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2014 has started off with such a bang!

Look what has happened!  Quite out of the blue, not an inkling that it was going to happen….. just bang, the email arrived yesterday morning.

Best Blog Award Ever!

Best Blog Award Ever!

To have my blog named as best blog by a fellow blogger is one thing, and by a fellow blogger who has achieved so much, is just magic!  Regula’s work has been featured by The Cheese Mag, Jamie Magazine, Saveur, Pretty Nostalgic Magazine, Huffingtonpost Taste, Harrods, Great British Chefs and The Foodie Bugle magazine…. just major, major wow!

Regula and I have chatted on line – about food (naturally), about raising pigs, about photography.  She has kindly even allowed me to use one of her photographs in our course handouts to demonstrate how to weigh a pig with a piece of string from when she did a pig-rearing course herself.

I absolutely adore her blog and her photography….. it is something for me to aspire to… oh how I would love to take photographs like Regula’s.

So can you imagine my excitement, the feeling of such honour to have someone you admire, choose your blog as their favourite and to see all this in print in such a wonderful food magazine?  I am still reeling!  My blog is mentioned in the Fine Food Digest (page 53)….. can anything else in 2014 bring about such excitement?

Thank you so so much Regula.

Thank you, thank you so much, Regula….. you have made me very happy :)

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It has been an absolutely hectic few weeks here at Oldfarm …. not that we are complaining!  As you will have noticed the blog has been completely neglected – I just did not have the time!

I have never had a ‘guest’ blogger before so I thought as I didn’t have the time, I’d have a guest blogger.  Great idea you’d think?  In reality I didn’t even have time to publish the post!!!

I’d ask Margaret Griffin from at FoodBornandBred, to explain the whole ‘freezing’ thing.  As we don’t use ANY preservatives in our pork or bacon the only way we have of ‘preserving’ our meat is by freezing it once it is butchered.

I felt as Margaret has a professional qualification in Food Science she could explain the technicalities way, way better than I can.  

And I was so right!  Did you know you could freeze eggs?  I freeze egg whites, but never thought of freezing the whole egg.

I was asked by Margaret from Oldfarm to write an information piece on freezing.  I have put together a few pointers which I hope may be of help. Everything to do with food I find, is trial and error. What is acceptable to me may not be to you.  The primary aim is to preserve and thaw food so that it does not have any impact on food safety and a minimal impact on quality.

Pork Belly for streaky rashers

Pork Belly for streaky rashers

 

The first thing to remember about freezing is there is almost nothing you cannot freeze.  The quality on thawing may not be great but for the most part will still be useable in some shape or form.  Primary examples of this are cream and coconut milk. Both tend to separate on thawing but are still perfectly fine cooked in a sauce.

Freezing preserves fresh food. Food which is old has a higher bacterial count. Freezing does not kill bacteria or toxins produced by bacteria. Freezing just inhibits bacterial growth. However, once the water in the food becomes available (to the bacteria) on defrosting, they quickly resume their growth curve. This is known as “available water”. Bacteria like all life need water.

For this reason it is important to freeze food in prime condition. If you purchase food that is very close to its use by date it is advisable to freeze it but consume it within a few weeks.

Fruit and vegetables with a very high water content do not freeze well. This is because the ice crystals that form are large and upon thawing disrupt the cell wall structure of the fruit causing leakage.  So strawberries will become soft and flaccid on thawing. Lettuce limp and brown.

Freezing eggs in their shell is about as advisable as freezing a glass bottle of anything liquid. Liquids expand on freezing so unless the glass bottle is half full it is probably best avoided.  To freeze whole eggs break and whisk them together noting on the label how many eggs you have used. Then remove from freezer and place overnight in the fridge to thaw. When I managed a bakery we used to buy 20 litre boxes of fresh whole eggs and freeze them all the time. The key is to defrost slowly.

Egg whites freeze beautifully, egg yolks less so although are still fine for baking

Pork and bacon both freeze really well. Years ago I always heard that it was not advisable to freeze bacon. This was due in part to a lot of it being cured by injection. The meat is injected with brine using lots of injector needles rather than immersing it. This method was used as it was quicker and got the brine distributed throughout the joint more evenly. However, the needles disrupted the meat cells and when defrosting there was considerably more leakage.

Oldfarm pork and bacon is frozen immediately after butchering and curing. This means that both the bacteria count is very low and as the bacon is immersion cured it will freeze and thaw without any noticeable loss of quality.

Thawing frozen food is best done slowly so as not to impinge on the quality.  Rapid thawing causes more cell wall damage leading to more water loss.  A large joint of meat for example is best defrosted in the fridge for between 24-48 hours, depending on the size. In winter I often defrost meat overnight in a room that is not heated and find this works equally well.  Never defrost meat by immersing in warm water. The defrosting bacteria can initiate a huge growth spurt as the water not only becomes available but warm. The bacterial equivalent of a rave ensues. Cue the human equivalent of the Black Death.

Defrosting in a microwave is useful if you are in a hurry or have forgotten to take something out of the freezer on time. The most important thing to remember is that defrosting in this manner is patchy and uneven. A roast joint can almost cook on the outside and still be rock solid in the centre. I find the best way is to set the microwave on defrost for a minute at a time and continually turn the item. Then cook immediately.  It is really advisable to probe a joint cooked after rapid defrosting to ensure the core has reached temperature. A guideline I go by is that most food poisoning bacteria are killed at 63 degrees centigrade. However, food safety guidelines tend to advise 72 degrees to allow for a margin of error.  If your core temperature is 72 degrees you can be fairly certain you will be fine.

Pork loin

The main thing to remember is that you get out of the freezer what you put in. If you freeze good quality, well hung and butchered meat (like that from a reputable meat supplier such as Oldfarm) you take out the same.

 

 

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Ooops!  I make this cake a lot at this time of year, I’ve made two already this past week, and I cannot believe I’ve not shared the recipe with you!

I’ve been asked so many times for the recipe, and I nonchalantly said ‘oh it’s on the blog’.  Just now I decided to check and it isn’t!!!  Sorry!

So here it is….

Oldfarm Apple Cake

Oldfarm Apple Cake

The original recipe came from The Big Apple – a little apple recipe book I picked up in a delightful little tea shop in Ledbury, but I’ve adjusted it a bit as usual.

Ingredients:

  • 200 g (8 oz) cooked Apple
  • 200 g (8 oz) Butter
  • 200 g (8 oz) Castor Sugar
  • 4 duck eggs
  • 200 g (8 oz) Spelt Flour (or you could use 8 oz of Self-Raising Flour)
  • 1.5 teasp. Baking Powder (omit this if you are using self-raising flour)
  • 100 g (4 oz) Sultanas

Method:

Preheat your oven to 150/160 deg. C

Peel and chop 4 – 6 apples depending on their size.  Put the chopped apple into saucepan and add a splash of water.  (I would often do way more apple, stew the lot and then freeze some, or have some for breakfast with some yoghurt the next day.)  Simmer the apple for about 15 – 20 minutes until softened and stewed.

Cream your butter and castor sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add your eggs one at a time, beating them well into the butter/sugar mixture.  When adding the final egg add a tablespoon of the flour with it.  Mix your baking powder with your flour and fold the rest into your butter/sugar/egg mixture.

Add your cooked apples and your sultanas to the mix.

Line a 9 in/21 cm cake tin.  Pour your mixture into it.

Bake in the oven for about 55 minutes to 1 hour until golden brown.

We keep saying that this would be lovely with custard poured over, but it never lasts long enough for that to happen!

Enjoy :)

 

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We love root vegetables in this house – carrots, parsnips, turnips are all popular but by far the top scoring is Celeriac.

I’ve tried to grow it without success.  One year I got beautiful foliage but no root…. this year it did not take at all.  The only consolation I have is that I was talking to Kieran, the head gardener at An Gairdin and he has given up trying to grow it!

So it should be cherished really – congratulations to those who can grow it.

This is a recipe from my first ever cookery course.  It was a weekend course given by Otto Kuntz in Dunworley Cottage right on the coast in West Cork.  I loved that course, and still treasure the memories of that weekend.

This celeriac and cheese dish makes an absolutely delicious starter, but I guess you could also serve it as a side dish with some turkey or ham!

Celeriac with Cheese Sauce

Celeriac with Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

  • One head of celeriac
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 60 ml Cream
  • 100 g Blue cheese is best, but any cream cheese could be used.

Method:

Peel and cut your celeriac in to about 1/2 inch chunks.  Cook in boiling water for about 10 minutes, until just soft.  You can do this part ahead of time.

When you are almost ready to serve…. Heat your olive oil in a frying pan, dip each piece of celeriac firstly in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumbs and gently fry turning over until each piece is nice and golden.  Keep the pieces warm in the bottom of the oven, or on a warming plate.

To make the sauce, gently heat your cream and crumble in your cheese of choice. Just gently heat the sauce until all the cheese has melted.

Arrange your cubes of celeriac on the plate and pour over the sauce.

Enjoy!

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We are having a month of visitors…. some planned visits and some unexpected.  So last week I had to think up something for lunch… was going to make some tomato soup with the last of our crop, but there was an unsuspecting butternut squash lurking in the drawer…. so I used the Spiced Pumpkin soup from Tonia George’s book….

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

So much worth the effort.  I actually went out and bought a couple of more squash yesterday – they have them on special offer in Aldi at 39 c – so go get one.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into cubes
  • 1 onion, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 800 ml light chicken or vegetable stock
  • 100 ml coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
  • freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 deg C (400 F) or Gas Mark 6.

Put the squash, onion, chilli flakes, coriander, ginger and olive oil in a large roasting tin and toss well.  Cover with tinfoil and roast in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through, until almost soft.

Remove the foil, add the garlic cloves and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes or until the garlic is tender.

When the squash is soft, transfer the contents of the roasting tin to a blender (or use a handheld blender) and liquidise with half the stock until smooth.  Return to the pan and adding the remaining stock and coconut milk.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle.  Stir in the fish sauce and lime juice and taste for seasoning – if it needs more salt, add a dash more fish sauce.

Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

Divide between 4 – 6 bowls, drizzle with cream and finish with a fresh grinding of black pepper.

We enjoyed our soup with delicious Sourdough Bread brought by Maggie from Food Born & Bred

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Oldfarm Hummus

Apologies…. I’ve not been blogging in a while.  I could say that I’ve been incredibly busy – which I have – but in truth, I guess I’ve just not been organised.  I seemed to be pulled in so many directions the past few weeks, something was bound to give, and I’m afraid the blog was the one that lost out.

That, however, is all about to change.

I am back.

And to celebrate being back I thought I’d share this recipe with you.  There is, of course, a story behind the recipe.  Some of you may say it is not ‘authentic’ because heaven forbid I use peanut butter instead of tahini!  Duck quick before you are hit by that bolt of lightening for such heresy!!!

Oldfarm Hummus

Oldfarm Hummus

I remember when I first started on twitter, someone was in a panic as they were in the throes of making some hummus and realised they’d no tahini, and they wondered what they should use instead.  I suggested using peanut butter, which caused great hilarity in the twitter world.

However, I would say “don’t knock it, til you’ve tried it.”

My sister gave me this recipe and I’ve since passed it on to so many people, and have been requested so many times to bring it along to houses…. it really is delicious and quick and simple to make.

Ingredients:

  • Tin of Chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter – approx. 1/2 a jar – I use the crunchy one, just because I like it.
  • 2 – 3 gloves of garlic
  • Juice of 2 – 3 lemons.
  • Olive oil and paprika to decorate

Method:

Blitz chickpeas and peanut butter.  Add the garlic and lemon juice slowly – tasting as you go.  When you are satisfied with the taste, scoop into pretty bowl – drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.

Sit down and enjoy! :)

 

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We had a bumper crop of Kohl Rabi in the tunnel this year…. and we’ve both decided that it really is just nicest eaten raw.  It is so delicious raw that we haven’t even tried to cook it!!

I thought I’d share this recipe with you, as I saw Kohl Rabi available in Lidl last week. It is the first time I’ve ever seen them available in any shops around here.

This recipe is a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall but let me tell you…. I’ve left the anchovies off (not my favourite food) and it was define.  Another time I forgot to sprinkle the goat’s cheese on, and it was still define.

So go for it – mix it up whatever way and enjoy it.

Kohl Rabi Carpaccio

Kohl Rabi Carpaccio

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium Kohl Rabi
  • 50 g goat’s cheese (hard or soft)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • Anchovy (optional)
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • Salt and Pepper.

Method:

Peel the Kohl Rabi.  Slice into very thin slivers – I used a mandolin.  If you are using the anchovies – slice thinly and scatter over.

If using hard goat’s cheese shave it, or a soft one – crumble some over.  Scatter the thyme leaves.  Squeeze the lemon juice and pour it and rapeseed oil over.

Season with salt and pepper.

Serve and eat at once.

You will enjoy! :)

 

 

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Yes, I have a new love.  Quinoa.

Minty, pea quinoa

Minty, pea quinoa

I don’t know where it has been for all of my life…. but this summer I have totally fallen in love with.  And I have to give MAJOR thanks to Cynthia at TheSolitaryCook for bringing this love into my life.  Cynthia is now my ‘go to’ person for anything in relation to quinoa.

Isn’t the blogsphere wonderful the way it can bring people from faraway places together?  Maybe one day Cynthia will come visit here, or I will get to visit her in Montana :)  A girl can dream.

I do remember having quinoa years ago – but my memory is of it being horrible!  Something to be avoided.

A couple of months back spurred on by Cynthia I tried her quinoa cakes – they were delicious.  I made a mess of making them in ‘cakes’ but the taste more than made up for my mess.

When Cynthia posted her lamb chops with minty quinoa of course I had to try it.  It is so so delicious.  It has become an ‘almost’ weekly dinner in this house – or will be while we still have a supply of our neighbour’s lamb chops.

I am reposting Cynthia’s recipe here…. with the adjustments of Imperial and Metric measurements to replace the cups.  Do also follow Cynthia’s instructions on cooking the lamb chops….. they are delicious too.

minty, pea quinoa

Minty, pea quinoa with lamb chops

Ingredients:

  • 7 oz./200 grms  Quinoa – plain or rainbow
  • 1 pt water
  • 5 oz/140 grms peas – fresh or frozen.
  • Greens of 2 scallions (or I’ve used a large bunch of chives)
  • 2 tsp fresh mint
  • 2 tsp fresh parsley
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2/3 ozs Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt & Pepper

Method:

Firstly rinse your quinoa under cold running water.

Bring your 1 pt of water to boil, and pop in your quinoa.  Reduce to a simmer and cook gently for about 12 minutes.  Don’t let it get mushy.  If there is any water left in the pot when the quinoa is cooked, just drain it off.  Put the quinoa in a bowl and fluff it up a bit.

Cook your peas.  Chop your scallions or chives, fresh mint and fresh parsley.  Add all to the quinoa.

Drizzle over your olive oil and the lemon juice.

Season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy!  You will eat loads…. and it is a ‘super’ food, so it is good for you too!

Am I the only person to have lived this long without quinoa?

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Regular readers will be aware that we’ve had the first chick in decades hatch here at Oldfarm recently.  I am like a doting Auntie with it :)

As soon as it hatched, I went into ‘how do we feed it’ mode?  I hadn’t thought about it before.  Well, it was my first time being a chick auntie.

Mammy hens don’t breast feed – so how do I feed it????

Mammy hen had been sitting on 8 or 10 eggs but only one baby emerged.

Off I went in search of chick feed.

Firstly, it only comes in 20 kg bags!  I have only one chick!

Then you read the label on the 20 kg bag – it is full of really really bad stuff.

So thank God for google.  There I am standing on Main Street, Birr googling home-made chick feed!!!!  I told you I was doing my doting Auntie bit.

And I came across this recipe from Garden Betty – check out her amazing site.  She gives a very good breakdown of the proteins, etc. in the various ingredients.

home-made chick feed

home-made chick feed

Birr isn’t exactly the place to be trying to source some of the ingredients but I improvised.

Here’s my recipe for home-made chick feed:

  • 4 ozs Porridge Oats
  • 4 ozs Wheat Germ
  • 2 ozs Linseed
  • 1 oz Lentils – I used red just because that was what I had
  • 1 oz Sesame seeds
  • 1 oz Poppy seeds
  • 1 oz Sunflower seeds

The first evening I made up the mix I did blitz it down in the mixer, but I needn’t have bothered.  If you watch closely Mammy Hen actually breaks down any big bits for chick… and the chick is well able to swallow the whole porridge oats.

How long will the above mix last?  Less and less time as the chick grows and eats more!  The first time it lasted a couple of days – now I am making it almost on a daily basis.

Needless to say it has gone from the lovely cutsie look to the gangly teenager look already, and it is just coming up on one month old.

It definitely does seem to be thriving, hopefully it will continue to do so.

Does anyone else make their own feed?

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In this house this North African spice mix is called ‘top of the house’, although Wikipedia describes it as ‘top of the shop‘, either way it is traditional mix of best spices on offer in the shop or house.

There can in fact be up to 30 different spices included in the mix.

Some spices may be particular to the region, such as ash berrieschufagrains of paradiseorris rootmonk’s peppercubebs, or dried rosebud. (excerpt of explanation from Wikipedia)

I have to admit do not having heard of half of these :)

Ras el Hanout

Ras el Hanout

Once the mix is made up it can be used as a rub on any meat – we particularly like it on lamb or goat – but it is equally nice on chicken.

Of course, the main thing about Ras-el-Hanout is that you can add your own twist to it, and make it your very own ‘top of the house’ mix.

Once you’ve made your mix it will last in an airtight container for 3 months.

Here’s Alfie’s recipe for Ras-el-Hanout:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds (slightly ground)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves.

Mix them all together and use them liberally on whatever your fancy, be it a roast or on the bbq.

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