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We are spending the weekend in the Cotswolds with my family, and popped into The Organic Farm Shop.  On the road in there is a wooden area with a lovely family of piggies rooting about beneath the trees.

After calling to them, two little piglets trotted over to investigate – they reminded me of the two pigs in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Pigling Bland

They were so gorgeous with their pink snouts smudged with rust coloured earth, their cheerful grunting and inquisitive eyes.

But they soon got bored and pottered off to find good patches of soil to snuffle in.

These two were sat in a dip, one sprawled out, the other on its haunches, enjoying the afternoon sun and licking each other – how I wish I had a better zoom at times like these!

A last parting picture of one of these lovely piggies…

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Every so often an email from the Chicken Out! Team pops into my inbox.  Yesterday, I received an email telling me that ‘2 out of 3 farm animals on the planet are factory farmed.’  How shocking is that?! 

I didn’t realise that the world was in such a bad state when it came to factory farming.  I guess I assumed that many countries still have strong rural farming practices, that don’t involve mass scale production. 

Although on one hand it is terribly depressing to hear such a shocking statistic, I am thankful to campaigns such as Chicken Out! for keeping me well-informed.

 

My mom has supported Compassion in World Farming for a long time, and along with the Chicken Out! Team they have recently held the 2010 Good Farm Animal Welfare’ Awards.

Following the link to their website I discover that the likes of Waitrose, the Co-op and Sainsbury’s were all ‘Good Chicken Award’ winners – it’s nice to know that some of the ‘big boys’ have a commitment to changing the welfare of the much maligned chicken.

Here’s a great video to tell you more about what Compassion in World Farming are doing:

You can also find an incredible online photography exhibition depicting the lives of farm animals across the world (from a content sheep on a smallholding in India to battery calves in New York state): Focus on Farm Animals.

And if you’d like to sign up for the Chicken Out! e-newsletter you can find details here.

All images: from Chicken Out! and Compassion in World Farming

As promised, and as always, a simple recipe for a delicious meal.  A salad of lettuce, peas and ham inspired by Nigel Slater

If you’re a regular reader, you will have realised by now that original recipes always get changed in our house.  Sometimes you don’t always have all the ingredients at home or it’s not sensible to go out buying them all.  Sometimes you must make do and create new recipes from substitute ingredients.  This is the joy of cooking that I love.

A yummy way to use up a lettuce glut as we have.  You can’t beat the taste of homegrown lettuce and local peas.  The homemade French dressing recipe to follow.

A salad of lettuce, peas and ham

Fresh peas straight from their pod
A couple of slices of free range ham (thicker is better here)
Baby gem lettuces
A hunk of good quality white bread
A piece of Jarsleburg cheese
Homemade French dressing

Pod your peas and place in a bowl. 

Wash and slice your baby gem lettuces – add to the peas.

Shread the ham and cut the cheese into cubes.  Add these to the peas and lettuce.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a fry pan.  Tear up the soft inners of the bread (no crusts).  Once the oil is hot, add the pieces of bread and fry until golden.

Add the crispy bread to the salad and drizzle over homemade French dressing – you can add a little cream to the standard dressing if you wish, something that Nigel’s recipe calls for.

Simple but so, so tasty!  Part of my attempt to eat as much seasonal asparagus as possible!

Asparagus and scrambled egg on bagel

Feeds 1

Asparagus
Olive oil
2/3 eggs
1 bagel
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and pop in an oven proof dish.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cook for between 7-10 minutes until tender.  My asparagus came from Kenyon Hall Farm.

Cook the scrambled eggs your own way, or you could try ‘my perfect scrambled eggs‘ just omit the chives.  Be sure to use the best eggs you can get hold of – organic, free range, woodland, home laid – this will make all the difference to the taste of your scrambled eggs.  Mine came from Abbey Leys and were corkers!

If your bagel is super fresh from a deli or bakery (mine came from the Barbakan) you could just eat it fresh, sliced in half and lightly buttered.  If not, toast it before buttering.

Pop the buttered bagel on a plate.  Spoon over the scrambled egg.  Top with the grilled asparagus.

Mr Rigg ate his asparagus with a fried egg and crisp streaky bacon instead.  So many options!  All delicious!

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Who could image that just two ingredients – egg and butter – could create such a delicious, moreish meal?  N was anti-scrambled egg when I first met him.   After finally managing to get him to try a mouthful of my scrambled egg, he can now be heard asking for it without any prompting at all! 

Scrambled egg on toast, made with love and care, and not cooked to within an inch of its life, should not be dismissed purely as a side to a fried breakfast.  Scrambled egg on toast can make a scrumptious and filling meal all by itself – at least in my opinion.

Using high quality eggs is essential for producing the tastiest scrambled egg possible.  Organic, free range, rare breed/heritage or woodland eggs are your best bet.  Or if you’re lucky enough to have your own chickens, home produced.  We used free range organic eggs from Abbey Leys Farm.

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Now I never really understood why recipes call for a ‘heavy based’ pan, but for scrambled egg it really makes a difference.  If you use one that has a thin base (like my cheapo supermarket milk pan that I still have from university) then the egg at the bottom cooks too quickly and can burn and stick to the pan.  A pan with a thicker base will cook the egg slower and more gently.

So, to make my scrambled egg I melt a good sized knob of butter in a heavy based saucepan.  When the butter has melted and starts to gently bubble I crack in my eggs.  Please note, I do not whisk up my eggs and pour them into the pan.  I simply crack the whole eggs directly into the pan.

Now, the important bit – allow the eggs to cook everso slightly.  You can burst the yolks if you like, but try and let the white, well turn white – like when you fry and egg.  Now, give it a gentle mix (I used a metal spoon).  Then let it cook some more.  Then another gentle mix. 

By adding the eggs whole to the pan, and gently breaking them up as they cook results in a chunky scrambled egg where some bits are white, some bits are golden, and some are milky yellow combination of the two.  I think it makes for a much more interesting scrambled egg rather than one uniform taste and texture.

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Have the heat on about a medium, but if the egg starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, remove it from the heat briefly and continue mixing.  I do this back and forward, on and off the heat until it reaches the texture I like. 

I like my scrambled eggs moist but not too runny, and certainly not dried out.  The egg should slide off the spoon, not plop off like lumps of jelly.  I know everyone has their own preferences, but if you usually cook your scrambled egg a bit longer, just try it more moist, just once.  When I first tried cooking scrambled egg like this I couldn’t believe how different it tasted.

Once the egg is cooked, stir in a good grinding of black pepper and salt to taste.  As with most food, I tend to be a purist and refuse to add too many embellishments, but yesterday I added some freshly snipped chives from the garden.  Chives are an ideal paring for egg and provided an interesting taste addition to our scrambled egg.

Butter some slithers of toast and spoon the scrambled egg over the top.

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My perfect scrambled egg

Serves 2 for lunch

6 eggs
A knob of butter
Salt
Black pepper
Chives (optional)

Buttered toast

In a heavy based saucepan melt a good sized knob of butter over a medium heat.  When it starts to bubble crack the eggs into the pan.

Allow the eggs to cook a little before bursting the yolks and giving them a gentle mix.  Leave again to cook a little, and then mix gently.  If the egg starts to stick to the bottom, remove from the heat and mix.  Keep the egg mixture moving, but do so gently until it reaches a moist sloppy consistency.

Stir in some ground black pepper and salt to taste.  If you are using chives, snip into the egg and mix.

Spoon the scrambled egg over a couple of slices of buttered toast.

Eat immediately!

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I think I am getting a cold, which feels miserable, so to cheer myself up I thought I’d write about my favourite local farm shop – Little Heath Farm.

Little Heath Farm embodies the essence of a really good farm shop for me.  Although it wouldn’t matter where they were based, they are situated in a beautiful little village in Dunham Massey.  Just down the road is Dunham Massey National Trust which has a deer park, and my favourite place to walk – brilliant for families. 

Their farm is hidden away down the aptly named Cow Lane, past a picturesque orchard with white geese.  The farm shop is in an old barn off their courtyard.  There are three rabbits who seem very well fed on left over veg, one called Munch who always seems a bit to keen to go for your fingers should you feel overcome by how cute he is and stick your fingers through the wire to rub his nose.  Then there is Trevor the turkey and ‘his girls’ who he protects every time a car pulls in by turning bright blue and making a lot of noise.

Inside the farm shop is simple, baskets of locally grown vegetables, a couple of shelves of honey and jams, trays of local free range eggs, and cabinets of their free range pork, lamb and beef products.  For this is what they do best, lovingly produce fantastic meat products.  All of the farm shop’s signs are a distinctive black with white writing, like a blackboard, which I hope they will never alter as for me this is unique to them, and something I instantly associate with them.

Sue and her young shop assistants are friendly, knowledgeable and really helpful.  One weekend when I was hosting lunch for my partners parents and granny, I decided on pork – not that I’d ever cooked it.   The morning before I turned up at the shop and was presented with a choice of three cuts that Sue had carefully chosen and set aside for me, she also gave me a detailed recipe for how she cooks pork, which I was guaranteed would be perfect and I couldn’t mess up – it was, and went down a treat with everyone. 

I think if I ever had a blue day, popping into Little Heath would cheer me up.  Visiting the farm shop, although it is just food shopping, reminds me why life is so great, it’s one of those moments when you stop and think, “I’m happy to be alive.” 

So if you are in the Manchester/Cheshire area, call in to visit Sue and treat yourself to something delicious for tea.  This is a true, rustic, real farm shop, not one of those super posh deli’s on a farm where the person producing the food is nowhere to be found. 

Little Heath Farm, Cow Lane, Dunham Massey, WA14 4SE.

:: Little Heath Farm - Dunham Massey ::

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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All pictures are my own unless stated. I would kindly ask that you don't use them elsewhere unless you ask permission first. Many thanks x

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