13 February 2017

The foodie who keeps chickens: pavlova and omelet

Sometimes as I beat eggs I imagine an alien watching the process. Wouldn't he/she/it be amazed that a simple egg can be transformed into something so unrecognisable and delicious - and into such a range of dishes?

It's something we take for granted, but I love to look at things as if I came from outside our culture in order to get rushes of pleasure from the many wonderful things we see as ordinary, just because we see them all the time.

One of those things is the ability, even on small urban sections, to keep feathery livestock and grow our own fruit and vegetables. The part of me that is still a little girl sees that as a fairy tale opportunity, and longs to do that when she grows up. The part of me that is turning 45 this year hears that child, and gets out there to tend the chickens and plant the seeds to make sure I make the most of the opportunity afforded to me, even when there a million other things to do in this busy life. Some things I just will not compromise on!

Chickens for the Foodie

I'm also unable to compromise on good food. I am a thorough food lover and cook, and this works well with a bit of urban homesteading. Yes, I may be eating plums for the 20th day in a row, but they are only ripe on the tree for a few weeks, taste far better than anything you can buy in the shops, and I'm going to damn well make the most of them!

Our Luisa plum tree today

Last weekend I made a large pavlova (with our own eggs) for a neighbourhood barbeque, and topped it with our own sliced deeply red and flavoursome Hawera plums. I forgot to photograph it, but the top photo of this post shows a little extra one I made for my family at the same time, so we could enjoy it the next day. It's decorated with our homegrown blueberries. I'm a bit of a pavlova queen, and use Nigella Lawson's recipe in How To Eat. I'm sorry I can't share a link to it; it's not one of her online recipes. I'm sure your local library will have the book. She has more elaborately flavoured pavlova recipes on her website, https://www.nigella.com/, but I haven't tried them.

My daughter, niece and nephew taking turns beating the
Christmas pavlova last year, under my instruction.
It was one of my favourite parts of Christmas!

Top tips

My top pavlova tips are to beat in the sugar thoroughly, just a tablespoon or so at a time, and to use somewhat aged eggs. You want them to be at least a week old - not a problem for supermarket egg buyers, obviously, but a matter of management for chicken keepers.

Another thing to think about from a fresh perspective: how about those electric beaters, eh? Aren't we lucky? Our grandmothers used egg-beaters, the muscle-powered kind! I once made a pav like that, with a couple of other women taking turns beating, because the electric beater was nowhere to be found. All agreed that it was the best pavlova we'd ever had.

My next use-up-eggs recipe is to be the Buckwheat and Cherry Cake recipe here. It comes from the January 2017 New Zealand House and Garden magazine. It's basically a classic sponge cake with buckwheat flour instead of cornflour and plain flour - a bit Black Forest Gateaux-ish. I'll use our homegrown berries instead of cherries.

The perfect omelet

The omelet - something so hard to spell correctly, I find, but so quick to make to use your backyard protein source. I pack my omelets with vegetables, herbs and cheese for a great lunch. Mine aren't overly photogenic, but after just reading this article on bite.co.nz, I think they're about to get better. I hope you find it inspiring, too.

Eggs = good food

So, from my tastebuds and stomach, I say each day as I collect eggs from the nest box: Thank you, ladies.

Today's haul (from three hens)

I wish you much happy, healthy eating with your own eggs and produce!