A post Mayan End of Days supper

Well, it didn’t happen did it? Although the way people were descending on the local supermarkets it looked as if many people were stocking up for the apocalypse. Or maybe just Christmas. We headed off to the local farm instead.

Freerange chicken crossing the road to Hazledene Farm

Why did the chicken..

We spent some time with the chickens there – they are so relaxing, the way they cluck about happily. They are given complete freedom to potter about, the gates to their enclosures are open doing the day; they wander up and down the long drive way, in and out of areas of pasture, and around the farm shop.

No one here but us chickens

No one here but us chickens

In the farm shop one of the chaps working there spotted our crestfallen looks when we saw the fresh eggs tray empty. (They do stock other free range eggs when theirs aren’t laying, but we wanted the rare breed ones.) He slipped out of the shop and returned a couple of minutes later with a plastic container of muddy, but fresh eggs. He was apologetic about the mud – there’d been a constant deluge recently, and the some of the chicken were looking like they’d been having fun in the mud.

Freerange chickens including Marsh Daisies and Ixworth

Freeranging

Tim crouching down with the chickens

Chicken whisperer

 Free range Rare breed chickens on Hazeldene

Rare breed chickens freeranging

Rare breed chickens

I had to chuckle at Tim’s recipe-making in the kitchen today. The plan was that he’d make one of my favourite dishes – a perfectly poached egg with Halloumi and Puy lentils. Perfect for the post apocalyptic supper.

But Tim went free-range himself – with the Halloumi, poached eggs, the lentils cooked with a hickory smoked chicken stock, a salsa of chargrilled tomato and and a truffle infused cream sauce. And pickled red cabbage made the day before.

The chicken stock was made earlier with a free range Label Anglaise chicken – the farm doesn’t sell their rare breeds to eat.

Chargrilling the tomatoes

Chargrilling the tomatoes

Peppers chargrilling on the hob

Chargrilling the peppers on the hob. Otherwise known as making a mess.

14dish

Halloumi, eggs and smoky puy lentils

You can see from the pic below the difference between a fresh free range farm bought egg, and the supermarket free range. The egg with the thicker, more gelatinous white is the fresh farm egg, the one with the thinner is a free range supermarket egg, about a week old, and the one that collapsed at the back of the picture was also a free range supermarket egg – it’s probably about 12 days old.

Eggs comparison - free range and supermarket bought.

The one on the left is the pasture fed freerange egg

A proper British pig

 

A British Lop Pig, with ears that protect the eyes when foraging

A native British Lop Pig. The ears cover the eyes to protect them when foraging.

A couple of weeks ago we moved out of London. Today was our first weekend of not shifting boxes about. So, when I asked Tim what he’d like to do today, on our first free weekend together in the country, he suggested we go and see some pigs. Very romantic, but hey, we’re in the country.

After a brief discussion about appropriate footwear (my scruffy ones let in water, but I don’t want to ruin my warm and dry ones with pig poo) we set off to see some young, rare pigs on a farm.

We had no idea that there are pigs that are so rare that they are almost endangered species. One of those breeds is the Lop Pig, previously known as the National Long White Lop Eared Pig. It’s one of the original, native British pigs.

It seems, much like the way the Milk Marketing Board buggered up British cheeses in the 70s, wiping out a huge selection of our traditional cheeses, the government waded into in the subject of pigs in 1955. British artisan cheeses have been recovering gradually since the 90s, to the point that we now have a fantastic selection of cheeses again. Sadly, some native pig breeds have been lost forever.

The Government’s Howitt Report recommended that in order to increase profitability and compete with imported bacon, farmers should concentrate on the Landrace – imported from Sweden, and the Large White and Welsh breeds.

This led to the extinction of native pig breeds such as the Cumberland, Lincolnshire Curly Coated, Ulster White, Dorset Gold Tip and Yorkshire Blue.

A group of British Lop eared pigs in a stall

Tea time

Tea time

A lop eared piglet looking out the pigsty door for his mother pig

Mum..?

Piglets - lop eared pigs under a heat lamp

Is it hot in here, or is it me?

Chef Tim Zekki on the rare breed Hazeldene Farm

So these little piggies are rather special, as there are currently only around 200 Lop sows left in the country.

A chap in the farm shop gave us a bag of something that the pigs like – not entirely sure what they were – some sort of pig food pellet – the pigs were certainly keen to get hold of them. And I wouldn’t want to be amongst these pigs when they are hungry – they are enthusiastic eaters.

A dandy of a cockerel

A dandy of a Cockerel

Free range rare breed chickens

Free ranging chickens

The farm also keeps rare breeds of chickens, such as Marsh Daisy – apparently only a hundred of those left. The pure white Ixworth chickens are slightly less rare, with around 500 left. No wonder they were so upset a fox got one of their rare chickens recently. It’s so nice to see the chickens wandering around wherever they want, and funny to see how they sheltered in various places, under their houses, under a bench, under a raised drinking water can, when a sudden downpour of rain came.

Chef Tim Zekki and a traditional Hereford cow

This is the pork shoulder Tim cooked a few weeks back, after one of our visits to the farm. The crackling was cracking, and it was perfect.

A gorgeous shoulder of organic raised rare breed pork from a lop pig

Shoulder of pork. 

A trivet made from the bones of the lop pig raised by organic principles

A trivet made from the bones

free range pork with excellent crackling

In the oven

Cracking crackling from lop pig pork

Cracking crackling

Excellent crackling from lop pig

Postscript: I saw the other day that the lovely Philip Dundas of the pop up restaurant Pip’s Dish at the Garage in Islington did a shoulder of lop pork recently. Can’t wait to go and try Pip’s Dish. It’s here: http://www.pipsdish.co.uk/2012/07/stuffed-british-lop-shoulder