California’s Central Coast is a veggie-eater’s paradise. The year-round produce, as delicious as it is diverse, was a highlight of our lifestyle there. Weekly farmer’s markets overflowed with edible leafs, roots, fruits, and blossoms all grown in our back yard (or, at least within a couple hour radius). Needless to say, our love for quality local produce was one of our greatest hesitations in moving to England.
Upon arrival, our worst suspicions were confirmed: supermarket produce here is terrible. It is lifeless and everything is pre-packaged into tiny portions of homogeneously-sized and shaped bobbles. At best, they are bland; at worst, off-putting (brussels sprouts, one of our favorites, tasted like a combination of wassabi and dirt–not soil, mind you, but dirt). Forget sugar plums, I had visions of striped candy beets dancing in my head (I’m not kidding, I seriously started having beet-themed dreams).
It took a bit of research (OK, OK, we accidentally stumbled upon an ad), but we have discovered an organic cooperative of farms that delivers boxes of weekly goodies directly to your doorstep every Tuesday morning. It’s not more costly than supermarket shopping (sometimes it’s even a bit cheaper), but most importantly: it’s fresh from the farm and tasty as all get out. The majority of the produce is grown right here in England, but they also source from farms in France and Spain, which really aren’t that far away. Even though we’ve been receiving the winter boxes, the variety is impressive (in part due to the imports). I recall my days at UC Davis when the winter veggie box was exclusively swiss chard, so much so that, come March, I was pooping rainbows.
I’ve never been a potato person, but the ones in our boxes (I think they’re valor) are golden and delightfully creamy, even when taking a bite from a raw one. The carrots pale in comparison (so far) to the ones in California, but the multitude of onions, greens, courgettes, and cruciferous vegetables has been a welcome surprise. The wonderful thing about our produce deliveries is that they also source meat and dairy–all organic, free range, and moreish.
English pork, by and large, I can’t stomach. It tastes like taking a chomp directly out of a pig’s rump, alive and rolling around in his barn of filth. One exception: the farm coop also sources to die for handmade chorizo, which admittedly is pork based, but the spicy, smoky seasoning masks any musty barn flavors. Aside from my aversion to English pork and most cuts of beef (filet of neck? gross), I’m convinced that English lamb is the best on the planet. It is grassy, succulent, moist, and so tender that it seems impossible to overcook (although is best when rare).
My love for gourds was reinforced last week when we received two greenish-gray Duckpin bowling ball-sized ones, the likes of which I’ve never seen. A pie pumpkin’s ugly step-sisters, they were easy to prepare and tasty a hell. My “recipe” (which is a modification of a phenomenal brie-stuffed pumpkin recipe from a friend) follows, and can (and should!) be modified using anything pumpkin-like.
Chorizo and Garlic Stuffed Gourds
chopped fresh garlic (I prefer massive quantities, proving that, despite my so-pale-it’s-blue complexion, I am not a vampire. 2 or 3 cloves should be plenty for most normal people.)
chorizo (uncooked in natural casing, if possible, I used about 200 grams, which is two sausage-sized links)
2 of the aforementioned gourds (this recipe is based on one gourd per person as a main course)
Cut the tops off the gourds jack-o’-lantern style and gut the seeds and fibrous muck, leaving the flesh intact. Peel the casing off of the chorizo (fair warning: this feels mildly x-rated, you may need a glass of wine to loosen up) so that you have a pile of chorizo crumbles. Evenly distributed, toss the garlic and chorizo into the gourd cavities. Place on a baking sheet (I use an oiled Pyrex), cover the open tops with tin foil and cook at 190 degC for about 45 minutes or until you can easily pierce the skin with a sharp knife.