Riverford Calling …

Forget Avon and Tupperware parties think Green and Wholesome. Think Lunch with friends on the house!

There have been many delicious and surprising happenings since starting out with my weekly organic veg box. 

The most recent one was, when Riverford Organic Farms came calling and invited me to host a lunch. They provided the food, (organic veg in boxes, delivered the day before) the cook and six recipes, all I had to do was gather up a dozen, or so friends. Well that wasn’t too difficult and better still, my friend, Sarah offered her lovely big kitchen, as the place where we would all gather to watch the action, chat and chop, if required.

Sancha, arrived sharply at 9.30 with her own knives, wrapped in something like a jewellery roll, naturally I was curious, a bag full of kitchen cupboard food items and a head full of interesting recipes planned for our menu of the day:

To start with Crushed Cumin Carrots Crostini as finger food followed by: Sweet Potato & Barley Salad, Smoky Sweetcorn Salad, Leek & Cabbage Gratin, Cauliflower & Feta Salad and Roasted Broccoli & Romanesque. Here’s two of the recipes that Sancha prepared:

To make the Carrot Crostini (or Bruschetta) start with slices of sour bread, place on a baking tray and sprinkle with a little oil and place in a medium oven until baked crispy. If in a hurry make toast. Take a large bunch of carrots, wash, trim and cut into batons, layout on a roasting tin, sprinkle with crushed cumin seeds (first, bash them about a bit with pestle and mortar) and a little olive oil and roast until caramelised for about 25 minutes at 180 C. Lightly toast a handful of pine nuts in a dry frying pan. Mash the roasted carrots roughly with a fork, add pine nuts, spread on bread. Top with fresh mint and a little fresh lemon juice. Very delicious and very unexpected, who would have thought of mashed carrots on toast? This would go down very well served with a crisp Italian white wine as an aperitivo … Ooh yes let’s have one of those and soon!

Sweet Potato & Barley Salad was an interesting combo of flavours, colours and textures and very wholesome too, what’s not to like?

Take: 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed, 1 tbs olive oil, 250g pearl barley, 200g cherry tomatoes, 1 head of broccoli, floretted and steamed, 1 small red onion, 1 tbs capers, handful of pitted black olives, 1 bunch of basil chopped.

Dressing: 5 tbs Balsamic vinegar, 6 tbs olive oil, 1 tbs Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.

Place sweet potato on baking tray, drizzle with oil. Bake at 180 C about 25 minutes until tender and slightly charred edges.

Rinse barley in cold water, boil for approx. 30 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Drain.

Make the dressing. Add to cooked barley, stir and leave to cool. Add remaining ingredients and serve. This is one of those dishes that can go on for days. Make a large batch, keeps well in the fridge for fast food lunches or meals on the run.

Smoky Sweetcorn Salad

Leek & Cabbage Gratin and Cauliflower & Feta Salad in the foreground.

Pudding (off menu) was an impromptu affair made with my home grown apples, a sprinkling of crumble, one I made earlier and served with a big jug of hot custard, out of a convenient carton … we tried not to have too many cooks in the kitchen!

If you’re interested in hosting a Riverford lunch and spreading the word about cooking and eating organic vegetables, even trying your own veg box (be part of the revolution), Riverford would love to hear from you. Contact Kirsty Hale, Riverford Cooks organiser at the farm on 01803 762019 or email kirstyhale@riverford.co.uk.

One Legged Food

‘Eating what stands on one leg (mushrooms and plant foods) is better than eating what stands on two legs (fowl), which is better than eating what stands on four legs (cows, pigs and other mammals)’. So says a Chinese proverb offering traditional wisdom on a healthy diet. But what stand should we take on fish with no legs?

Advice about what and how to eat probably benefit those who publish more than the folks who read them. When the Blood Type Diet came out in the 1990s, it seemed to explain something that I’d already figured out for myself. An O blood type person, like me, should eat meat and forget wheat. O types, according to Eat Right 4 Your Type, come from a line of foragers and hunter gathers who lived in the northern hemisphere and what they needed was lots of protein. It’s true, wheat and I don’t get along and I do get along with meat in moderation and I get along even better eating lots of veg and fruit. The blood type diet has since been rubbished by the established medical experts.

Probably the best way to eat is to let common sense be our guide and trust our guts to know what we need. The Food Rules book is a good source of common sense, like Rule No. 20 ‘It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car’, (unless it’s road kill but let’s not go there).

These days I’m so busy eating vegetables every which way just to keep up with my veg box, I haven’t got time to think about meat. Which brings me back nicely to the three varieties of one legged food in my box this week: mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower. All good for a fast food lunch.

Steam green and white florets whilst flashing the mushrooms in a drop of oil around a hot wok. Add steamed veg, toss with mushrooms for a minute or two then sprinkle dark soy sauce (or any other sauce you fancy). Toss a bit more and it’s ready to serve. Add carbs to suit maybe a portion of rice, couscous, quinoa or if in a hurry, hurry drop a handful of noodles into boiling water, wait a couple more minutes until they’ve gone soft and plump, drain, serve, eat.

Cauliflower’s Fluffy

This week’s box: cauliflower, onions, potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli, parsnips, aubergine and salad leaves.

Very happy to see the first cauliflower of the year nestled inside the box. It’s a good size and feels weighty; perfect for a cauliflower cheese lunch, and with all its outer leaves so fresh and in tact, means more to eat and less for the compost bin.

I learnt today that this winter cauliflower was grown on mineral rich soil and ‘hand harvested by the Riverford ‘A team’, a bunch of hardened experienced workers who can sense a cauliflower’s shape and size from five paces’. The cauliflower is a nitrogen-hungry Brassica so most farmers (non organic) push on winter crops with tractor loads of artificial fertiliser. Rapid growth occurs at the expense of flavour and good structure whilst full of chemicals I’d prefer not to eat. Which explains why they are in the veg boxes for a short season, all the more reason to enjoy the cauliflower as a complete meal.  

Cauliflower Cheese

I use 2 tbsp of cornflour but any other flour will do, 1 tbsp butter, half pint of milk or stock water or 50/50, 50g grated cheddar cheese, seasoning and freshly grated nutmeg.

I put most of the outer leaves and the florets in a small amount of boiling salted water and steamed gently for a few minutes. I like eating cauliflower that’s still got a crunch to it. I saved some of the stock water to make the sauce and put the rest in the fridge. Might use later as a base for soup or stock.

Melt butter and add cornflour, stir and cook gently in saucepan until it is a smooth paste. Add milk liquid and keeping stirring until thickens. Season and cook for a couple of minutes stirring continuously. Arrange cauliflower in oven proof dish.

Pour over sauce and grate fresh nutmeg on top. The picture on the left is a close up of my nutmeg in use not a cross section of a small brain.

I added a tomato left over from last week’s box. Sometimes I add cooked bacon pieces or an extra sprinkling of cheese. Place under a hot grill until evenly brown and piping hot. Delicious!