Saturday 28 January 2012

The egg mountain

eggs Jan 12

This photo was taken this morning. As you can see our hens have been rather productive recently. The eggskelter is now full so we are starting to use the hen shaped egg holder which we were given for Christmas. I'll be pickling eggs shortly to use up the surplus. Watch this space.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Sprouting broccoli and leek soup

This is about as frugal as it gets and is possibly the most extreme example of
my contention that nothing should be wasted. One of the neighbouring allotment
holders gave us a very large pile of sprouting broccoli for the hens. In my
opinion, much of it was in good nick so I chopped off the best bits for us to
use. The rest went into the chicken run for the hens to eat - they strip plant
leaves from the stalks leaving just skeletons of plants behind.

We were also given cabbage leaves for the hens from the other allotments. Some
of these leaves can be tougher than the hens prefer but we have found they like
them boiled and then mixed with porridge oats to make a mash. So when I boiled
some of the better leaves, I drained off some of the liquid to make a stock for
my soup. Into this went the chopped sprouting broccoli and a couple of chopped
leeks, a heaped teaspoon of marmite and a splash of worcester sauce. Once it was
boiled up, I blended it.

I don't think I'll win any awards with it but it was nourishing enough.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Letting out the chickens

We had a bit of an experiment with the hens today. We were on the allotment digging (well David was digging but following a rather painful slip on the ice on Thursday evening, I was supervising) and decided to let the hens out to wander as they thought fit around the allotment. It was interesting watching them do so. Generally, they kept together and rather enjoyed looking for bugs, worms and weeds. Eventually, they all decided to walk back into the chicken run of their own accord. So, we will be letting them out more often in the future, when there are more bugs around. What we have to watch out for however is stopping them eating our crops.

Friday 20 January 2012

Our free ranger chicken

Our 5 chickens have settled well into their chicken run since we got them in the autumn last year. To protect them from foxes, the fence around the run is 2 metres high. The hens' wings are clipped so theoretically, they shouldn't be able to get out of the run. Snow White, our coral nick, however, has discovered how to fly even with clipped wings. A number of times now I have found her wandering around the allotment though she always rushes over to the gate to greet me (or more likely see if I have any food for her). So she doesn't wander off though I discovered today that yesterday, one of the neighbouring allotment holders found her on the path outside the allotment. He picked her up and put her back in the chicken run.

That was not what she had initially escaped from. Yesterday morning, I had put her in the fruit cage which has a 2 metre high frame with netting though we had removed the roof as a precaution against snow damage. Somehow through the day she had managed to escape from that. She doesn't go far. Her main concern is to explore the immediate locality to forage for food.

The danger however is that she is vulnerable to foxes if not in the chicken run or fruit cage. So we are going to have to check her wings and clip them again.

Monday 16 January 2012

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia Nov/Dec

This is the latest video about how we are striving towards our goal of becoming self-sufficient. It covers November and December 2011, including our preparations for Christmas.

Friday 13 January 2012

Extracting fat from game

Finding an alternative source of fats to what we would otherwise buy in the supermarket is a real challenge for us. We do have a friend who swaps game for jam and this gives us a small amount of fat. It has to be extracted however from the carcass.

To do this, we cut off any fillets we are planning to consume separately and then boil the carcass with onions, herbs and other vegetables to create a stock. Any meat left on the carcass after boiling is stripped and used to make a game pie. The stock is left to stand in a cold room or fridge for a day. The fat solidifies as a layer on the top and can be spooned off.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Roasted vegetables

roasted vegetables Jan 12

I love roasted vegetables. We've been having quite a few of them recently. Potatoes, artichokes, shallots and garlic, roasted in pheasant fat. Wonderful!

Nut loaf

nut loaf Jan 12

One of the most important wild foods for which we forage in the autumn is hazel. The nuts are high in essential oils and protein. Generally speaking, they store well. Making a nut loaf is a good way to create a healthy meal. I made one a couple of days ago.

You will need a supply of breadcrumbs to make it. Whatever you do, don't waste money buying ready made breadcrumbs from the supermarket. Just make them yourself from stale bread. Leave it to dry for a few days. Then put it through the food processor to turn it into crumbs. If you are feeling particularly brutal, lay out dry bread on a wooden board and apply a rolling pin to it. It's good for working out your frustrations!

Quantities in this recipe are up to you but avoid using too many breadcrumbs. I recommend about half the volume is breadcrumbs. The rest should be chopped hazel nuts and onions or leeks. Add some beaten eggs or a bit of cooking oil (or both), sufficient to ensure that all ingredients bind together. Some herbs may make a pleasant addition though I didn't add any when I made the one in the photo.

Then put into a baking tin and roast in the oven at 180C for 25 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

How to make rosehip jelly

When I visited my sister-in-law in Kent in December, I found that many of the rose bushes in her garden still had hips on them. So I picked a bag of them and brought them back home to make into rosehip jelly. It is darker than the batch I made at the end of the summer but is still a great jelly for spreading on bread. In this video I show you how to make it.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Busy Bees

I've just been over to the allotment to collect the eggs and clean out the hen house. Whilst there I decided to have a quick look at the bee hives - I didn't open them, just had a look to see if there were any bees out foraging. Much to my surprise, all three hives were busy. This warm weather and mild autumn and winter are having an interesting effect on our self-sufficiency activities.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Making mayonnaise

mayonnaise Jan 12

This was our first effort in making mayonnaise. I was rather pleased with the results. Three egg yolks went into making it. I still have the egg whites to use up. We used the mayonnaise to make coleslaw and for a couple of days I used it as a substitute for margarine on bread. We'll do a video of how to make it soon. Meanwhile the hens are continuing to lay lots of eggs, even though we are in the middle of winter.

Monday 9 January 2012

Planting gooseberries

We had a trip to Dad's allotment yesterday to plant another 9 gooseberry shrubs. We have already planted some on our allotment in Sunniside. Gooseberry fruit comes in abundance in the late spring and, as it is high in pectin, it's great for making jam. In addition, they can be used in chutneys. But my favourite use for them is in pies and crumbles! I think it is unlikely we will get a crop off them this year but next year, hopefully, we will have gooseberries in abundance.

Friday 6 January 2012

How to make scotch eggs

Our hens are laying enough eggs for us to try out more recipes so yesterday I made scotch eggs. In this video I coat the eggs with pork sausage meat mixed with onion and with a splash of cayenne pepper added to give the flavour an extra kick. Put them in an oven at 200C for 20 minutes.

There are two other recipes I am going to try. The first is a wartime version of scotch eggs (I am, after all, an historian!) I found recently whilst researching for a talk I was to give on wartime food. Instead of sausage meat, mashed potato is used. The second is one I have made up myself. The sausage meat is replaced with sage and onion stuffing. I hope to film the videos for these soon.

scotch eggs Jan 12

Thursday 5 January 2012

Nettle and pea soup

I came up with this recipe to use up the nettle leaves I picked in October during the mild autumn that saw many plants putting on a late spurt of growth. The leaves were steamed and then frozen. The peas were picked and frozen at the end of the summer. I used pheasant stock though chicken or vegetable stock would have been just as good.

So, to the stock add peas and nettle leaves, chopped leek and chopped onion or shallots, some herbs to taste, a couple of cloves of garlic, a splash of worcester sauce and a spoonful of marmite. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Blend it before serving.

nettle and pea soup Jan 12 1

nettle and pea soup Jan 12 2

Tuesday 3 January 2012

A New Year Egg

Happy New Year everyone. I spent the Christmas and New Year break in London rather than at home in Sunniside in the North East of England. So we asked a friend to look after our hens for us. Three of our five hens were laying but we were hoping a 4th, Houdini, would start popping out an egg by the end of the year. Alas, no message came through that there was a 4th egg laid on any particular day. We arrived back home last night so I popped over to check on the hens and there I found a little brown egg. It was the 4th laid yesterday. So, four of them are now producing eggs. Soon we will be getting more hens, though we will need to extend the chicken run first, and get another henhouse.

With the eggs now rolling in, we have sufficient to make more than just omlettes and flans for dinner. We will be making scotch eggs this week, and some mayonnaise. We have already made lemon curd though it has all gone. It is in demand and can be swapped for produce from other allotments. More will be made shortly as well.

So watch out over the next couple of weeks - we'll be posting up recipes and videos of our "eggsploits" in the kitchen!