If you love trying new food then you’d love my job. You do however, have to be prepared to take the rough with smooth! Of the large quantities of samples suppliers thrust our way most are delicious and certainly fill the mid-morning hunger gap in the office. Occasionally a sample box turns up (great excitement ensues) only to find something strange or, even more disappointingly, an ingredient you can’t actually consume right there and then.
Any great new product that we think our customers will love goes in for consideration but, I have come to realise that most of the unusual ones simply get filed in my brain as ‘gimmicks’ and go no further. Many of these food ‘gimmicks’ feature ingredients not normally placed together in the hope of creating a new snack concept. I was recently sent a packet of Belgian chocolate covered pork scratchings and whilst these did not taste bad (I was surprised too), neither ingredient did anything spectacular when combined. Another great example of this is the BBQ meat flavoured coconut flesh I tried last week designed to be a vegan snack. Maybe I am wrong but I am sure vegans have tastier snack options already and are they really interested in a meat flavoured one? I am sorry to disappoint any of our customers with the news that these will not be appearing on our shelves. However, we will be looking at our healthier snacks in August and bringing in some less weird and tastier ones!
What you may have seen appearing at Neston and Hartley are some unusually colourful vegetables. Since we have moved to sourcing our fruit and veg from the main wholesale market for the South West in Bristol, we seem to have got rather excited about the oddly coloured veg. You can mix things up on your plate with orange cape cauliflowers to yellow courgettes and from purple sweet potatoes to black tomatoes. In the past I have been guilty of writing off this colourful produce as another gimmick utilised by growers to entice consumers with novelties. Why would anyone buy these products when a good old white cauliflower tastes the same? I firstly got over this rather grumpy stand point when I realised that actually I do get sick of ‘eating my greens,’ and that we do all eat with our eyes so why not mix things up a bit. On further investigation some of these varieties differ nutritionally such as the orange cauliflower which has 25% more vitamin A than your regular cauliflower. And finally, the veg we eat today has be selectively bred for hundreds of years and bears no relation to the ancestral varieties that once grew in the wild. By choosing some of these veg outliers you are eating something much more akin to what they were actually like before we changed their genetics. Great examples are the heritage carrots and heirloom tomatoes, and even purple cauliflowers existed in one of the oldest ancestral varieties and from which our modern ones stem today. So why not try putting some colour onto your plate this summer? Our Head Chef at Hartley has written a mouth-watering summer recipe utilising yellow courgettes which will be coming from the UK this month.
Yellow and green courgette & feta fritters; Harissa garden beans and almonds