Friday, 30 May 2008

A Little Rant About Fast Food

Well, as predicted, this week has been awfully full of work. A tenant moved out; she was there for 8 years, and we lived in the apartment ourselves for 5 years before that and passed it on to her in good condition. Consequently, it has not been painted for 13 years! Every inch of the unit now needs repainting. Normally, we would keep an apartment vacant for a month to deal with that much painting, but the tenant moved out a week early and we decided we could do it. Probably we will. But not much has been happening around here this week besides working and sleeping, puncutated by the occasional sandwich or quick meal out.

On which topic...

Fast food used to be better. I know it was. It's not just that I'm getting older and pickier about what goes into my mouth. It's certainly not that I have any view of the past as some kind of lost golden age. Fast food has always been all about exploitation and profits. That hasn't changed. The thing is, the food has changed, and it's definitely worse.

Maybe not McDonalds. I've always hated their stuff. The Big Mac was the first modern fast food I was exposed to, at about age 15. Even as an undiscriminating teenager, I took one bite and passed the rest of it to my brother, who unfortunately was even less discriminating. Their fries are pale, flaccid and greasy, and smell vaguely of vomit. Nothing new there, I assume - I don't think I've been in a McDonalds in at least 5 years. Wendy's, on the other hand, used to make a fairly edible hamburger. It looked and tasted like meat, at any rate. Now it reminds me of paté, but not in a good way; greasy-smooth in texture, fatty, and was that liver I tasted? Not good liver, I'll tell you that. The fattiness was nasty, and left my mouth feeling grease-coated for an hour. Feh.

Harveys' burgers were always full of filler, but they used to have not just decent french fries, but good ones. Ancient history for at least 10 years now; their reasonable selection of burger toppings just aren't worth going in for without anything else decent to eat with them. The good fries hung on a little longer at Swiss Chalet, but they are long gone there too, along with fresh-tasting chicken. Any I've had in the last year or two has seemed soggy, stringy and re-heated, not to mention the amazing shrinking portions and expanding prices.

Speaking of chicken, we used to get a decent roast chicken (it contained chicken, salt) from Costco. They too disappeared about 5 years ago, replaced with soggy, stringy reheated stuff with an ingredient list as long as my arm. Tim Hortons?* They used to make a chicken salad sandwich I thought was reasonable. However, the last one I had was sold as a chicken salad sandwich. It looked like a chicken salad sandwich. It was priced like a chicken salad sandwich. Unfortunately, it was not a chicken salad sandwich. It was made with some sort of re-formed, salty, gelatinous mess with slight chicken flavour and passable chicken colour (which, lets face it, is not that different from sawdust... hmm.) Yech. Don't even talk to me about their doughnuts. Walkin' talkin' chemical dumps and none too fresh half the time.

Okay, I understand that fast food chains are always looking to cut costs. But what I DON'T understand is why people put up with this kind of crap. Do they not notice? Do they not care? Why don't they scream to high heaven, or at least do what I do, and never darken the doors of these establishments again except in the direst of dire emergencies? Of course, the fast food joints work hard to convince us all that life is an endless series of dire food emergencies, for which they have the solution. Or maybe it's just that they bombard us so constantly with advertising that most people become convinced that this is what food is actually like.

The one good thing I can see about all this is that fast food is getting to be such an unmitigated disaster; morally, culturally, financially, dietetically and gastronomically that surely a lot more people than me are running away from this crap, screaming as they go.

So let's speak up, loud and clear: the emperor has no food. Bring a sandwich and an apple (how long does it take to fling a slice of cheese, some lettuce and tomato into a bun?) Eat at an independent restaurant - Ontario is generally pretty rich in inexpensive ethnic restaurants, at least if you are in any reasonable sized town. Let them know you would like them to use local, seasonal food, and when they do so, order it. And finally, buy and eat good food when you are at home, so that when someone puts a big, fat steaming pile of CRAP in front of you, you will know it and call it by name.

*This is the one we ate at recently and set me off.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Black Bean Soup with Asparagus

This is a very fast, flexible and easy soup to make; it's also good to make without the asparagus, or perhaps with some other green vegetable added. Leafy things are best I think; I don't see peas or green beans being quite right. Spinach maybe, or kale, chard or rapini. Something with that slightly bitter quality greens can have, to counteract the smooth richness of the black beans and the spiciness of the salsa. Actually, this is very good without any vegetable at all, and as such could be served all year.

The salsa/tomato/vegetable cocktail componant of the soup is, obviously, quite flexible. I used a mixture of half and half my own home-canned salsa and canned diced tomatoes. My preference would be for that, or for the vegetable cocktail. If you only have plain canned tomatoes, I would suggest adding a green onion and a slice of celery, cut up and sautéd with the cumin. Actually, get them started a few minutes before the cumin then add it at the last minute - it cooks quickly.

4 servings
20 minutes - 15 minutes prep time

Black Bean Soup with Asparagus

1 540-ml (19 ounce) tin black beans
2 cups prepared salsa, or crushed or diced tomatoes,
or vegetable cocktail, or some combination thereof
1 scant tablespoon olive oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cumin seed, crushed
1 to 1 1/2 cup packing water, water, broth or asparagus cooking water
250 gram (1/2 pound) asparagus

Drain the beans, but save the packing liquid to thin the soup. Put the beans in a blender with the salsa or other tomato stuff.

Crush the cumin seed and cook it in a small skillet in the oil, until it sizzles and you can smell it. Add it to the blender. Add about 1/2 cup bean packing liquid, water or broth. Purée until very smooth.

Put the soup into a pot and heat it over medium heat.

Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Cut off the tips, then cut the rest of it into fairly small pieces, about the same in length as the asparagus is thick. Cook the asparagus in a separate pot until tender, about 4 or 5 minutes. Fish out the tips and use them to garnish the soup. Put the rest of the asparagus into the soup, and thin it with some of the asparagus cooking water if it is too thick. Test and adjust the seasonings - watch the salt; some of the ingredients called for can have quite a bit. A little pepper may be all that's needed. Serve the soup when it is hot, garnished with the asparagus tips.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Bean Salad, Again

Bean Salad was one of the first things I posted on this blog. I make quite a variety of bean salads thoughout the year, but it does seem to be a handy staple dish for late spring when you still want something with a bit of heft, but salads are starting to have more and more appeal. Also, they can make good use of frozen vegetables while we are still waiting for much in the way of fresh ones.

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Bean Salad
1 540-ml (19 ounce) tin of red kidney or black beans
2 medium carrots
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 head of hydroponic lettuce

Rinse and drain the beans. Peel and grate the carrots. Put the peas and corn in a pot with water to cover, and bring to a boil. Drain well. Clean the lettuce and cut it into fairly fine shreds. Mix all these ingredients in a salad bowl.

1/3 cup sunflower seed oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & pepper

Mix 'em up and toss into the salad.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Leftover Fish Casserole

And there's nothing wrong with that! I'd do it again...

This is about the last thing I made before we headed off for our week in Victoria. It was a real clean-out-the-fridge dish, but after all we do need to do that once in a while! I had half of the Baked Whitefish with Fennel left, as well as a few root veggies that were declaring that I needed to use them or lose them. I'm calling for milk for the white sauce, but I actually just used up every carton of liquid dairy product left in the fridge. Then there was a glut of eggs I had bought in the last week... well, it all went together as if it had been planned.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Leftover Fish Casserole
White Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
salt & pepper
1 teaspoon savory
3 cups milk

Cook the butter and flour gently together in a large heavy-bottomed pot, stirring frequently, until thick and pasty. Season with salt, pepper and savory. Slowly stir in the milk, a little at a time, to make a smooth sauce. This should all be done over medium-low heat. When it is thick, turn off the stove and set the sauce aside.

The Casserole:
4 extra-large eggs
2 large russet potatoes (450 grams; 1 pound)
1 to 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced celeriac
2 cups thinly sliced rutabaga
1 large onion
450 grams (1 pound) cooked white fish

1 to 1 1/2 cups grated old cheddar

Put the eggs in a pot with a tablespoon of salt, and water to cover. Bring them to a boil, and boil for one minute. Remove them from the stove, and leave them to sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Drain them and rinse them in cold water until cool enough to handle. Peel them and set them aside.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a pot of water and boil them for 10 minutes. Remove them and let them cool enough to handle. Replace them in the pot of boiling water with the celeriac and rutabaga slices. Boil them for 5 minutes, then drain.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Peel and slice the onion thinly. Slice the semi-cooked potatoes thinly. Spread a little of the white sauce in the bottom of a small lasagne-type baking pan. Cover with a layer of potatoes, rutabaga and celeriac, about one third of those vegetables in all. Peel and slice two of the eggs, and layer them over the vegetables with half of the cooked fish, deskinned and deboned and broken into large flakes. Top with more of the white sauce; about 1/4 of the total amount, and about 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Add another layer of the vegetables, another layer of sliced eggs and fish, more white sauce and cheese, and a final layer of vegetables. Spread the last of the white sauce over the top, and sprinkle over the last of the cheese.

Bake at 400°F for about 1 hour, until golden brown on top, and until the vegetables are tender. You may need to cover it with foil if it gets brown too early.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

I'm Baa-aack!

You didn't even know I was away, did you?

My aunt died over the winter, so we went to Victoria this week for the scattering of my aunt's ashes. I had a lovely time eating, catching up with relatives, and eating, and walking around the beautiful city of Victoria, and eating. Plus I seem to recall a whole bunch of eating. None of it pertinent to here, alas.

Even though I am back, you should expect posting to be sparse for the next week or so. I have a lot of work to catch up with, and I can tell already that there are going to be some major headaches.

On the plus side, my fridge is now thoroughly cleaned out, and ready to start a new season of food. We were out visiting some farmer friends today, and came back with a little asparagus and a whole lot of rhubarb.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Baked Whitefish with Fennel

4 servings
30 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Baked Whitefish with Fennel
1 1 kilo (2 pound) whitefish with head, tail and guts removed
6 to 8 large sprigs of fennel
4 to 6 dried red chiles
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash the fish under cold water, and drain well. Lightly butter a baking dish. Lay down several sprigs of fennel, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and put the fish on top. Put a few more sprigs of fennel, and the dried chiles in the cavity of the fish, along with more salt and pepper. Sprinkle the remaining salt and pepper over the fish and top with the last sprig or two of fennel.

Bake the fish for 10 to 15 minutes per inch of the thickest part of the fish. Remove the fennel and chiles before serving the fish.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Lemon-Ginger Sweet Potatoes

2 servings
50 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Lemon-Ginger Sweet Potatoes3 medium sweet potatoes
the finely grated zest of 1 lemon
an equal amount of finely grated ginger
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons melted butter
the juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Clean and trim the sweet potatoes, and cut them into slices about 1/2 cm thick. Put them in a shallow baking pan with the lemon zest, grated ginger, and salt and pepper. Melt the butter, and toss the sweet potato slices in the butter, making sure the seasonings are reasonably well distributed amongst them as well.

Bake the sweet potatoes for 20 minutes. At that point, give them a stir and pour over the lemon juice. Return them to the oven and bake them for another 20 minutes, until tender and slightly browned.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Spaghetti with Eggy Herb Sauce

This is sort of like spaghetti carbonara, only not. There's no bacon (or pancetta); instead there are cream and herbs. I doubt it's any less rich unfortunately, but it is very, very tasty. And it's pasta, so the call goes out to Presto-Pasta Nights at Once Upon a Feast.

Welsh onions, by the way, are like chives in that they are about the first edible things up in the garden. They taste like any other green onion, pretty much, but they are perennials. I've never seen them for sale as plants, and the seeds were sold with ornamental purposes in mind. I don't think they are terribly fast to get to a harvestable size, which is I guess why no-one sells them. But it's great to have a few plants in the garden for early green onion uses. They take up practically no room, and have charming round white flowers, so they can very well be stuck in a flower or herb bed.

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Spaghetti with Eggy Herb Sauce
250 grams (1/2 pound) spaghetti or linguini

3 extra-large eggs
1/3 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
a good large handful mixed herbs
- chives, welsh onions, dill or fennel, mint or basil, and parsley
1 cup grated extra-old cheddar cheese, plus a little more to sprinkle on top

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the spaghetti. When it boils, add the spaghetti and cook until tender, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the cream. Beat in the sea salt and pepper. Clean and finely mince your herbs. I used a good bit of chives and welsh onions, with a little fennel, mint and basil. I would have liked to use parsley but I didn't have any. When your herbs are minced, beat them into the eggs.

Grate the cheese and set it aside.

When the spaghetti is done, drain it quickly and return it to the pot at once. Add the egg and herb mixture, tossing the spaghetti to coat it throughout with the mixture. Keep tossing until the sauce thickens and coats the spaghetti. Toss in the cheese. Serve at once, with a little extra grated cheese on top if you like.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Chicken with Mushrooms & Shallots in Cream Sauce

Here's the other half of my black giant Jersey chicken from Stone Meadow Farm. Deelicious!

2 servings
20 minutes - mostly prep time but not including cooking the chicken

Chicken with Mushrooms & Shallots in Cream Sauce
the cooked meat from 1/2 of a 1.5 kilo (3 to 3 1/2 pound) chicken

4 to 5 shallots
6 to 8 medium-large button mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 teaspoon green peppercorns
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons sherry, plus another
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup 10% cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot

Peel and slice the shallots thinly. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the shallots and mushrooms. Stir regularly. Once they begin to cook down, add the ginger. When the mushrooms and shallots are nicely done, add the chicken pieces, peppercorns, sea salt and 2 tablespoons of sherry. Continue to stir regularly. When the chicken is hot through, add the cream, with the starch well dissolved into it. Stir well. Cook until the sauce thickens, but do not let it boil, or it may curdle. Add the final tablespoon of sherry.

Serve over a barley pilaf or with rice, and with a green veggie.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Carrots & Asparagus with Sesame or Sunflower Seeds

I generally make this once a year. It's a kind of celebration or recognition that we are right on the cusp of the change of seasons. It is really tied to a very specific time: there are still a (very) few stored carrots around, and the very first asparagus is showing up, but it is scarce and expensive. So there's maybe a two week period when it makes sense to make this.

I do like this better with sesame seeds, but of course when I went to look for them I discovered I didn't have any. The sunflower seeds at least have a fighting chance of being local, but they should have been chopped up or lightly crushed; they didn't stick to the vegetables in the way that the sesame seeds do being a bit too large. Tasted fine though.

2 servings
15 minutes - 10 minutes prep time

Carrots and Asparagus with Sesame or Sunflower Seeds
2 medium carrots
10 to 12 spears of asparagus
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sesame or crushed sunflower seeds

Peel the carrots and cut them into 4 quarters lengthwise, forming shapes similar to that of the asparagus. Clean the asparagus and snap off the tough ends.

Put the carrots in a pot where they can lie completely covered with water, and add water to just cover them. Cook them for 5 minutes. Add the asparagus, and cook for another 4 or 5 minutes.

Drain off the water, and set the vegetables aside. Add the butter and seeds, and cook for a minute until the seeds begin to brown. Add the vegetables back into the pan, and stir them gently to coat them in the butter and seeds.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Farfalle with Chicken & Asparagus in Saffron-Chive Broth

So I cooked one of my chickens from Stone Meadow Farms. This was one of my little black giant Jerseys. I was not quite sure what I was going to do, so I poached it and figured I'd come up with something later. I also figured it was good for 2 meals, so I'll be using the rest of it later this week. This recipe thus assumes that you have poached your chicken, and created a good batch of chicken stock. I just rinsed the chicken off and plonked it in a pot with a litre and a half of water, some salt and peppercorns, and couple of bay leaves. I figured 20 minutes per pound would be good, and indeed it was, although if you want falling-off-the-bones cooked, you should probably double that time. I turned it over once in the middle. It was on the lowest temperature my stove will do throughout that time, with the exception of the first five minutes or so when it was on high in order to get that water bubbling.

I deboned the chicken and cut it into bite-sized pieces. I then returned the skin and bones to the pot with the broth, added another litre of water, and simmered it for a few more hours. I strained it, and chilled it overnight. The next day I defatted it and proceeded with this recipe.

I have to say it's been a while since I've had any free-range chicken. Gosh, what a difference. When you are dealing with one you realize that regular commercial chicken isn't so much tender as flabby. Not surprising; I doubt they walk 50 metres in their entire lives, and I can't imagine they ever actually get airbourne. Let me hasten to add that my bird was not tough, but it did chew more like actual meat. The difference in the sturdiness of the bones and connective tissues was amazing. And the flavour - wow! Tasted like chicken, as they say. Frankly, most commercially raised chicken might as well be tofu for all the flavour it has.

And since this is a pasta dish, the call goes out to Presto Pasta Nights at Once Upon a Feast!

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes - not counting cooking the chicken

Pasta with Chicken and Asparagus in Saffron-Chive Broth
200 to 250 grams (1/2 pound) farfalle or other stubby pasta

2 litres (2 quarts) chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
sea salt & pepper
the cooked chicken from 1/2 of a 1.5 kilo (3 pound) chicken
300 grams (2/3 pound) asparagus
1/3 cup minced chives

Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the farfalle. Boil it until half done, about 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the crumbled saffron, and salt and pepper to taste to the chicken stock. Bring it to a boil, and add the drained, half-cooked farfalle. When the stock returns to the boil, add the chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces. After a minute or two, add the asparagus. When there is just a minute or less to go before the farfalle is cooked, add the chives. You may wish to save a few for garnishing. This was so simple, but so flavourful - fresh, quality ingredients make things great!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

A Visit to Meeting Place Organic Farm

On Saturday we drove out past Wingham, to Meeting Place Organic Farm. They were having one of their twice-annual open houses. One is always on the mother's day weekend, and one is in the fall. We always try to go to the mother's day weekend in particular. Not only is it a very nice outing for the day, it is time to get our meat order in for the fall.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Sign
They are located on a minor side road (Creek Line), but their signage is good. You can see some of the electrified fences they use in their rotational grazing.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Reception
Next to an old barn which has been renovated into housing for apprentices and which is also sometimes used for Quaker meetings for worship, there was a stand with information about the farm, manned by one of the current farm apprentices.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Info
And an information display board.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Sheep
We walked back and looked at the sheep.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Cattle
And some of the cattle. Both were in fairly small fields closed off with electrified fencing. The McQuails practice rotational grazing, meaning that their grazing animals are kept in small areas for sufficient time for them to crop it down thoroughly. Then they are moved to the next small area. This prevents them from over-grazing certain plants (their favourites) and ignoring others, thus leading to a proliferation of the least-desirable plants. It also helps prevent erosion and ensures that grazing is done when each field is at the most desirable level of growth.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Orchard with Beehives
They have a small orchard, in which one of their neighbours keeps bees. In turn, they sell some of the honey produced by the neighbour.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Barn
We checked out the main barn. Not too much action there today - most critters were outside.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Chickens
This year the McQuails are not raising chickens for meat, just their usual egg-layers. Normally they have been out running around but this time they were in the pen. I suspect there have been problems with them getting underfoot during the open houses.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Pig
This is a picture from last years' open house. They didn't have any pigs during this open house, as they will be raising only one batch this year and the piglets won't arrive until they are pretty sure they have all their orders in.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Greenhouse
There is a very nice greenhouse attached to the farmhouse, where Fran McQuail was selling vegetable starts, herbs and bedding plants.

Meeting Place Organic Farm - Yoder's Maple Syrup
They had maple syrup produced by one of their neighbours.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Honey and Apple Butter
And the honey mentioned above, as well as apple butter and apple cider vinegar from their own apples.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Plants for Sale
Hmm, choices, choices... The plants were all very well labeled with a brief description. Many of the vegetable starts were of heirloom varieties.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Fran McQuail
Fran writes up an order.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Horses
Now for an open-house tradition - a hay-ride tour of the farm with Tony McQuail. And of course, Nate and Charlene.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Hayride
Tony points something out to one of the passengers as he drives up the lane towards the house. One of the things I enjoy about the hay-ride is that there always seems to be at least one farmer making the trip, and asking all kinds of farmy questions. I learn something new every trip!

Meeting Place Organic Farm House
The farmhouse seen from the fields.

Meeting Place Organic Farm CSA Garden
The community shared agriculture (vegetable) gardens.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Pond
One of two ponds on the farm, which supply water to the gardens and livestock.

Meeting Place Organic Farm Woodlot
The tour goes out to the farm woodlot before heading back in. The woodlot is an important part of the farm, and also supplies some income from sustainable harvesting of hardwood during the winter. (It's sustainable harvesting now; but the woodlot had basically been raped for every loggable tree before the McQuails bought the farm, and it took over 20 years to recover enough for gentle logging to resume.)

The horses, by the way, are not just there to pull the hay-ride around. They are an integral part of the farm. In the winter they are used to pull out the trees that have been cut down. The McQuails use the horses to pull their plows and other farm equipment. Unlike a tractor, they don't cost a bomb to run. And unlike tractors, they are reasonably self-repairing and self-replacing. They consume no oil; only fuel produced right on the farm. An idea who's time has come!?

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Blogging With a Purpose

Thanks to Bellini Valli at More Than Burnt Toast for awarding me with a Blogging With a Purpose award last week! It is, I gather, for doing pretty much what the title says: blogging with particular purpose in mind.

Now it's my job (and pleasure) to pass it on to 5 other bloggers who bring a distinct and purposeful focus to their blogs. So, in no particular order:

- a seasonally-focused Estonian food blog; incidentally, their seasons and available foods seem to run pretty concurrently with ours, making this a very good place for an Ontarian to look for seasonal ideas. And what fabulous ideas they are!

Blue Lotus - a seasonally-focused blog by a Canadian living in Japan. Not too pertinent for me, but great and educational reading!

Stuff to Read (Mostly about food) - is on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, but normally Kevin is cooking up a storm, often with food he has hunted himself. It's a Canadian tradition with which most of us city-dwellers are no longer in contact, and makes very interesting reading.

Gato Azul - Another seasonally focused Canadian food blog, this one out of Quebec and with spectacular photography. Bilingual, to boot!

Tastes Like Home - Yes I like to read blogs rooted in a place and the seasons. Alas, not my location and not my seasons, but Cynthia blogs about some great looking food that tastes like home.

Thanks for all the great blogs, guys, and pass it on!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Duck Egg Omelet

These are two of the eggs I bought at Stone Meadow Farm. They are Indian Runner Duck eggs; in real life they are more of an aqua green than they seem to be in my picture. I've never cooked or eaten duck eggs before, so I thought I would start with something super-basic.

Indian Runner Duck Eggs
Research suggested that duck eggs have sturdy whites and large, rich yolks, making them excellent for baking. The flavour should be about the same as chicken eggs, any variations in flavour having more to do with diet than anything else. The consensus was less clear about the size of duck eggs; some folks swap them with chicken eggs one-to-one, others use a one-to-three formula! My own opinion, from eye-balling the few eggs I had, was that a one-to-one and a half ratio was probably more like it; maybe one-to-two.

Indian Runner Duck Egg OmeletDo you really need a recipe? One or two eggs per person. Heat a little butter in a large skillet while you beat up the eggs, including a teaspoon of water per egg. The pan should be heated over medium-low heat; about the same temperature as you would cook pancakes.

Season the eggs with a little salt and pepper. Pour them rapidly into the butter when it is foaming and just showing signs of browning. Sprinkle over a tablespoon of minced chives. When the bottom is set, either lift up the cooked part with a very thin metal egglifter and let the raw egg flow underneath, or else flip the omelet over. Fold it up and serve when it is just set.

Don't make your omelets too thick - I am not great at making omelets and that is usually my problem. If you are cooking more than two eggs, you should probably make two separate omelets. Otherwise, like me, you will end up eating a lot of scrambled eggs.

The verdict was that this was a very good omelet, rich and flavourful. The eggs seemed a little stronger in flavour than I am used to, but only a little and only to taste even more like... eggs.

Oh yeah, I wanted to use chive blossoms instead of chives for a glamorous omelet, but the chives are stubbornly still just in bud. Soon!

Saturday, 10 May 2008

A Visit to Stone Meadow Farm

On Thursday morning I headed out to visit Stone Meadow Farm in Maryhill. I had met Janet Cox, one of the farmers, at the Taste of Woolwich evening, and made a note to visit there soon. She and her husband keep an eclectic band of poultry; chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys for meat and eggs.

Stone Meadow Indian Runner Ducks
She sent me this picture of her Indian Runner ducks, as they were too quick for me to capture on camera! They are most comical, standing upright and running around; they look like they should have arms.

Stone Meadow Turkey
The poultry are housed in an assortment of barns and sheds purpose-made or adapted from existing buildings. This wild(type) tom turkey was wary of my presence in the barn, and so went into a full display mode, which made him seem quite enormous.

Stone Meadow Chickens in the Barn
I have an uncanny knack (I say modestly) for turning up at mealtimes. The gang was gathered and expectant.

Stone Meadow Chickens in the Yard
Et madame est servi
. Or, in a manner of speaking, not yet...

Stone Meadow Poultry Eating
Here is a goose, a Jersey Black Giant rooster, a couple of Red Jungle fowl and a Jersey Black Giant hen. Their diet consists of poultry feed plus all the grass, weeds and bugs they can eat.

Stone Meadow Muscovy Ducks
These are Muscovy ducks. Janet tells me they are very good eating. I do intend to find out for myself one of these days!

Stone Meadow Jersey Black Giants
Jersey Black Giants, which as the name suggests are indeed mighty big birds.

Stone Meadow Mobile Chicken Hut
This poultry house is mobile, allowing it to be moved from meadow to meadow so the chickens can de-bug and fertilize particular spots as desired.

Stone Meadow Chickens in the Hut
Inside the mobile chicken house, the chickens hang about waiting for some feed.

Stone Meadow Silkie Chicken
This is a silkie chicken. They are really quite fascinating as they have white feathers, but black skin, black meat, black organs and black bones! I've never had one, but now they are on my "must try" list.

Stone Meadow Jersey Black Giant
And this is one of the Jersey Black Giants close up. What a classic rooster look!

Stone Meadow Second Chicken Hut
The Plymouth Barred Rocks and the Red Jungle Fowl seemed to prefer this little house.

Stone Meadow Plymouth Barred Rocks
A couple of the Plymouth Barred Rocks. They are a dual-purpose bird, although apparently the meat is, um, sturdier than most people are accustomed to nowadays, so they are kept mostly for the eggs.

Stone Meadow Red Jungle Fowl with Chicks
A Red Jungle fowl in a nesting box with 2 little chicks. It's a little hard to see, but they have climbed up on her back.

Stone Meadow Chick
There's one of the chicks; a typical Red Jungle fowl chick. The other turned out to be a Red Jungle fowl/Jersey Black Giant cross. Hmmm...

Stone Meadow Path to the Pond
Most of the birds hang around the barn, the chicken huts and pens, but the Indian Runner ducks go trotting down this path to the pond.

Stone Meadow Ducks at the Pond
There they are. They are rice-paddy birds at home, and enjoy paddling in shallow water.

Stone Meadow Chickens in the Grass
Bug patrol! The different types of birds look for different things. Chickens like bugs, ducks like broad-leaved weeds, and geese like grass. Consequently, everyone gets along just fine.

Stone Meadow Ducks
A couple of geese. Just as with Canada geese, the ganders can be territorial and aggressive, and should be given plenty of space to themselves.

Stone Meadow Candling the Eggs
After my tour, I went back with Janet to the house, where she candled some eggs for me, and sold me three frozen chickens. I got one of the standard meat chickens, a White Rock (there were none on the farm during my visit so no pictures) as well as two Jersey Black Giants, which oddly were quite small as Janet had sold all her bigger ones. I'll post back here when I do something with them.

If you want to order eggs or poultry from Stone Meadow Farm, you should phone them at 519-496-8088. There are likely to be some eggs or frozen birds available if you are willing to take pot-luck, however, it is probably better to call in advance if you are looking for something specific. You may also wish to discuss placing a freezer order for meat, which can take from 4 to 6 months to be ready, depending on the type of birds you are looking for.