Cookery editor Philippa James celebrates an organic veg scheme

Cookery editor Philippa James celebrates an organic veg scheme and prepares for two TV appearances

David and Christine Lambie had looked into various franchise schemes before they decided they liked the ethos of the Riverford Organic Vegetables boxed delivery scheme.

I have always tried to use fresh, local, but not necessarily organically grown items, but the enticing smell and natural look and taste of these vegetables really did make me question my views. When I met them at a farmers’ market the couple offered me some items to use in my demonstrations, so keen were they to show off the quality of their produce, which is all locally sourced, although Riverford Organic Vegetables is based in Devon. The company now delivers around 47,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from their regional sister farms.

The audience were initially bemused as I broke carrots in half and sent the earthy specimens around for people to sniff, saying that this is how they should be – not uniformly bright orange. The Riverford carrots kept beautifully too, as did all of the produce, encased in a natural, earthy coating.

I remember discussing with friends about buying vegetables from the farmers’ markets and being horrified when they said: ‘Oh, we never buy from the markets; the vegetables are always dirty.’

I didn’t notice much rejection of the rinsed baby new potatoes, simply boiled, then coated in butter, or of the beetroot on cocktail sticks, which kids were jostling to try, boiled, then quartered and tossed in orange juice, Cointreau and thyme.

David and Christine, parents of three children from Thornton, decided on complete career changes as they hit their 40s.

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David had previously worked for an engineering company and for Blackpool council, while Christine had worked in the hotel and hospitality industry and in media sales.

The couple have now been running the franchise for two and a half years and have delivered over 10,000 veg boxes. David said: ‘Being self-employed, the hours are much longer, including weekends, as we attend shows and events, including Great Eccleston, Garstang and Southport Flower Show, but we work together well, which always helps.

‘Financing the business, juggling family life and a full-time job were probably the hardest aspects of getting the franchise off the ground, and it didn’t help that the recession had just started to hit.

‘We enjoy talking to customers and strive to provide a really good service. Although we’re not farmers it’s good to know that, through the box scheme, we are working with the seasons and helping the environment by sourcing locally. As time has gone on, the up-side is that we are our own boss and have more control over our working lives.’

Bee-ing grateful

Thank you to Julia from Manic Organic, Scarisbrick, who helped me down the farm yard when I was swarmed by bees, after their hives had been moved! Thanks also to Clayton, her partner, for his attention to great customer service, on offering to pop his hand down my blouse and assist in retrieving the two bees stuck in my cleavage. Bees and d�colletage both survived, unharmed and untouched.

A great, little farm shop, with a real knack for looking after their customers and lots of laughter.

Tasty Lancashire

I met my old pal Gino D’Acampo at the filming of the Lancashire episode of There’s No Taste Like Home which is due to be broadcast on ITV later in the summer.

Originally the producer asked if I could find a suitable filming venue, then whether I may like to be a guest diner and, the day before, I was contacted and put on stand-by to cook for 50 if anything went awry with the other contestants.

In the event my cookery skills weren’t needed, so I got to eat my choice of one of three dishes prepared by the home cooks. The group I was in declared one dish ‘All right, but quite sloppy,’ the second ‘Tasty, but a little under-seasoned,’ and the final dish ‘Tender and flavoursome but a tad over-seasoned.’

After lengthy deliberation Gino declared the winner and I headed for a quiet corner of the Ribble Valley to walk off the calories.

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I was also contacted by the BBC to help them source Lancashire venues for filming and was delighted when they selected one of my suggestions. I was even more thrilled when, after asking if I could talk about the history of local dishes, they wondered if I could possibly cook one of my recipes with the presenter.

So out came my camping stove and I launched into my Lancashire tortilla with eggs still warm from the nesting boxes, Lancashire cheese, cream, potatoes and onions from the vegetable beds, and herbs from the walled garden. The crew were impressed and two days later I received a call confirming that the trial run had gone well and that the production team will be returning to film in a couple of weeks.

All really exciting… but more-so, the director’s already been in touch to say she’s, been inspired to make the tortilla which she adapted, after I suggested you can make it your own. She used sweet potatoes and goat’s cheese. Hearing she’d been inspired to have a go fills my heart with joy.

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