Monday, 27 June 2011

Melton Mowbray Country show 2011

Yesterday the sun shone (the weather randomly decided it is summer after all) so we went across to Melton Mowbray to the Melton Country Show. I don't know if this is a new show, I have never seen it advertised before. I was quite impressed though.

Prepare for a lot of photos, I waved the camera around a lot!

There were alpacas (I love alpacas!)

A spectacular alpaca shot taken by my OH, I don't know what is out of focus in the foreground, near animals it is probably best not to ask.

Pigs, both large and small

Pretty Jersey cows, this pair are about 9 months old.

Sheep, it was much too hot to be wearing a big fleecy jumper.

There was a big home baking theme with competitions, stalls and various "have a go" type stands. This stall is grinding flour onsite, the mill is on the right, the man is sifting the flour.

Steam powered farm machinery

A central display ring, this is a sheepdog display with the dog herding ducks over obstacles. Other activities took place in the ring during the day.

A row of food and drink tents- yum!

A sheep show, with a shearing demo and a bit of sheepy talk.

Falconry display and archery.

There were a lot of other stalls and activities that I didn't take pictures of, a craft tent, garden stalls, pony rides (very cute shetland ponies), dog shows; all round a very good country show.

I came away with two bags of alapca fluff, a sample of fleece from the mule sheep in the shearing demo and a possible lead on where I can buy half a pig for the freezer. Spinning fluff and meat, some of my favourite things!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Strawberry season, part one

I love strawberry season, but unfortunately the plants in the garden have been a little reluctant this year. I suspect this is my fault as I decided to dig them out of the ground and move them to a planter type arrange,ent. Unfortunately the weekend I did this it was hot and dry and they looked sad for a few weeks.

Mostly they are just producing a berry here and there suitable for swiping and munching as you walk past. After a few days of no swiping I managed to gather this lot last night:

Almost enough there to use the word crop, as long as it is in very tiny letters, like these- crop.

In the autumn I will have to make a decision on replacing the plants. I hate to dig up anything that is growing well, but they are a few years old (aparently general garden wisdom says they only do three to four years) and it would be nice to try some other varieties.

When the weather perks up it will be off to the nearby pick your own at Wymeswold for the annual "pick more strawberries than you actually know what to do with" afternoon.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Free range fried chicken

I like my chicken to be free range, and British too but most definitely free range. I will sometimes overlook this (with a bit of guilt) to enjoy a takeaway but I can't bring myself to buy fried chicken, I think the fact the chicken is the focus of the meal makes it worse somehow. A bit of weird twisted logic there.

So the answer to getting free range fried chicken was to make my own. This is the second time I tried it, and it came out nicely both times so I thought it was time to share.

I should add, the hobs are off in all the pictures before the cooking one, it is just that my kitchen is so tiny I have to use the cold hob tops as workspace.

Big pans of hot oil are dangerous things, and so is raw chicken. Use plenty of care with both.

The herbs and spices I used are listed, you can use any you have/like. These are a little spicy.

1 cup of buttermilk, or 1 cup of milk and the juice of 1 small lemon
Chicken, this recipe will do 4 thighs and 5 legs or the equivalent of any chicken bits you fancy. I chopped breast pieces up the first time.
2 cups flour
2tsp salt (yeah, its a lot, but its not like you eat this everyday)
2 tsp thyme
2tsp basil
2tsp oregano
4tsp ground ginger
4 heaped tsp celery salt
4tsp black pepper
4tsp dry mustard
4 heaped tsp paprika
2 tsp chilli powder
1 egg
1 litre cooking oil

In a jug mix the milk and lemon juice, stir and leave for about five minutes, it will go thick and you will probably see little white flecks in it. This makes a good substitute for buttermilk.

Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk (or above substitute) over. Cover and leave in the fridge to soak for at least two hours, stir once or twice to make sure all the chicken is covered. It can be left overnight in the fridge. 

The chicken should be about room temperature when it is cooked, so take it out of the fridge a little before you want to cook it.
In a large bowl or roasting pan mix the flour, herbs and spices. A whisk is good for this, yeah it sounds odd, but it works.

Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and put it on a plate. Add an egg to the remaining buttermilk and mix well.
Set up a coating station a little like the one below. We have chicken, egg wash, flour coating and a baking tray off to the side for storing the coated chicken.

Dip the buttermilky chicken into the flour, then the egg wash and finally back into the flour. Make sure it gets coated all over at each stage, I found the best way is to drop it in then lift a handful of flour over the top to bury it, then pull it out and gently shake off the excess.

Do all the chicken pieces, putting each one onto a plate or tray to store, try not to let them touch each other or they will stick. I used a lined baking tray with a cooling rack to sit the chicken on.

The chicken will sit happily in its coating for a while, so this is a good time for a quick clear up. Set the litre of oil heating in a large pan or switch on your deep fat fryer. The fryer is the safer option, but I don't have room for one, so I used my fantastic wok. Use appropriate hot oil caution.
When the oil is hot enough to brown a small chunk of bread in 60 seconds carefully put some of the chicken pieces in. Don't overcrowd them, the wok fits three thighs or four legs. Cooking pieces of the same size together is a good idea.
Cooking time will depend on the size of the pieces, I gave these at least 5 minutes on each side then put them on a clean grill tray in the oven at 180 degrees C while I cooked the rest. The final batch out of the oil had ten minutes in the oven while I cooked some wedges.
This does tend to make the oil very dirty as bits of flour fall off during cooking. It is a good one to do right before you change the oil in your fryer.

Enjoy a big plate of fried chicken!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Loughborough Farmer's Market June 2011

Today was the Farmer's Market in Loughbrough, it was a lucky find because despite knowing that it is the second Wednesday of the month I always forget and miss it. I went into town to post a parcel and there it was.

In fact, this month's market was a good one as there were extra stalls on a "Green and ethical" theme. This meant lots of crafty things to look at and a few environmental stalls. I even found a lady selling wool but none that took my fancy today.

I would have taken my camera if I had realised but I have a photo of my purchases instead.

I picked up six free range eggs, three duck eggs, some black pudding, faggots and casserole steak.

There are quite a few meat stalls to choose from with a range of meats- chicken, beef lamb, pork, even ostrich. The three meaty purchases were all from the Woodhouse Farm stall as we tried their beef last month and found it very tasty.

Duck eggs had been recommended to us for boiled eggs. We gave some supermarket ones a try but really couldn't tell the difference so not worth the extra, they are not even much bigger. These on the other hand are HUGE compared to the chicken eggs so we shall see how they taste.

Next time I am going to have a look at the free range chickens available. I have my suspicions that Tesco have put their prices up as the approximately £8.50 bird I usually buy seems smaller and had a shorter cooking time. This might make the £/kg more competitive with the added bonus of local.

There were also a choice of veg sellers and baked goodies, but it was all about the meat and eggs for me today. I am never totally sold on the provenance of veg at some of the markets, I suspect they are just the same as at a typical market or from a supermarket in terms of sourcing and quality. I may investigate this next month.