Tuesday, 26 March 2013

How an Abel & Cole veg box saved Meat Free March

When I decided to spend March meat-free, I knew that I wasn't going to be able to get my foodie kicks from a month of jacket potatoes, Linda McCartney sausages and lentils. But, whilst I love experimenting with different recipes, the veg aisle in the supermarket doesn't usually get much of a look in when meat's on the menu - I tend to stick to what I know (mainly tons of cucumber, potatoes, salad, sweet potato and the odd butternut squash).  More to the point, prior to my month of vegetarianism my knowledge of when different fruit and veg is in season was pretty abysmal. I didn't know my spring greens from my autumn roots.

So I thanked the lord of lettuce and leeks when Abel & Cole got in touch and offered to send me a large vegetable box to encourage me on my path of meat free March. For those of you who haven't heard of Abel & Cole, they are the door-to-door angels of organic, seasonal fruit and veg boxes (and they also offer a ton of other brilliant produce too). For as little as £10 a week, their lovely local drivers will deliver a box full of the freshest, most in-season organic veg (or fruit, or fruit and veg), along with a whole host of beautiful recipes that are published weekly and occasionally the odd freebie too. They also deliver meat and fish (obviously not to me this month!), gorgeous looking ready-meals, loaves of bread and store cupboard staples like those all-important bars of chocolate. Although some of the produce is a little on the pricey side, I personally think their fruit and veg boxes are brilliant value for money and the service is wonderfully convenient - especially if, like me,  you don't have a car.

So, you can imagine my excitement last Friday when I arrived at work to be greeted by a lovely box by my desk that was full to the brim with exciting veg for me to try. One of the drawbacks of living in a flat in the city centre without a concierge service is that Abel & Cole weren't able to deliver to my home as there isn't easy access into the building or a safe place to leave the box (and the drivers deliver from 3am in the morning!). However, they were more than happy to deliver to my office and the lovely, sustainable packaging and accompanying recipe book got lots of my colleagues talking excitedly.

From avacado to beetroot, chinese leaf to watercress, green pointed cabbage to green batavia lettuce, all of the veg in my box was beautifully fresh and I was eager to get home and plan my week's meals around it. Although not everything was to my taste (celery sends me out in a cold rash), the beauty of Abel & Cole's model is that if you don't like something, you can ask for it not to be delivered again. Although you can't specifically specify what you'd like to receive, part of the joy is in the surprise.

I think that's the key to Abel & Cole - by delivering a real mixture of amazing produce, most of which is a surprise, it makes you want to use it and to try new things. Normally Ash and I start from scratch each week when it comes to shopping - we plan our meals around various recipes, not around what we have in the cupboard. Sometimes there'll be an evening when we don't have anything planned, so we end up buying a takeaway, going out or putting a cheeky pizza in the oven which can soon rack up cost-wise. But by having a stash of veg in the cupboards, there's never a reason not to make something fresh and super tasty. We did a tiny shop to compliment the veg - spending just £19 on a week's groceries.

Brocolli, Feta and Walnut soup from the Veg Box Companion book

Since the veg box arrived last week, we've already eaten a ton of fresh greens - not just boring stuff like cabbage and lettuce, but exciting stuff too. And if we're stumped for ideas, the wonderful Veg Box Companion book that came with the box offers a whole host of delicious looking recipes and ideas for perfect seasonal veg combinations.

This week has already seen the kitchen come alive with a truly tasty broccoli,  feta and walnut soup and a colcannon littered with spring greens, carrots, lemon and Parmesan. Still to come on the menu there's haloumi kebabs with lemon and thyme baste, Chinese leaf parcels and a delicious veggie chilli with homemade guacamole. I could get used to eating like this every week.

So, a massive thanks to the veg box guardian angels for helping me to keep the meat free March faith, for encouraging me to try new things and for keeping a fridge in veggie heaven. The lovely folk at Abel & Cole have also offered the winner of our Meat Free March recipe swap a month's supply of veg boxes, so I look forward to reading what tasty, seasonal spring time (err, if you can call it that with all this snow) treats the winner concocts with their supply!


  1. Do they just deliver in Leeds? It all sound fab.

  2. Ohhh no, not just Leeds! They deliver across the UK. Well worth a look!