Tag Archives: carrots

12 veg of Christmas – 5 festive carrot recipes

Twisty-Riverford-carrotsGuy says
Carrots are more highly bred than our royal family. Through 500 years of intensive selection, the Dutch have selected out all the freaks so that what we have left are fast-growing, uniform, bland-tasting roots with ‘robust handling characteristics’, meaning that you can drop them out of an aeroplane without them breaking – crucial for mechanical harvesting, grading, washing and packing. I once visited a carrot variety trial and throughout the day I never saw anyone taste a carrot or even mention flavour. We try hard to do better and customers often cite the flavour of our carrots as a reason to recommend us. Here’s how to make the most of them!

roast carrots with honey and fennel

serves 4 as a side
Roasting the carrots intensifies their flavour and really makes a stand-up side dish.

roast-carrot-with-honey-fennel1kg carrots, peeled
2–3 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1½ tsp fennel seeds
4 tbsp honey
a good pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Cut the carrots into long wedges or roll-cut them into angular pieces. If they are small and slender, leave them whole or cut them in half lengthways. Toss with the oil, fennel seeds, honey and salt. Spread the carrots in a single layer over a roasting pan lined with baking paper. Roast for around 30 minutes until cooked through and caramelising in places – check after 20 minutes and turn over to ensure even roasting. Serve hot or warm.

carrots in a bag

serves 4
This nifty technique seals in the flavour and lets the veg cook in its own moisture. It also brings a nice bit of theatre to the Christmas dinner table! You’ll need baking parchment and a stapler.

carrots-in-a-bag2 rosemary sprigs
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
knob of butter
8 good-sized carrots, peeled
and chopped on the
diagonal into 1cm chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.To make the bag, spread out a rectangle of baking parchment, approximately 60 x 30cm, with the longer side towards you. Fold it in half from left to right. Double-fold the top and bottom ends and staple the folds closed with two staples. Using a pestle and mortar, bash the rosemary, bay leaf and garlic roughly (you can also do this using the back of a knife on a chopping board). Put the mixture into the bag with the butter. Put the carrots in a bowl, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle over enough of the olive oil so that the seasoning sticks to them. Tip into the bag. Double-fold the open edge of the bag and staple in both corners and in the middle. Lay in a roasting tin and bake for about 25 minutes; the bag should puff up.
Turn out into a bowl or open at the table like a big bag of crisps. Watch out for the staples!

roasted carrot & chickpea salad with tahini dressing

serves 4, prep: 15 mins, cook: 40 mins
You can also make this with cubes of squash, sweet potato or other roots.

roasted-carrot-chickpea-salad600g carrots, peeled & cut into large chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp clear honey
100g mixed salad leaves
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed & drained

for the dressing:
2 tbsp light tahini
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Toss the carrots in a baking dish with the oil, chilli, cumin, coriander and paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 mins, until tender. Remove from the oven and toss in the chickpeas, coating them with the spices. Leave to cool slightly. Scatter the salad, chickpeas and carrots over a large serving plate. Make the dressing: stir the tahini with the yoghurt until you have a smooth paste. Whisk in the rest of the ingredients with a few tbsp water, just enough so the dressing has the consistency of pouring cream. Drizzle over the salad.

beetroot, carrot & alfalfa salad

serves 2, prep 15 mins, cook 0 mins

beetroot-carrot-alfalfa-salad2 large beetroot, peeled
2 large carrots, peeled
handful alfalfa sprouts, washed
4 tbsp mixed toasted seeds
1 pack wootton white cheese or feta

for the dressing:
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp finely grated ginger
4 tbsp good olive oil

Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together and seasoning with salt and pepper. Very thinly slice the beetroot and carrot, then cut into matchsticks. Arrange on a serving plate. Sprinkle over the alfalfa and toasted seeds. Drizzle over the dressing and crumble over a little of the cheese. Drizzle over a little extra olive oil to serve.

carrot hummus

serves 4, prep 20 mins, cook 20 mins

carrot-hummus1 tin chickpeas, drained & rinsed
700g carrots, peeled & diced
6 tbsp light tahini (sesame paste)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp paprika, plus extra for garnish
good olive oil
small handful toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds

Boil the carrots in salted water until tender (approx 10 mins, depending on size). Drain and cool. Place in a food processor and add the tahini, chickpeas, garlic, juice from 1 lemon, cumin and paprika. With the processor running, gradually trickle in enough olive oil to make a thick dipping consistency, to your liking. Add salt and more lemon juice to taste. Serve sprinkled with toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, a little paprika and drizzle over a little good olive oil.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add organic carrots to your order.

For more ideas for a Christmas rich in veg, download our seasonal booklet full of recipes and tips from our Riverford cooks and you, our customers. Available to download here: www.riverford.co.uk/christmas-veg.

Guy’s Newsletter: harvest nostalgia? perhaps not

It has been a near-perfect autumn for us. All our potatoes are now in store; the dry conditions allowing the harvesting machinery to work its magic, gently sifting tubers from the soil before delivering the nuggets to one ton wooden bins on a trailer running alongside. Long gone are the back breaking days of hand filling half hundredweight bags, dragged slowly up a hill between your legs. 30 years ago a team of five might have harvested ten tons a day; we now do that comfortably in half an hour without even bending over. Meanwhile we have moved onto harvesting our maincrop carrots; so late in the season we can’t rely on enough dry weather to allow lifting and sifting the whole growing bed as we could with potatoes. The carrot harvester instead relies on gripping the leaves between two rubber belts as a small undercutting shear loosens the soil’s grip; the carrots are gently lifted and agitated to remove excess soil then dropped into bins for transport to store. It is kinder to the earthworms and soil but slower than the potato harvester; still, at 20 times faster than hand harvesting we are not complaining.

There are many agricultural developments I have lamented in my 50 years of stomping around in muddy boots, but intelligent mechanisation is not one of them. It is, perhaps, a shame that the machines relentlessly keep getting bigger; our single row carrot harvester would be a joke beside modern four row harvesters that stand larger than many houses. With the inevitable increase in weight, the soil is the loser. There was also a camaraderie that came with working in a team without the noise of machinery; the flasks of tea, sandwiches and muddy roll-ups, but nostalgia can’t shut out the back breaking misery of days spent bent over in the rain, edging up a Devon hillside dragging that sack. I have the arthritis in two fingers to remember it by. Neither will I forget the tea brought to the field by my mother and eaten beside the silent, stationary combine harvester, but I doubt it actually happened very often.

Guy Watson

guy’s newsletter: bringing in the roots

We have been busy irrigating our drier land where thirsty crops have sucked out all the August rains, but you won’t find many farmers complaining; September was gloriously dry and sunny. By the time you read this, almost all our potatoes will be in store. It’s been a year that rewarded patience; early-planted crops never fully recovered from going into cold, wet seedbeds in March but those who waited for drier conditions have had much better crops. We’ve yet to do the final tally but it looks as if our spuds will see us through to May 2015; even the notoriously difficult pink fir apples and King Edwards have done well.

The main crop carrots also look like being a bumper harvest, but we are reluctant to start lifting while the ground is so dry; a little damp soil clinging to the roots eases their journey over the harvester and into the storage bins, thus reducing breakages. Once in store, carrots also keep better when surrounded by some of the soil they grew in, and should be in the boxes through to April. Most of the beets and parsnips have also done well, almost too well as it’s a touch early to start lifting; instead we’ve cut the tops to stop them growing too large.

For those who like an edgier veg, we have just started harvesting radicchio, one of my all-time favourite vegetables; partly for its beauty and partly for its bitter flavour. Heads will be in the boxes over the next two months. Small amounts bring another dimension of colour and flavour to salads but if you find it too much I recommend making radicchio risotto or pasta; recipes can be found on our website.

Guy Watson

guy’s newsletter: the virtues of questionable cabbages

The warm weather means we have bumper crops everywhere; we just hope you can eat it all. The bounty is such that rather than see it go to waste, we have upped some portion sizes and are sometimes struggling to get them in the boxes. Take a moment to savour the carrots you may have this week, as the dry weather has created some distorted shapes and slowed growth, but this has only served to intensify their sensational flavour. A little bit of adversity is good for them. Meanwhile our summer greens have struggled too much; first from a lack of nitrogen thanks to the winter deluge, and then from a lack of water. For them, slow growth has resulted in a strong flavour which I like, but which some might describe as bitter. They are on the chewy side too, so I would recommend boiling rather than steaming.

So why am I drawing attention to questionable cabbages? My vegetably, farmer’s point here is that only a narrow minded moron could doubt that the way vegetables are grown has the potential to impact their shape, texture and flavour. Our organic vegetables are so tangibly different from conventional vegetables pushed on with nitrogen fertiliser and plenty of water that it would seem inevitable for them to be chemically different as well. This was broadly the conclusion of an international peer-reviewed study published in the British Journal of Nutrition two weeks ago, in particular that organic food contains substantially higher levels of some anti-oxidants.

To assert that the farming methods used to grow food do not affect nutritional quality, as has been our government’s line, has always seemed incredible. Perhaps in opening up the debate about organic food again, the new research findings will form the beginning of a change in direction. Those cabbages and carrots are enough proof for me though. What is more, without regular dousing with nerve toxins, chemical fungicides and herbicides, our fields, hedges and woods are alive with bees, butterflies and birds. I reckon that makes buying organic more than a lifestyle choice, and the occasional questionable cabbage representative of something much more significant.

Guy Watson

guy’s newsletter: closing the open-backed autumn

Finally, the last leaves on our oaks have turned. With persistent high pressure to the west bringing dry and cold wind from the north and east, temperatures have tumbled, closing that ‘open-backed’ (mild and growy) autumn. About time too; some of our winter crops are looking incredibly lush and forward. They need to slow down and prepare themselves for harder times. Ideally, temperatures drop slowly, allowing plants to toughen up gradually. So far the frosts have been mild; close to ideal in fact. How often does a farmer say that?

By the time you read this the last of our carrots and potatoes should be in store, which always brings on a warm and contented feeling. They are stored in wooden one-tonne boxes, stacked six high in a huge temperature controlled barn. The carrots will be good to the end of April and some of the more sleepy spud varieties, with careful management, can be kept until June. Most carrots are grown on very sandy land, left under a protective layer of straw between two layers of plastic. This makes them easier to wash, but they lose much of their flavour. Our carrots, grown slowly on loamy soils, might not be as pretty but they definitely taste better.

In France, having finished harvest for the year, we are busy planting garlic. For years we have grown this in Devon, with mixed success. After trying it on a small area in the Vendée last year we have been seduced by the larger bulbs and reduced fungal disease; the first fresh garlic will be in your boxes in May. The environmental impact of the transport of such a high value, labour intensive crop is tiny, so this seems justifiable to me. How about you?

Sowing winter broad beans is always a gamble. Too early and they become winter-proud (too big and susceptible to gales and hard frost); too late and they germinate slowly, making them susceptible to the weak pathogens endemic in the soil, as well as to the local crow population. This week feels about right, so we will make use of the dry weather to sow the over wintered crop for the boxes in June, to be followed by a spring sowing for July.

Guy Watson

How to make crushed carrots with feta, mint and almonds

Make the most of the carrots in your vegbox. Rather than boiling them, Jane Baxter, Head Chef at Riverford’s Field Kitchen shows you how to make crushed carrots with feta, mint and almonds in this week’s video.

what’s what in the box – 14th february 2011

what’s what in the Riverford box – 19th July 2010

This week Guy talks about sugar snap peas, tomatoes, spinach, hispi cabbage, carrots and kohl rabi.

Sugar snap peas
To prepare, break the end and strip it down and it will take the string out. Take the string off each side and then you can steam or boil (for 3-5 minutes). You also can eat them in a stirfry or raw.

Tomatoes
We’ve just come into the tomato season and have had good sunlight so they taste really sweet. Try making your own fresh salsa by chopping them, adding red or fresh onions and a green herb and well as a squeeze of lemon, vinegar and a bit of sugar, salt and pepper. It’s great with tortilla chips or on a courgette fritter.

Bunched carrots
They are tasting fantastic. Don’t bother peeling them. If you want to cook them, theyre great if roast them with kohl rabi. Peel and chop the kohlrabi and roast with the carrots for around 30 minutes.

Spinach
True spinach has fine and succulent leaves. Wash it, leave the water on and cook it in a pan, turn it over, take it out push it into a colander, chop it up finely and then you can use it in all sorts of ways.

Hispi cabbage
Shred these finely, blanch and drain. You could add a squeeze of lemon as well as a little bit of butter and pepper.

what’s what in the Riverford box – 12th July 2010

This week Jane talks about bunched carrots, radish and cucumber, cherry tomatoes and french beans.

bunched carrots (0 mins, 12 secs)

Rather than peel bunched carrots, you can just wash them. Try roasting them in the oven with a bit of cumin and then mashing them before adding olive oil and feta.

radish + cucumber (0 mins, 39 secs)

Try thinly slicing the radish and cucumber and mixing it with a bit of smoked fish. You can bind it with some creme fraiche and horseradish.

cherry tomatoes (1 mins, 1 secs)

You don’t have to do too much with these. They go well with mozzarella, so you can slice them up with mozzarella, olive oil and basil.

french beans  (1 mins, 42 secs)

The season’s just started so you’ll see a lot more of them over the coming weeks. Top and tail them and blanch in boiling salted water for a couple of water. They need to have a squeak when you bite into them. Try tossing them with shredded slow cooked tomatoes, diced olives and fresh basil.

untamed nature

We have had a week enveloped in a haze of dandelion fluff. Finely-haired, parachuted seed borne aloft on summer updrafts, they swirl in the gentle breeze almost indefinitely, before settling in drifts. Irritating if that is in your tea or up a nostril and perhaps irritating for neighbouring conventional famers with their orderly, weed-free fields. Perhaps we should be concerned about the farming adage “one year’s seeding brings seven years’ weeding”. I suspect there might be some local tut-tutting about the unruly chaos of organic farming. Twenty years ago I might have worried. In my middle years I find myself almost celebrating it as Devon’s version of herds of migrating wildebeest; long may there be some semblance of untamed nature in our lives.

Meanwhile, back on the ground, the season is getting underway. The weeds are under control, we are up to date with the planting and are already harvesting leafy crops like spinach, cabbage, lettuce and rocket. With only an inch of rain in two months, the busiest man on the farm is Watery Tim, our irrigation man.

We finished our carrots two weeks ago and, due to the partial failure of our French crop, expected to have a break for a few weeks until the new crop starts as bunches on 7th June. In the meantime we were approached by a grower near Inverness who leaves his carrots in the ground all winter covered by a thick blanket of straw. Not only does this keep the frost out, it also delays the warming of the soil in spring and delays regrowth. Added to the cooling effect of being further north, once washed this is producing remarkably good carrots.

Guy Watson


Bookmark and Share

carrots old and new

turnips in France

turnips from the French farm

This is coming to you from our farm in the French Vendée, where the sky is always blue, the cows fat and the vegetables plump. Most of the crops planned to fill our hungry gap; lettuce, spinach, cabbage, beans, navets (baby bunched turnips) and courgettes have recovered from the March gales and are lapping up the sunshine.

Fennel has suffered from a minor plague of ragondon; giant, beaver-sized rodents with six inch whiskers and a particularly French appetite for anis,

carrots with ragondon at Riverford in France

the carrots have been overtaken by the ragondon

 but the carrots are this year’s disaster. Just before the seedlings emerge we like to pass over the rows with a gas-powered flame weeder, to kill any weeds unlucky enough to germinate first. But the flame weeder broke and before we could replace it the carrots were up, accompanied by a rash of a weed known locally as ravenelle. I have never encountered such an aggressive plant; like docks on steroids it clambers on top of the crop then pushes its rasping, thistle-like leaves down, crushing any competition back into the ground. It made me think of Vinnie Jones defending a corner in a Wimbledon penalty area; a real bruiser of a weed. Even after mechanically removing all the weeds between the rows, progress on hands and knees up a row is down to 30 metres an hour. First loss is best loss, so this morning, despite the valiant efforts of the work force, we abandoned and ploughed in the first half the crop, rather than watch the ravenelle triumph and potentially set seed to plague us in years to come.

batavia lettuces at Riverford in France

batavia lettuces the size of dinner plates

Back at home the dormancy of our old-season carrots can only be enforced for so long and we will run out before the end of this month. In previous years we have imported carrots from Spain or Italy to bridge the gap between seasons but the flavour is invariably poor and we had hoped to avoid them this year by growing some in France. With this plan foiled, we are planning a few weeks of carrot-free boxes in late May or early June. I have detected a little carrot fatigue recently so perhaps that will be a relief. Are carrots a ‘must have’ staple? Should we indulge you with some well-travelled bland imports from Southern Europe? Answers to carrots@www.riverford.co.uk/blog.

Guy Watson


Bookmark and Share