Chicken Soup with Chickpeas & Za’atar

It’s October, while we still haven’t turned on the furnace, there’s definitely a chill in the air, and it feels great to wear a sweater.  My sister came over to play cards last night, actually we needed to practice as we’re having a card night with friends later this week, and we haven’t played since the spring.  We played Kings Corners, which is fun, strategic, and frustrating, which for me is the perfect card game.  For supper I decided to make soup in celebration of autumn, along with a simple cheese & veggie flatbread.

I wanted to make Posole, because of a dream I’d had recently.  After explaining to anyone who wanted to hear (in my dream) that a bowl of heated dirt was not, in fact, true Posole, I awoke wanting to make the real thing.  But living on an island, we can’t always go out and buy things like Hominy & the right Chilies. Staring into my pantry, I spotted jars of Za’atar and Sumac, and my brain clicked into place, so I grabbed them as well as smoked paprika and a tin of chickpeas.  With a great chicken stock ready, and a chicken breast in the freezer, I knew that they would come together to make a hearty soup.

The meal started with a small dish of Baba Ghanoush and some sweet potato crackers, along with a yummy Sangiovese. Next up was the soup with the flatbread.  The soup had so much flavour, with a deep broth, full of chickpeas, carrots, and pulled chicken.  Not a huge meal, but an absolutely perfect Card Night supper.

Enjoy making this soup, as it is fragrant and warming, and follows all the methods for a delicious braised meal. Note that the mix I use for Za’atar follows.   Continue reading

Carrot Loaf with Ginger & Walnuts

IMG_1756With the warm spring sun these past few days I am hoping that the interminable rains of this last January & February will be gone from my memory. Those soggy months had us out in the weather far more than usual, trying to keep our magic, flying cows at home!

Long before we became the owners/custodians of our beautiful farm, there roamed a herd of about forty Belted Galloway cattle, across about 100 acres of what a half would become our farm. Around the whole of the property ran a three-strand barbed wire fence with split cedar posts. Over the years we’ve been here, almost this entire fence has been replaced with 5-strand & treated posts. Just over 2.5 km. That’s a lot of fence. We are somewhat experts. One small stretch of the original fence still stands, is still in great condition, and for some inexplicable reason the cows believe that it is as strong as a 5-strand.

One area that was a difficult place to build a fence is where the fence runs up the rocky soil to the cliff face. It is so steep, that when I stand on a deer trail my hands steady myself by putting them on the ground in front of my face. Somehow the deer zigzag up these trails with no problem. The cows are heavier and taller, so their trails stop a bit further down where the slope is not so steep. Their trails are about 6” wider than a deer trail. We have always managed this area by pulling deadfall to brace behind standing trees, and stacking up lots of dead branches, knowing that the animals could not climb up and over the piles, when climbing up a slope. We tend to it every few years, adding more to our stacked deadwood walls.

On many of those rainy days early in the year, our late afternoons were spent finding the herd of flying, magic cows, trying to figure out where they could possibly have got through the fence. Our fences are in such great state of repair after many days of fixing what could even possibly be a breach point. But still, they were getting out.  Which is when we became concerned that they’d learned how to fly.

One late afternoon, I did the usual search. While walking the fence line in the valley, I saw a tiny white face at the far end of the valley, at the far reach of our neighbors’ land. As I watched, the whole herd emerged from the distant trees, and slowly made their way towards our property. With opening wide a nearby gate, and a bucket of grain, we were able to get them back home. We locked them up in an 8-acre area, until we could at last find just where it was they’d been getting out.

DSCN4914

Waiting for the waters to recede.

We waited until the waters had receded somewhat from the valley bottom, and got across into the cliff bottom. Climbing up, we found that the property line that is way up the slope had been re-surveyed. Our only guess is that the surveyors had broken through our carefully piled stacks to work the line, creating an access point for the cows. We ran ropes all the way down the hillside, tied from tree to tree; at about waist height over bases of dead fir & cedar, and wove branches and reworked stacks all the way to the top.

That day was for me, the first day of spring. The sun was shining the whole day while we worked in our shirtsleeves. I was hesitant to let the cows out of their incarceration, but knew that we needed to. Spring has continued on, with the cows quietly grazing on all parts of our property, with no venturing to far off places.

Primrose 20130530

So in celebration of this newfound time (meaning not having to search fences day after day), I made a delightful carrot loaf with walnuts and candied ginger. I hope you enjoy it. It is perfect made using either all-purpose wheat, or gluten free flour. It is also dairy free, an added bonus if feeding those with dairy issues. Continue reading

Farmhouse Coleslaw

IMG_5055Our summer started weeks ago; usually we have a sunny month of May, followed by a very unsettled month of June, weather-wise. But so far this June, we’ve only had sunny skies, and not a drop of rain. As a farmer, I want some rain. The perfect pattern for me is sunny warm days, cool nights, and a good rain every 10 days or so. But I don’t control the weather; no matter how many dances I do, nature comes as nature does.

These last weeks, we’ve been gathering on the front porch for a late supper, overlooking a field with three very happy, pretty horses in it, waiting to see a doe with her twin fawns.

Dinners seem to be directly related to how hard we’ve been working each day. A quick, filling meal for long, tiring days, and more inventive, complex meals when we’ve had more time to consider what’s going to be on the table. Coleslaw is a quick, filling side dish, that’s easy to prepare, and goes well with hamburgers, grilled meats, pulled pork, and other summer favourites. Continue reading