Wednesday 28 March 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

Another beautiful spring day in North London, but the lack of rain is still a cause for concern on our farms.

Drought continues in the South East and with newly bedded plants in desperate need of water our harvest later in the year could well suffer.

The last few spring crops are trickling in before the hungry-gap begins (usually about Easter time), we have spring greens from Wild Fields Farm as well as kohlrabi from Perry Court in Kent.

Our over wintered greens are also coming along nicely (rainbow chard should be back next week), and given a bit of rain we may well see a few more crops ready a little early this year.

The price of our Jersey Royals have started to drop (down £1/kg from last week) and will continue to do so as supply increases.

Wild nettles on Wild Fields Farm are now big enough to pick. Last year we harvested them slightly too late (they were very stringy and tough!), but this year we've got it right - these nettles are young, tender and add a delicate flavour to soups, pasta and rice dishes.

Andrew at Gill Wing Farm has been hunting down rabbits for us this week - the perfect summer take on game. They are in such abundance at this time of year that even he can't miss!

We have a gap in our mutton season - lambing has begun and Nicola's sheep are busy tending to their offspring, while all the barren sheep have already been culled. Expect the return of mutton in a couple of months.

And finally, with the end of lent now approaching, it's time to feast and enjoy the English sunshine. Our service next week will be a day early (delivery slots run from Thursday to Sunday) and we will also be running a special Saturday evening delivery slot. Take a look at our Easter section for a bit of inspiration.

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Wild Rabbit - Cheap, Flavoursome & Versitile

"Why don't we eat more rabbit?", ponders Nigel Slater in the Sunday Observer. It's very tasty (almost like a gamey free range chicken), highly seasonal and great value. If the weather holds, marinate it (herbs, oil and a squeeze of orange juice) and then grill or barbecue. Slow cooking is even better, braise your rabbit with generous helpings of alcohol to counteract this lean meats tendency towards dryness. This year we are offering our rabbits whole, portioned, diced and even 'in-fir' if you fancy having a go at skinning it yourself (it's really not that hard and you feel like Bear Grylls for the day).

Kernowshishimi - 'As Seen On TV'

Tonight our fishing team from Helston in Cornwall will be the feature of Monty Halls 'Fishing Apprentice' on BBC2. In search for 'the solution to this countries fishing problem', Monty Hall will be accompanying Chris Bean to discover the methods used for his 'ethical' approach to off shore fishing. This is a great chance to see how we catch the fish that you buy from Farm Direct. The Programme will be on at 8pm on BBC2.
Meanwhile, we expect to have mackerel this week - keep an eye on our fresh fish section which will be updated later today.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

The leap year means that spring has started a day earlier this year (yesterday), but the recent warm weather has meant that many of our late crops are already way ahead of schedule.

We have the first of the Jersey Royal potatoes this week - the earliest they have been ready in over an century - as well as outdoor rhubarb, which we don't usually expect until April.

The addition of pink beefsteak tomatoes now means we have 4 different varieties this week: incredible for April, a time when British tomatoes are traditionally very hard to come by.

Our over-wintered spinach and chard has spurted back to life for one final hurrah (before they die an are ploughed through) and our organic celeriac and Jerusalem artichokes return after a gap in the crop.

Matthew has been planting our summer pea's, radish, spring onion and spinach, while our carrots and parsnips are due to be sown today and tomorrow. His latest blog entry is also live.

Ripple Farm Organics have been busy foraging for as much wild garlic as they can get their hands on - Shokoh is using it to make wild garlic pesto for us this week. Full of gutsy flavour, stir it into soups or sauces, drizzle over salads or add to a steaming bowl of fresh pasta. Delicious!

Our slow cook cut of the week is the humble pig's cheek. This tasty morsel needs long, slow cooking, but is incredibly flavoursome and when properly cooked, capable of melting into delicately silken strands. I prefer mine braised or stewed.

And finally, we have improvements to our repeat ordering service. Repeat orders will now be processed at the beginning of the week and can then be edited by you in the 'my account' section. Click here for a full explanation on how this service works. Happy shopping!

Jersey Royal Potatoes - A True Seasonal Gem

Jersey Royals are renowned for their fantastically sweet, yet earthy flavour and it is the island's growing conditions that are responsible for this. Jersey slopes from north to south and so benefits from a large level of sunlight, while the soil is well-drained and nutrient-rich thanks to the vraic (locally collected seaweed) that is used as a fertiliser - there is no mistaking the unique deep flavour of the Jersey Royal.
Given that it is the first week of the season, prices are at their highest, but should fall dramatically over the next few weeks.
Enjoy your Jerseys simply boiled with a knob of butter.

Shokoh's Menu - Fish Pie, Lemon Loaf Cakes & Pesto

This week sees the return of Shokoh's Cornish fish pie, made using our white fish from Kernowsashimi - serves 2 or 4.
Her pastry offering this week is Chicken & Leek pie, using our Label Anglais Chicken and our Wild Fields leeks (they are at their sweetest at this time of year) - serves 2 or 4.
Of course we have Swedish meatballs (serving 1 or 2) as well as side dishes of Swedish new potato salad and beetroot salad (best served with our smoked mackerel - simply divine!).
For those with a sweet tooth, try Shokoh's lemon and thyme loaf cake.

Matthews Blog - Seed Drilling & Greedy Pheasants

With water predicted to become a scarcer resource in our part of the country it is important to try and improve the water holding capacity of the soil and recycle the rainwater that falls onto our roofs.

Over the past couple of years I have been embracing the Organic farming idea of using locally sourced green waste compost and growing winter soil management crops to try and help conserve moisture as well as improving the structure and biology of the soil.
I have also started connecting tanks to the down pipes of the farm buildings to try and save as much rainwater as possible.

As I go to check on my garlic crop I notice two cock pheasants, they look at me and almost shrug their shoulders at my presence, then they continue, taking a row each they walk down the recently sown broad beans, flicking out and eating the seed, occasionally they stop, look at each other their heads moving as if they are having a good old gossip then they return to their tea.

Last Friday the second-hand seed drill I have purchased arrived. With carrots and parsnips moving on to a raised bed system this year we needed to improve the existing equipment or look for an alternative. The twelve row folding machine is far bigger than I need it to be but it gives me the option of lots of spare parts (which I recently discovered are very expensive) and once I have split it, a second machine that I can sell on.

Good spring conditions continue and the autumn planted garlic and broad beans are looking really well. Peas, radish, spring onions and spinach have all been sown in the past week with carrots and parsnips to follow. Calabrese, beetroot, lettuce, onion and parsley transplants are due in any day now, hopefully providing lots of tasty treats for the summer.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

While we've all been basking in the North London sunshine this week, the lack of rain on our farms have been causing a few headaches.

The new crops are now ready to bed, but with recently ploughed fields rapidly drying out, the race is on to plant our veg as quickly as possible.

Last week's brief wet spell did, however, give a huge boost to our salad leaves (we now have land cress back as well as purslane) as well as our organic spinach and chard (both will be available next week).

Our white sprouting broccoli has been causing a bit of a storm on our twitter page, it really is like a 'spring asparagus' and apparently quite hard to come by. It's only likely to be with us for a few weeks so try it while you can.

After several customer requests, we are able to bring you gluten free sausages for the first time this week. Andrew Bates from Gill Wing Farm will be making a 100% pork, rusk free sausage, from his organic rare breed pigs and at only £8.80/kg. Choose from pork and herb, spicy pork or 100% pork.

This Saturday is St Patrick's day, and as a nod of acknowledgement we have Irish themed sausages in the form of 'The Dubliner' (steak, pork and cabbage) and steak & Guinness. Also, try Shokoh's home-made colcannon, using our wild fields veg.

Our featured slow cook cut this week is lamb neck chops from Beatbush Organic Farm. Perfect for a St. Patrick's day Irish stew or even oven baked, this cut is great value and the bones impart delicious juices into your dish. Pair it with some traditional Irish Soda Bread for a hearty, warming meal.

And finally, this Sunday is Mothering Sunday - a tradition stemming from the annual practice of visiting one's mother church on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This is the time when young apprentices and women in service were released by their masters and allowed to see their mothers for one day a year. Show your appreciation by giving a bunch of daffodils or tulips to your mum this Sunday.

Oxford Cheese Returns

We are very pleased to announce the return of our cheeses from the Oxford Fine Food Company. Harley and his team have had a few recent production hiccups, but with a new factory now up and running, we can welcome back: Oxford Isis (a classic honey washed Camembert), Oxford Blue (Oxfords signature blue cheese), Hawes Wensleydale (the only real Yorkshire Wensleydale), Hereford Hops (a sharp semi-firm cheese), Inglewhites Goats Cheese (a medium strength goats cheese) and Spitfire (a chilli cheddar, perfect for toasties, burgers or on cracekrs). See our full cheese range here.

Shokoh's Menu This Week

This week Shokoh is baking a Chicken, Mushroom and Leek pie using our Label Anglais Chicken (serving 2 or 4).
Her moussaka received great feedback last week, so we decided to make it again. Try Shokoh's lentil moussaka (serves 2 or 4), or a classic lamb moussaka (again serving 2 or 4). This week she adds single portions to her repertoire.
Her Swedish meatballs (serving 1 or 2) are now a mainstay on the menu.
And Shokoh will also be making side dishes of Celeriac Remoulade and Carrot and Kohl Rabi w/ seasame dressing.

Why We Love White Sprouting Broccoli

Here at Farm Direct we like to call white sprouting broccoli Spring Asparagus and it should be cooked and treated in the same way. Like asparagus it has a very short growing season so don’t miss out!

White sprouting is tender and sweet. Cook it for even less time than you would cook purple sprouting broccoli – the smaller the stems the less time you need to cook them (between 3 – 5 minutes).

Try out white spouting broccoli using some of these recipes:

White Sprouting Broccoli with Poached Egg and Hollandaise Sauce

For the hollandaise
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp water
200 g unsalted butter, melted
smoked sea salt, to taste
For the poached egg
1 egg
100 ml white wine vinegar
For the broccoli
250 g white sprouting broccoli
To serve
smoked sea salt

For the hollandaise:
Whisk the egg yolks, vinegar and water together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Whisk continuously until the mixture starts to thicken.

Slowly drizzle in the melted butter, whisking continuously being careful not to let the mixture overheat, or the mixture will curdle. Season to taste.

For the poached egg: bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and add the vinegar. Carefully crack in the egg and poach gently for 3 minutes.

For the broccoli: blanch the broccoli in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes.
Put the broccoli on a serving plate, then the poached egg. Drizzle over the hollandaise sauce and sprinkle with a pinch of the smoked sea salt.

Steamed White Sprouting with orange zest and parsley sauce
by Nigel Slater

Serves 4
For the orange zest and parsley sauce:
3 egg yolks
200g melted butter
lemon juice the finely grated zest of a small orange
2 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
2 heaped tbsp roughly chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
600g white sprouting broccoli

Put the egg yolks into a heatproof glass or china bowl. Place over a pan of simmering water. The bowl should snugly fit the pan without the water touching the bottom. Add the melted butter a little at a time as if you were making mayonnaise, beating all the time with a balloon whisk. Squeeze in a few drops of lemon juice and add a little salt.

Stir in the grated orange zest, crème fraîche and the chopped parsley. Turn off the heat, beating the sauce briefly every now and again to stop it separating.

Bring a pan of water to the boil. Put the sprouting into a steamer basket, or a colander. As the water boils, place the sprouting over the top and cover tightly with a lid.

Steam until tender to the point of a knife – a matter of 3 or 4 minutes - check regularly.

Remove from the heat, tip on to a warm serving dish (all the broccoli family goes cold quickly) and pour over the orange and parsley sauce.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

This Week At Farm Direct....

This morning's rain caps off a great week for Farm Direct, both for our new produce and for next seasons crops.

There has been a verdant revival on our farms, with our over-wintered greens lurching back into life and wild salad leaves creeping out over our shaded woodland.

Meanwhile, our farmers have been hard at work planting for the summer ahead and today's downpour has been perfect for bedding our new crops.

This week sees the second coming of last seasons spinach, it's final spurt of growth before being ploughed back into the fields ready to make way for our squashes and cabbage.

Our watercress from Chalke Valley returns, adding a peppery, yet smooth edge to dishes, as does our slightly subtler salad rocket

We also have the first wild garlic of the year, picked from a wood on Burscome Cliff Organic Farm in Kent. It is paid for by Martin from Ripple Farm using left-over spuds to feed Burscome's livestock. Whoever said bartering was dead?

The frustratingly short white sprouting broccoli season begins this week. Delicately charming, it is less cabbage-like than it mauve-tipped agnate and deserves to be treated accordingly. I like to think of white sprouting broccoli as a spring asparagus - it responds to the same sauces (holendaise, butter, lemon) and also appreciates gentle cooking.

Our featured slow cook cut this week is Ox Tail from Sacombe Hill Farm. Cooked on the bone it is sweet and succulent, possibly the most flavoursome cut of beef - try it stewed or braised for a classic, warming one-pot meal. Oh, and don't forget to dig out the marrow, it's a privilege not to be missed.

And finally, ever place your order, only to realise that you've forgotten something? Haven't we all! Well now you can add items to your completed order. Just locate your current order in the 'accounts' section and select 'add to order'. Simple.

British Pie Week - Try Ours Or Make Your Own

If there was ever a week made for an alluringly British pie and mash, this is it.
Why not celebrate British pie week by making your own using one of our fresh fillings - game pie, steak & kidney pie, rabbit pie, pigeon pie or venison pie.
Alternatively, we have a selection of oven-ready pies - chicken & leek, steak & ale, venison & mushroom and goats cheese & vegetable.
Either way, swede and potato mash is essential on the side and of course an English ale or stout to wash it down.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Wild Garlic is Just In

Wild garlic is new in this week and here at Farm Direct we love this little plant.

I can remember as a kid walking through woodlands in Dorset with this amazing garlic aroma all around and wondering what it could be. I was a teenager and never delved deeper, but if I had I would have discovered this amazing plant that, while it has a pungent smell, actually has a much more subtle flavour - more like chives than traditional garlic bulbs. It's the leaves that are eaten rather than the bulbs. While they may have a strong aroma the taste is delicate, similar to the flavour of chives and can be used as salad leaves, spice, boiled as a vegetable, used in soup, as well as many other ways.

Today I love using wild garlic, it can be an accompaniment or can be the main event in a meal - try making wild garlic pesto - amazing!

Make the most of this season’s amazing wild garlic with these recipes >