Tag Archives: veg

12 veg of Christmas – vegetarian Christmas dinner mains

Whether you’re a vegetarian or fancy something different this year, try these recipes for a vegetarian Christmas dinner main. The go-to dish for non-meat eaters is usually nut roast but these recipes are a little different, and in true Christmas spirit are abundant in cheese, pastry, and good old winter veg.

squash, kale & stilton pie

squash-kale-stilton-pie1 small (750g-800g) butternut squash, peeled & chopped into 1-2cm dice
1 large red onion, finely diced
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
200g curly kale, washed, leaves stripped from their stalks
4 tbsp double cream
200g blue cheese, crumbled
2 ready-rolled puff pastry sheets
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat your oven to 220˚C/gas 6. Toss the squash in just enough oil to coat and season. Roast in a baking dish for approx 30 mins, or until just tender. Fry the onion and rosemary in 3 tbsp oil on a low heat for 10 mins, stirring now and then, until softened. If it looks like catching at any point, add a splash of water. Cook the kale in the pan of boiling water for 4 mins, until softened. Drain, refresh in cold water, then drain again and squeeze out any excess moisture. Finely chop. Mix the squash, onion, kale and double cream. Season and cool for 15 mins. Mix in the blue cheese. Unroll the pastry sheets and cut into quarters. Lay 4 pieces on a lightly greased baking tray, score a 2cm border inside the edge of each and pile the veg within it. Dampen the pastry border with some water. Lay the other 4 pastry pieces over the top. Gently stretch to cover, pressing the edges down well to seal. Pull the edges up and over slightly to confirm the seal. Brush the top with beaten egg and bake for 25-30 mins, until crisp, puffed and golden.

leek & tomato crumble

2 tbsp olive oil
600g leeks, trimmed & sliced
450g tomatoes, cut into wedges, seeds removed
300ml veg stock
300g cream cheese
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
for the crumble:
150g butter
275g plain flour
150g cheddar, grated
100g chopped mixed nuts, toasted

In a large pan, heat the oil and gently fry the leeks for 8 mins, until softened. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2 mins. Add the stock, cream cheese and thyme. Stir to combine, until the cream cheese has melted and you have a creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer the mixture to a baking dish. In a large bowl, rub together the butter and flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (or blitz in a food processor). Add the cheese and nuts and sprinkle the mixture over the leeks. Bake in the oven at 190˚C for 20-30 mins until the topping is golden.

Christmas pie with greens, chestnuts & feta

The pie can be made in advance and frozen uncooked. Defrost before putting in the oven.

400-500g chard, spinach or kale (be generous if using spinach)
200g cooked, peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped
100g walnut pieces, toasted
80g currants, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes & drained
200g feta cheese, crumbled
leaves from 4 sprigs thyme
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground allspice or ground cloves
3 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
salt + pepper
500g all butter puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper. Pull any hard stalks from the greens, wash the leaves and blanch them in boiling salted water until just tender (or steam them). Drain and rinse immediately under plenty of cold water. Drain again and squeeze out the leaves, chop finely and place in a mixing bowl. Add the chestnuts, walnuts, currants, thyme, spices and olive oil. Set aside 2 tbsp of the beaten egg, then add the remaining egg to the leaves and combine everything thoroughly. Add the feta and mix in carefully so that the pieces of cheese do not break up. Season with salt and black pepper. On a lightly floured surface roll out the pastry 3mm thick into a rectangle roughly 25 x 30cm. Pile the filling in a thick tube along the shorter edge and carefully roll up into a cylinder. Brush a little egg where the pastry joins to seal and trim off any overlapping pastry. Place on the baking sheet. Brush the pie with the rest of the egg and cut a few diagonal slashes in the pastry so steam can escape. Bake for 30-40 mins or until golden and the pastry is cooked through. Serve with cranberry sauce.

spanakopita with spring greens & leeks

serves 4-6, prep 15 mins, cook 50 mins

spanakopita-with-chard-and-leeks500g spring greens or spinach
2 tbsp oil for frying
500g leeks, trimmed, sliced in half lengthways, then shredded
100g melted butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried mint
4 eggs
200g ricotta (or cottage cheese)
200g feta
handful chopped parsley
handful chopped dill
250g packet filo pastry
2 tbsp poppy seeds

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and blanch the leaves (spinach or spring greens) for 2 mins. Drain, plunge into cold water to stop the cooking and keep the colour, then drain again. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out any excess liquid with your hands, then roughly chop the leaves. Heat the oil and fry the leeks for 6 mins. Add the garlic and mint and fry for 2 mins. Leave to cool, then mix in the chopped leaves. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the ricotta, crumble in the feta, then add the veg and herbs and stir gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the filo from the packet and lay it out. Cover with a clean, slightly damp tea towel to stop it drying out. Brush the bottom of the dish with a little butter. Lay out a sheet of filo on your work surface and brush with a little melted butter. Lay inside the baking dish; you want some overhanging. Repeat with half the filo, buttering each layer as you go. Spoon in the filling and even it out. Lay over the rest of pastry, brushing each sheet as before. Tuck in the edges and brush with butter to seal. Sprinkle with the poppy seeds. Bake for approx 40 mins, depending on your oven, until golden and crispy.

leek & smoked cheese pithivier

serves 4-6
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-and-cheese-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.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add organic veg to your order.

For more ideas for a Christmas rich in veg, download our seasonal booklet full of recipes and tips from our Riverford cooks and you, our customers. Available to download here: www.riverford.co.uk/christmas-veg.

12 veg of Christmas – 5 Christmas leek recipes

Guy says
leeksOur leeks are pulled, stripped and trimmed by hand. Surviving the grim hardship of a January day spent bent over in a windswept field with 5 kilos of mud clinging to each boot also requires a zen-like quality possessed by only a small minority. I reckon the pickers deserve to be paid more than bankers but I’m not sure we would sell many leeks if they were. The winter-hardy varieties ready at Christmas tend to be shorter and stouter with darker leaves, and arguably they taste better for the climatic hardship they have experienced.

Prep
Leeks tend to harbour a bit of mud. If you have only one to clean, cut it in half lengthways, leaving the root base intact. Hold each half under the cold tap, root end up, fanning out the leaves with your fingers. For a bigger batch, it’s easier to slice the leeks first: cut off the root base and the dark green top and use the white and paler green section. Let the rings soak for a few minutes in a bowl of cold water so the dirt sinks, then drain in a colander.

Riverford leek & smoked cheese pithivier

Pithivier is a circular puff pastry pie with a curved pattern cut into it. You could add some sliced mushrooms to the leek mixture.

leek-pithivierknob of butter
1kg leeks, finely shredded
100g cream cheese
sea salt & ground black pepper
80g smoked cheddar cheese, grated
2 tbsp chopped chives
2 sheets ready rolled all-butter puff pastry (you need about 600g if making your own or rolling out a block; roll to about ½-¾cm)
1 egg yolk, mixed with a splash of milk

Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the leeks and cook gently for about 10 mins until soft. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted. Season well. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheddar and chives. Leave to cool completely. Roll out one piece of the pastry on a lightly floured work surface and use a dinner plate as a template to cut around to make a circle. Spread over the leek mixture, leaving a gap of 5cm all the way around the pastry circle. Roll out the other half of the pastry and lay over the top. Press the edges down to seal. Trim the edges. Brush with eggwash. Use a sharp knife to score curved lines on top of the pie and the edges. Bake at 180°C for about 30 mins, until the top is golden brown and the pastry cooked through. Serve warm.

leeks with garlic cream & tarragon

serves 4-6 as a side

leek-cream-tarragonknob of butter
2 large leeks, trimmed & washed
2 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
125ml double cream
handful tarragon leaves, chopped

 

 

Halve the leeks lengthways, and slice into 1cm slices at an angle. Gently heat the butter in a saucepan add the leeks, season and cook on a low heat for 15-20 mins until soft, tender but not coloured. Place the garlic in a small pan with the cream and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 10 mins until the garlic has cooked, and the cream has reduced and thickened. Fold into the leeks, adjust the seasoning and add the chopped tarragon.

lemony leeks

serves 4-6 as a side
A sweet and sour poaching liquor can simply lift humble vegetables to a new level. This would work equally well with cauliflower, romanesco, or carrots. You’re looking for a good mix of sweet and sour, so tweak the lemon and sugar to taste.

600g leeks, trimmed
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
2 lemons
100ml good olive oil
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp dried dill

Peel off any tough or muddy outer leaves from the leeks and chop into 5cm lengths. Soak in a bowl of cold water to remove any grit, turning now and then, and rinse. Put the olive oil, garlic, 1 tbsp of the sugar, the lemon juice and 300ml water in a pan. Add the leeks and gently toss together and bring to a simmer over a medium heat for approx. 15 mins, or until the leeks are soft. Add a splash more water if needs be to stop them drying out. Stir the parsley and dill into the cooked leeks. Check the seasoning and adjust sugar, lemon juice or salt while the leeks are still warm to give a good mix of sweet and sour. Serve the leeks on a platter or in a large bowl, with the poaching liquor spooned over the top. For a more intense flavour, reduce the liquor down a little before pouring it over.

leek and feta fritters

serves 4
A very moreish starter or light lunch with a bitter leaf salad. The dip includes sumac, a deep-red, lemony spice used a lot in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s increasingly available in supermarkets, but if you can’t find it, use a little extra lemon juice and a couple of grinds of pepper instead.

for the fritters:
3 leeks, washed, trimmed and finely sliced
25g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large eggs
50g crème fraîche
70g self-raising flour
30g gram (chickpea) flour (or just use a total of 100g self-raising flour)
1 tsp baking powder
80g feta, crumbled
small bunch of tarragon, leaves chopped
cayenne pepper
dash of milk (if necessary)
sunflower oil, for frying
salt and black pepper

for the dip:
zest and juice of ½ lemon
150g crème fraîche
sumac (or see introduction for alternative)
lemon wedges, to serve

Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Lightly fry the leeks in the butter and oil in a frying pan over a medium heat until starting to soften, about 7 minutes. Whisk the eggs and crème fraîche until light and starting to increase in volume. Sift in the self-raising flour, gram flour, if using, and baking powder and gently mix into a batter. Fold in the leeks, feta and tarragon. Add a pinch of cayenne and some salt and pepper. You should have a consistency that will drop slowly from a spoon. If too dry, add a dash of milk; too wet, add a pinch of flour. Pour oil into a frying pan to a depth of about 5mm and heat until a test teaspoonful of batter sizzles immediately. Using a spoon, add three or four separate dollops of batter to the pan. Push each one with the back of the spoon until you have small patties about 8cm across. Cook until golden, about 3–4 minutes on each side. Remove the cooked fritters to a baking tray and repeat until you have used up the batter. You may need to heat up fresh oil between batches if it starts to run dry. When all are done, place the fritters in the oven for 10–12 minutes to warm through. Meanwhile, make the dip. Mix the lemon zest into the crème fraîche with a pinch of salt and add the lemon juice to taste. Sprinkle liberally with sumac and serve with the lemon wedges.

Variations
* Add chopped, fried crispy bacon to the batter, or replace the feta with cooked, shredded chicken.
* Instead of tarragon use dill or mint.

leek and Parmesan tart

serves 4-6
The secret of this recipe lies in cooking the leeks long and slow, so that they become sweetly caramelised. The rest takes no time at all and you can exercise your imagination adding extra toppings.

leek-parmesan-tart3–4 tbsp olive oil, or 50g butter
6 large leeks, washed, dried and thinly sliced
bunch of thyme, tied with string
1 x 300g ready-rolled sheet all-butter puff pastry
25g Parmesan (or vegetarian equivalent), finely grated
salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Heat the oil or butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the leeks and thyme. Slow-fry the leeks until they are very soft and starting to brown, a good 10–15 minutes. Cover the pan initially to help them sweat, then take off the lid halfway through so the liquid evaporates. Stir at intervals to stop them catching. Season with salt and pepper then cool. Meanwhile, lay out your pastry flat on a lightly greased non-stick baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until it has completely puffed up and is golden brown. (Check the bottom of the pastry is cooked too.) Flatten the pastry back down by covering it evenly with the leek mixture, leaving 5mm around the edge. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and any other toppings (see suggestions below) and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Serve warm.

Variations
* Onions work as a replacement for or combined with the leeks.
* Experiment with extra toppings, just like a pizza: try anchovies, olives or different cheeses, such as mozzarella or goat’s cheese.

Visit the recipe pages on our website for further recipes, or add organic leeks to your order.

For more ideas for a Christmas rich in veg, download our seasonal booklet full of recipes and tips from our Riverford cooks and you, our customers. Available to download here: www.riverford.co.uk/christmas-veg.

5 veggie Christmas recipe ideas

We’ve got five great veggie centrepiece recipes to treat your vegetarian friends or family for Christmas dinner on the big day.

Leek and smoked cheese pithivier

Pithivier is a French pie made with puff pastry.  Traditionally sweet, this one has a smoky cheese and leek filling.  It’s hearty and rich and makes a great showstopper for the big day.

leek & smoked cheese pithivier

Christmas pie with greens, chestnuts and feta

This pie is easily prepared in advance and put into the oven just ahead of dinner.  The feta makes sure the spinach and kale are moorish and creamy, while the chestnuts give it texture.

Squash, chard and stilton pithivier

These individual pies look smart when served and are great for impressing festive guests.  Roasted squash is one of our favourite things and together with chard and soft cheese, it’s hard to go wrong with this dish.

Leek, cheese and herb vegetarian suet pudding

Sweet leeks and soft pastry work together in this dish to create a warming and satisfying centerpiece.  It’s quickly and easily prepared ready to go straight into the oven so you can get on with enjoying the day.

Roasted veg toad in the hole with onion gravy

A classic dish done up for Christmas.  With caramelised onions, softly roasted veg and a crispy and filling batter, this dish is just the thing on a cold Christmas day.

Be sure to send us photos of any of the dishes you make, we love to see what you’ve made!

Crafty Halloween idea: Spooktacular Salad!

Crafty Halloween idea: Spooktacular Salad!

Treat hungry trick or treaters to something to tuck into with our creepy skeleton salad bits & dip!

skeleton 2

This spooktacular salad is simple to make and is a great healthy treat for hungry trick-or-treaters.  Kids can get hands-on  arranging the different bones to create their own creepy creature!

Send us a photo of your creepy creations on Twitter or Facebook using #healthyhalloween.  We’d love to see what you come up with!

Ingredients:

  • Pepper
  • Courgette
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots (we used purple carrots for an extra spooky effect!)
  • Hummus
  • Olives
  • Large plate or chopping board
  • Small bowl

Step 1: Cut up the different components ready to arrange on a plate or chopping board.

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Step 2: Start arranging your skeleton.  Find a bowl for the head, it’ll be filled with dip later, but it’s great to get an idea of scale for the skeleton’s bones.

Courgettes cut into disks make a great spine, and red peppers are perfect for ribs.

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Step 3: Add arms and legs using celery and carrots.  Cauliflower and broccoli are a great way of creating hands and feet.

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Step 4:  Fill your bowl with dip and position as the skeleton’s head.

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Step 5:  Use cabbage or lettuce leaves for the hair and sliced olives for the skeleton’s eyes.  An off-cut from the pepper is perfect as a smiley mouth.

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Step 6:  Chop up any spare veg and put in a side bowl for everyone to get stuck in!

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Tuck into your tasty skeleton! Have a great Halloween and don’t forget to send us a photo!

 

 

 

 

River Cottage day out: From field to fork

We pulled our wellies on and headed down to Park Farm near Axminster, home to River Cottage HQ in Devon, to spend the day getting a taste of how the folks at River Cottage are inspiring people to explore the journey of our food from field to fork.

We joined guests on the River Cottage Experience course, created to connect people to home-grown, home-cooked food and inspire people to get the best out of seasonal and ethical produce by cooking from scratch.

bread rb

How to bake your daily bread: just use the basic ingredients
The day started with an introduction to bread, setting the scene with a reminder that a true loaf should only contain 5 basic ingredients: yeast, water, salt, flour and sugar. We couldn’t agree more.

Head Chef, Gelf, got the class mixing and kneading dough for a simple white loaf which we left to prove whilst heading out around the farm to see the livestock and crops based on the farm.

rc landscape

From field to fork: fruit, veg and livestock
Set in 65 acres of rolling Devon hills, the pebbly soil and steep gradient of the land surrounding Park Farm lends itself best to livestock and grazing. The flatter parts of the terrain is put to good use: unheated polytunnels and allotment areas dedicated to cultivating fruit and veg, and carefully managed traditional hay meadows designed to provide feed for livestock and act as a biodiversity haven for bugs, bees and butterflies.

garden

Fruit & veg
Hugh’s famous kitchen garden was brimming with autumnal seasonal veg – cavolo nero, curly kale, runner beans, broccoli and more. Destined for the River Cottage kitchen, roots, brassicas, legumes and salad crops grow up set against the backdrop of the famous River Cottage farmhouse. The crop types are rotated around four quadrants of the garden each year to minimise crop-specific pests and diseases and nutrients.

poll sheep

Livestock
The team at River Cottage rear their own livestock – cattle, sheep, poultry and pigs. All are cared for to the highest possible organic welfare standards and kept within a stone’s throw of the kitchen – the food chain doesn’t get much shorter than this.

Sheepy facts
Busy grazing on clover-rich organic pasture, Farmer Dan introduced the group to River Cottage’s flock of Poll Dorset sheep. A thrifty breed, the Poll Dorset has a long breeding season and can live on tougher pastures. Here Dan explained the definition behind the different types of lamb meat you can buy:

new season lamb – lamb born in the current breeding season
old season lamb – lamb born in the previous breeding season, but still under a year old
hogget (or two tooth) – over a year old
mutton – a sheep who has lambed and is over 2 years old

RC kitchen

Back to the kitchen ….
Staying true to the season, we started prep on an autumnal game casserole pie that we would be tucking into together later on that day. An earthy mix of meat including hare (net caught), wood pigeon, duck, grouse and beef reared on the farm and hung for 6 weeks, the flavours rising in the River Cottage kitchen had everyone sneaking an extra mouthful to ‘check the flavour’ just one more time (!). We left the casserole to reduce while we headed outside to make our own pizza for lunch in River Cottage’s outdoor wood-fired oven and soak up the breath-taking Devon views.

Bake off! Rough puff pastry
In a scene similar to a Bake Off, it was back to the kitchen to make up a block of rough puff pastry, carefully creating layers of butter and flour which we used to top off our casseroles.

pig2

Profiteroles & thought-provoking pigs
Simpler than some might think, we cracked straight on to whipping up a batch of profiteroles which were popped into the oven, then it was time to learn about butchery and home-curing bacon techniques using a pig reared by the River Cottage team at Park Farm.

How often do you see pigs in a field?
Did you know that we rear as many pigs in the UK as sheep? How many pigs have you seen in a field in the countryside? Next time you pick up a cheap packet of sausages in a supermarket, spare a thought for the pigs. You see plenty of sheep grazing in the fresh air, but the majority of our pigs spend their lives reared indoors in enormous barns, fed only feed and pumped with antibiotics to meet low prices demanded by consumers. You can choose to support high-welfare farms and happier pigs who have had the chance to snuffle around for tasty morsels in the outdoors.

rc views

From field to fork: time to enjoy the fruits of our labour
After a great day on the River Cottage Experience course seeing how food gets from the farm to our plate, the end of the day marked a time to sit down with a glass of wine, discuss what was learnt and enjoy the fruits of our labour … with a dash of River Cottage sparkle added to the food by their team of chefs.

All in all, everyone enjoyed what was a fulfilling, fact-laden day – taking home a feeling of being better connected with where our food comes from and a bag full of bread, profiteroles and casserole!

If you’d like to join the River Cottage team for a day on the farm cooking, eating and drinking (or think it’d make a great Christmas present), you can see the full range of courses here.

Penny’s gardening blog: get crafty with vegetable tie-die

Dying using veg and fruit is easy, fun and will educate your kids about the different uses plants have.

You can try beetroot, onion skins, blackberries, redcurrants, plums, to name but a few plus all sorts of spices like turmeric and saffron and different tree barks and roots.  Follow this link for much more information on what to use and how to do it. http://pioneerthinking.com/crafts/natural-dyes.

I decided to have a go last weekend and took some photos to show you my results. It does take some preparation and don’t expect really strong colours. Have a read and start collecting your dye materials.

Equipment, you will need:

  •  saucepans
  •  colanders or sieves
  • rubber gloves
  •  salt
  • vinegar
  • 100 percent cotton material
  • your chosen dye materials  (I managed to procure some red and yellow onion skins, some beetroot, red cabbage leaves, and a mixture of blackcurrants, plums and cherries).

I made a dye solution by boiling the dye materials, using twice as much water as dye material, for about an hour. I stained each one and set aside.

Image

I prepared some cloth by boiling in a fixative solution:

  • Use half a cup of salt to eight cups of water for berries.
  • Use four cups of water to one cup of vinegar for plant material.

Make enough solution to cover your cloth. And simmer for an hour, then rinse.

Place the dye solution in the pan with the wet cloth and simmer gently, stirring here and there until the cloth has reached a good colour. Rinse and dry out of direct sunlight.

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I borrowed my friends kids and had a go at tie dying some old shirts they had, using the dyes we had made.  Our results seemed initially good, the colour faded quite quickly but it was fun anyway. The colours will fade in sunlight, and with washing, which should be done separately from other clothes.

This method of tie dying using marbles or stones is quite effective.

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Place a marble or coin onto the material, pinch it and twist the material around it. Secure it in place with an elastic band. Be sure to secure the band very tightly for good results.

Livy using marbles and rubber bands:Image

Luke using a stick to spiral the t shirt:

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Tie up as tightly as possible using rubber bands and string.   We added several colours but of course you can’t boil these in, so using one colour is probably a better idea when using natural dyes.

 

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My Jackson Pollock design!

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Our results!

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Riverford Kids Summer Bake Off!

 

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Roll up your sleeves and get baking!

This summer holiday we’re hoping to encourage more children to don an apron and have a go at baking with our Riverford Kids Summer Bake Off. Each week on a Friday morning we’ll be sharing an easy-to-bake recipe for you to try in the kitchen.

We’re offering a different Riverford goodie bag as a prize each week, so if you’d like to enter, simply send us a picture of your tasty creations and we’ll enter you into our prize draw!

To take part:

Simply download our recipe card, cook up our weekly recipe and then send a photo of you and your baking efforts to us!

For more information visit our Riverford Kids Summer Bake Off page.

 

kirsty’s cooking blog: samphire

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I don’t think there are many places in the UK where you get a feeling that there’s not another soul around, and most of those I’ve come across are in Scotland.

However, I managed to grab a brief Robinson Crusoe moment on home turf in Devon recently, stranded on the beach as the advance party for a group of food journalists who were invited to pick samphire with us on the Erme estuary, probably one of the most unspoilt in the South West. I was able to get there early and had a tranquil hour, quietly snipping samphire with only a few cormorants for company. Heaven. 

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Erme Estuary

We ate ours served with a huge sea trout donated by my dad (we were lucky to get it, as he had a little unplanned swim shortly after he caught it!)

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Freshly caught sea trout!

To serve samphire very simply, to accompany fish or lamb, simply boil or steam it for a minute, then toss in melted butter with a squeeze of lemon juice and some freshly ground black pepper. It’s good tossed in salads too. 

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Busy picking samphire

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Gathered around our camping set up – enjoying sea trout and samphire

Here are a couple of my favourite recipes; there are lots more on our website.

spider crab & samphire salad, with new potatoes & roasted tomatoes

In the early summer the spider crabs come into shore in vast numbers and are rarely eaten by us; most get sent over to the continent. They have a light, sweet flavour. If I go spear-fishing off the South Devon coast I pick a couple of these up on the way back; they’re a substitute for not catching any sea bass, which tend to be further offshore until the sea warms up later in the year, but by no means a poor one. Cooking them can be a bit whiffy indoors; I usually get the camping cooker out and boil them in the garden. If you can’t find spider crab, use the meat from a brown crab instead.

serves 4

  • 12 cherry tomatoes, cut in ½ crossways
  • 800g new potatoes, scrubbed clean & cut in ½ or ¼’s, depending on size
  • 4 tbsp good olive oil
  • 200g samphire, washed
  • 200g cooked white spider crab meat
  • a few basil leaves, shredded
  • a few tarragon leaves, shredded
  • (as an alternative to basil & tarragon, try some chopped fresh chervil if you can get it, or parsley)
  • lemon juice, to taste
  • sea salt (see note below) & freshly ground black pepper, to season

Put the cherry tomatoes on a non-stick baking tray and drizzle with a couple of tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 180C for 30-40 mins, depending on your oven. They should be sticky and just starting to caramelise. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. While the tomatoes are cooking, put the potatoes in a pan of salted water. Bring to the boil and cook the potatoes for approx 10 -15 mins, depending on size, until tender. Drain and leave to cool. Cook the samphire in another pan of boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and plunge into a pan of cold water, then drain again and leave to cool. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, tomatoes, samphire, crab meat and herbs. Add the rest of the olive oil and lemon juice to taste and season with black pepper. You probably won’t need any extra sea salt to season, as the samphire is salty enough, but taste before you serve. 

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samphire, sorrel & new potato frittata

samphire, sorrel & new potato frittata

Samphire doesn’t have to be served with fish or meat; if you’re vegetarian it pairs well with eggs too. I’ve included some sorrel in this set omelette, for a citrus hit. If you’ve grown some from your Riverford box to grow earlier in the year, use that, or try a garden centre for a plant; it’s not something you generally find in your local shop.

serves 2

  • 250g new pots, scrubbed clean & thickly sliced
  • a little butter & oil for frying
  • 4 large or 6 smaller sorrel leaves, finely shredded
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 50g samphire, washed
  • sea salt (add sparingly if at all, as the samphire will be salty) 
  • freshly ground black pepper

Cook the sliced potatoes for 5 minutes in a pan of salted boiling water. Drain them and leave to one side. Heat a knob of butter and a splash of oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the sorrel and stir for 1 minute (sorrel loses its green colour when cooked, so don’t be alarmed when it changes colour quite dramatically). Add the drained potatoes, beaten eggs, samphire, salt and a good grinding of black pepper to season. Cook for a few minutes, enough to set the bottom. Finish under the grill or in the oven, until the frittata is just set all the way through.

Happy cooking!

top jam tips – now is the time for making jam!

The sky has turned an unusual colour (blue), the thermometer is soaring to new heights and at last summer fruits are appearing in abundance after the long cold spring – this is the time to make jam!

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ask Anna
Anna Colquhoun, our preserving expert, shares her jam-making tips below and talks about why now is the time to start bubbling up a batch of jam while summer fruit is in abundance around us. If you have any questions just comment on our blog, our Riverford Facebook page or tweet!

The one problem with summer holidays abroad is that you miss out on eating and cooking with local summer produce. (Every year I nurture a row of tomato plants for months only to be away for the bulk of the crop.) Our summer season is short, so to make the most of it I recommend turning your hand to jamming now.

We’ve just held my summer preserving workshops in London. It was so satisfying producing row after row of beautiful filled jars, including strawberry & rhubarb jam, stunning bottled cherries and glowing lemon curd. Many hands indeed make light work. So I suggest getting together a group of friends for a jamming session, or coming to my next Riverford Autumn Preserving workshops in October!

The flavour and beauty of summer treats like cherries, strawberries, raspberries, currants, rhubarb, apricots and gooseberries can all be preserved for months to come with nothing much more than sugar, jars and a large pan. Read on for my top jamming tips…

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fruit
It should go without saying that you should use beautiful, good quality fruit. Wash carefully, cut out any rotten patches and chop into even pieces. I’m not a huge fan of gimmicky jams. (You know the sort, like Tesco’s Cosmo and Daiquiri ‘Mocktail’ preserves.) However, judicious use of vanilla pods, fresh bay leaves or sprays of lemon verbena can work a treat in with the fruit.

pectin
You need pectin for jam to set. Some fruits are naturally high in pectin, such as gooseberries and currants. Others, including strawberries, rhubarb and sweet cherries, have very little so you need to add it. Apricots and raspberries are somewhere in between so might need a little if you want a firmer set. It’s easiest simply to substitute some or all of the sugar in your recipe with ‘jam sugar’, which has pectin in it.

sugar
To make a jam that will last on the shelf (unopened) rather than needing refrigeration, use approximately 1kg sugar for every 1kg of fruit. Regular, white granulated is best, or ‘jam sugar’ (see above). Don’t use caster; you might be tempted as you imagine it will dissolve faster, but it’s more likely to catch and burn at the bottom of the pan. The first step is to dissolve every last grain of sugar with minimal heat. You can even macerate the chopped fruit in the sugar in the fridge overnight to start the process. This works especially well for strawberries and helps preserve their shape in the finished jam.
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acid
For the pectin to work it needs acid. Most fruit is naturally acidic, but some need the juice of a couple of lemons to help the jam set properly, including strawberries, apricots, sweet cherries, raspberries and – rather surprisingly – rhubarb. Add it to your jam mixture in the pot.

heat
Once all the sugar is dissolved, crank up the heat, boil furiously but watch that it doesn’t boil over. This is why you need a big pan! I found my beautiful old copper preserving pan in my parents’ garage by chance (thanks Mum), which is fortunate since they now cost a fortune. It’s true that copper pans work a treat, but any large stainless steel pot will work fine.
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setting point
This is the magical moment when syrup becomes jam! Fruits seem to behave very differently, even from batch to batch or year to year, so don’t believe a recipe that tells you to boil for X minutes and then pot. You need to test. A thermometer will give you a good guide – you’re after around 104 degrees Centigrade – but they’re never totally accurate. So I prefer to watch how the syrup runs off a wooden spoon – first in a long watery stream, then in sticky globs that seem to want to hang on – and then perform the ‘saucer test.’

saucer test
Have some saucers chilling in the fridge or freezer. Pour on a teaspoon of syrup then let it sit undisturbed while it cools. This is your window into the future – a sneak preview of the consistency your jam will end up. Push your finger across the jam and watch for bunching up and wrinkling. If instead it still feels and looks like a syrup, turn on the heat again and boil for another few minutes before testing again.

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You have now made jam!

Let it sit for a few minutes so that the fruit settles. Fold in or skim off any unsightly scum and pour into hot, sterilised jars right up to the brim. Carefully screw on clean, new lids and turn the jars upside down for 10 minutes to sterilise the insides of the lids. Just remember to turn them over again before they set!

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You can find more guidance here, including instructions for sterilising jars in the oven.

Whether you’re an experienced or novice preserver, please let me know how it goes, ask me any questions and share your own tips by commenting on this blog below, writing on our Facebook page or sending a tweet to @Riverford with the hashtag #cooksquestion.

penny’s gardening blog: tips on how and where to plant your veg box to grow

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Many of you will be receiving your veg box to grow kits this week and next. They come with full instructions of what to do to look after the plants, how to plant them and how to sow the seeds. Follow this advice carefully to get the best results – however here are some tips to help you grow.

Here are my tips and some pictures from planting our vegbox to grow outside the Riverford Field Kitchen this week, if you are ever passing feel free to pop by and see how our veg patch is growing.

When your vegbox arrives

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Open the box to expose plants to sunlight

As soon as you get the chance, open the box and unpack the plants. Lay them out somewhere sheltered and in a sunny area. Put the seeds somewhere dry and cool until you are ready to sow them. Open the seed potatoes and put them somewhere dry and protected from cold weather and expose them to light to encourage the chits to grow.

Watering

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Watering seedlings once out of the Riverford Veg Box to Grow

If any plants look a bit loose after the journey, gently firm them into the module. They will more than likely need a light watering. Leave the plants to acclimatize and recover from the journey for a day or two before planting. The plants will be fine left unplanted for a week or so if you are not ready but make sure to check them regularly and water them if the compost is looking at all dry.

Where to plant & soil preparation

It is important to choose a site that gets plenty of sunlight for successful growing. It’s also important to prepare the soil as well as possible.  Hopefully you will have followed the guidance in the box booklet on preparing the ground and will already have adding well rotted farmyard manure, horse dung or chicken pellets. If you have done this you are ready to get planting. If not, dig in some organic chicken pellets before planting.

Sowing and planting

Follow the suggested spacing for the seedlings and sowings, remembering to leave enough room to get in between the rows for watering, weeding and cropping later on.

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Planting beetroot seedlings

Whilst planting it’s useful to have a stake or label next to where you have planted your veg to help you identify it later on.Image

Once planted, make sure to water in the plants and check regularly for slugs and snails. Organic slug pellets are useful, but there are many other ways of dealing with these pests. Look on the internet for tips on organic pest control.

Protecting your plants

Covering your planted up area with fleece will help give your plants a head start, creating a microclimate, and will protect the plants from cold and wind. This should be removed regularly to check for said pests and for weeding and hoeing. Then you can pull the fleece back over the area, anchoring it with stones or sacks filled with earth. Once the weather warms up and the plants have shown signs of growing on, you can remove the fleece and store for further use in the future.

This spring is particularly cold and shows no signs of letting up, so be careful to put the tomatoes, courgettes, squash and coriander in an area protected from frosts and wind , e.g.; a greenhouse, polytunnel, conservatory or on a light window sill, at least. Grow these tender plants on, repotting if necessary until the risk of frosts and cold wind is over. Only then, should you plant them outside. Look at using cloches for protection once planted.

Please make use of me for any questions you may have or for problems you are facing – either comment on this blog or tweet us @riverford. I am happy to help and wish you much success.

Happy growing

Penny