I've resubscribed to an organic veg box scheme to keep us going until the allotment produce kicks in again in June or thereabouts (assuming the sugar snaps, asparagus and lettuce don't all shrivel up in the drought, that is). We've managed without for the last couple of years, but the hungry gap seems to be particularly ravenous this year. And Abel & Cole were offering a free bottle of wine and cookbook for returning customers. I am that easily bought.
There's always a sense of anticipation opening up the box: this week it included a big flossy lettuce, a mango, aubergine, red pepper and purple sprouting broccoli. The basics - onions, carrots, potatoes, apples - I'd taken for granted.
I earmarked three of the carrots for an Easter weekend carrot cake (at least a day late, I know), for which I follow Nigel Slater's recipe to the letter. I'm sure it's my carrot cake of choice mainly because the quantities of icing that the recipe makes are so absurdly lavish that there are plentiful bowl scrapings to be had.
With the cake safely in the oven, I surveyed the rest of the contents of the box and decided to put the basics to good use with some brunch-style potato and apple cakes, which go so brilliantly with bacon rashers, or for non-meat eaters, a poached egg on top.
Potato and apple cakes
3 medium to large 'old' potatoes, not waxy salad potatoes
1 shallot or onion
1 dessert apple
Grate the potato, apple, and onion/shallot. Beat the egg quickly and stir in, a little at a time until the mixture glistens without being sloppy. Season well.
Heat around 20g of butter and 1 tbsp or so of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Place a cookie cutter (about 3 inches or 75mm in diameter) in the frying pan and spoon enough mixture into the cutter so that the potato cake is about 1cm thick. Leave for around 20 seconds, so that the cake starts to cook on the bottom, then lift the cutter carefully and place elsewhere in the pan to make the next cake. This amount of mixture will make 6-7 potato cakes.
Fry for 5 minutes, then flip each cake over and fry for another 5 minutes until cooked through. The top and bottom of each cake should be nicely browned. Dish up on to kitchen paper to drain off excess oil, then serve hot.