I am moving slowly and it seems that Easter came and went too quickly and so these beautiful eggs hang before me still, to be enjoyed a few more days. I spent lots of easter cooking, not a great surprise to any who know me. I spent time cooking for us and for friends and did a wonderful catering job that challenged my ‘real’ foodiness. The menu included four dozen freshly shucked Pacific oysters, three Eastern rock lobsters; hand picked on Saturday and killed on Sunday, and three rock cod that were speared at Palm Beach in the morning and brought to me to kill. By days end I was done with death and chose to use the experience to take note of and value the life I am surrounded by. Once dispatched the lobsters were halved and cleaned the meat loosened from the tails and tarragon butter poured beneath them before they were placed to grill on the barbeque and served in the shell, there were plenty of happy noises and not a morsel to discard later and so, I think they were appreciated and did not die in vain. At home the fare was simpler cooked at low temperature for longer, which suits this season and the produce on hand.
This slow cooked Potti Morran pumpkin made a memorable and delicious meal. I stuffed it with lamb mince I cooked with quinoa and pomegranate molasses. Antonio, who features in my last post inspired the filling and he and Camilla grew the pumpkin. Look out for small dense fleshed pumpkins to fill with whatever delicious thing you can think of. I have made them with a filling similar to the Millet recipes from a previous post and mushrooms are seasonal and go wonderfully with pumpkin. It works best to rub the outside of the pumpkin with a little duck fat or ghee, cut the base so it will sit flat on a baking tray, cut off a lid and remove all the seeds. Spoon in a fairly wet, pre-cooked meat, vegetable or grain based filling, replace the lid and pour a little stock or water into the baking tray, cover loosely with foil and bake at 140C for an hour or two, depending on size. Remove the foil and continue to bake until a small sharp knife passes easily through the flesh at its thickest point. Rest a few minutes, transfer to a platter remove the lid and sprinkle with freshly shucked pomegranate and lots of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley. This is a truly Autumn offering that will help keep out the chill. Then there is the Coq au Vin recipe I promised you…
I turned Camilla’s gift of one of her much loved cockerels into my version of a Coq au Vin. The secret to delectability here is lots of good organic red wine and thyme and time and looong low slow cooking. A free ranged cockerel whose time has come, is quite a different beast to the young chooks we are used to buying. The meat is stringy and much drier and so the wine provides more than its delicious flavour, it helps to soften the sinews and ensures it does not dry out, adding lots of eshallots and sweet root vegetables also adds great texture and flavour and the addition of a litre or two of gelatinous stock ensures fabulous, easily digested nutrition. You may wonder, why eat a stringy older bird, when sweet juicy hens abound, its all about the amazing flavour and fabulous texture and making the most out of a life well lived scratching in the dirt. Since you may not have a cockerel to use, you can make this with a regular chook, reduce the cooking time to an hour and a half but none the less, keep it low and slow and serve some fresh raw fermented foods and a lightly simmered side dish to ensure there are plenty of live enzymes to aid digestion of the fats and proteins in the dish.
I’ll post a recipe for this dish…soon, in the meantime I am off to spend four days with 11 women at Seal Rocks. There will no doubt be tails to tell.
The photo’s above were taken by my much loved friend Cloudy Rhodes. Cloudy is a well recognised surfing talent and an up and coming young photographer. Clouds has a delicate yet quirky eye and many of her photos express a painterly sensibility I love. Watch her space at http://cloudyrhodes.tumblr.com We spent a lovely day shooting a range of dishes; the results will be available soon.
Oh and who is coming to class? I have a fabulous sourdough baking class coming up May 22nd in Bondi, see Bondi Programme tab to the right here. Please tell whoever you feel might like to know how to make and active leaven so that this ‘No Knead Fruit loaf’ is at their fingertips and so much more besides, naturally leavened cakes and pastry to eat with divine cultured cream and ….
In my book, growing real organic wholefood and friendship go hand in hand. It takes tenacity and hard work to grow real food but the rewards are many fold. I count my daughter and I incredibly fortunate to have such foodie friends, whom we adore, who are committed to growing free range organic food, at home in the country. ‘The country’ fits the Sussex like area they live, where hills roll and European trees proliferate, this is not really ‘the bush’. We spent a fabulous wet weekend prior to Easter, at Glenquarry, a magnificent rural haven; not far from Bowral, two and a half hours from home. Antonio Ramos and Camilla Mahony are the proprietors of ‘Olive Green Organics’ their life is about providing Australians with the best packaged organic produce,sourced in Italy and South America. They sell many great products including the best gluten free pasta I have ever tried and traditionally farmed high altitude Quinoa and Amaranth from the Irupana collective in Bolivia. They and their truly divine nippies Paloma and Maximo live on the land in harmony with the elements growing most of their fresh food. This family is committed to developing nourishing soil in and on which to raise nutrient rich produce, to feed themselves and many of their friends. Maximo and Paloma are learning about respect for life and death and real food through their inclusion in everything it takes to grow your own. These are happy free roaming children who are a delight to be with, they are well nourished with love and the best the land can offer. All the animals growing here are destined for the pot, in their right season but while they live, they are much loved and carefully tended.
In the past couple of years we have cooked and feasted on incomparable home grown pig, sheep, duck,cockerel and a wide assortment of vibrant mineral rich vegetables. On this Autumn visit, we came home with large Queensland blue and French heirloom Potti Marron pumpkins, onions, carrots, eggplants, fat bunches of just picked herbs, yacon (a South American tuber to eat raw or cooked) and a Cockerel; not much makes me happier than having fine produce to create with. Antonio and Camilla share the many tasks but it seems to me, he is lord of the four legged beasties, Henry the dog and the soil, while Camilla devotes her time to raising the two legged creatures including the most fabulous collection of heritage breed ducks and poultry, however, the lines of work are fluid. Camilla is breeding poultry with function as her goal, there are 40 or more chooks and we were fortunate to arrive the week 14 young cockerels met their maker and thus the cooking pot, that was a delicious sadness, pics of a most delicious Coq au Vin to come.
Camilla’s free ranged chooks provide eggs in the extraordinary array of colours, seen in the photo below. The grey blue birds are Arucana they lay the light blue egg, this breed, like Antonio, hails from Chile. I am sure Antonio’s heritage is a contributing factor in his magnanimous come one, come all, lets eat together nature. Camilla quietly embraces and engages the many and ensures peace and order have a home too, they are a special family and India and I always leave with full hearts and fuller stomachs. Together we all cook and chat and plant and reap and laugh and walk and bake and cook and eat… This trip we ate hot cross buns from ‘Flour, Water, Salt’ Bowral’s Sourdough bakery, definitely worth a detour to go here where the bread and cakes reflect someones careful attention and passion. We made a range of delicious meals that included one of the Potti Marron pumpkins stuffed with home grown minced pork, garlic, onions and whatever else it was Antonio added to what he called his ‘porkognese’, this dish inspired me to make something similar when I got home but I used lamb and pomegranate in mine, photos will follow. These pumpkins have a dense flesh, they are not very sweet but they are totally delicious and look gorgeous. India and I made a fig and chestnut tart and Camilla wowed us all with her cockerel casserole and roasted rack of home produced lamb. I left them with a monster loaf of freshly baked sourdough bread, which Antonio told me he was still eating a week on. Above are photos of the poultry, the magnificent French ‘Moran’ cockerel is top left, his feather footed missus lays the chocolate brown eggs below, on his right is a Dutch Barnevelder chicken, she lays the medium brown breakky. The ‘Silver Laced Wyandotte’ is an American breed, she lays the cream coloured eggs. The white eggs belong to the large showy five toed, top-knotted French heritage Houdan, she refused a photo; the French once considered Houdan to be the best birds for eating, today they are mostly bred for their looks. It seems then that egg colour has to do with breed, not feed as I had previously thought. These impressive looking eggs are all utterly delicious. I am keen for my own heritage breed chickens but for now I make do with tending my neighbours two free roaming Isa browns, reliable layers who provide us with a delightfully brown egg each, each day they are away. Collecting eggs from free ranging hens is somewhat like finding hidden treasure and is, I believe, a pleasure not to be missed by anyone. That eggs from truly free ranging hens are also a perfectly balanced package of easily digested nutrients makes them a gift of nature not to be taken for granted.
1 cup hulled millet
½ tablespoon duck fat, ghee or raw sesame oil
3 cups well seasoned stock, I used chicken
1 cup peeled, par cooked chestnuts
1 knob fresh young ginger, roughly chopped
12 fresh or raw dried walnut halves soaked overnight in lightly salted water, drained well
Bring the stock to a simmer
Heat a separate pan and add the fat or oil
Toss in the millet
Stir using a wooden spoon, keep it moving until the millet is evenly lightly toasted and nutty smelling
Pour the hot stock into the pan, being careful of the steam created
add the chestnuts and ginger
Stir to combine and cover with a tight fitting lid
Place on a diffuser and turn the heat to low
Cook for 30minutes
Turn off the heat but leave the lid on for a further 10 minutes
Stir gently to combine, the grains should be fluffy and very slightly sticky. For greater fluff factor toast a little more and add ¼ cup less stock
Serve with soaked walnuts, freshly steamed green beans and broccoli
We ate this with sticky slow roasted pumpkin, parsnips, onion and garlic and cultured red cabbage pickles; it was declared a big hit. A little grain and lots of vegetables, a fine meal makes.
Note: The fat and chicken stock are optional, I use them because they not only increase the nutrient value of this dish, they also contribute fantastic flavour, great texture and slow the absorption of sugars in the grains; so you stay satisfied for longer. The cultured vegetables assist your body to utilise the nutrients and provide plenty of vitamins, live enzymes and probiotic bugs; to aid digestion. These are some of the principles of nutrient dense dining.
I brought several kilos of each home, I will be finding good places to include both over the next few weeks, I may even make some chestnut flour; for a dense divine Italian style cake. Iv’e spent a fair bit of today admiring, photographing, peeling and cracking, this is my kind of fun.
JUST PICKED OR STORE BOUGHT CHESTNUTS…Contain the chestnuts in a bag that breathes and place them in the fridge for up to six weeks. When you are ready to use them pierce the flat side with a small sharp knife and make a slit. Place on a roasting tray and roast at 200˚C until the skin splits and they are soft. Wrap in a cloth to allow them to steam and both skins to soften, peel and eat whilst warm. Or place on embers and turn frequently until cooked through, then do the cloth trick and peel. If you want the flesh intact to cook with, place the chestnuts in cold water and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove to cool water and peel the outer skin off whilst they are still warm. return to the water and simmer 5-8 minutes and then peel the inner pellicle (brown inner skin) from the nut, which will leave you a wrinkly, crinkly chestnut; to use as you will. I like to cook these a bit more, add a little fat (duck fat or coconut fat work well, depends on your taste) then squash the chestnuts into mush and squish them into little balls, I then roll them in chopped roasted almonds, these are a treat after dinner or in the lunchbox of someone you adore- could be you?
If you are buying chestnuts from the markets or a shop look for deep, rich colour with lots of lustre, they should be heavy for their size and hard when lovingly squeezed.
JUST PICKED WALNUTS….spread them out in the sun or in a dry spot to air for a few days, the idea is to dry them out enough that they keep well for a few months. If you contain them damp you will end up with mouldering blacked nuts, these wont taste or do you any good; an old nut or mouldy nut is never a good nut. When your ready crack the nuts and remove the walnut halves. You could skip the drying, crack the lot and store them in a bag in the freezer, that works well. A fresh nut is unlike anything you can buy, they are clean tasting and crisp as anything try a few this way. Due to being hard to digest its a great idea to soak all nuts overnight in salted filtered water, next day rinse well and drain. These can either be used as is or you can dry them out at under 42˚C until they are very crisp, this will help retain their active enzymes and you can treat them as ‘raw’ food. Once dried store in an airtight glass jar, in the fridge. That recipe, the one I’m making as I type, has evolved, no brown rice at home so its become Millet and chestnut instead, the texture of millet gently toasted before boiling in chicken broth should go fabulously, well see….recipe coming later, once I’ve cooked and eaten it.
I recommend buying nuts in small amounts frequently and buying from a supplier who does a roaring trade. The organic food network supply excellent organic nuts in Brookvale and Nobby’s is a conventional supplier with a massive turnover, in Ramsgate I think. Consume them whilst they are fresh, rancid nuts will taste awful and be deleterious to your health.
Chestnuts and Walnuts resemble the brain, in macrobiotic philosophy a food that has a likeness to an organ is said to feed that organ, here’s hoping…