It is such a pleasure to see these very positive results after four years of hard work developing healthy soils, starting with clay, plastic covering and pebbles (something the previous owners thought you require in a garden), to producing wonderful healthy and fresh organic food.
We decided to take a few hares before the newly released virus gets to them. After cleaning them well and ageing in the fridge for some days, it was time to taste.
Lepre al Limone ( Rabbit with Lemon )
- 1 Hare
- Half a cup of flour
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- Three tablespoons of good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Two table spoons of butter
- One handful of garlic
- One fresh hot chili
- 2 Small fresh lemons
- Good stock
- Heat the oven to 200 C.
Cut the rabbit into portions and dry very well with paper napkins. Mix the flour, salt and pepper and dust the rabbit very well. Heat a cast iron or heavy based pan that can fit all the rabbit pieces, add two table spoons of good olive oil, shake off the flour and fry the rabbit until well browned. When the rabbit is golden, transfer the the pieces to a roasting pan. Add one tablespoon of butter and place in the centre the oven. Discard the contents of the frying pan and wipe clean. While the rabbit is roasting in the oven, add one table spoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil to the cleaned pan. Add a handful of fresh garlic and as much chili as you can take, some whole fresh lemons cut into pieces (I was fortunate to have harvested some small sweet lemons from my tree the day before) and cook on low heat until the garlic is translucent before adding the contents of the pan to the hare in the roasting pan. Baste and turn the hare often and keep moist with good stock – about a spoon full at a time, adding stock when the hare appears too dry. Don’t add too much stock at a time, you never want to poach the hare (again I had very good stock on hand from pigeons I cooked the day before). Depending on the age of the hares it may take up to an hour before they are tender, but remember to keep it moist and toss frequently.
Enjoy with your favorite starch (we had potatoes and spinach from the garden)
Never forget the good home made wine. I tried the new cherry wine for the first time and Mrs BYF the new Rhubarb wine.
There are many quail and pheasant breeding farms in Italia which all breed for release as hunting is still very popular. It is almost impossible to visit these farms for quarantine reasons as well as keeping the secrets and knowledge within the family. I managed to visit a farm through a contact I had who had a friend that knew the second cousin of the neighboring farmer’s daughter to the quail farm I visited. Even with my good contacts, I still was not allowed inside the cages, but gained enough information. This farm breeds Coturnix coturnix as they still appear in Europe and North Africa in the wild. The birds are small and only weigh about 130 g at maturity. There is a general concern among breeders that some breeders may cross the natural occurring birds with domesticated birds which definitely result in a bird much less adapted to local conditions and also have poor survival capabilities when released. The crossbreeds are a bit heavier and a much inferior flier.
All the following figures are rough estimates, but I think very close to reality. This specific farm sells about 250,000 live quails a year at €1.50 each. For this he has 1,300 breeding hens and 450 males producing 1,000 viable good eggs per day. He has 6 incubators that takes 3,500 eggs each and fills two of these every week. At 14 days the eggs are transferred to a Hatcher where about 5,600 chicks hatch every week, of which 5,000 grow to eight weeks of age when they are sold for release.
The interesting thing is that his Incubators run at 80% humidity and the Hatcher’s at 90%, which I thought are way too high, but apparently it works that way as I witnessed these levels personally.
The other interesting fact is that the growing cages are sheds with only canvas sides with holes in so the quails can come and go and fly in the adjacent aviaries if they wish. The quails are in these semi open cages from day one. Gas heaters keep the temperature at about 37C at ground level for the first four weeks. There after the temperature is slowly reduced to day temperature over about one to two weeks, depending on outside temperatures, to harden them up. It gets very cold and it was – 12C on the day I was there and the quails seemed to be happy – my quails would have been dead after the first day. The growing houses are all the same size of 10 X 20 meters each, with two aviaries of 20 X 20 meters each attached to the sides of each house. Each house holds half of the 5,600 day old chicks.
I was glad to have visited this successful third generation family business which is at present operated by the grandson only as the grandfather is retired and the father attends to the rest of the farm.
One can benefit greatly by living in close proximity to a keen forager with an eye for mushrooms. The mushroom season in Dunedin has been exceptionally good and boletus are plentiful should one know where to look for them. Mushroomers may share their haul, but will never, ever tell where their mushrooms are found! Our generous benefactors have shared their bounty with us and some of the most thrilling mushrooms, the puffballs, grow right here in their garden!
Recipe for fried puffball mushroom
1 Good sized puffball, firm and pure white right through when sliced. The inside has a marshmallow like texture
2 to 3 Eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup dried breadcrumbs with a pinch of salt and pepper added and mixed in
Use a cast iron or heavy based pan big enough to fry the mushroom slices in 2 ot 3 batches
Enough pork fat or vegetable oil to come up to about 2.5 ml up the side of the pan. Apart from the great taste, pork fat can be heated to a very high temperature, ideal for frying
I have written about puffballs before, and this one was prepared by again slicing it into ‘steaks’ about 15 mm thick, dipped in egg wash and coated in dried breadcrumbs. This time the slices were fried until golden in pork fat, processed in our kitchen from a delicious home grown porker. I highly recommend frying in pork fat but those that fear animal fat can use vegetable oil. We ate the mushroom, dressed with a few drop of fresh lemon juice and ground black pepper, for dinner along with fresh tomatoes that ripened in Dunedin’s first hot summer since we moved here. The tiny lemons are from the tiny tree planted in our front garden 2 seasons ago.
Only flour for making the bread to produce crumbs and salt and pepper were purchased to produce this lovely meal.
La fiera di San Giuseppe a Brembio
I attended a Rabbit Exibition / Show in Brembio, Italy yesterday and enjoyed it a lot. Not only were the rabbits of exceptional quality, but it is also interesting to see the information provided and transparency of judgement for each animal.
There were rabbits, equipment, feed, housing and much more on display, but I also enjoyed all the rabbit dishes and have over consumed, but luckily there was enough wine to balance the meat consumption. My favorits were Rabbit Salami and Rabbit Ripieni.
I attach a few photographs and it interesting to note the New Zealand White and New Zealand Red rabbits. The Flemish Giants are absolutely beautiful, but I liked the Hares a lot.
After spending a whole day combing through Archives of Mezzano Martello in Milano, I was thrown out at 15H00, because they wanted to close for the day.
On recommendation of my wife, I made my way to the Navigli in Milano for a memorable lunch / dinner.
The Navigli of Milan are the artificial canals constructed between 1179 (Naviglio Grande) and the 16th century (Naviglio Martesana) with the purpose of making Milan accessible from the Ticino and Adda rivers.
I enjoyed the home made Gnocchi as a Primi and Polenta with Eggs and Truffle as a Secondi with fried Artchokes as a Contorni. Even though the place was still very quiet and empty as it only comes to live at night, it was a memorable and enjoyable experience.
I was on my way to the cemetery of Caselle Landi, a small village not far from my house, in search of more information on a certain Marchesa Landi, married to Douglas Scotti, who lived in my property, Mezzano Martello, in the 1870’s. I could however not resist to take a detour after passing this sign on the side of the road.
I always wondered what it would be like to have a hectare under snails, producing 10 Tonnes of snails a year.
They have planted covered areas in winter where the snails can hide from the winter snow, as well as little houses made out of wood as additional cover, with lots of tiny snails in there when you lift the roofs. The extra growth of plant material is then removed to allow maximum snail growth during the warmer months. Harvesting in summer happens once a week for both eating and cosmetics purposes.
I left with 1 Kg of snails and convinced my friend at the delicatessen, cum restaurant, at Castelnuovo Bocca d’Adda to cook these for me, offering him to join in the feast as a softener. He willigly obliged, but said it would take some days to clean (purify) the snails before cooking.
I am having a hard time waiting until Thusday evening to see how he prepares the snails.
If it was me, I would have fried them in the shells in butter and lots of garlic, then adding some parsley just before removing it from the heat, and serve it with lots of fresh bread and lots of GOOD RED WINE.