Monday, 12 April 2004

Pen to pantry

Some months ago a friend 's purchase of some fancy young poultry had proved unlucky - most of the birds turned out to be cockerels and fought each other and then attacked the hands that fed them so sealing their fate. Knowing that we would be putting them in the pot, the glossy picturesque trio were handed over. One was made into fabulous Jewish penicillin - chicken soup - with strips of the boiling fowl, slices of the stuffed neck (using a dumpling suet mixture) and baby carrots cooked in the soup served as the main course. The second paid homage to the first, being prepared the same way and the third was eaten last night. Stuffed with chestnut, chive and celery stuffing, put in an open cast iron casserole with half a pint of giblet stock and a glass of white wine, covered with strips of our own streaky bacon it pot roasted its way to deliciousness. We served it to friends on Easter Sunday with parsnip and carrot mash, red cabbage, and rosemary roast potatoes. Mmmm mmm mmm. The carrot, parsnip, cockerel thing being so fab, I used the carcase to make chicken stock and threw in more of the same root veggies (I had dug up all our remaining parsnips that afternoon and instead of finding the half dozen or so I expected, two dozen big uns emerged and needed using), some cumin, coriander and celery salt. That'll provide us with soup for at least three days.
Now the vegetable garden has been cleared, mucked and rotovated, we have planted potatoes - organic Charlottes for earlies and Valour for main - carrots, chard and parsnips, and the stuff in the greenhouse is desperate to go out as soon as frost dangers seem to have passed. This is the first time I have lifted old parsnips and planted new over the same weekend, but in the spirit of rotation, they have a new position in the plot, where the muck is lightest. As always, I've had to put electric rabbit fencing round the plot to stop both rabbits and our own geese and ducks from chomping on the emerging shoots. As soon as the broad beans and brassicas go in they will need netting too to save them from pigeon deforestation. I swear that the birds sit on the telegraph lines just waiting for me to plant out the tender young things, so the netting has to be done immediately the plants are put in the ground.

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