Posts Tagged ‘home-grown’

From the backyard to the table

March 1, 2011

In my last blog post, I wrote about my desire to live completely independently, or at least semi-independently, on the food that I can grow in my back yard. Last night, albeit for only one meal, I achieved this!

I love gardeners. Especially vegetable gardeners. You can go up to pretty much any veggie gardener with a glut of produce, offer them something in exchange, and chances are you will be extremely well-received. I have arranged many swaps with my gardening friends in the past – corn for tomatoes, beans for radishes, potatoes for peaches, the list goes on. Last week however, I did a different kind of barter deal.

My friend Veronica from Sleepless Nights has a rather large property in the Southern Midlands of Tasmania, and on it she raises free-range ducks and chickens. A while ago she put the call out on Twitter if anyone was interested in purchasing some free-range, ethically-raised, happy and healthy ducks. There was only one caveat – the ducks had to be taken live!

The duck she reserved for me had several weeks before he was ready, so I had a while to get my head around this duck killing business. I did some research on the net of slicing their throat vs chopping their head off, and they both have their good & bad points but I won’t go into those here. My dad clearly stated he wanted nothing to do with the matter, though he was quite happy to eat my duck once it was cooked.

So, I was on my own.

On Friday (as in, 3 days ago) I drove out to Veronica’s place, my cat cage in the back of the ute, and my barter exchange on the set next to me. (If your wondering, I “bought” my duck with my home-grown potatoes and 4 different flavours of jam that I’d made, from my home-grown fruit or fruit collected from friends). We lured my duck in with some grain, and lots of flapping ensued until we managed to get him into my cage. Phew! Ducks are feisty, unlike chickens who can tolerate being picked up.

I took my duck home and collected my thoughts, changed my clothes and organised myself to do the deed.

Now I’m no softcore, but I admit I was pretty shaky after I killed my duck. Mostly because I wasn’t expecting the nerve flapping that results from severing the spinal cord. The flapping scared the crap outta me actually, and continued for long enough that I actually checked that YES the duck’s head IS completely off, and is in fact a metre or two away from me, so there’s no way this duck can be alive still!! My heart slowed down a bit after the nerve flapping stopped, and I could get on with it.

The plucking took ages, and I did it on the lawn which probably wasn’t the best idea because the feathers won’t come out…. Oh well! By the time I got it plucked it was pretty late so I shoved it into the fridge to worry about on Saturday. I didn’t eat dinner that night.

Saturday afternoon was dedicated to butchering my duck. I’d completely gotten over the shakiness from the day before, and got right down to the business of gutting and deboning my duck. This went relatively smoothly, as my knives are sharp and duck bones are smooth. All in all I got just over a kilo of meat, and 700 grams of bones, excluding the wings which I cut off (because the feathers were too hard to get out). I kept the bones for stock, kept the skin for the fat, and started planning what I wanted to do with the delicious-looking duck meat!!

For those of you who don’t know, duck meat is not white like chicken or turkey meat. It more like a deep purply-red colour, and, oddly, the breast meat is actually darker than the thigh & leg meat. Here’s a photo:

The thigh meat is laid over the breast meat in the photo, you can see the colour difference. The yellow specks are bits of fat; duck fat is deposited as a layer under the skin and this is where duck gets its reputation for being a rich and fatty meat. Prepared correctly however it is very lean, as almost all the fat comes off when you skin it. If cooking your duck with the skin on, prick the skin all over so the fat can escape through the holes; if the duck is being roasted the fat can then drip into the pan below.

So, here’s what I did with my deboned duck!

Here’s what I did: I made a stuffing of brown rice, almond meal, flaked almonds, finely chopped Australian apricots, an egg to bind it all together, and some nutmeg, salt & pepper. I laid the stuffing out on the meat (laid out like in the top photo) and rolled the meat around it. Then I wrapped the whole thing in bacon (YUM), tied it up, & put it into the oven on about 170 degrees Celsius for about…. 90 minutes? I wasn’t really keeping track (just like I wasn’t keeping track when making the stuffing how much of each ingredient I used; just wing it guys!).

In the meanwhile I made some stock from the bones and carcass, to use in something else one day. I used some (with the pan drippings) for a delicious gravy that was delicious. Did I mention it was delicious? It really was delicious!

Along with my roast duck, I roasted some of my home-grown vegetables. Potatoes, Golden Nugget pumpkins, and brown onions, and I also steamed some green beans that I picked up from the Farm Gate Market this past Sunday. Here’s a (crappy iphone) photo of the final meal:

 

(The onions didn’t actually make it to the dinner table – they cooked much faster than the rest of the food so we had them as starters!)

So there you have it! My duck was extremely delicious and tender, not fatty at all, and now my mind is swimming with other possibilities of what to make with my future ducks (yes, I am considering getting some more from Veronica!). Any recipe suggestions are welcome (especially since I didn’t use a recipe for this dish…) Except for the bacon, and a few ingredients in the stuffing, the entire meal was raised or grown by myself and other Tasmanians, ethically, organically, and sustainably! I hope to have many many more meals like this in the future 🙂

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Spinach!!

November 18, 2008

Here is my first spinach harvest of the year! I am treating my spinach in the same way as my bol choi & mesclun lettuce, harvesting what I need instead of uprooting the whole plant. Hopefully that’ll mean I can harvest more over a longer period. This spinach I think is the English type, with smooth arrowhead leaves on thin stems, and the leaves tend to lay against the ground instead of sticking up straight. This is destined to be in a pasta sauce with cream & mushrooms! Yummm.

Sesame Bok Choi

November 12, 2008

You would have seen from yesterday’s post that my bok choi plants were starting to get rather large. Well I thought I better pick some & eat it today, because it grows back pretty fast.

bok-choi-leaves

I decided to fry it rather then steaming it this time, just for something different. I looked in the cupboard & spotted my sesame oil & raw sesame seeds, and a lightbulb went off in my head. Ah hah! What a perfect flavour combination.

You will need:

A bunch of bok choi

Few tablespoons of sesame oil

Raw sesame seeds

Method:

Use a wok, or a large frying pan (I couldn’t be bothered getting my wok out today). Gas is ideal, as you need the wok really hot.

Wash your bok choi thoroughly, as sand in your dish really don’t go down well (talking from past experience!). Roughly chop the stem from the leaf, and chop the stems into halves or thirds to make them easier to handle. You can chop the leaves into ribbons if you like but I left mine as is.

Over high heat, heat up the dry wok or pan. Pour in about a tablespoon of the raw sesame seeds, and toss until they toast to a nice golden colour. Add the oil & let that heat up. Add the bok choi stems only, and toss to cover in oil. Fry rapidly until the stems are tender & the outsides brown very slightly. Add the leaves, and toss until they wilt. Bok choi has a very high water content & this may make the oil spit so be careful.

bok-choi-sesame

That’s it! Scoop out into a bowl & enjoy. I couldn’t find my chop sticks, but I do have some somwhere.

This could be used as a base for a stirfry or noodle dish. Add some soy sauce & flat rice noodles, thinly sliced beef or tofu and you’ll have a really substantial meal.

Second harvest!

November 6, 2008

Did you know that you can harvest bok choi piece-by-piece as it grows?? I didn’t! I’ve been waiting for the whole plant to get big like you buy in stores. But I did a search, and came across this site (which is an awesome-sounding Perth-based vegetable gardening business) which has advice on what to look for when you think your crops are ready. And they said you can harvest individual bok choi leaves like you can for looseleaf lettuces, simply break the stems off at the base, but leaving enough leaf mass to sustain the plant. I wonder how long I can harvest like this for? So, here is my bundle of veggies today:

second-harvest

I also pulled the last of the radishes from that sowing, as I didn’t want to eave them in any longer, as they have been growing for almost 6 weeks no and they tend to get slightly ‘spongey’ inside & lose flavour. So, I made my family a big salad to use up all the radishes, and I steamed my lovely bok choi for 4-5 minutes in my rice cooker/steamer machine. Such a nutritious meal!