Making our famous mince pies

Want to know how we make our legendary mince pies? Our Riverford Farm Shop kitchen elves have been busy working extra hard these last few months. It’s mince pie season and we’ve got over 100,000 of them to make!

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Each pie is individually handmade by our bakery team. We begin by making the mincemeat to our secret recipe which has been tasted and tested numerous times by our development team. The rich and heady mix is then left to infuse and develop in flavour.

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Come morning we’re up bright and early and hard at work constructing these Christmas classics. The buttery pastry that we make is flattened into the tin cases, the mince meat is generously spooned in and the whole thing is topped off with a pastry lid.

One of the team mans the oven, juggling upwards of 500 pies at once! Getting the cooking time right is a difficult skill. Each tray of pies are inspected when leaving the oven for the perfect golden-brown finish.

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Finally they’re finished off while they’re still warm with a light sprinkling of sugar. Our team have to taste every batch we make, that’s a lot of mince pies to be eaten! It’s a tough job!

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Our mince pies come in packs of six and as they’re handmade you might even be able to pass them off as your own, we promise we won’t tell any one!

Five fresh ideas for alternative Christmas puddings

From a sophisticated chocoholic dessert to something simple, warming and homely.  If you’re looking for something a bit different to finish off your Christmas day feast, we’ve got some fantastic suggestions right here.

Sticky toffee pudding

A complete favourite in the canteen here on the farm where it’s known as rocket-fuel!  This sticky toffee pudding is not easily forgotten and you certainly won’t have any leftovers for long.

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Seville orange marmalade pudding

For a bit of zing after a big festive feast, this pudding is just what you need.  It’s light and fluffy and even more tempting when served with oodles of cream.

Baked eve’s pudding with homemade custard

A simple classic.  This dessert is warm, satisfying and great for sharing. Served with custard, this is pure comfort food and just the thing for Christmas day.

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Chocolate pots

These little pots of chocolate heaven can be made well in advance of the big day and are perfect for bringing out just before, or with coffee.

Chocolate beetroot mousse cake

Nothing will please chocoholics more than this recipe for chocolate beetroot mousse.  Its deep, dark chocolate flavour is coupled with the moistness of the beetroot to keep it light and airy.  It’s also gluten free!

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guy’s newsletter: bean battles, bad onions & hungry crows

As the shortest day approaches, our minds turn to the next season; every box for every week to May 2016 has been planned, crops allocated and most plants and seeds ordered. A dry spell last week allowed us to spread muck, plough and sow the over-wintered broad beans, both in France and Devon. We have given up with bangers and scarecrows and now cover the whole field with a tough net to keep off the smart and hungry crows until the bean plants are established.

Meanwhile temperatures have finally dropped, which, combined with low sunlight levels, will slow the growth of our precocious leeks, kales and cabbages which had threatened to get away from us. Typically nothing grows very much for the next six weeks so, by the end of January, we should be back on top and will probably find ourselves short of greens by February.

After years of struggling with fungal disease in damp, drizzly Devon, most of our onions are now grown on well drained land at our farm on the edge of the Fens; with lower humidity and half the rainfall, the odds are more in our favour. This year we have been feeling smug with a fantastic crop of dry, firm, good-sized onions to see us through most of the winter. They were ‘topped’ (ie. had their foliage mowed off) and then lifted in August, before being finished with hot air in the barn. Having got them dry, with good skins and a well sealed neck, the plan is then to blow cold night air through the clamp to prolong dormancy and slow any rots; a dry 1°C is the ideal for storing an onion. However, with night time temperatures of 13-14°C in October we never managed to get them cold enough; their clocks kept ticking and they think it is spring already with internal sprouting in some, and rots in others. We are grading out any that are obviously bad but this is a rather longwinded plea for tolerance; we reckon they are OK (just) but if you disagree let us know and we’ll replace or refund. We have already decided that next year we must spend the cash and the carbon and cold store any destined for use after the New Year; it’s that or import. Few things smell worse than a rotten onion, so we’re going for the lesser of two evils.

Guy Watson

Five favourite recipes for brilliant brussels

Convert any sprout sceptic with these bold and brilliant recipes for brussels. Simple and quick to make, these dishes are great served as a side, or even to eat on their own by avid sprout lovers!

We’ve got five of our tried and tested recipes and a handy video to help you get the perfect brussels sprouts every time!

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Brussels sprouts with brown butter and almonds

Rich, sweet and indulgent. This way of preparing the little green veg gives it an extra crunch and texture with the addition of flaked almonds.

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Sprouts with chestnuts and bacon

A more traditional way of serving brussels, this dish is just the thing to serve up on Christmas day. The warm chestnut and bacon flavours are great for tempting sprout haters.

Roasted brussels sprouts and caramelised onions

This recipe is a simple way of using up any left over sprouts and is great served with the last of the turkey and plenty of gravy. Once roasted the caramelised onions will work wonders bringing out the natural sweetness of the sprouts.

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Brussels sprouts with horseradish

Give your sprouts a bit of oomph with this fiery dish that’s not for the fainthearted. Add as much horseradish as you dare!

Brussels sprouts with bacon and almonds

This recipe is pure comfort food. Sweet, salty, warm, rich and with a bit of bite. Try with mash potato for an easy and filling lunch dish.

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guy’s newsletter : chicken life & campylobacter

When I was an agriculture student in the ‘80s, we visited an intensive poultry farm. As we left the building, half the students were in tears, much to the irritation of the farmer. To witness, at close quarters, the routine abuse of animals in the pursuit of cheap food was more than most of us could bear. I like to think that any sentient human being, having witnessed the reality behind producing a £3 discounted supermarket chicken or a bucket of KFC, could never stomach it again, but most of us never confront it. Cheap meat and eggs are not a right. Nor is it elitist to suggest that we should be prepared to pay for chickens to have a reasonable level of welfare. Most of us eat more meat than is good for us and the planet, so the simple answer could be to eat less rather than cheaper.

Yet animal welfare is not the only thing we should be worried about when it comes to chicken. A recent Food Standards Authority study revealed that on average 70% of chicken tested was contaminated with the especially nasty foodpoisoning bacterium Campylobacter. Given that 90% of the UK’s fresh chicken comes from the intensive farms and abattoirs of just five processing companies, it’s hard not to start making a connection. No difference was found in rates between intensive and free range/organic poultry; unsurprising given that much of supermarket own-brand organic chicken is from the same abattoirs.

The statistics that I’d like to see would be those comparing chicken from industrial abattoirs with birds reared unintensively on organic farms and processed in low-throughput conditions. Just two small scale family farmers that we know and trust rear Riverford’s birds, which are then processed in an equally small scale family run abattoir and our own low-throughput purpose built butchery. The fact that we’ve never had a case of Campylobacter traced back to us backs up my theory that less is best in every regard when it comes to chicken.

Guy Watson

a mistletoe gift
Guy’s team on our French farm have been busy harvesting mistletoe to send you as thank you for supporting Riverford in the past year. Merry Christmas!

5 veggie Christmas recipe ideas

We’ve got five great veggie centrepiece recipes to treat your vegetarian friends or family for Christmas dinner on the big day.

Leek and smoked cheese pithivier

Pithivier is a French pie made with puff pastry.  Traditionally sweet, this one has a smoky cheese and leek filling.  It’s hearty and rich and makes a great showstopper for the big day.

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Christmas pie with greens, chestnuts and feta

This pie is easily prepared in advance and put into the oven just ahead of dinner.  The feta makes sure the spinach and kale are moorish and creamy, while the chestnuts give it texture.

Squash, chard and stilton pithivier

These individual pies look smart when served and are great for impressing festive guests.  Roasted squash is one of our favourite things and together with chard and soft cheese, it’s hard to go wrong with this dish.

Leek, cheese and herb vegetarian suet pudding

Sweet leeks and soft pastry work together in this dish to create a warming and satisfying centerpiece.  It’s quickly and easily prepared ready to go straight into the oven so you can get on with enjoying the day.

Roasted veg toad in the hole with onion gravy

A classic dish done up for Christmas.  With caramelised onions, softly roasted veg and a crispy and filling batter, this dish is just the thing on a cold Christmas day.

Be sure to send us photos of any of the dishes you make, we love to see what you’ve made!

5 cracking Christmas cocktail ideas from Riverford

Hosting a Christmas party this year?  Looking for ideas to take along to someone else’s?  We’ve got five great Christmas cocktails, and a few extra tipples, that are guaranteed to get any party started!

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Blood orange & prosecco cocktail – click here to see recipe

A celebratory drink  when blood oranges are in season (but you can substitute with normal oranges). For this we suggest using prosecco for the fizz, or if you’re feeling extravagant, champagne. A splash of Campari doesn’t hurt either!

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Riverford mulled cider – click here to see recipe

The mulled cider was so popular at our London Christmas fair last year that we’ve had lots of requests for the recipe. This is from Ben Watson’s mate, Cider Andy. He’s adamant that to get the genuine article, you need to use his two-year-old Dartmoor Cider, but any dry, scrumpy type cider will do.

Apple, pear & ginger smoothie – click here to see recipe

A great drink for drivers or kids, this nutritional smoothie is sweet and warming. Dress it up with a fancy straw in a nice glass.

Bloody orange mary – click here to see recipe

Great with brunch, or as a hang over cure, this cocktail is a twist on the classic using vibrant blood oranges (or standard oranges).

Tangy orange appetiser – click here to see recipe

A take on the classic Savoy cocktail of orange juice, gin and dubonnet, said to be the Queen Mother’s favourite tipple.

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Don’t miss! Veggie cocktails at Riverford at The Duke of Cambridge:

In January our pub in Islington,  Riverford at The Duke of Cambridge will be serving veggie inspired cocktails and mocktails, for those who are recovering from all the celebrations.

The recipes are highly secret, but if you fancy yourself as a bit of a mixologist, then our cocktail master at the Duke has let you know what the main ingredient combinations are below.  If you’d rather let someone else do the hard work then head over to The Duke in the new year to taste how it’s done by the professionals!

Non-alcoholic blends:

Beetroot, apple and celery juice

Apple, carrot and ginger

Alcoholic blends:

Apple, beetroot and amaretto

Apple, mint, cucumber and damson vodka

 See our organic Christmas wine, beer, spirits and more here