Wednesday 14 August 2013

Home Grown

One of the absolute delights of living this rather alternative life style is the ability to look down at a delicious plate full of supper and know that we grew all or most of what we are looking at. Tonight's here is haggis from our own lambs, our own (mashed) spuds and our own calabrese. Yesterday was our own lamb chops, spuds again and a delicious medley of broad and French beans, peas, garlic and onions, with only the tomatoes and anchovy being shop-bought. My toms are not quite there yet and we will struggle to grow an anchovy bush in our climate (!).

If you exclude the 30 km round trip for the lambs to the butchers, then we are also very low on food miles, with most of this coming from the kitchen garden just outside the kitchen window (sometimes I pass it in through to Liz; I don't even walk it in round the yard!) and the rest from the 'allotment' about 100 yards away.

I know some of you have issues with eating animals we have named and known but I am personally delighted and have a clear conscience knowing that my lambs were very well cared for. They ate good grass, herbs and browse, enjoyed the freedom of the orchard and fields with the sun and rain on their backs. They were never chased about in a stressful way or harassed by dogs, children or vehicles. I know exactly what food went into them and that they loved it and ate heartily. I know that the only medicine they got when they lived here was one wormer/fluke dose when our man Kenny thought they were not growing as fast as they might.

When the time came for their final journey they did not go to some big, anonymous meat plant, but to our little local butcher, Ignatius, carefully selected and recommended to us. They were the only lambs in the batch that day, so there was no hanging around in pens listening to, and smelling the 'process' happening to other animals and the vet was there to see due care and professionalism. The carcasses are then hung by the butcher for a week to relax before being cut up in front of us. I firmly believe you would struggle to find this whole process done better or with a higher regard to welfare (though I accept that an organic diet could be seen in that light, ours were not fed organic 'crunch'). They were also sired by Jacob rams which are known to be good for flavour, being a traditional breed and all of these factors showed up in the quality of the meat which was tender and tasty throughout. The chops and the haggis I have mentioned are almost the last of the 2012 meat; we have a small quantity of liver left, and then we are done. It has been, in our view, a very successful exercise.

The veg is grown as well as I am able in good rich deep Roscommon hilltop soil (actually double-depth as I flip one 'spit' upside down on top of the existing grass when I am making the ridges in my allotment) enjoying the sunshine (this year!) and plenty of rain and being grown organically. I use no chemicals, not even the widely accepted ones like dilute washing up liquid for green fly. Everything is hand weeded and, if necessary, caterpillars and slugs are picked off by hand; in fact this has not been necessary at all. The nasturtiums and marigolds attract plenty of insects for pollination and even seem to distract the large white ("cabbage" white) butterflies, so that we find eggs and caterpillars on the nasturtium leaves rather than the kale. We leave some plants of lines like leek and chard to go to seed to keep the bees interested and try to save some seed. We are able to nip out and pick the veg for a meal minutes before it goes into the steamer, wok or pan.

Then there is the cooking, of course which is mainly Liz these days, though I do get involved occasionally. Liz has the knack of cooking all this bounty in simple ways with little additional flavouring and no overly spiced or sweet sauces. The lamb comes slow roasted or normally roasted with maybe just a smear of garlic, anchovy and rosemary paste, the chops maybe just slightly salted. Heart, kidney and liver are also cooked to show off the natural flavours. Veg' is generally steamed rather than boiled to keep the maximum fresh flavour or is as salad or quick stir-fry, nothing done to get in the way of the as-picked flavours. We use very few sauces from tins or jars and even when we do a curry it's a Madhur Jaffrey one - with the spices bought individually and added - quarter teaspoon of this, half a teaspoon of that.

We must be bursting with vitamins and nutrients!


Mr Silverwood said...

Show off, lol, so I take it you are enjoying the home grown life style at the moment then.

mazylou said...

I'm sure you're very tasty, Matt, on that excellent diet!

Anne Wilson said...

There's something very satisfying about producing your own food no matter how long you have been doing it it never cease's to thrill. Maybe it's the hunter gatherer in us. Now I wonder if I can find my way back to my cave.