Tuesday, December 30, 2008
After nearly two years of consuming the alphabet of vegetables the Great Big Veg Challenge is entering a new phase. We're going mobile. From next week, when the new school term starts, we are going to be making our own lunches to take in. And Freddie has dusted off his scoring cards and will be marking each meal out of 10. The challenge is to make cheap, hot meals,using seasonal vegetables. I've cleared two shelves in the freezer and bought two new food flasks which look like steel time capsules. And on the Naming and Shaming fridge I've stuck a reminder - a copy of last year's school lunch bill which came to around £1200.00 for both children. For the last few months, Alex has been leading the way. Her brother finally decided to join in when we perfected hot dogs with home-made wholemeal rolls and chicken and sweetcorn soup. We've found a site, Think Vegetables, which tells you what's in season each month. For December, ideas include Desiree, Wilja and Maris Piper potatoes, cauliflower, kale, savoy cabbage, mustard cress, baby leeks and something called 'Teen Spinach'. I imagine teen spinach can be tricky to deal with, refusing to get out of bed, arguing with you when you try and cook it, looking sullen when you pick it up with a fork. "Talk to the stalk, cause the leaf ain't listening."
Anyhow I've started tasting sessions with Freddie. First off was a very simple macaroni cheese dish. You can see his score....
Macaroni Cheese with Leek and Ham
Makes around 6 portions for a 50l food flask
1 medium leek, very finely sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
150g of reduced fat cheddar cheese
350g macaroni pasta
100g thickly sliced ham, diced
450ml of skimmed milk
50g reduced fat spread or butter
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
100 ml of vegetable stock
For the topping
40g grated cheddar or parmegiano
40g stale breadcrumbs
1 tsp smoked paprika
1. Saute finely sliced leeks with the crushed garlic in the olive oil for about 8-10 minutes on a low heat until the leeks are softened.
2. Cook the macaroni pasta according to packet instructions3. Melt the butter or reduced fat spread on a low heat. Stir in the flour and make a smooth paste. Little by little add the milk and vegetable stock until you have a thickening sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add the dijon mustard. Stir in the grated cheese until it is fully melted and absorbed into the sauce. Turn off the heat. Stir in the chopped ham and sauteed leeks. Pour into an oven-proof dish. Mix together the topping of breadcrumbs, cheese and smoked paprika and sprinkle evenly over the macaroni cheese. Put in a preheated oven (180C) for about 25 minutes. (This makes around 6 portion sizes for the 0.5l food flask.)
If you have any favourite meals, that would work in a flask, using anything that is in season, let us know and we will try them out.