Before Christmas I rejoined a veg box scheme. I had been a happy Abel & Cole customer for nearly a year before I started feeling the pinch and cancelled my order. But, after a few months of regular supermarket veg shopping I started to miss the challenge of using up whatever happened to arrive on my doorstep each week. I also missed the more unusual items, like chiogga beets and romanesco cauliflower. When I said I was thinking of starting again, a friend recommended I try Ashurst Organics instead. Their farm is in Plumpton, near Lewes, and they have been growing and supplying a broad range of organic veg locally since 1996.
The Ashurst Organics wesbite is not as user-friendly as those of Abel & Cole or Riverford but their prices are competitive (£15 for a generous medium-sized box), their service is personal, and I can save on delivery charges by picking up my box from a neighbour.
I received two boxes from Ashurst before Christmas* and was delighted with the quality, range and quantity of veg. I’m not sure I’ll be getting any romanesco cauli from them, but I enjoyed my box of mixed sprouts and the ‘Red Russian’ kale. One medium and one Christmas box turned out to be a gigantic order, which is why I still had a few leeks, a squash and a head of celery left in the fridge this week. Pleasingly though, the veg has kept really well. Organic veg tends to spoil quicker because it hasn’t been given an artificial boost but I think the low food miles has helped give the stuff from Ashurst Organics a little more shelf life than I remember my Abel & Cole veg having.
Another benefit of buying veg direct from the farm is that you get to see it in all its weird and wonky glory. Carrots sometimes look like body parts, beetroots are long and tapered, sprouts are on the stalk (complete with the added bonus of leafy greens on top: delicious) and the celery needs a haircut. If you’re into food the opportunity to use different parts of the plant in your cooking gives added interest, which is why I felt the celery soup I made this week was worth sharing. I used the whole head of celery and then finely chopped the plentiful leaves to stir in at the end for extra freshness and texture. It’s a simple dish, just perfect for a cleansing January but, need I say it, not one for those who dislike celery.
Super Celery Soup
A little butter and oil for frying
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small leek, sliced
1 head celery, finely chopped (prepare and keep leaves and stalks separately)
1 potato, skinned and diced
1 litre veg stock (I used 3tsp Swiss Vegetable Bouillon)
Black pepper (I find the stock lends enough salt but you can always add more to suit your taste)
Heat a little butter and vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and fry the finely-chopped onion and leek for a couple of minutes.
Add the sliced celery stalks to the pan and fry, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Add the cubed potato and fry for a further 10 minutes.
When the vegetables are truly softened – I find extending the frying time really helps to achieve added depth of flavour – pour in the vegetable stock and simmer over a low heat for 35-45 minutes.
Take the soup off the heat and blend until smooth using a hand blender.
Stir in the finely-chopped celery leaves and return to the heat. Bring back up to the boil, check the seasoning and serve. If you prefer a blended soup, blend the celery leaves in as soon as they have been heated through, so as to retain as much of their beautiful green colour as possible.
Do you like using different parts of the veg? What are your favourite uses for bits that might otherwise end up in the compost? Do you get a veg box? What do you like/dislike about it? Any thoughts appreciated as always!
*Ashurst Organics are having a winter break and will resume services in February 2014.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post and I have received no incentive to write positively about Ashurst Organics.
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