Saturday, April 18, 2009

Of boxes and books

You may have inferred from the previous couple of posts that I (with Sarah) am now getting a vegetable box delivery each week from Abel & Cole. We've started with the "deluxe organic" box for 4 people and will see how it goes. So far I have been intimidated by the quantity of red kale, and after yesterday's delivery we are in danger from the kohl rabi mountain (well, hillock): a further two arrived and we were as yet to finish the first ones from the earlier boxes. But enough negativity! We are actually loving it.

And the second box came with an exciting free gift: the Abel & Cole Cookbook! Written by Keith Abel, the founder of the company, it is arranged seasonally and is based around vegetables but includes meat dishes too. It's a good looking book, working along the general principle of a recipe on one page and a photograph on the facing page. There's a bit of waffle from Keith introducing each recipe and at the beginning each chapter, in a friendly, chatty tone that makes you think Keith would be a fun person to have in the kitchen whilst you were cooking. There are some great lines, especially in the intro, some of my favourites being:
If you think cooking is a chore, you must be doing it the wrong way...
and (on making cooking fun):
Sing out loud and embarrass the kids. Take off your clothes and throw on a pinny. Take off your clothes and don't throw on a pinny. (Mind the Aga...)
and (on the subject of warming plates):
..If all else fails, check where the cat hangs out - it's guaranteed to be warm.
Whilst I'm not about to follow Keith's suggestions in the second quote to the letter, I do agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment. This brings me on to my only word of warning about this book - whilst the recipes look pretty straightforward to follow, and the ones I have tried so far have been successful, it is perhaps not a book for slightly nervous or inexperienced cooks.  It is clear that a fairly cavalier attitude prevails in the Abel kitchen, and one is not expected to follow the instructions here to the letter. Whilst this is how I approach much of my cooking, and encourage others to too, if you are not comfortable relying on your own judgement of how long something needs to cook or whatever, you probably won't love this book. That said, if you get over the initial anxiety and give something a whirl, it might be a perfect aid to building your confidence!

Of course, one of the main points of this book is to provide suggestions for using the more unusual vegetables that appear in the boxes, and that is exactly what we have used it for. So far I have tried jerusalem artichokes for the first time (made into artichoke and almond rostis (page 195) - utterly delicious) and Sarah made the potato and kohlrabi gratin (page 142) in a desperate bid to use some of the latter up last night. The universal verdict on that was "tasty, but I'd rather have a straight potato gratin" - the kohlrabi retains its crunch, and neither of us found firm layers desirable, feeling the point really is the delicious soft fattiness of the cream soaked starch. 

I also made a cauliflower-based curry, but it was so far removed from the one in the book that I won't pretend to be able to comment on that specifically, but can endorse the principle. And finally, Sarah also made the pan-fried chicken breasts with blood orange sauce, except with regular oranges, which was also reported as delicious, other than George's reservations about the use of flour in the sauce. Next up I think will be one of the purple sprouting broccoli recipes. Watch this space!

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