MAXINE GORDON joins a cookery class with a difference

AT his recent gig in York, TV comic Josh Widdicombe joked about the trials of the organic veg box. The audience hooted in recognition as Josh riffed about how he and his wife struggled to cook anything with their weekly delivery full of random veg they hadn't heard of and didn't know how to cook.

"It looks like I've gone on Ready Steady Cook and had a breakdown," was how he summed it up.

If you suspect you would face the same culinary fears over ordering a regular veg box, then there's a cookery class that should put you right.

It's run by Eleanor Fletcher who gave up a career in publishing to bring organic veg boxes to the people of York and the East Riding.

She holds the local franchise for Riverford, the national organic farm business with a base near Thirsk, and her team delivers to more than 47,000 clients every week in our area.

As part of this service and commitment to encourage more people to switch to organic veg and healthy meals, Eleanor runs a regular cookery class using fresh ingredients from the farm and recipes from Riverford's chefs. The £40 price includes the hands-on cookery evening, a meal (you eat what you cook) and your first veg box.

I attended a recent one at St Olaves Church Hall in York. I arrived straight from work on a Friday night and, after brief introductions to my fellow "chefs", was handed an apron emblazoned with Riverford's catchphrase "Live Life On the Veg".

We arranged ourselves around four tables and began preparing the veggies for our menu for the evening: beetroot curry, roasted leeks with romesco sauce and an Asian salad: shredded raw Pad Thai.

Eleanor has a lovely manner, which made us all feel relaxed, and she passed on some great tips as we worked our way through a pile of veg.

I now know to peel fresh ginger with a teaspoon (try it) and to eat a little bit of fresh chilli to judge its strength.

All three dishes were new to me and as we began to cook, the aromas filled the hall and left us eager for supper time.

The trio of dishes were appealing, but the most eye-catching was the Pad Thai, which featured layers of courgette and carrot ribbons alongside shredded cabbage and lots a grated broccoli (another great idea to get more veg into a meal). It was all brought to life with a generous helping of fresh herbs: mint and coriander, as well as a couple of finely chopped chillies. Some toasted nuts and cashews added a welcome crunch and the whole lot was lovingly drenched in a satisfying dressing made from sesame oil, sweet white miso, lime juice and soy sauce.

We are encouraged to "eat a rainbow" and if you followed Eleanor's menu, you'd find the pot of gold. The beetroot curry was a deep purple and tasted great. If I was making it again at home, I'd add in extra spices to give it more of a kick.

Also delicious was the romesco sauce, a blend of red peppers, walnuts, almonds, tomatoes and breadcrumbs, mixed with balsamic vinegar, garlic, smoked paprika, chilli, tomato puree, parsley and fennel seeds. It is eaten cold and I think would be lovely on some toasted ciabatta.

We washed it all down with a zingy glass of white wine, provided by Eleanor – and toasted our thanks to the chef.

Eleanor's next cookery date is on Tuesday November 12, 6.30pm to 9pm, at St Olaves Church Hall, Marygate Lane, York. Tickets cost £40 and can be booked via Eventbrite. Over 18s only. She will also run a class on Friday January 17, 2020.



Aromatic beetroot curry with coconut

Healthy and sustaining, this jewel-coloured, mild curry is packed with aromatic spices, and cooled with coconut and yoghurt. If you want to prevent your hands from staining when you’re preparing the beetroot, wear a pair of rubber gloves, although it does wash off, eventually!

Preparation time: ten minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Total time: 50 mins

Serves 4


Oil for frying e.g. sunflower or coconut

2 onions (3-4 if small), peeled & finely sliced

1 tbsp black mustard seeds

800g beetroots, peeled & chopped into 1-2cm dice, or thin wedges

2 large or 3-4 small garlic cloves, peeled & finely chopped

6cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled & finely grated

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

1-2 red chillies, deseeded & finely chopped - add to your taste for heat

4 tomatoes, roughly diced

1 tin coconut milk

A little hot stock or water, to thin the curry if needed

2 limes, juice to taste

2 tbsp toasted desiccated coconut or coconut chips

Salt & pepper

Cooked quinoa (or use rice or naan, as you prefer) and yoghurt to serve


1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pan (one with a lid). Gently fry the onion for ten mins, stirring now and then. Add a splash of water if it looks like catching at any point.

2. Add the mustard seeds. Fry until you hear them start to pop.

3. Add the beetroot, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, bay and chilli to your taste for heat. Stir for 2 mins.

4. Add the tomatoes and coconut milk. Season, cover and simmer for approx. 25 mins or so, stirring now and then, until the beetroot is tender. Top up with a splash of stock or water as needed, to prevent the curry from drying out too much.

5. When the beetroot is tender, squeeze in lime juice and add more salt and pepper, all to taste.

6. Serve sprinkle with toasted coconut and serve with cooked quinoa (or rice) and a dollop of yoghurt.