Category Archives: Blogroll

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.

leek & smoked cheese pithivier

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.

blood orange cocktails

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

guy’s newsletter: smut & wacky veg from the vendée

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I am on our farm in France, where we are picking the best crop of sweetcorn I have ever grown; 30,000 cobs to the hectare which are so plump and sweet you can eat them raw. Walking through the crop, my spirits rose to giddy heights until I reached the field next door, where 70% of the cobs are grotesquely deformed with galls of the soil-borne fungal pathogen, smut.

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Guy with sweetcorn affected by ‘corn smut’ or huitlacoche as it is known in Mexico (where they consider it a delicacy).

With the majority of crops from this farm designed to plug the spring ‘hungry gap’ back home, our busiest time here is past and we have sown green manures to replenish the soil, ready for next year. The fertility building mixture of clover, oats and phacelia has germinated well but ironically so has a flush of exceedingly healthy summer purslane; a succulent weed I have previously cultivated as a salad crop in the UK, with mixed success. Meanwhile we will start hand picking our beautiful red-flecked borlotti beans next week. Harvested immature in the pods as ‘demi-sec’, they require much less cooking and retain more flavour than a dried bean and can be used in stews, but are best appreciated in a salad. Don’t be put off if the pods look tatty, the beans are beautiful inside, as many an Italian will tell you.

Since buying the farm here I have developed a passion for growing, eating, bottling and drying chillies; like our sweetcorn they love the dry heat of a Vendéen summer. We have grown different varieties for tapas, stuffing, drying and pickling which include padrons, pablanos, Joe’s long, jalapenos, plus a few devastatingly hot scotch bonnets and habaneros for the deranged chilli nuts among you. Most will be available (along with instructions for preserving) to add to your order over the next two months. We are also busy picking tomatillos for you to make salsa verde, and starting on the cape gooseberries. A few of you might think this sounds all too esoteric and are wondering where the potatoes and carrots are; just count yourself lucky there is no smutty corn in your box.

corn smut close up

In Mexico it is considered a delicacy and they charge more for it. Maybe we need to develop a recipe for smut galls with summer purslane.

Guy Watson

Great Godminster! How they make their mouth-watering cheese

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We visited Godminster to find out more about what goes into making their award-winning brie and cheddar for our Riverford boxes.

Richard Hollingbery, owner of Godminster Farm in Bruton, Somerset, has a simple mantra – nature repays those who treat her kindly. They are one of a dwindling number of dairy farms that are also cheesemakers, and we think this direct connection makes their cheeses all the better.

Farm manager Pete Cheek and Richard have crossed their 230 head herd of British Friesians with Swedish Red, Norwegian Red and Hereford breeds, to produce animals that are well-suited to the largely pasture based organic system of dairy farming. This also means that male calves can be brought on as beef animals. Wildlife is encouraged all over the farm with wide field margins and carefully managed ponds and hedgerows, while homeopathy is used as part of the herd management.

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On the cheesemaking side of the business, Richard has perfected the recipe for Godminster cheddar over the last 10 years, creating an unusually creamy cheese. Brothers Steve and Malcolm Dyer, along with Ashley Reynold, are Godminster’s treasured brie.

They work closely with Pete, the farm manager, so that they can tweak their cheese making process as the cows’ diet changes through the year; a wet summer for example will produce different milk to a hot one. All of this impacts how the cheese is made, as everything from temperature to pH and fat levels can influence how it turns out, and it takes an expert eye to know how to manage it. The brie is made in small batches and the curds cut by hand, with the team using a traditional liquid brine along with herbs, garlic and black pepper to infuse different flavours into the cheese. The result is a fantastic, authentic brie range that is full of character. Definitely one of our favourites!

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Separating curds & whey, ready to pack into cheese mould.

The cheese is made a stone’s throw from where the cows roam, grazing on organic grass and clover.  Their milk is pasteurised before having rennet added to it and kept at 23C for a day and a night. When ready, the curd is cut by hand using a ‘harp,’ tipped into plastic moulds and flattened by hand.

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Packing curd into mould by hand

The whey is drained away.

The brie goes into a brining room for 24 hours, then a ripening room for 5 days – this is where the bloom (or what we’d call the skin) starts to form.

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The team at Godminster make 80 cheeses at a time, which are cut and turned before being hand-wrapped and ready for our boxes.

 

kirsty’s cooking blog: blueberries

There was a bit of a green-fingered rummage in the office on Monday as we gathered up some of the seedlings rejected for not being quite up to scratch for our Box to Grows. Some also go to local schools for their garden projects, and I hope the Totnes Incredible Edible scheme might get a few too; they plant unused spaces around the town with veg and herbs for residents to pick for free.

Those seedlings probably stand a pretty good chance of surviving, but for those heading for my garden, good luck to them! I only have a courtyard garden, but it’s amazing what you can fit in; even artichokes will grow quite happily in large pots. As I have such a small space, I only grow things I can eat, particularly herbs, as I use bucket loads of them.

My blueberry bush, which has survived my murderous attempts for 3 years now, amazes me each summer by offering up a bumper crop. Blueberries seem to grow really well in Devon; they even manage to grow them up on Dartmoor. Mine is only just blossoming, but we have the first of our blueberries available now. Plumper and sweeter than supermarket berries, they’re good with porridge or granola and yoghurt for breakfast. Or try this easy blueberry & yoghurt cake (below), delicately flavoured with a little almond and lemon. It can be made with gluten-free flour too, for those with an allergy.

I’m not a huge fan of meringues, but I love the delicate flavour of saffron, which pairs well in our recipe for saffron meringues with blueberry compôte (below). The meringues also go well with poached pears.

 blueberry & yoghurt cake

prep: 10 mins cook: 50 mins serves: 12

If you want to make a gluten-free cake, Doves Farm make a gluten-free self-raising flour, although it isn’t organic, but you could use gluten-free plain flour with baking powder if you prefer.

you will need:
300g self-raising flour
pinch fine sea salt
175g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
finely grated zest of 1 large or 1 ½ smaller lemons
2 large eggs
150g plain whole yoghurt
125g unsalted butter, melted, plus a little extra to grease the tin
1 tsp almond extract
250g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm cake tin with a little butter on a piece of kitchen paper. Line the base and sides with baking parchment. In one bowl, mix together the flour, salt, sugar, ground almonds and lemon zest. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then stir together with the yoghurt, butter and almond extract. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredient bowl. Stir until all the ingredients are just combined. Add the blueberries and gently stir them in. Pour into the tin, level it and bake for 50 mins or until just cooked through and golden brown (insert a skewer or cocktail stick in the middle, it should come out clean). Let the cake cool in the tin for 15-20 mins then turn out onto a cooling rack.

saffron meringues with blueberry compôte

prep: 20 mins    cook: 2 hours    serves: 4

for the meringues:
2 egg whites
pinch of saffron threads
100g golden caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar

for the compôte:
250g blueberries
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
juice ½ lime, more to taste
2 mint leaves, finely shredded
whipped double or clotted cream to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Put the saffron in a small heatproof bowl. Add 2 tsp boiling water and leave to steep. Crack the eggs and tip each half of the shell from side to side over a small bowl to separate the whites from yolks (do this one at a time into the bowl, in case the egg whites and yolks mix together, transferring the egg whites to a large clean, dry bowl. Save the yolks to make mayonnaise or hollandaise. Whisk the whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, until the eggs are stiff and have a satin looking sheen. You should be able to tip the bowl upside down without them falling out! Don’t over whisk though, or this will cause the egg whites to break down and the meringues will turn soggy in the oven. Strain the saffron liquid; discard the strands and keep the bright yellow liquid. Add this to the meringue with the cornflour and vinegar. The cornflour and vinegar help the insides of the meringue have a marshmallowy rather than powdery texture. Whisk until just combined. Use 2 dessert spoons to make 8 similar sized oval dollops on the baking sheet. Turn the oven down to 120C and pop the meringues in the oven. Cook for 1 ½ hours or so, until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in there to cool completely. This will stop the meringues from cracking.

To make the compote, put half the blueberries and the sugar in a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, about 4-5 mins. Add the lime juice and strain the mixture over a sieve. Stir in the rest of the blueberries. Serve the meringues sandwiched together with cream, with the blueberry compôte.

A visit from uganda

Charles Mulwana, a farmer from Uganda, is staying with us at our Riverford Farm in Devon for the next two months. In 2005, aided by charity Send a Cow, Charles received his first cow, Helen. Send a Cow helped him learn about sustainable organic agriculture, looking after livestock and how to grow a variety of crops to feed himself and his family.

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Charles has come to the farm at Riverford to learn how we grow organic crops on a larger scale. He is passionate about passing on the knowledge he has gained, particularly on the importance of organic farming and having a balanced diet. To do this Charles is hoping to raise enough money to build a community centre in his village in the  Nakifuma Mukono district of Uganda, to educate young people in his area on agriculture and running a business. He has become a Peer farmer trainer for Send A Cow, helping to train other farmers, and has passed on a gift of a calf to other farmers in his community from his first cow.

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This is Charles’ second visit to Riverford. During this stay he will be spending time with our picking and farm management team learning how we plan and produce our seasonal veg. So far our farm team have kept him busy learning a variety of larger-scale farming techniques. It’s also been very hands on and Charles has been helping us with our everyday farm work – from picking and bunching spring onions to go in our Riverford boxes, to harvesting our lettuces and spinach. A useful agricultural tip he said has learned while working in the fields here is how we harvest our spinach. When harvesting spinach in Uganda they traditionally leave part of the plant remaining, in order for it to grow back. Here Charles has found that if you cut off all the leaves, the plant will grow back quicker (within 2-3 weeks). Charles is also interested in the different varieties of fruit and veg that he doesn’t currently grow at home. In particular, he is hoping to grow more varieties of tomato on his return to Uganda, including beef and cherry tomatoes, which he feels will be popular. He’s also keen to grow cherries and green peppers.

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At home in Uganda, Charles grows a range of crops to feed his family, with a little extra to sell. These include onions, spinach, kale and sweetcorn which are prepared daily by his wife Barbara for their four children. Sadly his first cow passed away, however his new calf (also called Helen) produces approximately 12 litres of milk each day and he grows bananas and coffee which he sells.

It’s been great to welcome Charles to the farm to spend time with the team at Riverford.

If you have any questions for Charles on farming in Uganda and the UK, please send us a message at help@www.riverford.co.uk/blog and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

E.coli outbreak in Germany – does not affect Riverford produce

There has been an outbreak of E. coli in Germany, believed to be linked to raw cucumbers from two producers in Southern Spain. We do not work with either of these producers (and there is no way that E. coli can travel through the air to other farms).

We are now coming into the UK cucumber season, so all our cucumbers will be homegrown. As a precautionary measure, we test our crops regularly for the presence of bacteria, to make sure the agricultural safeguards we have in place are working effectively

For some of the year we sell Spanish cucumbers grown by Paco Sanchez. Paco fertilizes his crops with sterilised organic chicken manure pellets and the crops are irrigated with a drip feed at ground level to prevent any contamination.

We will continue to monitor the situation, but you can be confident buying from Riverford: we have direct relationships with our growers, we visit them often and are familiar with their cropping systems. We also have our own transport system, so Riverford veg does not get mixed up with produce from other farms. As always, it’s worth remembering that you should wash all fruit and veg thoroughly before eating it.

Everyday And Sunday – Our Brand New Book

When we started the box scheme it was obvious that, much as our customers aspired to eat seasonal veg, many needed practical help to make it a reality. As the years passed I realised we needed to think beyond the nearest hedge; our fate lies half in what we grow and how, and half in what you all do with it in the kitchen. First there were intermittent monthly newsletters; over time they became weekly and I found myself almost as obsessed with cooking as with growing. In 2005 Jane Baxter, the pro with a pedigree, joined us and we opened the Riverford Field Kitchen restaurant. In 2008, spurred on by rave restaurant reviews and requests from customers, we published the Riverford Farm Cook Book with recipes (mostly from Jane) and rants (mostly from me). It has now gone to its third print run and has won Best First Book and Best Work on British Food at the Guild of Food Writers Awards. We are both very proud of it.

Over the last year we have written another: Everyday and Sunday – Recipes from Riverford Farm. Fewer rants (I seem to have become worryingly placid) and more recipes this time. The “everyday” bit is the simple food you might cook in a hurry for the family on a weekday; the “Sunday” is the more time consuming stuff we would serve in the Field Kitchen. It is organised seasonally by month, with intros from me and most recipes by Jane, with a few from our growing band of Riverford Cooks. Everyday and Sunday is out on 2nd May, as a £24.99 hardback or £18.99 paperback (the paperback is only available through us).

Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon

the which? report

You may have read that consumer group Which? has suggested that there appears to be little or no nutritional or taste benefits to growing food organically.

It is very hard to make a sensible comment without knowing how the vegetables were grown, the size of the trial or whether it was replicated as would normally be expected. I would never claim that being organic necessarily guarantees better flavour or nutritional quality. In our experience, flavour and (probably) nutritional quality are a result of:

1. variety

2. soil type

3. growing conditions

4. stage of ripeness or maturity at harvest

5. freshness (time from harvest and post harvest treatment)

I can’t speak for our other growers, but at Riverford we work hard to combine all these factors to give the best flavour. A poor variety grown quickly on Fenland peat with excessive nitrogen can be organic but it can also be disappointing to eat.

On the whole organic growers tend to be more interested in getting these things right, so organic veg is usually better; but it doesn’t have to be. There are of course many other reasons for buying organic, including environmental, animal welfare and absence of pesticide residues.

Guy Watson

christmas drinks

Throughout December, we’re posting tips, ideas, downloads and recipes on our Facebook page (our version of an advent calendar). Today we’ve got a couple of recipes for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks from Heron Valley (who supply us with juices and cider) and one for sloe gin and orange from The Telegraph.

dangerous winter party recipe

ingredients
2 ltrs heron valley cider – order from Riverford
2 bags mulling spices – order from Riverford
2 large cups sugar
½ lemon – order from Riverford

Warm the Heron Valley cider in a large pan with the mulling spice bags, some sugar to taste and half a lemon and allow to infuse for 10 minutes. 

 

safe winter party recipe

ingredients
2 bottles heron valley sweet apple juice – order from Riverford
2 bags mulling spices – order from Riverford

Warm the Heron Valley organic sweet apple juice in a large pan with the 2 spice bags and allow to infuse for 10 minutes.  

For an alcoholic version of the above add a shot of rum, sloe gin or winter Pimms™ to the mulled apple juice

sloe gin & orange

This Angela Hartnett cocktail appeared in The Telegraph on 14th March 2007. You can order sloe gin from Riverford.

ingredients
ice cubes
7fl oz/200ml sloe gin – order from Riverford
3½fl oz/100ml dry vermouth
1 pint 2fl oz/500ml blood orange juice, preferably fresh
sanguinello
2 limes – order from Riverford

Put a couple of handfuls of ice in the bottom of a large jug. Pour the sloe gin, vermouth, blood orange juice and the juice from one of the limes over them. Mix well. Put a few ice cubes in a cocktail glass and pour in the cocktail.

Order alcoholic or soft drinks from Riverford.