A Riverford recipe (Vegan Mofo 2018)

Today’s Vegan Mofo theme is food inspired by the “leader of a country, place, or group”. That sounds a little nationalistic to me, and after the Aung San Suu Kyi affair I’m struggling to see much inspiring in our current batch of national leaders (although I’m cautiously optimistic about Jacinda Ardern). So I’m going to write about a different kind of leader, and one more obviously connected to food: Guy Singh-Watson of Riverford.

Guy converted his family farm here in Devon over to organic framing in the 1980s, and started delivering vegetable boxes to friends and family. Thirty years later Riverford delivers almost 50,000 veg boxes each week all over the UK. For many companies that kind of expansion would lead to a creeping managerialism and inoffensive polished marketing, but Guy has keep Riverford true to its principles and a little rough around the edges. Each weekly veg box comes with a little newsletter containing recipes, ideas, and — most importantly — Guy’s News. Guys writes on topics ranging from local problems on the farm to big global issues such as pesticide use and climate change, and he isn’t afraid to share his strong opinions. It’s not just talk either: long before Blue Planet II brought the issue of single-use plastics into the British public consciousness, Riverford commissioned the University Of Exeter to investigate the sustainability of Riverford’s packaging.

The most significant development in Riverford’s history happened on 8th June this year. After years of ignoring offers from potential investors who were only interested in the company’s profit-making potential, Guy transferred 74% of the business into an employee trust, guaranteeing Riverford’s values will be be protected into the future.

And now for the food. When Riverford sends us green beans, I make this ragú (minus the Parmesan). It may not be much to look at, but the slow-cooked beans and tomatoes have a wonderful flavour. Clare isn’t keen on the farinata (chickpea pancake) so has her half on pasta instead.

ragu-farinata

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Recipe: hot chocolate dessert

Today is the Late Summer Bank Holiday in England and Wales. The phrase ‘late summer’ might give you visions of evenings on the beach, putting on a fleece as the sun sets and the air starts to cool. However, as any Brit will tell you, bank holidays mean awful weather. That doesn’t stop half the population waiting for hours in traffic though, as they optimistically head to the coast on Friday and disappointedly head home on Monday. I’d rather stay at home with some warm comfort food, like this simple hot chocolate dessert.

dessert

Ingredients:

  • 20g cocoa power
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 200ml oat milk
  • 20g cornflour
  • 20ml water

Method:

Put the cocoa powder, caster sugar, and oat milk in a saucepan, whisk together, and place over a medium heat.

Put the cornflour and water in a small bowl and stir to make a thin paste, known as a ‘slack’.

Pour the slack into the saucepan. The heat will cause the cornflour to thicken the dessert, so whisk it continuously to avoid the bottom layer thickening first.

Once it has thickened to the point that the whisk leaves faint trails, pour the dessert into a bowl to serve.

Review: vegan fudge from Roly’s

Before we went vegan I loved fudge. Not the sickly sweet, strangely smooth substance made by Cadbury and the other confectionery giants, but the crumbly stuff the Scots call tablet. I learnt how to make it one summer, and treated my workmates to a different flavour each week. I’ve experimented with different oils to try to make vegan fudge: coconut oil fudge was too brittle and greasy, while cocoa butter fudge showed promise but needs works. Fortunately you don’t have to wait for me to perfect the recipe: Roly’s Fudge have beaten me to it.

fudge

As they describe on their blog, it’s made from coconut oil, soy milk, and cashew butter, and comes in two flavours: maple and cashew, and salted maple and pecan. The pecan one has pieces of pecan in it, while the cashew one is just fudge. They have same crumbly texture I remember from their non-vegan fudge, and the price is the same too. Clare picked up a bag of each in Dartmouth, and as she doesn’t like fudge I had the whole lot to myself; they lasted almost a day, as I alternated between them trying to work out which was more delicious. I think I might need another couple of bags before deciding. If there’s a Roly’s near you then pop in for some (tip: they also do vegan ice cream), and if not you can order online.

Review: By Chloe (London)

We like Chloe Coscarelli’s recipes — just an hour ago Clare served us pasta with pink sauce from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen — so we had to visit By Chloe during our trip to London. (We’ve since learned that Chloe is no longer associated with By Chloe, following an acrimonious legal battle.)

After a long walk through Hyde Park (home of ring-necked parakeets) and past Buckingham Palace (smaller than I had expected), Big Ben (entirely encased in scaffolding), and the Ministry Of Defence (suitable fascistic), we were ready for breakfast, and found By Chloe on Russell Street around the back of the Theatre Royal.

by-chloe

Inside it was modern and clean, with a choice between normal seating and hanging chairs. It was also surprisingly noisy; not from the customers, as it wasn’t busy, but from the music. This led to communication problems: our receipt shows they thought Clare was called Cleer, while the table next to us had their order messed up not once but twice.

The menu seemed expensive, even by London standards, but a big breakfast is worth paying for. Unfortunately what we received was not a big breakfast. Remember the beautifully presented almond butter and banana on toast from Good Vibes? Here’s what By Chloe managed for £6.60:

toast

That’s a single slice of toast, messily smeared with almond butter and scattered with unevenly sliced banana. I manage better presentation at 6:30am without even trying.

Clare ordered the sunrise burrito and quinoa hash browns. The ‘s’ on the end of ‘hash browns’ might lead you to expect a small plateful. English grammar would lead you to expect at least two. You know where this is going:

hash-brown-burrito

Despite the small portions the food was good, with Clare particularly enjoying the seitan chorizo. The drinks were another matter. Clare had the cuckoo’s nest smoothie, which she describes as “just awful”, with the balance of flavours all wrong and the beetroot overwhelming the other ingredients. I asked for the Jade Tips tea, and was told they didn’t have that but did have green tea, which when it arrived turned out to be Jade Tips after all, in the form of a teabag in a paper cup of boiling water.

There’s something depressing about tea in a paper cup. It’s what you might get at a conference, where they have to provide refreshments but don’t really care. It’s not what you expect from a venue that describes itself as a restaurant. This sense of cheapness was reinforced by the flimsy plastic cutlery. If I had to describe By Chloe in a single phrase, I would say: imagine a vegan McDonald’s.

The great thing about London is that when it comes to vegan food you have so much choice. Do yourself a favour, and choose somewhere else.

 

Review: The Copper Spoon in Marazion

Last week Clare and I (along with Clare’s dad and his dog Watson) hopped over the border from Devon to Cornwall for a winter holiday. Looking for places to eat that were both vegan- and dog-friendly, we uncovered a few gems.

The Copper Spoon is a vegetarian café located a couple of minutes’ walk from the beach in Marazion (pronounced two letters at a time: ma-ra-zi-on), the town at the end of the causeway to St Michael’s Mount. Storm Eleanor brought 110 kilometre-an-hour winds to south-west Cornwall during our stay, and the Copper Spoon’s friendly atmosphere (and hot drinks) were very welcome after invigorating walks along the beach.

The Copper Spoon

The café offers several vegan lunches — including filled ciabattas, salad, and the soup-of-the-day — but Clare and I were more interested in the sweet options. The contents of the cake cabinet vary from day to day, and we enjoyed vanilla bean cupcakes topped with dark chocolate buttons. What really excited us, however, was the hot chocolate. While many cafés now offer vegan hot chocolate (with the best using oat milk), the Copper Spoon has an entire hot chocolate menu.

Hot Chocolate Menu

Each hot chocolate can be made with vegan whipped cream and vegan marshmallows, and over the course of three visits we sampled the entire menu. The tasted as good as they looked.

Honeycomb hot chocolate

The café also sells a selection of products ranging from the expected — reusable coffee cups, Cornish tea, and jams — to the more unusual: we picked up a bottle of basil-infused olive oil.

If you’re visiting the area (or are lucky enough to live in the far south-west of Cornwall), be sure to pop in. We’ll certainly be coming back on a future holiday.

Six steps to roast potato perfection

The first cookbook I ever owned was called, simply, Potato. I’m content for a meal to consist solely of potatoes, and will react with confusion when Clare asks “But what are we having with the potatoes?”. As a potato fundamentalist I’m keen to see people get the fundamentals right, so here are my six steps to roast potato perfection.

roast-potatoes

1. Choose the right potatoes

Potatoes range from waxy (good for boiling, as they don’t fall apart) to floury (good for baking, as they produce a fluffy texture). Roasting requires potatoes that are sufficiently waxy to survive parboiling, but not to the detriment of the final texture. Any potato sold as an ‘all rounder’ will do; Maris Piper is a widely available variety.

2. Choose the right oil

Potatoes can be roasted in any oil with a sufficiently high smoke point. I use a blend of about ten parts vegetable (rapeseed) oil to one part olive oil. Strongly-flavoured oils will affect the taste of the potatoes, so you might like to try a few different blends and see which you prefer.

Pour a thin layer of oil (no more than five millimetres deep) into a pan large enough to fit the potatoes in a single layer, and heat in an oven at 180°C while you prepare the potatoes.

3. Parboil the potatoes

Parboiling the potatoes softens the outer layer, letting you roughen it to produce crispier roast potatoes.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into evenly-sized pieces. I prefer relatively small pieces around four centimetres across; if you prefer larger pieces you will need to increase the roasting times in steps 5 and 6 to ensure the potatoes are cooked through. Put the potatoes in a pan, add enough water to cover them, and add a couple of teaspoons of salt. (The salt prevents water moving into the potatoes through osmosis, which would cause the outer layer to break apart.) Bring the water to the boil and then boil for five minutes.

parboiling.jpg

4. Roughen the surfaces

Tip the potatoes into a colander and leave them for five minutes to dry. Shake them in the colander to roughen their surfaces. This increases the surface area of the potatoes, giving a crispier result.

roughened.jpg

5. Start off roasting in the oil

Take the pan of oil out of the oven and put it on a hob to keep it hot. Using a spoon, transfer the potatoes to the oil; they shouldn’t splutter if they were left to dry in the colander for long enough. Spoon some of the oil over the exposed tops of the potatoes, and then return the pan to the oven for thirty minutes.

in-pan.jpg

6. Finish on a tray

After thirty minutes, the potatoes should be starting to brown, particularly on the bottoms that have been submerged in the oil. Depending on the variety of the potatoes and the size of the pieces, they may need more or less time; judge them by their colour. Take the pan out of the oven, transfer the potatoes to a baking tray using a slotted spoon, and return them to the oven for fifteen minutes. This allows the excess oil to drain off and cooks the surfaces evenly.

on-tray.jpg

Once the potatoes have browned to your taste, remove them from the oven and serve.

roast-potatoes