slowly seasoning

seasoning2 This winter I began a sort of visual catalogue of the subtle changes in seasonal produce I could buy or batter for at our local farmers’ markets… see how the apples and pears come in, leeks come in, parsnips come in, daffodils for one weekend only, the last potatoes, the first asparagus, the first strawberries, heirloom carrots…

Its something I’ve really been thinking about in the last few years – the importance, the necessity of truly seasonal produce… I loved that when we lived in France we would go to our weekly farmers markets and you could actually see the changes in fresh produce – the stalls changed week by week – there were the year-round staples (potatoes/carrots/beetroot/lettuce/radishes) and then there were those absolutely wonderful short-season specials – raspberries, asparagus, fennel bulbs, tomatoes, zucchinis, capsicums, aubergines!

I do not accept that we need to have endless variety and colour on our plates all day all year round. If our not so-far-back ancestors were happy and nourished by a simpler diet, with what could grow easily and organically, that I think we would be to – if we tried. If we ditched the latest fad diet and instead focussed our energy and resources on eating locally – ethically – organically, what the season allows us.

And with freezing, drying and canning, and age-old methods of fermentation we can preserve some of the harvest for other seasons too – passata on a pizza base and frozen corn for a soup. But nothing compares to a vine ripened tomato, freshly sliced, with a little sprinkle of sea salt – or the sweet earthy crunch of a carrot freshly pulled…

I’m challenging myself in the new year to only eat the fruits and vegetables I can grow, batter or buy locally grown and raised. I hope this will help us as a collective household to be more mindful of the seasons, to really enjoy produce when it comes, to waste less, garden more and counter the luxury of choice big supermarkets offer us “anything we wish, whenever we wish it”!

It may mean a year without bananas and sweet potatoes and a special request for a box of mangoes for Christmas from our North-of-the-boarder friends… But I have no doubt at all that we will eat very well!
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a springtime stew

herbskalechicken
stockpotstew3stewstew2
This Tuscan-inspired chicken stew is one of very favourites. It has carvolo nero (tuscan kale) and thyme from the garden, lemon zest, white wine and cannellini beans… I like it because it cooks the kale thoroughly (so you can digest all it’s wonderful dark leafy nutrients more easily) and that I can make it from a whole bird – which happens to be our beautiful pastured raised chicken no less!

So I have the whole bird in front of me. With clean hands and butcher scissors I dislocate and cut off the whole legs + thighs and the wings –  I will use those four pieces in the stew. I then cut away the breast meat and freeze it for later. The leftover carass I pop into a large stock pot with vegetable offcuts (you will add more as you prepare the stew) and most importantly a “bouquet garni” a bundle of aromatic herbs – from my garden; bay leaves, oregano, thyme, rosemary and parsley stalks. I let the stock simmer on a low heat for a few hours.

Now to prepare this glorious stew, you will need:

x2 chicken legs + thighs (bones in)
x2 chicken wings
1 tablespoon butter
1 brown onion, chopped finely
2 large yellow carrots, sliced in rounds
bunch of tuscan kale, carvolo nero
zest of one lemon, unwaxed
1 cup dry wine wine
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (may need more if it gets too dry)
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 cup of cooked cannellini beans (if using tinned – drain and rinse thoroughly)
seas salt + cracked pepper to taste
(for serving – pure pouring cream)

serves 4-6 people

In a heavy bottomed pot melt butter and gently sauté onions. Once the onions are soft and translucent stir in carrots and cook a further five minutes. Add chicken pieces (four in total) and brown each side with tongs. Pour in wine, stock, chopped kale, lemon zest and thyme. Let simmer on a low heat for 1 – 1.5 hours. Add beans and cook a further 30 minutes on a low heat. Season to taste. Serve on it’s own with fresh bread or with potatoes – I like to add a splash of fresh cream over the top before eating.

And so with one whole chicken I can get numerous meals; the stew lasts us two dinners, the stock can be used throughout the week in other dishes or on it’s own, and the breast meat is in the freezer for another meal or two. And that my friends is why you actually save money when you buy a whole chicken, bones and all – and why you can afford a premium, pastured raised, beyond organic free range chicken!

If you’re local and interested in trying one of our birds email handtoground@gmail.com to order.
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when your tank runs dry

octobergarden7
when your tank runs dry
and your hens stop laying,

you haul discoloured
garden water in big pots,
saving every drop,
and you gather half empty crates of eggs
careful not to crack a single one
all spoken for, needed –

when your livelihood depends
on the length of the day,
able back, rain drop –
when you fall short
disappoint,

why is it so easy
to take for granted,

a farmer told me once
to hold everything lightly,
I think he was saying
things will come and go,
seasons, unknowns,

everything grows –

am I beholden to my generation
defining my worth
in what’s done or earned,
how my peers see me –
or am I free

to care most about
how we do a thing,
the discipline and faithfulness
to look back and remember
not what I did, but who I was,
learnt, loved, worked, rested.
mamabear