Swine and Cheese

A passion for Pigs and Food

Fruit and veg

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Grand Canal, Venice

Butternut squash ravioli

Having just returned from a few days in Venice for Neale’s birthday it never ceases to amaze me how many delicious ways there are of serving vegetables when you are freed from the constraints of the English cooking mentality of meat and two veg! Venice wasn’t cheap by any means however we managed to eat splendidly for a reasonable sum each day and the variety of dishes on offer was mouth watering. I may be being a little harsh but I do find English cuisine, in most restaurants, to be very formulaic and predictable when it comes to how to best present vegetables. Sad considering there are plenty of recipes out there showing us how to use all sorts of vegetables in imaginative ways. I do get so bored when in a supermarket, looking at all the fruit and veg on offer. Most of it is grown far away, picked before achieving full ripeness, grown for yield and uniformity and invariably tastes of very little. I am always blown away by freshly picked, home grown fruit and veg especially when the varieties are particularly good for flavour. On this note I’m very excited because Neale has built four raised beds this year and is currently growing just about everything, although most of it is still under the surface! He does assure me that he has only planted the very best varieties for flavour such as Ratte potatoes, nobbly, yellow Venetian courgettes etc.- I’ll let you know but at the moment our cat Gus thinks he’s just had four enormous litter trays dug and the rabbits Neale worked so hard to keep out of the garden are edging ever closer! Fatally he had rabbit-proof fencing put the whole way round our perimeter but sadly failed to eradicate the last few ‘indigenous’ rabbits before sealing them in.

Gus's litter trays!

Whilst in Venice we were served the most delicious vegetables in dishes such as sea bass on braised red chicory, asparagus lasagne, butternut squash ravioli with pine nuts, home-made gnocchi with scampi and broccoli sauce. Vegetables are either very much integral to the dish or are dressed up so they stand out in their own right rather than being left floundering on the side of the plate as is so often the case in the UK, both in home cooking and in your bog standard restaurants. Perhaps this is why we Brits love Asian cuisine so much with fabulous curries and the equally delicious vegetable side dishes available to take away in virtually every town and village.

As for fruit in the UK don’t get me started. Vile, unripe, flavourless, unappealing mounds of fruit greet you at the entrance to every supermarket. Why oh why is this the case when we have such amazingly good, tasty old species of fruit such as Winter Queening apples for eating, Codlin apples for cooking, quinces and greengages which the shops never seem to offer. Instead we are offered star fruit and rock hard soft fruits, out of season and flown thousand of miles from far flung corners of the globe! We also have the climate for producing the best array of berries, cherries and currants in the warmer months such as loganberries and mulberries, again hardly ever seen commercially. Home grown is fab, and carefully sourced farm shops are very good as are the few amazing green grocers, as ever mostly in London. Organic makes no difference to the flavour but obviously has a feel good factor and is supposedly better for you but I am always sceptical about food classifications. Maybe one day a real foodie will be employed as a buyer for one of the big supermarkets, or better still a few more ‘quality’ greengrocers will pop up – I live in hope!

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Written by Sarah

April 14th, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Posted in Opinions

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