass on price grounds for now. But I’ll be keeping a look out for any more stocks of this and other UGG products on Approved Foods – and snapping up any bargains that may come up.

 

 

Two Weeks In….

 

Two weeks in and going strong! Above are a selection of Ottolenghi inspired dishes I’ve enjoyed cooking and eating over the last couple of weeks. I say “inspired” because I’ve had to adapt on occasion to the ingredients I have available but there haven’t been many deviations. Swapping hen’s egg for duck egg to top my mushroom ragout – which may not have had the full variety of fungi in the original recipe – doesn’t seem like a cardinal sin.

I’ve actually cooked or prepared more dishes than this – but I seem to have omitted to photograph them all before tucking in. Must try harder!

Verdict so far

Cost? Hard to tell as haven’t kept detailed records of previous expenditure on food but allowing for stocking up or restocking additional spices etc I don’t feel I’ve spent much extra. But using large quantity of fresh herbs could add to food bill – will definitely aim to grow more in garden this year and look into what I could do for next winter. I’m usually only cooking meals for myself or myself + Aidan and try to cook enough to have leftovers next day for lunch.

Waste? No cooked food gone to waste – as too good to not want to eat leftovers. But buying veg specifically for one recipe can mean that I’ve got spare raw veg left over. Still have a dozen sprouts lingering after the sprout and tofu dish which haven’t found their way into another dish and are looking increasingly sorry for themselves. But intend to start preparing more winter salads or slaws to have for lunch or as meal accompaniments to address that problem.

Healthy eating? Certainly eating a larger variety of veg on daily/weekly basis than have done of late although would like to include more greens (all food looks a little orange at the moment).

Vegetarian? I’ve not gone completely veggie -but am probably eating more completely veggie meals particularly when I eat with Aidan. But I have got some meat in the freezer and have several times cooked a chicken breast or lamb chop to have with a vegetable concoction. The only meat I’ve bought since New Year has been some liver and bacon from Kings Heath Food Assembly (see later blog). Had liver & bacon on bed of braised veg with cauliflower mash one night and have had bacon and mushrooms a couple of times for breakfast.

Low carb? I have been low (but not zero!) carbing and have found it relatively easy using this style of cooking. I have had occasional grain – bulgar and also freekeh. And I made some low carb bread (see later blog) which lasted me a week. Suspect if want to follow a real low-carb diet I would need to reduce further at least initially and see this as a real possibility with little effort.

Time of preparation? Pleasantly surprised that haven’t spent that much longer cooking than previously – but even when have it has been enjoyable rather than a chore. I’m excited to see – and eat! – the results.

Overall verdict: Enjoyed reconnecting with food and cooking some interesting, flavoursome meals from fresh and in-season vegetables. Will definitely continue my Plenty Food Project – and will try harder to find time to write more regularly.