Chickens, Choughs and chickpeas

It’s been an interesting week at Chez Fork. The older chooks have finally started laying again after nearly 6 months rest and our little black hen, having laid eggs for a month has now decided to go broody and get some ‘me’ time in the nesting box.

Earlier in week the chickens got quite a shock when a family of six White-winged Choughs decided to drop in for a breakfast visit. I know from a health perspective that having wild birds in the chook pen isn’t ideal, but when we let the girls into their larger run there isn’t much we can do to keep other birds out. In this case the choughs weren’t accessing the feeder, but were cleaning up some partially wet pellets I’d cleared out of the feeder earlier in the day.

Choughs
The choughs are very relaxed about helping themselves to some chook pellets

We have seen the chickens drive wild birds out of their pen so we found it a bit odd that they seemed quite intimidated by the choughs. I mean there are four chickens and even our smallest chicken is twice as big as a chough.

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The confab at the Chez Fork Corral “What do we do now?”

On the cooking front I’ve been testing out some new recipes developed by the Queensland Country Women’s Association to promote a healthier approach to the afternoon tea table. The recipes they have been promoting include Bean Brownies and Orange Pistachio and Chickpea Cake. As you may gather from the title, the recipes incorporate alternative ingredients, as well as lower quantities of sugar. These two recipes are also gluten-free. I tried the bean brownies first. Although the flavour was good I found the actual brownie quite fragile in the way that most gluten-free baked goods are. As we do not have problems with gluten I plan to re-make this recipe using plain flour.

From the outset the Orange Pistachio and chickpea cake was much more successful. For a start I didn’t waste any time going gluten-free, I just substituted an equal quantity of plain flour for gluten free flour. I also used tangerines rather than oranges, as I had some that my friend had given me.

OPCcake
Dense and moist with great flavour

This cake has proved popular with all who have tried it. It has a moist crumb which is flavoured with the pistachio nuts and citrus. To finish it off I made a drizzle topping using some more of the tangerines. This one is staying in the repetoire.

Finally tonight we had a hearty vegetable soup including lots of greens from our garden.

vegs
Broccoli, broccoli leaves, bok choy flowers and leaves and parsley

Add in some smoked ham hock, courtesy of my partner’s annual pig processing and for additional flavour some of the dried mushrooms we foraged for earlier in autumn.

ham'n veg
Ham hock and veggies ready for the soup

Finally we had an extremely tasty bowl of hot soup.

soup
Soup for dinner!

A warming of crock pots

The sight of six crockpots/slow cookers in our work kitchen yesterday has convinced me that slow cooking is really making a comeback.

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We were having a fundraising soup lunch for our social club and everyone was lining up for some home-made deliciousness. There were plenty of old favourites on offer including minestrone, pea and ham, pumpkin (with a pinch of cloves), vegetable, chicken and sweet corn along with a very welcome a newcomer Indian Spiced Red Lentil soup. The recipe for this last soup can be found here. defintely a soup for our very frosty days!
The nicest thing was that someone actually bought along a still functioning “crock pot”.
  

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BTW what is the collective noun for a group of slow cookers? Here are some that we came up with:

a stew of slow cookers
a casserole of slow cookers
a warming of crockpots
a social club of crock pots
a bing lee of crock pots
a sloth of slow cookers
a consomme/chowder of comestibles
a winter warming wonder
a soup squad
a squadron of slow crocks
a pod of pots
a crock of podders/plodders/potters
slow crocks united
a swarm of slow cookers

 

Soup at Solstice

Given the difficulty contemporary Australians seem to have with celebrating any ritual, in the absence of a public holiday, it was cheering to see the number of people celebrating that most ancient of festival days this week, the winter solstice, Tuesday 22 June, commonly known as the shortest day of the year. At Davis Base in the Australian Antarctic Territory they really went all out!

No doubt my ancient British ancestors celebrated this turning point of the year with lots of bonfires, food and drink but, in the absence of a public holiday, our friends threw a soup laden (ladelled?) Solstice party on Saturday night instead.

Soups

Warmed on our arrival by a cup of spiced apple juice the party then settled down to the serious business of eating. Our soups covered the gamut of the winter favourites. Pumpkin was the most popular component with two different variations on a Spicy Thai-style pumpkin soup, ‘Old’ vegetable soup (based on Stephanie Alexanders’ pumpkin and vegetable soup) and my own roasted tomato and pumpkin soup. Potato and leek, leek and cauliflower, Mexican vegetable soup, vegetable soup, French onion soup (cooks tip substitute cream sherry instead of wine in the recipe) and pea and ham soup filled out the menu, not to mention our stomachs.

Of course the supporting element was bread. Friend A, who so excelled as a barrista at our recent afternoon tea, turns out to be no slouch in the bread making department either! His recipe for ‘No Knead’ bread came from the New York Times (based on a Jim Lahey recipe) was an absolute winner …

Noknead_bread

and it didn’t last very long! Thank heavens he’d made two loaves.

Nobreadleft

For those with left over space TB made steamed marmalade and steamed golden syrup and treacle puddings. Our hostess commented that when she heard the happy hum of 16 people all talking at once she knew we were having a great time and so we were.

PSThankfully there was no swimming in the ice pool for us after the meal.

 

 

Everything Green Soup

You may recall in my recent diatribe against radishes that I mentioned Radish Leaf Soup, well I actually made some last week (see the picture). The recipe I had was a dead ringer for my favourite sorrel soup recipe. Dice some potatoes and cook them in stock until tender slice up the sorrel [leave it raw] and stick in the blender, pour over the cooked potatoes and stock and give it a whiz. Reheat to bring eating temperature. Well I can’t say that it was a revelation. It was a good soup, but to my mind lacked the zing I expected from the leaves of radishes. It had none of that peppery bite I anticipated, although a bit came through when we re-heated the left-overs the next day.
Yesterday we decided on even more green soup (as an aid to remedy New Year’s indulgences), but this time we added as many green things we could find in the garden into the mix. Several small zucchinis, sorrel, radish leaves, radishes, komatsu, parsley, basil and a few milk thistle leaves made up the green base along with an onion. The only difference was that in our everything green soup we sauteed an onion and the sliced radish leaves together, before doing the blender move. The mix had a few strings (don’t forget to cut the ribs out of the sorrel) so it was sieved before some milk was added to thin it out. Then TB had a great idea – he served the soup and then added a dob of wasabi. We used purewasabi from New Zealand, not the lurid green paste you generally get, www.coppersfolly.co.nz [possibly bought at Edelweiss Woden but can’t be sure]. The company offers direct mail order, including shipping than is cheaper than the local purchase price. That hit the spot. Of course you can add a little wasabi, or none at all depending on how much heat you like.
Speaking of green things I’ve included a photo I took this morning of the leaves of our Trombone Marrow, a freebie from the seed company along with part of our order that couldn’t be filled earlier in the year. Just check out the string of water beads around the edge of the leaf.

RadsoupEverygreenTrom