So you've decided to get a veg box. Here's how to tackle it head on
We all know getting an organic veg box is one of the best ways to bring a bit of a healthier order to your life. And a glow of inner goodness. Although there will be tears, tantrums and sleepless nights, all the peeling and chopping will be worth it.
You will need an open mind regarding vegetables in puddings
Even if you’ve never so much as batted an eyelid at a slice of pumpkin pie before, within a few weeks of acquiring your first veg box you will find yourself holding up a vegetable – a turnip, say, or maybe a piece of corn on the cob – and wondering if you can somehow turn it into dessert.
Thankfully we live in a modern age when there is virtually no vegetable you can’t turn into cake if you’re brave enough. Beetroot and chocolate are natural compadres in brownies (like these fudgy ones) and you can use parsnip, sweet potato and swede in much the same way you would carrot in cake. There’s even a sweet Italian tart made with Swiss chard, tourte de blettes, which in veggie-consumption Top Trumps is basically the most powerful card there is.
And in breakfast, too
It’s far easier to eat your five a day if you manage to get a portion of vegetables in before noon, and the same is definitely true of "beating" the veg box.
From spinach in eggs Florentine or mushrooms and tomatoes in your full English to a colourful plateful like this rainbow vegetable and egg bake recipe, starting the day with veg is a headstart that means you’re less likely to be chewing your way stoically through an entire marrow come Sunday.
You will need a scrubbing brush
Invest in a decent brush and have fun pretending to be Tony Robinson on Time Team while you’re at it.
Don't forget about salads
Cauliflower, kale, broccoli, courgette, cabbage, kohlrabi, even Brussels sprouts – all can be delicious shaved, grated or finely chopped in salads. Find a great dressing that uses citrus or vinegar to soften the veg, and prepare to develop a fantastically toned jawline.
Your life will be defined by the seasons
Because it’s seasonal produce, you're pretty likely to be sent the same veg for a few weeks running. "Oh swede, wonderful!" you might say the first time one appears on your doorstep in November, and set about making a delicious stew. "Ahh, swede again," you’ll sigh the next week, and put it in a fish pie.
Around mid-February the swede deluge will end – and later, as you’re pondering how much savoy cabbage you can cram into a lasagne, you might even find you miss the swede.
Your social life is no longer your own
Whereas before you would happily accept a last-minute dinner invitation or have stayed out for an extra round of drinks, now you’ll hear yourself saying the words, “Tonight? I’d love to, but I really need to go home and use up some celeriac.” Of course, a veg box also provides great excuses for getting out of things you don’t want to go to.
“Performance poetry evening? I wish I could… but that chard won’t eat itself!”
A week in the life: my attempt to finish an entire veg box
Lunch: Raw kale, avocado and spiced tofu salad with a mug of tasty squash, carrot and ginger soup. "Scrunching" raw kale with lemon or lime juice helps to tenderise it and make it much less of a chore for your jaw. I left mine to marinate in the lime juice for five minutes, then added half a sliced avocado and some chunks of curried mango tofu, pan-fried to make them a little bit crispy.
Dinner: Bombay potatoes with cabbage and mushrooms. Half or quarter your potatoes and boil them. I used small cara potatoes and kept the skin on (mmm, vitamins), but you might want to peel them. While the spuds are boiling, finely slice an onion and fry in your oil of choice until soft and starting to brown, then add half a cabbage, sliced, a handful of sliced mushrooms, a couple of crushed garlic cloves, a teaspoon of medium-heat curry powder, a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of English mustard. Combine everything with the potatoes when they're ready.
Breakfast: Avocado and tomato on toast. You can probably work this one out for yourself, but I love to mash my avocado with lime juice and a little chilli powder. Add sliced tomato, a sprinkling of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Instagram, then enjoy.
Lunch: More carrot soup, more kale salad, slightly less enthusiasm. If you're going to truly conquer the veg box, you need a good 'orange' soup in your arsenal. This one was made with carrots and kabocha squash, cubed and fried with onions, garlic and fresh grated ginger for 10 minutes, then topped up with vegetable stock. I simmered until everything was very soft, then blitzed in a food processor until smooth.
Dinner: Curried kale, tofu and chickpeas with coconut and rice noodles. Fry kale and sliced tofu (I used curry mango flavour tofu, my favourite) in coconut oil for five minutes until starting to crisp, then add a teaspoon of ground ginger and a teaspoon of curry powder or any other spices you fancy. Add a can of drained chickpeas to the mix, stir and let it all cook through. Cook a portion of rice noodles and when they're ready, add them to the pan, mix everything together and serve.
Lunch: Couscous with pan-fried broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms and chilli and big dollop of hummus on top. "More fried cabbage?" you cry. Yes, this involves more fried cabbage – but also broccoli, mushrooms, chilli, lots of garlic and a generous splash of soy sauce to give everything a sticky, umami-ness. I served it with hummus on a heap of cous cous, but it would work with noodles, bulgar wheat or brown rice too.
Dinner: Lemon chard aloo, with mushrooms and chickpeas. This uses chard and some lemon to bring the dish alive. I added mushrooms and chickpeas in an effort to cram some more veg and protein in – and it wasn't half bad.
Lunch: Garlic roasted kabocha squash, kale and broccoli with tricolour quinoa and tahini dressing. Kabocha squash is a Japanese relative of the butternut, with a sweet, fluffy texture. Here it was delicious roasted in the oven with a few whole garlic cloves for about 30 minutes, drizzled in oil and sprinkled with salt and paprika. Roast the kale and broccoli too, for 15-20 minutes, then serve everything with some tricolour quinoa and a generous drizzle of tahini. Tip: tahini makes pretty much any vegetable more delicious.
Dinner: Carrot, lentil and red pepper chilli with rice. Ignored the swede.
Lunch: More kale, more tofu, more broccoli, more roasting (see Tuesday). Except this time with rice noodles and determination.
Dinner: In a restaurant, trying not to think about the swede.
Snack: Incredibly purple beetroot brownies. There are heaps of beetroot brownie recipes out there, but these were a vegan variation made with olive spread, flaxseed "eggs" and lots of dark chocolate. If you'd rather the real deal, try this recipe for chocolate, beetroot and prune brownies.
Lunch: Not swede.
Dinner: Still not swede.
Meals: All the swede.