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The Asparagus Story

charities know just what to do with the great food we deliver!

Someone who has never experienced food poverty and has no idea who the City Harvest family are, and what an amazing organisation it has become in just four years, asked, 'But would the people who are given a tray of asparagus know what to do with it?'

Assumptions, ignorance – it's all around. We need to up our game and make sure that when it comes to Giving Food Another Life, potential donors, volunteers, and, yes, that well known man on the Clapham Omnibus –the hypothetical, ordinary and reasonable person used by the courts in English law, will not leap to conclusions over high quality food and the thousands of Londoners who go hungry every day.
The asparagus in question arrived courtesy of Sodexo head chef Ian Page who emptied his fridges at the end of the Chelsea Flower Show and donated two van loads – literally packed to the rafters – with high end produce including fresh vegetables, salads, squash, potatoes, aubergines, mushrooms, eggs, milk, salmon, smoked fish, prawns, cheeses, artisan ice-cream, sliced chicken, smoked turkey, hand crafted pies, and gourmet sandwiches. He gave us larder items, paper ware, drinks, tea bags.... it was a real Aladdin's cave of food. 'Before I started working with City Harvest last year, all of this surplus food would have just gone into a skip' Ian admitted. He is looking forward to working with us again at Hampton Court. We have other 'cheffy' plans with Ian for future projects.
You might be asking 'Aren't two vans full of unwanted food a sign of bad business management on the part of someone running an event?' The answer is NO. 'At something as prestigious as Chelsea, I have to make sure that every item on offer is available throughout the five days of the show. That's a lot of buying power and serendipity in catering which, to some extent is affected by the weather, the visitors' appetites. Our key mantra is that we cannot run out of anything. It's as basic as that.'

Just minutes from the Caterers Entrance at Chelsea, City Harvest have a regular connection with One Big Family a community project based on a large, run down council housing estate, which is due to be pulled down within two years. OBF is miraculously run by Mike, one of the residents, and some of his neighbours. It's not official, it's not something the wealthy residents next door will necessarily know exists, but it's a life saver. The sandwiches were delivered on the way back to Acton, eggs, milk, chicken, prawns, salads, vegetable, fruit, paper ware, went into the fridges and larders Mike has organised, ready for a summer party for the residents. Another donation of sandwiches, which were too many for One Big Family, ended up feeding many homeless Londoners on Victoria Embankment when Mike and other volunteers took it upon themselves to go out and distribute them when we had left.

Thanks to Sodexo and Ian Page all the food from the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show was all distributed by the following day to City Harvest's many partner soup kitchens, homeless shelters, hostels, family centres and children's projects over London where the cooks produced nourishing, life saving meals: Venues like the soup kitchen for destitute people run by the Franciscan Monks, Eat16, which serves a weekly community meal to those experiencing social isolation and Build on Belief which provides a strong sense of community to those facing drug and alcohol issues with music and art workshops, sports clubs and alternative therapies as well as a warm meal.

And yes, they do all know how to use asparagus in their meals.

For anyone that might need some top tips for preparing asparagus, Sodexo's Ian Page has provided us with the following recipes:

 

British asparagus and spinach soup topped with chive crème fraiche

Serves: 4

Ingredients

12 stems of asparagus stems removed and finely chopped

1 tsp olive oil

50g of unsalted butter

1 medium white onion diced

1 clove of garlic crushed

800ml of vegetable stock

100g of spinach

4 tbsp of crème fraiche (1 tbsp per soup portion)

2 tbsp of freshly chopped chives

METHOD:

Prepare the asparagus by removing the hard stems (keep four of the asparagus heads for garnishing the soup) then finely chop the rest.

Place a saucepan on the heat, add a little olive oil and the butter, then add the diced onion and garlic sweat for 5 minutes on a low heat.

Now add the chopped asparagus and continue to sweat for another couple of minutes, add the vegetable stock bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add your spinach to the soup and simmer for 2 minutes then remove from the heat and put into a blender and blitz in batches.

Once the soups blended put through a sieve to remove any lumps, mix your crème fraiche with the chopped chives and a touch of salt and pepper to taste.

To serve pour your hot soup into the bowl, place a spoonful of the chive crème fraiche on top of the soup and the asparagus head on top of the crème fraiche.

Thai Green Chicken & Asparagus Curry with Steamed Rice

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

700g chicken breast fillets, cut into 2cm cubes

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 lemongrass stem, outer leaves removed, quartered lengthways

4 tablespoons green curry paste

300ml coconut milk

1 cup (250ml) chicken stock

2 tablespoons green peppercorns, drained

2 kaffir lime leaves

2 bunches English asparagus, woody ends trimmed, halved

Fish sauce, to season

Coriander leaves, steamed rice


METHOD


1 Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Stir-fry chicken, in batches, until golden all over. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2 Return the wok to the heat. Add onion, garlic and lemongrass, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, for a further minute. Return the chicken to the wok and add the coconut milk, stock, peppercorns and kaffir lime leaves, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook for a further 2 minutes or until bright green. Season to taste with fish sauce.

3 Serve curry, garnished with coriander, with steamed rice

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