Riverford Recipe Box Happiness

On Thursday we received the Riverford vegetarian recipe box containing the ingredients for three vegetarian meals for two.

I had not anticipated that the box would:

a) be so overflowing with vegetables and ingredients

b) that I would be quite so excited about unpacking the goodies

Jamie and I rummaged through the intriguing ingredients in the box which included kefir, dill, harrissa and beetroot, I wondered what they would all be for.  I was particularly delighted about the kefir – I’ve heard a lot about the health benefits of kefir lately and was keen to try it.

Within the box there was a bag cooled with ice that contained the items for the fridge, and as well as the veg, there were little pots of spices measured out precisely for the recipes.

We didn’t waste anytime and cracked on with a recipe for our Thursday night dinner. Sweetcorn and leek fritters with tomato and onion relish and alfafa salad (see photo above). Easy to assemble and cook and a delicous combination of fresh flavours.  This wasn’t any old average meal, it was exceptionally good.

Friday’s mealtime I would say was my favourite though, harissa falafels with spiced beetroot, kefir dressing and pittas.  I’ve had falafels many times before but I often find them a little dry, but these were so moist, the beetroot mix was beautifully spicy and sweet and the kefir dressing was a lovely creamy herby addition.

recipe box Harissa falafels with spiced beetroot, kefir dressing and pittas
Harissa falafels with spiced beetroot, kefir dressing and pittas

Saturday lunchtime we cooked our final meal: chimichurri and roasted mushrooms with baked sweet potatoes and lentils. OMG I am now a convert to chimichurri (a spicy sauce made with parsley, chilli and garlic) – it was the perfect compliment to the veg and really lifted the dish.

What was noticeable about all these dishes was that they were so imaginative and well thought out.  I’m quite a recipe snob and we eat a lot of excellent homecooked food, but the three meals were exotic and brilliantly flavoured.  They were a real joy to prepare and then eat. The recipes cards were so easy to follow too.

I think these recipe boxes would be such a treat for people who love their food and want to eat healthy, inspiring and varied meals, but just don’t have the time to:

a) be looking up interesting recipes

b) sourcing ingredients

c) spending hours in the kitchen measuring out ingredients

Riverford have got it spot on!

Recipe box Chimichurri and roasted mushrooms with baked sweet potatoes and lentils
Chimichurri and roasted mushrooms with baked sweet potatoes and lentils
Thanks to Riverford for providing the vegetarian recipe box.  All opinions and words are my own.

Riverford Pop Up Feast, Uppermill

We signed up to weekly Riverford veg boxes three months ago as part of my bid to be more environmental. We haven’t looked back since. I am now a Riverford evangelist. The produce is delightfully fresh and flavourful and it’s given us the opportunity to cook some cracking meals that really focus on the veg. I’ve been especially pleased that we’ve been confronted with foods we wouldn’t normally cook – eg daikon radishes, kolrabi and corn on the cob. We’ve had to dig deep and work out what to do with the stuff, and without fail, the outcome has been delicious.

I was looking forward to the Riverford Pop Up Feast in Upper Mill as it was another excuse for me to gorge myself on Riverford veg and learn more exciting ways of celebrating veg in dishes. The meal was part of a number of events Riverford were running to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Riverford’s Yorkshire farm. Riverford itself has been running for 30 years, but the Northern franchises have been a newer addition. Riverford customers were invited to attend at a bargain price of £15 a head.

Riverford A marvellous feast of veg!
A marvellous feast of veg!

I can confirm that the food was exceptional, and here’s the menu:

Sweetcorn with romesco

Tomato, pickled peppers and feta panzanella

Courgette and bean salad with orange, tahini and poppy seed

New potatoes with tarragon butter

Beetroot, rhubarb and blue cheese salad

Macerated nectarines with brown sugar meringues

Jamie and I were lucky enough to sit with Greg Penn, Business Development Manager for Riverford’s Home Farm in Yorkshire. We really bent his ear. I wanted to know everything about Riverford, the farming and the franchises. It was fascinating hearing all about it and we also spent a long time raving about Riverford vegetables and our favourite recipes. This might not be everyone’s idea of a good night out, but I was in my element!

Riverford yet more veg!
Yet more veg!

I went home very full and inspired. I also came away fired up to spread the word about Riverford and other organic farms, so that more people can join me in evangalising about beautiful organic vegetables, and of course so that farms and companies that are helping the planet get more support.

Thanks to Riverford for inviting us as guests.  All opinions and words are my own.

Weekly Eats 13th May

If anything the pace of my eating exploits has intensified despite my good intentions to diet. However I’m pleased to report that I have lost a pound, so I must have made some decent food choices.

So let me talk you through the week:

Monday Lunch: chicken and avocado salad from Pret, starting the week on a healthy note.  It was super delicious actually.

Tuesday Evening: I went to a Cracking Good Food talk about tackling food waste and we were treated to homemade coconut and butternut squash soup and a gorgeous freshly baked very oniony and moist focaccia.  I must must learn how to succesfully make focaccia.

Wednesday Lunch: I was out and about in Didsbury and had a tremendous cheese board at Wine and Wallop.

Wednesday Evening: Jamie Oliver’s butternut squash curry.  One of the best things I’ve eaten all year.  A lot of coconut milk gave a very creamy melt in the mouth flavour.

Thursday Lunch: I went to This and That in the Northern Quarter for the very first time.  Whilst it’s not high end dining, three vegetarian curries and rice for £3.90 is not something to argue with.  I enjoyed the food and the communal eating vibe – it’s fun.

Friday Evening: I was invited to a ‘Cooking Together With The Chef’ evening at Food Sorcery in Didsbury.  The delightful chef Jason Palin helped us cook fish tacos, peri peri chicken and beetroot and chickpea salad with baklava for pudding.  It was such a lively, interesting night, helped along with some tasty prosecco and wine.

Saturday Lunch: I met a friend at Earth Cafe in the Buddhist Centre in the Northern Quarter. Huge quantities of veggie food for just £7, my plate was piled with dal, sweet potato pie, plantain fritter and beetroot salad.  Tasty! And I loved the chilled out vibe of the place.

Eat Avocado and chicken salad at Pret a Manger
Avocado and chicken salad at Pret a Manger
eat Fresh focaccia and butternut squash and coconut soup
Fresh focaccia and butternut squash and coconut soup
eat Wine and Wallop cheese board
Wine and Wallop cheese board
eat Butternut squash and chickpea curry
Butternut squash and chickpea curry
eat This and That rice and three
This and That rice and three
eat Fish tacos at Food Sorcery
Fish tacos at Food Sorcery
eat Peri peri chicken and beetroot and chickpea salad
Peri peri chicken and beetroot and chickpea salad at Food Sorcery
eat Baklava at Food Sorcery
Baklava at Food Sorcery
eat Dal, sweet potato pie, plaintain fritter and beetroot salad at Earth Cafe
Dal, sweet potato pie, plaintain fritter and beetroot salad at Earth Cafe

Cooking The Books: The Green Kitchen

It wasn’t love at first sight with this book.  Well I was certainly in love with the beautiful photography, but when it came to the nitty gritty of choosing recipes to cook, I was less enamoured.

For some reason none of the recipes really jumped off the  page for me.  They looked difficult to make, had obscure ingredients and some of them sounded outright boring.

How wrong I was.  This is an inspirational book.

For those who don’t know anything about The Green Kitchen – it’s a vegetarian cookbook written by Scandinavian couple, David Frenkiel and Luisa Vindahl.  He’s a magazine photographer, she’s a nutritional therapist. Good combo.

I would describe their cookery as thoughtful, original and super healthy.  You feel so good after eating their food, full and yet light and satisfied.

I think it’s fair to say that we had revelations with these recipes.  The rye bread in particular blew our minds.  We couldn’t believe we’d made this dense, beautiful seedy rye bread.  The sense of achievement was epic.

And pistachio falafels with salsa and nut dip were sensational and just an interesting flavour.  As was the coconut and fennel tart made with an almond flour base.  Oh and the aubergine, hazelnut, ricotta parcel.  OMG they were good.  And what better way to eat food served and in wrapped parcels out of the oven.  The anticipation was fabulous.

This recipe book was definitely an education for me.  When vegetarian food tastes this good and complex and makes you feel this satisfied, why bother with meat?  It also demonstrated how different you can feel after a beautiful healthy dinner.  You feel well, and energetic and positive.

Favourites

Pistachio falafels
Rye bread
Fennel and coconut tart
Sicilian parmigiana di zucchini
Hazelnut, aubergine, ricotta and mushroom parcels

Also Goods

Raspberry brownies
Green Kitchen cauliflower, apricot and coconut dahl
Cauliflower, apricot and coconut dahl
The Green Kitchen Decadent chocolate and beetroot cake
Decadent chocolate and beetroot cake

This is one of my favourite cookbooks of the year.  I think it’s a real achievement when a cookbook converts you to thinking differently about how and what you eat.  And as I said at the beginning it wasn’t love at first sight but more of a slowly igniting passion, which is way more interesting!

Cooking the Books: Rachel Khoo’s ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’

On my return from France, because I was so fired up about French food I was desperate to review a French cookery book.  But, alas none of my 80 cookbooks are French.  Luckily my friend Katy came to the rescue with Rachel Khoo’s ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’.

I hadn’t personally been a fan of the tv programme – I found Rachel a bit smug with her glamourous outfits and her adorable Paris life and her perfect food.  Or more accurately I was probably jealous. However I am now eating humble pie.  Rachel Khoo – I apologise for misjudging you – I’m converted – your food is ace.

I wouldn’t recommend this book if you’re on a diet – there’s a lot of cream and cheese, although I did try and select the marginally more healthy options.  But I must confess I did like cooking with naughty ingredients.  It made a refreshing change from my comfort zone of reviewing healthy cookbooks.

The dishes were so good I’ve even had to invent new categories for grading the dishes we tested.  Firstly we’ve got the ‘Off The Scale’ category, followed by ‘Excellent’, finishing with ‘Really Good’.

I’ll talk you through them:

Off The Scale

  1. Cauliflower bake with hazelnut crunch.  Cauliflower cheese is a comfort food dish, but this is a glammed up version.  The crunchy breadcrumbs and hazelnuts on top were a lovely addition.  I regret that I over steamed the cauliflower.  Next time I will aspire to crunchier cauliflower.
  2. Bouillabaisse or fish stew.  This was our new year’s eve dinner.  I loved the exotic blend of herbs and spices – star anise, orange zest, fennel seeds, thyme and saffron threads – I’ve never eaten seafood with that kind of citrussy base before.  We tried to make the ‘rouille’ to go with it – a saffrony homemade mayonnaise.   Two attempts but no success  – I think more thorough guidance  from Khoo would have been useful, but the stew was still exceptional without it.
  3. Chocolate lava cakes with salted caramel filling.  It was a triumphant moment at our table when Jamie and I tucked into these beauties.  Hot molten chocolate with salted caramel in the middle. A definite moment of pudding heaven for me.
France 3
Cauliflower bake with hazelnut crunch crust
France 4
Bouillabase (sadly without the rouille)
Chocolate lava cake with salted caramel filling

Excellent

  1. Smoky fish pie.  A good way to use up the leftovers from the christmas cheeseboard and random old veg in our fridge.  This was made with smoked haddock, bechamel sauce and veg of  your choice.  It was a lovely warming wintery dish.
  2. Puy lentil salad with goat’s cheese, beetroot and a dill vinaigrette.  The perfect post christmas health kick dinner with the dill sauce adding a nice fresh, tart note.
  3. Chicken and mushrooms in a white wine sauce.  Chicken and mushrooms with cream and wine is always a winner and the aniseedy tarragon on top really made it for me.
France 7
Smoky fish pie
France 1
Puy lentil salad with goat’s cheese, beetroot and a dill vinaigrette
France 6
Chicken and mushroom in white wine sauce

Really Good

  1. Mushroom terrine.  Basically a mushroom quiche without a pastry.  Simple and tasty.
  2. Carrot salad and celeriac and apple salad.  I too often forget how good salads can taste with a bit of love and imagination.  We were particularly taken with the celeriac and apple salad – the mustard and white wine vinegar giving it some pep.
France 8
Mushroom terrine
France 2
Carrot salad and celeriac and apple salad

I was rather sorry when we cooked the final recipe from ‘The Little Paris Kitchen’.  It had been a lot of fun – I had enjoyed the feeling of extending my french holiday by continuing to learn about French cooking and eating French food.  I also did really like the excuse to cook with fattening ingredients – the French know what they are doing with cream and butter.  Thanks Rachel, your cookbook is colourful, inspiring and you make it easy for readers to get impressive results.

 

Cooking The Books: Dale Pinnock’s ‘The Medicinal Chef’

I’m a sucker for a good healthy cookbook, but the recipes need to be delicious too.  On first impressions the title Medicinal Chef is a bit off-putting – it sounds rather clinical and dull, but in fact it really delivered.  The recipes were not only incredibly fresh and tasty, but they were quick and easy to knock together.

Here are the favourites:

  1. Prawn and salmon skewers and citrus quinoa salad – this was such a hit for us.  I thought it looked a bit plain in the cookery book, but it was far from it.  The quinoa was mixed with parsley and the juice and zest of a lime and really lit up the meal.
  2. No cheese chocolate cheesecake – made with avocados, a nut base and honey instead of sugar.  It was not particularly sweet, but once you got your head around that you could enjoy the subtle earthy flavours of the cake and feel smug for being so healthy.
  3. Immune-boosting king prawn curry – as good as any curry we ate in Goa.
  4. Sweet potato and spinach curry – a really delicate curry – and I loved the toasted almonds on top.
  5. Grilled mackerel with sauted fennel and leek – the photo of this below does not convey how good this dish was.  Fresh, fragrant – you felt virtuous while you were eating it but thoroughly satisfied by the excellent flavours.
Healthy 2
Prawn and salmon skewers with citrus quinoa salad
Healthy 3
No cheese chocolate cheesecake
Healthy 4
Immune-boosting king prawn curry
Healthy 10
Sweet potato and spinach curry
Healthy 5
Grilled mackerel with sauted fennel and leek

And as we liked absolutely everything we cooked, here are the also very goods:

  1. Vegetable crumble with cheesy oat topping – a great way of using up all the leftover veg in our fridge.  I thought the oaty cheese crumble mix on the top was genius.  Especially the oaty twist.
  2. Thai green vegetable curry – our motivation again was to get rid of old veg and what a delicious way to do it.
  3. Mackerel marinated with beetroot and horseradish – I choose not to put a photo up as it looked revolting. It did however taste very nice – the horseradish with the beetroot was a great blend and I love the taste of mackerel.  And did you know mackerel is super cheap?
Healthy 6
Vegetable crumble with cheesy oat topping
Healthy 7
Thai green vegetable curry

Dale Pinnock’s Medicinal Chef may not be as sexy and on trend as Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food, but is the same premise.  Delicious, easy to make healthy food.  I marginally prefer Jamie Oliver’s book – perhaps it is because the photography is so good and the dishes jump out at you from the page.  But Dale’s recipes are quicker to make and require only a few ingredients – so I’d big Dale up for convenience.  I’d thoroughly recommend giving Medicinal Chef a go – I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s helped keep my waistline in check in the lead up to Christmas!

Cooking the Books: Anjum Anand’s ‘Indian Vegetarian Feast’

Having just returned from our holiday in Goa, it was inevitable that we were going to choose an Indian cookery book!  And Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast felt like a good opportunity to try and keep things light and healthy.

Favourites

  1. Chickpea burgers with Indian purple coleslaw.  The creamy, lemony sour coleslaw did it for me!
  2. Cannellini bean, spring greens and quinoa pilaf. An unexpected favourite.  I thought it might taste bland and worthy but I was very wrong.  Garlicky, lemony, salt, cuminy and somehow earthy and meaty.
  3. Spice-crusted halloumi with fig and pistachio chutney.  Jamie’s verdict was ‘that chutney’s summit else’ which I think is quite an endorsement.
Anjum 2
Chickpea burgers with Indian purple coleslaw
Anjum 3
Cannellini bean, spring greens and quinoa pilaf
Anjum 4
Spiced crusted halloumi with fig and pistachio chutney

Also Very Goods

  1. Rogan Mushrooms and wild basmati rice and spinach raita – I particularly liked the raita.
  2. Smoky spiced aubergines – the aubergines gave this curry a nice meaty feel.
  3. Lemony vegetable and spinach hotpot –  just a good fresh, wholesome, warming curry.
  4. Squash, butter bean and mushroom curry – the double cream gave this dish an indulgent feel.
  5. Elegant vegetable biriyani – I really loved the crispy fried sweet potato slices onion sprinkled on top.
Anjum 6
Rogan mushrooms and wild basmati rice
Anjum 7
Smoky spiced aubergines
Anjum 8
Lemony spinach and vegetable hotpot
Anjum 9
Squash, butter bean and mushroom curry

Anjum 5We loved cooking from Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast – I was a bit daunted by the long lists of ingredients for each dish, but actually most of them were very commonplace and nearly all of the spices were in our cupboards already.  The recipes themselves were extremely straightforward and Jamie and myself were surprised at how much we enjoyed being vegetarians for eight days.  The dishes were not only delicious, but each curry was so different from the last, so kept our interest. And I loved that everything was fresh and healthy – I did feel very virtuous throughout.  I’d really recommend buying this book and giving it a whirl.