In the light of ongoing shenanigans at Westminster and with the desire to be always open and transparent with you, dear reader, perhaps this posting should be called an ‘Advertorial’ or possibly a ‘Blogvert’. This is because the mixed organic fruit’n’veg box below was supplied to us completely free of charge; in a complimentary manner; gratis; or if you like, unimpeded by vulgar monetary exchange. Not that this would in anyway bias us towards those lovely, friendly, generous, gorilla-hugging people at Abel & Cole. All they asked of us in return was that we eat the contents and write up what we thought of the experience…
Aside from perhaps the more deranged and rabid of Daily Mail readers, few people are going to deny the benefits and convenience of having a box of organic fruit’n’veg delivered straight to their front door. However what interests us is does it taste any better than its non-organic counterpart, and in these bleak times, does it represent value for money.
When the box arrived (mixed organic fruit & veg, recommended for 2 or 3 people, £15.95) we were impressed and surprised by both the quantity and variety of the contents. The subsequent thorough and slightly autistic audit revealed these to consist of:
- apples (5) – 650g
- carrots (7) – 500g
- cherry tomatoes (didn’t count) – 270g
- courgettes (3) – 460g
- cucumber (1) – 440g
- green pointed cabbage (2) – 560g
- melon (1) – 520g
- oranges (5) – 620g
- potatoes (9) – 1.2kg
- white onions (7) – 510g
…or exactly as you see below:
Everything was fresh and in good condition.
The tomatoes were given an immediate taste test with 2 other varieties we had knocking about in the kitchen – a rather special miniature plum tomato from our local market and a spectacularly miserable and woolly specimen reluctantly purchased at a Tesco Express. The A&C came a close second behind the plum, with the Tesco’s limping home in a tasteless and distant third place.
Next up a cabbage, carrot and onion were finely chopped and mixed with a yoghurt and mayonnaise combo to make a superb coleslaw. As well as being pointed, the cabbage was mild and sweet.
Blogger D has a slightly fetishistic thing going with melons, so I left her alone to cut it up and take to work. An elevenses timed email reported: ‘Nice melon. If I’d left it a couple more days it would have been juicier, but it was tasty nonetheless‘.
I took some apples to work and they were very good indeed … a proper ‘English’ apple … a juicy, not too sharp, crispy bite.
The oranges were as nature intended – thin-skinned, small, imperfect and slightly blemished. They were sweet, juicy and not too pithy or pippy.
The next evening the courgettes were cut into 1″ slices and fried cut-sides-down in plenty of olive oil, garlic and chilli until both sides were caramelised and almost burnt. A generous squeeze of lemon, plenty of seasoning and a handful of torn basil leaves were added. Meanwhile spaghetti had been cooked, drained and then added to the courgettes. A quick stir to get all the flavours mixed and then served with roasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan. All washed down with a heavily branded white.
The following day the potatoes were spiced up to make a very tasty Patatas Bravas, the onions were cooked with tomato purée, sultanas and raisins to make sweet Moroccan relish, and the remaining carrots were made into a Tunisian salad by par-boiling and then simmered in wine vinegar with cumin and cayenne.
All that was left was a lonely pointed cabbage which was finely chopped, lightly cooked in plenty of butter and mixed with caramelized onions. This formed a bed onto which was laid a succulent piece of roasted cod.
Verdict: As mentioned at the beginning, the contents of our VegBox were plentiful, varied and fresh. Overall I would say that although the taste and quality was comparable with anything bought at a good greengrocers, it was superior to the uniform blandness of your neighbourhood Tesco and far better than anything you’re likely to find mouldering in your local CostCutter.
Obviously added to this you have the fact that everything is organic, although how important this is is entirely dependent on your personal point of view. For me, it is a bonus but by no means essential.
Personally (and speaking as Ye Olde Socialist) what attracts me to A&C is the fair and decent way they treat their farmers, suppliers and employees. In these troubled times when politics is veering ever rightwards and companies are owned by anonymous Hedge Funds, this is something which should be applauded and supported. The slight premium you might be paying when you put in order is a small price to pay when you realise it is enabling farmers and specialist food producers to earn a crust without having to compromise standards or dance to the tune of supermarket bean counters…
…and they give any unwanted fruit and veg to the neighbourhood gorillas.
Drink: Day 1 – far too much, day 2 – none, day 3 – a bottle of white, day 4 – some pints, day 5 – prosecco and red, day 6 – some fine ales, day 7 – none.
Entertainment: In the week this box arrived we started watching the first season of ‘The Shield’ – that Vic Mackey is a bit naughty. Had a slap up feed at St John‘s in Smithfield – we ate from nose to tail via fin. Voted in the European elections – automatically and reluctantly for Labour. Watched the first of the new Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall series – ethical veal and relentless punnery. Started a punishing new exercise regime – that Gregg Wallace goes to my gym. Had a weekend in Wiltshire – it rained a lot. And generally waited with almost unbearable anticipation for the new series of ‘Celebrity Masterchef’.