Category Archives: Christmas

Palm-oil free mince pies – and everything else!


We’re very pleased to be able to say that from the start of 2017, Riverford has been 100% palm-oil free. For the most part, this was straightforward to achieve: we added ‘no palm oil’ to the criteria any new products must meet, and that was that. We also needed to replace palm oil in a couple of our existing products. Luckily, this was only our Christmas puddings and mince pies, so we had all year to experiment and get the new recipes absolutely right!

Palm oil is the most used vegetable oil in the world. As well as being cheap to produce in large quantities, it has a very long shelf-life, and a high melting point, remaining semi-solid at room temperature (much like butter). This means it can be used in lots of different ways: frying at high temperatures, adding to baked goods, creating margarine, and even in cosmetic products like lipstick and soap.

For all its advantages in the kitchen, there are serious environmental concerns about the production of palm oil and the vast deforestation that has often been perpetrated to make way for plantations. The palm oil industry has been making efforts to become more sustainable in recent years, most notably with the establishment of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and its certification scheme in 2004. However, we still don’t feel that using any palm oil sits comfortably with our values.

So, we began playing with our Christmas pudding and mince pie recipes. In the puds, we replaced palm oil with organic vegetable oil. The result was much the same, with no real noticeable difference in the light, fruity texture (except a weight off our minds).

In the mince pies, we’ve substituted the palm oil with organic British butter. We had to fiddle about with the recipe a bit to get the texture spot on. While we were at it, we also made the pastry cases deeper, so we could spoon in even more festive filling. We’re really pleased with the result: rich, buttery pies, with a generous filling of plump vine fruit, citrus peel, almonds and a slosh of brandy.

From now on, you can rest assured that every Riverford product is not just 100% organic, but also totally palm-oil free. It may be the easy option, but we know we’re better off without it – why not try our new recipe mince pies and see for yourself!

References
https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/ng-interactive/2014/nov/10/palm-oil-rainforest-cupboard-interactive
http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/Whats_the_issue
https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/dec/17/palm-oil-sustainability-developing-countries

Growing your Christmas veg

blog-bannerDecember has arrived, bringing with it a burst of Christmas spirit. It’s finally time to put up the tree and crack open the advent calendar. There are fairy lights to be untangled, presents to be picked, and all sorts of treats to eat and drink.

Here on the farm, December doesn’t mark the beginning of the festivities, but the culmination of many months of work. We have been planning, planting, and tending our Christmas crops for the best part of the year, making sure everything is ready for the big day.

Here’s a little insight into what it takes to put some of the most iconic veg of the season on your plate, and how they are coming along.

Brussels sprouts

growing sprouts for Christmas

Up in Lancashire, Dan Gielty (otherwise known as Organic Dan) planted our Brussels sprouts all the way back in March and April. That might seem like a long time to produce such a tiny vegetable, but the slow growth allows their flavour to develop, and they really do taste better for it.

They aren’t the sprout-cutterprettiest to look at – organic sprouts never are, as the dense canopy of leaves provides a cosy environment for bugs and blight – but they are plump, healthy, and plentiful. In the past, we’ve had some issues with empty spaces on the stalks, but this lot are chock-a-block.

When the sprouts are mature, experienced pickers climb aboard Dan’s ‘beast’ of a cutter (pictured), and harvest them by hand. It’s exhausting work, but worth it: having put so much time into our sprouts, each one is precious. It would be a shame for them to be bumped and bruised, or picked before they were ready by an undiscriminating machine.

Red cabbage

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Christmas cabbages were put in the soil back in June and July, by our neighbour here in South Devon, Andy Hayllor. While they grow, the plants look surprisingly plain: a sea of dusky silver, rather than the vibrant red you might expect. Come harvest time, the dull, tatty outer leaves – nature’s own packaging – are trimmed away, revealing the bright, glossy heads inside.

red-cabbageAndy is growing the same variety we always use. As well as being heavy and well-packed with leaves, and possessing that deep, earthy flavour so distinctive to red cabbage, they also store particularly well. The heads that were cut, trimmed, and stored in late November will still be fresh and tasty for the boxes in Christmas week.

 

 

King Edward potatoes

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There is no better potato for a Christmas roastie than the King Edward. They’re so good, they might just upstage the turkey. However, they are also notoriously difficult to grow; prone to blight, and to producing too many tubers at too small a size.

The tastiest, fluffiest roastie is worth the extra effort – and the risk. All it takes is a farmer who understands the plant. Enter the Farley brothers, from Cullompton; they have been growing our King Edwards for the past 5 years, so they really know their stuff. Their farm also has the optimum soil: fine and sandy, so that it is still diggable in winter. Rather than hurrying the potatoes out of the ground before it hardens up, we can leave them to grow until the last possible moment, getting more flavoursome all the while.

Parsnips

It’s nigh-on impossible to get a uniform crop of organic parsnips. They are very variable in their germination, with seeds taking anywhere between 10 and 30 days to emerge; this inevitably means that the roots will end up a range of shapes and sizes. We don’t mind a bit of wonkiness – it’s led to some amusement here on the farm. You may have seen a few of our favourites on Facebook.

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Our parsnips are also being grown by the Farleys and this year’s quality is exceptional. Their wonderfully sweet, which is always intensified after the first frost which converts some of their starch to sugar.

Enjoy the feast
A lot of love goes into our Christmas veg boxes. There is so much planning to be done before anything even goes into the ground – then come the long months of care while they slowly grow, and the back-breaking work of harvesting by hand in bleak winter weather. But sitting down to an organic Christmas table laden with all our festive favourites, we know that it was worth every moment.

Cream for Christmas… with a little help from our friends

This Christmas, customers whose orders are delivered from Wash Farm in Devon might notice something a little different about their organic cream. The label will say Acorn Dairy instead of Riverford Dairy – and the tub will contain a little extra! Our usual cream will be back after Christmas. So why the temporary change?

You may have seen some slightly teasing articles in the media about France suffering a butter shortage and facing the terrible prospect of life without croissants (as the Guardian put it, ‘‘Sacré buerre’!). They’re not the only country whose dairy industry is going through a difficult time; cream (and so butter) is thin on the ground in the UK too. Supply has been just enough for this shortage not to be visible for most of the year… but as demand soars over the festive season, some dairies may hit the bottom of the churn.

In 2014/15, there was a dairy surplus. An excellent grass harvest all over the world meant that cows were flourishing, and the white stuff was flowing freely – driving prices down. At the same time, demand plummeted. This was thanks to an astonishingly complex web of international factors; everything from a dip in oil prices hitting Middle Eastern incomes, to Russia’s 2014 ban on European dairy imports and a downturn in the economies of Europe and China (the world’s biggest dairy importer), combined to leave dairy farmers with too much milk and no one to sell it to.

Naturally, dairy farmers put the brakes on. Production was cut down by 5-10%; many even quit the dairy industry during this very tough time. But now, just a short while later, the situation has reversed: demand for milk solids is heading sharply up again.

At home, possible health concerns about alternatives like margarine have brought once-demonised butter back into popularity, hailed as the more natural, less processed option. Globally, poor grass harvests in key dairy-producing countries like Australia and New Zealand, and the pound falling against the euro, have also made British cream more attractive to international buyers.

Unfortunately, the supply can’t just be turned back on overnight; it took a while to wind down, and will take a while to wind back up again. Many dairy farmers are now struggling to cope with excessive demand.

The Riverford Dairy has had enough to cover our customers’ needs throughout the year, but at Christmas, this demand rockets skywards. Splashed onto puddings and pies, swirled into bread sauce, whipped and spread thickly inside yule logs… We get through buckets more of the stuff than usual, and The Riverford Dairy won’t quite be able to cover it.

Luckily, our friends at Acorn Dairy have been able to step in and give us a hand! Acorn Dairy is an award-winning organic dairy in Darlington, owned and run by the Tweddle family since 1928. They supply delicious organic cream and more for our customers in the North and East of the country all year round. For Christmas week, they’ll kindly be supplying enough for everyone.

The cream is still 100% organic and of outstanding quality. The only differences are the Acorn Dairy packaging, and the size of the tub: you’ll enjoy 284ml instead of 250ml, for the same price!

We hope you enjoy your Acorn Dairy cream over Christmas. Our usual Riverford Dairy cream will be back in the new year.

To order your Acorn Dairy cream for Christmas week, just add Riverford Dairy cream to your basket as usual – Acorn Dairy cream will arrive on the day.

References

https://www.ft.com/content/1b93f92c-5ef8-11e6-bb77-a121aa8abd95
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/16/dairy-farmers-milk-prices-economy
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/07/butter-price-all-time-high-dairy-production-curdles

A fine festive cheeseboard sorted

We’ve scoured the country for the absolute best handcrafted organic cheeses, sampling everything from classic Somerset cheddars to quirky sheep’s cheese with wild seaweed from the Outer Hebrides. Trialling, testing, tasting… it’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it.

The result is a Christmas cheese range that we’re really proud of. Here are a few of our favourites, and some tips for enjoying them – although really, you can’t go wrong with buttery oatcakes and a good glass of red!

High Weald Dairy, Brighton Blue

High Weald Dairy is run by Guy, Mark and Sarah Hardy on their family dairy farm in Horsted Keynes, West Sussex. They craft all sorts of innovative creations in their dairy, which used to be the farm’s grain store – including the wonderfully mellow Brighton Blue. Spot on for anyone who likes blue but finds Stilton a little strong, this creamy-crumbly cheese has a soft, rich flavour and piquant aroma. Last week, it won a Super Gold at the World Cheese Awards 2017, placing it among the world’s 66 best cheeses!

For a cheerful winter salad, try using Brighton Blue in our recipe for grilled leek & blue cheese salad with apples, celery and hazelnuts. Or, for a veg-lovers’ twist on festive finger food, try our parsnip blinis with blue cheese, walnuts and honey.

Caws Cenarth, Caerffilli

The Adams family know all there is to know about cheese: they’ve been making it at Glyneithinog Farm, Cardigan for seven generations, and are the oldest established producer of traditional Welsh farmhouse Caerffili. The Adams at the helm today, Carwyn, still uses the same recipe his great-grandmother used more than 80 years ago. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – this fantastically fresh-tasting, light and lemony cheese won Champion Cheese at the Royal Welsh Show for 7 years in a row.

Caws Cenarth, Perl Las Blue

Perl Las, or ‘Blue Pearl’, is the result of a happy accident, when a handful of Cenarth’s mature Caerffili cheeses became naturally blue. Intrigued by the result, Carwyn set out to recapture the flavour, and this unique cheese was born. It’s unlike any other blue cheese: strong but delicate, and roundly creamy, with lovely lingering blue overtones.

Give it a go in our parsnip, apple & chickpea salad with walnuts and blue cheese: the perfect balance of sweet, earthy, salty and sharp.

Caws Cenarth, Golden Cenarth

Winner of the title ‘Supreme Champion’ at the British Cheese Award 2014, Golden Cenarth is one tasty cheese. Semi-soft, with a smooth, creamy texture, this pungent, full-flavoured cheese is washed in cider for a gorgeous amber-hued rind and a distinctive nutty note.

Slather onto Pimhill’s finest oatcakes, or bake until gooey and golden with crusty bread for dipping… heavenly.

Caws Cenarth brie

Not just offering weird and wonderful Welsh creations, Caws Cenarth are also a knockout on the classics. This traditional, creamy French-style brie has a lovely gooey centre and well-rounded mushroomy flavour and aroma that intensifies with age. For the ultimate indulgence, deep fry and serve with cranberry sauce and a crisp green salad.

Cropwell Bishop Stilton

Cropwell Bishop Creamery has been owned and run by the Skailes family in the beautiful Vale of Belvoir, near Nottingham, for three generations. They are a real institution in the British cheese industry; something that was brought home to cousins Ben and Robin Skailes in 2016, when they were crowned overall champion at the British Cheese Awards and realised the trophy had been donated by their own grandfather 70 years previously!

Their outstanding Stilton has no competition for us: the cheese is ripened and left to age to produce a smooth, mellow flavour that contrasts beautifully with the tanginess of the blue veins. For a hearty seasonal treat, try it in our recipes for sprouts, red onion and blue cheese gratin or squash, kale and stilton pies.

British cheese boxes
Can’t choose from all these artisanal organic cheeses? Then let us choose for you! Available in small (five cheeses) or large (seven cheeses), our British cheese boxes are carefully curated to give you the perfect balance of flavours, textures and tastes. An organic cheeseboard, sorted in one fell swoop – or a lovely gift for a foodie friend.

You can browse our full selection of Christmas cheeses and cheese boxes online now.

Watch our organic turkeys pecking in the pasture

It might seem a little early to start thinking about Christmas, but here on the farm, preparations started months ago. All the classic winter veg are growing, our shelves are filling up with festive treats, and the stars of the show, our beautiful organic turkeys, are coming along nicely.

We choose the much-celebrated Bronze breed: a slow-growing traditional breed with an outstanding natural flavour. They are all reared on three small organic farms: Bower Farm near Reading, and Otter Valley and Frenchbeer Farm, both near us in Devon.

Not everyone realises that organic offers the highest standard of animal welfare of any farming system – including free range! We popped by to see Ross Gardener at Otter Valley this week. Watch our video to see his beautiful birds pecking happily in the pasture for yourself…

Because our turkeys come from just three small family farms, there is a very limited supply, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. Make sure to pre-order your organic turkey early for the big day!

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.

baked eve's pudding with home made custard

 

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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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.

roasted brussels with sage & chestnut butter

 

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.

brussels sprout, red onion & blue cheese gratin

 

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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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