Wednesday 25 January 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

The first of the forced rhubarb and mutton this week reminds us that January has much more to offer us than the green's and root vegetables that we have so far become accustomed to. Coupled with our new range of home-cooked Swedish sides and salads, the return of Mozzarella balls and organic duck wings, this makes for an exciting week of new produce at Farm Direct.

On our farms, the repercussions of a relatively frost-free December are now being felt, with this years forced rhubarb stems noticeably thinner than usual. While slighter stems are great for the chef (they are sweeter and not quite as tough), a smaller yield can seriously hit the pockets of our farmers. Still, our other winter crops have been particularly bountiful, evident in the fact that our chards and rocket have only just come to an end.

We are excited to have Nicola's organic mutton ready and available for us this week - it is cheaper than lamb but mush more flavoursome. Cut from barren ewes, Nicola's mutton is matured for 2-3 years, making it tender and rich. Try our neck fillet for a rich mutton stew or our shoulders and legs are prefect for slow-roasting in the oven. See this weeks edition of Pip's tips for advise on how to make the most of your mutton.

Another new addition from Beatbush, we have pots of Fresh Organic Goose Fat - not so great for the waistline, but you will never make better roast potatoes... ever!

New to our veg range we have organic celery from Nash Nurseries in Kent, while our cocktail vine tomatoes have been superseded by a new 'classic vine' variety (slightly bigger but just as juicy and sweet).

And finally, we have come to the end of our Solent garlic from Matthew in Essex - this years crop has already been planted so we should have some more in 2 or 3 months. Next week expect to see a range of new garlics, pickles and mustards from the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wright.

Start shopping here

Forced Rhubarb - The Connoisseurs Choice

This weeks we have the first of the forced rhubarb, injecting some vibrant pink excitement to one of the greener periods of the British culinary calender.
Forcing rhubarb is a peculiar culture - it involves both heat and darkness, so that the young shoots rapidly extend in a frantic search for light. Originally it was produced to fill the gap in the desert fruit calendar (prior to cold storage techniques), but now it is deemed infinitely better than its outdoor counterpart and is gleefully anticipated at the turn of the year.
If you're stuck for inspiration you can't go wrong with a classic crumble or even a rhubarb & custard cake, Nigel Slater pairs it with mackerel and vinegar, while I think rhubarb handles Indian spices and Lentils superbly. Either way, forced Rhubarb is one to try this week.

Buy forced rhubarb here

Pip's Tips - The Perfect Slow Roast Mutton

This week Philip is championing our organic mutton from Beatbush organic Farm in Essex. Mutton is essentially lamb that's a bit older (aged 2-3 years), and with that maturity comes an extra richness and a stronger flavour. In this article Phillip explains how to season and slow cook your mutton, be it in a stew, or slow roast until it's tender and falling off the bone.
Don't forget, Cooking Without Recipes is now available for £7.99.
See Pip's tip here

Shokoh's Home Cooking - Swedish Style

Farm Direct has teamed up with fabulous Swedish cafe in Highbury, Curious Yellow Kafe. This week we will be brining you a range of Swedish style salads and sides, all made by Shokoh just around the corner from the Farm Direct depot. We have:
Carrot & Kohlrabi in Citrus & Sesame Dressing (250g)
Stewed Lentils with Seasonal Root Vegtables (350g)
Swedish New Potato Salad (350g)
Winter Coleslaw (250g)
See out full range here

Keep an eye out for the Curious Yellow's famous Swedish meatballs as well as firm favourites such as lasagne and stewed beef, all coming soon.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

The mild winter has certainly been a tremendous for our green crops and even with the recent frosts, our veg is still flourishing. Frost damage is, however, not the only factor that can prematurely end a season's growth. Notable in their absence this year have been the huge flocks of continental pigeons that often blight our chard and spinach. The trade off is a few more aphids, slugs and caterpillars, so you may see a few more unexpected protein bonuses in your leafy veg!

The cold does however stunt growth, so we do have a crop gap in our rainbow chard and salad rocket from Ripple Farm. These have been replaced by organic cavolonero kale and rocket from Perry Court Farm. Our pak choi is now green (the red was eaten by slugs) and we have a green winter lettuce from Lea Valley.

In a weeks time it will be Burns night, celebrating the life and works of Scotland's most famous poet. This year we have haggis for the first time as well as all the neeps and tatties you can eat. For desert, we have mincemeat puddings at 25% off. See our Burn's night section for more inspiration.

Today our newsletter has two contributors, Donna's recipe of the week is a fish rosti bake, while Philip Dundas, author of Cooking Without Recipes, provides us with some helpful hints and tips on how to make the most of your Farm Direct produce.

Due to popular demand we have brought back both the low fat strawberry and low fat peach yoghurt from Tim's Diary in Buckinghamshire, both are available at £1.29.

And finally, from this weekends service our delivery cost will be £1.99 for a 2-4 hour slot or 99p for Saturday any-time delivery. With delivery spanning over 4 days and with 8 different delivery slots we still think this is great value and hope that you do too. Don't forget you can still collect from either of our depots for free.

Toast To The Haggis - Burns Night, 25th January

With Haggis at it heart, Burns night provides the ideal opportunity to celebrate with the best of Britain's winter faire. Try our...

Haggis: Choose from medium, large or vegetarian - our multi-award winning haggis comes from Findlays of Portobello (an Edinburgh baked butcher) and consists of locally sourced lamb, beef, oatmeal, onions and seasoning. Boil in the pan, bake in the oven or go for the twist with haggis-in-the-hole.

Neeps: For me, neeps means swede (although, not for everyone), but you can equally use turnips, or even a combination of the two. Traditionally they are boiled, mashed and sweetened, but you can never go wrong with a good 'ol bit of roasting in few glugs of oil.

Tatties: Here I would go for the King Edwards from Jacobs Farm, they are really tasty and are perfect for both mashing a roasting. Maris Piper or Desiree make equally good substitutes.

See the Farm Direct Burns night section here

Pip's Tips - Making The Most of Sardines & Goat Butter

There is a wintry episode in Wind in the Willows where Mole is ashamed to have brought the hospitable Ratty to his own humble home, with nothing to eat on a cold night. His sanguine chum, dependable as he is, immediately takes charge and summons every morsel left in the cupboards including a tin of sardines.

The fact is that fish tin well and Fish4Ever are leading the way with sustainably caught produce. During these winter months when the range of fresh produce is scarcer and the weather prevents our boats from returning such bountiful catches, we can do well to stock our cupboards with a few of these tasty supplies.

With the smaller varieties, like sardines and mackerel the bones are softened and the calcium and many of the essential fishy oils we need in our diet are preserved. The Fish4Ever range at Farm Direct also includes, Alaskan salmon and Skipjack tuna (notwithstanding the propensity of oily fish returning on the breath at inopportune moments!).

A tin of sardines served on wholemeal toast is one of the most complete and beneficial meals you can have. For a delightful lunch or light supper, open the can and save the oil separately. Season the fish in a bowl with lemon juice and freshly ground pepper. In my view reheating is unnecessary. Use (as always) the best quality bread you can buy and toast. I use the leftover oil to fry the bread or you can add it to a dressing. Serve with some wilted spinach or kale, finely chopped and stir-fried.

Another treat on the shelves at the moment is the goat butter from Yew Tree Farm. When Robert first gave me a sample, I wasn’t sure that the strong taste would work but in the right balance it really lends a unique flavour, particularly to pack a punch in vegetarian cooking. I recommend a squash pâté. They are in such plenty right now and need using up.

Throw a whole squash in the oven until it’s soft. Slice in half and get rid of the seeds. Melt a decent size lump of goat butter (be generous as you would be with a meat pâté and add garlic chopped fairly large until it starts to brown. Scoop out the squash flesh into the pan with black pepper, salt and lemon juice. Stir the whole into a soft paste, add some chopped fresh herb, something with a gentle flavour like tarragon or coriander and turn into a dish to set. Then just spread it on some more of that toast.


Philip’s new book Cooking without Recipes is available from Farm Direct at £7.99. Philip is currently cooking at Islington Barn every week Fridays-Sunday. See for more details.

Passionate About Pate - Handmade in Suffolk

Try our exclusive new range of vegetarian and meat pates, hand-made by Marie-Rose Miller from Suffolk. All pates are sold in 170g jars and will keep in the fridge for 3 weeks. Choose from:
Blue Cheese with Parsley & Lemon
Chicken Liver with Port and Brandy
Chickpea & Corriander with Lemon and Chilli
Duck & Truffle Pate

All products are gluten free and suitable for home freezing.

Donna's Recipe Of The Week - Rosti Topped Fish Bake

This week Donna has prepared an easy all-in-one fish bake with a potato rosi crust. Perfect for use with our catch of the week, the recipe also provides the ideal opportunity to use up the last scraps of your veg box. Substitute smoked haddock or smoked bacon for a little variation.

See Donna's Rosti-Topped Fish Bake here.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

The prolonged mild weather continues to adjust our seasonal expectations this week. Our green crops are still flourishing - unusual for this time of year and we even have two new leaf varieties available, rising sun pack choi and mustard leaves.

Conversely, storage of cropped vegetables is becoming more of an issue. Supermarkets often using a bleach based gas to prolong the shelf life of their onions and potatoes. This serves to effectively "kill" the vegetable - you won't see any shoots or bits of green sticking out the side. Rest assured we don't do this, all our veg come to you exactly as it came out the ground, but it can often mean a shorter shelf life.

We have the first of the King Edward potatoes this week, a medium/floury variety that comes highly recommended by our farmer Ansi. This year they are particularly tasty, more so I think, than the other classic mashers such as the Maris piper or Desiree.

New in our pantry we have sauce for fish pie, Scottish highland oatcakes and Wessex Mill Spelt Flour (quite dense, but sweet, nutty and nutritious compared to is European counterparts).

Our Guinea Fowl are going to be unavailable for the next fortnight, "too scrawny" according to our organic farmer Andy, he will be fattening them up for us over the next few weeks.

This is the last week of our Goat milk from Sally & Bob at Springstep dairy. After two generations of milk production the pasteurisation process stops on Friday - expect to see a new goats milk available next week. In the meantime, try our goat butter from Yew Tree Farm.

And finally, Flour Power City, our South London bakery, have slightly adjusted their deadlines. All sourdough based breads now require two days notice, we will take some stock, but get your order in early to ensure you get what you want. Have a great week.

The Wonderful World Of Cabbage

Cabbage is a much maligned vegetable, tarnished after decades of desecration in school canteens around the country. Peel away the layers and you will find a vegetable that is honest, unpretentious and visually stunning. See our guide to the different varieties:

January King: The regal cabbage, looks beautiful with slightly tougher outer leaves, its hidden sweetness is revealed when roasted.
Savoy: The gourmet choice, savoys are nutty, sweet and earthy. Try yours dressed; the savoys little dimples perfectly cling to sauces.
Red: Braised red cabbage, with its piquant taste and succulence is the perfect counterpart for strong gamey meats like venison or pheasant.
White: Crunchy and sweet, white cabbage is truly the coleslaw king.
Tundra: A savoy/white cabbage hybrid, the tundra is your classic all rounder.

See our extensive cabbage range here

Sprouting Beans and Sapling Greens

If your New Years health kick is still on track (or just about to begin), try our organic sprouts from Herefordshire. We have mixed sprouts (mung bean, green & brown lentils, aduki bean and chickpea sprouts), alfalfa sprouts, aduki bean sprouts and the award-winning sango radish sprouts.

Packed full of protein, vitamins and iron, arconbury sprouts add that bit of flamboyancy to full-bodied salads, soups and risottos. See our full range here.

Donna's Recipe Of The Week - Spiced Mackerel

This week Donna has designed an omega-3 packed take on Kedgeree, simple and healthy, this dish is a quick mid-week winner. Try it with out great taste award winning smoked mackerel from Orford.

See Donna's Spiced Mackerel Rice here.