i've been waiting awhile before dropping the 'chicken bomb'. for those of you that don't know me, i have to tell you - im an obsessed chicken person, i admit it. im currently caring for 12 chickens (3 cockrels and 9 hens + 2 baby chicks!)! its becoming a bit O.T.T. but im getting a handle on my chicken collecting. i just love having hens around and then buying new ones! i don't want to be going on and on about my hens and how lovely they are or all of their names or what breeds they are, but i have to warn you now, i probably will! so if this kinda thing bores you, skip ahead to the recipe!
|a Faverolles breed|
this is my first year caring for chickens. and since im the sort of person that has to do everything from scratch, chickens came naturally. (as well as, growing vegetables and baking!) so, why not have my own free-range organic chickens to lay eggs? we'll im finding there's alot more to it, and i've gone the whole learning curve since bringing home my first few hens in march. researching breeds, hatching chicks, caring for sick hens, buying new hens, meeting new chicken people, travelling to markets, raising chicks ...... all of it.
surprisingly im finding after all that stuff that its totally worth the effort. at the moment egg numbers have dropped due to decreasing day length, this is also where chickens begin to molt old feathers and grow new ones. it's a gradual process and one that most people don't tell you when buying chickens. so im telling you now: molting = fewer to no eggs for 4 to several weeks! because their bodies can't make eggs and feathers at the same time. i guess that makes sense.... so count on a 'hungry gap' of no eggs!
|'Lucielle' the brown layer hybrid hen|
we do have one 'brown layer' hen that keeps popping out an egg a day, as well as a silkie type that lays all winter. their keeping us in the green with value for money. its only costing around 2 euro a week for feed, so 10-12 eggs a week totally earn the weekly cost. when molting stops we should be getting around 8 eggs a day, and those eggs will hopefully find happy homes with our friends and family. i say 'hopefully' because i've learned when keeping hens - nothing is certain.
what i am certain of, is how wonderful it is to look out on a sunny day and see hens happily roaming the garden. its also great to know that these chickens are leading a happier life than most chickens of the world, and eating a great diet of organic feed, kitchen scraps, and whatever they can forage. most chickens live thier lives under cover in artificial light, while being fed food designed to fatten them a fast as possible - in 12 weeks or less!
im toying with the possible idea of adding a chicken husbandry section to this blog, just to get all the info i've gathered out there. to share with some of you who might be interested in keeping a few hens around. but that said, what i don't want is this blog to become the 'crazy chicken guy's blog'. so it'll be gradual. i do think chickens and eggs go well with the 'Flour Water Dirt and Rain' theme, as eggs are a very basic ingredient in the health and livelyhood of many people's lives. so its a subject worth talking about at least some of the time.
|'Tina Turner, Beyonce, Edie, Simone, Margret, and Lucielle'|
a good way to bring the whole chicken and egg theme to the blog is by posting about eggs! one of my favourite ways of cooking super fresh eggs is poaching. and the best poached eggs are from fresh eggs. you'll know you're eggs are fresh if A) they are still warm from the nest or B) the whites of your eggs are firm, and hugging to the yolk, if you have a runny-ish white then its probably best to just fry, scramble or boil the bugger. the main reason for this is because if an oldish egg goes into the poaching water the white will stream away from the yolk, instead of encapsulating it, making a big mess. the best part of a poached egg is breaking through the firm white to the runny yolk and sprading it on toasty bread.
when i was a kid i used to love Heinz ketchup and eggs, my grandmother wa the first person to introduce this combination to me. there's a bit of nostalgia still left with it, nowadays i'm less inclined to having sugary ketchup on my huevos, but this homemade ketchup recipe is a perfect balance, and has a touch of chutney flavour from a dash of curry powder. its great on all things ketchup related: burgers, steak, chips, you name it. roasting the tomatoes first concentrates the tomatoey-ness, this ketchup will keep for weeks in a sealed container in your fridge. so go the extra mile for your ketchup!
|'Lucielle', Oscar' a pekin and 'Margret'|
Perfect Poached Eggs still warm from the nest
adding vinegar to the poaching water is helpful in coagulating the egg whites, but isn't necissary. i do notice a difference in texture and prefer adding the vinegar when poaching eggs, try it and see what you think.
one super fresh egg
vinegar (white wine or cider)
- bring a medium saucepan filled 3/4 full with water to the boil, add a splash of vinegar
- using a ladle stir the water vigorously in one direction, creating a whirlpool in the pan
- crack one egg into a small bowl, to make sure the yolk doesn't break. then drop the egg in to the swirling water
- keep the water at just under the boil, wait about 2 minutes.
here's a video to watch while you're waiting for your eggs to finish cooking
- to check for doneness: lift the egg out with a slotted spoon and press the egg with your finger, it should be firm on the outside and soft in the center. if it feels to saof for you, drop it back in.
- when cooked, drain your egg and slide onto a slice of toasted bread
- serve with homemade ketchup, recipe follows
a pints worth
1 kg ripe vine tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper
50g brown sugar
50ml cider vinegar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
a few dashes of tabasco
1 bay leaf
- preheat your oven to 190 C
- halve your tomatoes and place on a roasting tin in a single layer, drizzle with olive oil and add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper
- roast your tomatoes for 45- 60 minutes, until all the juices evaporate and tomatoes start to carmelize.
- let cool, and push tomatoes through a sieve or run through a food mill. you'll have about a pint of smooth tomato puree.
- pour the puree into a medum sauce pan, place on the hob and add the rest of the ingredients
- bring mixture to a boil on medium heat then reduce heat, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes stirring occasionally, until thickened.
- taste for seasoning and alter to taste. when finished cool ketchup and pour into sterilized jars and seal. this ketchup should keep for 1 month in the fridge