Local organic recipe boxes: why we love them and you will too
PUBLISHED: 15:33 25 April 2016 | UPDATED: 15:33 25 April 2016
There are lots of talented chefs working across Devon but Susan Clark has a soft spot for the two who are producing recipe boxes that will make you feel you really can cook - and cook well
I am a huge fan of recipe boxes and not least because they involve no wastage. There’s no unused scrag ends loitering at the back of the fridge waiting to be cleared out once you’ve followed the recipe card to make a dish and there’s no need to go and buy a particular spice which you will use only once or twice before it hits its sell by date.
Having started cooking regularly using a recipe box scheme that now advertises on the TV (and has just signed up Jamie Oliver) a couple of years ago, I didn’t expect to be tempted away by a recipe box scheme so much closer to home – but that’s because I didn’t expect to find myself cooking the sort of meals that are closer to great restaurant food than anything I would ever expect to produce at home.
The first time an organic Riverford recipe box landed on my doormat I almost had to call reinforcements to help me bring it indoors – the box is large, the portion sizes for the three veggie meals catered for in my particular box very generous and, best of all, when you open it the first thing that will greet you is an overwhelming stack of delicious and healthy greens which screams ‘healthy’ and ‘good me’ at you.
This is because Riverford, of course, made its name originally packing and distributing organic vegetable boxes across the country and actually, I am very proud to say that many moons ago, way back when, I was one of the very first customers.
But I had no idea, really none, about the fantastic and blossoming food hub that Riverford has grown into since those early days – all under the watchful eye of its founder, Guy Watson who is pictured on our food and drink cover with the old Citroen van he first started loading up with organic veg to sell to friends and neighbours when he founded Riverford in 1987.
The winner of too many ethical product awards to mention here – although snaffling The Observer’s Ethical Product of the Decade is worth a special mention – quality, customer service and sustainable food politics lie at the very heart of the Riverford success story and these same core values simply transferred to the new recipe box scheme when it launched in 2014.
And with the boxes come two secret and apron-ed weapons in the shape of the two talented development chefs, Kirsty Hale and Bob Andrew who work behind scenes to create these recipes. Bob was away for the day when I visited the development kitchen but Kirsty, who swapped a career in law for a career in the kitchen, was plating up a mouth watering sag aloo with homemade paneer (homemade paneer no less!) garlic and coriander naan bread ready for a photo shoot and had just enough spare to give me my lunch.
“We work with the seasons and so our recipes change according to what is ready to use now and that means we can offer great variety,” she tells me. They also offer great taste. I know I already said this but really, I cannot emphasise just how delicious these meals are.
If you decide to give one of these recipe boxes a try, don’t be put off by cooking techniques you may be unfamiliar with. Hold your nerve because each step of the process is carefully explained and before long, like me the first time I tried a box, you will be cooking perfect rice the Persian way with a tea towel over the saucepan lid trapping the condensation to allow the rice to gently cook and fluff in the trapped heat. (This is such a great technique I never cook my rice any other way now but without the encouragement of the Riverford box, I would never have had the nerve to try it out for myself.)
All the Riverford recipe boxes are delivered for free and unlike some recipe box companies, you are not required to sign up for a weekly subscription. You can choose from a range of boxes from a three meal veggie box for two (£33.95) to the ingenious Quick box for two (£39.95) which promises three super speedy meals on your table in just 30 minutes. There is also a guest chef box from time to time.
Inspiring and delicious, the real joy of a meal made from the ingredients in a Riverford recipe box is that you are the person who has actually cooked something so inventive.