Tag Archives: organic veg

12 days of Christmas – how to cook red cabbage

Guy says
red-cabbage-2Cabbage is a kitchen faithful with magnificent culinary potential. Cabbages are members of the brassica family and ancestors of cauliflowers and Brussels sprouts. The original kale-like sea cabbage from which today’s cultivars are descended is still found growing among the pebbles on our beaches, between the high-tide mark and the cliffs. Red cabbage is particularly good braised for a long time until soft and caramelised.

braised spiced red cabbage

This has all the appeal of classic spiced red cabbage but takes less than an hour to make rather than the usual three or four. Delicious with roast pork, sausages, duck or goose, or even with turkey for Christmas dinner.

braised-red-cabbage1 red cabbage, finely shredded
2 cooking apples, peeled, cored & chopped
1 onion, chopped
slug sunflower oil
around 5 allspice berries, roughly crushed, if you can find them – otherwise leave out
2 cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tbsp dark soft brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cider or red wine vinegar

Sweat spices, onions and apple in the oil in large heavy-based pan until beginning to soften. Add the bay leaf and cabbage and enough water to come about half way up the cabbage. Cover and turn up heat so cabbage is boiling, return to simmer and cook for 30-40 mins until cabbage is tender. By now the liquid should have reduced to about an inch in the bottom of the pan but if there is too much water left, uncover the pan and boil vigorously to reduce it further. Add in the vinegar, sugar and seasoning, taste and adjust so that you have a good balance of sweet and sour. Serve straight away or cool and reheat later. This dish also freezes very well.

quick scandi-style red cabbage

serves 4, prep 5 mins, cook 50 mins
Many red cabbage recipes take a good couple of hours to cook. This Scandinavian inspired recipe has lots of warm spicy flavour but takes less than half the time so, as well as serving alongside cold meats, it’s good for a mid-week supper. Try it with pork chops and creamy mashed potatoes with a little of our Riverford beer mustard stirred in.

scandi-style-red-cabbage1 tbsp rapeseed or sunflower oil
1 red onion, peeled & very thinly sliced
½ a large red cabbage, tough core & ribs removed, leaves finely shredded
3 juniper berries, bashed with the flat of your knife
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp caraway seeds
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
100ml red wine
2 tbsp cranberry sauce
1 good sized eating apple, cored & thinly sliced (no need to peel it)

Heat the oil in a large wide frying pan, wok or casserole, one with a lid (or you can cover the cabbage with a layer of foil instead). Add the onion and cabbage and fry for 10 mins on a low to medium heat, stirring now and then. Add the juniper, allspice, caraway, bay leaf, vinegar, wine and cranberry sauce. Season, cover and cook on a low heat for 20 mins. Add the apple and cook for a further 20 mins, stirring now and then to stop it catching. Check the seasoning before serving.

red cabbage, winter root & pomegranate slaw

serves 4, prep 10 mins, cook 0 mins
To get the seeds out of your pomegranate easily and without any bitter yellow pith, cut it in half crossways and use a rolling pin to bash each pomegranate half over a bowl, squeezing it slightly now and then so the seeds fall out. Odd bits of the pith might fall out too, but can easily be picked out.

red-cabbage-winter-root-pomegranate-slawjuice from ½ a lemon
1½ tbsp pomegranate molasses (readily available in shops, or use a little honey)
1 heaped tsp dijon mustard
4 tbsp good olive oil
¼ large red cabbage, tough core & thick ribs removed, leaves finely shredded
¼ large celeriac, or ½ a small one, peeled & cut into fine matchsticks
1 large carrot, peeled & cut into fine matchsticks
1 small or ½ a large red onion, peeled & very finely sliced
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
seeds from 1 pomegranate

Whisk the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, mustard and olive oil together in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cabbage, celeriac, carrot, onion, parsley and half the pomegranate seeds. Gently toss together. Taste and add more oil, lemon juice or seasoning to your preference. Sprinkle over the remaining pomegranate seeds to serve.

warm red cabbage salad with toasted walnuts & blue cheese

red-cabbage-salad-walnuts-blue-cheese75g walnut pieces
2 tbsp walnut oil
2 crisp red apples, cored &d cut into small pieces
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, quartered & thinly sliced
1 small red cabbage, shredded
100g blue cheese, crumbled (we use Devon Blue)
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp marjoram, chopped

Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Toss the walnuts with the walnut oil and some black pepper. Spread them out on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5–7 mins. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Put the garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a frying pan and sauté over a medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the red onion and cook for 30 seconds, then add the cabbage and cook for a couple of mins until it begins to turn from red to pink. Season with salt and pepper. Finally add the cheese, apples, herbs and toasted walnuts. Toss well and serve.

red cabbage with prunes & chestnuts

8 prunes
140ml red wine
560g chestnuts, peeled
225g onions, sliced
1 red cabbage
2 cooking apples
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Soak prunes in wine for 4 hours, then stone and chop them. Bring chestnuts to the boil and simmer for 10 mins, cool and peel the inner layer. Preheat oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Cut onions, shred
the cabbage and slice the apples. Heat the oil, cook the onions until transparent, add the chestnuts, cabbage, prunes, wine and vinegar and bring to the boil Cover, put in the oven for 45 mins.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add organic red cabbage 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 of the best potato recipes

Guy says
potatoesModern farming methods have not been kind to the humble potato. Intensively cultivated for high yield and fast growth, it’s been bred into staggering blandness, with generic offerings of ‘red’ and ‘white’ potatoes. We grow our potatoes slowly, choose our varieties judiciously and encourage you to savour their flavour and not consign them to use as a bulking item on your plate.

roast potatoes with lemon, rosemary and thyme

serves 6 as a side
Crisp and caramelised from roasting, tart and tangy from the lemons, this variation on traditional roast potatoes makes a particularly good side for chicken or fish, accompanied by a bitter leaf salad.

roast-potatoes-lemon-rosemary1.5kg fairly waxy potatoes (such as Marfona, Orla or Triplo), washed but not peeled, cut into halves or quarters, depending on size
2 lemons, cut into thick slices, plus an extra ½ lemon to finish
7–8 garlic cloves, unpeeled, lightly smashed
4 rosemary sprigs
6 thyme sprigs
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Put the potatoes into a pan of cold salted water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and let dry in a colander for a few minutes. Transfer to a roasting pan and scatter over the lemon slices, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Drizzle over the oil and toss together with your hands, making sure each potato is coated in oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Roast for 35–40 minutes, turning everything once or twice, until the lemons are starting to caramelise and the potatoes are golden brown. Squeeze over the extra lemon half, sprinkle with a little more salt and serve immediately.

Variations
* Small waxy potatoes such as pink fir apples and Charlottes can be halved lengthways, tossed with oil and salt and roasted from raw at 180°C/Gas 4.
* Toss the potatoes with a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard before roasting for more of a zing.

gratin dauphinoise

serves 6 as a side
Creamy or crusty? Waxy or floury potatoes? Everyone has their personal preference and there is certainly more than one way to make gratin dauphinois. The question of how to cook an authentic version was apparently so aggressively contested that Charles de Gaulle held a competition to determine the definitive recipe. Riverford Cook Anna learned this method from a Parisian chef, who assured her it was the real deal!

gratin-dauphinois50g butter
700ml whole milk
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tsp fine salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1kg medium all-rounder potatoes, peeled and cut lengthways into 4–5mm thick slices
200ml double cream

Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4 and grease a gratin or shallow ovenproof dish (about 15 x 20cm) with half the butter. Put the milk, garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a large pan and slowly bring to the boil. Add the potatoes, return to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, until half cooked. Using a slotted spoon, lift the potatoes from the milk into the dish. Discard the milk (or save it for another purpose). Shake the dish to distribute the potatoes evenly. Pour the cream over the potatoes and dot with the remaining butter. Bake uncovered for about an hour, until the potatoes are tender and a golden crust has formed. To make it easier to cut, let the gratin cool slightly before serving.

Variation
For something slightly less rich, layer the potatoes with 1 very finely sliced onion or leek and a few thyme leaves in a well-buttered gratin dish, seasoning each layer. Pour over 300ml chicken or veg stock (or a mix of half milk and half stock), dot with a little butter and bake for about 1 hour, or until the potatoes are cooked through. The top should be a little crispy, but if it is getting too brown before the potatoes are cooked, cover it loosely with foil.

rosemary & sherry baked chicken with saffron potatoes

serves 4

rosemary-sherry-baked-chicken-potatoes4 tbsp olive oil
8 chicken pieces – use a mix of thighs & drumsticks
knob of butter
900g potatoes, peeled & thickly sliced (1-2cm)
small pinch of saffron threads
½ tsp smoked sweet paprika
6 sprigs rosemary
4 bay leaves, roughly torn
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200ml medium-dry sherry
sea salt & ground black pepper
small handful toasted flaked almonds (optional)

Heat the oil in a large shallow heat and flameproof casserole (or use a frying pan and transfer to a baking dish). Add the chicken and brown on all sides. Remove to a plate. Melt the butter in the same pan. Add the potatoes, saffron, paprika, rosemary, bay and garlic. Toss together. Lie the chicken pieces on top of the potatoes and pour over the sherry. Season. Bring to the boil, then transfer to the oven. Bake at 180°C for 45 mins, until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are tender. Sprinkle over the almonds if using.

celeriac & potato mash

celeriac
potatoes
milk
butter

Cook as you would mashed potato but add one 1/3 to 2/3 as much celeriac as potato. The celeriac cooks faster and so should be added once the potatoes have come to the boil. Great with sausages and savoy cabbage or cavalo nero.

parsnip & potato cakes

350g potatoes, peeled & diced
700g parsnips, peeled & diced
oil for frying
1 large onion, peeled & finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled & crushed or finely chopped
knob of butter, about 20g
4 tbsp milk
a good grating of fresh nutmeg
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1-2 eggs, beaten
120g fresh breadcrumbs

In a pan of salted boiling water, cook the potatoes, then the parsnips, until just tender (the potatoes will take about 10 mins, parsnips about 7). Drain. While the potatoes are cooking, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large pan, add the onion and fry for a few mins until soft. Add the garlic and fry for another couple of mins. Put the potatoes, parsnips, butter, milk and nutmeg in a large bowl and season, then mash together before stirring in the onion and parsley. Set aside until cool. Put the eggs and breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls. Take about 1 tablespoon of the potato/parsnip mix and use your hands to press it into a pattie shape. Dip it in the egg and then the breadcrumbs to coat and repeat until all the mixture is used. Add a little oil to a non-stick frying pan and fry the cakes, in batches, until golden on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven until you are ready to serve.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add organic potatoes 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.

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: freaks; where would we be without them?

Three weeks of gloom and relentless rain have caused a few problems with weeding and harvesting, but have done little to dampen our spirits here on the farm; with most of the planting finished, 2015 still looks like being a very good year. A bright September would allow us to get on top of the weeds, harvest in good conditions and ripen the tomatoes and squash, but sunny or not it will be the Soil Association’s Organic September. With organic sales rising again, my wife Geetie and I have been asked to give a talk in London as ‘organic pioneers’. Musing on this, I realise that there were plenty who came before us.

When I converted three acres of my parent’s farm 30 years ago and planted my first organic vegetables, I was clueless; I spent every spare moment visiting the real organic pioneers, some of whom had been quietly growing, experimenting and philosophising, largely in isolation, since the sixties. One used only horsepower and had taken the engine out of his only tractor to pull it more easily with a team of horses; one produced organic grain and beef very successfully for 20 years without ever charging a premium or even saying it was organic, explaining to me that, “there are no pockets in a shroud, Guy”; another devoted much of his life to developing a revolutionary cultivator and seed drill called the sod seeder; “It will make herbicides and the plough redundant,” he confidently predicted, but sadly it never really worked; another kept very happy pigs in the woods and would have moved in with them if his wife had allowed it. I was always welcomed, taken in, shown around, advised, fed and given a bed; there was never fear of shared knowledge leading to competition as no-one was in it for the money anyway; they just wanted to change the world. Most were pretty nuts but amid the madness were gems of creativity, genius and profound sanity.

Those pioneers shared an uncompromising, obsessive, anarchic view of the world and a deep commitment to finding a better way of farming; they were the freaks on the fringe whose difficult questions start movements. Some have refined their skills to become successful commercial farmers, some are consultants, counsellors or tai-chi teachers, a few have inevitably made use of the shroud; I doubt they had much to put in the pockets, but without their questions and generosity of spirit, Riverford would not exist to celebrate Organic September.

Guy Watson

Guy’s Newsletter: the three rules of flavour

A few years ago we scientifically tested every willing Riverford staff member for the sensitivity of their palate. The best formed a taste panel to assess the flavour of everything we grew; a good idea but, like so much science, it failed to deal with subjectivity and was excessively reductionist, tending to favour ubiquitous sweetness over anything challenging or complex. If we followed the panel’s guidance we would never have sold a radicchio, endive or cardoon. More recently we’ve put together a group of in-house chefs and food enthusiasts to assess our carrots, cheese, wine and olive oil. Last week we sat down to taste the tomatoes from our tunnels; as always, our cherry tomato Sakura won, along with some new trial orange and yellow baby plum tomatoes.

For all fruit and veg, great flavour comes from a combination of three things:

Variety: The more you intensively select for yield or early maturity, the more you lose less easily quantified traits like complex flavours and nutritional value. Over 30 years I have seen many of the varieties we selected for flavour dropped from breeders’ lists. Consolidation in the seed trade just adds to this; after a global buying spree Monsanto now owns a staggering 23% of the global seed trade and is negotiating to buy Syngenta who own a further 9%.

Growing conditions: Up to a point, slow, steady growth from a healthy, well balanced soil creates the best flavour. Excessive water and soluble nitrogen gives the luxuriant growth and high yields which look great in the field but disappoint in the kitchen. Too much stress can result in excessive bitterness, toughness and ‘off’ flavours, particularly in the brassica family, though in carrots and some herbs drought can result in incredible flavour, so it is hard to be dogmatic.

Harvest freshness and post harvest storage: Ideally fruit should be harvested fully ripe and never see a cold room, while green veg should be picked with the dew on them and eaten as soon as possible. Refrigeration can greatly extend life with variable impact on flavour; fine for salads, not great for courgettes.

Subjectivity can come close to snobbery and exclusivity but, without some trust in personal sensitivities, life would be very dull; a bit like supermarket veg.

Guy Watson

guy’s newsletter: the virtues of questionable cabbages

The warm weather means we have bumper crops everywhere; we just hope you can eat it all. The bounty is such that rather than see it go to waste, we have upped some portion sizes and are sometimes struggling to get them in the boxes. Take a moment to savour the carrots you may have this week, as the dry weather has created some distorted shapes and slowed growth, but this has only served to intensify their sensational flavour. A little bit of adversity is good for them. Meanwhile our summer greens have struggled too much; first from a lack of nitrogen thanks to the winter deluge, and then from a lack of water. For them, slow growth has resulted in a strong flavour which I like, but which some might describe as bitter. They are on the chewy side too, so I would recommend boiling rather than steaming.

So why am I drawing attention to questionable cabbages? My vegetably, farmer’s point here is that only a narrow minded moron could doubt that the way vegetables are grown has the potential to impact their shape, texture and flavour. Our organic vegetables are so tangibly different from conventional vegetables pushed on with nitrogen fertiliser and plenty of water that it would seem inevitable for them to be chemically different as well. This was broadly the conclusion of an international peer-reviewed study published in the British Journal of Nutrition two weeks ago, in particular that organic food contains substantially higher levels of some anti-oxidants.

To assert that the farming methods used to grow food do not affect nutritional quality, as has been our government’s line, has always seemed incredible. Perhaps in opening up the debate about organic food again, the new research findings will form the beginning of a change in direction. Those cabbages and carrots are enough proof for me though. What is more, without regular dousing with nerve toxins, chemical fungicides and herbicides, our fields, hedges and woods are alive with bees, butterflies and birds. I reckon that makes buying organic more than a lifestyle choice, and the occasional questionable cabbage representative of something much more significant.

Guy Watson

musings in the mud

As the English asparagus season started in late April, I asked how you felt about us preceding it with Spanish asparagus from Pepe, a grower near Granada who we have worked with for many years. The results were two to one in favour.

Our mission is to enable and encourage you to eat well, affordably, with minimal environmental impact and hopefully some positive social outcomes, but without undue dogmatism that might drive you back to a supermarket. With diversity of opinion and eating habits this is a balancing act; it’ll be easier when we can offer a more personalised box (the ultimate aim of the ongoing website disruption).

So is local always best? If we’re just considering environmental impact, certainly not for out of season crops like tomatoes and peppers. Heating a single glazed glasshouse to 20˚C in January is as insane as airfreight and we don’t do either, ever. I’m also increasingly sceptical about growing crops outside their climatic comfort zone. It often involves enormous cost and effort to produce an unreliable harvest of dubious flavour. Interestingly, the first English asparagus grown in a cold spring, though fresher, was not as good as Pepe’s crop grown in the sun.

Don’t worry, we have not given up on local; these are the musings of a man who spent the day weeding a stunted crop of sweetcorn in the rain. If we are ever to eat truly sustainably we must learn from nature and make more of plants that thrive in our climate with minimal intervention. I am inspired by how happily samphire, ransoms (wild garlic), dandelions, wild strawberries, nettles, fat hen, chickweed, rose hips, elderflower, crab apples, summer purslane, damsons and sloes (all of which have largely unexploited culinary potential) grow in the wild. Agriculture sometimes feels like an absurd, futile and vain battle with nature; without access to depleting fossil fuels, we would always lose.

On a more positive note, we were delighted to be named Best Retailer at the Observer Ethical Awards 2013; many thanks indeed to all of you who voted for us.

Guy Watson