The cabbage is staring at me. Every time I open the crisper, it glowers at me, all 2½ kilos of it, silently daring me to cook it. But first, I must save the life of more perishable vegetables, in a “women and children first” way. Yes, I have succumbed to the lure of the weekly vegetable box, only to receive enough vegetables for a month. It’s one thing I can do to support small-scale producers and razz up my cooking, reducing the (let’s face it) repetition of the last year or so.
But more than that, it’s fun. Unpacking the box is like Christmas. The brain goes into overdrive trying to work out what needs to be used first, and what could go with what, while all the time thinking, “Wow, that’s a very big cabbage.”
There are lots of different fruit and veg box initiatives out there, such as Ooooby and Block11 Organics in Sydney, and Organic Empire and Northside Fruit & Veg in Melbourne. My box is from highly regarded growers Newcastle Greens, available for pick-up from Fred’s restaurant in Paddington during lockdown. It includes something I’ve never seen before (this is like home schooling) – the wonderfully lacy, ruched green leaves of siber frill kale that looks like a mermaid’s wedding bouquet. It also contains deeply purple shiso leaves, bright puce heirloom turnips, and purple daikon radish as well as the usual broccoli, cauliflower and beetroot.
An almost military discipline is required to get through it all. The leaves go first, in feisty salads. Rainbow chard stalks get cut into short logs the size of penne and used as pretend pasta with an arrabiata sauce, the wilted leaves served on the side. Cauliflower is steamed, covered with cheddar cheese slices, then baked into a cheat’s cauliflower cheese. I pickle the turnip, Turkish-style.
As for the purple daikon, I’m scared. Is this going to be like the time I set out to make the world’s first bright purple pesto from purple basil, only for it to turn bright green in the blender? Will it bleed purple into my chicken and miso soup with udon noodles? (It didn’t.)
Sorry, cabbage, but I’m running out of inspiration. At this rate, there’s a very good chance I’ll get out of lockdown before you do.