Features & Stories

Cooking with autumn and winter veg

By Ramona Andrews

A number of coming-in-from-the-cold comfort cookbooks arrive on your ckbk shelves this week. Riverford Organic Farmers, based in Devon in the UK, was a veg box pioneer, launching its scheme back in 1986 – and has also published several cookbooks. Riverford’s latest, Autumn and Winter Cooking with a Veg Box, along with Seasonal Soups (from greengrocer Fraser Reid, based in Dundee, Scotland), and Winter (from the Le Cordon Bleu Home Collection) are all packed with ways to make the most of the harvest at this time of year.

We caught up with authors of two of these titles, both inspirational purveyors of veg with a passion for seasonal food. Rob Andrew contributed to both Autumn and Winter Cooking with a Veg Box and its partner volume (Spring and Summer Cooking with a Veg Box), while Fraser Reid wrote Seasonal Soups to share his own enthusiasm for eating with the seasons.

A veg box will seem like an allotment without the work, and this book will help make veg the stars of your eating.
— Guy Singh-Watson, founder, Riverford Organic Farmers

Banging the ‘eat more veg’ drum

When Riverford Organic Farmers launched its veg box scheme, the seasonal recipes supplied in the boxes became a big part of its appeal. Its veg-centric style is as fresh and modern as ever. Former head chef of The Riverford Field Kitchen, and now recipe-developer extraordinaire Rob Andrew explains: “Wider food trends have actually caught up with our way of thinking. Veg has claimed a larger portion of the average dinner plate and plant-based cooking has exploded.”

Andrew believes there is now an even wider awareness about the provenance of food and a hunger for understanding the philosophy behind organic farms and their growing cycles. He says: “Understanding that seasonal flow helps you make a more informed, sustainable, and ultimately tastier choice. We’ve been banging the ‘eat more veg’ drum for years, so it is great to see it filter into the mainstream. Turns out the hippies were right!”

The book takes readers through autumn and winter, with each chapter making a different vegetable the star of the show. The beetroot chapter, for example, explains the method of salt-baking, with ideas for raw beetroot, suggestions of flavors to match, and recipes such as Roasted Beetroot, Carrot, Lentil, and Cumin Seed Salad, Borscht-style Stew with Soured Cream, and Beetroot and Pink Peppercorn Gratin. Andrew has a soft spot for the gratin recipe. He says: “I have seen it convert many a beetroot skeptic, traumatized by a childhood of harshly pickled corrugated slices. The bright pink color is a great reveal at the dinner table, too.”

Seasonal veg box classics

Each individual veg-focussed chapter provides straightforward but delicious recipes that sing the praises of everything from the humble cabbage, carrot, and cauliflower through to romanesco, celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke, salsify, and chard. The section on sprouts shows that they can be more than just a Christmas dinner ingredient – eat them raw, dressed with German, Vietnamese, or Japanese-style vinaigrette options, or try Indian-spiced Pan-fried Brussels Sprouts. [Don’t forget that ckbk provides a facility to swipe-to-browse through each chapter on your phone/tablet, or use the left and right arrow keys on a computer.]

 
 

Another of Andrew’s favorite recipes is Grilled Radicchio with Squash and Goat’s Cheese. He describes radicchio as a bitter leaf, “like chicory or dandelion, and this can often divide opinion.” The recipe is a way to “temper that strident flavor with a little sweetness from the squash and sharp saltiness from the cheese.” Like so many other delicious things in the book, a “lesson in balance.”

Soups to savor

Dundee-based greengrocer Fraser Reid’s soup bags were such a hit with students and other customers in his shop that the recipes morphed into a cookbook, Seasonal Soups. The bags were made up of all the ingredients needed to make a particular soup. Reid says: “Soup bags came about by trying to encourage customers to eat seasonally or even learn what is in season. We wanted to make it really easy for people to try different soup combinations and ingredients with a foolproof recipe.”

The book has a soup recipe for each week of the year, starting with January’s Sweet Potato, Tomato, and Roasted Garlic Soup, through to an Alternative Scotch Broth for March, Pumpkin and Lemongrass Soup in October, and comforting Beetroot, Parsnip, and Horseradish Soup for December.

Right now, in the run-up to Halloween, Reid’s cooking is focused on squash and pumpkins: “I love roasting them with harissa or smoked paprika and using them in salads or pilaf.”

 

Spicy Noodle Broth, a warming November offering from Seasonal Soups

 

He adds, “Seasonal Soups is the book that keeps delivering. So many people contact us on our socials from all over the world saying how much they enjoy it. It’s wild to get a message from Auckland on a random Tuesday in February saying, ‘we just made the Thai Sweet Potato Soup and had to message to say how much we all enjoyed it!’”

Making soup is, of course, a great way of using up any veg box scraps. It’s also comforting at this time of the year, as well as cheap and nutritious. Rob Andrew is also a fan: “We do love a soup at Riverford. They are a perfect way of testing and trying out different flavor combinations in a relatively risk-free way. No one is going to judge your knife skills; the blender will obliterate your sins.” Riverford’s Carrot and Coriander Soup is a testament to that.

Andrew says, “Even the most workaday soup can be transformed with some artful garnishing – chopped herbs, a handful of greens, crunchy croûtons, or a swirl or something from a jar lurking in the fridge door.” There is more inspiration to be had in other ckbk titles: try Lindsey Bareham’s Good Soup Book or James Peterson’s Splendid Soups.

Autumn into winter

Andrew says, “We see a parade of squash varieties across the season of all shapes, sizes, and flavors. No carving pumpkins in our fields – they’re all grown for the pot, pan, and roasting tin.” Meanwhile, brassicas herald the start of winter, with the likes of cauliflower, cabbages, and kale to “keep us in sturdy greens through the darker months and into the new year.”

For inspiration as the nights draw in, turn to Winter: Le Cordon Bleu Home Collection for more seasonal classics. Pork Chops with Sage, Pears Poached in Red Wine, and Apple Fritters are just a few to bookmark for the coming months.

On the topic of those winter brassicas, Riverford’s founder Guy Singh-Watson notes that in the UK, “We spend more money on peppers than we do on all cabbages and kale combined – this despite the fact that the former is in season here for only six weeks, is many times the price, and is far less versatile and nutritious.”

If there is one seasonal switch you make this winter, make cabbage the star of the show! The Riverford book describes how it can be shredded for stir-fries, curries, soups, and stews. Try Keralan Cabbage Thoran, Turkey Meatball Broth with Greens, or Toasted Seed and Tahini Slaw. Cool slaw.

Try these autumn and winter veg recipes on ckbk

Sign up for a veg box from Riverford!

ckbk users in the UK can sign up for here for either a regular delivery or a one-off order of a seasonal veg box from Riverford Organic Farmers.

 
 

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