Bunch of Carrots

Bunched Carrots are just lovely right now and there is no finer way of cooking them than simply roasting them in the oven. All vegetables benefit from a good roasting – it intensifies their flavour and helps release their natural sugars. There is never any need to add honey, they are sweet enough! Today I decided to turn them into a delicious salad with cumin seeds and dill which always work superbly with carrots.

When it comes to buying lentils, choose carefully. There may be lots of cheaper alternatives to the original and the best “Le Puy Lentils” but nothing holds their shape and texture the same or is so forgiving if you should accidently overcook them a minute or two. If you are feeling really lazy, Merchant and Gourmet do a ready cooked pouch.

Halloumi could be described as a lump of salty rubber but it is strangely addictive. People tend to cook it in slabs, which can be a bit overpowering but in this recipe I decided to cut it up into quite small cubes in an attempt to add a little salt and texture to each and every mouthful.

Into this salad, I also tossed in the Flat Beans from my box. I have never seen these particular beans available anywhere but Riverford. They look a bit like a Runner Bean but are much tender and less stringy, more like a French Bean, but flat!

Roasted Carrot, Flat Bean & Halloumi Salad with Cumin Seeds & Dill

Roast Carrots with Flat Beans, Le Puy Lentils, Toasted Halloumi, Cumin Seeds and Dill

1 Bunch of carrots

2 tsp. Cumin seeds

Small bunch of dill (don’t forget Riverford have lots of lovely herbs)

1 Bunch Flat Beans

50g Le Puy lentils

1 packet of halloumi

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 200⁰C. Wash your carrots and chop off the tops leaving a little green. Leave whole if small or cut in half if larger. Toss in good olive oil, season with plenty of salt and pepper and sprinkle with cumin seeds. Put in the oven for about half an hour until golden brown and tender. Meanwhile put your lentils in a pan of cold water and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. They should still have a little bite. Drain and tip into a large bowl. Dress with plenty of good olive oil and a pinch or two of salt. Taste to check seasoning and adjust. Finely chop your dill and add that and then tip in the carrots. Put another pan of salted water on to boil. Cut your Flat beans into 1cm slices on the diagonal. Cut the halloumi into 1cm cubes. Heat a dry, non-stick pan and toast the halloumi on all sides until golden brown. Meanwhile add the beans to the pan of boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes until tender. Refresh and drain to keep the colour and texture. Tip the lentils and carrots onto a large plate and scatter with the Flat Beans and the halloumi. Drizzle with a little more good olive oil.

Carrots in a tin

Wet and Wild

 Wet and Wild

I was particularly excited about the first of the season’s wet garlic. I love this fresh garlic which has not yet been dried, especially as there is no need to even peel it. The internal skins have not yet formed so the whole head can be chopped. I love just baking them whole and spreading the creamy cooked garlic on a piece of toast.

Wet Garlic Cooked

When the stalks are fresh and green they can be cooked like leeks or finely sliced and used in soups, omelettes or even salads.

If you don’t get round to using it all up, just hang it up to dry in your kitchen and it will last up to nine months.

Wild garlic leaves are around now too, so keep your eyes peeled. I spotted a lovely patch in Cannizaro Park at the weekend, but obviously I am not telling you exactly where. If you manage to find some you could give the fantastically named “Wet and Wild Risotto” a go. And don’t forget to throw in some pretty garlic flowers too.

Wild Garlic

I decided to use mine simply sautéed with the delicious new potatoes in my box, but it would have been equally good with the mushrooms, just simply served up on a piece of sourdough toast.

Sautted Potatoes & Wet Garlic in a Pan

Sautéed New Potatoes with Wet Garlic

Give your new potatoes a good wash and put in a pan covered with plenty of cold water and a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and cook until a blunt knife will insert easily into the middle. Drain and leave to cool a little. Cut the potatoes in half, or quarters if particularly big. Heat some good olive oil in large frying pan and sauté the potatoes until golden brown. Thinly slice your wet garlic using the bulb and the stem and add to the pan with a scattering of sea salt. Sauté just until the wet garlic starts to wilt. Serve hot.

Sauteed Potatoes & Wet Garlic in a Bowl

Roast Ramiro Pepper, Chickpea & Coriander Soup

Finally for this week a warming soup, because although it is June, I am absolutely freezing! I love this soup because along with some nice lovely fresh bread, it is a meal in itself and it is so easy to make. You start by roasting the veg in the oven and there is none of the usual hours of chopping. Just roughly cut up the veg, chuck it in the oven and before you know it, it is done. I often cook this for Simon’s SuperClubs or for Riverford lunches because it is so simple and so tasty.

Ingredients for Red Pepper & Chickpea Soup

Roast Ramiro Pepper, Chickpea & Coriander Soup

3 or 4 Ramiro Peppers

2 Red onions (peeled & quartered)

4 cloves of garlic (peeled)

1 Fresh red chilli

3 tsp. ground cumin

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tin chickpeas

Small bunch coriander (roughly chopped)

1 to 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C. Cut the peppers and chilli in half and remove the seeds and stalks. Add the peeled and quartered onions and the garlic. Sprinkle with cumin and salt and drizzle with lots of olive oil. Cover with tinfoil and put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove the foil, stir well and return to the oven to roast for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and tip into a saucepan. Cover with water, but only just. Add the chickpeas and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the coriander. Using a hand-blender whizz up the soup into a puree. If necessary let it down with some more water to get the correct consistency and adjust the seasoning to taste. It should be quite spicy. Serve hot, swirled with some yoghurt to cut the heat.

Red Pepper & Chickpea Soup 2

Some Summer Salads

Although I might spend my days writing about food and photographing it for a living, when it comes to dinner in my house, during the summer months most nights we eat pretty much the same thing – a piece of fish or meat and lots of salad, maybe with the addition of a few boiled new potatoes. I know it may sound repetitive but there is such an array of fantastic salads to choose from that I never tire of them. This simple Cucumber & Radish salad is actually a pickle and the dressing (a combination of rice vinegar, sugar and salt) is the very same mixture which is used to dress sushi rice. If you wanted to make this salad into a more substantial meal, without the addition of fish or meat, you could simply cook some Japanese rice and use a little of the dressing to flavour it.

The second recipe today can be a salsa or a salad. I love it as a salsa on a piece of bruschetta drizzled with extra virgin olive oil or else spooned over some fish or grilled chicken or steak. Both salads work well with salmon, as the acid of the vinegar/lime are excellent at cutting the fattiness of the fish. I particularly like the lightly smoked fresh salmon which you can readily buy now a days. But if you fancy turning this salsa into something more substantial, why not add a couple of avocados to your Riverford order and you have a meal in itself. Don’t forget that Riverford also has an impressive list of herbs at the moment, which always enliven any meal, so get them whilst you can!

Cucumber & Radish Salad

Japanese Style Cucumber & Radish Salad with Sesame

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

2 tbsp. caster sugar

1 tsp. sea salt plus a little extra

1/2 a cucumber

5 or 6 fat radishes

1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

1 tsp. black or white sesame seeds

Small bunch dill (chopped finely)

Put the rice vinegar, the sugar and the salt in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Thinly slice your cucumber and radishes. (Hopefully you will have invested in a mandolin, as I recommended last week, because these are great for this.) Put the cucumber slices in a colander and season with some salt and leave to drain. The salt will draw out excess water from the cucumber slices which would dilute the dressing. Once the cucumber has slightly collapsed, squeeze gently and put into a bowl. Add the radish and the cooled dressing along with the sesame oil. Check seasoning and mix through the dill and sesame seeds.

Tomato & Coriander Salsa

Tomato, Spring Onion, Chilli, Coriander & Lime Salsa / Salad

6 ripe tomatoes

2 spring onions (or the tops from your bunched onions)

1 lime

Small bunch of coriander

1-2  small fresh red chilli, deseeded and very finely chopped

Sea salt

A glug of extra virgin olive oil

2 ripe avocado (for the salad only)

Cut your tomatoes into 8th and chuck them in a bowl. Finely shred the spring onions and add them. Squeeze the juice from the lime and add 1/2  to the tomatoes with a good pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil. Roughly chop the coriander and add that along with i/2 the chilli.  Stir well and check seasoning. Add more chilli and lime to taste. It should be quite pokey.

If you are adding avocado then peel them and chop into large chunks. Squeeze over the last of the lime to stop the avocado discolouring and then stir through well with the tomatoes.

Tomato, Avocado & Coriander Salad

Juice

Salad Box 

With promises of a heatwave coming this week, I opted for a Salad box this week, which contained a bag of mixed salad leaves, some bunched radishes, vine tomatoes, a cucumber, several Ramiro peppers and a head of celery.

I noticed that there was lots of juicing fruit available at the moment at Riverford. It’s funny that everyone gets out there juicers in January with great intentions of fulfilling New Year’s resolutions of eating healthier, getting fitter and losing weight but by the time there is an abundance of seasonal vegetables around, the juicer has long been put away. I decided to get mine out again and it give it another try.

I have experimented quite extensively with my recipes but rather conservatively I have decided that there is only one concoction that I like. It is a blend of apples, carrots, celery and beetroot – the quantities of each may vary greatly depending on what I have to hand but the ingredients never alter – because it is just perfect as it is! With this in mind I added beetroot and apples to my order this week and here is the result. Beetroot is super good for you, excellent at lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and especially at good at detoxing your liver, which is always a good thing.

Beetroot in a Bag

When it comes to juicers, you do have to invest. I have got a basic Magimix one which I have had for about 15 years and it is still going strong and is vastly superior, in my mind to a Nutribullet which was the fad this year and about the same price. I know that Nutribullet keeps in fibre but it is due to this, that practically every drink I have been served from one, is virtually undrinkable. You may strongly disagree and I would love to hear your recipes for your favourite juices.

juice with veg

Beetroot, Carrot, Apple and Celery Juice

1 beetroot

2 sticks celery

2 apples

3 carrots

Wash the vegetables and fruit well. Peel if you like, depending on your juicer. Cut up any veg that will not fit into the shoot. Stir all the juices together well. Drink immediately. (I like to keep my veg in the fridge for a couple of hours before juicing so that you get a really cold drink.)

Juice

 

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Baby Spinach, Wild Rice, Broad Bean, Grilled Asparagus & Courgette Salad with Crispy Onions

Finally for this week, another really delicious salad and a meal in itself. I am back to grilling veg again and although I know that grilling courgettes maybe a bit laborious, I cannot think of a vegetable which is more elevated by this simple process. The rather tasteless courgette absorbs the smoky flavours of the grill and is transformed into something quite exceptional.

The crispy onions are another favourite of mine and are such a marvellous addition to so many dishes. You can make up a batch and they will keep crispy for up to a week in an air-tight container. The oil, which you can re-use each time you make a batch, also serves as a delicious dressing and gets more intense the more times you re-use it.

I love adding a couple of handfuls of shelled broad beans to my salads. Their pale green colour so quintessentially says “spring” so get them whilst you can because along with the asparagus, they will be finishing soon.

I love the chewy texture and nutty taste of Wild Rice and it is super good for you too. It is a little hard to get hold of so stock up on it when you see it because it is one of my salad ingredient staples.

Crispy Onions

Crispy Fried Onions

Thinly slice a few large onions. Cut off the top end of the onion and peel the rest of it. Slice as thin as possible. A Mandolin is really good for this or you can use a food processor. Place a saucepan on a high heat and add about an inch of vegetable oil. You don’t want to use too much oil as the more intense the flavour the better. Heat the oil to 180⁰C using a thermometer. Add the onions slowly and deep fry until light golden brown. Be careful not to burn, stirring regularly, especially in the corners where the onions will cook most quickly. Remove with a slotted spoon, straight into a colander lined with kitchen paper over a bowl. Break up any clumps and leave to crisp up. Season lightly with salt. When cool pour the oil into a bottle for further use.

Courgette, Asparagus & Broad Bean Salad

Baby Spinach, Wild Rice, Broad Bean, Grilled Asparagus & Courgette Salad with Crispy Onions

Serves 2 as a main

A Couple of handfuls of baby spinch (washed)

200g broad beans

1 bunch asparagus

50g Wild Rice (try Tilda)

2 courgettes

Crispy fried onions (see above)

Olive oil

Sea salt

First put your rice in a saucepan with plenty of cold water and a good pinch of salt. Boil gently for about 20 minutes until pleasantly chewey to eat. Drain. Meanwhile put another pan of water on the boil. Snap amy woody end off the asparagus and drissel with a little olive oil and sea salt. Slice the cougette into flat ribbons. A mandolin is brilliant for this, otherwise use a sharp knife. The slices should be about the thickness of a £1. Heat your grill or light you BBQ. Once the water is boiling add the shelled broad bean and boil for about 2 minutes. Drain and immediately refresh in cold water. Whilst you are grilling the courgettes and the asparagus, slip the broad beans out of their skins. Put the drained rice in a large bowl and add a tablespoon of the onion oil and a large pinch of salt. Taste it and notice how the flavour has come alive. Add the spinach and broad beans and gently mix. Tip onto plates and pile the courgettes and the asparagus (cut into 3cm lenghths) on top and finish with some crispy onions.

Asparagus

Grilled asparagus & baby gem salad with feta & mint

I couldn’t wait to get started with a Grilled Asparagus & Baby Gem Salad with Feta & Mint. Grilling your veg keeps them lovely and crisp whilst adding a delicious hint of smoke. This is a great salad to make if you are having a BBQ at the weekend, as it is so quick and easy, especially if you already have the BBQ lit. Mint is everywhere at the moment. One of the first signs of summer in my garden is when the mint reappears from nowhere, green and lush.

Herbs_mint

If you don’t have any in your garden, be sure to add some to your Riverford order. Like all my recipes you can easily adapt the ingredients and this super salad would have worked just as well with grilled courgettes or even whole spring onions. It occurred to me that a few delicious broad beans would have been lovely scatted on top as well. If you are looking for a good olive oil for this recipe, I would like to recommend Riverford’s Italian Extra Virgin at £5.95 for 500ml. I like the one from Giancarlo in Puglia best – it has a lovely peppery taste.

grilled asparagus_baby gem salad with feta and mint

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

Bunch of Asparagus

One or two Baby Gem Lettuces (depending on size)

100g Feta

½ a Lemon

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt

Few Sprigs of Fresh Mint

 Snap any woody ends off your asparagus and drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Trim the very end off the baby gem lettuce and then cut in half lengthways through the root, taking car to keep it in tack. Cut each half into three wedges. Again drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Heat your griddle or BBQ until smoking. Lay the flat sides of the lettuces on the grill, turning as soon as they have a clear char mark. Do the same with the asparagus making sure they are just cooked through. (It is imperative that your asparagus is very fresh.) Make a dressing with the juice of half a lemon, whisked up with a good pinch of salt and some extra virgin olive oil. Arrange the baby gem and asparagus on a plate and crumble over some feta. Roll up your mint leaves and finely slice to create a chiffonade. Sprinkle over the top and drizzle on your lemon dressing.

What to do with my vegbox!

Simon, as always is on the hunt for ways of assisting you get the most out of your weekly veg. We came up with an idea for a new weekly blog to help, encourage and hopefully inspire you with your veg boxes. Each week we will pick a veg box and come up with some new recipes and ideas to help you use up your veg, and let you know about the very best that Riverford has to offer, to ensure you get the most out of your delivery as possible.

Medium veg box_less roots_18may2015

This week I started with a Medium Veg Box (less roots). It is an exciting time of year with so many new veg and fruit coming available every day now. Gorgeous bunched carrots and onions, tender baby spinach, new season’s UK asparagus and crisp little gem lettuces to name but some.

I will post the recipes and photos separately.

Francesca