Tag Archives: Christmas

Ben Watson chooses organic Christmas red wines

Whether vegetarian, omnivore or hard core carnivore, this is the time of year when it seems natural to reach for the red (by the cooker) rather than white (in the fridge). The temperature outside might be almost balmy but a glass of red warms cockles of the heart other wines can’t reach.

After all these years, the whole food and wine matching business is still a bit of a mystery to me but, with reds and meat, it’s always safe to pair slightly caramelised roasts and steaks with something with a little sweetness, whether from oak or fruit; Sangiovese, Merlot or Nero d’Avola for example. At the other end of the spectrum, stews and casseroles need something a bit more earthy and robust; Carménère, Monastrell or a Rhone Syrah/Grenache fit nicely. There are exceptions to every rule and typically, turkey is one of them. Despite being roasted, the richness of the meat and trimmings outweighs the crispy, caramelized skin so I’d go with the Chateau de Lascaux Pic St-Loup or Nativa Carmenere.

So on to the wines – it’s a small list but perfectly formed.

red-wine-chateau-de-lascauxChateau de Lascaux Carra, Pic St-Loup, Syrah/Grenache (£13.99) – Pic St-Loup, in the foothills of the Cevennes, is one of the most northerly appellations of the Languedoc and makes stunning, Syrah based, Rhone style wines. When I got the gig of sorting out the Riverford wine offer, family owned (for 700 years) Lascaux seemed like the perfect partner. The original winery was an old monastery and owner, Jean-Benoit Cavalier, definitely has a touch of the priest about him but the wines speak for themselves. Isolated limestone vineyards, surrounded by wild ‘garrigue’ vegetation, produce wines with real provenance – you get to understand the concept of terroir when you taste the wines. Cuvee ‘Carra’, a food friendly blend of Syrah and Grenache, is a perfect partner for roast turkey but, once bitten, a yearly visit won’t be anywhere near enough.

finca-fabian-temperillo
Finca Fabian Tempranillo, Dominio de Punctum (£6.99). Judging by the sales, our house red needs no introduction. If you haven’t tried it, do. For £6.99 it takes ‘bangs for bucks’ to a whole new level.

Pech Matelles, Merlot (£7.79). Sadly, Vignobles Gilles Louvet, who produced several of our French wines have gone under. Maybe they underpriced themselves but fortunately we have enough stock of their great value Merlot to see us through to the New Year. Importers, Liberty Wines describe it as ‘boasting a surprisingly deep and intense ruby-red colour. Silky and rich, it is exceptionally smooth on the palate, offering notes of red berries, cherry, raspberry and a touch of spice to finish’. What more can I say – apart from ‘tragedy’!

Biurko Gorri, Rioja Joven (£8.49). Set away from the main Rioja regions, in the one horse (if you’re lucky) village of Bargota. The Llorens family only built their winery when the local cooperative closed down and they still make wine for other growers and have a massive following in the locality. When I was there, enjoying a leisurely glass and a half with a plate of local cheese and chorizo it was suddenly all hands on deck to load up the lorry of the local distributer from Pamplona. Chalky soils add a certain snap and, dare I say it, minerality to the local Tempranillo grape that you just don’t get with the mainstream producers looking to add oak and vanilla to local grape juice. Sorry – I’m letting my anti Rioja-ism out for an airing but try it and you’ll see what I mean.

castano-monastrellBodegas Castano, Monastrell (£7.99). Monastrell is responsible for some great wines – under its French name of Mouvedre. It’s a minor, but character giving, part of Cotes du Rhone and main player in Bandol but it’s in its homeland of Mediterranean Spain that it really shines. It’s a mixed bag of intense but silky Morello cherries, stewed fruit, sweet spice etc but, you know what? When I see it, I think bangers and mash. That’s my kind of wine.

 

Nativa-carmenereNativa, Carmenere (£9.99). We wanted to focus on European wines but thought a token New World offering would be in order. It was a tough job but picking the Nativa Carmenere was easy. Like most New World wines, it’s full of flavour but, in a bigged up sort of European way. As I mentioned above, it will stand up to the most robust of stews and casseroles – cassoulets for example, but by itself it’s smooth and seductive. I can’t believe I just wrote that – better stop now while I’m still ahead. Just.

12 veg of Christmas – Christmas cocktail recipes

Celebrate in true Riverford style with our veg & fruit cocktails, perfect to share among friends and family this Christmas and New Year.

Purple Mary

This is basically a Bloody Mary with beetroot purée in place of the tomato. We add a bit of acid in the form of orange and vinegar to replace the acidity of the tomatoes. Make sure you’re guests aren’t too oiled before serving these; beetroot won’t come out of a cocktail dress. I’d advise making the mix the day before at least, as it allows the flavours to marry.

Riverford-purple-mary-cocktail300ml vodka
5cm piece of horseradish
3 tennis ball sized beetroot, boiled or roasted till soft, & skinned
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 orange, juiced
Balsamic vinegar
Tabasco
1 tsp celery salt
Shot of sherry
3 ribs of celery

The first step is to get a loose beetroot purée, not too thick and not too watery. You want to be able to drink it, not have to attack it with a spoon. The reason a Bloody Mary is a divisive drink is that it sits somewhere between a beverage and a meal, and that is down to the body of the tomato juice. Put the beetroot in a food processor or blender and run until smooth, add cold water until you get the texture of thick tomato juice, but don’t forget the vodka will thin it down further. Now grate in the horseradish, add the vodka, sherry, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, and a shake of Tabasco. The next step is to season it with a dash of orange juice and balsamic vinegar until you feel happy with the acidity levels. A pinch more salt may be needed to bring everything alive. Pop in the fridge overnight, give it another stir, a taste and pass through a fine sieve into a jug. Serve in shot glasses with a small celery stick stirrer in each, or in a high-ball glass with a bacon sandwich for some ‘hair of the dog’ the next morning.

clementine gin fizz

serves 1
A gin fizz is classically made with lemon juice for a sweet sour appetiser. This clementine version gives a seasonal twist. The basic ratio is 1 part gin, 2 parts fruit juice, 4 parts carbonated water.

clementine-fizz60ml gin
30ml clementine juice
1 tsp caster sugar
120ml soda or carbonated mineral water
clementine slice/wedge & mint leaf

Muddle the gin, juice and sugar in a jug, or for extra chill, shake over crushed ice in a cocktail maker, if you have one. Pour over a few ice cubes and top up with fizzy water. Serve garnished with fresh mint and a slice of clementine.

mulled cider or apple juice

makes 5 litres
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.

mulled-cider5 litres cider or apple juice
approx 200g dark muscovado
sugar
100g cinnamon sticks
25g allspice powder
a few whole cloves
large pinch of nutmeg
large pinch of ginger

Put all the ingredients in a large pan. Cover with a lid and infuse at 60°C for 30 mins. Strain off the cinnamon sticks and cloves, then reheat to serve. For mulled apple juice, leave out most of the sugar and add a couple of sliced oranges and lemons.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add organic veg or fruit 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.

12 veg of Christmas – 4 recipes for Christmas party canapés

Today’s post is not strictly-speaking a veg, but these taste too good to miss and canapés and Christmas are made for each other. Share some truly great eating among friends and family with these recipes from our lovely Riverford cook, Bob Andrew. Forget cocktail sausages – try our tomato bruschetta, parsnip blinis and stuffing bombs and celebrate cracking home-cooked organic food this festive period.

Parsnip blinis, Cropwell Bishop, walnuts & honey

makes 12
This is a strong contender to challenge the king of festive finger-food, blinis and smoked salmon. This is inspired by a salad of honeyed parsnips, blue cheese and walnuts that often appears on the Riverford Field Kitchen menu during the colder and darker months. It is a classic blini recipe, replacing one root vegetable with another.

parsnip-blinis3 Large parsnips
2 Large eggs, separated into yolks & whites
Dessert spoon of rice flour
30ml crème fraiche
30ml milk
Butter and olive oil
100g Cropwell Bishop or another good quality blue cheese
handful of toasted walnut halves.
1 tablespoon of honey
salt and pepper

Chop the parsnips into ½ inch chunks, removing any bits of core that feel woody. Sauté gently in a pan of butter and olive oil until nice and soft. Purée in a food processor, season with salt and pepper, leave to cool in the fridge. Mix the egg yolks, rice flour, cream and milk with the parsnip purée. Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the egg whites gently into the parsnip mix trying, to preserve a much air as you can. Heat a frying pan of olive oil and butter until the butter starts to foam. Drop a few spoonfuls of the mix into the pan, smoothing each in to a 2-3 inch disc. Cook until golden brown on one side and flip over to finish the other. Cook in batches. To serve, top with some crumbled blue cheese, mix the walnuts into the honey and pop one on top. These blinds can be cooked and frozen well ahead of time. Defrost and warm through in a low pan or oven to refresh.

Tea-soaked prunes, crispy bacon & toasted almonds

makes 24
The prunes and their syrup also make a great accompaniment to your muesli or porridge for breakfast, or with rice pudding or warm custard for dessert, without the bacon of course.

tea-soaked-prunes24 good quality prunes
4 rashers of dry cured smoked bacon
24 whole almonds
1 earl grey tea bag
¼ of a cinnamon stick
1 clove
1 star anise
a thick strip of orange zest
100g brown sugar

To tea-soak the prunes, stir the sugar into 500ml of boiling water, add the prunes, spices and tea bag, and leave overnight. Cook the bacon, in a pan or in the oven, until crispy. Toast the almonds in the oven until golden brown. To serve, snap the bacon into 6 pieces. Cut a slit in the side of each prune, push a whole almond inside and jam in a shard of bacon. Slide a cocktail stick through the middle so your guests don’t get sticky fingers.

stuffing bombs

makes 20
Think of this as a cross between a scotch egg and arancini. If you’re making stuffing anyway just make a little extra for these nibbles. I recommend making 2-3 times the amount you think you’ll need; I’ve seen people push their loved ones aside to get to the last few.

stuffing-bombs500g of herby sausage-meat stuffing (we add 100g of coarse breadcrumbs soaked in milk, squeezed & added to 350g of sausage meat, the zest of one orange, 1 large red onion diced & cooked till soft, a couple of finely chopped dried apricots & some sage, thyme & parsley finely chopped.)
100g fresh mozzarella or other good melting cheese
1 cup of flour
2 eggs, beaten
200g panko breadcrumbs
sunflower oil for frying
salt and pepper

To make each one, take about 40g of the stuffing and press it in to a disc in the palm of your hand, break off a baked-bean-sized piece of mozzarella and push it into the middle and form the edges round in your hand so you end up with a ball of stuffing with the cheese in the middle. Roll into an even ball and repeat until it is all used up. To breadcrumb the balls, lay out 3 shallow bowls, put the flour in the first, the eggs in the second and the breadcrumbs in the third. One at a time dredge the ball in the flour, shake off the excess, dip and roll it in the eggs and drop into the breadcrumbs rolling and pressing until totally coated. Set to one side. Heat enough oil in a deep pan to deep fry with, bring slowly up to 180˚C. Deep-fry until golden brown and piping hot in the middle. Keep warm in an oven and serve on cocktail sticks.

tomato bruschetta

sourdough bread/ ciabatta
garlic
olive oil
tomatoes, diced
red onion, finely sliced
basil, shredded
balsamic vinegar

Grill some ciabatta or sourdough bread on both sides. Rub one side with a peeled clove of garlic and drizzle with good olive oil. Top with cherry tomatoes, red onion, basil, a little crushed garlic and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add organic veg 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.

12 veg of Christmas – 5 Christmas leek recipes

Guy says
leeksOur leeks are pulled, stripped and trimmed by hand. Surviving the grim hardship of a January day spent bent over in a windswept field with 5 kilos of mud clinging to each boot also requires a zen-like quality possessed by only a small minority. I reckon the pickers deserve to be paid more than bankers but I’m not sure we would sell many leeks if they were. The winter-hardy varieties ready at Christmas tend to be shorter and stouter with darker leaves, and arguably they taste better for the climatic hardship they have experienced.

Prep
Leeks tend to harbour a bit of mud. If you have only one to clean, cut it in half lengthways, leaving the root base intact. Hold each half under the cold tap, root end up, fanning out the leaves with your fingers. For a bigger batch, it’s easier to slice the leeks first: cut off the root base and the dark green top and use the white and paler green section. Let the rings soak for a few minutes in a bowl of cold water so the dirt sinks, then drain in a colander.

Riverford leek & smoked cheese pithivier

Pithivier is a circular puff pastry pie with a curved pattern cut into it. You could add some sliced mushrooms to the leek mixture.

leek-pithivierknob of butter
1kg leeks, finely shredded
100g cream cheese
sea salt & ground black pepper
80g smoked cheddar cheese, grated
2 tbsp chopped chives
2 sheets ready rolled all-butter puff pastry (you need about 600g if making your own or rolling out a block; roll to about ½-¾cm)
1 egg yolk, mixed with a splash of milk

Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the leeks and cook gently for about 10 mins until soft. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted. Season well. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheddar and chives. Leave to cool completely. Roll out one piece of the pastry on a lightly floured work surface and use a dinner plate as a template to cut around to make a circle. Spread over the leek mixture, leaving a gap of 5cm all the way around the pastry circle. Roll out the other half of the pastry and lay over the top. Press the edges down to seal. Trim the edges. Brush with eggwash. Use a sharp knife to score curved lines on top of the pie and the edges. Bake at 180°C for about 30 mins, until the top is golden brown and the pastry cooked through. Serve warm.

leeks with garlic cream & tarragon

serves 4-6 as a side

leek-cream-tarragonknob of butter
2 large leeks, trimmed & washed
2 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
125ml double cream
handful tarragon leaves, chopped

 

 

Halve the leeks lengthways, and slice into 1cm slices at an angle. Gently heat the butter in a saucepan add the leeks, season and cook on a low heat for 15-20 mins until soft, tender but not coloured. Place the garlic in a small pan with the cream and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 10 mins until the garlic has cooked, and the cream has reduced and thickened. Fold into the leeks, adjust the seasoning and add the chopped tarragon.

lemony leeks

serves 4-6 as a side
A sweet and sour poaching liquor can simply lift humble vegetables to a new level. This would work equally well with cauliflower, romanesco, or carrots. You’re looking for a good mix of sweet and sour, so tweak the lemon and sugar to taste.

600g leeks, trimmed
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
2 lemons
100ml good olive oil
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp dried dill

Peel off any tough or muddy outer leaves from the leeks and chop into 5cm lengths. Soak in a bowl of cold water to remove any grit, turning now and then, and rinse. Put the olive oil, garlic, 1 tbsp of the sugar, the lemon juice and 300ml water in a pan. Add the leeks and gently toss together and bring to a simmer over a medium heat for approx. 15 mins, or until the leeks are soft. Add a splash more water if needs be to stop them drying out. Stir the parsley and dill into the cooked leeks. Check the seasoning and adjust sugar, lemon juice or salt while the leeks are still warm to give a good mix of sweet and sour. Serve the leeks on a platter or in a large bowl, with the poaching liquor spooned over the top. For a more intense flavour, reduce the liquor down a little before pouring it over.

leek and feta fritters

serves 4
A very moreish starter or light lunch with a bitter leaf salad. The dip includes sumac, a deep-red, lemony spice used a lot in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s increasingly available in supermarkets, but if you can’t find it, use a little extra lemon juice and a couple of grinds of pepper instead.

for the fritters:
3 leeks, washed, trimmed and finely sliced
25g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large eggs
50g crème fraîche
70g self-raising flour
30g gram (chickpea) flour (or just use a total of 100g self-raising flour)
1 tsp baking powder
80g feta, crumbled
small bunch of tarragon, leaves chopped
cayenne pepper
dash of milk (if necessary)
sunflower oil, for frying
salt and black pepper

for the dip:
zest and juice of ½ lemon
150g crème fraîche
sumac (or see introduction for alternative)
lemon wedges, to serve

Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Lightly fry the leeks in the butter and oil in a frying pan over a medium heat until starting to soften, about 7 minutes. Whisk the eggs and crème fraîche until light and starting to increase in volume. Sift in the self-raising flour, gram flour, if using, and baking powder and gently mix into a batter. Fold in the leeks, feta and tarragon. Add a pinch of cayenne and some salt and pepper. You should have a consistency that will drop slowly from a spoon. If too dry, add a dash of milk; too wet, add a pinch of flour. Pour oil into a frying pan to a depth of about 5mm and heat until a test teaspoonful of batter sizzles immediately. Using a spoon, add three or four separate dollops of batter to the pan. Push each one with the back of the spoon until you have small patties about 8cm across. Cook until golden, about 3–4 minutes on each side. Remove the cooked fritters to a baking tray and repeat until you have used up the batter. You may need to heat up fresh oil between batches if it starts to run dry. When all are done, place the fritters in the oven for 10–12 minutes to warm through. Meanwhile, make the dip. Mix the lemon zest into the crème fraîche with a pinch of salt and add the lemon juice to taste. Sprinkle liberally with sumac and serve with the lemon wedges.

Variations
* Add chopped, fried crispy bacon to the batter, or replace the feta with cooked, shredded chicken.
* Instead of tarragon use dill or mint.

leek and Parmesan tart

serves 4-6
The secret of this recipe lies in cooking the leeks long and slow, so that they become sweetly caramelised. The rest takes no time at all and you can exercise your imagination adding extra toppings.

leek-parmesan-tart3–4 tbsp olive oil, or 50g butter
6 large leeks, washed, dried and thinly sliced
bunch of thyme, tied with string
1 x 300g ready-rolled sheet all-butter puff pastry
25g Parmesan (or vegetarian equivalent), finely grated
salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Heat the oil or butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the leeks and thyme. Slow-fry the leeks until they are very soft and starting to brown, a good 10–15 minutes. Cover the pan initially to help them sweat, then take off the lid halfway through so the liquid evaporates. Stir at intervals to stop them catching. Season with salt and pepper then cool. Meanwhile, lay out your pastry flat on a lightly greased non-stick baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until it has completely puffed up and is golden brown. (Check the bottom of the pastry is cooked too.) Flatten the pastry back down by covering it evenly with the leek mixture, leaving 5mm around the edge. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and any other toppings (see suggestions below) and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Serve warm.

Variations
* Onions work as a replacement for or combined with the leeks.
* Experiment with extra toppings, just like a pizza: try anchovies, olives or different cheeses, such as mozzarella or goat’s cheese.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add organic leeks 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.

12 veg of Christmas – 5 cauliflower recipes

Guy says
After years in the culinary doldrums, condemned by sulphurous memories of sccauliflower-4hool dinners, cauliflower is back; and quite rightly so. Treated kindly, this sturdy brassica is fit for a feast and is much prized in Italy, Asia and Africa – in fact most places apart from where it grows best: in the UK. Cauliflowers love our damp, mild maritime climate, particularly in the mild West. Here are a few options for making the most of it over Christmas.

5 of the best cauliflower recipes:

cauliflower, butterbeans & kale

Serves 2
A robust winter salad, this is best served warm or at room temperature so that the flavours from the dressing have a chance to infuse. For a heartier meal, eat with slices of cold roast beef or topped with a sizzling pork chop.

cauliflower-butter-beans-and-kale200g cooked butter beans
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
100g red Russian kale, blanched, squeezed and roughly chopped
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
leaves from a small bunch of tarragon or flat-leaf
parsley, roughly chopped
wholegrain mustard, to taste
vinaigrette, to taste
salt and black pepper

If you are cooking the beans yourself, add a good pinch of salt when they have become tender and let them sit in their cooking water for 30 minutes off the heat. If using tinned, heat them gently but thoroughly in their liquid and a dash of water. Lightly steam or boil the cauliflower. Drain the beans and put them into a bowl with the cauliflower, kale, capers, herbs, a generous blob of mustard and a good drizzle of vinaigrette and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Variation
This is a great way to use up leftover or tinned pulses; lentils and flageolet and haricot beans will all work well – or for a more varied texture try a combination of all three.

roasted cauliflower with butter, lemon and cumin

serves 4 as a side
The cumin gives this dish an Indian feel but the spicing is so subtle that it works in the most traditional of meals. The flavour combination suits roasted parsnips too.

roasted-cauliflower-with-butter-and-lemon1 cauliflower, split into florets
zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus the juice of another
80g butter, diced
2 rounded tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground (or 2 tsp ready-ground cumin)
handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Season the cauliflower with salt and pepper and spread it out in a roasting tin. Roast in the oven for 12–15 minutes until lightly golden. Cover with foil if it’s browning too much. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir in the butter, cumin and lemon zest and roast for a further 3–5 minutes, until tender but so it still has bite. Remove the tin from the oven and stir in the parsley, then add the remaining lemon juice a little at a time to taste.

Variations
• For extra spiciness add 1 teaspoon of ground coriander and nigella (black onion) seeds with the cumin.
• Replace the cumin with dried or fresh thyme leaves.
• Swap the cumin for chopped garlic and chilli flakes (or chopped fresh chilli) and the parsley for fresh coriander leaves.

whole roasted cauliflower with almonds & garlic

serves 4

whole-roasted-cauliflower1 cauliflower
olive oil for roasting
sea salt & ground black pepper
50g flaked almonds
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 tbsp dry sherry
3 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped

Cut off any green leaves from the cauliflower and trim the core so it sits flat in a baking dish. Drizzle over just enough oil to cover the top of the cauliflower. Sprinkle over a little sea salt. Roast at 200°C until the top is golden brown and the cauliflower is just tender, about 1 hour. Keep it warm in the oven. Put the almonds in a frying pan and heat gently until toasted. Add the oil and garlic and fry for a min or two. Add the paprika and dry sherry and cook to reduce the liquid slightly. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Present the cauliflower whole at the table, then cut into thin slices and drizzle over the almonds to serve.

saffron poached chicken with cauliflower couscous, dates & pine nuts

serves 4, prep 15 mins, cook 20 mins

saffron-poached-chick-and-cauliflower½ tsp saffron threads
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
4 chicken breasts, skin removed

for the couscous:
1 small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, cut into florets
1 garlic clove, crushed
large handful finely chopped parsley
small handful finely chopped mint
100g pine nuts, toasted in a dry frying pan until golden
200g dates, pitted & chopped
1 tbsp sherry or good white wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp good olive oil
1 tbsp honey
100g mixed winter salad leaves

Put the saffron, carrot, celery and bay leaves in a saucepan. Add 1½ litres water, bring to a simmer and add the chicken (make sure it is completely covered with water). Simmer for approx 30 mins, until cooked. Leave to cool in the pan, then take the chicken out and tear or chop into pieces. Pulse the cauli in a food processor until it looks like couscous (or chop very finely if you don’t have a processor). Transfer to a large bowl. Mix in the garlic, herbs, pine nuts and dates. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk together the vinegar, lemon, oil and honey and mix into the cauliflower. Toss in the chicken. Taste and adjust the seasoning, lemon and oil if needed. Serve with the salad leaves.

gluten-free cauliflower & almond gratin

serves 4 as a main course, 6 or more as a side dish, prep 10 mins, cook 45 mins
Keep the lighter green leaves on your cauliflower for colour and flavour. Serve with rice or quinoa and cooked kale or cabbage, or roasted roots. Using a whisk to make any béchamel or cheese sauce is easier and gets a smoother result than stirring with a spoon.

caulifloer-and-almond-gratin1 large cauli, cut in ½ then each ½ into 6-8 large wedges, keeping the stalk & any lighter inner leaves intact
50g butter
50g rice flour (or use another starchy gluten-free flour, eg. potato)
500ml unsweetened almond milk
100g grated cheddar cheese, plus a little extra for sprinkling
1 heaped tsp dijon mustard (check it doesn’t have any gluten, some do)
2 small handfuls flaked almonds

Preheat your oven to 220˚C/200˚C fan/gas mark 6. Steam or boil the cauliflower and leaves for 4 mins. Drain and put to one side, so any excess moisture evaporates off. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan. Add the flour and stir on a very low heat for 2 mins. Remove from the heat, add 3-4 tbsp of the almond milk and whisk together to make a thick smooth paste. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking all the time, until the sauce is smooth. Return to the heat, add the cheese and gently heat for a few mins, until the cheese has melted and the sauce thickened. Stir in the mustard and season to taste. Put the cauli in a baking dish. Pour over the sauce and sprinkle over a little extra cheese. Bake for 15 mins. Sprinkle over the almonds and bake for a further 10-15 mins or so, until the almonds are golden.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add organic cauliflower 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.

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.

12 veg of Christmas – 5 festive ways with Brussels sprouts

The 12 veg of Christmas starts here! We’ll be uploading recipes to make your Christmas vegetables sing every day; first up is our beloved sprout.

You’ll be able to download a whole Christmas Day recipe booklet soon. Forget boring boiled veg – our recipes will make the green stuff the star of your Christmas table.

picking-sproutsGuy says
Sprouts are the most bitter of the edible brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, swede and broccoli), but bitter can be good provided it is not combined with the abuse of overcooking. It is the harnessing of this bitterness that gets sprouts singing through a dish. Contrast it with the sweetness of chestnuts; pair it with the acidity of balsamic vinegar, the richness of honey and the toasty crunch of pine nuts; or balance it with cream and bacon in an oozy gratin.

Prep
Remove any ragged or tough outer leaves. Trim the base if it is long or discoloured. Unless your sprouts are huge, there’s no need to score a cross in them to speed up cooking – it may make them a little mushy. Rinse in cold water and don’t be tempted to save the trimmings for stock unless you want a kitchen smelling of school canteen cabbage.

5 of the best brussels sprout recipes

stir-fried sprouts with cranberries & pecans

serves 4 as a side

50g dried cranberries
75g pecans, toasted in a dry frying pan & roughly chopped
500g brussels sprouts
1 tbsp oil
knob of butter
sea salt & ground black pepper

Put the cranberries in a bowl and pour over boiling water to just cover them. Soak for 10-15 mins, then drain. Cut the sprouts in half, lay each half flat on your chopping board and finely shred the leaves. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, add the sprouts and fry for 3-4 mins. Add the cranberries and nuts, season and toss together to serve.

roasted Brussels sprouts with sage and chestnut butter

serves 4
You will make more butter than you need for this recipe, but it’s not worth making any less. It’ll keep in the fridge for a week, or can be frozen and sliced as you need it.

sprouts-with-sage-chestnut-butter500g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
olive oil, to roast
125g salted butter, at room temperature
100g cooked and peeled chestnuts (or use precooked), finely chopped
8 sage leaves, finely chopped
salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5.
Put the sprouts in a baking dish and toss in just enough olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 20–30 minutes, until just tender but still with some bite. Toss once during cooking. Meanwhile, put the butter in a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until very soft. Stir in the chestnuts and sage. Lay a piece of cling film on your work surface. Spoon the butter in a line down the middle. Fold the cling film over and twist both ends to form a taut sausage. Chill until needed. When the sprouts are roasted, toss with about six thin slices of the chestnut butter. Check the seasoning before serving.

• Add a few unpeeled garlic cloves to the sprouts before roasting
• Toss the sprouts with other cooked greens

teriyaki sprouts with chilli & sesame

serves 4, prep 10 mins, cook 6 mins
Guy’s brother Ben runs the farm shop and kitchen where we make the teriyaki sauce sold alongside our vegboxes. It’s great for quick meat stir fries, but is also good with green veg. Serve with cooked rice or egg noodles tossed in a little sesame oil for a simple vegetarian supper (add some tofu for protein), or add leftover pieces of cooked chicken, beef or pork from a roast.

500g brussels sprouts, trimmed
oil for frying to a high temp, eg. sunflower
1-2 red chillies, depending on your preference for heat, thinly sliced, seeds removed for less heat, if you prefer
2 garlic cloves, peeled & thinly sliced
3cm fresh ginger, peeled & grated or cut into very thin matchsticks
2 tbsp Riverford teriyaki sauce
1 tbsp sesame seeds (we used black ones for colour, but normal ones will do)

Boil the sprouts in a pan of salted water for approx 5 mins, depending on size, until just tender. Drain, refresh in a bowl of cold water, then drain again. Leave whole, or cut larger ones in half. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in wok or large frying pan. When hot, add the sprouts, chilli, garlic and ginger. Stir fry for 2 mins, then add the teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds and toss together for a few moments before serving.

creamy sprout, leek & smoked ham pancakes

makes 4, prep 15 mins, cook 30 mins

for the pancakes:
100g buckwheat flour
1 egg
300ml milk
50g butter, melted

for the filling:
25g butter
1 leek, finely shredded
200g brussels sprouts, thinly shredded
25g buckwheat flour
300ml milk
75g strong cheddar cheese, grated, plus a little extra for sprinkling
2 tsp dijon mustard
small handful of roughly chopped dill leaves (optional)
1 pack of Riverford smoked ham

make the pancakes:
Put the flour and a good pinch of salt in a bowl. Crack in the egg, add a splash of milk and whisk together to form a thick, smooth paste. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking as you go. Add a teaspoon of the butter to the batter. Use kitchen paper dipped in a little of the butter to grease a non-stick pancake pan (or a 20-21cm frying pan). Ladle in enough batter to just cover the pan, rolling it around to spread it out. Cook on a medium high heat for 1½ mins, until small bubbles start appearing and the underneath is golden. Carefully turn it with a fish slice or spatula. Cook for approx 1 minute more, until the other side is golden too. Remove to a plate, cover with greaseproof paper or foil, and repeat until you have 4 good pancakes (sometimes the first one can go awry).

make the filling:
Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the leek and sprouts and fry on a low heat for 10 mins, until softened. Add the flour and stir for 2 mins. Gradually stir in the milk, then add the cheese. Simmer for a few mins until the cheese has melted and the sauce thickened. Season and stir in the mustard and dill. Lay the pancakes on a grill tray. Lay slices of ham over half of each pancake, then add a couple of spoonfuls of the filling. Fold the pancakes over, sprinkle a little extra cheese on top and grill on a low to medium heat, until the cheese has melted and the tops of the pancakes are a little crispy. Or you can warm them through in a medium oven if you prefer.

brussels sprouts, red onion & blue cheese gratin

serves 4, prep 10 mins, cook 50 mins

500g brussels sprouts, trimmed & outer leaves removed
2 red onions, peeled & cut lengthways into 6-8 wedges with the root intact
a few thyme sprigs
olive oil
100g blue cheese eg. cropwell bishop stilton or caws cenarth perl las blue
25g dried breadcrumbs (ideally panko for added crunch)

Preheat the oven to 190˚C. Toss the onions in a baking dish with the thyme sprigs and just enough oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 mins. Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the sprouts and cook for 4 mins. Drain, then toss with the onions. Roast for 15-20 mins, until the sprouts are just starting to crisp up a little. Crumble over the blue cheese and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Roast for 10-15 mins, until the breadcrumbs are golden.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add brussels sprouts 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.

Tasty turkey leftover recipes from Riverford

We’ve selected our favourite Christmas leftover recipes to help you make the most of any turkey or ham you might still have left on Boxing Day.

bubble & squeak with ham, poached egg & mustard hollandaise262

Bubble & squeak with hollandaise: see recipe here

A great Boxing day brunch dish. Leave out the hollandaise if you like, or if you’re not confident cooking poached eggs, you can fry them instead.

 Turkey risotto: see recipe here

A tasty favourite with a turkey twist. Makes a great recipe for using up the remains of a roast dinner, or substitute leftover goose or turkey after Christmas.

autumn vegetable quesadillas262

Turkey quesadillas: see recipe here

Feel like it’s time for a Mexican twist? Try our turkey quesadilla recipe to add a little spice to the festive season.

Turkey vermicelli soup: see recipe here

This hearty, warming soup uses up the scraps left over from a roast.

guy’s newsletter: spice girl revelry & a dream for 2015

After a soggy start with some drowned early lettuce and potatoes, 2014 turned out to be one of the best growing years we’ve had. Plenty of sunshine and just enough summer rain falling at the right times was followed by an exceedingly ‘long back end’. I always love saying that; for the uninitiated, it’s farming speak for those long and mild autumns we often get in Devon when the grass keeps growing; this year the long back end spread across the whole country and as a consequence we go into the winter surrounded by an embarrassment of greens.

With such veg abundance it is a continued frustration that we aren’t equally good at selling the stuff; we remain well behind the game with our website and communications. Our aim is to use digital technology, texts and the rest to bring our fields into your kitchen in a way which is appropriate to your cooking style (ie. without bombarding you with unwanted information); your allotment without the work is the dream. We will use our experience of running a restaurant, a pub, and cooking for our staff and the local school to encourage you to eat seasonally in a way which is easy for you. Realising that dream is about getting the right people behind it and we now have a truly genius and utterly determined team. This time next year we might be as good at running a website and managing data as we are at growing kale and packing vegboxes.

Last week we had our staff party; a raucous and unashamedly high-spirited affair. Ten years ago I would have been cooking for a week, mixed the cocktails and ensured that however drunk we got, it was all on organic booze and done with impeccable, if rustic, good taste. In retrospect I think maybe I needed to get over myself; I don’t think I will ever like Jӓgerbombs, the music was atrocious and if there was any food I missed it, but none of that mattered. Did my mother turn in 06her grave? Actually I think she would have liked it too. Best fancy dress went to the combined IT and accounts departments’ Spice Girl effort; disturbingly good, even with (or thanks to?) two male members. Thanks for your support in 2014. Next year our website will be as good as our vegetables. Box prices will be unchanged in the New Year. Merry Christmas.

Guy Watson

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!

mincepie_8

 

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.

mincepie_6

 

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.

mincepie_2

 

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!

mincepie_4

 

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!