Tuesday 5 November 2013

Guinea Fowl

Guinea Fowl
We have treated ourselves to a pair of Guinea Fowl as an Anniversary present to ourselves. We have never done these rather bizarre looking things before (though we have eaten the meat) so this is a new species for us. We saw this pair at the Balla-D livestock fair. I asked the price but didn't discuss it further at the time with Liz and only on talking in the car we discovered that we both thought they'd be a good idea. We managed to track down the guy's phone number via our friend Charlotte and nipped out to inspect them today, found them to be clean, free from parasites and sound looking birds and brought them home in the cat basket. They are now exploring the kitchen garden, separated from the rest of the stock by the fence and checking out their new quarters, a mini coop I created this morning from bits of caravan-bed and cut down shelf laths from the Utility Room.

What a handsome dude!
Guinea Fowl are an African bird originally from the family (or sub-family if you are American) 'Numinidae' (Order Galliformes) with the one species, the Helmeted Guinea Fowl (Numida Meleagris) having been domesticated many years ago and spread throughout Europe (and elsewhere). They are used for meat, though you can eat the eggs. We have eaten roast guinea fowl several times in a Creek-side restaurant in Faversham which used to be owned by a locally famous chef from the Dordogne. They tend to be a bit smaller than a full grown chicken, so we like that you can manage a whole half-bird on your plate.

What we know about these guys has mainly come from the internet over the last few days and by talking to the seller and his good lady. We are assured that these are a breed-able pair (i.e. not brother and sister) and actually they mate for life and the girl is a good layer who produced many eggs last year. They do sometimes go broody but I think we may end up using Broody Betty again. The chicks, called 'keets' are tiny and delicate and, being African natives, do not like damp or wet grass till they are quite feathered up, so we may also be needing a broody box. Apparently they are almost impossible to sex except for by their calls, so we don't know which one is which yet!

Bodge of the week!
So, there you are. Where they came from had all its runs completely bare of grass, so they were running on a mix of mud and stones. They seem to be delighted with the green-ness of the quarters here which is currently the kitchen garden with its grass paths, cleared raised beds, the 'Jam and Jerusalem' Hedge. some herbs and roses and the gravestones of the late Haggis and Coco in out Pet Cemetery. We have had them wing-clipped by the seller so that they stay put till they get used to us, the new house and these surroundings, but the plan is to have them completely free ranging along with the rest of the gang.

Tarka Dahl under construction
What to call them, then? We are currently enjoying the TV series "The Sopranos" as a boxed set having let it pass us completely by when it was first aired. Well, we find that Guinea is a derogatory term in America for Italian Americans, so we considered naming them Tony and Carmela for a while, after the two main characters in Sopranos. Or maybe Numi and Mel from the Latin name (above) but we'll probably leave it open for now and see what happens.

In other food news we have been exploring the Guardian newspaper's "Best 10 Curry Recipes". We had the one called 'Luxury Chick Peas' first and then yesterday a lentil based one called Tarka Dahl which we had with flat breads and home made mango chutney. Like the Madhur Jaffrey recipes, neither have so far turned out to be madly hot or challenging, just beautiful complex mixes of spices. I have also culled out my first Hubbard chicken (actually a rooster). More on that including weights, in the next post.

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