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Organic Christmas cheeses from Riverford

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!

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.

Let there be soup

The clocks have gone back, heavy coats have been hauled from the cupboard, dark nights are drawing in… Winter is upon us. Good thing we’ve launched our new range of (almost) homemade organic soups to warm you through!

Soupy ambitions

Many moons ago, we set out to create an inspiring range of organic soups. This wouldn’t be the usual characterless supermarket fare, most often made with frozen veg, blended smooth, and given flavour with the conjurer’s trick of bouillon powder. Instead, we wanted to make a selection of recipes with a real Riverford twist. Chefs Bob and Kirsty set out to the kitchen, ladles in hand, with these aims:

  • Lots of our own fresh veg at the heart of every recipe
  • Meat (where it’s used) just as a seasoning, not as the main ingredient
  • Not all blended smooth, but some more like chunky pottages
  • Real depth of flavour from fresh herbs, aromatics and stock
  • A range that can change throughout the year to reflect the seasons

After a lot of experimentation, they whittled it down to four ideas: two veggie, two with meat, and all extremely satisfying.

Dreaming up soup recipes was one thing; working out how to make those same recipes on a larger scale, and keep the vibrant homemade flavour, was another…

A little help from Pegoty Hedge

Pegoty Hedge is a small kitchen owned and run by the Surman family on their organic mixed farm in the Worcestershire countryside, at the foot of the Malvern Hills. As fellow farmers, they share our belief that quality ingredients, treated with care and attention, will give consistently delicious results. Every one of their organic meals is handmade from scratch. The team already cook up our recipes for nut roast and chicken stock, so we were sure they would do the same wonderful job with our soups.

Having received our recipes, Oliver Surman kindly invited Bob up to the farm, to spend some time tasting and tweaking until he was happy that the soups had been faithfully translated into a bigger batch.

As they soon discovered, a chunky soup is much more time consuming to cook and to pack than one that’s blended smooth. The veg needs to be uniformly chopped, and the liquid and chunky bits must be equally divided into the pots. To make our chosen recipes, the team at Pegoty Hedge must prep the fresh veg by hand, and strain and portion each pot individually. But everyone agreed that the extra effort is well worth it for the homemade result.

All adjustments to the recipes were agreed over a civilised cuppa at the farmhouse table, before Bob headed back to Devon with a boot full of soup to unleash on our lucky tasting panel.

Beautiful soups

After all that pondering and tweaking, these are the recipes we’ve ended up with, all spot on for a hearty lunch or light dinner for two people.

Chicken, spinach and courgette laksa

A noodle-laced elixir shot through with fresh veg and slow-cooked chicken. The fresh chicken broth is flavoured with a restorative South Asian fusion of bright Thai-style spicing and deep, earthy turmeric. There’s enough chilli to make you take notice, but nothing too potent, and a good squeeze of lime to finish.

Carrot dhal

This smooth carrot and lentil soup is packed with sweet Riverford carrots and onions, fragrant Indian spices, coconut, ginger and chilli. We’d recommend serving it with warm bread or naan.

Moroccan vegetable harira

This soup is a true meal in a bowl. With all the fragrant flavours of North Africa, it’s chock-full of veg (including Riverford potatoes, carrots and red peppers), rice and chickpeas. A robust lunchtime repast for two, or easily teased into an evening meal with a poached egg, some shredded chicken or warm flatbreads.

Smoked bacon, kale and borlotti soup

A sturdy soup, reminiscent of an Italian ribollita. It has a backbone of Riverford onions, carrots and celery, and creamy borlotti beans, slow-cooked with plenty of sweet tomatoes and finished with robust black kale and smoked bacon. Chunky and filling – made to sate the keenest appetites.

Our new organic soups are available to order now – you can browse the selection here.

Colouring competition winners!

Thank you to everyone who entered our Pumpkin Day colouring competition – we were overwhelmed with the number of entries, and the skills on show!

Arianne, our designer (and illustrator of the blank picture), has picked her favourites. The two winners will both receive a Christmas dinner box, and, as it was so hard to choose, we’ve also picked some runners up (from age categories of 5 and under, 6-8, 9-11, 12-15, and 15+) who will receive an organic advent calendar. We’ll be in touch next week to arrange everyone’s prizes.

THE WINNERS:

Under 15 – Erin from Oxford

Arianne says: Erin, everyone who passed your drawing on our wall studied it in awe. We all loved your imaginative concept, and the idea of a Stranger Things-style dark side to Riverford. Your concept was executed with real talent and passion!

Over 15 – Tom from Plymouth

Arianne says: Tom, your painting is really imaginative and I love the colours. You’re obviously really talented with ink and watercolour, and you really made an effort with staging your post.

RUNNERS UP:
(In no particular order)

 

Guy’s new book – Vegetables, Soil & Hope

Every week for over 25 years, Riverford founder and farmer, Guy Singh-Watson, has distilled his ruminations on ethical food, farming and business into a missive for our veg boxes.

We’ve pieced together a selection of them in a new book, Vegetables, Soil & Hope, alongside witty illustrations, to chronicle a quarter century of a life on the veg.

We have some of you to thank, for suggesting your most memorable newsletters for us to consider, and some of you who sent in ancient newsletters and helped us to fill gaps from the early years, when our file keeping wasn’t great.

Each piece promises to challenge the food on your plate, make you empathise with those who produce it, or celebrate Guy’s true vegetable loves, which include artichokes, bitter leaves and cardoons. And for some of you who have been customers for donkeys years, we hope the book might bring some veg box nostalgia.

The newsletters are brought to life with witty, colourful and inventive drawings, which we have Guardian Weekend artists, Berger and Wyse, to thank for.

“If any of its contents leads anyone to reconsider the nature of good farming or business, I will be happy. There are too many save-the-world books and most of them are too long. This one is short, and I hope, easy to ready.”
– Guy Singh-Watson

The book is available to add to your order now.

“Guy Singh-Watson has become well known for his “rants”… some may think his views extreme, but to me they make perfect sense. Anyone who thinks it matters where our food comes from, and what goes into it, will want to read this book. And anyone who doesn’t should be forced to read it!”
– Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

Two new Lancashire cheeses

Over the years we’ve taken our time finding small-scale producers across the country who make exceptional organic food to complement our veg. Our cheese range is full of moreish hand-crafted cheeses from people who share our core values and who have honed their specialist skills and passion over the years.

New to join the range are two classically British cheeses from Leagram Dairy, run by the Kitching’s family. Their small organic dairy is set in the beautifully remote Trough of Bowland countryside, Lancashire. It’s a very traditional operation: their organic milk is all sourced from local cows, and the cheeses are lovingly made by hand with tools that are over 120 years old. Dipping the cheese in hot wax seals in the texture while the cheeses mature, before the team cut each wedge by hand.


The business was originally started and run by Bob Kitching, whose passion of the art form of making cheeses lead him to travel the country with his wife, reviving the wonders of British cheeses. He had a keen interest in the traditional methods of making cheese. Despite Bob’s passing in 2013 this small family business has continued to thrive, with his wife Christine and daughter Faye sharing their passion and knowledge and the family business being awarded gold medals at the British Cheese Awards and the International Cheese Awards.

We’ve selected our two of our favourites: the Crumbly Lancashire for its creamy taste and crumbly texture, with a subtly sharp taste. It’s is a beautiful melter and so easy to eat. Tumble over fresh summer salads, or bubble into a decadent cauliflower cheese.

Next up is the Wensleydale which is a mild, delicately honeyed cheese. Pack this handsome white wedge into your picnic basket with some oatcakes and sweet chutney for a portable ploughman’s, or pair with apples on a summery cheeseboard.

Both cheeses are available to add to your order now.

 

Our new raw, organic honey

Organic honey is very hard to come by. A bee’s foraging distance is up to 12km, and for honey to be certified as organic, the honey producer must be able to prove that its bees have only foraged in organic land. These distances are beyond most producers’ capabilities, especially on our small island, where organic land is typically surrounded by non-organic farmland sprayed with artificial chemicals.

But after years of searching, we have found a fantastic organic honey producer: Bona Mel, a family run Spanish business who have been beekeeping for three generations, and organic since 1990. They are based in the Spanish mountains, where their hives are scattered across the natural parks of Sierra Mariola and La Safor, Alicante, which are home to an astonishingly rich natural variety of plants. To the bees, that’s a botanical smorgasbord, where blossom is available all year round.

Their raw wildflower honey is red tinged, with a fragrant, sweetly floral taste – and because they live in a completely uncultivated area, we can be certain that it’s 100% organic. The honey is raw, and prepared by bees with the nectar from various Mediterranean wild flowers.

Because Bona Mel produce, prepare and jar their honey themselves, it is traceable right back to the hive.

You can add Bona Mel honey to your order now: https://www.riverford.co.uk/shop/honey-250g

 

Packaging update: recyclable meat trays

Here’s our packaging technologist, Robyn, with an update on some changes that are on the way to your box. Read Robyn’s first blog post to find out more about her role at Riverford.

Hello packaging enthusiasts!

Following our move to beech nets and ditching the plastic wrapping on some popular veg, another packaging improvement is on its way. If you buy our meat, you may already have spotted the change in the last few weeks; we’re working on phasing out the non-recyclable black trays, and replacing them with recycled and recyclable clear PET.

Why are black trays a problem?
Many recyclers can’t detect the black plastic due to optical sorting systems being unable to see it. While work has been done to change this with the introduction of new pigments, we’ve decided to move away from black plastic altogether and have found a clear alternative. Our new meat trays are made from clear food-safe recycled PET, which can be recycled with rigid plastic pots, tubs and trays.

Please bear with us while we use up the last of our stock of black trays. We hope to have moved to the clear recyclable trays for almost all meat products over the next few weeks. However, we still have a larger stock of black meatball trays (these are a specific shape designed to protect the product), which we will be using up until later in the year. At that point, they too will swap to a clear recyclable and recycled PET alternative.

But why plastic in the first place?
I often get asked why we use plastic rather than a wax paper wrapping for our meat. The short answer is to make sure the meat has a good shelf life once it gets to your kitchen.

How to recycle your new meat tray

  • Remove all the film on top of the tray and the pad from underneath the meat. Please dispose of these in your general waste bin; the film is not currently recyclable (there aren’t any top film solutions that are recyclable yet, but we are always searching for alternatives)
  • Recycle with you kerbside recycling or at your local recycling centre

To find out more about our existing packaging and research with the University of Exeter, visit our packaging manifesto.

Riverford’s UK-only veg box – one way to buy local veg

Our 100% UK veg box returns this week after its hiatus for the Hungry Gap. We’re celebrating its return with the story behind our most local, seasonal offering.

Birth of a box
Back in 1993, when we packed our first veg box, what little imported organic produce available was fit only for the compost heap by the time it got here, so our veg boxes were UK-only by default.

25 years and many, many veg boxes later, we’re happy to be part of a broader church. While the majority of our veg is still homegrown, it is supplemented with imports, mostly from Guy’s French farm and a group of organic growers in Spain, with some from further afield (transported by sea or road; never airfreighted). Together they provide things that have come to be regarded as year-round staples in most households – tomatoes, peppers, bananas, citrus, and so on – without the environmental disaster that is UK heated glass production, and without losing the closeness to our growers.

We reckon we strike a pretty good balance between principles and pragmatism in what we provide. Having said that, we do believe in a sustainable as well as a pleasurable diet wherever possible, and wanted to provide a truly local veg box for anyone who sought to minimise their food miles and embrace the UK seasons.

The first time we tried to launch the 100% UK veg box, it barely sold at all, and we had to withdraw it. But following lots of customer requests, we decided to give it another go a few years later – and this time, it has been a steady success! Sales of the UK-only box have now climbed to 6% of all veg box sales; that’s 50% up on last year, and treble the year before.

Easier said than done
It might seem like filling a box with local veg would be easier, because there’s no need to deal with importation – but actually, it presents a totally different set of complexities.

The Hungry Gap
The Hungry Gap is the hardest time of year for UK farmers: a few weeks, usually in April, May and early June, after the winter crops have ended but before the new season’s plantings are ready to harvest. In the early days of local veg boxes, all deliveries would stop during this time of bare fields.

25 years later, there is still no way around the Hungry Gap apart from the use of heated glasshouses. For every kilo of tomatoes grown in a glass hothouse in the UK, 2-3 kilos of C02 are released into the atmosphere… we’d far rather go without. So the 100% UK veg box must vanish from our shelves for a few weeks every year, and its buyers temporarily swap onto one of our other boxes.

Repetition
When we plan the contents of our veg boxes across the year, we work hard to avoid repetition. The team look carefully at how often each box has contained all different varieties of veg, so that no one ends up bored with the same items week after week, or overwhelmed by a mountain of cabbages.

That thinking has to totally go out of the window with the 100% UK veg box. In winter, you will get heavy root veg every week; just right for hearty cold-weather cooking. In summer, you will feast on sweet, fresh salads – but not see a tomato again for the rest of the year. We expected more complaints about this, but people have been very understanding of the limitations; they know that it represents a real seasonal diet. And because the vegetables are being eaten in their natural seasons, they are always at their best.

Unexpected perks
While there are obvious benefits to eating 100% local veg – most prominently the confidence you can have in the sustainability of your diet – there are further benefits to the box that we hadn’t anticipated.

Veg that grow together, go together
Another reason that the repetitive contents of the UK-only box might not bother customers is that the flavours of each season tend to complement each other very well.

Every week, our chef Bob looks at the planned contents of each veg box, and offers his culinary perspective: can these veg be easily combined into a week of flavoursome meals? Often, Bob will suggest changes to make the selection more harmonious. With the UK box, he barely ever has to make any tweaks; the veg, grown in the same local season, usually go perfectly together without any intervention.

Grown by us!
More so than any other box, the UK-only box is packed with veg from our own Riverford farms. It’s the box that is most representative of our fields – which gives us a little extra affection for it!

Summer bounty

The 100% UK veg box is now back from its hiatus for the Hungry Gap. Going into summer is a great time to give it a try: on the horizon, a bounty of homegrown delights, from new season bunched carrots, asparagus spears and tangy rhubarb, to juicy tomatoes, award-winning mini cucumbers and freshly picked salad leaves.

Order the 100% UK veg box online today. If every week is too much of a plunge, why not try a pragmatic weekly alteration with one of our other boxes?

Atlantic ales – a gingery summer ale and a hoppy pocketful of sunshine

Over the years, we’ve scoured Britain for the best organic beers and ciders from small independent breweries. Our bottle shop is now looking full, varied and flavoursome… we’re always keeping an eye out for exciting new offerings though. The latest to catch our attention: Atlantic Brewery, based in our Devon farm’s neighbouring county Cornwall. Here’s a short blog to introduce the very worthy new additions to our shelves.

Atlantic Brewery was set up by Stu Thomson in 2005, when, in a career-changing move, he started home-brewing in the garage on his farm near Newquay. Stu’s aim was to prove that unfined, vegan and organic ale could be delicious, refined and exciting. 13 years on and Atlantic Brewery is now also Atlantic Distillery, with a thriving orchard and hop field, organic certification, over ten different beers, six gins and soon, two vodkas.

Our first choice is Atlantic Gold, a year-round summer ale spiced with ginger. We love its light, refreshing flavour. It was the brewery’s first commercial brew, inspired by a ginger-spiced ale that Stu came across while travelling in New Zealand, made by a brewery called Monteith. Atlantic Gold is brewed using only pale and wheat malts, which gives it a subtle biscuit malt flavour, and goes excellently with BBQ and spicy food.

Our second new offering is Atlantic Azores, a pale ale with a blend of English and American hops, balancing light, grassy bitterness with grapefruit and orange notes. Stu was inspired to make this brew when he first heard the term ‘mid-Atlantic’ to describe a fusion of English- and American-style pale ales. He loved the idea of balancing the vibrancy of new world hops with the refinement of English pale ale. He chose the name Azores to emphasise the point, and describes it as “a hoppy pocketful of sunshine in a glass.”

Atlantic Azores drinks very well with dishes you might have a dry white wine with, like fresh Italian pasta, pizza, tapas, and full-flavoured fish such as monkfish.

When he’s not brewing, Stu is a very good DJ and an avid collector of rare funk and soul records. We hope you’ll enjoy his beer as much we do.

Shop organic beer here.

5 reasons to order a Riverford recipe box

Whether you’re short on time, stuck in a recipe rut, or want to eat well without the fuss of planning and shopping, our organic recipe boxes are a simple and inspiring way to cook.

We’ve recently refreshed the range, adding vegan options, and the ability to mix and match recipes. Here are 5 good reasons to order a Riverford recipe box:

It will transform your cooking
Choose from 12 weekly changing recipes written by the cooks based on our Devon farm. Our veg nerd chefs, Kirsty, Val and Bob, draw their inspiration from the seasonal veg growing on the farm to write inspiring, creative and original recipes, so you’ll cook something new every time.

It’s faff free
Every box comes with all the ingredients you need measured out, step-by-step recipe cards and helpful cooking tips. All the joy of cooking, none of the hassle.

It’s 100% organic with 0% waste
Over 30 years’ experience of growing and cooking goes into your box. All our fresh, seasonal ingredients are organic. We send you the exact amount you need, so you won’t end up throwing anything away, or with endless half pots of this and that cluttering your kitchen.

You can order what you like, whenever you like
Choose from any number of 1-12 recipes to feed two people, as often or little as you like, with the option of adding any other items from your weekly shopping list (veg, fruit, dairy, milk, kitchen cupboard) to your order.

Delivery is free
And even if you’re not in, you can place your order and know you’ll be coming home to an evening of hassle free cooking and an inspiring home cooked meal.

See upcoming recipes, find out more and order here.