Tag Archives: cooking

Pancake day Riverford style

With Pancake Day fast approaching we thought we’d offer a little inspiration for how to do Shrove Tuesday the Riverford way. Although the classic lemon and sugar combo takes a lot of beating, we think our veg-packed savoury pancakes are pretty good contenders.

The key to a good pancake is to use an oil suitable for frying at high temperatures, and without a strong flavour, such as sunflower or groundnut oil. Plain flour can be substituted for buckwheat, which goes particularly well with savoury fillings; in France, crêpes are usually made with buckwheat. It’s also gluten-free.

The possibilities for savoury fillings are as broad as your imagination, but here are a few of our favourites. They are, of course, are all about the veg!

souffled broccoli & stilton pancakes

prep & cook 50 mins, serves 2

Souffled-Broccoli-&-Stilton-Pancakes

110g buckwheat flour
100g purple sprouting broccoli (or calabrese)
50g watercress
3 eggs
500ml milk
50g butter
1 tsp dijon or coarse grain mustard
75g stilton

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Scoop 2 good tsp of the buckwheat flour into a small bowl or mug and keep to one side. Wash the purple sprouting broccoli and watercress. Next, make the pancake batter; start by putting the remaining flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Crack in 1 of the eggs. Add a good splash of milk and whisk together to form a thick, smooth paste. Gradually whisk in more milk, until you’ve used half of the milk, whisking as you go. Whisk in 2 tbsp cold water.

Preheat your oven to 200˚C/180˚C/gas 5. Melt ½ the butter with 1 tbsp oil in a small pan. Remove from the heat once the butter has melted. Use kitchen paper dipped in a little of the butter and oil to grease a non-stick pancake pan (or 20-21cm frying pan). Ladle in enough batter to just cover the pan, rolling it around to spread it out. Cook on a medium-high heat for 1 ½ mins, until small bubbles start appearing. Carefully turn with a fish slice or spatula. Cook for another min, until golden underneath. Remove to a plate, cover with greaseproof paper or foil, and repeat until you have 4 good pancakes. Grease a baking dish with a tiny bit of the remaining butter, just about ⅕.

Melt the rest of the butter in a pan, add the reserved flour and cook gently, stirring, for 2 mins. Lower the heat right down and gradually whisk in the ⅔ of the remaining milk. Increase the heat slightly and stir until the sauce has thickened. Add the mustard, crumble in the stilton and season to taste. Leave to cool for 3 mins. Meanwhile, boil the broccoli in the pan of water for 3 mins. Drain.

Divide the remaining 2 eggs into yolks and whites. Stir the egg yolks and drained broccoli into the sauce. In a separate bowl (wash and use the pancake batter bowl), whisk the 2 egg whites until they form soft, but firm peaks. Fold a large spoonful of the egg white into the broccoli mixture, not worrying too much about the air bubbles, then very carefully fold in the rest, keeping as much air in the mix as you can. Put the pancakes in a baking dish and spoon some of the veg mixture down the middle of each pancake. Fold the over on both sides to make an open ended parcel. Bake for approx 20 mins, depending on your oven, until the top of the pancake has crisped up and the middle expanded and puffed up.

Pick any very larger stalks off the watercress. Serve with the pancakes, when cooked.

chilli bean & veg pancakes

prep & cook 45 mins, serves 2

Chilli-Bean-&-Veg-Pancakes

1 onion
oil for frying eg sunflower or light olive
1 courgette
1 red pepper
1 carrot
2 garlic cloves
100g buckwheat flour
1 egg
500ml milk
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp dried thyme
1 dried chilli – add to taste
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tin of plum tomatoes
1 tin of red kidney beans
50g salad leaves
25g butter
yogurt, to serve

Peel and finely dice the onion. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a good-sized, heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion and fry on a low heat, stirring now and then, for 10 mins, until soft and translucent without colouring. Meanwhile, cut trim the top of the courgette and cut into small dice (approx 1cm, keep them small so they cook in time). Cut the pepper in ½, deseed and cut into similar sized dice. Wash, peel and finely dice the carrot. Peel and finely chop, grate or crush 2 garlic cloves. After 10 mins, add the courgette, pepper and carrot to the onion. Gently fry for 5 mins, stirring now and then.

While the veg cooks, make the pancake batter: put the 100g of flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Crack in the egg. Add a good splash of milk and whisk together to form a thick, smooth paste. Gradually whisk in more milk, until you’ve used ½ of the carton, whisking as you go. Whisk in 3 tbsp cold water.

Next, add the garlic, cumin, coriander and dried thyme to the veg. Chop the dried chilli in ½ and crumble in ½. Fry for 2 mins. Add the tomato purée and cook for 1 min. Add the tin of tomatoes. Season and stir well. Simmer for 20 mins, until the veg is tender. Taste halfway through and add more chilli if you like. As soon as you add the tinned tomatoes, drain the kidney beans into a colander. Rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Add ½ the beans to the tomato and veg as soon as you’ve done this (keep the rest in a tub in the fridge. Use in lunchbox salads or other meals within 2 days).

Next, make the pancakes: melt the butter with 1 tbsp oil in a small pan. Remove from the heat once the butter has melted. Put your oven on low: 140˚C/120˚C/gas mark 2. Use kitchen paper dipped in a little of the butter and oil to grease a non-stick pancake pan (or 20-21cm frying pan). Ladle in enough batter to just cover the pan, rolling it around to spread it out. Cook on a medium-high heat for 1 ½ mins, until small bubbles start appearing. Carefully turn with a fish slice or spatula. Cook for another minute, until golden underneath. Remove to a plate, cover with greaseproof paper or foil, and repeat until you have 4 good pancakes. Cover the plate with foil and in the oven to keep the pancakes warm. Once the veg in the chilli bean sauce is tender, check the seasoning, then fill the pancakes. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and salad leaves.

leek & mushroom buckwheat pancakes, with watercress salad

prep & cook 35 mins, serves 2

Leek-&-Mushroom-Buckwheat-Pancakes-with-Watercress-Salad

1 large leek
50g butter, ½ for pancakes, ½ for filling
200g mushrooms
110g buckwheat flour
50g watercress
1 egg
500ml milk, ½ for pancakes, ½ for filling
1 teaspoon dried thyme
75g grated grated cheddar cheese
oil for frying eg sunflower or light olive
1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Wash the leek, cut in half lengthways and finely shred it. Heat ½ the butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the leeks and fry on a very low heat for 10 mins, stirring now and then, until soft but not coloured. If they start to catch, add a splash of water and turn the heat down.

Meanwhile, put your oven on a low heat 140˚C/120˚C/gas mark 2. Remove 2 good tsp of the buckwheat flour to a small bowl or mug and keep to one side. Next make the pancake batter: put the 100g of flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Crack in the egg. Add a good splash of milk and whisk together to form a thick, smooth paste. Gradually whisk in more milk, until you’ve used ½ of the carton, whisking as you go. Whisk in 2 tbsp cold water.
Once the leeks have cooked for 10 mins, add the mushrooms and dried thyme. Cook for 3 mins, stirring now and then. Add the reserved 2 tsp of flour. Stir for 2 mins. Gradually stir in the rest of the milk carton. Add the cheese and gently heat until the mixture has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat.

Melt the rest of the butter with 1 tbsp oil in a small pan. Remove from the heat once the butter has melted. Use kitchen paper dipped in a little of the butter and oil to grease a non-stick pancake pan (or 20-21cm frying pan). Ladle in enough batter to just cover the pan, rolling it around to spread it out. Cook on a medium-high heat for 1 ½ mins, until small bubbles start appearing. Carefully turn with a fish slice or spatula. Cook for another minute, until golden underneath. Remove to a plate, cover with greaseproof paper or foil, and repeat until you have 4 good pancakes. Keep warm in the oven. Gently reheat the leek & mushroom mixture. Stir in the Dijon mustard and season to taste. Fill the pancakes with the mixture and serve with the watercress.

Find organic lemons, sugar, or milk for your pancakes, or choose from our organic veg for a savoury twist.

Make your own marmalade

20150106_170946 (1)A calming January marmalade-making session is a good antidote to the mayhem of Christmas and New Year. Put the radio on, get peeling, slicing and simmering, and fill your house with the distinctive bittersweet aroma.

We buy our Seville oranges from Ave Maria Farm in Mairena del Alcor near Seville, which is run by Amadora and her two daughters. They produce wonderfully gnarly, knobbly, thick-skinned fruit with the incredible aroma and unusually high pectin content that make them so valued. There have been orange groves on their 60 hectare farm since 1867 and they were the first orange farm to be awarded organic status in Andalucia. Riverford founder Guy Watson visited them in 2011 and was hugely impressed by the crops and wildlife on the farm, not to mention the energy and orange-devotion of Amadora and her family!


Seville Orange Marmalade Recipe
We’ve won awards for our marmalade, which is made to this recipe. You could substitute in a few of our glorious blood oranges to get a rich, caramel-coloured preserve or use our incredibly perfumed bergamot lemons to really crank up the aromatics.

Guy’s tips:

  • Make sure the pan is big enough – if it is too full it will boil over and all that sugar will be a nightmare to clean off your cooker
  • When you are dissolving the sugar, don’t heat it too vigorously as it will catch on the bottom and you will end up with burnt marmalade – not tasty.
  • Don’t boil it too for long; if you go past the setting point you will end up with jars of concrete!
  • Skim off any scum before potting up to get a clearer set.
  • Let the marmalade stand for 15 mins before jarring – this will stop the fruit from settling at the bottom of the jar.

makes 6 jars, prep 30 mins, cook 3 hrs

1.5kg seville oranges
2 lemons
2.5l cold water
approx 2kg granulated sugar
a large pan
muslin
string
sterilised jars
screw top lids or wax discs
cellophane covers
elastic bands

 

  1. With a sharp knife, peel the skin from the oranges and lemons, leaving as much white pith on the fruit as possible. Chop the peel into 3mm strips and put in a large pan.
  2. Line a large bowl with a piece of muslin, leaving plenty to overhang the sides of the bowl. Cut the oranges and lemons in half. With your hands, squeeze the juice from the fruit over the bowl, dropping the leftover squeezed fruit (pith, pips and flesh) into the muslin.
  3. Lift the muslin out of the bowl, gather the sides and squeeze any remaining juice into the bowl. Tie the muslin together with string to keep the fruit in and form a bag.
  4. Place the muslin bag in the saucepan with the peel. Add the squeezed fruit juice and 2.5 litres cold water to the pan.
  5. Heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours, until the peel is tender. Put a few saucers in the fridge to chill.
  6. Remove the muslin bag and squeeze all the sticky juice from the bag into the pan. (An easy way to do this is to put the bag in a colander and use a spoon to press it out).
  7. Measure the contents of the pan in a jug (include the shreds and liquid). Return to the pan and add 450g sugar for every 500ml liquid.
  8. Gently heat for 15 minutes, until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 15 minutes.
  9. Test that the marmalade has reached setting point by putting a teaspoon of the liquid on a cold saucer and gently pushing with the back of the spoon. If the liquid starts to wrinkle, setting point has been reached. If no wrinkling happens, keep boiling and re-test every 10 minutes. Turn off the heat as soon as you reach setting point.
  10. Skim any scum from the surface. Leave the mixture to stand for 15 minutes. Stir gently, then carefully spoon into warmed sterilised jars (use a jam funnel if you have one). If using screw top lids, put the lids on while the marmalade is still hot and turn upside down for 5 minutes to sterilise the lids (or boil the lids for a few minutes and leave to dry before use). If using cellophane, put a wax disc on the marmalade while warm, then seal with cellophane and an elastic band.

20150106_171047

12 veg of Christmas – 5 festive leftover recipes

Don’t view leftovers as second-class food; with the right treatment you can often make meals even tastier than the first time around. Here are a few recipes to use up any leftover festive veg and turkey.

turkey quesadillas

autumn-veg-quesadilla1 small to medium-sized butternut squash, peeled & diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 red or white onion, finely diced
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1-2 fresh chillies, deseeded & finely chopped
leftover turkey, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
sea salt & ground black pepper
4 large flour tortillas
a little oil for brushing
large handful coriander leaves
200g grated cheddar

Preheat oven to 190’C/Gas Mark 5. Toss the squash, pepper, corn, onion, spices, chilli and olive oil in a large baking dish. Season. Roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until the squash is tender. Add the leftover turkey after 25 minutes so it can warm through. Brush each tortilla on one side with a little oil. Put one of the tortillas in a large non-stick frying pan, oil side down. Sprinkle some cheese over one half of the tortilla, then the veg mixture, then a few coriander leaves. Fold the other half of the tortilla over to make a half circle, gently pressing down with your hands to flatten. Gently cook for a minute or two, until the tortilla is crisp and golden brown (keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn). Carefully turn over using a large fish slice and cook on the other side. Keep warm in a low oven while you repeat with the others. Cut each one in half to serve.

turkey risotto

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1l chicken or turkey stock
splash of white wine
400g risotto rice
300-500g cooked chicken or turkey
1 tbsp fresh mixed herbs, chopped
4 tbsp parmesan, grated
salt & pepper

In a large heavy-based saucepan heat the oil and gently cook the garlic and onion until softened but not coloured (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, in a separate pan bring the stock to a gentle simmer. Add the rice to the onion and garlic and stir until coated in oil. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the rice is translucent. Add the wine to the rice and cook until absorbed, then add a few spoonfuls of stock to the rice and stir well. Cook until most of the stock has been absorbed before adding another spoonful. Continue cooking and gradually adding stock until the rice is creamy but al dente (you may not need all the stock). Fold in the cooked turkey meat, fresh herbs and parmesan. Season well and serve.

parsnip, Brussels sprout & bacon potato cakes

serves 4
This is a jazzed-up version of bubble and squeak and can be adapted to finish up all sorts of leftover vegetables, though parsnips, sprouts and bacon is a particularly satisfying combination. A poached or fried egg or sausages would be a good addition.

parsnip-sprout-bacon-potato-cakes200g parsnips, peeled & cut into even-sized pieces (alternatively, you could use leftover boiled, steamed or roasted parsnips)
3 tbsp olive oil
300–400g potatoes, peeled & cut into even-sized pieces
200g Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon, finely sliced
polenta flour (or use ordinary plain flour), for dusting
salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Toss the parsnips with salt, pepper and about a tablespoon of the oil. Spread over an oven tray and roast for about 40 minutes, until soft and beginning to caramelise. Remove, allow to cool then roughly chop. While the parsnips are roasting, boil the potatoes in salted water until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain well and mash while warm. Keep your mash as dry as possible so that the cakes hold together; if it seems wet stir it over a low heat for a few minutes.
Cook the sprouts in plenty of salted boiling water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and cut into quarters. Fry the bacon over a medium–high heat with a drizzle of oil in a large frying pan (preferably non-stick) until really crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Keep the oil left in the pan to fry the cakes. Mix all the veg with the bacon and season with salt and pepper. Dust your hands with flour then mould the mixture into burgersized patties. Add the remaining oil to the frying pan, place over a medium heat and fry the cakes in batches until they are golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Add more oil to the pan if you need it. If the first cakes have cooled down by the time you have fried the last, you can reheat them all in the oven for 5–10 minutes, until piping hot.

Variations
* Replace the parsnips with roasted beetroot or squash for striking coloured alternatives.
* Use raw grated apples instead of bacon for a vegetarian option.
* Experiment with your greens: try cabbage or kale.

creamy sprout, leek & smoked ham pancakes

makes 4, prep 15 mins, cook 30 mins

creamy-sprout-leek-ham-pancakesfor the pancakes:
100g buckwheat flour
1 egg
300ml milk
50g butter, melted

for the filling:
25g butter
1 leek, finely shredded
200g brussels sprouts, thinly shredded
25g buckwheat flour
300ml milk
75g strong cheddar cheese, grated, plus a little extra for sprinkling
2 tsp dijon mustard
small handful of roughly chopped dill leaves (optional)
1 pack of Riverford smoked ham

make the pancakes:
Put the flour and a good pinch of salt in a bowl. Crack in the egg, add a splash of milk and whisk together to form a thick, smooth paste. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking as you go. Add a teaspoon of the butter to the batter. Use kitchen paper dipped in a little of the butter to grease a non-stick pancake pan (or a 20-21cm frying pan). Ladle in enough batter to just cover the pan, rolling it around to spread it out. Cook on a medium high heat for 1½ mins, until small bubbles start appearing and the underneath is golden. Carefully turn it with a fish slice or spatula. Cook for approx 1 minute more, until the other side is golden too. Remove to a plate, cover with greaseproof paper or foil, and repeat until you have 4 good pancakes (sometimes the first one can go awry).

make the filling:
Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the leek and sprouts and fry on a low heat for 10 mins, until softened. Add the flour and stir for 2 mins. Gradually stir in the milk, then add the cheese. Simmer for a few mins until the cheese has melted and the sauce thickened. Season and stir in the mustard and dill. Lay the pancakes on a grill tray. Lay slices of ham over half of each pancake, then add a couple of spoonfuls of the filling. Fold the pancakes over, sprinkle a little extra cheese on top and grill on a low to medium heat, until the cheese has melted and the tops of the pancakes are a little crispy. Or you can warm them through in a medium oven if you prefer.

Brussels sprout & pancetta pasta with sage & roast garlic cream

serves 4
Roasting garlic gives it a sweet, caramelised flavour that suits this dish, but it does take a little time, so you might as well roast several heads and save some for other dishes. If you’re short of time, just add a couple of crushed or finely chopped garlic cloves towards the end of the onion cooking time. We’ve gone for a spelt pasta because we like its nutty flavour alongside the sweet garlic sauce, but any pasta will do.

brussels-sprouts-pancetta-pasta1 whole garlic bulb
200ml double cream
1 tbsp olive or sunflower oil
250g pancetta or streaky bacon, diced
1 onion, very finely sliced
6–8 sage leaves, finely shredded
small glass of white wine (optional)
400g dried spelt or other pasta
500g Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed, halved or quartered, depending on size (keep a little of the core intact so the pieces hold together)
4 tbsp Parmesan, finely grated
salt and black pepper

First, roast your garlic. Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4 and follow the method on page 284. Once cooked, leave to cool slightly, then separate the cloves and squeeze the skin to release the flesh. Save half for another day and mix the remainder with the cream. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan, add the pancetta and fry, stirring now and then, to brown it. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. Add a splash more oil if the pan seems dry, lower the heat, add the onion and fry very gently for 10 minutes until softened. Stir now and then to stop it catching. Add the pancetta and sage to the onion. Turn up the heat and stir for 2 minutes. If using the wine, add it now and let it reduce for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic cream and let it bubble away for a couple more minutes. Meanwhile, put two pans of salted water on to boil. While the onion and pancetta are cooking, add the pasta to one pan of boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions. Drain, reserving a little of the pasta cooking water. Meanwhile, blanch the Brussels sprouts in the other pan for 3–4 minutes, depending on size. Drain. Stir half the Parmesan into the sauce, then toss in the cooked pasta and sprouts, adding a little reserved pasta water to thin the sauce if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste then serve sprinkled with the rest of the cheese.

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 festive carrot recipes

Twisty-Riverford-carrotsGuy says
Carrots are more highly bred than our royal family. Through 500 years of intensive selection, the Dutch have selected out all the freaks so that what we have left are fast-growing, uniform, bland-tasting roots with ‘robust handling characteristics’, meaning that you can drop them out of an aeroplane without them breaking – crucial for mechanical harvesting, grading, washing and packing. I once visited a carrot variety trial and throughout the day I never saw anyone taste a carrot or even mention flavour. We try hard to do better and customers often cite the flavour of our carrots as a reason to recommend us. Here’s how to make the most of them!

roast carrots with honey and fennel

serves 4 as a side
Roasting the carrots intensifies their flavour and really makes a stand-up side dish.

roast-carrot-with-honey-fennel1kg carrots, peeled
2–3 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
1½ tsp fennel seeds
4 tbsp honey
a good pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Cut the carrots into long wedges or roll-cut them into angular pieces. If they are small and slender, leave them whole or cut them in half lengthways. Toss with the oil, fennel seeds, honey and salt. Spread the carrots in a single layer over a roasting pan lined with baking paper. Roast for around 30 minutes until cooked through and caramelising in places – check after 20 minutes and turn over to ensure even roasting. Serve hot or warm.

carrots in a bag

serves 4
This nifty technique seals in the flavour and lets the veg cook in its own moisture. It also brings a nice bit of theatre to the Christmas dinner table! You’ll need baking parchment and a stapler.

carrots-in-a-bag2 rosemary sprigs
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
knob of butter
8 good-sized carrots, peeled
and chopped on the
diagonal into 1cm chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.To make the bag, spread out a rectangle of baking parchment, approximately 60 x 30cm, with the longer side towards you. Fold it in half from left to right. Double-fold the top and bottom ends and staple the folds closed with two staples. Using a pestle and mortar, bash the rosemary, bay leaf and garlic roughly (you can also do this using the back of a knife on a chopping board). Put the mixture into the bag with the butter. Put the carrots in a bowl, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle over enough of the olive oil so that the seasoning sticks to them. Tip into the bag. Double-fold the open edge of the bag and staple in both corners and in the middle. Lay in a roasting tin and bake for about 25 minutes; the bag should puff up.
Turn out into a bowl or open at the table like a big bag of crisps. Watch out for the staples!

roasted carrot & chickpea salad with tahini dressing

serves 4, prep: 15 mins, cook: 40 mins
You can also make this with cubes of squash, sweet potato or other roots.

roasted-carrot-chickpea-salad600g carrots, peeled & cut into large chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp clear honey
100g mixed salad leaves
400g tin chickpeas, rinsed & drained

for the dressing:
2 tbsp light tahini
2 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Toss the carrots in a baking dish with the oil, chilli, cumin, coriander and paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 mins, until tender. Remove from the oven and toss in the chickpeas, coating them with the spices. Leave to cool slightly. Scatter the salad, chickpeas and carrots over a large serving plate. Make the dressing: stir the tahini with the yoghurt until you have a smooth paste. Whisk in the rest of the ingredients with a few tbsp water, just enough so the dressing has the consistency of pouring cream. Drizzle over the salad.

beetroot, carrot & alfalfa salad

serves 2, prep 15 mins, cook 0 mins

beetroot-carrot-alfalfa-salad2 large beetroot, peeled
2 large carrots, peeled
handful alfalfa sprouts, washed
4 tbsp mixed toasted seeds
1 pack wootton white cheese or feta

for the dressing:
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp finely grated ginger
4 tbsp good olive oil

Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together and seasoning with salt and pepper. Very thinly slice the beetroot and carrot, then cut into matchsticks. Arrange on a serving plate. Sprinkle over the alfalfa and toasted seeds. Drizzle over the dressing and crumble over a little of the cheese. Drizzle over a little extra olive oil to serve.

carrot hummus

serves 4, prep 20 mins, cook 20 mins

carrot-hummus1 tin chickpeas, drained & rinsed
700g carrots, peeled & diced
6 tbsp light tahini (sesame paste)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp paprika, plus extra for garnish
good olive oil
small handful toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds

Boil the carrots in salted water until tender (approx 10 mins, depending on size). Drain and cool. Place in a food processor and add the tahini, chickpeas, garlic, juice from 1 lemon, cumin and paprika. With the processor running, gradually trickle in enough olive oil to make a thick dipping consistency, to your liking. Add salt and more lemon juice to taste. Serve sprinkled with toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, a little paprika and drizzle over a little good olive oil.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add organic carrots 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 festive ways with Brussels sprouts

The 12 veg of Christmas starts here! We’ll be uploading recipes to make your Christmas vegetables sing every day; first up is our beloved sprout.

You’ll be able to download a whole Christmas Day recipe booklet soon. Forget boring boiled veg – our recipes will make the green stuff the star of your Christmas table.

picking-sproutsGuy says
Sprouts are the most bitter of the edible brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, swede and broccoli), but bitter can be good provided it is not combined with the abuse of overcooking. It is the harnessing of this bitterness that gets sprouts singing through a dish. Contrast it with the sweetness of chestnuts; pair it with the acidity of balsamic vinegar, the richness of honey and the toasty crunch of pine nuts; or balance it with cream and bacon in an oozy gratin.

Prep
Remove any ragged or tough outer leaves. Trim the base if it is long or discoloured. Unless your sprouts are huge, there’s no need to score a cross in them to speed up cooking – it may make them a little mushy. Rinse in cold water and don’t be tempted to save the trimmings for stock unless you want a kitchen smelling of school canteen cabbage.

5 of the best brussels sprout recipes

stir-fried sprouts with cranberries & pecans

serves 4 as a side

50g dried cranberries
75g pecans, toasted in a dry frying pan & roughly chopped
500g brussels sprouts
1 tbsp oil
knob of butter
sea salt & ground black pepper

Put the cranberries in a bowl and pour over boiling water to just cover them. Soak for 10-15 mins, then drain. Cut the sprouts in half, lay each half flat on your chopping board and finely shred the leaves. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, add the sprouts and fry for 3-4 mins. Add the cranberries and nuts, season and toss together to serve.

roasted Brussels sprouts with sage and chestnut butter

serves 4
You will make more butter than you need for this recipe, but it’s not worth making any less. It’ll keep in the fridge for a week, or can be frozen and sliced as you need it.

sprouts-with-sage-chestnut-butter500g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
olive oil, to roast
125g salted butter, at room temperature
100g cooked and peeled chestnuts (or use precooked), finely chopped
8 sage leaves, finely chopped
salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5.
Put the sprouts in a baking dish and toss in just enough olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 20–30 minutes, until just tender but still with some bite. Toss once during cooking. Meanwhile, put the butter in a large bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until very soft. Stir in the chestnuts and sage. Lay a piece of cling film on your work surface. Spoon the butter in a line down the middle. Fold the cling film over and twist both ends to form a taut sausage. Chill until needed. When the sprouts are roasted, toss with about six thin slices of the chestnut butter. Check the seasoning before serving.

• Add a few unpeeled garlic cloves to the sprouts before roasting
• Toss the sprouts with other cooked greens

teriyaki sprouts with chilli & sesame

serves 4, prep 10 mins, cook 6 mins
Guy’s brother Ben runs the farm shop and kitchen where we make the teriyaki sauce sold alongside our vegboxes. It’s great for quick meat stir fries, but is also good with green veg. Serve with cooked rice or egg noodles tossed in a little sesame oil for a simple vegetarian supper (add some tofu for protein), or add leftover pieces of cooked chicken, beef or pork from a roast.

500g brussels sprouts, trimmed
oil for frying to a high temp, eg. sunflower
1-2 red chillies, depending on your preference for heat, thinly sliced, seeds removed for less heat, if you prefer
2 garlic cloves, peeled & thinly sliced
3cm fresh ginger, peeled & grated or cut into very thin matchsticks
2 tbsp Riverford teriyaki sauce
1 tbsp sesame seeds (we used black ones for colour, but normal ones will do)

Boil the sprouts in a pan of salted water for approx 5 mins, depending on size, until just tender. Drain, refresh in a bowl of cold water, then drain again. Leave whole, or cut larger ones in half. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in wok or large frying pan. When hot, add the sprouts, chilli, garlic and ginger. Stir fry for 2 mins, then add the teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds and toss together for a few moments before serving.

creamy sprout, leek & smoked ham pancakes

makes 4, prep 15 mins, cook 30 mins

for the pancakes:
100g buckwheat flour
1 egg
300ml milk
50g butter, melted

for the filling:
25g butter
1 leek, finely shredded
200g brussels sprouts, thinly shredded
25g buckwheat flour
300ml milk
75g strong cheddar cheese, grated, plus a little extra for sprinkling
2 tsp dijon mustard
small handful of roughly chopped dill leaves (optional)
1 pack of Riverford smoked ham

make the pancakes:
Put the flour and a good pinch of salt in a bowl. Crack in the egg, add a splash of milk and whisk together to form a thick, smooth paste. Gradually add the rest of the milk, whisking as you go. Add a teaspoon of the butter to the batter. Use kitchen paper dipped in a little of the butter to grease a non-stick pancake pan (or a 20-21cm frying pan). Ladle in enough batter to just cover the pan, rolling it around to spread it out. Cook on a medium high heat for 1½ mins, until small bubbles start appearing and the underneath is golden. Carefully turn it with a fish slice or spatula. Cook for approx 1 minute more, until the other side is golden too. Remove to a plate, cover with greaseproof paper or foil, and repeat until you have 4 good pancakes (sometimes the first one can go awry).

make the filling:
Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the leek and sprouts and fry on a low heat for 10 mins, until softened. Add the flour and stir for 2 mins. Gradually stir in the milk, then add the cheese. Simmer for a few mins until the cheese has melted and the sauce thickened. Season and stir in the mustard and dill. Lay the pancakes on a grill tray. Lay slices of ham over half of each pancake, then add a couple of spoonfuls of the filling. Fold the pancakes over, sprinkle a little extra cheese on top and grill on a low to medium heat, until the cheese has melted and the tops of the pancakes are a little crispy. Or you can warm them through in a medium oven if you prefer.

brussels sprouts, red onion & blue cheese gratin

serves 4, prep 10 mins, cook 50 mins

500g brussels sprouts, trimmed & outer leaves removed
2 red onions, peeled & cut lengthways into 6-8 wedges with the root intact
a few thyme sprigs
olive oil
100g blue cheese eg. cropwell bishop stilton or caws cenarth perl las blue
25g dried breadcrumbs (ideally panko for added crunch)

Preheat the oven to 190˚C. Toss the onions in a baking dish with the thyme sprigs and just enough oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 mins. Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the sprouts and cook for 4 mins. Drain, then toss with the onions. Roast for 15-20 mins, until the sprouts are just starting to crisp up a little. Crumble over the blue cheese and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Roast for 10-15 mins, until the breadcrumbs are golden.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add brussels sprouts 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.

Guy’s Newsletter: more recipes & less mud

Our veg box scheme was founded on my blinkered assumption that most of our customers were like me, and grew up in a farm kitchen with a stock pot on the Rayburn, where mud was a way of life and dead animals hung in the larder. Over the years it has dawned on me that I was being a bit narrow-minded; even clean living urbanites with small kitchens like to eat veg and it is our job to help them, ideally without them losing the connection with where their food came from or those who grew it.

Long-standing customers will have noticed that there is now less mud in their boxes; one of our more obsessive recipients once weighed the earth over a few months and reported that we delivered an average of 112g of soil per week, and that he would rather we didn’t. Well we don’t any more, and even go as far as to wash the roots when excessive amounts of field hang on. We also trim the vegetables a bit more on the basis that fewer people make stock, and the organic matter is more of an asset in our fields than in your bins.

When I delivered the first boxes in the early ‘90s it quickly became apparent that many customers need a little help with more whacky veg, but also inspiration for the more familiar. The Riverford quarterly, then monthly, then weekly newsletter was born with recipes cribbed from Jane and Sophie Grigson, Elizabeth David and my mother, adapted and tested on my growing family and photocopied late at night. I even did the illustrations. Our first recipe book, The Riverford Farm Cook Book, followed in 2008 and was written with Jane Baxter, our first chef at the Field Kitchen. She is as opinionated about food as I am about farming; it won lots of awards and I am still very proud of it. Our second book, Everyday & Sunday, had some good recipes but too much cream and too many esoteric ingredients, so did little to make life easier for less experienced cooks. After many revisions and delays we now have two new books called Riverford Companions, designed to redress that balance: Spring & Summer Veg and Autumn & Winter Veg are very practical, focusing on quick and easy home cooking with a minimum of ingredients, implements and stages. If you have found yourself asking, “What is it? What can I make with it?” then they should provide the answer. Visit the website for more details.

Guy Watson

Guy’s Newsletter: FE & food: an employer’s plea

Finding chefs, butchers and growers is the bane of most food businesses. Despite years of celebrity TV cooks and gardeners and all the blogs and newspaper columns devoted to food, there is a dearth of good practitioners in the nation’s fields and commercial kitchens. It’s true that many of the skills needed can be acquired on the job, but there’s always a place for classroom study to give perspective and depth, and add status and thus pride in work. How can we expect a teenager entering a profession (farming and cooking are professions, just as much as law, medicine and media) to value what they do if we won’t invest even modest sums in their training? Employers could certainly do more, (Riverford is no exception), but there is a crisis of funding unfolding in our Further Education (FE) colleges which threatens to undermine many professions.

FE colleges educate more 16 to 19 year olds taking A-levels than school sixth forms, yet, bizarrely, are excluded from the funding ‘ring fence’ protecting education; it could only happen in the class-ridden UK. Nowhere else in Europe is there such a blinkered view of what constitutes education, or are such teaching institutions so marginalised. One senior civil servant is reputed to have suggested FE could be cut “without anyone noticing”, while Boris Johnson confused FE colleges with secondary moderns in one of his speeches; such is the Westminster bubble that it appears to barely register the existence of FE. As a result, FE colleges have been an easy target, suffering funding cuts of around 35% since 2009, with a further 24% cut due in 2015/16. Imagine the outcry if schools were cut like that. Meanwhile the resulting skills shortage holds back economic growth, and it’s only going to get worse.

We are all born with different talents, which is just as well because the paths through life are as broad, varied and constantly changing as the needs of our economy and society. To restrict education funding and therefore career options in this way is as shortsighted as it is inefficient; ask almost any employer. It’s not just what’s on your plate that might suffer.

Guy Watson

PS. In another misguided narrowing of opportunities, all A-level food topics are to be axed. Visit www.savefood.tech to sign the petition.

References and further reading:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/26/adult-education-funding-cuts

“The Association of Colleges warns that 190,000 adult education places will be lost next year as funding is slashed by 24%. Since 2010, the adult skills budget, which funds non-academic (university-based) education and training for those 19 or over, has been cut by a staggering 40%.”

http://feweek.co.uk/2015/03/25/government-cuts-could-decimate-adult-education-by-2020-aoc-warns/

“Continued cuts to the adult skills budget risk wiping out adult education and training in England within five years, the Association of Colleges (AoC) has warned after research showed 190,000 course places could be lost in 2015/16 alone.

The AoC has published research based on data from its 336 member colleges which points to a bleak future for the FE sector, which has faced adult skills budget cuts of around 35 per cent since 2009 and is now gearing up to deal with the consequences of a further 24 per cent cut in 2015/16.
According to the AoC, adult education and training provision could disappear completely by 2020 if cuts continue at the same rate as they have in recent years…..”

Skills shortage articles
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/11724149/Shortage-of-skilled-workers-drags-down-UK-jobs-market-driving-up-pay-inflation.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2948908/Britain-hit-worst-skills-shortage-30-years-means-earn-100-000-year-plumber-aged-just-19-prepared-graft.html

Guy’s Newsletter: has cooking become a spectator activity?

The best conversations I can remember having with my mother were while shelling peas and beans. Keeping the hands busy, and having a reason not to make eye contact, is a great way of taking conversation into areas that you would normally skirt around. If you need to have a potentially difficult chat with adolescent children, a pile of beans is a great way to bridge the silences.

When Riverford delivered its first veg box in 1993, before the current media frenzy around local and seasonal, our typical customer ordered a weekly box of seasonal vegetables and cooked them with little fuss, probably much as their parents had, perhaps with the addition of the occasional curry or stir-fry. For generations, we learned from our parents how to make the best use of local ingredients, and cooking from scratch continues to be the norm for most veg box customers. They appear to be in the minority however; changes in home cooking have been historically slow, but in the last 40 years it has rapidly moved in the wrong direction, aided by the advertising budgets of food manufacturers and supermarkets. We’re now raising a generation many of whom will rarely see their parents cooking and even more rarely with local, unprocessed ingredients.

I am convinced that a lack of skills, time and confidence in the kitchen is the main issue. Cookery programmes are a poor substitute for assimilating skills over years of growing up in an active kitchen, and in some circumstances have made cooking seem unattainably distant. I know what a struggle it can be to cook a stress-free meal among the chaos that is real family life, especially when both parents are working. Though there are signs of change that should be credited to those food writers, bloggers and celebrity chefs who champion accessible home cooking, there is a real danger that, as the gap widens between what is on television and the reality in our kitchens, cooking will become a spectator activity. The nation will slump back with a takeaway and watch it on TV instead.

Guy Watson

Guy’s newsletter: french flings & devon dalliances

The boxes are still looking fresh, varied and full; not a bad achievement in the depths of the hungry gap, and largely down to a good harvest on our farm in the French Vendée. After a parched and sunny six weeks, April ended with a 100mm deluge making me very glad of the money invested in drainage here last autumn. We have lost some squash (wrenched out by the wind) and spinach (dying in a bog) and I fear for sweetcorn and sunflower seeds germinating in waterlogged seedbeds, but with luck the water will subside before the drowning soil becomes anaerobic and toxic to our crops.

Despite gales, mud, striking dockers and four French bank holidays in May (all staunchly observed with Gallic militancy), the veg boxes must be filled and harvest must go on. With 35 largely novice recruits picking lettuce, chard, turnips, garlic and cabbage to fill a truck a day we are stretched to breaking point. Thankfully the first lettuce will be harvested in Devon this week, allowing us to catch up on weeding before the sweetcorn and peppers disappear under fat hen, red shank and nightshade. By mid-June, as harvest in the UK gets in full swing, our French farm will be cast off like a jilted lover until next April when the hungry gap leaves holes to be filled in your boxes once more.

Back in Devon we are running a four day, hands on, growing, harvesting and cooking course in partnership with neighbouring Schumacher College this June. Teaching will be by their chefs and growers and ours in their kitchens, gardens and our fields. Geetie (my ethical pioneer wife and founder of our pub, the Duke of Cambridge) and I will also be contributing. The college might be a step or two beyond us on the spectrum towards the cosmos (pre-breakfast meditation is optional) but we have had our hands in the soil for 30 years so you can be assured the course will be well rooted on planet earth and there should be some healthy debate as well. Visit www.schumachercollege.org.uk for more details.

If you would rather cook in your own kitchen with a little celebrity help then for the next two weeks Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has created some guest recipe boxes with us, and very good they are too; visit www.riverford.co.uk/recipeboxes to order.

Guy Watson

guy’s newsletter: glamour & cabbages

When food and farming rubs up against fashion and celebrity I get the urge to bolt for the cabbage patch; then again, recipes from a fry-up chomping leek puller aren’t going to shift the kale and cauliflower. With that in mind, let’s leave prejudice in the fields and bring on the irritatingly young and gorgeous Hemsley sisters. They might be more commonly seen smiling from the pages of Vogue promoting stomach flattening, bowel curative, gluten-free cooking, but I met them two years ago in proper farmer’s wellies, picking samphire in the mud and rain with one of our farming co-op members. Despite the glamour and lifestyle photography, away from the cameras the sisters talk sense and are pretty down to earth; more to the point I like their food and we share an enthusiasm for lots of minimally cooked vegetables to the extent that this week’s recipe for lamb curry (on the reverse) is from Jasmine and Melissa. Another thing that makes me want to break for the cauliflower patch is anything approaching a faddish diet; something that might have led me to resist their mission to banish starch (gluten in particular), but when rice is replaced by grated cauliflower, who am I to argue. I doubt it would get me into Vogue but I am pretty sure that I would feel better for a bit less stodge anyway.

We have been selling our recipe boxes (everything for three quick meals in a box) for six months now; they are a waste free way of cooking tasty, affordable, healthy meals while expanding your cooking repertoire; it’s the only way I can get my son to cook me supper. For the next two weeks we have a guest box featuring recipes from the Hemsley sisters, ideal for those who are after a hassle-free way of trying their style of cooking. Having honed our skills on the southern guinea pigs, our recipe boxes are now also available to those of you in the north and east, so there’s no need to feel left out.

Meanwhile, we have been obliged to make a lot of substitutions to our planned box contents recently due to unexpected quality and transport problems, so apologies if you have been disappointed. We seem to be through it now and as our spring crops are looking really good, there’s plenty to look forward to.

Guy Watson