Thursday 27 September 2012

Smallholders Piece De Resistance (Peppered Steak In A Shallot Sauce).

Peppered steak in a rich shallot sauce.
Today I thought I would share with you one of my favourite recipes.  I found it in a magazine a few years ago  and even our butcher asks his wife to make the meal for him.  You may not be able to afford or even want to get dressed up to go in some fancy restaurant and hand over Monopoly (The Euro/Sterling?) money for a meal that you don't like.  Honestly it's excellent.  It just involves you having to make it.

Right, shall we begin?  This recipe serves 4 or 2 if you like big portions.  You will need 4 large rump or sirloin steaks from the butchers.  Be awkward and ask them what breed the animal is/was, if you get me?  I adore the Aberdeen Angus, which we sometimes treat ourselves to when go for some retail therapy and a change of scenery in Killarney.  You will also need a bottle of Cognac and a bottle of red wine.  Don't worry the little miniature bottles will do, sadly!   I was expecting somebody to bring me a twenty eight  euros  bottle of Hennessssy (very special) Cognac, yesterday.  That  somebody produced a miniature Cognac and a miniature red wine.  We really are in a recession, aren't we?

You will also need some shallots or onions, preferably one's that you have grown yourself.  Melt 25 grammes of butter in a big frying pan over a medium heat.  Then add 4 sliced shallots and let them cook for a couple of minutes until they feel soft.  Now is the time to pour in 4 tablespoons of your Cognac and boil it for 1 minute.  Then add 200ml of red wine.  If there's any left have a drink of wine or Cognac, or both if you're like me?  Let the mixture boil and reduce it by half.

You should be also making your veg around now.  The menu says to serve it with chips and tomatoes.  However we thinking we are starting to look like chips and prefer to 'steam' our home grown veg; carrots, potatoes and broccoli 

Meanwhile (back at the ranch) get yourself 200ml of hot (put kettle on) half a  beef (OXO) stock and pour it in the pan.  Let it to boil until it's reduced by half again.  Stir in 25g of butter and add some seasoning, taste it, and leave it to cook slowly.  Brush your griddle (frying pan will do) with a little oil and place it under a very high heat.  Get your steaks and press 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns over them and cook  the steaks for a few minutes on each side.  I like mine 'well done' and hate it when you get meat served with the blood still running out of it.  No thank-you.

Now is the time to plate up and pour the sauce over your steak.  I would also pour yourself some home-brew or some more brandy or wine, that's if you remember to buy a 'big' bottle and not a miniature   Moral of story.  Always get your own drink.

 Bon Appetit.

You have to wash up also.  It's worse for me because I use nearly every cooking utensil and pan in the kitchen.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Making Do And Mending On The Smallholding.

"Do you know there is somebody who takes photographs of  the silage feeder round here?  I bet  he also talks about the weather, yawn!"
Here is a photograph of 'Lazarus' my round silage feeder.  I called it Lazarus because it's been lying around minus its sides for the last couple of years and it's finally come back from the dead..  You see on Friday I finally got round to repairing it with some old corrugated and some of those text screws.  I had one of my yearly brainwaves.

The grass is getting very scarce now.  So I either let the cattle eat the silage in the yard or I leave to eat the grass and there will be no grass come turning out time next spring.  See what I mean?  Talk about a dilemma.

'Turning out time"' is one amazing sight.  I call it the: 'Cows Disco."  They jump about and dance and run backwards and forwards for what seems like ages.

 Any way my brainwave consisted of me thinking:

"If I fix that ring feeder the cattle will be able to stay in the fields for a few more weeks, maybe months."

Which means a lot less work for me, because I wouldn't need to 'muck out' every day.  We have loose housing which means the cattle eat outside but they can go in the cowshed and lie on the straw, rushes, shavings.  There is no slatted house for my cattle.  I do not like them.  do you?

It cost me NINE Euros to make it good again.  Moral of the story don't throw nowt away.  You should of seen me stood inside the upturned feeder, wheeling it along the boreen/lane.  Now I know what a hamster feels like.  Don't worry about the nettles.  The feed is going to be set and re-seeded next spring.  Guess what?  The cattle are still eating the grass and just nibbling now and again at the silage.  They will have to get used to it.
Bracken saying:

"Good Morning."

'Sooty' the heifer and the Bullocks; 'Dal boy and Lightning.'
Dal boy' got his name because he looks like a Dalmatian.  Yes all our animals have names along with their ear tags.

See you later.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Smallholding Pizza (Taking on the Takeaway in the Countryside)

Smallholding (made) Pizza.

Sorry the photograph is a bit dark, we mustn't have been able to find ten bob for the 'leccy' meter.  Seriously,  You can't be travelling miles to the takeaway when you live in the countryside.  So why not have a go at making your very own:  'Smallholding Pizza'?   It's cheap, not full of preservatives and great to eat on the go or watching the telly.  

Pizza is originally a peasant dish from GREECE!  Yes I didn't know that either.  I think curries originate in China?  

Any road.
Mix 2 cups full of self raising flour and 2 cups of plain flour together.  Add water until you have got a dough. Roll it out on a floured surface.  Cook in the oven until the crust is firm and starting to crisp.  This normally takes about 5 to ten minutes in our Stanley range.  That's about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  We never bother with yeast, there's no need and it stops the crust being too doughy like the cheap supermarket bought one's.

Take it out of the oven and spoon on a small tin or tube of tomato purée.  Now's the time to add any spice you like.  I make my own 'Indian Pizza' by adding curry paste.  Then you had half a sliced onion and add grated cheese of your choice and add toppings like ham, pepperoni, tomato, mushrooms, pineapple, what ever you like..?

Put it back into the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and it's all congealed together.

Serve it warm with a pint of home brew.

Let me know what you think.  "PLEASE!"

Friday 21 September 2012

Self Supporters Bacon Potato Cakes.

Continuing with my food making season.  I  thought I would cook an Irish meal today.  Like all slow food it takes time, probably about an hour in total.  Shall we begin?  Right.  Get yourself 4 small or a 1lb of potatoes. Preferably one's you have grown yourself on your allotment/smallholding/kitchen garden.  Peel them.  Mike Harding (great comedian, folk singer/ writer, friend of rambling and Crumpsall's finest) says that God gave us belly buttons so we can peel potatoes when we are in bed.  Well it makes me laugh any way.

Peel the potatoes and boil them and mash them with a really little bit of butter.  Whilst you are waiting for them to boil get yourself 4 rashers of bacon and cut it up into little pieces with scissors.  Don't remove the fat there is no need.  When your potatoes have cooled down add the now cooked bacon and 2 tablespoons of plain flour and mix it all together.  Then make the mixture into little balls on a floured surface and flatten them (gently) on a  metal baking tray.  Pop them in the oven for 20 minutes and finish them off on top the stove.  Or you can fry them for about 5 minutes each side.

Me peeling potatoes.  The pigs and ducks will get the peelings.  The peeler is brilliant.  Not me - the  utensil.

Cutting bacon strips with 'kitchen' scissors.

Mashed Potato mixed with crispy bacon.

The finished product.
They are really cheap to make and very very filling.  If you want you can eat them with some baked beans?  The most essential accompaniment for me is some HP sauce.  Anybody know what 'HP' stands for?  Give you a clue look at the picture on the bottle.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Some More Of My Self Supporters Soup (Beef and Vegetable).

We had another go at making soup and bread the other day. It's quite filling  and this is how you make it:

Coarsely chop what ever veg you want.  We used some organic diced beef (it came in a plastic tray and it didn't state the breed, why?) and diced it a bit more.  Then we browned it in a pan in a little cooking oil.

We added the veg (carrot, swede, potato, cabbage and onion) and a tin of tomato purée.  Then we added a pint and a half of beef (OXO) stock.  Cook until meat and veg is tender to taste.  Add salt and pepper.

We didn't blend it this time because Cumbrian said it's better without.  Serve with home made brown soda bread. All the ingredients came from the smallholding except the flour.

Enjoy your meal.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' and 3 Butterflies Enjoy Our Smallholding.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'.
Here's a photograph taken this very morning on our smallholding.  I adore herbaceous perennials and this a picture of Sedum 'Autumn Joy'.  They are great for attracting butterflies.  Sadly the Sedum in all its glory is a finger post to show us winter will soon be.

I have read that there is no known scientific purpose for these beautiful winged insects, apart from pollinating flowers.  It's wonderful to think that our creator made something because its beautiful.  It's also sad to think that your average butterfly only lives for one month at the most.  Just shows we should celebrate every day.  We are just dust in the wind.

Here's a song called: 'Dust in the Wind'.  It's an incredible song by an incredible band: Kansas.  I really would like to see them live one day.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Smallholders Steak Puddings.

Get yourself a pound of steak mince.  Cook in half a pint of water until brown.  Add a tablespoon of gravy or until it's thick.  Leave aside.

Make yourself some Suet paste using 8 ounces of plain flour, half an ounce of baking powder, 4 ounces of beef suet, quarter of a pint of water and a pinch of salt.  add all the dry ingredients together and add the water and mix lightly into a firm paste.
 You will need pudding dishes, ours are made of metal.  Grease and flour the dishes.  Roll out the paste, which should be sufficient to make 4 puddings.  
Fill your dishes with the meat mixture and  cover them with a suet paste topping.
 Wrap in silver foil and steam for about an hour and a half.
 Below is the finished product.  Be careful when you are plating them up.  They are very hot.  Just to prove I lived in England, they are served with chips!
The moral of the story is: If there isn't a chip shop in the countryside, make your own!  Wash it down with some home brewed bitter.  

Monday 17 September 2012

Self Supporters Carrot, Onion and Coriander Soup

Continuing with my self supporters food season.   That's a picture of the carrot peelings.  A feast for the pigs and ducks? Nothing goes to waste.
 Get yourself 4 large carrots and half a large onion and chop them up very nice.
 Saute the carrots and onions in a pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil.  Thought she was Popeye's wife?  When they are soft add one and half pints of vegetable stock and a large bunch of chopped Coriander.  I had to get some dried Coriander because the supermarket didn't have none.  Can Sainsbury's come to West Cork please?  Boil it up then remove and let it cool.
Get yourself a blender and blend it until there's no lumpy bits.
 Then bring it back to the boil and serve with some rolls.  The rolls are frozen one's that we bought and placed in the oven for 8 minutes because our loaf wasn't ready.
There you have it.  Self Supporters Carrot, Onion and Coriander soup.  The rolls cost a Euro and the soup cost a Euro and there was enough for 4 people.  I bought the carrots because mine weren't quite ready.  We did buy them from local growers though.  So a delicious meal was was made for two fifty.

Can you do better folks?

Tune in next time for Self Supporters Steak Puddings.  To quote Tony The Tiger:

"They're g-r-e-a-t!"

Please tell me your self supporters recipes.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Day Trip To Derreen Gardens.

Howdy Folks.

It's a miserable and wet Sunday morning here in West Cork.  So I thought I would trawl through my photographs and show you some more of my 'interesting'  photographs.  One of my interests along with self supporting, writing, rock music, watching Manchester United on Sky, reading and real ale is visiting stately houses and exploring their gardens.

The picture above is taken a couple of years ago at Derreen gardens near Lauragh on the Beara Peninsula.  The Gulf Stream currents make it possible for all kinds of weird and exotic plants to grow.  That's a wonderful soft tree fern called:  Dickonsia Antartica.  Interestingly enough people started growing these by accident.

Years ago when people like the Tolpuddle Martyrs where deported to Australia.  The sailors realised that they need needed ballast for the return journey back to Blighty.  So they cut down the tree ferns and filled the ships hold with them for buoyancy.  On return they threw them into the harbour.  Some must of washed up or somebody planted them and incredibly they grew roots.  People started to sell them and plant them in the large gardens.

To quote Michael Caine:

"Not many people know that."

Derreen House in all it's glory.

The beauty of West Cork scenery.

Friday 14 September 2012

Smallholders Bread and Self Supporters Onion Soup.

It's starting to get chilly now and we are lighting our Stanley Mourne stove in the morning.  It heats 3 radiators, gives us hot water and we cook all our meals on it.  Talking of meals, here's some of our 'brown onion soup' and (no yeast) 'brown bread'.  I have christened it:  Smallholders Bread and Self Supporters (hate 'Self Sufficiency) Soup.

Get yourself some onions, preferably one's that you have grown yourself on your smallholding, allotment or kitchen garden.  Then peel them and chop them.  It might be good idea to put on a gas mask while you are doing this?  They (who ever 'they' are) also recommend you run a cold water tap when peeling them.  If you have been reading this blog recently  and took my 'onion freezing' method trick.  You will have no tears because you will already have (Blue Peter quote) "here's one I made earlier."   If not just peel and them and chop them like the one's below.

Then get some margarine or butter and place it in the 'dancing pan'.  For some reason we have a pan that seem to dance about when we place it on the stove. Perhaps it's happy?

Moving on very quickly.  Add the chopped onions
and cook them until they look really brown.  Then put 3 Oxo cubes in some water and fill your pan and bring to the boil, skim and add any seasoning.

The brown bread is really easy.  Sieve 8 oz of Self Raising flour and add a teaspoon of salt in a bowl.  Then add 8 ounces of wholemeal flour and a tablespoon of sugar.  Then add a tablespoon of cooking oil and add about half to three quarters of a pint of milk.  Knead out your dough on a floured work top.  Make it round, turn it over and place on a floured tray.  Then get a sharp knife and make a deep cross.  This is not to keep the evil spirits away.  It's to make sure the bread cooks all the way through.  Now place it in the centre of your oven (range) at 150 degrees centigrade/300 Fahrenheit /Gas 2 for one and a quarter to one and half hours.  Then it should be ready to scoff.

Not bad Eh?

That's the soup.  You can always add a bit of hot spicy sauce if you think it's a bit bland and boring.  It's not what you want, it's what the body needs.  Onions (Alliums) are fantastic for fighting colds and  even make  you say a good old faux pass in a very posh English accent::

"New shoes, more tea vicar?

See you next week.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Smallholder Celts. "Any one for the Bronze Age?"

When I get the chance I like to visit some of Ireland's ancient historical sites.  I especially enjoy visiting the stone circles and forts.  West Cork and Kerry and Northern Ireland have some of the best specimens of them.  There are also quite a few in the South West of England, the Lakes (Cumbria), Wales and Scotland.  This one is near Ardgroom on the Beara Peninsula.

Over the last few years I have developed the gift of water dowsing with a forked stick or with wire.  I have noticed when I have visited these ancient sites that some of the stones give off incredible energy when you place your hands on the stones.  So perhaps the stones are built on top of holy springs?  .  Nobody really knows what the stones are for.  Some say they are an ancient kind of stone computer for fertility and the seasons or even a place of worship.  I have noticed myself that most of them seem to look over the sea.  I like to think they were smallholder farmers who liked to dance and worship and knew how to enjoy life.

Time for a  great Irish band Clannad, another favourite of mine and who I have seen a couple of times in Manchester, England.  They sing a wonderful song about Newgrange and the ancient Celts/Goths who built these stone constructions long before Jesus was in Palestine or the Pyramids construction in Egypt. They left no language and like the lyrics say:  "Forgotten   is the race that no one knows."

Hope you enjoy the song?  You don't have to click on it if you don't like my eclectic taste in music.  I just thought that music adds a bit to the post.

See you later.

Monday 10 September 2012

"I am Just A Cowboy" And Thanks For The Unthanks.

It's Monday night and I thought I would share two great bands with you.  The first one is the great Thin Lizzy.  I once saw them at Manchester Apollo (Renegade Tour) in November 1981.    The great Phil Lynott was  a great Manchester United fan and his mother was born in Clonakilty here in West Cork. God bless you Phil.

Seeing that I am a smallholding farmer.  Here's one of their great and very appropiate songs:  The Cowboy Song.  What a great band.

A few months ago I was watching the Cambridge Folk Festival on Sky.  A Northumberland band called The Unthanks played a song called:  The King of Rome.  It's incredibly moving and it's my favourite song of the year.  The Unthanks are touring the UK and one night in Dublin this Autumn.  I really want to go to see them but it's a Monday night and I would need to stay in an hotel for the night and it's along way from West Cork and I will have to get somebody to look after the farm animals and...  Tell you what check out this great You Tube video and see what you think.

I forgot to say the Unthanks appear in the video with the Brighouse and Rastrick brass band.  I adore brass bands.  Brassed Off is one of my favourite films of all time.  Do you like Brassed Off?

See you later.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Smallholding and Allotment Telly Heaven.

I am sat here on this Saturday morning looking at the television for tonight.  Disappointingly there is no football (no Manchester United) to watch on Sky, due to the break for international football.  So I will probably watch some of the one day international cricket or even better, there's a repeat of the Wartime Farm on BBC 2.

Yes folks.  The Beeb and the Open University have come up trumps and made a programme about rural life during WW2.  It's the same archaeologists: Ruth Goodman, Alex Langland and Peter Ginn, who made and starred in the excellent: Tales From the Green Valley, Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm.  You can see clips from these series on You Tube.  If you Google: Wartime Farm you can see a clip of it and even get yourself a free booklet produced by the Open University.

It reminds me very much of the excellent Victorian and Wartime Kitchen Garden series a few years ago.  Harry Dodson and Ruth (the cook) are no longer with us, yet they leave behind a fascinating legacy of how to grow vegetables and eat them.  You can see clips of  both series on You Tube or you can even purchase them.   If anything inspires you to get an allotment it's programmes like the above.

Well done BBC.

Friday 7 September 2012

In Praise Of The Kerry Bog Pony. (Bracken Shows off his new bridle)

That's a photograph of 2 very rare Kerry Bog Ponies.  They live at the Kerry Bog Village in county Kerry.  There was only about twenty left in the 1980's in the whole of Ireland.  They used to be used for drawing the peat (the "Turf") from the peat bogs.  Now due to mechanization (yet again) on the farm and smallholding they have been made redundant.  The British also used them to carry ammunitions and provisions during the Napoleonic wars.  They are said to have a very good temperament and there's a great website with a video of them.  Just type: Kerry Bog Village.

I wonder if I could train Bracken our Shetland Pony to help me round the farm?  He seems quite happy at the moment living with the heifers and bullocks just eating the grass and looking very philosophical.

Here's Bracken:  We bought him the bridle for just 5 Euros and he does looks very posh.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Northsider's One Hundredth Post. Lots of Smallholding Pictures.

 Well folks today is my one hundredth blog post.  The great thing about writing a blog is you publish on the internet what you are interested in.  My main interest is living on a smallholding and vegetable plots.  I also spend hours writing manuscripts and waiting for a publisher to say they will print my work.  I have been published once so why not again?   At the moment I have a manuscript sent to a book publisher and I am starting to get the jitters and wonder if they will reply and say they like it..  In the mean time it's back to writing my blog .  Here's some pictures from the last 100 blogs.  Thanks for reading it.

 Dunno what happened here.  The picture above is where I sit and sup homebrew and Theakstons and watch the bay.  The weather is fabulous at the moment.

What We Had For Our Smallholding Tea.

 The polytunnel and veg plot keeps on giving and we seem to be eating new spudatoes every day at the moment: Snowball onion, kale and new po...