Tag Archives: veg

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

Kirsty, Riverford Cook

Kirsty, Riverford Cook

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

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

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

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

red-onion-raisin-chutney

Riverford red onion & raisin chutney kit

Penny’s gardening blog – preparation tips for spring

Spring is finally here and although it has been rather wet and cold, we are now approaching the busiest time of year in the garden. 

Feed your soil: The most important task in any garden, be it a vegetable garden, herb garden, ornamental, cutting or even a container garden, is to look after the soil. I am totally insistent on composting in all the gardens I work in, mostly for this very reason, but also as it provides an area to recycle waste from your garden in the form of your lawn clippings, weeds, leaves, some paper and cardboard too, plus kitchen waste such as veg and fruit peelings and puts it all to really good use. All this, if managed properly, will make great compost to feed your garden with and improve the structure and fertility of your soil.

 

I won’t bore you too much as I have already written a blog about composting (see here), but if you are keen to start composting, or want to improve your techniques this link will help you gain more knowledge. I have known Nicky Scott for about thirty years, around here he is renowned as being the ‘Devon Composting Guru.’ He is also an accomplished musician and I remember being very impressed when I noticed a large sticker on his guitar case promoting composting. This is my kinda guy!

Weeding: If you already have a compost heap, this is the time of year to empty it out and feed your soil with it. 

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Digging compost out of the heap, ready to spread

 

Before spreading your compost, it is essential to thoroughly weed your beds, digging out any perennial weeds.

Dig between existing plants looking carefully for weeds, such as bindweed, buttercup, couch grass and nightmare of nightmare, the worst of all, in my eyes…. the dreaded ground elder. I have some appearing in various areas of my garden and am slightly obsessive about weeding it out. Once it gets a hold you are done for. Time to sell the house and move elsewhere!  I spent a couple of hours digging it out, lifting clumps of perennials and teasing it out. 

Becoming familiar with these weeds is a good idea so here are some pictures of just a couple of the worst. In my next blog I will add more:

Know your weeds!

Bindweed roots

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Ground elder

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Growing veg?

If you are growing veg this year you need to prepare the ground. Some of you have ordered our veg, herb or flower grow your own kits to kick start the season.  If you are still thinking about it, hurry, do not procrastinate and avoid disappointment as we have limited numbers. The veg box to grow starts being delivered on the 21st April, so now is the time to get busy.

Feeding the soil is key to your success in growing anything.  Weed your beds and apply compost from your heaps and for extra fertility, some well rotted organic farmyard manure. This is particularly important to growing veg and should be spread a few weeks before planting and sowing. Chicken pellets can also be used.

If you’d like to ask me any questions, comment here and I’ll get back to you.

Penny

In my next blog I’ll be sharing tips on how to divide perennial clumps and what to plant now for summer flowering, check back here or look out for news on our social media.

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Kirsty’s cooking blog: egg hunting, lamb recipes for Easter & best lemon curd & chocolate tart

My Easter Sunday will be spent taking part in our family’s chocolate egg hunt around the garden (tempest and ice-storm permitting). This highly competitive and occasionally combative sport might look a little odd to the outside eye, as we have more pensioners than pre-schoolers on the starting line these days. But traditions must be preserved and scores must be settled, so it seems set to continue for a few years yet.

How do you spend your Easter?
Without getting into a debate about what the festival means, I hope you get some time to share a meal (or egg hunt) with family and friends. Our Easter hampers have sold out, so many of you will be cooking our roast leg of lamb.

We’ve given you two ways to cook it – slow-roast or traditional, with home-made mint sauce. 

to prepare the lamb for both cooking methods:

ImageCut several slits in the skin of the lamb, just large enough to poke in a clove of garlic and a small piece of rosemary in each. Season the lamb well with salt and pepper.

ingredients

1.8kg leg of lamb
small sprigs of rosemary
a few garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to season

for slow roast lamb

Preheat the oven to 150C. Place the prepared lamb in a snug fitting roasting pan and cover with foil. Roast for 3 ½ hours, basting every 30 mins. Remove the foil and roast for another 30 mins to brown the skin a little.
Slow roasting doesn’t require the meat to be rested at the end as it will be very tender and will shred apart with a fork. It will shrink up as it cooks, so if you’re serving more than 6 or want leftovers, you might want to stick to the traditional roasting method.

traditional roast lamb

Preheat the oven to 220C. Put the prepared lamb in a roasting tin and put in the oven. Roast for 20 mins, then turn the heat down to 190C and roast for 50 mins for medium-rare lamb, or longer if you like it more well done.
Traditional roast lamb should be wrapped in foil and kept in a warm place for 20-30 mins before carving to let the juices settle and tenderise the meat.

for the gravy

Once the lamb is removed from the pan, skim off most of the fat from the remaining juices. Place the pan on the hob (make sure it’s a flameproof pan, or decant the juices into one) and stir in 2 tbsp plain flour. Stir for a couple of mins to cook the flour. Add a good glass of red wine and 1 tsp redcurrant jelly. Stir for 1 min, then add 300ml stock. Simmer for a few mins.

for the mint sauce

Put a large handful of chopped fresh mint leaves in a heatproof bowl with 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp boiling water. Leave to cool, then stir in 2 tbsp white wine vinegar. Leave to steep for an hour or so if you can.

for my lemon curd & chocolate tart

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If you’re not tucking into our homemade Bakewell tart on Easter Sunday, or have inadvertently eaten it already (easily done), I hope you try making our lemon curd and chocolate tart, to see the recipe click here. It was one of the most popular things I’ve ever brought into the farm office for staff to taste test. 
There’s no requirement to make pastry, and the curd is easy to make; just remember to keep the heat low so it doesn’t curdle. Pop any leftover curd in the fridge and spread on a thick piece of toast for an indulgent breakfast or afternoon treat. Better than a chocolate egg (and I may not find any).

Lamb is to Easter what turkey is to Christmas but why?

Despite being a relatively recent import from the Americas, at least Christmas turkey marks the culmination of a natural ‘season fitting’ yearly cycle. Paschal, Passover, ‘lamb of god’ significance is something of an anachronism and doesn’t really fit in with farming reality. However there’s nothing wrong with a bit of pagan ritual to remind us of our past – especially when it tastes so good.

Most flocks of ewes naturally lamb in late winter/spring and take four months plus to grow, meaning that eating new season lamb at Easter definitely doesn’t fit into any rationally conceived farming calendar – even less so this year with Easter in March. However, like sheep, farmers are an adaptable breed and if you want to eat lamb at the time they would normally be born, then lamb you shall have – albeit outside of the natural lambing cycle.

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Officially, a lamb becomes a sheep when it grows four teeth (after about a year). With culinary trends happily favouring slightly older, more flavoursome lamb (approx. 9 months – 1 year old), many of our farmers are able to lamb later, in mid-summer, for the Easter market. This means a lamb which is a little older, but season fitting. Carefully managed, separating slow-growing triplets from faster-growing singleton and twin lambs, means many of these older lambs are at their prime now.

Our Easter lambs are all Devonian, born and bred from Peter Howlett at Moorhuish Farm, Brixham, David Camp near Totnes and Nigel Eggins on the River Tamar. All are three of our top farmers that we have worked with ever since we started offering meatboxes at Riverford. The Camps are an old Devon farming family with fathers, uncles and cousins all over the place – their lambs grow just over the hill from Riverford in Totnes, and on a big strip of National Trust land overlooking Hope Cove on the coast.

Born in late spring/summer last year and raised traditionally, our lamb may be a little older than the 4-month old slightly forced, mainly indoor reared, ‘sucked lamb’ available. This makes for a happier, healthier lamb that is older but much, much tastier.  Chefs love their milky, sucked lambs as a vehicle for their sauces but, for a roast, older is definitely better.

Here are a few ideas for your Easter lamb:

The classic roast lamb with rosemary and garlic: Takes a lot of beating but for flavour and easy cooking, slow roasted shoulder is equally good – particularly when the lamb can share the oven with a dish of potato dauphinoise or gratin while you relax or build up an appetite.  If there is just the two of you, or you really want to push the boat, out try a rack or two. For guaranteed foodie brownie points rack of lamb can’t be beaten – half an hour in the oven, sliced into cutlets and artfully arranged and we’re all queuing up for Masterchef.

Given the seasonal scarcity of fresh greens, a flageolet bean cassoulet with a few carrots mixed in is the ideal Easter accompaniment for roast lamb. Again it can be done in advance so Easter lunch can be as easy as you want to make it.  Just leave room for a chocolate egg or two.

Thanks for reading.

Ben Watson

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The last of the mohicans

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…. I’ve been waiting all summer to use that weak pun!

The lettuce season is drawing to a close and we are now picking the last of our Red Batavia, one variety of which is called ‘Mohican.’  A deep red colour, the Mohican has stood up surprisingly well in the grim weather. Red lettuce, having less chlorophyll in the leaves, is less vigorous than green varieties and hence more susceptible to pest and disease as it sits in the ground for longer. Next week it will all be gone along with the last of our Cos. Apart from some Radicchio in a few weeks time that will be pretty much it for the year.

Looking forward to next year’s crops, we are busy planting over-wintered onions as well as garlic cloves (to harvest as wet garlic in the spring). Along with the winter salad pack for the polytunnels, these will be the last plants to go into the ground for the year. After that it’s just a matter of crossing our fingers and hoping for more favourable growing conditions than we’ve had of late.

Ed

Ed’s Farm Blog – Racing round the PSB

 

One of the nice things about purple sprouting broccoli is the way that varietal names all tend to reflect the red/purple nature of the crop. We have been slowly munching through Rudolf and Red spear since mid-November and although they are now over, Red Head is in full swing, Mendocino started last week and we picked the first of the Cardinal crop on Sunday. Next up will be Claret followed by some Late Purple in April. Peak production is approaching fast and by early April we could be picking four tonnes a week at our farm in Devon alone.

 

Each crop will be picked over several times. The first time through is usually quite light, where we take out the primaries (the main head at the top of the plant). This encourages growth in the secondary shoots that grow up the sides of the stalk: these are the more familiar spears that look (and cook) much like asparagus. I personally love PSB – it is one of my seasonal benchmarks – but it’s back breaking work to pick and by late April most pickers have purple spots dancing before their eyes and are praying for the final pick to come.

organic purple sprouting broccoli

 

Every field comes with its own challenges and our main PSB field is no exception. Called ‘Racecourse’, it is slap bang in the middle of a former horse racing track. Races have been held here since 1883 but the course closed in 1960 and is just used for occasional point-to-pointing nowadays; and the next race is on Sunday. The upshot of this is that we won’t be able to pick anything from that field for a couple of days prior to the race as it is readied for action: fences going up, facilities set up for bookies and punters, and so on. So the field gets a couple of days rest and we will have a look at it on Monday to see how much of our crop has been trashed by stampeding horses…

 

Zest for life – citrus fruit is at its best

organic orangesThe Spanish citrus season kicked off in November and runs right through until May. You’ll notice the flavour of the fruit changing as the weeks go by, as different varieties come and go. Right now is the peak time for these bright, zesty beauties. Most of our oranges, lemons, clementines and satsumas come from a small group of farmers working in the hills behind Almeria in Spain. The group is headed up by Ginés Garcia, who is fiercely proud of his farm and the biodiversity it supports. He’s even inspired other farmers in the area to join up and convert to organic.

Now is also the time to grab blood oranges while they’re around – the flavour is wonderful but the season is short. Ours are grown in the foothills of Mount Etna in Sicily and the depth of their colour depends on light, temperature and variety. Try them in Jane’s vibrant lemon and orange tart, or squeezed into some chilled Prosecco for a seasonal cocktail.

make your own marmalade

Last January Guy took a trip to Ave Maria Farm near Seville, where 75 year old Amadora and her two daughters have been growing Seville oranges organically since 1986. Guy reckons you can’t get much more organic than their beautiful orchards and is convinced that the resulting bitter-flavoured fruit makes the very best marmalade he has tasted. Sevilles are at their best between mid-January and mid-February, so dig out some jars and muslin sharpish.
Try our marmalade kit £4.49. It contains 1.5kg of Amadora’s Seville oranges, two lemons and Jane’s marmalade recipe. You’ll need your own sugar and jars.

Veg heroes

The pick of the our seasonal vegetables to fuel your new year cooking.

Jerusalem artichokes

jerusalem artichokes

These knobbly little roots are a farmer’s dream: easy to grow, with no significant pests or diseases. They do particularly well at Wash Farm – in fact our biggest challenge is keeping them under control. They have a nutty, sweet, almost mushroomy flavour.
order jerusalem artichokes

how to cook jerusalem artichokes
Peel or scrub them, then use in stews and soups. They’re also good roasted in olive oil or sliced thinly and eaten raw in salads. Or try our recipe for jerusalem artichokes and mushrooms in a bag with goat’s cheese.

Celeriac

Another cosmetically-challenged seasonal root (although who looks their best in January anyway?), grown around our Riverford farms. Celeriac endures winter well and has a delicate, celery-like, fragrant flavour. It will keep in the bottom of your fridge for several weeks.
order celeriac

how to cook celeriac
Use celeriac to add depth to stews, mash and gratins or try our recipe for spiced celeriac with lemon.

Kale

Man cannot live on roots alone, so welcome the dark green leafiness of the kales. They benefit from slow growth and are at their best after some hard winter weather. This year our cavolo nero (black kale) is all but over, so look out instead for other varieties, including curly kale, which can be as good as cavolo nero once it has had plenty of frost. Store it in the fridge and eat it within a few days.
order kale

How to cook kale
You will normally need to discard the stalks before cooking – hold the stalk in one hand and run your other hand down it, stripping off the leaves. Curly kale is best boiled briefly or used in hearty, peasantstyle soups and stews. Try our easy ideas for kale.

Veg hero – wet garlic

Those among you who are warily eyeing a pair of odd-looking leeks in your veg box, fear not. Welcome to the world of wet garlic. Essentially ordinary garlic harvested before the bulb and cloves are fully formed, wet garlic deserves no less a place in your cooking than its older, dried brethren. It is milder and sweeter in flavour, and works well in every dish you would use dried garlic in, just add it later in the cooking process and use more of it. For the more adventurous, try it chopped straight into salads, stir fries or risotto, or even to jazz up your scrambled eggs. Don’t be afraid to use the whole thing – bulb, stalk and even leaves, provided they are in good condition.

Growing garlic is relatively pain-free as far as pests and diseases are concerned, no doubt partly thanks to its natural pungency. The fiddliest part of its cultivation is in the planting itself. Firstly the cloves have to be separated from the bulbs – picture a circle of people among bulging sacks, boxes of cloves, mounds of floaty, papery vegetation and a pervading whiff of garlic, and you get the idea. When it comes to planting in October, the cloves have to be put in the soil pointed-end-up, as otherwise the shoot has to make a u-turn, wasting precious time and energy in the process and generally resulting in a weaker plant. Because of this little idiosyncrasy, garlic must be planted by hand. For the acre and a half of garlic we have growing here in Devon that meant placing over 100,000 cloves within five days; quite a task for our harvest manager, Martin, and his team.

Veg hero – purple sprouting broccoli

Devotees of PSB (as she’s known to her friends) will be pleased to hear that this darling of winter veg is finally heading in from our fields. The plan was that we’d have the earliest variety, Rudolf, in your boxes by January or February, but the bitterly cold period around December meant the crop simply stopped growing. A fair chunk of the harvest has been lost, but given that the plants were frozen solid or snow-blanketed for the best part of five weeks, it’s remarkable how much has survived. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – or in this case – tastier.

Our planting schedule was designed to provide a relatively steady flow of PSB from January culminating in a ‘flush’ in late March and April. We plant varieties that harvest in consecutive months; Rudolf first, then Red Spear, Redhead, Claret (our highest yielder) followed by Cardinal. However because of the cold delay, much of it looks to be ready all at once in April, so there will be plenty to go around soon enough. Not so much of a failed harvest as a delayed one.

With its relatively recent appearance on supermarket shelves you would be forgiven for thinking that PSB is the result of some adventurous new veggie hybridisation. Yet step back into the ‘70s, a request for broccoli at your local greengrocer would be greeted with a fistful of these little beauties. PSB is the original broccoli, grown across much of the UK every spring. It fell out of favour as supermarkets opted for its Italian relative calabrese (named after Calabria in the south of the country where it originally was grown), which was easily manipulated to produce accommodating, neat-looking hybrids that grow year-round. PSB and her unruly spears were banished to the veg plots of ‘backward’ gardeners. Another example of how the supermarkets’ desire for uniform veg eclipsed the more fundamental qualities of flavour and seasonality.

You can order PSB from our extras range at the moment (there’s not enough coming in to put in all the boxes just yet), but come April when the flush hits, you’ll be able to fill your boots. The whole of the plant is edible, including the leaves. The trick is to get the stalk tender without overdoing the flower buds – try bunching the spears together and boiling standing up in a pan, asparagus-style.