There’s a little bit of a vegetable crisis in the UK at the moment. While the weather here has been suspiciously mild, Spain – where something like 80% of Europe’s salad vegetables are grown – and Italy have been experiencing flooding and snow. Hence, the noticeable lacks of things like lettuce, spinach, courgette, aubergine and broccoli.
My main question is, who’s eating all that salad at this time of year? It’s cold here, what are they playing at? On the other hand, not being a fan of either aubergine or courgette, the news of a shortage gives me a surge of relief, perhaps I’ll see more ‘vegetarian options’ on the menu that aren’t centred on either vegetable!
This winter appears to be one that is determined to make me think more actively about seasonal vegetables and seasonal eating more generally. I suspect there must either have been a bit of a cauliflower shortage earlier this year, either that or there’s been a glut of the stuff the last few winters. Since becoming a vegetarian, I’ve grown used to buying a big cauliflower cheaply to bulk out winter curries and soups. At the start of the season there appeared to be very few of them around and once they did appear they were twice the price they’d been the year before. Handily beetroot was plentiful and reasonably priced so I’ve been continuing my experiments in rehabilitating it into my diet with some enthusiasm.
It wasn’t until spinach disappeared from the shelves that I realised quite how dependent I’d become on it as a source iron and general colour in meals. I also hadn’t noticed, quite how often kale could be found on special offer, or just reduced at the end of the day. I still need to pump up my iron levels, so I’ve been experimenting with substituting kale for spinach. Now that I’ve learned the trick to quickly and effectively steam cook my kale it’s proving surprisingly versatile. I’m still a bit dubious about trying it in muffins or on pizza, but so far it’s been delicious in dal and a perfect substitute for broccoli in many a meal. Weirdly, on the broccoli front, while there’s been an utter dearth of those familiar little trees around the place, I’ve been able to pick up packets of broccoli florets (or mixed broccoli and cauliflower florets) in the reduced section on a regular basis. So broccoli and cauliflower cheese has become a regular treat for me (I made it a few weeks back with leftover Xmas cheese, brie makes a really very decadent sauce) and sweet potato and kale bubble and squeak is an unexpected delight.
Given that I had made my two things for this challenge by the end of the first week of last month, you would think I’d have managed to write about them before now, wouldn’t you? Not so much.
First up was a smoothie. I love smoothies. I got a blender in my final year at uni and it was a revelation in terms of increasing my fruit intake and reducing my food waste. The summer I lived in Bournemouth was essentially three months of glorious weather and I developed a repertoire of lovely refreshing smoothies – to the extent that a couple of my friends bought me a smoothie recipe book for my birthday. I practically lived on them that summer and then, didn’t really ever make them again once I came home. As I once again have my blender to hand and Eating Well Made Easy has a whole section of smoothies I thought it was high time I got back into it.
I have to admit I’m a bit baffled by the whole ‘green smoothie/juice’ trend that seems to be going on in smoothies these days. That glorious summer in Bournemouth, I used to make a lovely fresh smoothie made with tomatoes and bell peppers, but let’s be honest, while we eat them as vegetables, they are – technically – fruit. I’m a bit baffled by this whole putting spinach and kale in your smoothies thing. (I have a friend who swears by it, but she has IBS and needs all the help she can get tricking her body into accepting nutrients – it makes sense for her.) I like both of those things, but for me kale is a winter veg – my parents grew it when I was a kid, I preferred it to cabbage – you put in soup. I can’t get my head around it.
I braved putting spinach in my smoothie and honestly if you’re putting in enough blackcurrants or what have you, you can’t taste it so I’ve accustomed myself to it. The first time I made it (It’s called Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed cutely enough.) I put a small amount of pepper in it as instructed and that’s literally all that you taste. As noted above that’s actually a smoothie flavour I enjoy when the weather is hot, but when there’s as many other ingredients in the recipe as this has, it’s a bit disappointing that you can only taste one of them. On the second attempt I made it without the pepper and that was much fruitier and conventionally tasty.
My second recipe was Saag Aloo Soup. It’s literally runny Saag Aloo, but that’s no bad thing. I think I prefer it as a curry than as a soup but its really quite tasty in either consistency. It doesn’t look particularly inspiring – hence the lack of photos – but its a tasty and filling for lunch on a winters day. I recommend serving with Nan Bread. You could probably make it with kale instead of spinach too, though you would need to cook it for longer, but as far as I’m concerned that would be a much better use for it.