Sunday, 15 April 2012

Quince upon a time

The quince is flowering.

Cydonia, in flower
They are the most delicate pink tree flowers. Harbinger of codonyat, the quince paste I make each year...

Fox Hunt

The fox dug his or her way into our chicken hut last night. 

Fox hole
This morning we found only a scattering of feathers. No blood, no bones, nothing remained from the four bantams and one female Maran who had lived in the hut. Our oldest male bantam Popinjay, who had survived two buzzard attacks (in both cases I had repaired the many puncture wounds using Hoof Tar...) was finally taken off to feed a den of fox cubs.

Foxes are a rare sighting here. I have seen two in the 12 years we've lived on the Croft, along with rare night-time squeals from female foxes in the mating season. The matings mean cubs, and cubs get hungry. Our chickens have gone to a good cause.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Eating Thistle

My “New” Larousse Gastronimique (1977 edition) calls it “cardoon”, a name that sounds mediaeval. They are thistles, called “card” in Catalan, part of the artichoke family. We planted them last year in the vegetable plot, and this year they are, well, very dominant:

Cynara cardunculus var Altilis
I made a Cream of Card soup last night:
Select 6 strong stems, trimming off the stem where the leaves start (and, in my case, giving all that greenery to the donkeys. They love it.)
Slice, cover in lemon juice (to stop them blackening at the cut edge) and boil for 30 mins. Drain.
Braise in butter.
Add 500ml of good chicken or vegetable stock and simmer 30 mins.
Add salt, freshly-grated nutmeg and, if you are a cheat like me a large pinch of turmeric to bring up the colour.
Add 250ml of full cream milk
Whizz with a liquidiser. If you really want your soup fibre-free, pass through a colander to get the largest of the fibres out.
Warm to just below boiling.
Serve in warmed bowls.

Eating thistle, Scotland's national flower, seems very appropriate. And even more so on a sheep farm where the dried seed heads of Cynara spp would have been used traditionally to card wool...