Nature’s Choice delivers nature’s bounty – Griddled Lettuce with Peas and BeansJump to Recipe
An early morning knock on my front door usually means one thing: a delivery, often of fruit and vegetables. Since lockdown I have had a weekly order from a host of delivery companies, the quality varies quite a bit and even the company I usually use let me down recently with a week’s worth of veg that was a bit past its prime. So I jumped at the chance to review a box or two from Nature’s Choice which distinguishes itself by delivering ‘London’s Finest’, top-quality produce from New Covent Garden Market that, pre-lockdown, was delivered to some of London’s top restaurants. The perfect opportunity for cooking up seasonal vegetable recipes like this griddled lettuce with peas and beans that really only work if you have top quality fresh ingredients.
For consumers, this has been one of the revelations of the past home-bound months; the quality of the fruit and veg now delivered to our doors is often rather a step up from what we get in our average supermarkets. I don’t think we will be wanting to let go of these deliveries even when the hospitality trade is fully functioning again.
I ordered two boxes – a salad box and a seasonal summer box – each of which contained 22 different items and was brimming with health as only a collection of fruit and veg can. I rarely eat red meat so my appetite for the green stuff has grown ever stronger over the years. The salad box had a punnet of microgreens and another of pea shoots which looked pretty, a few bushels of herbs – fresh mint, rosemary, dill and thyme – and as soon as I spotted a punnet of cherry vine tomatoes alongside one of heirloom tomatoes I knew what was for lunch. These gorgeous tomatoes have been one of my best discoveries of lockdown as many veg delivery boxes now include them. Prior to March 2020 I always shopped in the supermarket for my veg. Goodness, what a change the weekly veg delivery has made to my appreciation of some of the finer produce, seasonal of course.
I simply adore these tomatoes and set about chopping them up for a simple and satisfying tomato salad. I scattered the pea shoots onto my serving platter and then halved a punnet full of cherry vine tomatoes and placed those on top. Then I cut the heirloom tomatoes into chunks and slices as it adds interest to vary the shapes and colours. With such top-quality ingredients, I do as little as possible. I anointed the salad with a good few glugs of a high quality extra virgin olive oil and a drizzle of equally good quality balsamic vinegar (the kind so sweet you can drink it). A grinding of black pepper and a scattering of sea salt flakes and lunch was served.
The vegetable box included a punnet of blueberries, another of raspberries and a third of gooseberries. I made a gooseberry fool last week for the first time so was pleased to find myself with another opportunity to create this quintessential British summer dessert. Just as seasonally welcome was a packet of broad beans and another of peas. Lovely podding awaited to remind me of summer holidays in France when we take home large bags full from the market and sit in the shade prepping lunch. All these fresh beans and peas need is a flash in a pan, a squeeze of lemon juice, a glug of the best extra virgin olive oil and onto the plate, perhaps with a little bit of pasta to keep things moving along.
I have cooked with great delight from these abundant boxes throughout the week and had a great deal of variety. First up was a griddled gem lettuce with braised peas and broad beans. (recipe below).
A warm salad that bursts with seasonal freshness and greens galore
- 2 gem lettuce halved lengthways
- 200 grams broad beans removed from pods
- 200 grams fresh peas removed from pods
- 3 spring onions sliced
- 1 cup vegetable stock I use Marigold bouillon
- 1/2 lemon zested and juiced
- 1 handful mint leaves roughly torn
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- black pepper
Pod the broad beans and the peas.
Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the broad beans for a minute. Remove and drain.
As the broad beans cool, pop them out of their skins. This will leave you with emerald green beans which are more delicious without the slightly bitter skins.
Heat a griddle pan and oil it lightly.
Warm a medium sized saucepan with the olive oil and saute the sliced spring onions for a minute.
Add the broad beans and the peas to the saucepan and combine.
Add the cup of vegetable stock and cook for a few minutes until the peas are tender.
In the meantime griddle the halved lettuce in two batches, cut side down. You want to lightly char but not burn the delicate green leaves. Turn with a tongs once the lettuce has a good striping on the cut side and griddle another minute or two on the other. Remove
Add the lemon zest and juice to the beans and peas mixture.
Add the chopped mint to the pan.
Plate the griddled lettuce onto a serving platter and then pour over the bean and pea mixture along with the juices and stock in the pan.
Add a glug or two of your best extra virgin olive oil along with a grinding of black pepper. I don't add salt as I find the vegetable stock salty enough.
You can serve this salad at room temperature if you prefer to get ahead.
The following evening, I felt too tired to cook so opted for a salad supper. I picked out the large romaine lettuce which I turned into a tempting Greek salad along with the plum vine tomatoes. There were so many cucumbers in the box that I happily chopped one up to add to the salad along with a fat, green pepper. In my fridge, I found feta cheese and Kalamata olives which were all that was needed along with a thorough sprinkling of dried oregano. Lemon from the box was squeezed over and finally, my best extra virgin olive oil and black pepper.
A celebratory picnic lunch was next on the cooking agenda and had me reaching for the plump fennel bulbs which were caramelised and used to top focaccia which was anointed with a scattering of fresh thyme I found in the bundle of herbs that nestled within each box. One box contained baby beetroot (joy to my eyes) while another contained a pack of ready-cooked beets. I never buy these as I find them either tasteless or too vinegary. These were not vinegary at all but needed some help to elevate themselves to my picnic table. Balsamic vinegar, olive oil and mint did the trick. The tiny carrots, thinner than my fingers, made crunchy crudités along with the celery and cucumber which I cut into thick chunks to scoop up a pungent salsa verde. The red peppers had a turn or two on my gas burner until the skins were blackened, peeled and languished overnight in top-quality olive oil. All these delicious vegetables were destined to spread out on the picnic rug on a hill in the Chilterns. On the day the sun shone as did the vegetables. For tea, I had brought along slices of carrot cake which I served with the freshest and sweetest cherries, blueberries and raspberries.
The quality of the fruit and veg is ultimately the most important aspect of a delivery – aside from the ability to source interesting produce. The scheme I usually use allows me to handpick what I want each week which has enabled me to branch out to lesser used veg like kohlrabi and the like. Nature’s Choice offers a wide range of boxes (small, medium and large) including essential dairy items if required, but not personally curated selections as far as I can tell. That aside, the quality is excellent. I am looking forward to using the thinnest green beans I’ve ever seen and still have spinach, loads of tenderstem broccoli, salads, jersey royals, avos, limes and lemons, gooseberries and more to use up. It feels like the fruit and veg box that just keeps on giving.