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Preview: THE GREAT BIG VEGETABLE CHALLENGE

THE GREAT BIG VEGETABLE CHALLENGE



Welcome to the World's First Great Big Vegetable Challenge! Six years ago we went on a vegetable journey of a lifetime. A 7 year year old boy named Freddie and his mother faced up to the challenge of turning him from a Vegetable-Phobic into a boy who will



Updated: 2017-11-20T17:02:26.330+01:00

 



Elderflower Cordial for our English Summer

2012-06-16T15:09:05.292+01:00

At the back of our small London garden a huge elderflower shrub leans over. At this time of year a mist of white pollen drifts across, mixed with the constant drizzle of rain. Armed with a ladder, a rain coat, a pair of scissors and a large metal bowl, I climbed up onto the back wall and clipped off 20 elderflower blooms to make cordial. I blame the Diamond Jubilee. Encouraged by the union jack bunting livening up our neighbours' homes, people seemed chattier. The end of the road was cordoned off for a street party, with a regal dog show and best tiara competition. And I bottled my Diamond Jubilee Cordial and gave it to my neighbours.

Have any of you any favourite recipes that use elderflowers? We would love to know about them...




Elderflower Cordial

25 elderflower heads
2 pints of boiling water (1.2 litres)
2 kg or 4.5 1b of caster sugar
2 unwaxed lemons
2 unwaxed limes 
1 tsp citric acid 

1. Carefully wash the elderflower heads to get rid of any little insects
2. Boil the water and pour it over the caster sugar in a very big pan or mixing bowl. Stir and leave to cool
3. Add the teaspoon of citric acid, the limes and lemons finely sliced.
4. Add the flowers, stir gently and leave to cool covered.
5. Leave for at least a day. (We left it for three days and the scent and taste of the flowers is stronger)
6. Strain through a muslin cloth or a fine sterile tea towel and pour into sterilised bottles. 



'A Radish Feast'

2012-05-29T20:50:09.307+01:00

              Throughout history, vegetables seem to have held a strange power over humans. They  inspire gatherings,  competitions, festivals and races; they have even been worshipped. In Victorian England the humble radish was given celebrity status by a community in Cumbria. Well at least for one day a year - May 12th, to be precise.  This was the day of the Radish Feast. 
              In 1879 in The Graphic Newspaper describes what it calls a 'curious tradition' from the village of Levens. 'It occurs on the 12th May, when the London season keeps society fixed within driving distance of Pall Mall and Charing Cross. (...) At the Hall, on the bowling-green a long table is spread, whereon are placed many piles of dark oat-bread, many pounds of bright new butter, and above all heaped-up dishes of radishes. This vegetarian fare is washed down with strong old ale of a special brew known as Morocco.' As you read on, it is clear that the potent Morocco Ale  works in tandem with the fiery radish to whip the good people of Cumbria into a state of excitement and eventually inebriation.  Each newcomer has to stand on one leg and down a glass of Morocco. Rather primly The Graphic reporter glosses over the final moments of the Levens Radish Feast. All he says is,' there is generally some fun before the "feast" gives place to wrestling and other athletic amusements of the North-county gatherings'. 
              The Radish Feast clearly needs to be revived. I am thinking of lobbying the Cumbria and Lake District tourist board. Meanwhile, can I ask you all to try out something that is simple and delicious. All you need are some radishes, some unsalted butter and some coarse cut country bread. Thinly slice the radishes and lay them on the buttered bread. I found some French Breakfast radishes for sale cheaply in Morrisons  Supermarket - mild and sweet. A perfect introduction to radishes for children and vegetable phobes of all ages. And for the adults only - accompanied by a glass of your best Moroccan. 




Aubergine Burgers (and don't forget the Marmite)

2012-05-28T09:38:34.241+01:00

If you don't like the colours red, white and blue, now is not the time to visit London. The city is in the throes of a virulent strain of Jubilitis. Wherever you look there are Union Jacks. In the supermarket it looks as if all the food manufacturers have been time travelling. Marmite has renamed itself Ma'amite. Kelloggs has reverted to their package designs from 60 years ago, a marketing move that triggered off nostalgic reverie from my husband over breakfast. That well known publication, Packaging News, (yes there's a magazine for everyone) has been waxing lyrical about what are apparently called Limited Edition Collector's Boxes. This is not good news for the country's hoarders. Yet another reason to keep an empty cereal packet...The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations are next weekend - the London Olympics are just a few months round the corner. It is finally sunny. So using my 'Thank you Ma'am, Ma'amite', I made aubergine burgers, seasoned with a Marmite marinade.  Thank you Ma'am Aubergine Burgers  1 large aubergines, sliced into 1 cm (half an inch) thick discs1 tablespoons of sesame oil1 tablespoon of olive oilHalf a teaspoon of Marmite2 medium sized balls of mozzarella cheese1. Cut the aubergine into 8 evenly sliced discs2. In a small bowl mix together the oils and the marmite so it is a smooth paste3. Brush all sides of the aubergine slices with the marinade, smoothing it into the flesh of the aubergine with a pastry brush so it is completely covered.4. Heat up a griddle pan until it is nice and hot. Spray a little oil on the surface and place the aubergine discs on to the griddle.5. It takes about 8 minutes to cook each side of the aubergine burger. Turn them over carefully so that they are evenly cooked. The sides should be nicely browned.They are ready when the flesh is nice and soft.6. Turn the heat down to low. Take a slice of aubergine on the griddle and add a round slice of mozzarella, then another slice of aubergine and top it with another slice of mozzarella cheese.7. You will have four towers of aubergine burgers. Place in a bun and serve._ Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]



Sorry I've been away for so long....

2012-05-19T21:15:34.939+01:00



How do you say sorry for disappearing from a blog without so much as an excuse?
It is simply that we needed a break after a wonderful adventure - a rest after writing the book. The former veggie-phobic boy Freddie, who was 7 when we first started the Great Big Veg Challenge, is now 13.  His sister Alexandra is 16.  And yes, he does now enjoy eating vegetables. Some things never change  - he still hates peas. But that doesn't matter because he loves everything from asparagus, sweetcorn, artichokes, sweet potato and eddoes, to cabbage, green beans and mushrooms. The GBVC seems like ancient history to him now. But the Great Big Veg Challenge is back because we are still exploring and learning new vegetable recipes. And I miss all of the blog friends that we made. So if you will forgive us for our absence...please join us again.



A rallying call to all Brussels Sprouts lovers out there......

2009-11-18T08:43:18.793+01:00

(image)

It's that time of year when the Brussels Sprout starts to take centre stage in the vegetable stalls of Britain. I feel a hint of guilt about the humble sprout. As a child, I hated them. I would go to extraordinary lengths to avoid eating them. I perfected the art of hiding the sprout in one cheek whilst consuming the rest of the meal. At the end, I would leave the table and run with one bulging cheek like a hamster up to the top of the house where I would retrieve the intact sprout and throw it out of the window. I can remember watching the sprout bounce down the slates of the roof before falling three stories down into the garden.

Having learned to love sprouts and even more surprisingly found that Freddie loves them too, it is time to pay them back. So when I read a news story earlier this year, I thought it was time the Great Big Veg Challenge started to campaign. But I really need all your help in this. Let me tell you first the story that grabbed our attention:
Royal Navy Commanding Officer Wayne Keble OBE is in charge of the illustrious HMS Bulwark. He was allegedly heard to say that sprouts were the 'devil's vegetable' and should be banned from the Captain's table. Read one version of the full story here. Looking at the picture of the Commanding Officer in that newspaper article, he seems a reasonable man, a friendly face - not one that you would associate with an irrational fear of sprouts.
I imagine it might be difficult for sprouts to sue for libel. And they are frequently the target of negative press. A few years back they were voted in a survey Britain's most hated vegetable. (Apparently they have regained some ground coming second to the aubergine this year).
So what can we all do? Well, we've thought of two things:
1.We have started a petition to encourage Commanding Officer Wayne Keble to learn to enjoy sprouts. We'd love you to sign this petition online. This is what you would commit to:
"We the undersigned, call on Commanding Officer Wayne Keble OBE, to put aside his hatred of Brussels Sprouts and to lead his men and women by example, sampling delicious recipes and dishes that demonstrate the delectable taste of sprouts.
We the undersigned will also commit to supply him and his Royal Navy catering team with irresistible sprout recipes to help him on this culinary voyage of discovery".

2. And the second thing I would like you to do is to join me in putting together the most imaginative and delicious selection of your Brussels Sprouts recipes. If you are a blogger, would you agree to one day where you celebrate the sprout and feature your favourite recipe dedicated to Commanding Offiver Wayne Keble? No negative postings here please - just an attempt to encourage all sproutophobes. If you are interested in this - please leave me a comment or email me.



Black Garlic and Mushroom Tartlets

2009-11-16T09:49:16.412+01:00

"Mum's bought slugs!"I hadn't of course, but I concede my latest vegetable discovery is a dead ringer for the Arion Ater lurking under the hostas in our garden. One of the earliest things we learnt in our Great Big Veg Challenge was to be brave, not to be frightened of the vegetable unknown. We have tried everything from seaweed, cacti and nettles to bitter gourd and now Black Garlic. Alex discovered them on a stall at MasterChef Live in London's Olympia. According to the packet, black garlic is aged white garlic. The packaging boasts the only ingredients are regular garlic, heat, humidity and time. So we bought some and brought them home. The little black cloves have the texture of a piece of chewy liquorice. They taste of fermented wine, intense sweet garlic, a touch of liquorice and the bizarre thing is although you are eating whole cloves of garlic, your breath doesn't stink. And in our house, this is a critical issue. My husband has a deep-seated loathing of garlic. His hatred of the stinking-rose extends to cooking smells and particuarly garlicky-breathe. This is a shame, because neither Freddie or Alex have inherited the garlic-hating gene. In fact, when Freddie was a toddler we called him dough-boy in honour of his ability to polish off a plate of Pizza Express garlic dough-balls in record time. So as you can imagine, the prospect of being able to introduce garlic into family-mealtime without causing a rift is very welcome. I baked some Mushroom and Black Garlic Tartlets. (Or if you like Freddie's alternative name, Tarte au Slug). Freddie has learnt to enjoy mushrooms largely because of his friend Bertie's Superb Mushroom Pasta Sauce. (Click HERE to find the recipe - I assure you it can turn round the most ardent mushroom-haters.) Now 'He Who Hates Garlic' has decided that Black Garlic is acceptable. If any of you know any more about black garlic please let me know. I have a pot in the fridge and I need more recipes. Mushroom and Black Garlic Tartlets350g of sliced mushrooms1 tbsp of olive oil5 shallot onions peeled and very finely chopped2 tbsp of finely chopped black garlic375g of shortcrust pastry ready rolled3 eggs, beaten1 egg yolk, beaten150 ml of milkSome Parmegiano Cheese to grate over the tartlets1. Lightly saute mushrooms and shallots in oil for 5 minutes until softened.2. Season and add the chopped black garlic - saute for a further 3 minutes3. Beat the eggs in a bowl with the milk and season with salt and pepper4. Cut out the ready rolled pastry into circles big enough to line the mini-tartlet cases. ( Make sure they are lightly oiled before so the tarts don't stick)5. Line the pastry cases equally and evenly with the mushroom, black garlic and shallot onions.6. Pour over the egg and milk mixture. 7. Shave some parmegiano cheese over the top of each tartlet8. Bake in a preheated oven for 30-35 mins at 200CServe hot or coldBreathe liberally on friends and neighbours afterwards without fear of knocking them out with garlic breathe. Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]



Butternut Squash Cannelloni

2009-11-05T16:24:27.751+01:00

I think the roadworks a few yards from me are beginning to influence my subconscious. In the next street they are laying gigantic striped-plastic tubes underground. They are big enough for a large man to climb through. At night the place becomes one huge theme park for the millions of London rats who raid our bins. They can now combine an evening's top-class scavenging with a tubular ride. I find myself watching the workmen for long periods of time, mesmerised as they thread these enormous tubes through a hole in the ground. Then I walked to the supermarket.. Wheeling my trolley past the pasta shelves I was drawn towards the cannelloni.And this is the end result - Butternut Squash and Puy Lentil Cannelloni. If there are any leftovers, and I suspect there won't be, I will deprive the rats and take it over to the workmen in celebration of their tubular engineering.Butternut Squash Cannelloni2 medium onions very finely chopped1 tablespoon of olive oil2 large garlic cloves, crushed1 tsp smoked paprikahalf a teaspoon of cinnamonHalf a teaspoon of mixed herbs500 gr butternut squash, peeled and cut into half inch cubes250ml vegetable stock or bouillon100g of rinsed puy lentils200g tomato puree double concentrate400g tinned chopped tomatoesFor the cheese sauce;25g plain flour sifted25g butter575ml milk100g mature cheddar cheese, grated20g of parmegiano cheese, finely gratedSalt and freshly ground pepper1. Heat the oil, and soften the finely chopped onion and crushed garlic for 5 minutes with the smoked paprika, cinnamon and mixed herbs , stirring all the time.2. Add the small-cubed butternut squash and stir occasionally for 8 minutes on a medium heat, making sure it doesn't stick. they should soften and be well coated with the onion spice mixture.3. Add the vegetable stock and lentils and bring to the boil. Then turn down the heat and allow to simmer on a low heat with the lid on for 15 minutes.4. Stir in the tomato paste and tinned chopped tomatoes over a medium heat for a further four minutes. Season with salt and pepper.5. Stuff the cannelloni tunbes with the butternut squash mixture - using a teaspoon to make sure they are properly filled.Lay them out cheek by jowl in a rectangular oven dish. Pour over the leftover butternut squash mixture evenly. To make the cheese sauce;1.Melt the butter in a pan on a low heat2. Stir in the flour and keep stirring until it forms a smooth paste.3. Add the milk and whisk constantly till the sauce thickens.4. Allow the sauce to boil for a minute, stirring constantly 5. Add the grated cheddar cheese and stir in on a low heat until it is smooth and melted. If you have any lumps you can always push the sauce through a sieve.6. Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the butternut squash canneloni, sprinkle over the finely grated parmeggiano cheese and finely chopped basil leaves. Cook in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes at 180C. I had a lovely email from another blogger - Jennifer Johnson in the USA who works with student nurses. I was intrigued by her top tips for making a drive-thru meal more healthy - and because i am a great believer in changing eating habits by altering the everyday things we do - here they are. If any of you have anything you want to share with me - please do let me know! Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]



Locusts and butternut squash soup...all in a day.

2009-09-26T21:42:49.696+01:00

The Great Big Veg Challenge has been asleep online for a few months...as I recovered from a back injury. I have returned ashamed to find weeds in the garden in the form of Bloog Spam. Freddie and I have weeded the garden, turned over the soil and are back to share our vegetable-eating adventures with all of you who are kind enough to visit and read. Thank you!To celebrate and get back into the right frame of mind to be adventurous we went to the new Darwin centre in the Natural History Museum. If you are ever in London, this is the most amazing place, recently opened by Prince William to house many millions of natural history specimens. (Picture from Natural History Museum site)They have opened the Attenborough Studio, a space-age space where you can sit and listen to scientists share their enthusiasm. The events are all broadcast live online so at 1230 today if you had logged on to the museum site you might have caught sight of me biting into a (dead) locusts, egged on by Freddie. This was the Edible Insects lecture with scientist and insect - eating enthusiast Stuart Hine. "Is this as bad as eating celeriac?"he whispered as I sat back down. Well, Stuart had kindly placed the fried locust into a rocket and marie rose sauce sandwich which made the prized locust seem more like a crunchy prawn. We have just got home and are preparing to eat a more conventional meal and share the recipe with you all. And its a soup that Freddie and Alex love. No locusts required. Oh - and because we need to get back to old habits - this soup gets a 10 out of 10 from the former Veggie-phobe.Smoky Butternut Squash and Carrot SoupHalf a butternut squash ( around 700g)2 sprigs of fresh rosemary1 medium onion finely chopped1 medium peeled potatoolive oil1 clove of garlic, crushed5 carrots diced1 litre of vegetable or chicken stock3 tbsp of creme fraiche to serve1 tsp of smoked paprikasalt and ground pepper to seasonpreheat oven to 180 c (350F)Cut squash in half and scoop out seedsRub a little olive oil on the flesh and place the squash flesh-down on a baking tray with a little rosemary underneath. This adds the most delicious flavour to the squash. Bake for 40 mins in the oven. when ready, scoop out all the baked flesh. Put aside the rosemary.Saute onion, garlic,diced potato, diced carrot in a pan with a little olive oil and the paprika. When the onions are softened and translucent. (takes about 4 mins)When they are soft and ready - add the butternut squash flesh, the stock andbring to the boil, stirring all the time. When it reaches boiling point, turn the heat right down and simmer gently for 20 mins.Remove from the hob, stir in the creme fraiche and blend the soup in a processor or with a hand blender....(No locusts required)So what's weirdest food you have ever eaten? Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]



Until we have learned to taste....

2009-05-16T11:24:49.640+01:00

"Until we have learned to explore, our tastes are so limited, our experience is so narrow, that we can make no valid comparisons, can found no true judgements. So it is with food. We must learn to eat first." (The Robert Carrier Cookbook) Forgive me for being such an unreliable blogger over the past month. I have been recovering from a back problem. Due to the combined magic of painkillers and an osteopath I am slowly getting better and returning to normal life. And back to blogging! I haven't ventured outside much but I couldn't resist the invitation to be a judge for the Great Taste Awards at the Real Food Festival in London. Having spent 18 months of our lives tasting an entire alphabet of vegetables, Freddie and I have learnt to explore tastes. But until you have had to taste 10 different flavoured sausages, 9 boozy ice creams, 8 sloe gins, 7 chocolates with chilli, 6 gluten-free cakes, 5 fruit jams, 4 savoury biscuits, 3 hot puddings, 2 fine butters and 1 noble anchovy you haven't really earned the title of taster. On my table was a wondeful lady from Devon, a farmers wife and an experienced Womens Institute judge known as Ruth Maile. She taught me how to scrape back the butter and see whether it is well blended, to think about the balance of flavours in a spoonful of jam, and to consider the crispness of a savoury biscuit. I left feeling as if I had been through the equivalent of an aerobics exercise for the palate. On the final day of judging I took Freddie with me and we were invited to sit on the Supreme Table. This table receives all the recommendations from the other judging tables for the coveted gold awards. You don't know what products you will be sampling. So he was a little nervous. Until the plates of chocolate started to arrive, lining up on our table, waiting for a second opinion. He turned to me and said,"This is my idea of a brilliant job - can I be a chocolate taster?" And on our table was just that - an experienced chocoatier Marc Demarquette who encouraged this fledgling chocolatier to put aside his pocket money chocolate palate and learn to identify the taste of a really good quality cocoa bean. Learning to explore food, learning to taste, Richard Carrier was right. Until we have done that we can't make valid judgements. Children should be given classes in tasting and exploring food. Any of you have any inspiring ideas for encouraging children to widen their taste horizons? Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]



Great Big Lunch Out Challenge no 2 - Welcome to Little Chef.

2009-04-12T19:45:47.629+01:00

This is the second of our Great Big Lunch Out Challenges. The aim is to praise the best attempts by restaurants and cafes to feed children good value, good quality food. This time it's more of a Great Big Breakfast Out Challenge but it is the holiday season, a time when many of us spend hours on the motorway and sometimes it is hard to avoid motorway service stations. It was 9.30 am on the A38 outside Exeter in Devon when the portly figure of Mr Little Chef beckoned. I should have known that he was not to be trusted. If you look carefully, his chef whites look decidedly grubby. But I wanted to give Mr Little Chef a chance - especially after reading that Heston Blumenthall has been advising the owners on how to turn round the restaurant chain's fortunes. I have no idea on whether the chain is being refitted, whether it is about to alter its menu, but all I know is that none of the hype appears to have reached the A38 outside Exeter. We sat down at one of only two tables with diners. After 20 minutes a waitress decides to ask if we would like to order. We were more than ready. The children ordered the Early Starter Breakfast for £5.99. I plumped for the lighter touch - the healthy choice breakfast which offered me fruit compote, low fat yoghurt and crunchy cereal on top for £4.95. Another 15 minutes passed and the breakfast arrived in a curious order. First of all one glass of water arrived, then another, and then a cup of tea was plonked in front of my husband Chris. The tea bag floated appealingly on top. There was no saucer on which to place it. I suppose any sense of ceremony must have been extra. He asked for a plate on which to place the tea-bag and the waitress looked a little offended. Then the breakfasts arrived. A plastic pat of butter for the toastsat on top of the fried egg - another strange touch. Ok, so its clear by now that Heston hasn't stepped into this branch of Little Chef. (If any of you have visited one that is different please review it and let us know). I was still waiting for my healthy offering. Then the waitress came over empty handed. "I'm afraid we have run out of yoghurt,"she apologised. The thing is when you have waited so long for something so simple and everyone else is already eating their breakfast, you run out of sympathy. I must have looked disappointed because the waitress tensed up and grimaced at me. "Well since we have run out of yoghurt, we can offer you more toast instead." "More toast? But the whole point of the dish is that it is fruit compote and yoghurt. Toast doesn't really work as a replacement. And how can you run out of something so simple as yoghurt? Why don't you just go to the local supermarket and buy some?" "Well..." hesitated the waitress. "Well we ran out last night and we haven't had any more in yet. Would you like the extra toast instead?"I declined. I know it's not the fault of the waitress and I wasn't rude but really, how hard can it be to make sure you have some yoghurt in the fridge? And if you run out, why not use some initiative and buy some more? And if that is too hard and you spot this yoghurt deficit the night before, why are you still taking an order for fruit compote and yoghurt? By now the children have finished their breakfasts which are unimaginative, and we leave. Their score for taste - 5 out of 10. Our score for value - 2. And Heston, if you are really involved in helping out the fat guy in grubby chef whites, please rush down to Exeter. Unless Little Chef is prepared to pay for us to try out their food at a refurbished branch, then we won't be going back. It was appalling. Now I know that there is better out there for families - let us know about it. Wherever you are in the world, take photos, write a review, score it for value and taste and email us here. Because families deserve better!Read our [...]



Sweet Potato and Sausage Casserole

2009-03-30T21:50:54.440+01:00


Pavlov's dogs drooled when he blew a whistle, trained to associate the whistling with mealtime. Within just four days, my children are showing that they too have conditioned reflexes. When our visiting Vitasteam machine pings at the end of the cooking cycle, they rush through to the kitchen. I think I may record the ping for future use, long after the Miele machine is returned to their head quarters.

We were following their recipe booklet but I now feel confident to go off piste. I made an organic sausage and sweet potato casserole which Freddie scored 9 out of 10. I've got into a rhythm now. Using the steamer speeds up the process of making a casserole, but you still have to start the process on the hob. Then you put it all in the steamer , stir in a little cornflour and cook for 3o minutes. And Ping, the kids run through.

Sweet Potato and Sausage Casserole
2-3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 large potatoes peeled and cut into chunks

2 medium onions peeled and finely sliced

500 ml good quality stock (vegetable or chicken stock works well)

2 large tablespoons of concentrated tomato paste

1teaspoon of Za'atar (sesame, sea salt,somac,thyme,oregano,marjoram)

half a teaspoon of harissa paste

1 tablespoon of olive oil

salt and pepper to season

In a large pan on a medium hob heat the olive oil with the onions and softened for 6 minutes, add the sausages and brown them gently. Add the cubed sweet potato and potato with the stock, spices and tomato paste and harissa paste. Stir well and bring to the boil. Take out a little of the stock and in a cup mix a tablespoon of cornflour with the stock and then re-add to the casserole, stirring in to thicken the sauce. Place in a oven proof casserole in an oven at 170 C for an hour, stirring every now and again.

If you are using a Miele steam oven then at the point after you have added the cornflour, out the casserole into a lidded steam container and cook in the vitasteam for 35 minutes at 100.

Serve with flat bread.




Steamed eggs for breakfast!

2009-03-28T10:07:47.025+01:00

I blame binge-drinking. Not me, I hasten to add, but other people. Because at around five o'clock this morning a drunk couple zig-zagged up my street laughing hysterically and I woke up. I couldn't get back to sleep. So I read the Vitasteam manual and found out that I could steam eggs. I also read the bit about using heat-proof containers. You should never act on thoughts that come to you at five in the morning. Three hours later and I have refilled the water container, put two eggs in two Alessi egg-cups and set it to 3 minutes for soft-boiled. Easy. The roary-steamy bit happened, the odd puff of steam shot out and the machine beeped to say,'ready'. The children are excited, looking on as I open the door. A sorry site greets me. The cheery faces of my egg cups have altered, as if they have suffered some kind of stroke, one side of their face appears to have slipped slightly. They have dropped their precious cargo of eggs, unbroken and lie prone on the tray base. The asparagus spears are perfectly steamed.
The children are crestfallen but hungry so once I transfer their steamed eggs to a new cup they are happy again.
We've had to bin the egg cups as they can no longer hold an egg, but that's my fault. I thought they were heat proof, having sterilised similar containers before. "This is the perfect egg," says Freddie to console me. "Really, really soft and delicious." He dips the asparagus into the egg, one of the first vegetables that he learnt to love with the Great Big Veg Challenge. And day two of my steam-cooking crash course I put it all down to experience.



How to turn your kitchen into a sauna

2009-03-27T20:51:38.071+01:00

As I write there is an unfamiliar sound in my kitchen; a bubbling, perculating noise coming from a black and chrome box on the kitchen counter. This is my introduction to the world of steam-cooking. One of the fun side-effects of writing 'The Great Big Veg Challenge' blog is that I am occasionally invited to try out food products, bakeware and for the first time I have been leant a state of the art steam oven by Miele to try out. For a few weeks the 'Vitasteam' email sat in my junk mail file alongside the offers from Mr Adjela in Lagos to share in his 'wondrous good fortune, Lord bless you' and guarantees that I had yet again won the Spanish Euro Lottery. Matt from Miele persisted and I am pleased he did. Not being hugely in touch with the world of cooking appliances, I don't know much about steam-cooking other than my steel steamer. This machine is like something out of Star Wars. It is the R2D2 of steam-cooking. Once Freddie has popped all the bubble wrap, my husband commented on where exactly we would have the space for this monster steamer and Alex asked for supper. That was easily answered. I've been sent a recipe booklet. "Tonight, we will be having Spring lamb Casserole". Alex helped me to prep all the ingredients, I filled the machine's water container and looked at the recipe and panicked. I need to find a steam container with a lid. I had visions of blowing up the fancy machine and having to email Miele Matt with my tail between my legs. I find a heat proof dish with a lid and stick the ingredients in, turn on the machine and after a quiet ten minutes, the machine beeps at me and a code number flashes up. I look through the manual searching for code numbers. I'm under pressure. The family is hungry, the casserole is uncooked and I have a pathological hatred of manuals. The code number informs me that I have not properly installed the water container. I open the oven door, jiggle around with the water container and close it again. The casserole starts cooking. Every now and again the perculating oven sounds angry. I get anxious. The roary-bubbly sound calms down and the machine becomes eerily quiet. That is more unsettling. Should steam be so quiet? I am expecting more of a Flying Scotsman presence, the occasional train whistle, maybe even a Brief Encounter moment as I view my husband through billowing steam. But steam-cooking is far less dramatic. It just bubbles away until a beep informs me that dinner is ready. It worked. I open the door of the bubbling machine and a puff of steam hits me. (Note to self, do not stand directly in front of the door next time - the manual HAD warned me). The casserole is perfectly cooked. Freddie eats everything, even the carrots and the runner beans. For the next week or so my kitchen will become more of a sauna than a kitchen. Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]



Roast Trout, Sweet Potato and Broccoli Chowder

2009-03-19T16:09:38.287+01:00



I have been working on creating delicious soups which won't result in my children being hungry an hour later. Chowders are the way forward...
Have also worked out that it is a good idea to test-drive meals at home, so that the first time Freddie comes across a new dish isn't in the school canteen. Because there is nothing worse than opening your lunch box, staring inside and thinking, "This sucks."
So try this out... Freddie and Alex gave this recipe 8 out of 10.

Trout, Purple Sprouted Broccoli and Sweet Potato Chowder

Makes 4 servings (generous)
2 trout fillet portions (or try salmon fillets if you prefer)
1.2 litres of vegetable stock
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
200gr of purple sprouted broccoli (or ordinary broccoli florets)
1 small tub of creme-fraiche
1 tablespoon of olive oil
A few strands of saffron if you have some - but its not essential


In the oven at 180C for 20 minutes roast the fish fillets, covered with foil. Remove the skin. On the hob in a large pan, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and on a medium heat saute the cubed potato and sweet potato for about 5 minutes, stirring all the time until they are softened. Add the stock. Bring to boil and then simmer gently with lid on for 10 minutes. Add the broccoli, which should have the larger stalks removed - just include the delicate florets. Simmer for another 6 minutes until the florets are softened. Season with salt and pepper and if you have some, a few strands of saffron to add a lovely yellow colour. Stir in the creme-fraiche and then serve with hot bread.
To serve in a food flask, allow to cool and then bag into portion sizes and freeze. Defrost thoroughly the night before you need it - and heat up thoroughly ready for the food flask.



Great Big Lunch Out Challenge - Number One

2009-03-17T11:10:51.227+01:00

 What is it about caterers and their idea of a children's lunch? They toss a cheap selection of dull snacks in a cardboard box, decorate it with a cartoon character, add an underripe banana to tick the 'healthy box' and charge a hapeless parent as much as £4.99. This box of delights is on sale at the vast majority of visitor attractions across Britain, in service stations, museums, castles, galleries and theme parks. So what do you do if you haven't the time to put together a picnic and you want to buy lunch for your family without spending a fortune? Well this is where the Great Big Lunch Out Challenge is going to help out. But I need your help. If you find a place where they are rising to the challenge of offering a nutritious lunch at a fair price for children without resorting to chicken nuggets and chips or the depressing cardboard box lunch, then let me know. Send me a photo, review it, rate it out of 10, tell me the worst that you find and the best.....And please, this isn't just about British sites, wherever you live in the world, tell us about what is on offer for your children. My email is in the profile section of the blog. Or leave a comment below. This is my first offering. And because I know there are good caterers out there who do want to offer something better for children, let's start on a positive note. This Saturday we went to visit the farmers' market in Bute Street, South Kensington and the nearby museums. Sitting opposite the Natural History Museum and Science Museum is the Victoria and Albert Museum. And inside the V&A is a restaurant that has made the revolutionary decision to allow children to eat the same food as adults. There is no two-tier system here...and although part of me wants to keep this secret to myself, there is a bargain meal offer for children. For £4.95 they can have a generous children's portion of the freshly cooked adult meals with whatever organic juice drink they want and a piece of fruit. And the rooms in which you sit down to eat are beautiful; the Morris, Gamble and Poynter Rooms. The woman behind the counter told me these three rooms were the first museum restaurant in the world. And as if that isn't enough for £4.95, there is a pianist playing jazz in the background, a student from the nearby Royal College of Music. V & A Cafe Opening timesOpen everyday from 10.00-17.15 and from 10.00-21.30 on Fridays.Freddie and Alex's score - 9/10.My score for value - 10/10.Remember that you don't have to pay to visit any of these museums.Right, its over to you - calling all parents or grandparents and carers to join the Great Big Lunch Out Challenge!Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]



17 Comments

2009-03-10T09:31:44.542+01:00


I am sorry it has been over a month since I last posted but we have been distracted. One of the children has been in and out of hospital but they are completely better now. And to ease everyone back into their school lunches things have had to have extra-appeal. Or as it is called in our house, Friday appeal. Because on a Friday at school they serve forbidden foods like chips, burgers and chocolate brownies. So this is our Friday special - Courgette or Zucchini Turkey Burgers.
Zucchini Turkey Burgers
Makes around 18 burgers
250g zucchini or courgette finely grated
500g turkey mince
half teaspoon of turmeric
half a teaspoon of ground paprika
1 clove of garlic crushed
cooking spray oil
18 mini burger buns or mini panini


In a bowl mix together the courgette, turkey mince and turmeric paprika and garlic.
Shape the mixture into small balls that fit int he palm of your hand
Flatten them slightly to make a burger.
Lightly spray a griddle pan with a little oil and heat to med high. Place the burgers in the pan. Cook them for at least 3 minutes eachside, turning them over carefuly with a fish slice. When the meat is cooked through serve in a mini burger bun.

You can also use grilled red peppers and mozzarella slices to give the burgers extra colour. These are just as delicious cool in a lunch box as hot in a meal at home.



The Great Big Veg Challenge book



Slow is the new fast - Slow Cooked Green Beans

2009-01-22T11:17:17.873+01:00


Ed writes The Slow Cook blog. He lives in Washington DC and often writes about the food appreciation classes offered to encourage school children to eat healthily and to connect with the food they eat. He also introduced Freddie and Alex to the delights of slow-cooked green beans. For this alone we are eternally grateful. These have now featured as a perfect lunch for our food flasks....And are proof that when it comes to food, Slow is the new Fast.
Slow Cooked Green Beans

450g green beans, topped.
1 medium onion finely chopped
400g can of chopped tomatoes.
A twist of freshly ground black pepper.
2 tablespoons olive oil
Half a teaspoon of smoked paprika
2-3 slices of thick-cut bacon, cut into small chunks or use gammon steak

Use a flameproof casserole dish or pan with a tight fitting lid. On the hob, cook the onion in the oil on a medium heat until it is translucent and soft. Add the paprika,tomatoes and green beans which have had their stalks cut off. Add the bacon pieces. Mix together and simmer on a low heat for at least three hours. You may have to add a very small amount of water every now and again if it needs. The beans will break down and become far less fibrous.

We are looking for inspiration on hot puddings. These have got to work when decanted into a little insulated food flask...rice puddins, semolina - that kind of thing.



Where's the pudding?

2009-01-13T12:27:17.401+01:00

 On the wall of our kitchen is an 1950's school sign. Two purposeful children, one with perfect pigtails - both with a confident swagger - are striding off to school. Fast forward to 2009 and the picture in our household is rather different on a school day. Hair is unkempt, eyes bleary and invariably there is a row going on; arguments over lost sports kit, incomplete homework, empty cereal boxes, shoes without laces. In fact when we leave the house in the morning at the unearthly time of 7.30 to walk to school, we stumble out onto the pavement. The only creature with anything approaching a confident swagger is the cat. Every morning he attempts to escape through the front door on a kamakazi mission to run across the road where he will meet certain death. Every morning so far, we have stopped him. So the hot school lunch in a flask mission has required some 1950's style discipline. I feel the spirit of Elizabeth Craig and Etheline Fearon running through me as I look into my freezer. I have become the queen of batch cooking and last week's lunches included a one-pot Winter Casserole (11 out of 10 from Freddie),Leek and Potato Soup, Leek and Macaroni Cheese, Tomato and Lentil soup and Hot Dogs. We are doing well, but there was one major complaint. "What is for pudding?" You see, Freddie's school has a superb line in hot puddings. I still have the school menu emailed to me so I know why he is a little disappointed by my efforts. This week they are serving Pear and Ginger oaties, rice pudding with forest fruits, Toffee Flapjack, Bread Pudding, Sweet potato pudding, Chocolate Orange Peel Muffins, Pineapple and Coconut Sponge and Assorted Jellies. So I made these muffins, half of which were inhaled hot from the oven by my children last night - the others made it into the lunchbox, alongside the hot Leek and Potato Soup.Here are Buttermilk, Beetroot and Apple Muffins. Scored 9 out of 10. Makes six large muffins or 12 smaller ones 1 egg, beaten150ml buttermilk50g butter, melted1 eating apple, peeled, cored and finely diced2 small beetroot, cooked and finely diced50g Demerara sugar1 tablespoon of maple syrup (or runny honey)150g plain flour1 and a half tsp of baking powderFor the topping1 tablespoon of porridge oats1 tablespoon of Demerara sugar1 teaspoon of cinnamon Preheat the oven to 180C. If you are using a deep muffin tray, cut out six squares of baking parchment 15 cms by 15 cms. Line each muffin tin with a square of paper. You can use paper cases if you prefer. Melt the butter, allow to cool slightly and in a bowl stir in the sugar, beaten egg and buttermilk. Mix well. Add the finely diced cooked beetroot and diced apple and spoon of maple syrup. Sieve the flour and baking powder and roughly stir in so the flour is distributed but don’t over mix. Spoon the mixture evenly into each lined muffin tin. Mix together the ingredients for the topping and sprinkle evenly over the top of each muffin. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes.  Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]



20 Comments

2008-12-30T11:13:56.583+01:00

After nearly two years of consuming the alphabet of vegetables the Great Big Veg Challenge is entering a new phase. We're going mobile. From next week, when the new school term starts, we are going to be making our own lunches to take in. And Freddie has dusted off his scoring cards and will be marking each meal out of 10. The challenge is to make cheap, hot meals,using seasonal vegetables. I've cleared two shelves in the freezer and bought two new food flasks which look like steel time capsules. And on the Naming and Shaming fridge I've stuck a reminder - a copy of last year's school lunch bill which came to around £1200.00 for both children. For the last few months, Alex has been leading the way. Her brother finally decided to join in when we perfected hot dogs with home-made wholemeal rolls and chicken and sweetcorn soup. We've found a site, Think Vegetables, which tells you what's in season each month. For December, ideas include Desiree, Wilja and Maris Piper potatoes, cauliflower, kale, savoy cabbage, mustard cress, baby leeks and something called 'Teen Spinach'. I imagine teen spinach can be tricky to deal with, refusing to get out of bed, arguing with you when you try and cook it, looking sullen when you pick it up with a fork. "Talk to the stalk, cause the leaf ain't listening."Anyhow I've started tasting sessions with Freddie. First off was a very simple macaroni cheese dish. You can see his score.... Macaroni Cheese with Leek and HamMakes around 6 portions for a 50l food flask1 medium leek, very finely sliced1 tablespoon of olive oil1 clove of garlic, crushed150g of reduced fat cheddar cheese350g macaroni pasta100g thickly sliced ham, diced450ml of skimmed milk50g reduced fat spread or butter 50g flour1 tablespoon of dijon mustard100 ml of vegetable stockFor the topping40g grated cheddar or parmegiano 40g stale breadcrumbs1 tsp smoked paprika 1. Saute finely sliced leeks with the crushed garlic in the olive oil for about 8-10 minutes on a low heat until the leeks are softened.2. Cook the macaroni pasta according to packet instructions3. Melt the butter or reduced fat spread on a low heat. Stir in the flour and make a smooth paste. Little by little add the milk and vegetable stock until you have a thickening sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add the dijon mustard. Stir in the grated cheese until it is fully melted and absorbed into the sauce. Turn off the heat. Stir in the chopped ham and sauteed leeks. Pour into an oven-proof dish. Mix together the topping of breadcrumbs, cheese and smoked paprika and sprinkle evenly over the macaroni cheese. Put in a preheated oven (180C) for about 25 minutes. (This makes around 6 portion sizes for the 0.5l food flask.) If you have any favourite meals, that would work in a flask, using anything that is in season, let us know and we will try them out. Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]



The Great Big Veg Challenge school lunches - Edamame Bean and Potato Frittata

2008-12-03T18:13:05.463+01:00


I thought I had seen it all early this year with the four year old ordered by his Gucci-clad Mama to take part in a diary synchronisation meeting whilst in the sandpit of Holland Park. But on the weekend I visited the new mammoth Westfield Shopping Centre where I saw two mothers, who looked as if they were cacooned in cashmere, eating lunch with their two 18 month old babies. Each baby had their own portable DVD player enabling their mothers to discuss the effects of the credit crunch on their Jimmy Choo buying habits uninterrupted by tiresome infant noises. And the two babies sat mouths open, eyes staring blankly at their DVD entertainment which was propped up on the table in front of them. What hope is there for humanity I thought, if two Mums can't even be bothered to speak to their children during lunch. Desperate.
Anyway, I digress. This is my latest cheap school lunch creation, which scored a healthy 9 out of 10 from Alexandra and an 8 from Freddie. Each tortilla which I baked in a silicone large muffin tray costs about 25p to make. Now I am thinking I might branch out and make new combinations - any ideas? The trick is to include potato because they hold their shape better. Otherwise they flop like a souffle.

Edamame Bean and Potato Frittata.
6 large eggs
a small knob of butter
Freshly grated parmesan or parmeggiano
200g of potatoes, boiled and diced
200g of edamame beans
1 large onion
2 tbsp of olive oil

Cook the frozen edamame beans in boilking water for 4 minutes. Drain. Cook and finely dice the potatoes and then drain. Cook the finely diced onion in the olive oil on a medium heat until translucent and soft. Beat the eggs in a bowl with some asalt and pepper. Allowing the vegetables to cool down, distribute them equally in each of the muffin holes. (Having lightly oiled the muffin baking tray)Make sure they all have a decent amount of beans, potato and onion. Pour over the egg equally divided between each muffin hole. Srpinkle some parmesan on the top and then place in the oven at 180 for about 2o-25 minutes. They will rise and are ready when they are lightly golden brown. Eat hot or cold. Deliicious and cheap!



15 Comments

2008-11-26T11:09:59.502+01:00

If there was an Elizabeth Craig cult, I would be tempted to join. The other morning a parcel arrived, a book bought through eBay. 'Cooking in Wartime' was written in the 1940's. When I read the back cover I felt myself sit up straight and reach for a sensible pinny. "Are you worried?" it asked me. "Because the butter ration won't go far? Because your family will eat meat? Because the children need puddings and cakes, but the eggs make them so dear? Because you won't have enough sugar to make jam? Because you've got a dog to feed? Because fuel costs you more? LET THIS BOOK HELP YOU - It can take that load off your mind!" Ms Craig could be writing in 2008 and not 1941. She wants me to make satisfying tasty dishes from cheap rationed cuts. And who am I to say no? Ox cheek is being marketed in some supermarkets as a 'forgotten cut' which is an odd phrase a bit like 'heritage' vegetables. I went to the butchers to buy some. The butcher appeared to have come directly from central casting. He looked like an Enid Blyton butcher; round, red cheeked and wearing a striped navy and white apron. And when I asked for my ox cheek, small dimples popped out from his plump cheeks and he cooed at me approvingly."You won't be disappointed with this. All my older ladies love ox cheek." I left wondering whether I had now joined the ranks of the older ladies with their sensible shoes and quilted jackets, smelling of talcum powder. I shuffled home to make my ox cheek casserole. The butcher was right. Noone was disappointed. Freddie took a mouthful, smiled and asked, "Exactly which cheek on an ox is this from?" Then he gave the dish 10 out of 10. And Alex asked for the leftover portion to be out aside for her next school lunch. And I thought that Elizabeth would have approved of us. Alex walked off to school the following morning swinging her lunch box with its hot ox cheek casserole in a thermos flask. I leave you with her stirring words, "Never allow it to be said that we British women, whose job it was to cook in the war, failed at our post. Armed with wooden spoon, basin, and saucepan we'll keep the pots boiling whatever happens." Ox Cheek Casserole4 large carrots, scrapped and chopped1 sweet potato, scrapped and diced1 large onion, thinly sliced1 large leek, thinly sliced1 tablespoons of olive oil500g ox cheek, cut into 1 inch cubes1 tin butter beans1 large garlic clove, finely chopped1 pint of vegetable bouillon or beef stockhalf a teaspoon of dried oregano, thyme, rosemary1 bay leaf1 tablespoon of cornflourSalt and pepper to seasonTrim and dice ox cheek. Prepare all the vegetables. Heat the oil and saute the onions, garlic and leeks for about 4 minutes. Add the ox cheek and brown for about 3 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, herbs,bay leaf, salt and pepper and bring the casserole until it just starts to boil and then turn heat down to simmer with the lid on. Place in the oven at 170C for around an hour. Check every now and again to make sure the casserole isn't becoming too dry. Add a little more stock if it is. After an hour, mix the cornflour with a few spoons of stock ( you can take this from the casserole itself) until it is smooth and add back to the casserole, stirring in to thicken it. Cook for another 30 minutes.Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]



Roasted Pumpkin and Apple Soup

2008-11-26T10:39:54.170+01:00

Last year our Halloween celebrations turned into a (admittedly minor) tragedy when our pumpkin was stolen and later smashed by the notorious West London Five-a-Day gang. This year we left nothing to chance and our carved pumpkin was an entirely private affair, sitting plump on our kitchen table. This had its drawbacks. There wasn't really enough space for the four of us to sit and eat but at least we knew Pumpernickel jnr was safe.

We lured him into a false sense of security before striking. I scraped out his innards and roasted them with a little olive oil and then turned them into soup and then pumpkin pie. Despite this vicious attack he still sat with a fixed grin on our table as we enjoyed our roasted pumpkin and apple soup. A spare portion has been frozen to make the next credit crunch lunch soup and will be taken into school in a new flask. (Cost approximately 20p per serving)

Roasted Pumpkin and Apple Soup

500g roasted pumpkin flesh

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 medium onions finely chopped

2 tablespoons of rape seed oil (or olive oil)

2 medium cooking apples, peeled cored and diced

1 roasted garlic bulb ( roast at same time as pumpkin flesh)

1 and a quarter pints (750 ml) of chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to season

Roast the pumpkin flesh by scraping out the flesh in large chunks and laying it in a baking tray, season with salt and pepper and mix round with a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Roast in the oven at 180 for about 35 to 40 minutes. Wrap whole garlic bulb in foil with a little oil drizzled on top and roast at the same time.

In a small frying pan, gently saute the chopped onions and apple together until both are soft.

Puree roast pumpkin, add squeezed out roast garlic. Add onion and apple and stock and puree with a hand held blender or in a food processor. Cook in a large pan over a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Serve with warm bread and a dollop of creme fraiche.

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Butternut Squash Tarts and the Credit Crunch Lunch

2008-11-26T10:40:20.184+01:00

The economic doom and gloom has crept into our kitchen. But it's a good thing. We worked out the school lunch meal bill for Alex and Freddie was about £1200 ($2069) a year. The meals are made from decent ingredients but I still think its a lot of money for a child's lunch. So here is the Great Big Veg Challenge Credit Crunch Lunch. Alex has switched onto packed lunches, Freddie is still unconvinced and every morning inspects his sister's lunchbox, looking wistfully..."This is SO unfair. She is getting really nice food. You are trying to ma-nip-ul-ise me," complained Freddie."No Freddie, it is entirely up to you - if you want to have these lunches you only have to ask."I know, its a sly trick. And the hardest thing is ensuring that I can maintain the irrestibility of the packed lunches. Our first Credit Crunch Lunch offering for the blog is Butternut Squash and St Agur cheese tarts. (Cost approximately 40 pence a tart) Butternut Squash and St Agur Tarts500g (1 1b) ready-made shortcrust pastryFor the fillingHalf a medium sized butternut squash, roasted1 tablespoon olive oilsalt and pepper to season3 eggs, beaten1 egg yolk150ml (quarter pint) creme fraiche1 teaspoon of dried sage125g St Agur cheese Preheat oven to 180 C (350F). Cut the squash in half lengthways, scoop out seeds and rub a little oilive oil, season with salt and pepper and place flesh side down on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. When cooked, allow it to cool down, peel and cut into small cubes. Place in a bowl with a little olive oil and the dried sage. Mix together the beaten eggs, extra egg yolk and creme fraiche. Add a twist of freshly ground pepper. Line the bottom of metal tartlet tins ( mine are around 12 cms in diameter) with non-stick baking paper. Lightly grease the sides of the tins. Line with the pastry and prick it . Bake blind for about 6 minutes in an oven at 190C . You can if you prefer make just one large tart in a single flan tin, or this recipe makes about 8 tartlets. Take them out of the oven and share out equally the butternut squash cubes between the pastry cases. Pour over the egg mixture and sprinkle equally between the cases little pieces of the cheese. St Agur tastes good but if you prefer milder tastes, some soft goats cheese. Place them back in the oven and bake for about 20 -25 minutes. The contents of the quiche will rise. Take care that the pastry does not burn. I batch bake these and freeze them and they can be taken out the night before to be defrosted for use in school lunch boxes. They are just as delicious eaten cold as warm. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE CREDIT CRUNCH LUNCH BOX MEAL? Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]



Help us celebrate by making a vegetable face....

2008-10-07T08:00:00.804+01:00

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Last year we asked you all to join us in making vegetable faces.To celebrate reaching the end of the alphabet and the book coming out this week, Freddie and Alex would like to invite you all to send in your 2008 vegetable faces to us. We will send the best one a copy of The Great Big Veg Challenge book! There is a prize for the best entry from an adult and a prize for the best face made by a child.
Go on - you know you want to! Get in touch with your inner child... Send us your faces to our email address which is in the profile. The rules are simple - use vegetables to create a face, photograph it, email it to us with your first name and where in the world you come from...We would love to have faces from people in every continent!



Enjoying a Purple haze at the Abergavenny Food Festival

2008-09-24T08:38:11.711+01:00

Last weekend was another first for us as a family. We were invited to the Abergavenny Food Festival to give a talk. Alex's advice to me the day before was wise. "Mum, just in case there are children in the audience and they get bored with you going on about vegetables, bring along some cakes." So that night we cooked past midnight, baking Beetroot and Chocolate Cakes and Petit Pois Muffins to take with us. And there were lots of children in the audience and the cakes were very useful. Abergavenny is an ancient market town in South Wales, surrounded by beautiful mountains and countryside and this is a two day festival devoted to celebrating fantastic local produce and expertise about food and cooking. On Saturday night we walked up to the ruined castle for the festival's tenth anniversary party. We sat round fire braziers munching on delicious welsh lamb skewers, staring at the fireworks and the stars and listening to jazz bands, harp music and stand up comedians. I know Abergavenny from my school days, but this was my first visit to a festival which has been voted the greatest event in Wales. If you love good food, cooking in a beautiful setting, you will love the annual festival in Abergavenny.Where ever I go I seem to collect new vegetables. In one of the hundreds of market stalls there was an organic vegetable growers and I spotted some some purple cauliflower, grown in South Wales. So on Sunday night when we returned home I made a special Purple Cauliflower Festival Soup as a thank you to Abergavenny for inviting us for a great weekend. Purple Festival Soup1 large purple cauliflower, thicker stalks cut off1 large potato, peeled and diced1 large onion, peeled and sliced2 cloves of garlic2 tablespoons Hillfarm rape seed oil900 ml ( 1 and a half pints) chicken or vegetable stock1 teaspoon of dijon mustard (or English mustard!)3 tablespoons of creme fraiche from Rachel's Dairy in Aberystwyth a little grated beetroot to decorateSalt and pepper to seasonHeat the oil in the pan and saute the onions, finely chopped garlic for 3 minutes on a medium heat. Add the potaotes and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring them all to stop them burning. Add the vegetable stock and dijon mustard and the purple cauliflower florets. Chop up the stalks and add. As soon as the stock reaches boiling point, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the creme fraiche and puree in a food processor or with a hand blender. Serve with a little finely grated raw beetroot for added purple power.This is my entry for The British Food Fortnight Blogging Event which is being hosted by Antonia at Food Glorious Food. The aim of this event ( details here) is to celebrate British produce and to raise the profile of much maligned UK cuisine. So I thought our purple cauliflower festival soup would do the trick....Cauliflower, potatoes, onions and beetroot grown in Wales, creme fraiche from Rachel's Dairy in Wales and Scottish garlic. The rape seed oil came from Hill Farm in Suffolk and the only interloper was a spoon of delicious French Dijon mustard. I know - I should have used English mustard but I slipped up! Read about the Great Big Vegetable Challenge[...]