Crafty Halloween idea: Spooktacular Salad!

Crafty Halloween idea: Spooktacular Salad!

Treat hungry trick or treaters to something to tuck into with our creepy skeleton salad bits & dip!

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This spooktacular salad is simple to make and is a great healthy treat for hungry trick-or-treaters.  Kids can get hands-on  arranging the different bones to create their own creepy creature!

Send us a photo of your creepy creations on Twitter or Facebook using #healthyhalloween.  We’d love to see what you come up with!

Ingredients:

  • Pepper
  • Courgette
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots (we used purple carrots for an extra spooky effect!)
  • Hummus
  • Olives
  • Large plate or chopping board
  • Small bowl

Step 1: Cut up the different components ready to arrange on a plate or chopping board.

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Step 2: Start arranging your skeleton.  Find a bowl for the head, it’ll be filled with dip later, but it’s great to get an idea of scale for the skeleton’s bones.

Courgettes cut into disks make a great spine, and red peppers are perfect for ribs.

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Step 3: Add arms and legs using celery and carrots.  Cauliflower and broccoli are a great way of creating hands and feet.

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Step 4:  Fill your bowl with dip and position as the skeleton’s head.

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Step 5:  Use cabbage or lettuce leaves for the hair and sliced olives for the skeleton’s eyes.  An off-cut from the pepper is perfect as a smiley mouth.

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Step 6:  Chop up any spare veg and put in a side bowl for everyone to get stuck in!

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Tuck into your tasty skeleton! Have a great Halloween and don’t forget to send us a photo!

 

 

 

 

River Cottage day out: From field to fork

We pulled our wellies on and headed down to Park Farm near Axminster, home to River Cottage HQ in Devon, to spend the day getting a taste of how the folks at River Cottage are inspiring people to explore the journey of our food from field to fork.

We joined guests on the River Cottage Experience course, created to connect people to home-grown, home-cooked food and inspire people to get the best out of seasonal and ethical produce by cooking from scratch.

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How to bake your daily bread: just use the basic ingredients
The day started with an introduction to bread, setting the scene with a reminder that a true loaf should only contain 5 basic ingredients: yeast, water, salt, flour and sugar. We couldn’t agree more.

Head Chef, Gelf, got the class mixing and kneading dough for a simple white loaf which we left to prove whilst heading out around the farm to see the livestock and crops based on the farm.

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From field to fork: fruit, veg and livestock
Set in 65 acres of rolling Devon hills, the pebbly soil and steep gradient of the land surrounding Park Farm lends itself best to livestock and grazing. The flatter parts of the terrain is put to good use: unheated polytunnels and allotment areas dedicated to cultivating fruit and veg, and carefully managed traditional hay meadows designed to provide feed for livestock and act as a biodiversity haven for bugs, bees and butterflies.

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Fruit & veg
Hugh’s famous kitchen garden was brimming with autumnal seasonal veg – cavolo nero, curly kale, runner beans, broccoli and more. Destined for the River Cottage kitchen, roots, brassicas, legumes and salad crops grow up set against the backdrop of the famous River Cottage farmhouse. The crop types are rotated around four quadrants of the garden each year to minimise crop-specific pests and diseases and nutrients.

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Livestock
The team at River Cottage rear their own livestock – cattle, sheep, poultry and pigs. All are cared for to the highest possible organic welfare standards and kept within a stone’s throw of the kitchen – the food chain doesn’t get much shorter than this.

Sheepy facts
Busy grazing on clover-rich organic pasture, Farmer Dan introduced the group to River Cottage’s flock of Poll Dorset sheep. A thrifty breed, the Poll Dorset has a long breeding season and can live on tougher pastures. Here Dan explained the definition behind the different types of lamb meat you can buy:

new season lamb – lamb born in the current breeding season
old season lamb – lamb born in the previous breeding season, but still under a year old
hogget (or two tooth) – over a year old
mutton – a sheep who has lambed and is over 2 years old

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Back to the kitchen ….
Staying true to the season, we started prep on an autumnal game casserole pie that we would be tucking into together later on that day. An earthy mix of meat including hare (net caught), wood pigeon, duck, grouse and beef reared on the farm and hung for 6 weeks, the flavours rising in the River Cottage kitchen had everyone sneaking an extra mouthful to ‘check the flavour’ just one more time (!). We left the casserole to reduce while we headed outside to make our own pizza for lunch in River Cottage’s outdoor wood-fired oven and soak up the breath-taking Devon views.

Bake off! Rough puff pastry
In a scene similar to a Bake Off, it was back to the kitchen to make up a block of rough puff pastry, carefully creating layers of butter and flour which we used to top off our casseroles.

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Profiteroles & thought-provoking pigs
Simpler than some might think, we cracked straight on to whipping up a batch of profiteroles which were popped into the oven, then it was time to learn about butchery and home-curing bacon techniques using a pig reared by the River Cottage team at Park Farm.

How often do you see pigs in a field?
Did you know that we rear as many pigs in the UK as sheep? How many pigs have you seen in a field in the countryside? Next time you pick up a cheap packet of sausages in a supermarket, spare a thought for the pigs. You see plenty of sheep grazing in the fresh air, but the majority of our pigs spend their lives reared indoors in enormous barns, fed only feed and pumped with antibiotics to meet low prices demanded by consumers. You can choose to support high-welfare farms and happier pigs who have had the chance to snuffle around for tasty morsels in the outdoors.

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From field to fork: time to enjoy the fruits of our labour
After a great day on the River Cottage Experience course seeing how food gets from the farm to our plate, the end of the day marked a time to sit down with a glass of wine, discuss what was learnt and enjoy the fruits of our labour … with a dash of River Cottage sparkle added to the food by their team of chefs.

All in all, everyone enjoyed what was a fulfilling, fact-laden day – taking home a feeling of being better connected with where our food comes from and a bag full of bread, profiteroles and casserole!

If you’d like to join the River Cottage team for a day on the farm cooking, eating and drinking (or think it’d make a great Christmas present), you can see the full range of courses here.

Ben’s wine blog: Dominio de Punctum’s Finca Fabian

Ben took a trip to Spain to meet the producers of an organic wine that’s head and shoulders above the rest.

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The Fernandez family

When I first tasted Dominio de Punctum’s Finca Fabian wine three years ago I marked their card several levels above the standard, entry level, Spanish organic wine. The problem was that the same applied to the price. However, where there’s a will there’s a way, so by importing pallet loads direct from the vineyard and twisting the arm of the UK agent, we’ve been able to get the price down to £6.99 – the same as the infinitely inferior wines we were stocking before. I like our Finca Fabian wines so much that I thought I’d better pay them a visit.

Doing the right thing

My first thought was that here’s another rich man learning how to make a small fortune from a big one, but I was wrong. It’s a well thought out, properly funded family business. Until ten years ago it was a typical grape farm selling their produce to the local co-op for next to nothing. Bulk wine from the region sells for 0.25 euros a litre.

The Fernandez family thought they could do better and so father and three siblings set about doing it in a business-like way. The fact that Jesus Fernandez, who showed me around could probably sell sand to an Arab certainly didn’t do any harm. There was also a reassuring commitment to doing the right thing, not just farming organically and biodynamically (they’re certified for both) but also employment and social responsibility. It was definitely a happy place.

The vineyard

Dominio de Punctum

The Fernandez’s harvest

The wines speak for themselves. Harvest had just finished and most of the 2014 was happily bubbling away, while the Chardonnay has nearly finished its secondary, malolactic fermentation. Delicious. I don’t like winespeak but sometimes you have to – unoaked, fresh tropical fruits with a lovely slightly creamy mouthfeel. Why we’re all rushing to buy Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, when you can match this with virtually any light food, is a mystery.

The rosé/rosado is so classically French that it’s freed us up to stock the slightly fruitier, New World style, strawberry flavoured L’Estanquet as our second rosé from France. It’s a funny old world.

The Tempranillo is equally good. It’s clean, well made and with enough tannin and structure to stand up to heavier foods.

There’s far more to come from Dominio de Punctum, including a lightly sparkling frizzante, so watch this space.

guy’s newsletter: noble management

Last week I alluded to plans for the business to one day become stakeholder owned (by staff, customers, or perhaps both) and why I felt that was important. In the meantime I have challenged our management team to make Riverford a truly exceptional place to work; if we achieve that, all else will follow.

In our last round of quarterly staff workshops we broke into groups to discuss what it would take to be exceptional, but also to talk about how we are doing right now. There was mention of the lack of hierarchy, of Riverford being a friendly and beautiful place to work, of a shared sense of purpose and common values, diversity and respect, opportunities for development, shared meals in our canteen, great parties, interaction with customers, loads of free veg to take home, a few gripes about poor communication, but almost no mention of money. There is a wealth of research to suggest that money is a very poor motivator, especially for complex tasks; my early experience of piece-work is that it is pretty lousy even for simple ones too. No-one makes the point more convincingly than Dan Pink. Don’t bother with the book, but if you have ten minutes, listen to the fast talking guru of motivation here.

Most management is diabolically cynical and short term. Instead of relying on the ignoble assumption that we all behave like a bunch of donkeys following carrots, the world would be so much better if we could harness the powerful and ennobling desires for purpose (contributing to something worthwhile), mastery (getting better at stuff) and autonomy (shaping your own world), as Dan Pink says. Building the fulfillment of these needs into daily working life is the key to happy, high performing organisations. One might ask why most management in the last 30 years (particularly in the public sector) focuses on monetary carrots for quantifiable results, when these so obviously don’t work well. The answer is that it’s easy, a bit macho and appeals to the cynical and lazy. Those shaping our NHS might ask themselves why 700 of their staff have volunteered to travel to west Africa to fight Ebola. Great management relies on a willingness to believe in people, and to keep on believing even when things don’t work out  first time.

Guy Watson

guy’s newsletter: succession and ownership; still thinking

So far, none of my children share my enthusiasm for farming and vegetables. I think I put them off with an excess of weary grumpiness in the early years when I brought too much vegetable woe into the house. So if they don’t get the business, who does? The sale of Abel & Cole to venture capitalists in 2007 precipitated a plague of oily suits from the city, snaking their way to my door and promising to lubricate my passage into well-heeled retirement. The prospect felt like selling one of my children to a brothel, plus, all the entrepreneurs that I have met who sold up are depressed; not surprising considering how some say an excessive drive to succeed is a good sign of an unhinged mind. What does surprise me, given all the evidence to the contrary, is that anyone would think £30m would make you happier than £3m.

My beef with raw capitalism is the demeaning absurdity of its founding assumption that greed is the only reason anyone would want to do something well. I like the John Lewis model so our plan is to move towards employee/stakeholder ownership if we can avoid trussing managers up in workers’ committees. The appalling situation at the Co-op bank shows that ideology and values can never be a substitute for competence and good management.

Meanwhile we will continue to strive for competence (excellence even, on a good day) under enlightened but fairly conventional management where those at the top (including me) earn no more than nine times those at the bottom, and profits not needed for reinvestment are divided evenly between our staff. And I promise the business will never be owned or controlled by people who don’t work in it, sell to it or buy from it. More on how we plan to get there next week.

Guy Watson

Riverford pumpkin day – free family day out!
Join us at the farm on Saturday 25th October 11am-4pm. Expect children’s activities, worm digging, pumpkin carving, chilli stringing and seasonal food.

Call us or visit here for details.

Ben’s wine blog: Davenport Vineyards, Sussex 2013 Horsmonden dry white

This week Ben discovers a new favourite at brother Guy’s wedding, and finds out a bit more about British wine making.

Discovering a fantastic fizz

It’s been around for a while but in recent years, it’s come on leaps and bounds and the 2013 vintage is the best yet.  I hadn’t tasted it for ages until Davenport’s 2013 Horsmonden dry white slipped up the blind side (and that’s not part of a best man’s speech) at Geetie and brother Guy’s wedding. Several glasses of their fantastic fizz had got the party off to a flying start and it wasn’t until midway through the first course that I noticed that the contents of the glass in my hand were really pretty good. Crisp, dry and aromatic – like a combination of the bride and groom (I confess to still not having given them a wedding present and I wasn’t the best man).

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Will the wine-maker

Winemaker and owner, Will Davenport, knows his stuff – he’s been doing it for twenty years and the awards page on his website testifies to his skills.  We’ve all heard that global warming will make southern England the next Burgundy, but so far, in the case of organic it’s been an emperor’s new clothes scale bluff.  Yes, England is making some fantastic, champagne-esque fizz and white wines, but thanks to a succession of wet summers, until last year, delivery was woefully slow and low.  2013 was a great year and 2014 promises to be even better.  Here’s what Hamish Anderson, writing for The Daily Telegraph, thought of Will’s wine:

Will Davenport’s small organic estate makes some of England’s finest still wine. The 2013 is a blinder – its pungent nose of lemon and nettles is not only quintessentially English, but also makes you want to dive in for a sip. A glass of glorious, spirit-lifting refreshment.

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Getting hold of the vintage

It takes Will three years to make the fizz, but the more still wine we buy, the more chance there is of getting a decent allocation of the 2013 vintage when it’s released. That’s the way the wine trade works.  Or if we’re really good, fingers crossed, they might just find a few cases of the previous vintage.

guy’s newsletter: getting there in the vendée

As our team picks the last chillies, squash and peppers, and the first autumn gale shakes a fine crop of cape gooseberries to the ground, I retreat to the office to try to make some sense of our accounts. After five years of growing lovely cabbages, spinach, sweetcorn, tomatillos, courgettes and peppers here on our farm in France (mainly to fill the ‘hungry gap’ in spring), the best I can say is that we are losing money more slowly than we were. Perhaps I should draw some consolation from the amount I have contributed to the French tax system.

After a dreadful start it was a pretty good growing year; we just never made back what we lost from the sodden and aphid-plagued lettuce in the spring. We are definitely making fewer mistakes and have grown some fine crops, and our team seems happy, harmonious and well organised, but the margin for error is very small. As a young man, when stuff went wrong I just bent over and worked harder and shouted at those around me to do the same; demonic determination and energy compensated for the mistakes. Twenty years later, trying to do the same thing in France isn’t working for all sorts of reasons; I don’t have the energy, I am not here enough, I’m not sure shouting works and the market has become a lot less forgiving, with tighter margins giving little room for failure, whether caused by inexperience or the weather. My accountant thinks I should pull the plug but I am a chip off the old block; as the farm lurched from crisis to crisis my father spent 50 years infuriating my mother by saying, “Do you know darling, I really think we are getting there”. I’ll give it another year.

Guy Watson

Riverford pumpkin day – free family day out!
Join us at the farm on Saturday 25th October 11am-4pm. Expect children’s activities, worm digging, pumpkin carving, chilli stringing and seasonal food.

Call us or visit here for details.