I am a keen mushroom hunter and would frequently collect what is available. Every so often a new type shows up and today I bumped into Potato Earth Balls, which I did not know, but they looked delicious and I brought them home. Luckily, before I could cook and taste, I identified them as Scleroderma bovista which are poisonous. I had a suspicion that they were probably not good when I cut them and the inside was a dark purple.
We still have a lot of green tomatoes. They have kept well in a dark spot with the potatoes, but we do need to use them before they start spoiling. We have been eyeing this recipe from Abbruzzo for a while, and today Mrs BYF decided to give it a try. Because this is lockdown cooking she did not have all the ingredients the real recipe required, so here is the make do one. It was a very nice, fresh tasting pasta sauce, almost spring like.
4 or 5 medium sized green tomatoes, diced
1 onion chopped
1 big pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup marjoram
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 hot chilli. We like hot food so use less if you want
6 tablespoons cooking oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Rigatoni or other cut pasta
Soften the onions in the cooking oil. Add the garlic and the chilli, cook until garlic browns a bit. Add the tomatoes and cook covered to release the juices. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water. When the tomatoes have softened, add the marjoram and nutmeg. When the pasta is cooked ladle a soup spoon full of pasta water on to the sauce. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sauce. Mix and serve with plenty of grated parmigiano.
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
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.
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
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
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!!!!!