Tag Archives: cooking

kirsty’s cooking blog: blueberries

There was a bit of a green-fingered rummage in the office on Monday as we gathered up some of the seedlings rejected for not being quite up to scratch for our Box to Grows. Some also go to local schools for their garden projects, and I hope the Totnes Incredible Edible scheme might get a few too; they plant unused spaces around the town with veg and herbs for residents to pick for free.

Those seedlings probably stand a pretty good chance of surviving, but for those heading for my garden, good luck to them! I only have a courtyard garden, but it’s amazing what you can fit in; even artichokes will grow quite happily in large pots. As I have such a small space, I only grow things I can eat, particularly herbs, as I use bucket loads of them.

My blueberry bush, which has survived my murderous attempts for 3 years now, amazes me each summer by offering up a bumper crop. Blueberries seem to grow really well in Devon; they even manage to grow them up on Dartmoor. Mine is only just blossoming, but we have the first of our blueberries available now. Plumper and sweeter than supermarket berries, they’re good with porridge or granola and yoghurt for breakfast. Or try this easy blueberry & yoghurt cake (below), delicately flavoured with a little almond and lemon. It can be made with gluten-free flour too, for those with an allergy.

I’m not a huge fan of meringues, but I love the delicate flavour of saffron, which pairs well in our recipe for saffron meringues with blueberry compôte (below). The meringues also go well with poached pears.

 blueberry & yoghurt cake

prep: 10 mins cook: 50 mins serves: 12

If you want to make a gluten-free cake, Doves Farm make a gluten-free self-raising flour, although it isn’t organic, but you could use gluten-free plain flour with baking powder if you prefer.

you will need:
300g self-raising flour
pinch fine sea salt
175g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
finely grated zest of 1 large or 1 ½ smaller lemons
2 large eggs
150g plain whole yoghurt
125g unsalted butter, melted, plus a little extra to grease the tin
1 tsp almond extract
250g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm cake tin with a little butter on a piece of kitchen paper. Line the base and sides with baking parchment. In one bowl, mix together the flour, salt, sugar, ground almonds and lemon zest. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then stir together with the yoghurt, butter and almond extract. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredient bowl. Stir until all the ingredients are just combined. Add the blueberries and gently stir them in. Pour into the tin, level it and bake for 50 mins or until just cooked through and golden brown (insert a skewer or cocktail stick in the middle, it should come out clean). Let the cake cool in the tin for 15-20 mins then turn out onto a cooling rack.

saffron meringues with blueberry compôte

prep: 20 mins    cook: 2 hours    serves: 4

for the meringues:
2 egg whites
pinch of saffron threads
100g golden caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar

for the compôte:
250g blueberries
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
juice ½ lime, more to taste
2 mint leaves, finely shredded
whipped double or clotted cream to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Put the saffron in a small heatproof bowl. Add 2 tsp boiling water and leave to steep. Crack the eggs and tip each half of the shell from side to side over a small bowl to separate the whites from yolks (do this one at a time into the bowl, in case the egg whites and yolks mix together, transferring the egg whites to a large clean, dry bowl. Save the yolks to make mayonnaise or hollandaise. Whisk the whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, until the eggs are stiff and have a satin looking sheen. You should be able to tip the bowl upside down without them falling out! Don’t over whisk though, or this will cause the egg whites to break down and the meringues will turn soggy in the oven. Strain the saffron liquid; discard the strands and keep the bright yellow liquid. Add this to the meringue with the cornflour and vinegar. The cornflour and vinegar help the insides of the meringue have a marshmallowy rather than powdery texture. Whisk until just combined. Use 2 dessert spoons to make 8 similar sized oval dollops on the baking sheet. Turn the oven down to 120C and pop the meringues in the oven. Cook for 1 ½ hours or so, until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in there to cool completely. This will stop the meringues from cracking.

To make the compote, put half the blueberries and the sugar in a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, about 4-5 mins. Add the lime juice and strain the mixture over a sieve. Stir in the rest of the blueberries. Serve the meringues sandwiched together with cream, with the blueberry compôte.

Kirsty’s cooking blog: making red onion & raisin chutney

Kirsty, Riverford Cook

Kirsty, Riverford Cook

Before I had my first vegbox, about 12 years ago now, I’d always made a few chutneys, because I love the mix of sweet and sour flavours, and their versatility. With my vegbox, I started making more chutneys and pickles to use up any gluts. Now they’ve become a staple in my kitchen cupboard.

Chutneys are one of the simplest of all the preserving kits we’re selling alongside the vegboxes. A bit of peeling and chopping, then let it all simmer gently away until you have a sticky, aromatic concoction. With our ready-weighed spice bags there’s no risk of over or under-spicing, so they’re great for beginners, or for those who don’t like to buy jars of spices and then find them a year later, languishing and stale in the back of the cupboard.

With its warm spices, you might think our new red onion and raisin chutney is more suited to wintry suppers, but if you make it now, it’ll mature in time to be a great addition to a summer spread. Take it on picnics; it’s good with pork pie or cheeses, or serve alongside barbecued meats. For veggies, try one of our giant portobello mushrooms, char-grilled and served on a griddled warm bun with a slick of mayo, preferably a garlic one, topped with a good dollop of chutney.

I’m making my jars now, while the days are still promising much, and squirreling them away for summer feasts on the river Dart and balmy seaside barbecues. Or, if the weather’s like last year, I’ll brave the beach in a mac, shovel in a quick cheese and chutney doorstop, head to the nearest pub to dry off and save most of the jars for bonfire night sausages.

red-onion-raisin-chutney

Riverford red onion & raisin chutney kit

Kirsty’s cooking blog

Image

Time to crack open the Rioja, get your best pot of saffron out and cook some of our seasonal peppers, pretending you’re on a Costa del Somewhere Else.

Our long, wobbly romano peppers are great simply roasted in olive oil or stuffed with some of our Laverstoke mozzarella and pesto verde.

It doesn’t claim to be the most authentic paella in the world, but try a warming and tasty chicken & chorizo dish using red peppers to share on a colder evening with friends, or instead of Sunday lunch. It’s great for using up some runner beans too.

We’ve also got some new kids on the Riverford block in the form of our small and feisty padron peppers. Spanish tapas favourites (although they’ve been growing on our French farm in abundance), they’re easy to cook and will have you coming back for more. We made the traditional pimientos de padron, or try them stuffed with our High Weald sheep’s cheese, with a double dose of peppers in our red pepper and tomato dip.

A Julio Iglesias soundtrack is optional. Salud!

Ne’er cast a clout, ‘til May is out

organic rhubarbAt this time of year I usually keep a batch of rhubarb compote in the fridge to have for breakfast with granola and yoghurt. I sit on the back doorstep in the sunshine and watch the giant hound lie all over my newly planted herb beds, perhaps as some sort of protest at me going to work. This year we’ve not yet tried granola or herb squashing, and are dashing out for the morning walk between the torrents. Apparently the cold weather means people are liking our porridge. Try a dollop of the compote with it; you might feel a bit more like you’re in May, not February. Wear your best Sou’wester with your jim-jams if you’re determined to eat it al fresco.

We’ve got new season asparagus and rhubarb coming through in the vegboxes, but when the weather’s this wet we still feel like a bit of comfort food. There’s been much talk of roast dinners and cake on the menu chez Riverford staff (we talk a lot about food in the office, understandably). We’ve got two new recipes for our seasonal favourites that’ll give you a bit of a springtime cuddle in a bowl. If you’re up for a bit of baking on a wet Sunday afternoon, try our gingerbread with rhubarb and orange fool. For a quick midweek dinner, asparagus and bacon linguine fits the bill. Fifteen minutes max, from fridge to plate. Squashed herbs are optional.

Kirsty

Kirsty’s cooking blog – strange fruit

organic avocados

Back in the eighties, my first job was working in a French-style restaurant making steak tartare to serve to paunchy gentlemen in loose ties. There were lots of rum babas, a few too many black Russians and lots of hollering by the wonderful chef (RIP). I survived on avocados and marie-rose sauce. The memory prompted a little laugh this week while watching Masterchef when the actress Amanda Steadman said she ate avocadoes for days on the trot when she first tasted them as they were such a revelation.

It reminded me there are variations of a recipe on websites and in cook books, a curiosity that had to be tried to prove its madness or genius. Chocolate avocado mousse. Dairy and processed sugar free, surely it couldn’t be right? Cacao and avocado were considered as stimulants by the ancient South American tribes, so I guess the combination comes from there. They were in some of the boxes this week, so if you haven’t made anything sensible with yours yet and they’ve turned a little ripe, give it a go and let us know what you think.

It had mixed reactions here, varying from ‘love it’ to ‘chocolate + hand cream’ and it definitely had the consistency of ganache rather than a proper mousse. I think it depends on your hippy rating as to how much you like it. I’d still make guacamole any day of the week, but here it is:

chocolate + avocado mousse

avocado mousse

Serve with very thinly sliced pineapple, oranges or pink grapefruit. This makes about 5-6 ice cream scoops, so depending on how greedy you are, serves 2-4. It is quite rich, so one scoop is enough.

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 25g good cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp honey or agave syrup
  • a few drops vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbsp cold water

Instructions

Cut the avocado in half lengthways and remove the stone. Scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon and put in a blender or food processor. Add the cocoa, honey or syrup and vanilla. Blitz until smooth. Add just enough water and blitz again until you have a smooth and creamy mixture. Taste, adding a touch more syrup or honey if needed.

 

organic beetrootI also made another pudding this week, chocolate beetroot mousse. Try that one if you fancy doing some baking this week, or for Mother’s day.

Kirsty’s cooking blog – Oval beauty

Eggs BenedictThis week I’ve mostly been thinking about oval shaped things. It all started with the rugby ball that agonisingly didn’t quite go over the line, but for those of you wearing red shirts, like him indoors, it was pretty good news. As we’re supposed to be good natured in defeat, I thought I’d be gracious and make a celebratory supper. The occasion suited Welsh rarebit with leeks, bacon and sage. Cheese on toast is great, with or without a smearing of marmite, but it becomes extra special when you use a mature cheddar like our Wyke Farm’s, spiced up with beer and an egg. I got chastised for not using Brains beer of course, but our organic Sam Smith’s did the trick nicely, and I got to drink the leftovers. It also used up some of the mountain of leeks I seem to have accumulated in the bottom of the fridge. If you’ve got a glut, try using some up in recipes that call for an onion. Make a leek and potato soup to take in a flask for lunches, or if you’re feeling like baking, try our flamiche tart. Both are easy to make and suitable for freezing.

Usually on a Tuesday (recipe day), I stand in the kitchen with a veg box and my hopeful assistant, a rather large hound, looking for inspiration. The hound, about work surface height, but not much of a veg eater, always looks a bit disappointed at the array of green. So we both start with an egg. I served his raw, but blinged mine up, making a hollandaise and serving it as possibly my favourite breakfast, eggs Benedict (it would make a special Mother’s Day breakfast too, so keep the recipe for the 18th March). Adding greens to it gets the five a day off to a start; psb or spring greens work well. It also makes a good supper.

My tip to get that perfectly round restaurant-looking poached egg, with no stray white bits, is to line a ramekin or small cup with clingfilm, leaving some overhanging the cup. Gently crack your egg into the cup, then carefully twist the clingfilm to seal it in. Lift the clingfilm out of the cup, gently place it in a pan of barely simmering water (no bubbles allowed) and cook for 4-4 ½ minutes for a runny egg, or 5 for one that’s a little firmer but still soft, if that’s your preference. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and carefully remove the clingfilm, to avoid breaking the yolk. However you poach yours, use the freshest of eggs.

As it’s Fairtrade Fortnight until March 11th, try pairing a couple of oval beauties with some of our fairtrade fruit in a banana and walnut loaf. Foolproof but tasty, you could also serve it up as part of a Mother’s Day afternoon tea. It serves eight, but keeps well in an airtight container and can be frozen if you like.

Happy cooking!

Kirsty

Nannas know their onions

My name’s Kirsty and I’ve been asked by Riverford to swap apron for laptop and write a cooking blog about the weekly recipes I put together for your veg box and on our website.

I was prompted this week to think about family hand-me-down recipes that use up the last onion in the box. One of our customers, Anne-Marie Haigh, kindly sent me one such recipe – her version of Guernsey Bean Jar, which her mother and grandmother have made before her. There’s no better recommendation than that. Using belly pork, in our winter warmer meatbox this week, it’s adaptable for veggies too.

Anne-Marie’s email reminded me of a couple of recipes that my Nanna and Granny used to make. Braised beef and onions was a classic Nanna dish, often accompanied by homemade wine – elderberry for a special occasion, pea pod for a headache the next morning! Try it with kailkenny (or colcannon, depending where you come from). It links Nanna with my Scottish Granny, who lived in Cullen, on the North East coast, home to a soup cum meal in a bowl, Cullen Skink.

Simple to make and a real cockle warmer, it uses that last onion again. When you’re going for the ‘last tent standing’ award at the gale-swept campsite on the headland at Cullen when I last stayed there, you’ll want an hourly dose of this, coupled with a good dram or two, for sustenance and sanity. I made my version, in which you poach haddock in milk from the start, as Granny did (some recipes just use water for poaching) and served it to my Scottish builder Kenny. It passed muster; I hope you try it too. If you’ve got a leftover leek, use that up instead of the onion.

I’d love to hear about your Nanna’s know-how in the kitchen – email us at [email protected]/blog with suggestions for recipes and foodie topics or questions for this blog.

Happy cooking!

Kirsty

Everyday And Sunday – Our Brand New Book

When we started the box scheme it was obvious that, much as our customers aspired to eat seasonal veg, many needed practical help to make it a reality. As the years passed I realised we needed to think beyond the nearest hedge; our fate lies half in what we grow and how, and half in what you all do with it in the kitchen. First there were intermittent monthly newsletters; over time they became weekly and I found myself almost as obsessed with cooking as with growing. In 2005 Jane Baxter, the pro with a pedigree, joined us and we opened the Riverford Field Kitchen restaurant. In 2008, spurred on by rave restaurant reviews and requests from customers, we published the Riverford Farm Cook Book with recipes (mostly from Jane) and rants (mostly from me). It has now gone to its third print run and has won Best First Book and Best Work on British Food at the Guild of Food Writers Awards. We are both very proud of it.

Over the last year we have written another: Everyday and Sunday – Recipes from Riverford Farm. Fewer rants (I seem to have become worryingly placid) and more recipes this time. The “everyday” bit is the simple food you might cook in a hurry for the family on a weekday; the “Sunday” is the more time consuming stuff we would serve in the Field Kitchen. It is organised seasonally by month, with intros from me and most recipes by Jane, with a few from our growing band of Riverford Cooks. Everyday and Sunday is out on 2nd May, as a £24.99 hardback or £18.99 paperback (the paperback is only available through us).

Guy Watson from Riverford in Devon

veg of the month – courgettes

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

cooking

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

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

Riverford’s travelling field kitchen

Gordon Ramsay said he “knew it would be good, but not that good”, Giles Coren described it as “the lunch of his life” and Observer readers voted it the “Best Ethical

Riverford's Travelling Field Kitchen

inside the yurt

Restaurant”. Under Jane Baxter, the Field Kitchen’s championing of seasonal vegetables, shared dishes and an affordable set menu has turned out to be a phenomenal success. The obvious thing would be to open another restaurant further East, but cash is tight and I hate doing the obvious so we have gone into the woods, cut some ash and fashioned a giant Mongolian-style tent (yurt) and made tables and benches for 80; the Field Kitchen is coming to a field near you this summer.

We are going on the road, complete with a tent-dwelling team of chefs, waiters and pot washers. We will pitch up at Freightliners City Farm in Islington from 10-20th June, Mole End Farm in Kent from 19-29th August and Bristol from 2-12th September, as well as our other sister farms, WOMAD and the Abergavenny Food Festival on the way.

The yurt is a beautiful structure; snug with a woodburning stove for cool evenings but, with removable sides, open enough to enjoy an alfresco lunch should we get a summer. The menu will reflect what is seasonal and growing in the fields around. We are not vegetarian (though there is an option) but often convert even the most avid carnivore to the joy of vegetables. Jane describes her cooking as “gutsy and no nonsense”. Portions are generous and the service relaxed and leisurely. Bring a group of friends and book a table (10) or make up a shared table. We also hope to run cookery classes and workshops. To book, call 0845 367 1155 or 01803 762062.

New website 12th may

Our new-look website is unveiled on Wednesday 12th May. It has been designed to make it easier for you to shop and manage your account. It will also give you a better sense of where and how your veg is grown and more help with using it in the kitchen. Expect more pictures of the farm and of course plenty of recipes. We hope you find it easy to use, but if you get stuck we’ll be manning the phones for longer to help; call us on 0845 600 2311 or 01803 762059.