Tag Archives: field kitchen

italian lessons & homegrown pride

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Yesterday, standing in a field of cardoons with an Italian organic farmer, I finally learned how to grow and cook a crop that has so far defeated me in the field and kitchen. He was as keen to talk as I was to listen; kindred spirits under an impending thunderstorm, frustrated by the lack of a common language. Enthusiastic gesticulation helped but as the raindrops got bigger we retreated to a fabulous lunch cooked by his family. Urbino, the local town of Renaissance fame, has frescos and Madonnas aplenty but for me Italy is this; the home of vegetables, grown locally and cooked simply but to perfection.

I am here with my partner, organic restaurateur Geetie Singh, as guests of the Girolomoni organic co-operative where I am to receive their annual ‘Farmers’ Friend’ award. Their co-op was started in the ‘70s by Gino Girolomoni to protect the livelihood of 35 local farmers who scratch a living growing durum wheat on the steep, stony fields to supply the ultramodern pasta factory they collectively own. I’m inspired by the heroic struggle of the recently departed Gino, father of my host Giovanni; he was a farmer, archaeologist, communist, devoted Catholic but above all a believer in humanity. The award is kept alive by Gino’s children who all work in the co-op or their ‘agritourismo’ (a farm-based event venue with its own restaurant). Previous winners include the environmental activist Vandana Shiva, and Ibrahim Abouleish who transformed Egyptian agriculture, so I’m very flattered.

I have never travelled with someone so discerning about food as Geetie but aside from that of the agritourismos, much of the food on this trip has been disappointing. Maybe we were just unlucky with those chip-filled pizzas and fancy restaurants being clever with global ingredients, but I fear a slide into that over-processed mediocrity exported so successfully by the USA. Then again, perhaps we feel this because standards are rising in the UK. The Riverford Field Kitchen and Geetie’s Duke of Cambridge pub in London draw inspiration from Italy, but we left the country feeling all the more proud of what we have created back home. And why not? Any Italian would.          

Guy Watson

The Field Kitchen is 5!

In May 2005 on our farm in Devon, the Field Kitchen opened its doors for the first time. Half a decade, thousands of visitors and tonnes and tonnes of fresh veg later, andHappy Birthday Field Kitchen we have just celebrated its 5th birthday. 

Our staff took some time out from work yesterday afternoon for tasters and drinks prepared by Sam, Jane and the team. Guy said a few words about how proud he is of the Field Kitchen, including its originality, quality and the happiness it has brought him, staff and visitors. 

Here are a few photos of the celebrations: 

Chicken and elderflower salad on little gems Jane and Sam at the Field Kitchen Guy's speech
Guy's speech Guy and staff Blinis with hot smoked salmon and horseradish
Smoked haddock beignets Ceviche on corn tortillas at The Field Kitchen


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Riverford’s travelling field kitchen

Gordon Ramsay said he “knew it would be good, but not that good”, Giles Coren described it as “the lunch of his life” and Observer readers voted it the “Best Ethical

Riverford's Travelling Field Kitchen

inside the yurt

 Restaurant”. Under Jane Baxter, the Field Kitchen’s championing of seasonal vegetables, shared dishes and an affordable set menu has turned out to be a phenomenal success. The obvious thing would be to open another restaurant further East, but cash is tight and I hate doing the obvious so we have gone into the woods, cut some ash and fashioned a giant Mongolian-style tent (yurt) and made tables and benches for 80; the Field Kitchen is coming to a field near you this summer.

We are going on the road, complete with a tent-dwelling team of chefs, waiters and pot washers. We will pitch up at Freightliners City Farm in Islington from 10-20th June, Mole End Farm in Kent from 19-29th August and Bristol from 2-12th September, as well as our other sister farms, WOMAD and the Abergavenny Food Festival on the way.

The yurt is a beautiful structure; snug with a woodburning stove for cool evenings but, with removable sides, open enough to enjoy an alfresco lunch should we get a summer. The menu will reflect what is seasonal and growing in the fields around. We are not vegetarian (though there is an option) but often convert even the most avid carnivore to the joy of vegetables. Jane describes her cooking as “gutsy and no nonsense”. Portions are generous and the service relaxed and leisurely. Bring a group of friends and book a table (10) or make up a shared table. We also hope to run cookery classes and workshops. To book, call 0845 367 1155 or 01803 762062.

new website 12th may

Our new-look website is unveiled on Wednesday 12th May. It has been designed to make it easier for you to shop and manage your account. It will also give you a better sense of where and how your veg is grown and more help with using it in the kitchen. Expect more pictures of the farm and of course plenty of recipes. We hope you find it easy to use, but if you get stuck we’ll be manning the phones for longer to help; call us on 0845 600 2311 or 01803 762059. 

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Riverford, restaurants, cooks + cooking

It seems that everyone, from celebrity chef to home cook, is proclaiming seasonal and local eating. When people experience it in our Field Kitchen restaurant in Devon, they leave extolling the virtues of purple sprouting broccoli, parsnip and beetroot. But as a nation we are still struggling to convert aspiration into action in our own kitchens. We know that some of you struggle with the reality of dealing with a vegbox, so we are on a mission to help. We started with the Field Kitchen and followed it with a cook book and recipe-laden website and newsletters. More recently we have been recruiting an army of ‘Riverford Cooks’, a diverse bunch of people unified by a passion for seasonal ingredients and an enthusiasm for passing their skills on. We are recruiting cooks around the country to inspire you in various ways.

‘From the box’ cookery classes. Book a cookery lesson with lunch (or supper) in your home for you and 4-6 friends. Learn new ways to use your vegbox and pick up cooking techniques. £45 per person.

‘Riverford cooks at the weekend’. We’re running a series of residential weekends, starting with ‘a taste of summer’ in Devon from 21st-23rd May. You’ll stay in stunning converted barns and learn a range of summer dishes, eat together and relax. There’ll also be a visit to the Field Kitchen.

The Field Kitchen comes to you. We have fashioned a Mongolian-style yurt from farm-grown ash. It will spend the summer touring the country as a mobile version of the Field Kitchen. Fields and dates tentative – more details to follow.

getting involved

Maybe you find life with a box a breeze. Perhaps you could be a Riverford Cook yourself; most are trained professionals but seasoned amateurs can be just as good at passing it on. We are particularly short of cooks in the North. To book a class, weekend or to become a cook, call 01803 762019 or email recipes@www.riverford.co.uk/blog. To find out about events in your area and swap recipe ideas, join the online Riverford Cooks community.

Guy Watson


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9/10 from Giles Coren

Field Kitchen sharing food 2Giles Coren reviewed our Field Kitchen restaurant in the Times calling it “the lunch of my life” and giving it a score of 9/10. It was following an unexpected visit on a fraught day last month – Jane Baxter our head cook had an accident earlier in the day and was rushed to A&E. A credit to Jane and the rest of the team that they can pull it off on possibly their trickiest day of the year so far!   Read more