Pesto di Ortiche (Stinging Nettle) and Pesto di Crescione (Water Crescent)
On my way back from feeding the chickens and picking Stinging Nettles, I noticed some Water Crescent on the side of the road and decided to forage some as well. Back home I parted with some nettle for Mrs BYF to make Ristto alle Ortiche, the rest I converted into a Pesto. I also made Watercress Pesto using the same recipe and had a comparative taste test. Nettle – 9, Watercress – 6
170 g Basil, Carrot Tops, Nettle or Cress
45 g Roasted Pine Nuts
40 g Fresh Garlic
5 g Salt
In a Mortar and Pestle crush all the ingredients very fine
270 ml Good Olive Oil
Hand mix the olive oil with the contents of the Mortar and Pestle very well
100 g Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (Any strong hard grating cheese if you do not have Parmigiano
40 g Grated Pecorino Romano (Any sharp goat or sheep cheese if you do not have Pecorino) Today, I used my own home made cheese
90 g Soft unsalted Butter
Now fold the cheeses and butter into the mix
It is ready to eat, but the flavours develop and intensify over the next 24 hours
Enjoy on bread or in a pasta
Do not forget the glass of good home made wine!!!
Pesto freezes very well
Stinging Nettle Risotto
We have a friend who has a few stinging nettles growing in the chicken coop and in their vast vegetable garden. Every year at about this time we binge eat stinging nettle. We pick only the soft tips and once we have a basketfull we plan. Half goes to pesto, no question, but the rest will be used in all sorts of ways. Today the choice went to risotto. The risotto came out an intense green, hinting at the wonderful flavour, spinach like, but much tastier. I am sharing Mrs BYF’s recipe and I wish I could let you have a taste!
I use my favorite cast iron pot, big enough to make risotto for 6, but this is for 2 hungry people who will not be getting any dinner.
1 big leek or 4 or 5 little ones. I use the small tender ones from our garden green leaves and all
1 green mild chili from the garden because it was there
1 and 1/2 cup of Arborio rice
200 g or more of fresh nettles. They cook away to almost nothing
1/2 cup olive oil
700 ml of stock – I used quail stock
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmigiano for the table
Blanch the rinsed nettles in boiling water, drain and put aside.
Heat the stock and keep it lightly simmering
In the pot you will be cooking the risotto, pour the oil and add the leeks. Cook over low heat until the leeks have softened. Add the rice, stir until the first rice kernels pop. Add a ladle full of stock, stir until almost absorbed, add another ladle full and stir, add all the nettles, then keep ladling the stock on the rice and stirring. The more you stir the creamier the risotto will be. Once the rice is al dente and still very moist, almost soupy it is ready. Serve immediately sprinkled with lots of Parmigiano.
We have a lot of zucchini, as has almost every one I know. There is quite a harvest of spring onions, too. We have used up all the garden’s onions, but Mrs BYF decided to combine the lot and to use it for pasta sauces, on pizza, in frittata and fritters. The discovery we made was that slow sweated spring onion sliced finely, including the green part becomes really soft and tasty. Add the slices zucchini to that and braise over very low heat. Then, create magic by adding fresh mint and basil! It tastes so good that it may be eaten straight out of the pot in stead of being a part of another dish.
20 Spring Onions
1 Kg sliced Zucchini
1 Hand full of fresh Mint leaves
1 Hand full of Basil
6 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
Cut about 1/3 off the top of the spring onions to get rid of the harder leaves. Slice the rest very finely. Fry the onions for about 5 minutes in the olive oil and then cover and sweat on very low heat until soft. Scrub the zucchini and slice very thinly. When the onion is soft add the zucchini and braise for about 10 minutes over very low heat . Add the shredded mint and basil, cover and cook on low until the flavours have blended. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Being creative in the kitchen is a lot of fun, especially if one can rely on the hunter who often brings lovely, fresh, organic rabbit. He hunts on properties where insecticides are not used, and the grass is not sprayed with hormones and other awful things. Mrs BYF has always loved chicken tikka saag, with saag in restaurants being mostly spinach, so she decided to re create the dish using a young rabbit and some tender stinging nettle tips. I do not normally enjoy Indian food, but this was delicious. What made it even more delicious is that the main ingredients were free. The rabbit was a gift and the nettles were picked by me in a friend’s vegetable garden!
1 rabbit cut up in pieces
1 cup blanched nettle tips, seeds included if they are still green
1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying
1 table spoon of flour (I know this is the hard one!)
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1 small chili
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 cardamom pods, smashed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds ground
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup of stock, I used home made quail stock
Heat the oil in a pot or pan big enough to hold all the rabbit pieces lying flat. Brown the rabbit well and remove from the pan. In the same pan, fry the onion until soft then add all the other ingredients except the nettles. Fry the spices until they release their aromas. Add the nettles, the rabbit and the stock, sprinkle the flour over the mix, stir until the rabbit is covered in sauce, cover the pan and cook on medium heat for about 1 hour (this depends on the age of the rabbit) until tender.
I served the dish with a cup of cooked basmati rice, tinted a lovely yellow by adding a teaspoonful of turmeric.
Mrs BYF has done well again and we washed it all down with some home made Elderberry Wine
We have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen, something we both enjoy. Lockdown cooking is not that much different from our usual style of cooking. We read recipes all the time, using our own books or on the internet, so we use whatever we have at hand while incorporating an element or unusual (for us) idea in the cooking of the day. We love artichokes and a friend did not want the ones from her garden, so I harvested them for us. I read a very simple recipe from Benedetta, who has several cooking videos on YouTube, for a pasta sauce and it was good enough to try and share.
4 Big Artichokes or the equivalent of small ones
100 g Guanciale made by me (the recipe calls for prosciutto and you are lucky if you have some)
100 g Pancetta made made by me
100 g Salami made by me
1/2 Glass white wine made by me
1/2 Cup cream, mine was sour so I used a few spoonfuls of ricotta which I make every week from milk collected from HolyCow in Port Chalmers
1/2 Cup cooking oil
Linguini for 2 (I was too lazy to make fresh Tagliatella)
Cut about 1/3 off from the bottom of the artichoke and discard. Snap all the green leaves off the artichokes and discard leaving only the soft white parts. Pare the green bits off the base of the artichoke, remove the choke and discard. Cut the artichoke into slices about 15 mm thick set aside.
Put the pasta in the salted boiling water while you make the sauce.
Pour the olive oil in a pot big enough to contain all the ingredients including the pasta. Fry the meats for a few minutes and add the artichokes. Fry the artichokes for a few minutes, then add the wine. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Mix everything and pour the cream over the contents of the pot, add pepper to taste (do not add salt as the meats are salty enough ). Mix again and serve with grated Parmigiano (In my case my own made hard grating cheese)
ENJOY with a couple of glasses of home made RED WINE !!
My Coturnix coturnix breeding program provides me with lots of joy, satisfaction and brain food in my immediate and small environment where myself and Mrs BYF have an almost self sustainable lifestyle.
The scientist in me dictates to measure, interpret and use the facts to improve my own efforts.
I take many measurements from the quails as they proceed through their life cycle and use these to breed a better bird. Some of the measurements I take are :
- 3 Week body mass
- 5 Week body mass
- 7 week body mass (When I select Breeding Stock)
- 100 day body mass (Used as mature body weight in my index calculations)
- Daily egg production
- Daily egg mass
- Body conformation
- Feather quality
- Feet quality
- Beak quality
- Weight all birds at least once a month, irrespective of age
- Any possible hereditary defect is an immediate disqualification
I use all these to calculate a weighted index at seven weeks and again revise the index at 100 days
In the past I did these for 4 different breeds i.e. Golden Italian, Pharaoh, Tibetan and Texan White. This was becoming overly complex and limited numbers caused progress to plateau. With limited or no genetic stock of similar quality available in New Zealand, I decided to amalgamate all breeds into a new breed – The Back Yard Farmer Quail (If Coturnix japonica is accepted as a breed, maybe I can apply for Coturnix backyardia ). I now have four times as many animals to select from with one less selection parameter – colour. The interesting thing is that all Whites have disappeared and very few Tibetans are left as the Italians and Pharaohs take over on merit only. There is a new colour developing, being a dark cross between all the breeds.
I have several spreadsheets that automatically update as I collect data including dates and ages of all birds. The result is that I can provide all parameters and indices for any bird, updated, at any time. I also calculate averages over all parameters.
Some of the results of 5 years of selective breeding are :
- Increased body mass of about 80 g per bird
- Increased egg production of about 30 %
- Calm and contented birds compared to nervous non adaptable birds
- Drop of hereditary defects from about 20 % of the population to less than 1 % of all birds
- Increased fecundity
- Improved feather quality and body confirmation
- A very contented Back Yard Farmer!
Egg production is monitored on a daily basis and fluctuates from day to day as well as being influenced by the average age of the population. Normally egg productions hovered around 90 – 95 % over the past few months. I have increased breeding numbers to compensate for increased demand and when Corona hit, demand dropped off, resulting in me having MORE replacement females and a younger average female stock. The average age for all females dropped from the standard 160 – 190 days to about 140 – 150 days, but the most important is that egg production has increased as well, because of the younger stock and fewer low productive females. For the first time ever I have recorded 100 % PRODUCTION for 3 days in a row!!!!!
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I AM HAPPY !!!!
I still love Basil Pesto but Stinging Nettle is available, free and interesting to use. Basil is hard to grow in Dunedin and costs a mint to buy. The same recipe can be used for Rocket, Carrot Tops or Basil Pesto.
170 g Stinging Nettle
40 g Roasted Pine Nuts
40 g Garlic Cloves
270 g Good Extra Virgin olive oil
3 g Salt
70 g Melted Butter
90 g Grated Parmigiano cheese (or any other hard Italian grating cheese)
40 g Pecorino Romano cheese (or similar sharp and tangy cheese)
Today I used my own home made cheeses and the end result was divine!
Put everything except the cheese and butter in a blender and blend well. Do not make it into slush – keep a fine texture. You may need more olive oil to complete the job
Now fold in the cheese and butter
Serve on fresh or toasted bread, dab on to meat, chicken, fish and vegetarian dishes, use as a dip for carrots and other fresh veg, salad dressing, and of course as a pasta sauce.