Friday, January 7, 2011

I met my meat

This past year my little family on our little farm made a big commitment. We decided to raise more of our own meat. Translation: Raise more animals specifically to eat. Any other meat we purchased would be directly from other local farmers.This commitment is at the core of why we even have a farm.....Living the dream of self sustainability. Meat is such a polarizing issue but for us it's simple ..make mine humanely raised, without hormones, free range, no antibiotics, no GMO's and organic feed please (better yet feed we've grown). What other way to meet all these requests but to do it yourself. Woohhoo!

We already had chickens and had been eating our roosters in a myriad of ways like Coq au vin which is traditionally made of you guessed it .... rooster. If you came to the farm for the Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival and ate some Posole, it was made from rooster - wasn't it delicious! This is the gamble when you hatch chicks, there is a 50/50 chance of a hen but it doesn't always work out that fairly. Roosters are gorgeous playboys, the bird kingdom gives the males all the flash and dazzle. Unfortunately they are not passive pretty boys and on our farm, hen harassment is a capital punishment. The hens, I might add, approve of this dispatch.

In 2010 we added Muscovy ducks whom are endlessly entertaining. They actually get in a very egalitarian line to dive off the roof of their house into the pond. We had 15, slaughtered 10 and will hatch ducklings this spring. Duck is one of my most favorite meats and duck rilletes (recipe soon) are utterly delicious. What's interesting about these ducks is they don't quack and just hiss. Unlike our goats, who are breaking the sound barrier on a daily basis. Apparently knocking them up will fix this. Yes, we got Nubian Goats, adorable, friendly and a milk source after some babies. We will keep the baby does and eat/sell the baby kids. I think I'm ok with this part. This issue of eating small mammals, ones I will have delivered into this world. There is uncertainty in this omnivore's voice. I do love to eat goat. I joke about a 'hot kid on a spit' party but this is a new frontier on our farm.

Flora & Fauna our lovely Nubian Does
In 2009 we joined Slow Food here on Vancouver Island , which is a movement we are very passionate about but the surprising perk has been becoming friends with Don Genova ( he is the island`s Convivium leader) and his lovely wife Ramona. This relationship of course is built on a love of good food, good conversation and the porcine delights that are embodied in the pig. With the help of Lucinda and Wayne at Frog Song Farm whom are raising the critically endangered breed of pigs called (unremarkably) Large Blacks. We shared one of these excellent pigs and made bacon together. Glorious bacon ! How I love thee ! I made 3 different types of bacon a Chinese 5 spice and ginger, a Beer, thyme and black pepper and a Maple with allspice, nutmeg and clove. All delicious. 

Warning!! Once you make bacon you will never be the same. It unleashes this charcuterie making monster that dwells in the heart of any DIY'er.  My name is Marisa and I'm addicted to making my own charcuterie. 
This year we will be raising some Large Blacks here at our farm. I'm more than a little excited and have started practicing my 'sueeee piggeh' call  for them.

Large Black Sow nursing her darling piglets at Frog Song Farm with an avian audience

Met my meat before my meat met his maker
This was the 2nd time we raised Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys for Xmas. We raised 20 but one committed hara kiri into the duck pond just weeks before Xmas (no, we didn't eat him). Selling meat  for the highly anticipated Xmas dinner is stressful. My husband and I fretted over these turkeys. I literally could not sleep the week before slaughter. We let these turkeys have full run of farm with lots of harassing of our staff and showing off for farm customers. Thankfully none of the turkeys went home with anyone - not for lack of trying (shakes fist at friendly turkeys). They love people and despite the creepy habit of peering in the house at us, we loved them. Though on evenings when my husband wasn't home and it was my job to 'put the birds to bed' coaxing turkeys down from trees with a rake, calling it love would be a stretch. I am happy to report that all our turkey stress was in vain. Though they were smaller than last year they were wonderfully moist and flavorful. We only kept two for ourselves and our Xmas dinner was a perfect bird.

Through our friends Heather and Brock at whom organized a grass fed beef share with one of their neighbor's steers, we purchased some wonderful beef. 8 people participated in this meat share. A collective meat share is the way to go to support a farmer directly and get a quality product. I have heard of many such clubs popping up everywhere. We also shared a lamb with our friend Don and were gifted locally caught halibut and salmon. Having so much great food in the freezer makes me feel rich and very lucky.

Broad Breasted Bronze Turkeys-  2 Peeping Toms (this is my kitchen door) + a Hen

Muscovy Ducks in their beloved pond eating the expensive water lettuce.

Our chickens lay a gorgeous pastel palette and according to one customer we have 'The best tasting eggs in the world!'

Our favorite rooster Boris (spangled Russian Orloff) whom died of old age in 2010-we didn't eat him
 As incredibly challenging as this path towards family farm sustainability has been, it has been completely worth the effort. When you have animals to care for, your life is very different. You have a responsibility to them at least twice a day and they do reward you with a relationship beyond just being the meat you are going to eat. That in itself has been the most interesting part. Being dog and cat owners, we had love for our animals but farm animals that you are are going to eat are different. Not that different though, especially as small organic farmers that are simply tickled pink still about this whole wonderful process that is being responsible for your food. The personality that farm animals have (that you erroneously always compare to your dog) is profound. Having a farm is like living in the best zoo ever. It is hilarious on a daily basis. Teaching my children so many lessons about nature and the circle that is life and all life is an amazing gift. Though my 3 yr old is frighteningly practical. She wants to know exactly Where the feet and heads go?...Oh and the feathers Mommy !  I am thankful every day for this life that I have, for the opportunity to practice my beliefs in organic agriculture and that our little girls get to have a wonderful childhood. It is not easy but we love it. The many fruits of our labor make it all so gosh darn beautiful (did I mention delicious), some days it`s a just a dream.

Thanks for reading. Now get out there and meet your meat !

Gratuitous bacon pics
Pork Belly in a beer, thyme and black pepper amped brine

Bacon on the smoker... not quite ready

Gimme gimme gimme

Forever ruined by homemade bacon

Monday, January 4, 2010

Indian Style Shepard's Pie

My first taste of curry was instant love. In the small town I grew up in we had a large South Asian community and one very good indian restaurant. Unfortunately the man that owned it Both my parents are crazy for curry and I was always willing to be an utter angel just to go to this restaurant for dinner where I would be ungraciously tolerated(he literally would glare at me the whole meal). This did not dim my enthusiasm. One of my most cherished childhood memories was at Expo 86' in Vancouver where I considered the whole experience an eat around the world festival. Cheese at the France pavilion,Sauerkraut and Schnitzel at the German pub and a highly prized tin of excellent curry powder from the Sri Lankan pavilion(my Mom still has the gorgeous tin).

For me winter's cold demands indian flavours this dish combines ubiquitous yellow curry powder with other indian flavours like coconut, cinnamon & almonds. The play of salty and sweet is duly honored in this dish- which I lovvvvve ! My small person enjoys this and my feeling with kids and curry .. is dish it out early and dish it out often. An easy way to start introducing curry to the unexposed is added to mayo for dip with fries- I still dig this !

OK the only resemblance this dish actually has to Shepard's Pie is that there is ground beef on the bottom,mashed starchy tuber on top and you bake it. It is still comfort food, easy to prepare, easy to reheat and enjoy tomorrow. Delicious, healthy, big flavoured real food !

Indian Style Shepard's Pie

  • 2 large yams peeled, halved and sliced into 1 inch chunks
  • 1lb lean ground beef (sub turkey or chicken)-preferably organic or of known origin*
  • half a yellow onion diced
  • 1inch of peeled minced ginger approx.1 tbles
  • 2 large cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup raisins- use less if you are not a huge fan
  • 1 packed cup of fresh baby or chopped large leaf spinach
  • 1/3 cup of dried unsweetened fine coconut
  • 1/4 cup of whole almonds -which you will fresh pound in a mortar & pestle(or other vessel) to a rough powder
  • 1 tsp total of fine salt ( half for the yams after mashing and half for the meat mix)
  • 1 tbles yellow curry powder- check if it contains salt ! and adjust salt accordingly
  • 1 heaping 1/2 tsp of Ceylon cinnamon powder - Cinnamomum zeylanicum-medicine !
  • 1 tbles + 1 1/2 tsp of virgin coconut oil -the kind that smells of glorious coconut !
  • pinch or two of cardamom powder -which will be added to the almond meal
  • pinch of salt -also added to the almond meal
You could substitute cooked millet(or tofu) for the meat in this dish to make it totally vegan

*Meat of known origin or MOKO is from the this blog Great Resolution Alex !

All the health benefits you may have heard about cinnamon are about real (true) cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum

In a large pot cover the yams with water and boil until fork tender approx 20 minutes on med- high heat. Preheat oven to 375 F
Meanwhile to a hot pan add 1 1/2 tsp of virgin coconut oil and onion cook over med-low heat till translucent(do not brown), stir in garlic and ginger cook for 1 min, then stir in curry powder and 1/2 tsp of salt, increase heat to med, add meat and cook through so no pink is left. Remove from heat and add raisins and spinach.
Drain yams very well, mash till smooth add in the 1tbles coconut oil ,coconut, 1/2 tsp of salt and cinnamon then blend well.
In a bread loaf pan firmly press down meat mixture in a single layer then evenly spread mashed yam mixture on top. Freshly crush almonds into a rough meal(you can do this in a mortar and pestle or in a bag) add in cardamom and salt. Sprinkle this evenly on to the top of the yams.

Place on center rack in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes.Then broil on high for 1-2 minutes keeping on eye on it just so almonds lightly toast. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 -10 mins. Makes 4 servings- Hope you love it as much as I do!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

One Small Kitchen Revolution - Thou shall not Waste

My food sins are negligible. They are of the pelicanning of beautiful white bread spread with equal parts organic butter variety, deglazing some (many) pans with whipping cream or whatever alcohol is in reach,treating prosciutto like it is a necessary fixture in the cheese drawer and eating non organic pineapples occasionally (I call it jonesin' for a pina). I put much effort into practicing what I preach but where I fail is......I waste food.

The spoiled inner hedonist tends to only want to cook whatever it is craving with little regard for what is actually contained in the fridge. I fall on and off the wagon on this point sometimes I am really on it and more often than not - I'm not. I have a small person(2 and a bit she) whom I have to my horror recently realized is always watching/parroting/mimicking. I am now under the microscope in my own kitchen- I need to be mindful of the habits I am instilling.

One of the greatest food sins we as first world people practice is wasting food- here is great article
I have baby numero 2 imminent, for my own sanity and our monthly food bill I need to tighten up, grow up and meal plan (inner hedonist rebels). I am creative enough in the kitchen that I can do this and if all else fails ....I'll just make soup out of those bits of veg, cheese sauce out of all those ends, muffins out of those bananas etc. Please join me as I turn over this new leaf in this New Year. The food will be great !

Friday, August 7, 2009

Organic Butternut Squash Gnocchi w/ Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Summer on a farm is a seriously difficult time to start a blog- but I'm trying :) Harvesting food with a 21month old is challenging . Strawberries are a hit with the baby foodie and are her blanket word for blackberries,raspberries,blueberries,beets and radishes. Strawberry picking is also an excuse to runaway from home sporting only a bare bum and a pair of crocs.

Our Winter Squash are growing like gangbusters and we'll soon have a full line up of spaghetti squash, hubbard, pumpkin, fairy and butternut. This is a surprisingly versatile and delicious vegetable. Even if you have no time or imagination you can't really screw up squash ( I'm sure someone has a horror story but c'est la vie). This recipe uses butternut squash in the gnocchi and pumpkin seeds in the pesto .

Though I can't live without EVOO ( the only good thing to come from Rachel Ray-snide.. I know) Extra Virgin Olive oil for the uninitiated the rest of this recipe is homegrown- my farm, canadian wheat AND california organic lemons (another can't live without). Make Gnocchi with a friend (glass of wine can stand in for friend) and music you can dance around too (Harry Belafonte is enjoying a renaissance in my house courtesy of the 21month old- surprisingly misogynistic, listen to Angelique-O). This makes enough to freeze.


  • One smallish Butternut Squash peeled , seeded and cubed
  • One medium yukon gold potato peeled and cubed
  • 3 1/2 ish cups of white flour
  • 3/4 tsp of good salt
The combined amount of squash and potato should be about 3 cups. In a large pot just cover with water and add salt . Steam for approx 12 minutes until fork tender. Strain well, mash until not lumpy add approx 3 cups of flour, stir with wooden spoon until mixed. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and add the remaining amount of flour. Knead gently for 2-3 mins until still sticky but forms a ball. Divide dough into 4 pieces. With hands dusted with flour form each piece into a long rope about an inch thick and with a knife dusted with flour ( you may have to keep dusting it with flour repeatedly) cut into small pieces. Place onto a greased floured cookie sheet not touching one another. You will probably need 4 cookie sheets. This way any extra gnocchi are ready to be frozen. Boil water in a large pot add large pinch of salt, when at a rolling boil add gnocchi - when they float they are done. If you make the full amount it will serve 6 people main course servings. Strain and toss in pesto.

Please use organic ingredients !

  • 2 large handfuls of genovese basil leaves washed, dried and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup of fresh toasted pumpkin seeds - put raw seeds in a hot dry pan over medium heat when they pop they are toasted on one side, stir and keep an eye on them -just lightly toast
  • 1/2 cup EVOO- Extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of one small lemon- strained
  • large clove garlic smashed-use more if you like it !
  • 1/4 tsp of good salt -use more if you like it !
I have been using my blender to make this . EVOO goes in first then basil, pumpkin seeds, lemon juice, smashed garlic clove, salt. Pulse a few times and use a spatula to clean the sides down. Blend until smooth. Taste and re-season if necessary - more salt, garlic, lemon juice. Refrigerate any extra for a max of 5 days or freeze. This makes about 4 generous servings. You can also add this pesto to fresh hot cream or further it with extra olive oil.

I usually finish this dish with a dusting of parmigiano-reggiano and some sweet cherry tomatoes halved.

Enjoy !

Monday, July 27, 2009

Caramelized Baby Carrots Recipe

Caramelized Baby Carrots

These are lovely Baby (4inch long)Royal Chantenay Carrots (these overwinter like rockstars) that are pan caramelized with honey and fresh tarragon. Simple, delicious and a wonderful way to celebrate your impatience.I would normally be in trouble for early harvesting but if these are served then peace reigns. Carrots love butter (important for absorption of beta-carotene) and tarragon(not just for fish) with honey makes for a lick the pan clean salted licorice caramel. Feel free to substitute the tarragon for thyme or rosemary if you can't get either fresh or fragrant dried tarragon. Here is the recipe for this all ages crowd pleaser.

  • 16 ish 4 inch scrubbed but not peeled baby carrots ( if any are very fat- half 'em)
  • 1 1/2 tsp organic unsalted butter (please do yourself a favor and buck up for organic) ps. if you used salted butter use less salt
  • 2 tsp organic extra virgin olive oil (this IS affordable now)
  • 1/4 tsp good salt ( I like himalayan crystal or french sea salt)
  • 1 tsp fresh or 1/2 tsp dried tarragon- use more if you like it !
  • 1 tbles organic honey
  • 1/3 cup water
  • fresh pepper to finish
Serves 4 or in our house 2 plus a sprout

Heat a fry pan on medium high add in your butter and olive oil.When hot (how to know when your pan is hot? splash a drop of water on it ..did it dance? - good) add your carrots. Brown (not burn) on all sides see pic above for reference. When all sides are browned, add salt, honey and tarragon. Stir to coat carrots, the honey will caramelize quickly , add the water and cover for 3-5mins ( less if you like your carrots crisper). Remove the lid, stir once more and season with pepper. Enjoy immediately.

Please note that this type of simple recipe benefits hugely from quality ingredients. Most of my recipes don't call for grossly expensive ingredients just good basics.