My #OrganicSeptember challenge from Riverford

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Last month was Organic September: a month of the year that’s dedicated to celebrating all things organic, and highlighting the benefits of switching to organic produce. It’s an initiative from the Soil Association that businesses and consumers across the country take part in each year – and one such business is organic farming company Riverford.

I was challenged by Riverford to go organic for a few days in September, with the help of some of their produce. But why is organic food and drink so important?

Say Riverford:

To us, organic is all about farming with nature; looking after the soil, the environment, and the welfare of animals is at the heart of what we do. Farming organically is not about doing things the easy way, but about doing things the right way and working towards a sustainable food system. We grow our organic vegetables for flavour rather than cosmetic perfection; they are left to grow naturally, at their own pace, resulting in wonderful flavour and food you can feel good about eating.

And so, my challenge began. I was to be armed with a Vegetarian Recipe Box and a Medium Fruit and Veg Box, and was given a delivery date. I received an email when my order was confirmed, and a further email the day before to remind me that it was arriving – and on the day, it turned up at 7.20am – which meant that I could unpack it all before the working day began.

The fruit and veg box was very well-packed – it was good to see that minimal packaging was used, and all of the ingredients looked lovely and fresh (mud on carrots is always a good sign!)

 

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riverford-organic-september-fruit-and-veg-box-contents

 

The recipe box contained both loose and packed ingredients, including a separate cool bag containing the ingredients that needed to be refrigerated. I loved the fact that each of the three recipes had its own compartment for the smaller ingredients. My one negative would be that not every fresh ingredient was labelled: while I knew what everything was, I found myself wondering if everyone who ordered the box would be as confident? It was great, though, to see that the ingredients were send through in the exact quantities in which they were needed, which meant no wastage.

 

riverford-organic-september-recipe-box-contents

 

I also bought additional additional organic produce to use alongside the two boxes for my three day challenge…

Day 1

Day 1 began with a breakfast of Yeo Valley’s organic fat free yoghurt, topped with a grated apple from the Riverford box, plus ground cinnamon from Bristol-based Bart Ingredients. So far, so organic. I tend to have light breakfasts and yoghurt features heavily, so switching to organic was no problem whatsoever.

 

riverford-organic-september-breakfast-1

 

Lunch on day 1 involved a trip to nearby Better Food to stock up on organic ingredients for my Moroccan-style carrot and chickpea salad (recipe here). The carrots were from the Riverford box, and Better Food were out of chickpeas, so butter beans had to do. It’s a nice, simple lunch that makes two generous portions – and it’s filling too.

 

riverford-organic-september-moroccan-salad-ingredients

riverford-organic-september-moroccan-salad

 

Our evening meal was a Chilean corn pie with tomato salad from the Riverford recipe box. As you can see from the picture below, the list of ingredients that was included in the box was pretty substantial – and there was a lot of preparation involved! It was well worth the effort in the end, though: I’ve never considered using puréed sweetcorn as a pie topping, but it was fantastic. Instead of making a big pie, I cooked and served it in individual dishes for ease.

 

riverford-organic-september-corn-pie-ingredients

riverford-organic-september-chilean-corn-pie

 

Day 1 was surprisingly easy – what would day 2 be like?

Day 2

A bit more of a substantial breakfast on day 2: Essential organic porridge oats from Better Food, made with water and a swirl of the Yeo Valley 0% organic yoghurt from the day before. Again, I topped this with grated apple and cinnamon, but also threw in some of the physalis from the Riverford fruit and veg box.

 

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When it came to lunchtime, it definitely felt like soup weather, so I grabbed the cauliflower and mushrooms from the fruit and veg box and whipped up a soup. The cauliflower soup was simple half a head of cauliflower cooked down with a litre of Kallo organic veg stock, which I then blended and added salt and pepper to taste. I topped it with garlicky mushrooms, using crushed garlic, the mushrooms and a sprinkle of parsley from our balcony herb box – not technically certified organic, but close enough…

 

riverford-organic-september-cauliflower-soup

 

The recipe box meal that we enjoyed in the evening was probably my favourite of the three: spiced carrots and spelt with a pistachio and orange dressing. The carrots were roasted in orange juice before being combined with chickpeas, chard, mint, parsley and plenty of spices, along with the spelt, and then topped with crumbled Sussex Slipcote cheese. It was a lovely vibrantly coloured salad, and the recipe made plenty – we even had some leftovers for the next day…

 

riverford-organic-september-carrots-and-spelt-ingredients

riverford-organic-september-carrot-spelt-salad

 

Day 3

No photo for day three’s breakfast – I’m a creature of habit, and it was yoghurt, apple and cinnamon yet again. Lunch, though, was proper comfort food…

We sliced a loaf of Organic G Stone bread from Hobbs House Bakery, before toasting lightly and topping with creamy leeks (sautéed, mixed with fat free yoghurt, salt and pepper and Godminster organic Cheddar), and a touch more cheese on the top. Grilled until the cheese was bubbling, it was the perfect comfort lunch after a long walk (and we had it with the leftover carrot and spelt salad too).

 

riverford-organic-september-cheese-on-toast

 

The evening of day 3 saw us enjoying the third and final of our meals from the recipe box: a broccoli and quinoa salad with a preserved lemon and tahini dressing. This was another one that was quite fiddly to make, and we were wondering how filling it would actually be. The answer? Very. There was plenty of quinoa to keep us going, and the rich tahini dressing upped the calorie count nicely. The fresh herbs added a lovely vibrant flavour to the dish – and again, there was plenty left over for lunch for the next day.

 

riverford-organic-september-broccoli-salad-ingredients

riverford-organic-september-broccoli-salad

 

After three days of organic eating, we actually carried on for another couple of days – not just organic, but vegetarian too. There’s no denying that the produce that Riverford sent over was packed full of flavour – a world away from the prepackaged fruit and veg that you’ll find on the supermarket shelves.

We’ve also watched plenty of food documentaries recently that have made us start to think seriously about exactly what we’re putting in our mouths – and as a result, we’re being more careful with what we choose when we go shopping. If you’ve not yet seen Food, Inc., I definitely recommend watching it: it really will make you realise just what goes into mass producing food in some cases.

The challenge also made me think carefully about cost vs. value. There’s a common perception that organic food is more expensive than non-organic – and a lot of the time it can be. But what’s the real expense? If I’m buying food that I know is helping to contribute to a more sustainable environment, then I honestly do think that paying a little more is well worth it.

Thank you, Riverford, for inviting me to take part in this challenge. It’s not only been tasty, but it’s made me think carefully about how I shop for food – and it’s made us eat more veggie meals too…

 

Please note: the recipe box/fruit and veg box were received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the company did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

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