It could be considered bad form to review somewhere more than once, but my piece on Earlsfield’s Jolly Gardeners was one of the first ... Read Feature
Firstly, they source premium meat from their own and other local Somerset farms. “We have close relationships with our farmers which mean we can always source the very best stock. We have complete traceability right back to the fields in which the animals were raised.” Secondly, the animals travel no further than 10 miles to the abattoir. “We then receive them back and hang each carcass in our state-of-the-art cold rooms. Our beef hangs for four weeks on the bone, creating incredibly tender and flavoursome beef.” Thirdly, the day before they deliver your box, their expert butcher trims each cut specifically to order. The kitchen team press each burger and hand ties each sausage having sourced the local ingredients to accompany them. “Lastly, we package and send out each box overnight to arrive fresh on your doorstep the very next day.” The boys combine over 100 years of traditional farming experience with a passion to provide superior fresh meat with provenance. “To begin with, we set up camp at James Flower’s family farm in the heart of the Gordano Valley in Somerset, and from there we produced beef that we sold in cool boxes through simple online ordering to our friends and family,” says James Mansfield. “We’re so proud to now own our on-farm butchery fitted with cold rooms as well as packing and boxing facilities enabling us to meet the demands of our ever-growing business.”
All this helps to produce meat that won’t be affected by freezing. “You can freeze a topside of beef and it will be as delicious as if you’d cooked it the day we delivered it,” the boys insist. And they’ve just won Taste of the West 2015 best sirloin and top-side categories. But they don’t just offer meat – fish and poultry are popular too. There’s also game, relaunched as it’s now the season, shot by their chicken and turkey farmer. “Our Christmas turkeys have been reared since July and are hung for 10-14 days to tenderise. You can order up until 14th December and they’re competitively priced,” says James. From ordering a one-off box to browsing the farm shop for cheese and sauces, there’s lots of delicious, fresh produce on offer.
“We love to meet our customers and have a meet-up every quarter,” says James. This November, the boys are coming to Balham and lucky customers can expect canapés, a ‘butchering the meat’ demo, talk, and a raffle of cuts of meat – last time they did half a pig and 20 people went home with something. This time it’s venison, showing how ethically sourced animals go from farm to plate.
We tested a small regular meat box worth £55.
The website was easy to use with a credit system to fill up your box. There was lots of choice and variety, from fish to red meant to poultry and game. The food arrived on time, smartly packaged in a strong cardboard box that was ice‐packed and delivered by a very cheerful, dedicated driver.
Everything was there and the labelling was clear – it was all vacuum-packed with use-by dates. The mince made a delicious Bolognese, very tender and lovely to cook; the salmon they supplied from the North Sea near the Shetland Islands (it’s the only thing in the range that isn’t West Country, but it is British) was the best salmon fillet I have ever had – a good firm texture and not too oily and ‘fishy’. The chicken breasts were plump, generous and didn’t release water on cooking, like some supermarket ones, and the bacon was both good value for money and great in our Saturday morning fry-up. The topside of beef – cooked having been frozen for a couple of weeks – showed no signs of suffering for its time on ice and was rich and tender. Definitely one to order from again!
“We want to help Mum and Dad who are either very busy or not keen on cooking. Many parents want something different from the commercial brands and our aim is to bring on little ones’ palates and squash fussiness,” says Ned.
With dishes such as Barley Risotto with Roasted Vegetables and Melanzane alla Parmigiana, it’s enough to tempt parents as well as kids. “Essentially we’re giving them what mum and dad would eat – isn’t everyone’s dream to cook adult meals and give ‘little Johnny’ a version? So we’re providing children with clean, healthy food that’s not too expensive, uses minimum pesticides, contains no salt or sugar, and if it does contain fructose it’s in good forms, such as maple syrup or coconut sugar. It’s really important to us that we try to be transparent – Fed by Ned is food that’s not messed with.” And whilst many of us know the superfoods and organic ingredients we should be cooking with, it can be expensive to buy them all, “but buying it ready-made from us, actually brings the cost down,” enthuses Ned.
Ned has worked at a variety of restaurants, and also as a private chef to families in the UK and abroad. He is passionate about cooking seasonal food with the greatest ingredients, giving your child a varied diet with some of the best organic produce around. Ned’s also driven to educate mums and palates. “Providing simple solutions for weaning with good ingredients should lead to less fussy children. But sometimes parents’ fears are passed on, and these can be the parents’ prejudices rather than the child’s, for example, many parents think their babies won’t like anything too spicy. Test them with a few herbs and spices and you will be surprised – Wild and Mild Salmon Curry is one of our bestsellers. Other seasonal favourites include Braised Beef Cheek Stew in winter and Pea, Asparagus and Parmesan Risotto in summer. Our most popular staples include Shepherd’s Pie and our trays of treats, which actually contain lots of veg such as courgettes, carrots and beetroot.”
As every meal is made bespoke, it can be dairy-free and gluten-free when required – you just add your dietary requirements when ordering online. Over Christmas, Fed by Ned will deliver their ice-packed boxes so the meals can stay cool for up to 48 hours if you need to travel, then your littlest ones are catered for over the holiday period. All food comes frozen (and can stay in the freezer for three to four months), vacuum-packed and with allergy listings.
We tested four meals from the Textured and Chunky, seven months plus range.
After using the website which is simple with clean graphics and is easy to navigate, Ned arrived at the time we had arranged. He was friendly, pointed out that one of the dishes was a bit more textured than the others and if this was a problem, how to correct it. The packaging was lovely quality – a wooden box with a paper/filter liner, vacuum-packed in thick plastic, with a paper sleeve label showing simple and clear heating instructions.
The food was fantastic. Once heated it looked, smelt, and tasted delicious. It was very clear that this was freshly prepared food free from anything artificial, mass produced or any fillers. Each meal had a distinctive taste, appearance and interesting list of ingredients – such as fennel – that are not your typical baby go-tos. This is the first pre-prepared baby food that both my fussy two and a half year old and I were happy to taste – if we could wrestle the spoon away from the actual tester Teddy, aged eight months!
The Peas and Love Risotto had a wonderful fresh taste of sweet peas and clean mint. It was my favourite. But, Teddy the tester LOVED the Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie – the rich tomato lentil base was topped with alternating piped lines of pea, sweet potato and celeriac mash. This made every mouthful slightly different and dinner time more exciting.
I would happily recommend this to friends. It is restaurant-quality baby food, it feels like you are feeding them something full of goodness with the ease of something ready-made. Head and shoulders above any meals and pouches I have had from grocery stores.
Riverford was founded in 1986 by Guy Watson, a Devon farmer who wanted to get his fantastic organic veg out to families beyond the county’s borders. Having started with delivering 30 boxes locally, Riverford now deliver 47,000 boxes a week nationally from their four regional farms, and it is the original Devon farm that fulfils orders from the London area.
With all sorts of fruit and veg box combinations available, what started out as a simple scheme has become far more sophisticated. Simon Harrop, who operates the Riverford franchise here in SW London, says, “Famed for championing seasonal British produce, we also support small-scale family farms in the UK and Europe, while our no air-freight policy minimises our carbon footprint.”
Riverford makes cooking beautiful food easy with its range of flavourful, ethically produced organic meat and veg boxes. From magnificent romanesco to buttery squashes, their veg boxes bring more than your five-a-day – this is seasonal cooking straight to your door. “Our recipe boxes are very popular and the guest boxes even more so. We’ve had Hemsley + Hemsley and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall among others, and they always sell out fast,” adds Simon. The recipe boxes come with all your key ingredients and a handy recipe card you can keep so it’s a great way of making use of certain ingredients that you might not have cooked with before.
Simon arranges delivery according to your postcode, once a week, so you need to be organised – but with no delivery charge, it pays to be flexible. “Some customers like to mix and match from everything Riverford offer, some use us simply as a butcher, while others have ordered exactly the same weekly veg box for the past 15 years!”
With a pop-up supper club in Putney once a month, Simon is keen to meet his new customers, keep in touch with regulars and inspire everyone with ideas for their veg boxes. “We want to maximise people’s cooking skills with ideas and we even have four cookbooks.” With store-cupboard staples on offer alongside meat they’ve butchered themselves, dairy produce from one of Guy’s brothers and a farm shop run by another, plus the all-important fruit and vegetables at its heart, Riverford really is a one-stop shop for the finest organic ingredients at sensible prices. Look out for their Christmas boxes bursting with mince pies and brandy butter as well as all the main course essentials such as turkey, potatoes, parsnips…the works!
We tested the quick three meal recipe box for two people
The easy-to-navigate website has a tab for recipe boxes and all the recipes change weekly – no getting stuck in a rut here! My three meals were Sicilian Romanesco Spelt Pasta; Za’atar Lamb Steaks with Shepherd’s Salad; Chicken, Spinach & Quinoa bowl with Sweet Potato.
The robust box contained everything, beautifully packaged and presented, and we were impressed by the quality and freshness of the produce. The box was divided into three sections: fruit and veg, cool bag, and central section subdivided to match ingredients to each meal. It was so organised! I literally lifted out the central section and popped it into my store cupboard knowing that I wouldn’t have to rummage around my cupboards for spices, pasta, quinoa – it was all there. The quality was amazing – the diced chicken and the lamb steaks were plump and in their prime. Everything down to the tiny pot containing half a teaspoon of dried oregano was clearly labelled. The recipe cards were comprehensive, easy to follow, with a photo and step-by-step guide to making the meal. The meals were all delicious and prepped and cooked in 30 minutes – fabulous on a busy work day evening – and generous too. Our favourite was the lamb dish and my meals even looked like the ones featured on the recipe cards – result!
I would definitely order again and I loved that each recipe had Kcal/fat/salt details; it’s really useful for anybody trying to be careful with their weight. All the produce had a five-day best before window so I didn’t feel pressurised to have the food immediately on three consecutive nights – we were able to be flexible. If I have a particularly busy week coming up, I would definitely consider ordering a recipe box for the whole family.
Founder Jane Michell started her diet delivery service in 2010 after battling to try and lose weight herself. “I’ve been overweight and fully understand the challenges you face when you make that all-important decision to lose weight, and I enjoy good food and healthy eating – and the way they make me feel,” explains Jane. Having worked alongside TV chefs such as Delia Smith and Rick Stein, it was a diet that taught her basic portion control (but sadly tasted revolting) that changed her ways for good. “After I had my third child, I retrained in nutrition and channelled my passion for food and healthy eating into a whole new way of life, initially working as an obesity specialist in a hospital then going on to start Jane Plan.”
Jane’s personal struggles with weight and her success at developing a healthy, calorie-controlled way of eating means she is non-judgemental and understanding of her clients’ needs. “My team and I work hard to get to know and support clients. We hold your hand on your weight-loss journey because we genuinely want you to reach your goals as much as you do.”
With online or phone support, Jane and her team create a bespoke diet for you, according to your aims. The diet box is then discreetly delivered – you don’t need to be in. The Classic Plan was the reason Good Housekeeping voted Jane Plan Britain’s number 1 diet delivery in 2014 and Jane has had pretty much constant coverage since then. As of 2015, there is also a Man Plan and a Vegetarian Plan. “Men are poorly served by the diet industry and we wanted to address that, especially as many of our customers are married couples. Vegetarians are dieters too but also many people just want to go meat-free for a while.”
There’s a delicious selection of over 75 calorie-controlled meals so you can be sure you’ll never get bored. “With dishes such as Thai Chicken Curry and Slow Cooked Beef in Ale, there’s something for everyone,” explains Jane. Her suppliers have outstanding credentials, from high ethical standards to environmentally friendly priorities and fair trade values. Locally sourced where possible, snacks include oatcakes from the Orkneys, gluten-free locally baked goods and nuts and seeds from specialists. “The majority of our meals are made in two large kitchens in Yorkshire, steamed so nutrients aren’t lost, and sealed while hot so no preservatives are necessary.”
“I absolutely love sharing what I’ve learnt and feel proud to have helped thousands of people reach their goals. Our amazing team includes expert nutritionists and fitness professionals. We also work with a range of specialists, such as life coaches, so we can offer you the most effective service possible.” Jane’s message remains consistent and clear. “By eating thoughtfully and well, you really can be the weight you want to be.” For more inspiration, Jane also has a book out, The Jane Plan Diet, available on amazon.
We tried one week of the “Classic Plan”
It’s very easy to navigate around the Jane Plan website with clear signposting about Diet Plans Menus/How it all works/Diet tips – all of which are fantastic. You very much feel that you are in the hands of an expert. My delivery arrived on time via DPD couriers. Everything is well packaged, colourful and instantly appealing. There are also several diet aides to keep you inspired. You get a lovely guide book, Your Jane Plan Guide, with lots of helpful info as well as hints and tips on staying on track.
The labelling is very colourful and instructions are clear, although to be honest they are heat and go – there isn’t any ‘cooking’ as such involved. The nutritional value of each meal was included in the ‘pack’. It’s a 1200 calorie/day diet so the portions aren’t huge – but with a handful of berries for breakfast or veg for dinner they work very well. My favourite meal was the Chicken with Coconut, Turmeric and Ginger. I also loved the Wiltshire Ham and Pea Soup.
The snacks are amazing and there’s CHOCOLATE!! Everyone has a ‘get started call’ which is very helpful – Jane is a very motivational and passionate woman regarding all things food and healthy-eating related. I think that the Jane Plan formula is a winner. I would recommend it to anyone looking to lose weight who is time poor and/or guilty of ‘calorie creep’.
The world of wine can take many of us out of our comfort zone. Whilst we might like drinking it, we confess to knowing little about it and being put off by wine snobs who know it all. It’s often at the supermarket we pick up a three-for-two offer, none the wiser about what we’ve bought. Thank goodness then for Nick Stephens, founder of wine home delivery service, Bordeaux-Undiscovered.
“With us what you get is a wine supplier with great wines which don’t cost the earth, our expertise and knowledge of recipes and pairings, 48-hour or next-day delivery and a no-nonsense approach to wine.” A well respected wine expert with over 35 years of experience and an international reputation as a critic and connoisseur, Nick has many years of insider knowledge and an array of chateaux owners he does business with. He is also an expert in food and wine pairing and was awarded the Prud’homme de la Jurade de Saint Emilion in 2007 for his work with the great châteaux and vineyards of that area.
“We specialise in discovering fantastic wines to bring to your door, many of which are exclusive to Bordeaux-Undiscovered. We have pioneered the introduction of petits chateaux (small producers) to the UK and these hidden gems produce wine of extraordinary quality, yet are unknown outside France,” enthuses Nick.
Bordeaux-Undiscovered offers wine lovers in the UK the chance to buy bottles often at wholesale prices. “You can mix and match your bottles of wine in each case (minimum order six bottles) – choose from velvety Bordeaux red wines with aromas of blackberries and vanilla, luscious fruit-driven clairet and rosé, bright, crisp, white wine crammed with fruits and fragrance, superb Champagne, sparkling wine from Alsace and dessert wine from Sauternes.”
Best of all, because Nick and his wife Sue are both accomplished chefs, you can trust their expertise to match their wines to your meals. So whether it’s a dinner party for friends, Christmas Day with the relatives or a family Sunday lunch, Nick has it covered.
Bordeaux Undiscovered has many customers in the London area. Peter, from Richmond, told us: “My wife and I met Nick at the Foodie Festival in Battersea about two years ago when my wife was pregnant with our first child. As an avid wine fan, I was immediately drawn to the Bordeaux-Undiscovered tent, whereby I was greeted by Nick and his array of delicious wines. After lots of tastings, we put in an order, and have continued to buy from him ever since. Quick, simple, effective service that has always delivered. Nick is great. He doesn’t try and ‘sell’ to me, but knowing what I like, is always happy to make suggestions and offer advice when required. Highly recommend!”
Food and wine pairings are very much dependant on personal choice and price. For the following recipes from our food box delivery companies above, Nick’s choice would be:
field&flower Topside of Beef for Sunday lunch – A good Claret such as Château Chadeuil £6.99, Chateau Pessan £15.99 or Tour du Pin £31.99
field&flower Sirloin Steaks – A good Claret such as Château Perrot £6.99, Château Chantermerle £11.99, Château Bellevue £34.99
field&flower Chicken Breasts with Pancetta and Cherry Tomatoes – A soft mellow red such as Pech Notre Dame Merlot £5.99 or La Poulardiere Cotes du Rhone £8.49 or a slightly chilled Château Ballan Larquette Clairet but NOT Pinot Noir (Tip: do not have a Pinot Noir with a tomato dish. Both are acidic and clash)
field&flower Salmon with Pesto and grilled Mediterranean vegetables – A nice dry white or dry rosé. Le Chapitre, Pinot Gris, Val de Loire £6.99, Gouleyant Loin de L’Oeil Sauvignon, Gaillac £9.49 or Les Soleillades Coteaux d’Aix En Provence Rosé £8.99
Riverford Chicken, Spinach & Quinoa bowl with Sweet Potato – A medium/dry white such as Rocca Maura Blanc, Pays de Gard £5.99, Caves de La Nantaise Muscadet £6.49, La Poulardiere Côtes du Rhône Blanc £8.49 or a nice fizz such as Crémant Brut D’Alsace £13.49
Riverford Sicilian Romanesco Spelt Pasta – A soft light red such as Pech Notre Dame Merlot £5.99 a crisp white such as Pinot Gris, Val de Loire £6.99 or crisp sparkling wine Comte de Ferrand £9.49
Riverford Za’atar lamb Steaks with Shepherd’s Salad – A nice red rich in Cabernet Sauvignon such as Jean Baptiste Audy Cabernet Sauvignon £6.49, Château Roc de Levraut Bordeaux Superieur £9.49, Les Vignes d’Icare 2011 – Saint Julien £20.49 or Chateau Leoville Poyferre 2007 – Saint Julien £42
Christmas turkey and all the trimmings – My preference for turkey is a light soft red such as Le Chapitre, Pinot Noir, Val de Loire £6.99 or Château Ballan Larquette Bordeaux Clairet £9.49 both slightly chilled. However many prefer a heavier red. If this is your bag I would suggest a good Burgundy or a Bordeaux from the Left Bank with a high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon.
This sumptuous case consists of two bottles each of the following wines at the great price of £84.99 plus £8.99 carriage, a saving of nearly £20 off our normal website prices
Le Chapitre, Pinot Gris, Val de Loire 2014 Silver Medal
Soft, smoky Pinot Gris from the Loire Valley. Crisp, fresh and mouth watering. Gently spiced flavours of ripe pear, white peach and lychee with a touch of lemon and ginger. Pleasantly intense aromas and very nicely balanced with floral overtones. Generous with a lingering freshness. 100% Pinot Gris. 12.5% abv.
Château Ballan Larquette 2013 – Bordeaux Oscar Winner
Stylish Bordeaux Blanc with good structure, acidity and balance. Light, bright and thirst quenching. Layered flavours of lime, apple, white peach and sweet red gooseberry with notes of dried herbs and acacia blossom. Lovely long finish. 50% Semillon, 50% Sauvignon Blanc. 12.5% abv.
Château Ballan Larquette Bordeaux Rosé 2013 – Silver Medal
Bordeaux Rosé. Satiny smooth, delicious and elegant with good refreshing acidity. Sensuous flavours of dark red cherry and ripe strawberry lifted by mouthwatering notes of pink grapefruit, sweet hay and spice. A sophisticated wine. 45% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc. 12.5 % abv.
Château Roc de Levraut Bordeaux Superieur 2012 – Bronze Medal
Refined Bordeaux Superieur with soft, melting tannins and lovely balance. Layered flavours of blackcherry, blackurrant, chocolate and mulberry with notes of anise, cinnamon and vanilla. Fine, fresh and full of finesse. 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon 13.5% abv
Château Rioublanc Organic Claret 2010 – Gold Medal Winner
Organic Gold Medal Winning Claret. Beautifully balanced with great structure and a fine nose of luscious black fruits. Deep flavours of blueberry, ripe blackberry and dark plum with notes of vanilla, pepper and oak. Soft, elegant tannins a with nice lasting finish. Decant 2 hours before serving. 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.5% abv.
Le Chapitre, Pinot Noir, Val de Loire 2014 – Bronze Medal
Pure, fine Pinot Noir from the Loire Valley. Remarkably fresh and beautifully structured. Flavours of morello cherry, kirsch and mocha with overtones of pepper, Earl Grey tea and forest floor. Polished, soft tannins and lovely balance. Vibrant and full of finesse. 100% Pinot Noir. 12% abv.