Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Food for Thought

We're past Christmas now and the not-so-festive stomach bug that hit us Christmas day. Mike soldiered on and made Christmas dinner, but neither of us could eat it. We are having leftover Christmas cockerel tonight in a chicken tetrazzini, our first real meal since the illness.

Pip and/or Dakota also scarfed a plateful of cocoa-rich cookies on Christmas night so we were on the 'phone to the vets calculating how much chocolate per body weight they might have ingested, and whether or not we were going to have to get out of our sick bed and take them to the vets. I'm glad to report we all made it through.

A few days' illness meant we needed to catch up on some chores. I re-pressurised the heating system and cleaned up broken glass - the winds blew a pane out of the greenhouse during the night. Mike split logs. The weather's been cold and wet, but the fire's roaring away so much so that I'm stripped down to my long johns now. (note to self - no future career as a phone sex operator...)

A Christmas addition to the freezer

Although we haven't been eating much over the past few days, we have been discussing food. Particularly that our diet has been a bit meat heavy recently. Understandable as we're harvesting a lot of (free) game this time of year, and our garden is empty due to my poor planning and limited space. Traditionally only the estate owners and wealthy people would have had a meat rich diet. Workers like us would get their calories from carbohydrates like grains and root vegetables, and lard (which explains the British proclivity for suet puddings and pies).

I gave Mike a hand feeding the pheasants, and as we were driving around the cover crops I realised that they were in fact cover CROPS. Maize and kale and stubble turnip. Turnips may be sheep fodder but they are also a root vegetable, and there are acres of them. Kale is likewise edible, and not bad with chili vinegar dressing. Maize, aka "cow corn", when dried and ground is essentially polenta. Flour is just ground wheat, and I was emptying bagfuls of it into pheasant feeders. It's different than proper milling wheat, but worth further examination.

Why did I never notice this before?

I picked some turnips for this evening's dinner, and extras for the animals: the chickens eat the green tops and the sheep will eat the whole plant. Mike said as he set off to walk the dogs, Nellie the old spaniel was tucking into the green tops alongside the chickens. I guess even she's fed up with venison leftovers.


Mike was dubious after enduring the Great Swedefest of '08 (too much of a good thing..). But, having just finished dinner, I can confirm that the turnips were a success. Granted I mashed them with marscapone cheese and topped them with a parmesan breadcrumb crust which added flavor, but definitely edible. I see turnips in our culinary future.


Santa brought me a coffee grinder for Christmas and now I'm thinking that I might collect and dry a few maize cobs and see if I can grind them into a rough flour using the coffee grinder. Turnips with a polenta crust??

Santa also brought me a leather punch and rivet set which was fortuitious as I found a broken raddle harness abandoned in a field. I've hung it up to dry and it looks like it can be returned to work with a few minor repairs. I think it's a good omen as I intend to start my flock of Gotland sheep this year. Santa also brought me a set of butchery knives which is a bad omen for Big Lamb and Little Lamb.

A working raddle courtesy of donaghys.com

Now if only I could find a crop of peanut M&Ms...


Poppy Cottage said...

Santa brough me some daff bulbs (already planted)!!
glad you are feeling better. Mum and Dad both had it (together) two days before Christmas. It must be a couple thing, bugger, coz I could really do with it.

Sara said...

SO glad you're both feeling better!

Tamar said...

Jen -- Sorry to hear that you and Mike were ill. And at Christmas, too! But I'm glad your household is back in the pink.

I have cover crop envy. Not only is our one cover crop rye grass (perhaps there's a still in our future), we got it in too late to really take hold. You can do a lot with turnips and kale, particularly if you have cream and bacon.

And now comes the ignorance-showing portion of the comment: does a raddle do anything besides giving you something other than an ear or tail by which to grab a sheep?

Happy New Year to you and Mike and all your creatures.

Jennifer Montero said...

Colette - Daff bulbs are a great present. When did you find a break in the rain to plant them?!? V Organised!

Sara - Thanks for the kind words x

Tamar - I will be hitting you up for the turnip recipe with bacon and cream.

I hope your rye grass will take hold (is bourbon made from rye?). Crop failures are heart wrenching. We had a lot of kale fail this year. Last year it was the maize.

A raddle is a harness with a piece of greasy colored chalk on the chest piece. Everytime the ram covers a ewe, he leaves a mark on her backside. Gives the shepherd an idea of how many sheep may be pregnant. You can use different colors if you have more than one ram, to know which rams are serving which ewes, or if any one isn't working.

You can just rub the greasy chalk directly on the ram's chest, but you have to catch them and reapply it every couple of days. We had friends over today and the big discussion was on the pros and cons of each method. The group opinion was split!

Hapy New Year to you and Kevin and the critters too.

Scolopax said...

Hi Jennifer,

Still love the blog. It's marvellous reading!

So sorry to hear that you've been down with an aweful stomach bug. The flu is doing the rounds here,(Moray and Aberdeenshire) but my flu jab seems to be protecting me so far.

R.E. the turnips. I had just the same idea toward the end of last shooting season, and tried some.The pheasants and partridge like them, so I thought I'd give it a go. Result:they tasted like manure!,(no, I don't make a habit of eating manure).

Pheasant shooting here has gone really well, but has now skidded to an abrupt halt, as we are under 18 inches of snow. The labs can just about get around, but the spaniels need snow shoes!!

Speaking of dogs, does anyone in your neck of the woods have good working Flat coats, as I'm looking for a pup.



Julian & Emma.

Jennifer Montero said...

J & E - I envy you your snow, though it certainly stops the pheasant shooting. We're getting the cold but still only rain.

We are loving our flattie pup (9 mos old now). There are at least 4 people I know well who have flat coats and work them regularly. It was watching their dogs work that sold us on having one of our own. What noses!!

I would be glad to give you their contact details. Send an email address to me at j.montero[at]live[dot]com and I'll be happy to pass on the information.

Hope your weather picks up soon.

Paula said...

Hi Jen- Happy New Year, and glad you two are better.

Turnip greens need to be young to be wonderful, and kale is my favorite green. I can tell you from experience it handles freezing really well and is supposed to be sweeter after a freeze.

My favorite way to eat it is cooked in bacon fat (after you set aside the bacon) with a good pinch of red pepper flakes and chopped garlic, and a little salted pasta water, and then served with pasta (my favorite is capellini) and fresh grated Parmesan or Romano- but don't forget to put the bacon back in. Easy dinner that gets the requisite greens in you, and one of my favorite meals.

By the way, your turnip dish sounded wonderful and I'm going to try it next time I have turnips in the house.