Festive Recipes

Just a few alternatives for that festive table.

Cranberry Glazed Roast Beef with Mulled Wine Gravy and Yorkshire Puddings



  • Sirloin Beef Joint (you can also use rib or topside joints)
  • Shallots or small red onions x 8
  • Cranberry Sauce 75g
  • Mulled Wine 1 pt
  • Beef Stock 300ml
  • Gravy Granules

For the Yorkshires:

Allow 100g – 175g of raw meat per person for boneless joints and 225g – 350g for bone-in joints. – (Gas mark 4 – 5, 180ºC, 350ºF)

Time to cook: Rare – 20 mins per 450g plus 20 mins, Medium – 25 mins per 450g plus 25 mins, Well Done – 30 mins per 450g plus 30 mins.


Take the beef sirloin joint and place onto a rack in a roasting tin and open roast in a preheated oven. 50 mins before the end of the cooking time place 8 shallots or red onions, peeled and left whole, into the pan and return to the oven.

Meanwhile make the Yorkshire pudding batter. In a bowl mix together flour with the eggs, then add milk and whisk until smooth. Add 1 chopped red onion and the fresh thyme and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the glaze for the beef mix together 45ml cranberry sauce with 45ml mulled wine. Brush over the beef during the last 15 mins of cooking time. Once cooked wrap the beef loosely in foil and allow to rest. Increase the oven temperature (gas mark 7, 220ºC, 425ºF), Divide 30ml oil between 12 small Yorkshire pudding tins and heat in the oven for 5 – 10 mins. Pour the batter into the heated tin and cook for 20 – 25 mins until well risen and golden.

To make the gravy add 300ml hot beef stock to the roasting tin and stir to mix with any meat juices. Drain off any excess fat and transfer to a saucepan. Add 150ml mulled wine and 30ml cranberry sauce. Bring to the boil for 5 – 10 mins, add 15ml gravy granules and stir until thickened.

Roast Loin of Pork with Bacon, Black Pudding and Cranberry Stuffing with Rum soaked Apples



For the Stuffing:

For the Apples:

  • Eating Apples
  • Lemon
  • Rum
  • Ground Ginger

Allow 100g – 175g of raw meat per person for boneless joints and 225g – 350g for bone-in joints. (Gas mark 4 – 5, 180ºC, 350ºF)

Time to cook: Medium – 30 mins per 450g plus 30 mins, Well Done – 35 mins per 450g plus 35 mins.


To make the rum soaked apples cut 2 – 3 eating apples in half or into thick slices and remove any pips. Rub the cut surfaces with a little lemon juice and place into a dish. Pour over 150ml rum and add a pinch of ground ginger. Cover and leave to soak for as long as possible or overnight ensuring the cut surfaces are immersed in the rum.

Take a pork loin or leg joint and dry the rind, score and rub with 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp salt mixed with 1 tsp ground ginger. Place on a rack in a roasting tin and open roast in a preheated oven.

For the stuffing, mix together sausagemeat, chopped bacon, chopped black pudding, fresh breadcrumbs, chopped cranberries and chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Shape into 12 – 15 balls and cook alongside the pork for 20 – 25 mins until cooked through. Add the apples to the oven for the last 10 – 15 mins of cooking time, place around the pork.

and last but not least

Spiced Rack of Lamb with Roasted Red Cabbage



For the Red Cabbage:

  • Red Cabbage 450g finely shredded
  • Onion 1 sliced
  • Eating Apples 2 peeled, cored and chopped
  • Orange zest and juice (1 orange)
  • Orange Marmalade 2 tbsp
  • Red Wine Vinegar, 3 tbsp
  • Cinnamon ½ tsp
  • All Spice ½ tsp
  • Pinch Nutmeg
  • Butter 1oz

Allow 2-3 cutlets per person. – (Gas mark 4 – 5, 180ºC, 350ºF)

Time to cook: Medium – 25 mins per 450g plus 25 mins, Well Done – 30 mins per 450g plus 30 mins.


Place the red cabbage, onion, apples,  zest and juice of the orange, orange marmalade, red wine vinegar, cinnamon, all spice and pinch of nutmeg into a roasting tray or large ovenproof dish. Mix well and dot with butter, cover with foil and roast for approximately 1½ hours, stirring halfway through until the cabbage is tender.

Take the rack of lamb and calculate the cooking time. Make slits into the lamb and stuff with the zest of 2 oranges. Place onto a rack in a roasting tray and open roast.

To make the spiced butter, mix together 20z butter with 1tsp cinnamon and 2 tsp all spice.

During the last 20 mins of cooking time spread the butter over the lamb and return to the oven for remaining cooking time.


Devonshire Daytrip to Merrifield Farm

Nestled down in a Devonshire Valley, just outside Crediton, is Merrifield Farm – home to Peter and James (Creedy Carver) our Chicken and Duck farmers. Peter and his wife Sue have been involved in barn reared chicken for over twenty years, eight years ago they started to produce free range chickens in response to local demand. Their youngest son (James) joined them and quickly developed a reputation for producing ducks to a very high standard.

freerange chickens

Freerange chicken huts

We were taken on a tour of the farm to see how our poultry were getting on. We were shown the brooder units where day old chicks are initially reared, until 28 days old when they are moved to free range units. These are either straw bale shacks or special chicken arks. The arks are four metres wide and pop holes along the full length of each side so no bird is more than two meters from the range areas. Here they are allowed to roam grassy fields yet have the protection from predators and the elements in their specialist housing. Peter and James’ standards are based on Soil Association criteria, although Peter tells us that Merrifield Farm is not organic. Their poultry are fed an additive free diet.

Free Range ducks

Freerange ducklings and ducks

Both Chicken and Ducks are reared in small flocks to reduce stress and increase freedom. A simple diet, greater maturity and a natural environment produces a happier, better tasting chicken.

Freerange Chicken Shelter

Outdoor Chickens

The free range ducklings get plenty of space to waddle around, they are reared at a maximum of two square feet per duck in the special field arks that they have constructed. A bathing trough is provided to keep the birds healthy.  They do everything possible to encourage the birds to range and take advantage of the healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise. These girls will only come out if they want to. On hot days the chickens prefer to come out early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the sun is not so hot.

Peter is not just involved in the rearing of his barn/free range chickens he is also an avid breeder of rare ducks/geese/birds, you name it, it will probably be in his back garden!

ducks, geese, birds

Peter’s Rare Breeds

Peter is also in the process of creating a natural spring/nature reserve on the farm, a tranquil spot in an already beautiful setting.

Tranquil spot

Natural Spring

This Whey To Quickes Cheese

On a recent trip to Devon we dropped into Quickes where Joseph Farrow gave us a personal guided tour of the farm.

For over 450 years the Quicke family has owned and cared for the farm at Newton St. Cyres in Devon, (the estate was inherited from Henry VIII). It was only in the 1970’s that Sir John Quicke and his wife Prue, the 13th generation of Quickes to farm at Home Farm, went back into cheese making and built the dairy where their daughter Mary continues to produce outstanding artisan cheddar.

Quicke's Traditional Farm

Traditional Farm

The Quicke’s Estate is made up of 1500 acres of farmland and 1500 acres of woodland. 800 acres of the woodland are managed with Douglas Fir, Chestnut and a range of other species, planted mainly in the 1960s – 70s.

Quickes Farmyard

Farmyard at Quicke’s

Their herd of 500 Friesian x Monthéliardes and Swedish Reds, are free to graze on 285 acres of pasture. The lush Devonshire grass, fresh air and odd spot of rain helps their girls produce around 5,500 litres of milk per cow every year!

Quickes Autumn Calves

Autumn Calves

The milk is then crafted, by hand, into Cheddar by their four skilled cheese makers. Each Cheddar is wrapped in muslin and matures from 3 – 24 months. Each vat begins the transformation of milk to cheese with traditional starters, which were collected from the best cheese dairies in the mid 20th Century. Each day’s starter delivers its own spectrum of savoury flavour.

When ready, the cheeses are placed carefully into traditional wooden racks in the ripening room and turned weekly, to give a uniform texture throughout the cheese.

Rippening Room at Quickes

Cathedral of Cheese

We were lucky enough to go into the rippening room, it was like a cathedral of cheeses.  When full, this ripening room can hold up to 13,000 cheeses – we might need a few more crackers!

Whilst maturing, the cheese can sometimes get cheese mites (an age-old enemy, sometimes burrowing deep into the rind, eating their way through dry, aged cheese). Several years ago cheddar makers used to fumigate once or twice a year to kill them all, but EU regulations banned Methyl Bromide. Quicke’s came up with a solution to ward off this little pest.  They bring the crates out the rippening room and drive them into a blowing booth – it looks like a car port with two holes at the back, the vacuum. The cheeses are individually blown by hand using a high-pressure air-jet hose. The vacuum at the back of the blowing booth extracts the dust and mites from the air, the cheese is then returned to the rippening room and their label marked “Blown – Yes”.

Quickes Cheese

The cheese is graded every 3 and 12 months by hand. Obviously the cheeses are ready at different times; Mild is ready after 3 – 4 months, Mature after 12 – 15 months, Extra Mature after 18 – 21 months with Vintage ready after 24 months.

From Mild through to Vintage, there is a Quicke’s Traditional Cheddar to suit every palette, as well as Traditional Red Leicester, Double Gloucester and Hard Goats Cheese.

Cloth Bound Cheese

Artisan Cheese

Quicke’s smoked cheese is cold smoked for around 18 hours with oak chips from trees on the Quicke Estate.

All the cheese is cut and packed by hand on the Farm

All the cheese is cut and packed by hand on the Farm

After the tour we dropped into the Farm Shop for a cheese tasting. It was clear that we at Farmer’s Choice prefer Quicke’s Vintage Cheddar, but I also really enjoyed the Ewes Milk cheese. Just have to make space on that cheese board for more!

Check out their regular winners at the major cheese shows, both in the UK and abroad.  (http://www.quickes.co.uk/index.php?pg=award)

Check out their regular winners at the major cheese shows, both in the UK and abroad. (http://www.quickes.co.uk/index.php?pg=award)

Interesting Point!

Despite common misconceptions, most people who are lactose intolerant are in fact able to eat most hard cheeses. This is because most of the lactose in the milk used to make hard cheeses is removed in the whey as part of the cheese-making process, making them virtually lactose free.

 The lactose content of most cheeses can be checked by looking at the nutritional facts on the label – any carbohydrate in natural cheese (excluding cheese blended with fruits or some processed cheese) comes from the milk sugar or lactose. Most hard cheeses, such as Cheddar, contain as little as 0.1 grams per 100 grams, which makes them suitable for most of those who are lactose intolerant.

Cheeses with higher levels of lactose include some processed cheeses, soft white spreadable cheese and cottage cheese and some of these may be inappropriate for the lactose intolerant. Always check the nutritional information on cheese packaging for information before consuming and check the carbohydrate content.

In some rare cases of lactose intolerance it might be necessary to completely avoid dairy foods. Speak to a state registered dietician for advice on reducing or avoiding lactose and to avoid any nutritional imbalance.


Calves in the Filed

Calves in the Filed

Sunny Morning at Hill Farm Orchard

We literally chose the best late September morning to go visit Davina at Hill Farm Orchards, nestled in the Meon Valley within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park (another great supplier of UK local produce to Farmers Choice). We went along to check on how this seasons Braeburns were coming along, the sun came out for us as we strolled around the 150 acres (not all of it…I think we would still be going if we did) and Davina enthusiastically gave us the past, present and future rundown of the orchard.

Farmers Choice visit Hill Farm Orchard

Farmers Choice visit Hill Farm Orchard

Davina starts by telling us that the farm was first planted as an orchard in 1950’s. Her father worked at the farm in the 80’s/90’s as a pick your own of plums, strawberries and a cherry orchard. Unfortunately with the changes in consumer habits (brought about by the arrival of the supermarkets), the farm had to adapt to meet the modern fruit market place and pick your own was stopped. Today they grow the best fruit outside of Kent (as per the national fruit show awards 2013 and we will try again this year).

Literally, as far as the eye can see is row after row of heavily laden apple trees, all lined up like soldiers on parade! Davina went on to tell us that they fill 3000 bins a year of apples that’s 1 tonne per 3 bins.

Views Hill Farm Orchard

Outstanding Views at Hill Farm Orchard

The farm has just planted out a new section of the orchard, Davina explained that the apple trees are left for a couple years before taking a commercial crop, if you have fruit trees it’s always best to leave it for the first year, take a little fruit off to stabilise the tree in the second year.  If you do that you should get a healthy producing tree that could last anything up 20 – 25 years (as some of her trees are that old).  There is a section in the orchard of Pear trees, 60 year old pear trees that continually produce good fruit.

After the harvest is over, Davina and two colleagues will go around the orchard and prune every tree and this can take them up to March. This is important to the trees health, and for its ability to produce another excellent crop.

(Here’s a little tip if you have fruit trees at home – Davina explained that pruning should only be done when the leaves have all fallen from the trees, about November, but remember if you cut back hard it will grow hard!)

Hill Farm opened their doors this year for their first Open Day as part of LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming http://www.leafuk.org/leaf).  On that one day they saw 300 people visit the farm. There was a market area with local trade, crafts and produce. There was also an opportunity to see the machinery and have a tractor ride, everything to get the young and older guest involved.

Davina explained that future plans for Hill Farm Orchard include a grand scale allotment. Can’t wait to go back and see how that comes along.

apples bins at Hill Farm Orchard

Apple bins at Hill Farm Orchard


Hill Farm Orchards also supply to Hill Farm Juice – right next door.  The apples are crushed and gently pressed on site to extract the juice. The juice is bottled on site to lock in the orchard-fresh taste – no additives except for vitamin C which is used as an anti-oxidant. This is only added to stop the juice turning brown (just like when you cut up an apple).

This is now available online.

Live the Dolce Vita with Italian Food from Farmer’s Choice

Soak up the sun and enjoy a Mediterranean diet over the summer months. Farmer’s Choice has compiled the best of our Italian food into one section to offer you delicious recipe ideas from our range of finest Italian ingredients.

Italian cuisine is famous for its simplicity and rich flavour, and is characterised by the quality of ingredients. Some ingredients are central to the preparation of dishes recognised worldwide and Farmer’s Choice offers everything from pancetta to garlic and balsamic vinegar. Supplied with care, our fine tasting produce can be transformed into authentic Italian food, enjoyed by the whole family.


Prepare a light summertime salad infused by our distinctive tasting basil dressing. A few drops of Farmer’s Choice balsamic vinegar will draw out the flavour of all kinds of salad dishes. Warm up with a classic Italian lasagne as the cool summer evening draws in or return to the heart of Italian cuisine with a comforting spaghetti bolognese. Our lean steak mince is sourced from naturally reared cattle in a family-owned farm in the Scottish Glens; we ensure that only the best ingredients go into your home-made Italian meals!

Serve up a dish using our diced chicken or shin of veal; both are available from our online butchers. Why not try veal cutlets topped with raw ham and a sprinkle of seasoning? Try out a traditional Mediterranean chicken dish by wrapping our delicious smoked pancetta around succulent chicken breast. Our thinly sliced pancetta bacon is produced from pork belly, cured and primed for use. Don’t forget to include garlic to create meat dishes bursting with flavour.

Whether you’re in the mood for a straightforward and traditional Italian salad or an authentic meat recipe, enjoy the variety and vibrancy of Italian cooking with Farmer’s Choice Free Range. Feeling inspired? Discovered regional specialities on your travels? Then you can also share your Italian recipes with us across our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Buon appetito!