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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Eggs

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DSC_8063Easter has come and gone, but my chickens didn’t get the memo. As is only natural for chickens, with the long days of springtime they are laying more…and more…and more eggs! So, what can you do with eggs? I grew up in a mostly non-egg-eating household, and only came around to using them in anything but baked goods a couple of years ago, after a friend introduced me to poached eggs. Soft boiled eggs were ok…fried eggs made my stomach turn at the mere thought…hard boiled, yuck! Pickled eggs and scotch eggs seemed a little over-the-top. The humble poached egg, however, was just right.

DSC_8026 DSC_8038 DSC_8046 DSC_8059  Over the last few months I’ve often recommended to people that they try poaching the fresh, richly flavoured eggs that they purchase at the Nidulari farmstand. Poaching sets off the beautiful orange yolks and preserves the firm texture of the fresh white. With no oil or contact with a pan, poaching preserves the full, unadulterated flavour of the egg, and allows the white to fully solidify while the yolk remains an evenly soft –even liquid– texture. I could go on all day, but I’ll spare you that. So it turns out that I’m not the only person to have missed out on poached eggs for so many years. Apparently in the modern kitchen poaching is somewhat of a mystery, a lost art form even. In fact, poaching an egg is a quick and simple matter, requiring nothing more than a deep pan of water, a pinch of salt, and a dash of vinegar (the latter is optional, but helps to control the spread). Just bring your pot of water to a good boil, add the salt and vinegar, give a quick stir with a spoon to create a small vortex in the center of the pan, and immediately break an egg into the vortex. If poaching multiple eggs, it’s best to skip the vortex and to carefully break the eggs in opposite sides of the pan. In 1-2 minutes your egg will be ready to gently fish out with a large slotted spoon to be eaten on toast, salad, anything! I prefer for the white to be somewhat solid, but the yolk to still be almost-completely liquid. There are some cheats to make poaching “easier” – poaching cups, poaching pans, etc – but I find that there’s nothing quite like a good fresh egg poached directly in water on the stove top, then served with coarsely ground black pepper and a sprinkle of salt.

DSC_8061While we’re talking about eggs, are you still buying those jars of gross white stuff that they pass off as “Mayonnaise”? If so, why? By the way, the one (and only) advantage to that stuff is that it *does not need refrigeration*. I lived on a boat for over a dozen years with no refrigeration and never once had commercial mayo go bad, trust me there. So, unless you live without refrigeration, or in a place where eggs and oil are unavailable, there’s no need to buy that anymore. Making fresh, real, flavourful, relatively-healthy mayo takes under 1 minute and only 5 ingredients. I like to make it with a little mustard or garlic added, to toss in pasta salad, eat with poached eggs, or just moisten a sandwich. I’ve left it out on the counter all day, in packed lunches, and kept it in the fridge for 2+ weeks…never been sick from it yet! To make a really great dip, mix 1/2 a cup or so of fresh mayonnaise with a few tablespoons of Nidulari Banana Ketchup or any of our Chutneys.

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Mayonnaise:
1 egg (room temp)1 cup vegetable oil (the second half of the oil can be Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the first half needs to be something light, such as canola, vegetable, or soy)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar
pinch salt
black pepper

Put everything except the oil into a bowl, blender, or food processor. If using a bowl, use an immersion blender. Beat the mixture thoroughly, then, still beating, slowly (really slowly!) drizzle in the oil. It should start to thicken by the time 1/4 of the oil is in. If adding mustard or garlic, add halfway through the oil. The whole process should take under a minute – once all the oil is added taste to see if it needs more acid or salt. If it’s too thick, then you can add a drop of hot water and beat a little more. Too thin….start over!

I’m still perfecting a recipe for fresh pasta before making larger batches for sale…last week I made a tasty fettuccine with rosemary and thyme.

DSC_8021I hope to have inspired you to try something new with our wonderful fresh eggs – or your own fresh eggs if you keep hens. I do love keeping chickens, for they provide a peaceful background chatter, not to mention keeping the compost pile in such good order! Don’t forget that you can buy eggs from our Wednesday farmstand on Mahogany Road from 2:30-6:30pm, and you can order them through Prime Produce market for C’sted delivery, or from Cruzan Gardens on Midland Road – all the same places that you can get Nidulari wood-fired bread.

A brief reminder that there will be no baking on May 6th, as I’ll off being irresponsible in Puerto Rico for the week. So stock up your freezer this week, and then I’ll see you again on May 13th! Cheers!

Powered Up!

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I have a couple of pieces of news to share with you on this fine Saturday – should the power come back on and allow me to upload this post! I must invoke the spirits of WAPA…

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Unexpected flowers on my little Surinam Cherry bush.

Firstly, I’m super excited to be going to Puerto Rico in a couple of weeks! I’ve lived next door to this purportedly gorgeous island for many years yet have never made it closer than the international airport, so now’s the time! Flights are cheap, and I’m in desperate need of my first vacation since moving back to St Croix. I’m looking forward to a Mojito or two in Old San Juan, then several days exploring the mountains and most remote parts of the island – some chilly weather, fresh scenery, and Puerto Rican coffee should cure all! I’m open to suggestions of off-the-beaten-track must-sees. Due to my trip, there will be no baking on May 6th, so be sure to stock up your freezer.

Zuchinni starts! Maybe this time the ants won't destroy them all...

Zuchinni starts! Maybe this time the ants won’t destroy them all…

Sadly, my sourdough starter is experiencing some problems currently, and I may have to start a new one from scratch – a process of 2+ months. In the meantime, rather than depriving you all of wholesome, wood-fired artisan bread, I’m going to be making the very same recipes but with the addition of standard baker’s yeast. The flavor will be a little different, but the loaves will still be flavorful, crusty, and chewy – a little less dense than the sourdough loaves. The dough will still be risen overnight for a lower gluten content. Please give these options a try while I work to get the sourdough culture back on track!

Potatoes!

Potatoes!

A few weeks ago I was given some “seed” potatoes – sprouting potatoes to be divided into multiple pieces and planted. I was skeptical, for aren’t they a Northern crop? Nonetheless, I cut them up, let them dry for a day, then threw them in some small pots to see what would happen. Low and behold, after about a week sprouts were showing, and now, after perhaps two weeks, the largest is some 8″ tall! Apparently potato plants don’t mind the heat at all. So today I set out an experimental potato “pile” with a few of the plants: a wire cage, 24″ across, 24″ high (approx), filled most of the way up with partially-decomposed leaf litter from the forest. I then made a few holes, added some soil, and stuck the (very well rooted) potato plants in. We shall see if this entirely no-dig potato planter works! The idea is that as the plant grows and the leaf-litter rots down, more organic matter can be added on top, making the pile taller and denser. For harvesting, hopefully the wire cage can be removed, and the entire pile gently pulled apart to expose the potatoes! That is, if I’m successful in keeping the plants alive. The remaining plants I’ll probably put in slightly more conventional beds, and then struggle to harvest the end product…
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The other new and “exciting” addition to the homestead are Red Wiggler Worms to be used in a vermicomposting system and as supplemental protein for the chickens. For now their abode is an unassuming cardboard file box, until their population has increased enough to be worth building them a more substantial habitat and composting system. Have you ever done vermicomposting? Tips, tricks, suggestions?
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Don’t forget to stop by my Wednesday roadside market stand 1.3 miles up Mahogany Road on the Left side, 2:30-6:30pm. This week there will be several kinds of Artisan wood-fired bread, along with jam, chutney, snacks, fruit, fresh eggs, and more. Cheers!

Garden Tour

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Baby greens mix.

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Water Hyacinth.

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Papaya and mango salad with arugula, kale, sesame seed, and cheddar.

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Wake up!

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Handsome boy – looks tastier every day.

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Potato sprouts! Seeing if they will grow here, white and red varieties.

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Kale and Purslane with natural leaf-mulch from the saman tree above.

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Sweet root ginger near the chicken coop. Edwin’s job is to keep the deer away from it.

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Solar powered “fountain” pump provides some water circulation in the pond – home to guppies, snails (no idea how they got here), and dragonfly larvae.

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My mojito plant (mint).

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Freshly hatched dragonfly on the baby greens.

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Watercress in an old sculpture (yes, I was a ceramacist once upon a time).

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Mounded herb (and kale) bed flourishing in the sun and heat.

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Marigolds and arugula – soon to be thinned out.

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Sir Edwin keeping watch during a supervised session with the electric fence.

DSC_7968I hope that you enjoyed the photos! Do stop by to visit and see what tasty things we have on Wednesday afternoon 2:30-6:30pm on Mahogany Road. If you can’t make it out West, feel free to order your bread and eggs through the Prime Produce website – there’s a link on our Produce page above – or stop by Cruzan Gardens on Midland Road for bread, jam, chutney, and more. Have a great week!

A year later…

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I’d been meaning to do a “nostalgic” post on the one-year anniversary of the groundbreaking for the Nid, but of course I forgot all about it until now, a week or so after the date. Better late than never? So, more or less a year ago, I was in full swing, had just arrived back on St Croix after some five-ish years away, was all psyched up to build a house, start a “farm”, full of dreams and spunk – even when it came to seemingly endless bushwhacking (by hand), digging, and hauling rocks and sand up a stump-filled path. Now that the glory has worn a little thin at the edges, I must reminisce those early days, in order to look back and see just how far the projects have come. Sure, I haven’t done as much as I hoped, thus far, but I’ve still made a lot of progress – despite various setbacks. While the roof isn’t fully waterproof yet, at least I have a roof! The back acreage is not yet cleared, but that means less maintenance. I’ve gone from “nothing” to a fairly habitable dwelling, a small front-yard garden of greens and herbs with peppers, tomatillos, and more coming along, a coop of happy, healthy chickens who are paying for their keep in delicious eggs, and a puppy who’s a huge pain but can always bring on a smile. I’m well ready for a brief respite from this rather small island, but life is far from bad. A reminder of a year ago:

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The foundation just started.

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Posts being prepared.

To this:

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Newly fitted front doors.

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Friend Lynne, of s/v Amarula, relaxing on the pallet swing in front of the Nid with her two dogs.

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Edwin taking a “dust bath” – chicken habits.

Not too shabby, huh? My vision is still coming together, and is ever-evolving as I question myself, what’s next? The soles of my feet already begin to itch…but there is so much left still to do here!

Meanwhile, I had some fun on Easter Sunday – forget about Hot Cross Buns, we had Hot Cross Bunnies!

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Food and the production thereof will always be a main focus – we all strive to do what makes us happy, right? In an endeavor to produce *healthy* food, I decided to build a solar dehydrator as a means of preserving excess fruit and veggies without added ingredients. In fact, this is just a “test” version in table-top size – I’ll be building the full size one over at Cruzan Gardens with Cynthia, as she also wants one and has superior amounts of sun and space in which to use it. Mine is a somewhat simplified version – it remains to be seen whether the primary one is more efficient.

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Now, I’m not a big fan of papaya in general, but it turns out that dried papaya is really good – well worth the 2-3 days in the dehydrator.

wpid-20150331_150613.jpgOf course, I’ve also started up my fun little roadside market stand; if you haven’t already come out to see it, be sure to stop by tomorrow! I’ll be there from 2:30 until dusk, on the Left-hand side of Mahogany Road 1.3 miles up from the beach. There will be fresh eggs, 3 kinds of wood-fired sourdough bread, freshly baked cookies, bananas, papayas, garden greens, and of course lots of jam and chutney! Even if you don’t need any provisions, feel free to stop by for a visit – it’s a peaceful place to sit and chat for a little while.

I can still use compostables, cardboard, wood shavings, and especially shredded paper and empty (clear) beer bottles, if you happen to have any! Hope to see many of you tomorrow, cheers!