Category Archives: Recipes

Questions to the cook – 24th August 2010

We’re answering your questions about cooking, preparing, or storing fruit, veg.  This week we’ve answered your questions on damsons, elderberries, rosehips, cucumbers and our chocolate beetroot brownies.

 Post your questions here on the blog and we’ll pass them to our cooks to answer in the next questions to the cook blog.

help! i’ve been at the hedge veg again! just picked a load of damsons, most of the ones I picked are ok, but hubby picked quite a few greenies, what would you recomend to do with ones that are not quite ripe? risk making jam or make a chutney? and do you have any recipies? also what can i do with elderberries (but make shockingly good wine) and rosehips which i’ve been told are packed with vit c, but again can’t seem to find anything to do with this great “hedge veg” i have all within walking distance of my house. thanks caroline
Caroline Harrison

There’s not a lot you can do with unripe damsons. Leave them on the windowsill for a while so they ripen. You can then try making damson gin with around 450g of washed damsons, 160g of white granulated sugar and 75cl gin. Prick the fruit and pour into a sterilised 1 ltr bottle add the sugar and fill with gin to the rim. Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved and then store in a cool, dark place for 3 months to a year then strain and bottle it.

To use up your elderberries, try a jam. Put 1.3 – 1.8kg of elderberries into a large pan and crush. Heat up and simmer for 10 minutes. Seive the mashed berries and let it strain for several hours.

Measure out 3 cups of juice to make one batch of jam. Any amount more than that you can reserve for making syrup, or add to another batch for jelly. Put 3 cups of juice into a large, wide pot (8-quart). Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice a packet of pectin. Bring it to boil and add 4 ½ cups sugar and ¼ teaspoon of butter. Stir with a wooden spoon and bring to the boil (watching the pot). As it reaches boiling point, stir, and after 2 minutes, remove it from the heat and pour into sterilised jars 

Rosehips also make a good jelly and can be made into a syrup with 4 ½ pints water, 90g rosehips and 45g white granulated sugar. Top and tail the rosehips, boil 3 pints of the water and put the rosehips in a food processor. Transfer the fruit into the boiling water and bring to the boil again before removing from the heat and leaving for 15 mins. Strain the mixture then return the pulp to the pan and add the remaining water. Bring it to the boil, remove from the heat and leave for 15 minutes. Strain again, then add all the extracted liquid to a clean saucepan and boil until reduced to 1.5 pints. Add the sugar and boil for 5 mins then poit into sterilised bottles straight away.

Can I freeze the beetroot chocolate brownies from your Riverford cookbook? and how long can I keep them?
Jan Coppen

Yes, you can freeze them and you can keep them for no more than 3 months.

Try our  recipe for chocolate beetroot brownies here.

got any suggestions for using or preserving cucumbers?
hazelshomegrown (via Twitter)

You can store cucumbers at the bottom of the fridge for a week or so, but the flavour deteriorates – they’re much better if eaten fresh.

As for using them, you can’t really beat cucumber raw in a salad, but for something a little different, try our recipes for spiced cucumber and cucumber pickle.

Order cucumber from Riverford Organic.

veg of the month – courgettes

Whether they’re coming from your garden or your vegbox, courgettes are a reliable summer staple; a doddle to grow and versatile in the kitchen. Ours are grown by AndyRiverford Organic Courgettes Hayllor and other members of the South Devon Organic Producers co-op. They do well even in a damp summer and are one of the most vigorous, high-yielding crops of the year. Store your courgettes in a cool place. Although they look fine for a week or more, they lose their flavour quickly and are best eaten within a few days.


Courgettes can be used in all sorts of dishes; either as the star of a meal or thrown in to bulk out curries, sauces, ratatouille and chillis. You can knock up a simple sauce from courgettes in the time it takes your pasta to cook: grate and cook them in olive oil until soft, then season and add some chopped tarragon and capers. Toss with the pasta and grate over a little lemon zest and parmesan for a quick summery supper. Another simple weeknight idea is to layer sliced tomatoes and courgettes in a gratin dish, sprinkling the layers with a little olive oil, a few oregano leaves and some salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit more oil and bake for half an hour at 200°C until tender and patched with brown.

Deep-fried courgettes make a moreish treat. First, make a light batter by mixing 150g plain flour with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and enough lukewarm water to make a double cream consistency. Leave to rest for 20 minutes, then just before use, fold in two stiffly whipped egg whites and some seasoning. Cut courgettes into chips, dip them in the batter and deep-fry until light brown. Fresh courgettes can be good in salads too – grate or slice them thinly (squeezing over some lemon juice helps to bring them to life). If you have a favourite recipe for courgettes enter it in our monthly competition on the Riverford Cooks website. Every month the best recipe wins a fruit box, so get your culinary juices going at

broad beans & Heisenberg’s principle

broad bean picking handsHalf the staff are lost in the broad beans, picking with deft, nimble and (I hope) well motivated fingers, moving systematically up the rows like marshalled locusts. A bean top rustles now and then and occasionally a head pops up to carry out a completed crate, but otherwise they could all be asleep in there.

In season – spinach

Spinach is plentiful through June and there are a lot of thrifty but imaginative ways to use spinach. Here are some ideas:Simple oriental spinach

1.  simple oriental spinach (see picture) shred spinach stir fry in olive oil and serve sprinkled with soy sauce. Great served with grilled fish.

2.  greens and cannellini beans – blanch spinach for a minute in boiling water, drain well, then cook gently in olive oil with sliced garlic and chilli. Stir in some drained cannellini beans (or other pulses), season well and drizzle with olive oil.

3. max out your meals – to make curries, stews and risottos go further, stir in spinach towards the end of cooking. Adds flavour, colour and stretches your supper to feed another person.

there are a lot more recipe ideas on our website.