I have been a loyal customer of Riverford – the organic veg box scheme pioneers – for more than 10 years. As a graduate in Food & Consumer Studies, one of my modules was studying organic agriculture and I was sold. Not only is it better for the environment, but to me, the fruits and vegetables taste like they should. The flavours of carrots and new potatoes in particular make me nostalgic for the home grown ones I grew up eating. But I am not here to sell you a veg box.
The limitations the box scheme imposes – seasonal veg, local, no air freight ingredients – are part of what inspired me to sign up originally. I was aimlessly wandering round the supermarkets, buying the same predictably bland veg week on week, and the menus at home were consequently the same. But cooking with what the seasons offer you, made for inspired meals, in tune with nature and packed with more flavour than I believed.
So being a passionate customer and advocate of seasonal ingredients now, when faced with a true glut, of tomatoes, courgettes, or my nemesis Jerusalem artichokes, I have ravaged my extensive collection of cookery books. Until now.
The Riverford Companions – Spring & Summer and Autumn & Winter books – are designed for veg box customers and are a collaboration between owner and founder Guy Watson and the Riverford cooks including Anna Colquhoun and Kisty Hale. Each chapter focuses on a type of vegetable, beginning with an incredibly comprehensive introduction. First up is a passionate personal piece about the ingredient from the founder Guy, which are always insightful, sometimes ranty. Next is storage, varieties, preparation and cooking guidelines plus ideas and tips galore. Then come the recipes.
Each recipe lets the veg of choice sing, and are simple cook and genuinely realistic to knock up after a busy day. Many are vegetarian, most are gluten free, naturally and all of them are incredibly delicious. I don’t know what I used to do before I got these books.
So far, I have devoured more than average for a new cookbook including courgette, chickpea and coconut curry, broad bean bruschetta, aubergine pasta sauce, carrot and coriander soup, spring green dal, new potatoes cooked in a bag, caramelised turnips and pork and fennel ragu. I can’t wait to get stuck into the winter recipes too, which is where I think these books will really come into their own.
Genuinely, these are the books I have turned to on a daily basis for meal inspiration. I am so grateful for the waste I am reducing (yes I sometimes composted the obscure or neglegted veggies at the back of the fridge) for the inspiration and information I am gaining about my food, in addition to reigniting my love of this simple, way to shop and eat more veg.