Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Monday, 27 June 2016

Review: Riverford Recipe Box with guest chef Sarah Raven

Riverford Recipe Box: The arrival

The arrival of a big box is always exciting, like Christmas come early, and last week was no exception when a trial recipe box arrived courtesy of Riverford. They currently have Sarah Raven as guest chef and this was the first week out of four different recipe boxes on offer, with seasonally adapted recipes from her latest book, Good Good Food.

The box contains everything needed* to create three recipes with accompanying goodies for two people and retails at £36.95. There's a suggested cooking order for each dish; I reversed 2 and 3 as the chicken recipe requires marinading overnight. The dishes were:

  1. Tomato and Poppy Seed Tart served with salad leaves
  2. Sangria Chichen served with red rice and salad leaves
  3. Sweet and Sour Vegetable Curry served with red rice

My box arrived on its appointed day last Wednesday at 7.30 am, much to our surprise. It seems deliveries can start as early as 6 am, so luckily ours arrived when we were awake**

As you can see from the above collage, everything is packed well. The meat and dairy items came in a cool bag well insulated with an ice bag, plus an intriguing woolly fleece developed by Woolcool***

* = except for a couple of store cupboard items (see below)
** = I'm checking on what flexibility there is on delivery times. You can also elect for delivery to be made at work, or left in a safe place or with a neighbour, though bear in mind the box contains perishable goods
*** = the cool bag materials are collected by Riverford if you have an account. The Woolcool fleece has all kinds of possibilities for reuse, which I'm contemplating for a separate post.



Pot and bottle selection
A selection of the little pots and bottles supplied, plus the store cupboard oil and salt I needed for this recipe box

The recipes


All the recipes were straightforward to prepare. From what I can tell, there's only been minimal adaptation needed to make them fit the current season and availability. Normal oranges replace late winter's blood oranges for the chicken, and fresh coriander for the curry is substituted with dried coriander leaves plus fresh parsley to serve. 

The recipe's amounts are adapted to serve 2 instead of 4, which in some instances means more ingredients are provided than needed. I was able to use all these leftovers in my day to day cooking.

Note that whilst the vegetables supplied look clean, Riverford recommends washing them where applicable. I microwaved the citrus fruit supplied to yield more juice.



Tomato and poppy seed tart - the results + cooking stages


Tomato and poppy seed tart


This tart's pastry base is lined with a layer of creamy soft sheep's milk cheese topped with basil leaves, then a thickened tomato sauce. For me, the addition of dry-fried poppy seeds to savory pastry was a happy revelation.

This is a great glutbuster recipe as it calls for a kilo of fresh tomatoes, plus 8 sun-dried ones. Note it takes quite a while to reduce these down to the thickened sauce required before they're added to the tart. The amount of tomatoes used in the recipe with the classic accompaniment of fresh basil gives this tart a rich flavour.

It was the first time I'd tried soft sheep's milk cheese which is quite mild. The recipe recommends goat's cheese as an alternative which I think would give a nicely sharper flavour. 

The recipe calls for a 28cm loose bottomed quiche tin which I don't have, though there was no problem using one of my ordinary ones instead. This tart serves 6 comfortably, so we had enough left over for a further 2 meals.

The accompanying salad leaves were an interesting selection of chard, ruby streaks mustard, pak choi, baby leaf lettuce, rocket and tat soi. We've been spoiled with oodles of my own home-grown leaves, so we thought the packet supplied was quite small.

There was enough fresh basil left over for a spaghetti sauce, and as I used a slightly smaller quiche dish, it meant there was sufficient cheese left over for my lunch the next day.


Sangria Chicken - Result + cooking stages


Sangria chicken


I thought this was a special enough recipe for our Sunday meal last night and it proved to be so. It's a delicious combination of chicken pieces with a fennel bulb and half a head of celery marinaded overnight with orange juice, lemon juice, mustard, oil, a little sugar, fresh thyme and white wine vinegar (or sherry). It's then baked in the oven and served with a side salad and red rice.

I would have preferred skinless chicken, which I think would take on the flavours of the marinade a little better. Perhaps I've got too used to using skinless chicken thighs for our suppers. Whilst this was a nice meal, NAH and I agreed it was number three in our order of preference.

Pssst! If you'd like to try before you buy, Amazon's entry for Good Good Food, currently has a clickable picture of the recipe.

There's plenty of celery and fennel left over for this week's salads, plus half a lemon (Pimm's anyone?) and plenty of fresh thyme.




Sweet and Sour Vegetable Curry - Result + cooking stages

Sweet and Sour Vegetable Curry


NAH makes curry at least once a week, so it's no surprise this was our favourite meal of the three. The amounts given are generous, with enough of the curry sauce left over for another meal for the two of us. I'll cook this again when my brother-in-law and family come to stay as they're vegetarians.

This is a glorious blend of sweet potato, chick peas, wilted spinach, onions, garlic, chilli, dried coriander, lime and dry-fried spices served over red rice. It's the first time I've used coconut milk to make a curry and I thought it worked well... except for when I cut my finger when I washed the lid ready for recycling. Take care, that edge is extremely sharp!

Flat parsley was used as substitute fresh coriander for this meal's garnish as UK-grown coriander is not quite in season. Whilst the parsley worked well, I think coriander would be even better.

There was plenty of parsley, garlic, chilli, and spice mix left over to go towards our usual meals. I've used the sweet potato to make carrot and sweet potato soup for lunch.



Final thoughts


Pros:

  • Great for trying something different 
  • The recipes are easy to follow and work well
  • A recipe box works out cheaper than sourcing the ingredients individually from Riverford
  • Saves time as there's no need to go shopping and the all ingredients needed are collected together and measured out ready to start cooking
  • Free delivery
  • The box is better value than it appears at first. There was enough food for six generous meals rather than the three advertised, plus quite a few bits and bobs left over to go towards our regular meals

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive compared to the equivalent supermarket brands of organic food. However, I found less than half of the ingredients were available there, so I would have to substitute with non-organic foods, or home-grown where possible
  • There's quite a lot of waste materials due to the proliferation of pots, bottles, and bags. However, most of these plus the box and cooling materials can be re-used or recycled by yourself or via Riverford (if you have an account with them)

On balance, I'd order something like this as a special treat again, rather than as an everyday option, and I'll definitely be making the tart and the curry again.



Win your own Sarah Raven recipe box


Riverford are running a competition to win a Sarah Raven recipe box, plus a copy of her Good Good Food book, a bottle of prosecco, and a large veg box. The closing date is Wednesday 6th July 2016, and you will receive the final box (week 4) of her guest chef residency in the week commencing 11th July. In the meantime, there are weeks 2 and 3 to consider...

... alternatively there are other recipe boxes available, including 2 meal, vegetarian and quick meal options.

Note: I received a recipe box to review courtesy of Riverford. There are no affiliate links associated with this post.

4 comments:

  1. I need to think about growing coriander, as I love the taste, but the bags for sale are too big for two people and one meal.
    Coconut milk in a veg curry makes all the creamy difference!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Coriander is very easy to grow, Diana. Best to watch out for varieties which don't run to seed so quickly though. Good luck!

      Delete
  2. I've found this post very interesting, Michelle, as I occasionally have the 'Hello Fresh' version of this scheme. I like the idea of having organic veg from Riverford plus this scheme is slightly cheaper. Like you, I think the tart and curry would be my favourites and am thinking of making the curry next weekend when my son gets home from uni. Serendipitously, I nabbed the new copy of Good Good Food from my local library so have the recipes to hand! :) I think these food delivery schemes are great when in need of inspiration or lack of time to shop but you need to be on the ball about delivery schedules (and cancelling if not wanted that week) as I've been caught out once or twice with unwanted (and therefore expensive!) deliveries!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right Caro, these boxes are great for lifting your cooking out of a rut. They have some great recipes on their website too. Let me know how you get on with the book - it looks like it's a good 'un judging by the 3 I've tested. However, I'm not sure if they're new recipes or a reprise/adaptation from her previous books...

      Delete

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