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On the road to thoughtful eating with Hemsley & Hemsley

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Healthy cooking champions the Hemsley sisters are on a road trip discovering delicious and nutritious homegrown British foods. Jasmine and Melissa are visiting producers who share their passion for thoughtful eating, getting the low-down on the country’s tastiest organic fare. They’re on a mission to rediscover the heritage of our food and to learn exactly what goes into the ingredients we feed ourselves and our families. They’ll then whip up some sumptuous summer feasts with their new-found knowledge.

Riverford in Buckfastleigh, Devon.

Jasmine and Melissa visit the south Devon home of Riverford, the award-winning organic vegbox business.

25 years ago Guy Watson started delivering vegetables locally to 30 friends and neighbours. Today, the family business delivers an astonishing 40,000 boxes a week nationally from its five farms and network of British farmers. Franchises have been formed to ensure speedy delivery from field to table resulting in extraordinarily fresh organic produce.

The sisters use Riverford veg when cooking for their private clients and catering events and therefore know Rachel Lovell, the company’s PR manager, very well. They caught up with both her and assistant harvest manager Ed Scott to hear more about the Riverford ethos and the benefits of buying seasonal and organic produce.

Walking through the fields in their wellies, the first thing they noticed about Riverford was its colour and character.The girls had their GALAXY S4 with them to capture the vibrant beautiful surroundings.

Ed explained that Riverford pickers are encouraged to try the veg and fruit as they work so that they familiarise themselves with the changing qualities of the crop as it ripens, and know when it is spot on for harvesting. This approach to veggie picking may seem obvious to those not in the profession, but with conventional farming the reality is that eating straight from the field is far from appealing - you’d want to wash off any chemical residues well before putting the produce anywhere near your mouth. It’s an exciting and encouraging sign that everything here tastes great directly from the ground. You can’t get fresher than that!

The Riverford philosophy of farming is to grow and harvest food that tastes good, regardless of size, shape or fashion. They also strongly believe in convenience. People assume that organic food is harder to get hold of, whereas with the Riverford box scheme, seasonal fruit and vegetables are delivered straight to your door. The time it takes to get from the field to your doorstep is typically much shorter than the route food takes to arrive on supermarket shelves. For most of the produce it’s as little as just two days.

Being 100% organic means Riverford has less yield than commercial farms, but the benefits this brings its 40,000 plus customers are unbeatable. Firstly, organic is better for you: organic farms don’t spray their crops with a mixture of nerve toxins, fungicides and herbicides. Research suggests organic food has higher nutritious value, and judging by the taste of the plums and redcurrants the flavour is much stronger too.

Ed explained that people are becoming used to eating vegetables out of season – which isn’t necessarily a good thing. For example, strawberries are readily available in the UK all year round. However, strawberries in December are never going to taste as good as strawberries in June. They will have been shipped from abroad in a process taking anything up to a week which will compromise the flavour. And you’ll pay a pretty penny for the privilege of eating totally average fruit. There’s a reason vegetables grow at certain times of the year. They offer nutrients we need to keep us safe from lurgies in winter or to keep our energy levels up during long summer nights.

Secondly, organic farming is better for the environment. There’s more biodiversity and soil life, less polluted watercourses, less dependant fossil fuels and as Riverford has no air freight policy it has a lower carbon footprint. It’s all about having respect for the land. Not depleting the soil, but adding natural elements that will help it flourish.

Melissa and Jasmine chose courgettes as their main ingredient for their Riverford recipe, complimented by other summer veg including ripe tomatoes, red peppers and purple basil with a wonderful aniseed bite.

Courgettes are one of the sisters’ favourite vegetables as they are so versatile and affordable. Courgettes love plenty of heat and moisture, which luckily hasn’t been in short supply this summer so there are plenty to go round.

The girls used ‘Dual Shot’ to picture the recipe for their blog. It’s a feature on the Samsung GALAXY S4 that allows you to take the perfect selfie. The phone uses the front and back camera at the same time to get both you and your subject in frame. Dual Shot allowed Jasmine to take a picture of them both holding a 2-metre long piece of Courgetti – Melissa on one side of the room, in front of the phone - Jasmine on the other behind it!

Courgetti with Red Pesto and Riverford Summer Veg

A wonderful raw seasonal summer dish, perfect for a light dinner.

Ingredients (use organic ingredients where possible) Serves 6-8

6 large courgettes 1.5kg

60g parmesan

90g cashews (soaked for 4-6 hours then drained and rinsed)

2 large handfuls of fresh basil

1 large red pepper 200g

800g cherry tomatoes

6 cloves of garlic (do not peel but wrap the bundle of cloves in foil)

2 tbs balsamic vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

1 large pinch of sea salt

1 large pinch of black pepper

Fresh red chilli - add a little at first

Instructions

- Preheat the oven to 180C

- Halve the red pepper and lay on a baking tray with the whole cherry tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes and pepper slowly in the oven for 90 mins - 2 hours to reduce the moisture and concentrate their sweet flavor. Halfway through, add the foil covered garlic to the roasting tray

- Squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins into the blender, then add the roasted tomatoes and pepper as well as the rinsed cashews, parmesan, balsamic vinegar and almost all of the basil (save some for decorating) Blend until you have made a chunky sauce. Taste for seasoning

- Use a spiraliser to turn the courgettes into long strips that resemble spaghetti then combine the sauce and courgetti in a large bowl and mix through with your hands

- Pile everything into a dish, scatter with extra basil, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and enjoy!

Please see below to win a chance to win yourself a Dual Shot featured, Samsung GALAXY S4.

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