There’s No Planet B

Our story this year has many parts to it. The planning and advice, the hard work and organisation of the farm team. The fertility and soil management, the weather and the birds and the bees have all played their part.

Our amazing team of packers, rising each morning sometimes at 4am to get to work at 5am to start packing your orders. Finally, having you our customers willing to supporting our farm and a whole bunch of good luck has got us through to another autumn, my 17th year growing vegetables and our 15th year in business.

Growing vegetables commercially is a tough endeavour and in the stony wet land of the West of Ireland it is particularly challenging.  

The skill and art of growing our food is so important and we need to preserve this knowledge. It is invigorating to see so many small-scale growers embrace sustainable growing.

Yet, many commercial growers are struggling, the work is too hard, the price for their produce is too low, the seasons (due to climate change) are unpredictable, and planning for a market that is ever changing and is sometimes 12 months in the future makes it a precarious undertaking indeed.

As with everything and it is no different in our food system, decisions based purely on financial gain with no regard for our environment are causing devastation to our planet.  

It is much easier for a large supermarket buyer to import cheap produce, grown abroad where labour is inexpensive and where very often the working conditions are poor, and the attention paid to biodiversity is scant than buy more expensive IRISH grown crops.  

I am glad we have you our customers and that we do not need to knock on supermarket doors to sell our produce.

Our harvest is overflowing, now we have parsnips, carrots, swedes, cabbage, leeks, celery, pumpkin, kale and Brussels sprouts, the last of the broccoli and the soon to start purple sprouting broccoli and the first time in 10 years we will have celeriac.

I think you might taste the flavour in your in your boxes, tell us if you do! You will also notice the size of all our crops, the warm September and a soil temperature that is 5C above normal means growth has continued well past when it should have slowed leading to bigger produce. 

The days are closing in now and the weather is wet and it should be cool, but as I write this, we have temperatures here in Galway of 17C and it is 8pm, is this climate change in action right here on our doorstep? 

Our promise is simple, “When you get a box from us you do not need to think about whether you are choosing sustainably, we promise you are”. 

Your support for us means our farm survives and thrives, our people stay in jobs, and we get to mind our little patch of land here in the West of Ireland sustainably.

Thank you

Kenneth

Quick Cabbage & Potato Curry

For a warming bowl of hearty food in a hurry, try this quick curry. Cabbage and potato are made for each other aren’t they? With the addition of some warming curry spices and creamy coconut milk, these humble ingredients can really sing! Of course you can tweak the recipe as you like with the addition of cooked chickpeas and some cauliflower/romanesco florets etc. Let us know if you tried it in the comments or over on our community facebook group.

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 8 small/medium potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 a savoy cabbage, sliced
  • fresh chilli to taste, sliced
  • 1 heaped tsp each: brown mustard seeds, turmeric, curry powder, salt and black pepper
  • 1 400g tin coconut milk
  • *optional extras* – cooked chickpeas, cauliflower/romanesco florets…
  • Indian chutneys and natural yoghurt to serve

Method

  1. In a large, heavy bottomed pan (which has a lid), fry the onion and garlic with the vegetable oil until golden and soft.
  2. Add the potatoes, spices and seasoning and sauté until fragrant. Add a small glass of water then put the lid on and allow the potatoes to steam cook for 8 minutes or until tender. Test with a knife.
  3. Then add the cabbage, coconut milk and chilli to the pan, return the lid and let the cabbage wilt for 3 minutes. (Here’s where you can add the cooked chickpeas if using.)
  4. Then stir the vegetables together, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed with more salt/pepper, return the lid one last time for a further 3 minutes and your curry is done!
  5. Serve in warm bowls with Indian chutneys and natural yoghurt. Enjoy!

Seasonal Eating

A while back somebody asked me, jokingly (at least I hope it was a joke, looking back now maybe it wasn’t, in which case I led them astray by my answer) ‘What corner of the farm did we grow pineapples and bananas in?’ My answer: ‘The far corner!’

Eating seasonal, eating Irish, eating local, all admirable aspirations and absolutely possible-ish. ‘Ish’ because it can be tough, and it can require a great deal of thought and understanding and commitment if you want to stick to these ideals all year round and not end up eating turnip at every meal from Nov-March!

Eating seasonally is much easier at certain times of the years than others and this is the best time to start. This year is turning out to be one of the best years ever for harvest. However it is not all good news and while we have always been committed to sourcing local and organic where possible. Sometimes it is difficult to meet everybody’s expectations. 

I have just come off the phone with Richard Galvin our regular IRISH, seasonal apple grower and he has just told me the news that much of his crop was devastated with a late frost back in June and he will have few if any organic apples for us. 

There is nothing we can do about this, similarly in a few weeks the IRISH organic tomato season will finish, and we will then rely on imported organic tomatoes. While growing tomatoes out of season is possible it is energy intensive.

That being said, eating seasonal food can be remarkably rewarding.  The harvest on our farm is now moving towards the more earthy IRISH crops that thrive in our climate and tucked in there are some real seasonal stars. It is maybe the taste of the first freshly harvested carrot, or the start of the purple sprouting broccoli season that really make me appreciate the ebb and flow of the seasons and its effect on our local food supply. 

Following a strictly seasonal diet can be nearly impossible,but maybe using the old 80/20 rule might be a good idea here? Eating what is in season 80% of the time and eating what you want the other 20%.

But does taking a seasonal approach to food matter? Yes, it matters a lot, it matters for our planet and for our health. Seasonal organic food is usually fresher and therefore contains more nutrients, has been grown sustainably and has a smaller carbon footprint.

Even so, accepting that somethings just don’t grow in our country and some things only grow well in our country at certain times of the year is part of understanding our food landscape. We grow what we can here on our farm, but we still need to source bananas from the other side of the world.

Where we need to import, we will always make sure our produce is organic, Fairtrade where possible and never airfreighted.

One of our 5 pledges for the planet.

We have never had such a large range of local IRISH organic produce both from our own farm and from a host of other small organic farms across Ireland. Without any doubt right now is the perfect time to give seasonal eating a go. 

I am also looking for to the start of the proper Italian Clementine and Lemon season, and my favourite is the blood orange season later in the year. 

As always thanks for your support. 

Kenneth

Get a box of locally grown veg (with some more exotic fruit thrown in for variety) here.

Roasted Carrot & Fennel Soup with Cheese Toasties

Soup weather is officially back and I’m not complaining! Soups are a fantastic way to get a whole lot of goodness into one simple meal. Probably at least once a week we have a soup and cheese toastie night. The simplest way to make a soup… whilst juggling the housework, homework, giving the dog a walk, firing off a few last emails etc… is to grab a tray, roughly chop up a good combination of veg, oil and season it well, and whack it in the oven. Then your surfaces are clear, all you have to do when it’s done is tip it into a big pot and blend it with some stock.

The carrots and fennel coming out of the farm at the moment are just stunning! So fresh and so full of flavour. And so often, what grows together, goes together! So here’s one of our seasonal favourites right now, a simple but super-tasty, carrot and fennel soup! Enjoy!

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 bulbs of fennel
  • 6 carrots
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 leek (or 1 onion)
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 1 litre of water (in the kettle, ready to boil)
  • cheese sandwiches to serve (I like to butter the outside and grill them when the soup is ready)

Method

  1. Turn your oven on to 200C and find a deep roasting dish.
  2. Wash the vegetables, roughly chop them and place them in the roasting dish.
  3. Peel the garlic cloves and pop them into the dish whole.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a good couple of pinches of salt and a grind of black pepper. Mix well and then get the dish into the oven to roast. It should take about 30 minutes but keep an eye on it as ovens vary.
  5. Meanwhile make cheese sandwiches to grill (we have a lovely range of organic cheeses including a new Irish organic Mossfield cheese and vegan cheeses) and get a big pot and your stick blender ready.
  6. Crumble two veg stock cubes into a large jug and then add a litre of freshly boiled water. Stir to combine. Test the roasted veg for ‘done-ness’ with a knife. They should be soft and starting to take on some colour.
  7. Scrape the roasted veg to a large pot, pour over the veg stock and blend until smooth with your stick blender. You may wish to add a splash more water to thin the soup out to your liking. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary with more salt or pepper.
  8. Then grill the cheese sandwiches and reheat the soup on the hob. Serve and enjoy!

Carrot Top Chimichurri

It’s new carrot season and we are really pleased with our crop again this year. They are the sweetest, most fragrant carrots ever! While they are being harvested fresh for the boxes (before we do a big harvest and store them for winter) we hope you really enjoy the greens too! They are perfectly edible and incredibly delicious and nutritious. Think of them like a fibrous herb. They have a strong parsley/carrot flavour and are best whizzed up into a pesto or other green sauce like this chimichurri. Or you can slice them finely and add them to soups or stews. Whatever you do, don’t throw the greens away, you’ll be missing out on some amazing dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.

The main ingredient for a traditional chimichurri is parsley so carrot tops work really well as a replacement here. Simply whizz the ingredients up together in a food processor, allow the flavours to sit and mingle for a little while and you have a delicious herby drizzle to make your tacos (or barbecue, burritos, roast veg…) pop!

How do you use carrot tops? Liz x


Ingredients

  • Carrot tops (I used tops from 8 carrots)
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (or use fresh red chilli to taste)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste (I use about a tsp of each)
  • 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or more!)
  • 4 tbsp vinegar (red wine vinegar is traditional but local apple cider vinegar works well for this recipe too)
  • 3 cloves of garlic

Method

  1. Rinse your carrot tops well, then roughly chop them and add them to a food processor.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until they come together into a rough, loose sauce. You may need to stop the machine a few times and scrape down the sides.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. You may also need to add more oil or vinegar to loosen the sauce. Blend again briefly to combine.
  4. Spoon the sauce into a small bowl, cover and allow the flavours to mingle and marinade while you prepare the meal you’ll be eating the chimichurri with. We drizzled ours over hard shell tacos this time and they were absolutely delicious! Enjoy.
Carrot top chimichurri, roasted carrots and bean chilli about to be stuffed into tacos!

Roasted Fennel & Tomato Pasta Sauce

One of my go-to weekday dinner solutions, for those hectic days when the juggle between work-life and family-life has left you reeling, is to roast a big tray of vegetables and then while that’s cooking decide what to do with it. I usually turn it into pasta sauce or soup with the help of my handy stick blender and add some extra protein with a drained tin of beans or lentils. There is always the option to stir the roasted veggies through rice or add them to tacos or a make a warm salad by tossing them through a drained tin of cooked pulses (our organic range from Bunalun is so handy). Roasting vegetables makes them sweeter and more delicious and our farm grown fennel and tomatoes are just *made* for pasta.

Like most of my recipes, this is a flexible affair. Make it smooth or chunky, don’t worry too much about the ratios of the different vegetables. Make do with what you have and if in doubt, add a tin of chopped tomatoes. Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4 generously)

  • 2 fennel bulbs (roughly chopped, fronds kept to one side to use fresh as a herb)
  • 250g tomatoes (roughly chopped)
  • 1/2 a bulb of garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 onion (peeled and chopped)
  • optional extra vegetables like courgette, peppers, carrots…(roughly chopped)
  • olive oil for roasting – about 4 tbsp
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • optional drained tin of green lentils
  • pasta to serve
  • optional chilli flakes and extra virgin olive oil to serve

Method

  1. Turn your oven on to 200C and find your largest oven tray.
  2. Roughly chop all the vegetables and scatter them onto the tray.
  3. Drizzle generously with good olive oil and season with salt, pepper and fennel seeds.
  4. Use your hands to mix the vegetables, oil and seasoning well, then pop the tray into the oven to roast the vegetables while you cook some pasta (we stock a range of brilliant organic pastas, including gluten free varieties, which you can add to your veg order).
  5. After 20 minutes, the vegetables should be soft and starting to caramelise. If you used a smaller tray then it will take longer and you should stir them occasionally to ensure they all catch some direct heat.
  6. Carefully tip and scrape the roasted vegetables into a deep container. I like to use a sauce pot so that I can easily re-heat the sauce if needed. Then using a stick blender, blend the vegetables into a sauce. You can make it perfectly smooth or leave some texture and chunks, however you prefer it is fine! Or add some vegetable stock to loosen the sauce into a soup?
  7. Add the chopped reserved fennel fronds if you like that fresh, aniseed flavour. For extra protein and fibre, add a drained tin of lentils or white beans to the sauce.
  8. Stir through freshly cooked pasta and serve. I always put extra virgin olive oil, flakey salt and chilli flakes on the table too with this dish. Enjoy!

Courgette & Lemon Loaf

Here’s a sweet way to use up your courgette glut. Grated courgette keeps a cake wonderfully moist and the little flecks of green are so pretty. But be careful, when creating this recipe I had a fair few flops before getting it right, don’t be tempted to add more courgette than the recipe states. The extra moisture can put the balance out of whack and make the cake sink after it comes out of the oven.

I made this in a loaf tin so it took about an hour to bake, but if you bake it in a round cake tin it will cook much quicker as there is more surface area and a shallower batter, just keep an eye on it. Why not double the recipe and bake two round cakes to sandwich together? Make a simple lemon buttercream and decorate with raspberries and pistachios for a real summery treat.

Liz x

Ingredients

  • 250g grated courgette
  • 300g plain flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100ml oat milk
  • 100ml olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon (reserve the other half of the lemon juice and zest for the icing)

Lemon Drizzle Icing

  • the juice of half a lemon
  • enough icing sugar to bring it into a consistency you like
  • the zest of half the lemon to decorate

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 175C and line a loaf tin.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, bicarb) together in a large mixing bowl so that they are evenly dispersed.
  3. Add the wet ingredients (oat milk, oil, lemon juice) and stir to just combine. Do not over-mix. This batter should be fairly dry and thick to compensate for the water content of the courgette.
  4. Add the grated courgette and lemon zest to the bowl and use a wooden spoon to fold the mixture together into a thick batter.
  5. Scrape the batter into the lined loaf tin and level it out.
  6. Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour or until it’s cooked through. If your oven is fan assisted it may cook faster. Test for ‘doneness’ by inserting a skewer into the centre of the loaf. When pulled out it should be fairly clean.
  7. Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes or so in the tin before carefully pulling it out onto a cooling rack. Let it cool completely before icing.
  8. To make the icing, squeeze the juice of the other half of the lemon into a bowl and whisk in spoons of icing sugar until you reach your desired consistency. I like it quite runny so it just creates a delicate glaze over the cake but if you prefer a whiter, thicker icing, keep adding sugar until the mixture is fairly thick.
  9. Spoon the icing over the cooled cake and, while it is still wet, sprinkle over the reserved lemon zest. Allow the icing to set then serve in thick slices with mugs of Earl Grey tea.

Bang Bang Broccoli & Black Beans

We are harvesting so much broccoli from our fields at the moment! Expect lots in your set boxes or add some to the ‘build your own’ box for a special reduced price. Broccoli is brilliant! Broccoli is a good source of fibre and protein, and contains iron, potassium, calcium, selenium and magnesium as well as the vitamins A, C, E, K and a good array of B vitamins including folic acid. A real Irish super-food! I’ll be steaming some batches to put in boxes in the freezer to add to loads of different meals. Here’s one of our favourite family meals that uses a lot of broccoli.

Bang bang chicken is a traditional Sichuan dish of poached chicken which is then ‘banged’ to shred it and dressed in a spicy sauce. It’s a refreshing dish served with julienned cucumber. This is my plant-based nod to that classic. Definitely not authentic, but delicious none-the-less. It’s really simple. Nutritious broccoli and black beans are drenched in a spicy sauce, sprinkled with sesame seeds and then roasted. You can serve it with rice or noodles, or it’s delicious as a warm salad with spiralized courgette.

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 2 tins of black beans
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp lime juice (or vinegar)
  • 4 tbsp vegetable or toasted sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce (or tamari if you need gluten free)
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • a big thumb of ginger
  • fresh red chillies to taste
  • 6 tbsp sesame seeds
  • scallions, fresh coriander and extra chillies to serve
  • rice or noodles to serve

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C and find a large roasting tray, or two trays if you don’t have a very large one. You want to be able to spread the ingredients into a single layer.
  2. Trim as little as possible off the stalks of the broccoli. Just a sliver off the end is usually enough – those bits can go in the compost bin. Then cut the whole stalk away from the florets, slice it in half lengthways and then slice each half into long, thin strips. Put them in the roasting dish. Then cut the heads of the broccoli into bites sized florets and add them to the roasting tray too.
  3. Drain the tins of black beans and add them to the tray. Then make the dressing.
  4. Mix the soy sauce, oil, lime juice/vinegar and maple syrup in a bowl. Finely dice the chilli, garlic and ginger and add them to the bowl. Mix well and then pour the dressing over the broccoli and black beans.
  5. Use your hands to mix the sauce into the broccoli and beans, then spread the ingredients out into a single layer. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and put the tray into the oven to roast for just 20 minutes or until the broccoli is tender.
  6. Meanwhile cook your rice or noodles and prepare the toppings. Slice scallions, coriander and extra red chillies.
  7. Serve in bowls and enjoy hot or cold. We like to make an extra batch of the dressing with toasted sesame oil but without the raw garlic and ginger to drizzle over the finished dish too to make it extra juicy and spicy.

Slow-Cooked Courgette Caviar

Courgette caviar is a Russian/Ukrainian spread made from slowly cooking summer vegetables down into a rustic and delicious purée. The long, slow sauté reduces and caramelises the vegetables together, elevating these humble ingredients into a stunning jar of flavour. This is so much more than a stew. Slow cooked courgettes have the most wonderful texture, you can also use aubergines or a combination of the two. It’s just a brilliant way of using up a glut of courgettes and other summer veggies. If we are having a barbecue, I sometimes chuck a few courgettes and aubergines (also peppers, whole bulbs of garlic, carrots…) on to get smokey and soft then make this purée with those. It’s amazing, the smokiness really comes through. Just peel off any very blackened bits of skin and sauté and crush the vegetables together in the pan until reduced.

Enjoy cold on good bread or with crackers. It’s delicious as part of a picnic spread with cheese, pickles, ferments etc. Or heat it up and loosen it with some pasta water for a quick pasta sauce. It’s an incredible pizza sauce base too! I have never tried making a huge batch and keeping the jars in a cellar, but if you have the know-how and the right equipment, that’s a great way to preserve the fruits of summer. But making the recipe as per the method below, the jar should last well in the fridge for two weeks.

Liz x

Ingredients* (makes a large jar approximately 1 litre)

*don’t worry too much about amounts and the ingredients can vary too! Leave out the pepper, add aubergine, use fresh tomatoes, add more or less garlic… it’s more about the technique of slowly cooking down and caramelising the vegetables together than getting the proportions and ingredients exact. I suppose starchy vegetables like potatoes wouldn’t work here, but most other vegetables will be fine. Use any combination that you like. Here’s what I did this time:

  • 1 onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • a generous slick of olive oil to coat your pot/pan, plus extra to to top the jar
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • salt to taste
  • optional extras like black pepper, dill or fennel seeds, coriander seeds, chilli…

Method

  1. Start by dicing or grating all your ingredients.
  2. In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan or pot, heat up a generous slick of olive oil and add the diced onion. Keep the pot at medium high and stir fry the onions until they start to soften and colour.
  3. Add the garlic, courgettes, carrots, pepper and a big pinch of salt. Sauté, stirring regularly for at least 30 minutes. You will need to lower the heat as you go. It’s nice if the vegetables caramelise and slightly catch on the bottom of the pan. Just keep scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon.
  4. Crush the vegetables together with the back of the wooden spoon, or use a masher to help you along.
  5. When the vegetables are reduced and drying out, add the tomatoes and keep cooking, stirring and reducing. You should end up with a rich, thick purée. You can keep it rustic or blend it smooth.
  6. Pack the mixture while it’s still hot into a large, sterilised jar. Add a layer of olive oil and put the lid on. This should make it last longer.
  7. Keep it in the fridge. It should last well for 2 weeks.

Aubergine Involtini

Involtini in Italian means ‘rolls’ and this aubergine version is one of my all time favourite dishes. I am obsessed with aubergine, perhaps it’s because I used to hate it as a child and now I’m making up for lost time? But whenever aubergine season hits, this recipe is at the top of my list. I also make this with courgettes in place of the aubergines sometimes, especially when there’s a lot of them to use up. Griddled courgette strips are so tasty so give that version a try too.

The filling can be whatever you want it to be. I usually go for something simple like a mixture of cheese (vegan feta or cashew cheese are my favs) and pesto. But roasted and crushed squash with toasted pine nuts or hazelnuts is also really good! Perfect for that summer-autumn crossover. Let us know in the comments what fillings worked well for you?

Liz x

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 2 aubergines
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 jars of Napoli tomato sauce (or make your own tomato sauce by sautéing a diced onion and 4 cloves of garlic with a little olive oil until soft, then add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and some torn basil leaves and simmer for 15 minutes or so)
  • 130g jar of pesto
  • 200-300g cheese of your choice (feta works really well here – I use my tofu feta recipe found at the end of this blog post, otherwise we stock a variety of plant based cheeses and organic feta)
  • pasta or fresh bread to serve

Method

  1. Find a medium sized, deep roasting dish and turn your oven to 200C to warm up while you prepare the dish.
  2. If you’re not using our tasty, ready made tomato sauce, make a simple batch yourself using two 400g tins of chopped tomatoes. I sautéed a diced onion with a couple of tbsp of olive oil and 4 cloves of garlic until soft and just starting to colour. Then tipped in the two tins of tomatoes (swirled out the remaining tomatoey juices from the tins with a little water and added that to the pot too) and seasoned with salt and pepper. Then simmered the sauce with some torn basil leaves for around 10-15 minutes until it was rich and delicious.
  3. Keep the sauce warm while you prepare the aubergines and filling.
  4. Slice the tops off the aubergine as close to the stalk as possible, then peel or slice off any still-attached leafy bits. Carefully cut the aubergines into around 4mm thick, long strips.
  5. Pour the olive oil into a small bowl or glass and season it with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Then brush the aubergine slices with the seasoned olive oil and grill them in batches in a griddle pan, or under a hot grill in the oven. Turn halfway through. They should be soft and beautifully charred but still manageable. As they cook, lay them out on a large chopping board or clean worksurface ready for stuffing and rolling.
  6. Meanwhile make your filling. I mashed about 300g of feta with a jar of pesto.
  7. Pour the warm tomato sauce into your baking dish and start assembling the involtini.
  8. Place a tablespoon of filling at the end of a griddled aubergine slice. Then roll it up and tuck the roll, seam side down, into the tomato sauce.
  9. Repeat until all the rolls are stuffed. Then place the dish in the oven and bake for around 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbling.
  10. Serve with freshly boiled pasta or some crusty bread and enjoy!