Saturday, 10 May 2014

Let the food times roll

Living near Kinross positions us at a first-class culinary crossroads, with ready access to fresh produce from Perthshire, Kinross-shire and Fife. Foodie events offer a perfect opportunity to sample the local delights and Crail Food Festival on 14th/15th June is a veritable celebration of all that's wonderful about East Coast fresh produce.

Last year, my brief was to write about Seriously Good Venison and the Pittenweem Chocolate Company. This year, my remit was to muse about smoked fish, so I put together a rather tasty (without wanting to "angle" for compliments) recipe for a Seriously Smoky Fish Pie. Enjoy!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

It's that time of year again: the lambs are pronking...

Chocolate Brownie and her twins
So that's it over for another year then. Our Shetland ewes have now lambed, and the paddock is resounding to the patter of tiny cloven hooves as fourteen happy lambs pronk (see the explanatory blog post from May 2012) and prance from dawn till dusk. The final set of twins were born at around midnight on Friday after we'd spent a long day watching and waiting while the ewe prowled up and down the drystane dyke for hours, having refused her feed in the morning (and thus alerted us to the fact that she was thinking about "the deed"). 

Penning her in for closer supervision later in the day proved a tad problematic, and at one point she almost flew past HunterGatherer's right ear, though the fact that she managed to get airborne at all despite her vast girth is nothing short of a miracle.

There is a fifteenth lamb, but sadly the poor wee soul is not up to pronking, as when she was born first thing on Saturday morning, her legs had no strength at all - a physiotherapist friend suspects she sustained a spinal trauma during the birth. The only part of her body she could move was her head, so we sat her propped up on one of HunterGatherer's boiler suits for the first 24 hours and tube fed her colostrum (the rich milk that ewes produce just after birth) to give her a fighting chance. 

Then to keep her out of the chilling rain last night, we cleared a space next to Vinnie the Vine in the polytunnel and popped mum and bambino in there for the night. This morning, she has managed to get up on to her feet and is even taking a few hesitant steps, but we're not sure she has the balance required to suckle her mum yet, so we're keeping a close eye on her. Her chances, to be honest, don't look great at the moment.

I've posted photos of all the other lambs on the Square Sparrow Facebook page each day as they arrived, so here are the final four to complete the set: Orangina (our second "orange" ewe, aptly named after my favourite soft drink by our lovely new neighbour, S.) had twins  a boy and a girl  while one of our young ewes, SplitEar, had a single baby girl (the one trying to find her feet in the photo below). Lulu, the "limp" lamb, is in the 3rd to 6th photos.

Proud mum Orangina with the midnight arrivals...
Steady she goes! New lamb Juliet takes to her feet.
Day 1: All Lulu can lift so far is her head
Morning 2: After a night in the polytunnel, a bit more upright
Afternoon 2: Now able to stand on all fours
Lulu: Not quite ready for a 100m sprint, but able to toddle...
It's also great to see welcome signs of plant life and growth in the garden once again. The only problem with that, of course, is that the weed life is also springing into life even faster! I made my first rhubarb crumble of the season last night, and HunterGatherer and I polished off a portion topped with some Porrelli tablet ice cream. A winning combo... I use Delia's crumble recipe, and have done since I can remember (rub tog. 8oz of plain flour and 3 oz butter till crumb-like then add 4 oz of sugar). My own little "twist" is that I also sprinkle demerara sugar over the top of the crumble before cooking, to give it extra zing!
Ruby the rhubarb plant seems a bit small and stunted this year
However, we've still had a few nice stalks of rhubarb :-)
Sprinkle over some soft brown sugar...
... and stew for five minutes in the microwave.
Then pop your crumble mixture on top and cook till golden. Yum!
Meanwhile in the milder climes of the polytunnel, the asparagus is growing nicely. It's best steamed  if you have a steamer  but also delicious boiled. Just watch not to boil for too long, though, or it loses some of its unique fresh-from-the-garden flavour. On this occasion, we steamed the tips then dipped them in HunterGatherer's special Marie Rose dip, which he makes himself. And very tasty it was, too!
Nothing to beat asparagus fresh from the polytunnel.
And into the dip it goes!