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Stags in the mist

Family herds, parkland ruts and the food of kings.

As the damp autumn winds pick up and leaves start a-whirling outside, the lure of warming casseroles, cosy fires and spicy red wine become all the more tantalising. However, right now you’ll be missing a trick if you reach for the diced beef or cubed lamb; autumn means venison season, and all the rich, deep flavours that come with it.

In the past, the type of venison sold was often from more mature wild deer, whose feral existence and diet of heather and bark did little to make the meat palatable to today’s tastes. A common misconception that has come out of wild venison’s tougher nature is that people often think they need to marinade the meat to make it tender enough to eat.

In contrast to this, all our venison comes from small organic herds reared on Westcountry family farms, where they graze a natural diet of clover-rich grass and wildflowers. They roam the land in natural rutting groups with a lead stag, and are managed in such a way that they have a near-wild existence, without the health issues often inherent in feral herds. The result is a tender meat with remarkable health benefits that needs only light cooking (though resting after

cooking it is really important, to make it as juicy as possible). It’s lower in fat than a skinned breast of chicken, higher in iron than any other red meat and low in cholesterol. It’s also brimming with Omega-3s, which have an absurdly long list of health benefits of their own.

If you’ve been put off by the overpoweringly gamey flavour of old fashioned venison, give ours a whirl. It’s more like a really flavourful beefy taste that even kids will get stuck into.

order organic venison from Riverford

Tasty lunch boxes

ham sandwichBid farewell to the holidays and enjoy settling into an autumn routine, with tasty packed lunches to keep your spirits up. You can get most of the ingredients from Riverford, delivered straight to your door.

We’ve got lunch ideas covered, but you can win a copy of Everyday and Sunday, our latest cook book by sending us your favourite after school recipes.

ploughman’s
Vintage cheddar, tomatoes and crusty bread* with ploughman’s pickle.

ham salad sandwich
Traditionally cured ham salad sandwich with tangy cucumber pickle (made with our award-winning mini cucumbers!).

roasted veg with pesto + buffalo mozzarella
Make the night before – roast chunks of mixed veg until tender and stir through some pesto. Top with sliced mozzarella in the morning.

oatcakes + hummus
Buttery pimhill oatcakes with hummus and crunchy crudités.

 juicy sundried tomato + cannellini bean salad
Cook a chopped onion and crushed garlic clove in olive oil until soft. Combine in a bowl with cooked cannellini beans, fresh tomatoes, a handful of chopped sundried tomatoes and black olives, a teaspoon of chopped capers and fresh herbs. Trickle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and season to taste. Serve with mixed salad leaves.

use your leftovers
toss leftover roasted squash into leafy salads
add cooled cooked sausages to pasta salads
try a cold cooked sweetcorn cob with your lunch

*bread not yet available in all areas – we’re working on it!

baked beetroot crisps
See our recipe here.

Make your own lemonade

lemons for lemonadeThis is our final summer holiday idea this week.

equipment:
grater
fork
large jug

ingredients:
4 lemons
75g sugar (about 6 tbsp)
1.2 litres boiling water

1. Finely grate the rind from the lemons, making sure you don’t grate off any of the bitter white pith. Place it in a heatproof jug with the sugar.

2. Pour over the water and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

3. Cut the lemons in half, and squeeze the juice from the lemons (try using a fork to get the last drops out). Strain through a sieve into the jug. Taste, adding a little more sugar if you like. Allow to cool then chill. Serve with ice.

Traffic light celery

celeryPlants need water for photosynthesis. It reaches the leaves through tubes called xylem. Try this activity and see how it happens.

you will need:
3 sticks of celery, leaves still attached (you can add this to your Riverford order if it isn’t already in your box)
3 glasses
food colouring – you could try red, orange and green

1. Break off 3 sticks of celery, keeping the leaves on.

2. Put each stick in a glass of water, adding a different colour to each glass. You’ll only need a few drops.

3. Watch and see what happens over the next few days. When you slice through the stem you’ll see the xylem coloured with the food colouring.

 

Green hair in easy steps

For summer holiday entertainment,  try making these creatures out of loo rolls!

You can make as many loo roll people or creatures as you like! If you’ve got more than one loo roll saved then why not try making a whole green haired family? The only other thing you’ll need for this project that you might not have at home is grass seed. You could collect some from a local park or a friend’s garden. Or you can use cress seeds.

what is a seed?
Seeds contain food for the seedling, as it cannot make its own food from the sun (photosynthesis) until it has grown leaves. It is this stored food, which is in the cotyledon (the inner part of the seed), that makes seeds, including nuts, nutritious for animals and humans to eat.

what you need
some grass (or cress) seeds
cardboard loo roll
pens/ pencils/ paint
compost or soil
a saucer or plate

what to do
1. Draw a face on the loo roll and then ask an adult to help you cut a section off the bottom, taking care not to squash the tube. You can cut the loo rolls to different heights, but remember, the roots need some room to grow so don’t cut them too short.

2. Stand the tube on a saucer and fill it with compost. Sprinkle some of your seeds on top.

3. Gently sprinkle some water on the seeds. Try not to wet the cardboard so your creature’s face doesn’t run. Use a spray watering bottle, your fingers or a teaspoon.

4. Put the saucer and your cardboard creature on a windowsill so they are in the light. Make sure the seeds do not dry out; you want to keep the soil damp, but no puddles.

5. Be patient – give your seeds anything up to a couple of weeks to germinate.

6. Keep turning the saucer so that your hair doesn’t grow lopsided.

7. Soon you will be ready for a trim!

Feeling fruity

New season fruit for tempting puddings.

Here’s a preview of some of the fruit we’ll have over the next couple of months.

 

discovery apples
The earliest apple variety that grows well in the UK, Discovery is refreshingly sharp with a good level of sweetness and a crisp pink and green skin. The warm, sunny spring this year has caused a few problems for our apple grower, Paul Ward in Kent. The weather made the trees blossom and fruit up earlier than usual and a late frost took out many of the fruitlets. However this also means the crop will be with us around two weeks sooner than usual, in early August.

nectarines
A sweet, orange-fleshed nectarine that springs with juice at the first bite is one of the sticky-fingered delights of summer. If you’ve been put off by floury out-of-season imitators, have your faith restored with our naturally flavourful fruit. They are ideal for picnics, packed lunches and puddings, but try them in a salad with ricotta (try the buffalo version from our website) and prosciutto and you’ll never look back. Ours are grown under the Spanish sun and reach you by road and sea – far more ecologically sound than transporting by air freight.

apricots
Another peach-like darling of the summer, apricots can lift dishes with their delicate flavour and perfume. A pocket-sized snack they may be, but miss out on their pudding potential and you are selling yourself short. The classic is to poach them in a sugar syrup with lemon and wine for serving with dreamy ice cream, but they also pair beautifully with pistachios. Our chef Jane Baxter’s favourite is to use them in place of pears in her pear and almond tart – see our website for the recipe.

order fruit from Riverford

 

Puple sprouting broccoli

This seasonal favourite is typically harvested from January through to April, when homegrown produce is scarce. It can take some cold weather, and usually, in Devon we would expect 7 or 8 serious frosts every winter. This time, we’ve had 40 heavy frosts already and temperatures have dropped to as low as -16˚C, killing off some varieties of purple sprouting broccoli and stunting the growth of others. Because of that, we’re harvesting later than normal this year. The price won’t be affected as we pay a fixed price to our growers, so the good years cover the bad years. Our box prices are set too.

We usually have a glut of cauliflower around this time of year too, but the frost has killed off a lot of them as well. Their outer leaves can take a lot of cold weather, but not as much as we’ve had this winter. Cauliflower grows best on the mild coastal fringes of the country. We now have some starting to come through, from our SDOP grower Peter Wastenage in Budleigh Salteron on the South Devon coast.

How to make citrus candles

Throughout December, we’re posting tips, ideas, downloads and recipes on our Facebook page (our version of an advent calendar). Today we show you how to make citrus candles. These are fun to make, look great and will fill your room with the smell of fruit.

you will need:

candle wax (you’ll need about 1½ times the volume of your mould)
wick (you can make your own by dipping some string in melted wax)
candle mould (you could use a plastic beaker or a margarine tub)
dried slices of oranges and lemons
cinnamon stick, cloves and/or star anise
a large pan
a heatproof bowl
blu-tack
a pencil
essential oil

method:

Make a hole in the bottom of your mould with the tip of a sharp pencil or some scissors. Thread the wick through the hole, with a bit poking out of the bottom of the mould. Press some Blu-tack around the wick on the outside of the mould – this will stop any wax escaping later.

Gently pull the other end of the wick until it’s taut in the middle of the mould. Balance a pencil on the top edges of the mould and wrap the long end of the wick around the pencil.

Put the wax and a few drops of essential oil in a heatproof bowl over a pan of water. Heat the water until it simmers and gradually melts the wax. While the wax is melting, arrange the slices of fruit, cinnamon sticks, cloves and star anise in the mould.

Pour the melted wax into the mould. Tap the outside of the mould to make any air bubbles rise and disappear to one side.

When the wax has cooled down, remove the Blu-tack from the wick, tap the bottom of the mould and pull gently on the other end of the wick attached to the pencil. If the candle doesn’t come out easily place the mould under a running hot tap for a few moments and try again.

Field banter + music festivals

This is being written in the Vendée, where the courgettes are growing so quickly that we have to pick them every day and even then the field is littered with discarded marrows that got away from us. The specification (35-50mm diameter) is the source of much mirth; my French is not up to much and I struggle to follow the field banter, but it seems to centre around the women having a more realistic estimate of size. When the courgettes are finished it is onto the bunched carrots; here the jokes are all about “carrottes amoureuses” where two roots have followed the same fissure down through the soil and become entwined. They are the happiest workforce I have ever known. The only other work around here is pulling the guts out of ducks at the local abattoir so perhaps it is not surprising that they seem so happy to be out in the fields.

I travelled down via London and the V&A where, amongst statues, jewels and porcelain, we collected the Observer Best Ethical Online Retailer award to add to the Best Ethical Business and Best Ethical Restaurant we won last year; most gratifying. Thanks to those of you who voted for us.

The yurt-housed Travelling Field Kitchen has been on the road for a month now, first in Hampshire and more recently at Freightliners City Farm in London. The food has been fantastic and the atmosphere harmonious and joyful. Logistically it is as difficult as getting a crusade to Jerusalem, but the contented hubbub of conversation from 80 well-fed diners reminds me why we embarked on this crazy project in the first place. At the end of July we take our yurt to WOMAD (23rd-25th July). As well as running a pared-down version of the restaurant in the mornings, we are sponsoring the Taste the World stage where, after performing on the main stages, musicians from all over the world come to cook, tell stories and play the occasional song to small and intimate audiences before sharing food with them. If, like me, you are a bit crowd phobic, with an eclectic taste in music, I cannot recommend WOMAD highly enough; it is a very civilised experience.

Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon

Veg of the month – rhubarb

Despite being widely used in desserts, rhubarb is technically a vegetable; it’s a member of the polygonaceae family and related to sorrel. It has suffered in recent years along with many of Britain’s traditional crops as supermarkets started selling out-of-season produce from around the world. Rhubarb is an excellent crop to grow in Britain, enjoying cool climates and suffering very few pests. At home, it will keep for a week in a plastic bag in the bottom of your fridge, and can still be used after this. It also packs a flavoursome punch at the table. As well as the obvious crumble, enjoy its vibrant colour by swirling stewed rhubarb through creamy yoghurt for a quick breakfast or dessert. Its sharpness works beautifully with meat and fish, too.

free vanilla

Order a bundle of rhubarb alongside your vegbox for delivery between 7-19th June and we’ll include a free pack of vanilla pods so you can try our Rhubarb and Vanilla Yoghurt Cake (recipe available on the website). The cake is really quick to make and is good served warm or cold.

no carrots in the boxes

The carrot bunches on our farm in France were badly beaten up by the weeds and then seriously assaulted by an atrocious spring. The end result is a much lower yield than we had hoped for, with each carrot creeping towards a harvestable size much later than expected. Our own season has also started a couple of weeks late; we had hoped that the first bunches would be ready for the boxes this week, but they just aren’t quite there yet. Rather than harvest when they are too small or jump to buying substandard southern European carrots, we have decided to leave carrots out of the boxes this week. We are confident that the bunches from France, combined with bunches from Graham and Chris, our growers in Norfolk, will satisfy the needs of the boxes next week. By the end of June, with a little rain and some more sunshine, the crop should be racing away, with ample to go round. You will then enjoy bunches in the boxes through to August, when we return to loose carrots for the autumn.