Tag Archives: Christmas

Guy’s news: Stunted growth, spotty sprouts & Sevilles

It’s wild, wet and windy out there. The sun, when we see it, barely reaches the north-facing fields even at midday. If I were a bear, I would find a warm cave and take a nap. Nothing grows in the first two weeks of January, but the stunt doesn’t last long. By the end of the month, kales, leeks and cabbages will begin to grow again as the days start to draw out and the noon sun starts to climb. On our French farm, just 200 miles south, we’ll be planting lettuces before the end of the month. I can’t explain it, but even growers in areas like southern California, where their winter is similar to our summer, avoid sowing in early January. A druid might put it down the need for solar rebirth; a bear might take it as a chance for a nap.

I once got berated as a heartless bully by a number of you for being unforgiving about the repeated failures, and consequent lack of quality, of one of our cauliflower growers (Mr M for those who remember). I ate humble pie, apologised, and we went on buying his caulis, but it made no difference in the end; he continued to hope for the best rather than weed his crop, and went bust soon after. It might have been kinder to be harder sooner; it is a hard judgement to know when to stop working with a grower. Riverford is extraordinary within our industry for the long-term relationships we have with suppliers. It’s something I feel very proud of and hope survives me, but sometimes the farm or the farmer is wrong for the crop and no amount of ethics or support will change the inevitable outcome; it just prolongs the agony and undermines other growers. If you were one of the 20% of customers who had to trim small, spotty Brussels sprouts this year, I am sorry; it was the third year of poor sprouts from this grower, but we won’t give up on him quite yet.

On a lighter note, to mark two more successful long-term relationships, the first blood oranges from Sicily and Sevilles from Ave Maria Farm in Mairena del Alcor have arrived and are as excellent as in previous years. Now is the time to make marmalade. You can even cook alongside me on our YouTube channel if you need a little guidance.

Guy Singh-Watson

Guy’s news – Family, fuzz & metamorphosis

30 years ago, I returned to my parents’ farm for Christmas as a disillusioned management consultant. I never planned to stay but, from the cocoon of family, the fuzz of Christmas and metamorphosis of New Year I emerged as a suit-free vegetable grower. I don’t recall how or why; it was a decision born in the heart, the gut, or maybe even the stars.

The following three decades of pursuing my passion with only minor compromise feels like a life of indulgence. Farming, and vegetables in particular, can be a soul-crushing master on a bad day but the rewards of doing something so tangible, so close to nature and with such daily autonomy have easily compensated. On a good day an extraordinary peace can descend, something I suspect is unknown to management consultants. It was the best decision I ever made.

A second good decision came with starting the box scheme 25 years ago. Things could, and almost certainly would, have gone so wrong if we’d stuck with selling to the supermarkets. There is not much autonomy to be found in being at the metaphorical end of a buyer’s boots, or indulging their tantrums. Without you, our loyal and sometimes forgiving customers, Riverford would have slipped below the sod long ago.

We planned to give you all some popcorn grown on our farm in France for Christmas, but a damp autumn and a plague of corn borers have determined otherwise, so I hope mere words are an acceptable substitution.

Wishing you merry feasting and a good metamorphosis, should you be seeking one.

Guy Singh-Watson

Palm-oil free mince pies – and everything else!


We’re very pleased to be able to say that from the start of 2017, Riverford has been 100% palm-oil free. For the most part, this was straightforward to achieve: we added ‘no palm oil’ to the criteria any new products must meet, and that was that. We also needed to replace palm oil in a couple of our existing products. Luckily, this was only our Christmas puddings and mince pies, so we had all year to experiment and get the new recipes absolutely right!

Palm oil is the most used vegetable oil in the world. As well as being cheap to produce in large quantities, it has a very long shelf-life, and a high melting point, remaining semi-solid at room temperature (much like butter). This means it can be used in lots of different ways: frying at high temperatures, adding to baked goods, creating margarine, and even in cosmetic products like lipstick and soap.

For all its advantages in the kitchen, there are serious environmental concerns about the production of palm oil and the vast deforestation that has often been perpetrated to make way for plantations. The palm oil industry has been making efforts to become more sustainable in recent years, most notably with the establishment of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and its certification scheme in 2004. However, we still don’t feel that using any palm oil sits comfortably with our values.

So, we began playing with our Christmas pudding and mince pie recipes. In the puds, we replaced palm oil with organic vegetable oil. The result was much the same, with no real noticeable difference in the light, fruity texture (except a weight off our minds).

In the mince pies, we’ve substituted the palm oil with organic British butter. We had to fiddle about with the recipe a bit to get the texture spot on. While we were at it, we also made the pastry cases deeper, so we could spoon in even more festive filling. We’re really pleased with the result: rich, buttery pies, with a generous filling of plump vine fruit, citrus peel, almonds and a slosh of brandy.

From now on, you can rest assured that every Riverford product is not just 100% organic, but also totally palm-oil free. It may be the easy option, but we know we’re better off without it – why not try our new recipe mince pies and see for yourself!

References
https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/ng-interactive/2014/nov/10/palm-oil-rainforest-cupboard-interactive
http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/Whats_the_issue
https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/dec/17/palm-oil-sustainability-developing-countries

Growing your Christmas veg

blog-bannerDecember has arrived, bringing with it a burst of Christmas spirit. It’s finally time to put up the tree and crack open the advent calendar. There are fairy lights to be untangled, presents to be picked, and all sorts of treats to eat and drink.

Here on the farm, December doesn’t mark the beginning of the festivities, but the culmination of many months of work. We have been planning, planting, and tending our Christmas crops for the best part of the year, making sure everything is ready for the big day.

Here’s a little insight into what it takes to put some of the most iconic veg of the season on your plate, and how they are coming along.

Brussels sprouts

growing sprouts for Christmas

Up in Lancashire, Dan Gielty (otherwise known as Organic Dan) planted our Brussels sprouts all the way back in March and April. That might seem like a long time to produce such a tiny vegetable, but the slow growth allows their flavour to develop, and they really do taste better for it.

They aren’t the sprout-cutterprettiest to look at – organic sprouts never are, as the dense canopy of leaves provides a cosy environment for bugs and blight – but they are plump, healthy, and plentiful. In the past, we’ve had some issues with empty spaces on the stalks, but this lot are chock-a-block.

When the sprouts are mature, experienced pickers climb aboard Dan’s ‘beast’ of a cutter (pictured), and harvest them by hand. It’s exhausting work, but worth it: having put so much time into our sprouts, each one is precious. It would be a shame for them to be bumped and bruised, or picked before they were ready by an undiscriminating machine.

Red cabbage

red-cabbage1

Christmas cabbages were put in the soil back in June and July, by our neighbour here in South Devon, Andy Hayllor. While they grow, the plants look surprisingly plain: a sea of dusky silver, rather than the vibrant red you might expect. Come harvest time, the dull, tatty outer leaves – nature’s own packaging – are trimmed away, revealing the bright, glossy heads inside.

red-cabbageAndy is growing the same variety we always use. As well as being heavy and well-packed with leaves, and possessing that deep, earthy flavour so distinctive to red cabbage, they also store particularly well. The heads that were cut, trimmed, and stored in late November will still be fresh and tasty for the boxes in Christmas week.

 

 

King Edward potatoes

pickers-on-potato-tumber-141

There is no better potato for a Christmas roastie than the King Edward. They’re so good, they might just upstage the turkey. However, they are also notoriously difficult to grow; prone to blight, and to producing too many tubers at too small a size.

The tastiest, fluffiest roastie is worth the extra effort – and the risk. All it takes is a farmer who understands the plant. Enter the Farley brothers, from Cullompton; they have been growing our King Edwards for the past 5 years, so they really know their stuff. Their farm also has the optimum soil: fine and sandy, so that it is still diggable in winter. Rather than hurrying the potatoes out of the ground before it hardens up, we can leave them to grow until the last possible moment, getting more flavoursome all the while.

Parsnips

It’s nigh-on impossible to get a uniform crop of organic parsnips. They are very variable in their germination, with seeds taking anywhere between 10 and 30 days to emerge; this inevitably means that the roots will end up a range of shapes and sizes. We don’t mind a bit of wonkiness – it’s led to some amusement here on the farm. You may have seen a few of our favourites on Facebook.

gary-and-neil-farley

Our parsnips are also being grown by the Farleys and this year’s quality is exceptional. Their wonderfully sweet, which is always intensified after the first frost which converts some of their starch to sugar.

Enjoy the feast
A lot of love goes into our Christmas veg boxes. There is so much planning to be done before anything even goes into the ground – then come the long months of care while they slowly grow, and the back-breaking work of harvesting by hand in bleak winter weather. But sitting down to an organic Christmas table laden with all our festive favourites, we know that it was worth every moment.

Cream for Christmas… with a little help from our friends

This Christmas, customers whose orders are delivered from Wash Farm in Devon might notice something a little different about their organic cream. The label will say Acorn Dairy instead of Riverford Dairy – and the tub will contain a little extra! Our usual cream will be back after Christmas. So why the temporary change?

You may have seen some slightly teasing articles in the media about France suffering a butter shortage and facing the terrible prospect of life without croissants (as the Guardian put it, ‘‘Sacré buerre’!). They’re not the only country whose dairy industry is going through a difficult time; cream (and so butter) is thin on the ground in the UK too. Supply has been just enough for this shortage not to be visible for most of the year… but as demand soars over the festive season, some dairies may hit the bottom of the churn.

In 2014/15, there was a dairy surplus. An excellent grass harvest all over the world meant that cows were flourishing, and the white stuff was flowing freely – driving prices down. At the same time, demand plummeted. This was thanks to an astonishingly complex web of international factors; everything from a dip in oil prices hitting Middle Eastern incomes, to Russia’s 2014 ban on European dairy imports and a downturn in the economies of Europe and China (the world’s biggest dairy importer), combined to leave dairy farmers with too much milk and no one to sell it to.

Naturally, dairy farmers put the brakes on. Production was cut down by 5-10%; many even quit the dairy industry during this very tough time. But now, just a short while later, the situation has reversed: demand for milk solids is heading sharply up again.

At home, possible health concerns about alternatives like margarine have brought once-demonised butter back into popularity, hailed as the more natural, less processed option. Globally, poor grass harvests in key dairy-producing countries like Australia and New Zealand, and the pound falling against the euro, have also made British cream more attractive to international buyers.

Unfortunately, the supply can’t just be turned back on overnight; it took a while to wind down, and will take a while to wind back up again. Many dairy farmers are now struggling to cope with excessive demand.

The Riverford Dairy has had enough to cover our customers’ needs throughout the year, but at Christmas, this demand rockets skywards. Splashed onto puddings and pies, swirled into bread sauce, whipped and spread thickly inside yule logs… We get through buckets more of the stuff than usual, and The Riverford Dairy won’t quite be able to cover it.

Luckily, our friends at Acorn Dairy have been able to step in and give us a hand! Acorn Dairy is an award-winning organic dairy in Darlington, owned and run by the Tweddle family since 1928. They supply delicious organic cream and more for our customers in the North and East of the country all year round. For Christmas week, they’ll kindly be supplying enough for everyone.

The cream is still 100% organic and of outstanding quality. The only differences are the Acorn Dairy packaging, and the size of the tub: you’ll enjoy 284ml instead of 250ml, for the same price!

We hope you enjoy your Acorn Dairy cream over Christmas. Our usual Riverford Dairy cream will be back in the new year.

To order your Acorn Dairy cream for Christmas week, just add Riverford Dairy cream to your basket as usual – Acorn Dairy cream will arrive on the day.

References

https://www.ft.com/content/1b93f92c-5ef8-11e6-bb77-a121aa8abd95
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/16/dairy-farmers-milk-prices-economy
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/07/butter-price-all-time-high-dairy-production-curdles

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.