I was very fortunate to be invited for my first New Zealand duck hunt last Saturday. We prepared our Maimais on Friday and was out before light on Saturday. Even if there were to be no ducks, the shear beauty and pleasure of being out in the wild was adequate compensation. We were fortunate to get our share of ducks early on Saturday and enjoyed the views, walks along the streams and fresh air for the rest of the day. Sunday was duck cleaning day and after a few technical hitches, everything went smoothly and soon we had enough duck meat to last a long time. I was fortunate as nobody was interested in the offal and had it all to myself. As soon as got home I made it all into coratella, ate some and packed the rest into about 30 portions for the freezer – wonderful. The ducks were cut into portions, vacuum packed and frozen. I gave some meat to a few close friends and my neighbor across the road tried it the very next day and gave me the recipe for slow basted duck breast with dried figs, a recipe she created herself, which apparently was absolutely delicious.
Braise some onion and garlic in olive oil in a oven proof pot. Dust the duck breasts in flour and brown in a separate pan in olive oil. Now put the duck in with the onion and garlic and ad passata (tomato sauce) wine, chicken stock, dried figs, salt and pepper and bake in the oven for four to five hours at 120C. Turn and baste every so often.
Duck breasts and figs are on the menu for later in the week!
There were various hunting groups in the area and Saturday evening we all congregated to discuss the day and watch rugby together. I was disappointed to learn that many hunters would take breasts only and a few groups even discarding up to 60 entire ducks unused to only go out the next morning and kill some more. I am used to harvest for the pot only, waste nothing, and leave some for next year.
The joys of fresh organic produce straight out of the garden. The less complicated a dish is, the more chance there is of it being superb. I go so far that before looking at a new dish, I count the ingredients and if the list is too long, it does not even warrant my time to read any further. Carciofi bolliti is the ultimate of simplicity, and in our house probably the favorite way to eat these wonderful flowers. Boil the already cleaned and prepared carciofi in water until the leaves are easy to pull off with a gentle tug. Drain and serve with a bowl of very good extra virgin olive oil, salted to taste (about a teaspoon of salt per 1/2 cup of oil) Pull the leaves off one by one and dip in the olive oil salt mixture and rip the flesh off with your front teeth – discard the hard part. Of coarse the younger the flower and the closer you get to the heart, the more and more of the leave you can eat. When all the leaves are gone and the heart is exposed, make sure the choke is not stringy, and if so, remove and discard before eating the heart – soft and creamy.
Enjoy!!! Do not forget a piece of home made bread to mop up all the olive oil and wash it down with good home made wine.
Having purchased a pumpkin at a Farmers Market about a year ago and liking it, I decided to save some seeds. This year I planted a lemon tree and remembering the pumpkin seeds decided to put down two seeds at the base of the tree. Within days the pumpkin vines were taking over the front garden flowering profusely and we waited expectantly. Soon the pumpkin harvest came in and twenty kilograms later, cooked in ten different ways, we were not so keen on pumpkin any more. Now the pumpkin is threatening by growing another seven pumpkins, all increasing in size by the minute. Another 20 kilos of food is on the charts. All neighbors and family members shied away when offered yet another pumpkin so Mrs BYF decided to avoid a third batch of 20 kilograms by picking and cooking the flowers.
Fiori di Zucca Fritti (Fried Pumpkin Flowers)
2 large pumpkin flowers
300 g home made ricotta or other soft cheese
1 handful of herbs (consisting of every herb in the garden)
salt and pepper to taste
1 large egg
100 g bread crumbs
deep oil for frying
Breadcrumbs, flour and egg wash for frying
Chop the herbs finely and mix well with the cheese, using a fork. Add the egg, salt and pepper. Add crumbs until the mixture can be shaped to fit the center of the flower. Press the petals of the flower over the cheese mixture until the cheese is covered completely by the petals. Dip the stuffed flower in the flour, then in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs. Fry in deep oil until golden and crunchy. Serve warm.
PS – At the last count I had enough pumpkins seeds to produce 60 kilograms odf pumpkin for the next 113 years
We have agreed the beetroot tops are more tasty than spinach so, today, Mrs BYF made a delicious pie out of the leaves and all the stems of the leaves. Even the thicker bits went in to the pan. The reds and greens of the leaves and stems were colourful and the slightly rough texture was very good. It was so good that I had to share the recipe.
This recipe works with sour cream or home made yoghurt, full cream, no light stuff. Greek style bought yogurt may work as well.
2 cups of self raising flour
1 cup butter cut in small cubes
1/2 cup yogurt or sour cream
you can add a tablespoon of sugar if you are making a sweet pie
Whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the butter and work the butter in until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the cream or yogurt and mix and knead util the dough comes together. Refrigerate until needed
BEETROOT TOPS FILLING
1 large bunch of tops, well washed and roughly chopped. Use the tasty stems as well but chop the thicker ones finer
2 tablespoons or more of olive oil
pinch of chili
pinch of pepper
1/2 cup ricotta or soft cream cheese
2 table spoons of parmigiano cheese or any cheese you have on hand
Use a lidded pan that can hold all the spinach and add the olive oil and chili. Turn the heat to med high and cook the chili for a few minutes before adding all the tops. Do not add any water, the water clinging to the leaves after washing will be enough. Cover the pan and cook until just softened. Do not over cook. Cool the leaves a bit and mix in all the other ingredients well. Line the pie dish with the pastry keeping some to make the lattice over the top. Fill the pastry case with the filling mix, decorate with strips over the top and bake for about 30 min at 200 degrees.
Do not forget the red wine. ENJOY!
Not being very hungry tonight, I decided to pick a few artichokes and cook them the way the Romans do to enjoy with the foccacia I baked this morning. A glass of my dry white wine complimented a simple and satisfying meal.
CARCHIOFI ALLA ROMANO ( adapted from one of the great Marcella Hazan’s recipes )
As many artichokes as you can fit snugly in your deep cast iron casserole or heavy bottomed pot. Keep about 50mm of stem attached to the artichoke because this is how the Romans serve them
2 or 3 cloves of garlic chopped fine. More if you like!
1 small handful of mint leaves chopped very fine
1 small handful of parsley chopped fine
1/2 cup of oil
Prepare the artichokes by slicing about 25mm off the top of the artichoke getting rid of spikes and a lot of the inedible green parts of the leaves. Peel away the hard outer leaves of the artichoke until the white leaves have only a little green at the top. Peel the green outer layer off the stem. I use an apple corer to dig the choke out from the centre without damaging the base of the artichoke. As each artichoke is cleaned, drop it in a bowl full of cold water with the lemons squeezed in. Drop the halves of squeezed lemon in the water too. Mix the garlic, parseley, salt and mint in a bowl. Press most of it in to the cavities of the artichokes. Put the oil in the pot and place the artichokes stem side up in the pot. Rub the last bit of the garlic mix on the outsides of the artichokes. Add enough water to cover most of the artichokes, keeping the stems dry. Put the lid on tightly. Cook on medium until tender when prodded with a knife. Serve with the sauce left in the pot poured over the artichokes. Eat the right away. ENJOY and remember the wine!
Mrs BYF is fanatical about not wasting any food that the garden produces. Her attitude has resulted in many memorable dishes ranging from fantastic, better that any world class restaurant, etc. etc., to (seldom, I might add) never to be attempted again, EVER!
I was going to let the cardoon buds flower, because the bees love them, and ‘they’ say that only the stems should be eaten, but Mrs BYF commanded me to “bring them in!”. After all the cardoons grow so well in Dunedin and my plants were well over 3 meters high with lots of flowers. They were all boiled in a big pot of water, with a squeeze of lemon and some salt, then peeled, chokes removed and the hearts put under oil. The taste and texture of the hearts proved to be sensational, perhaps a bit more starchy, at the same time almost creamy, than artichokes. We eat them as antipasto or on panini with roast bell peppers (peperoni) and fried eggplant (melanzane). The real taste of Italy in Dunedin. Unbelievable !
Just to take the non wastage policy a bit further, Mrs BYF used the inedibles for a lovely vegetable arrangement of rosemary, flowering cardoon and fennel fronds. The cardoon flowers are beautiful and, surprisingly, sweet smelling.
100 ml Extra virgin olive oil
2 Cloves garlic – finely chopped
4 – 6 Slices home made bread or good Italian style bread like ciabatta
4 Fresh, ripe and sweet tomatoes – coarsely chopped
Small bunch basil
Generous pinch salt
In a large bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes, basil, black pepper, chopped garlic, salt and extra virgin olive oil , mix to combine. In the meantime toast a few slices of home made bread and rub with fresh garlic. Drizzle the warm bread with extra virgin olive oil. Cover the still warm bread with the tomato mixture, and serve immediately. The trick is not to let the mix stand because it becomes watery. ENJOY !!