Thursday, October 25, 2012

Perfect Poached Eggs with Homemade Ketchup

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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Celeriac and Apple Soup

whatta veg!

introducing a whopper of a veg, the super knobbly scary looking, the mighty mighty big, with an even bigger creamy flavour: Celeriac! it looked so nondescript in the veg patch all year, but after diggin one up the truth was revealed - a frankenstien monster of roots! what a beaut

celeriac is also called: turnip-rooted celery, 'knob' celery (ha ha!) or the wrongly named 'celery root'. thanks to wikipedia, i am now the celeriac quiz master and can say celeriac its wrongly called celery 'root' because, when we eat celeriac we are eating the hypocotyl of the plant, not its roots. what's the hypocotyl you ask? well, i can tell you a hypocotyl is the stem from a germinating seed, if you look closely the roots are actually growing from the hypocotyl, which are cut off before cooking. if you are interested in hypocotyls and what they have to offer click, here.  .

i'm pretty sure this is the first time i've cooked celeriac (i don't know why) let alone grow the bugger. bar one time possibly roasting it? and what a fool i've been to not have tried this veg in the kitchen more often. growing it proved to be slightly tricky, as the slugs burrowed into half of them and literally ate them from the inside out. eeek! i'll be giving this root veg more space in the patch next year and possibly less to its stalky cousin, gasp! i love celery stalks (see this post) but i grew way to much. 9 plants in total.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Crispy Kale Chips

we're back on the kale train, again. one of my red russian kale plants has started bolting, i'm scrambling to use up leaves. so, i've started massaging a simple soy based marinade into them, with a seaweed sprinkle from Forage & Find, then baking them to a delicate crisp. the result is highly addictive, with a slight barbecuey flavour.

these kale chips are perfect for party nibbles or snacking. they only take 15 minutes to prepare and bake. so, if your growing kale in the garden you can pull out this recipe when unexpected guests arrive, or that impromptu house party starts to kick off.

i made a batch of these kale chips while writing this post, im heading to a dinner party later and i wanted to bring them along. also, while writing this post i have consumed the entire bowlfull of kale chips! better get another batch going...

for another delicious kale recipe click, here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

DIY Seed Saving

carrot seed heads

growing veg from seeds saved from the previous years crops is an age old art. for the DIY-er its a climax in self sufficiency. its also easy to do with most veg or flowers. the trick is patience, as well as learning to let your plants go to seed rather than harvesting their crop. which at times can make a veg plot seem untended and messy. its just the natural course of a plants life and a great way to get more in touch with different plants and their life cycles.

in the not-so-distant past, commercial seeds where unavailiable to most. so every farmer knew to have enough food for the years to come - you have to save seeds from the best plants, at the end of the growing year. we can now get almost any imaginable seeds in garden centers, supermarkets, and farm supply shops. 'so why save 'em whe you can buy em ready to go?' im all for buying new seeds, its actually one of my vices, my collection expands every year and i love trying new varieties of veg. especially ones that are hard to find in shops: romanesco, heirloom tomato varieties, raddichio, coloured carrots, and painted corn.. have all joined my seed box collection recently, and these are the rare seed varieties i try and save seeds from. there is also an added benefit to saving seeds from successful crops: every year the seeds that mature and grow are more adapted to the surounding climates, so they'll grow better for you each year! so its a very handy skill, for our rainy climate.

dried carrots seeds (center, spiky) ready for storage

Saving your own seeds:
i've included pictures from two types of veg that have a slight trick to saving their seeds: tomatoes and carrots. tomato seeds need to be fermented before drying, and to get good carrots from your own seeds you need to wait till the second year of the plants lifecycle when the plants are matured.

Monday, October 1, 2012

No-Knead Focaccia Loaf- and a garden tour


i started this blog as a way to share my garden, the food i cook from the garden, with more people. i feel like now is a good time, the end of summer, to show-off this years veg plot at the height of its glory. i started this plot in march of this year, creating the raised beds with recycled scaffolding boards. a friend of mine found a great source for them at a .50 cent a foot for damaged or unusable boards. these were cut to shape, with a jig saw and screwed together with a bit of galvi-band. the finish on the boards is with an outdoor mahgony coloured furniture stain, which i've used on everything stainable, veg crates, doors, garden furniture, you name it. after that we (me, my other half and 4 friends) filled the beds with a third topsoil, then another third with really old sheep manure (a thoughtful gift from friends of mine!), then the top third with compost from the local recycling center, in bandon. it worked out at 40 euro for all the compost. all in all the beds cost around 80 euro to fill and build. not bad.

clockwise , beetroot and rainbow chard, red russian kale plants

old spud patch (they grew 6foot long)

i was inspired by joy larcom's book, Creative Vegetable Gardening (see side bar), for my garden design and all of my planting scheme. i wanted to create a small space within the garden to be able to use for entertaining, eating and enjoying the garden. i went for a square 'C' shape, with a willow arch over the entrance. its my favourite garden i've had in the dozen or so i've created in the past. from joy's book i tried to add intrest by interplanting different textures and colours of plants and planting crops on the diagonal instead of straight lines.

purple sprouting, and red russian kale
leeks, seeding radishes, and squash, lots of nasturtiums

i didn't actually want  or need this garden to meet my eating needs throughout the year, i dont have time to grow all that veg! but rather to just be able to grow the interesting veg i want, enjoy the process of growing them and create an outdoor space to be in. and to my surprise i've had loads of veg, almost more than i need! since the begining of the lettuce season the beds have been giving me loads of choice: from beetroot, to romanesco, spuds, mangetout, onions, courgette, beans, chard, celery, lettuce, herbs, and loads of sweet peas - and theres even more to come!
celery, courgette(front corner), celeriac, beetroot and chard

more purple sprouting, asparagus, purple beans, celery