The Hungry Gap

One of my goals when getting the farm box is to extract the maximum amount of meals from each box. This is difficult to achieve. There are many other things tugging at my time.

This sounds perhaps like an excuse for not posting often, which it is not. It is an observation. Changing the way we eat involves more than just changing the ingredients on the plate, or the place where we shop. Making the necessary changes for a more sustainable way of eating seems overwhelming at times.

Now is perhaps a good time to talk about where the food in my box comes from. Not all of it comes from Church Farm; the farm does not yet have the capacity to provide a varied supply of vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy. Some of the components come from Boxfresh Organics based in Herefordshire. Have a look at their website and read about the history, it is listed in Other Links menu at the top of the page.

Church Farm is a farm in progress, but this is only part of the reason why my box is supplemented. This time of year, as Sam from the farm explained, is called the ‘Hungry Gap’. There is not much left in the ground, so while the days get longer and warmer there is actually less around to eat.

However the clever folks at Church Farm put a bag of broad bean tops in my box (see the photo if I manage to post it) and why not; it is food, and good it was. Sam suggested simply tossing them into a salad, or stir-frying them with some garlic. Both good ideas. As the oven was on whilst I was mulling over the preparation, I roasted mine.

Oven Roasted Broad Bean Tops

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Wash and spin the bean tops in a salad spinner; alternatively pat dry thoroughly using a clean tea towel. Vegetables for roasting must be as dry as possible or they go soggy instead of crispy.
Put the bean tops on a baking tray, douse with vegetable or extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with fine sea salt and toss well with your hands to coat. Spread evenly in the tray. Roast until browned and crispy, 10-20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Blanched Kale (or other sturdy greens)

If the kale is tender, strip away the thick core by simply pulling the leaves away with your fingers, as you would strip rosemary leaves from the stalk. Older kale, or other greens, might not pull away so easily, in which case, cut out the cores with a small sharp knife.
Rinse the leaves and place in a large heatproof bowl; tear or chop coarsely if the leaves are very large.
Pour over enough boiling water (I usually just fill the kettle) and let stand until tender, about 5 minutes give or take, depending on the size and age of the greens. They are done when they are tender enough to eat; test by tasting.
Drain well. Keep in a sealed container in the fridge to use as needed.
To warm when ready to serve, pat dry and sauté in a frying pan with oil and butter, stirring occasionally (the combination of oil and butter prevents the butter from burning). Season well with sea salt and black pepper. Also nice if you stir in some cream just before serving.

Another intriguing component was a mystery root vegetable. I had to call Sam and ask what they were; I couldn’t tell if they were small swedes or strangely shaped turnips. They are a variety of radish, he explained, different from the usual small red variety. And a different kind of beetroot. They scrubbed up beautifully, have a look at the photo (again, if I manage it). I wasn’t thrilled with the taste, nothing sinister just not very interesting.

They seemed a good candidate for pickling however, so I got out the books and found an intriguing recipe for an Indian pickle in a Madhur Jaffrey book, made with crushed black mustard seeds and oil, primarily. She says they need 3-5 days to mature and today is only day three. As yet, still not impressed but maybe it will taste nicer in a day or so. Because there was also a long slim beetroot in the box, I scrubbed and thinly sliced that for the pickle as well, having grown slightly weary of roasted beetroots after weeks of eating them this way. Maybe the recipe, intended for turnips, does not translate well when transferred to beetroot and radishes? If the taste improves, I will post my version of the recipe.

Most other box items were disposed of in unimaginative ways this week, I’m afraid to say. The chicken went into a curry and the bones went into pressure cooked stock, which is made in exactly the same way as ordinary stock, but in much less time. The pigs liver was donated to a friend who will be making it into paté as I know I will never have time until book writing is finished. The kale was blanched and coarsely chopped, and so ready to eat at a moment’s notice. Some of it found its way into the curry. Some was quickly fried in a pan with butter and oil, after a fried egg, and both egg and kale were wrapped in a wholemeal lebanese flatbread, then rolled up and consumed for a late breakfast.


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