Pot luck

We had our monthly medieval “pot luck” dinner in Goulburn last weekend.

Not everybody was there, but that’s the idea.  It’s intended as a monthly dinner with our friends, which just happens to be in medieval garb.

Ally made some portuguese custard tarts, which she often does when we are knee-deep in duck eggs.  As usual they were delicious.

I had another go at making some individual pies.

My goal is a little pie for one person, which looks medieval and has a rich and tasty venison filling.  This wasn’t it, as I didn’t get organised to pick up some venison, but perhaps it moved the quest a little closer.

A while ago, Ally gave me a 1970s-vintage book on pie-making, that she found while browsing in Bowral.  It had some good recipes for hot-water pastries, particularly in the context of cold pork pies and the like.

Allison and Fiona (a Canadian wwoofer who stayed with us recently) were experimenting recently.  Allison has been trying, with good success, to make large free-standing hot pies made without containers.

In medieval times they made very stiff pastries, with little shortening.  You would model them by hand, and you’d eat then insides then throw away the pastry, or pass it on to the poor.  I’ve made pies like that several times, once in the shape of little owls.  But it does seem a waste.

When we cater for large feasts we have to make some compromises.  And people are disappointed if they can’t eat the pastry.

Allison made me up some of the hot-water pastry, which has lard shortening.  We used one-third wholemeal flour to get a more medieval look.

My innovation was to make up the pies in little ramekin dishes.  The filling was put in, top put on, and the whole lot partly baked.  With practice, you can then wiggle the pies out of the ramekins and onto a tray, ready for glazing and their second stage cooking.  They slump elegantly and do have a visual authenticity.

I was pretty happy with how they worked.  In future I’ll drop the proportion of wholemeal, and our friend Del recommends using beef dripping to get a crisper pastry.  The filling was OK but not fantastic, but that wasn’t my major concern this time.

I hope to report back again later.

Madness

Sometimes our place is a madhouse.

This weekend we had grandson D over.  D has a new baby brother, and a visit to the farm gave his mum a chance for a night off and a birthday dinner.

D loves the farm and enjoys patting the various animals.  He particularly likes the quail, who were hand-raised and seem to put up with this more than most animals.

D is now 3 years old, and likes to run off at high speed.  Fortunately we had wwoofers Julia and Fiona there, who were usually a step ahead of him.  We also had my son Owen and his mate Gryff there to take turns with D duty.

D is good fun, and he has good language skills so we can teach him a lot.  This time, he came with a cold, which got worse over the weekend.

All three-year-olds go through the “glazed donut” phase, where the contents of their nasal passages end up evenly distributed over their skin and clothes.  So we had an affectionate but rather sticky little fellow.

On the Friday night, Allison cooked paella (a Spanish seafood and rice dish) at the Goulburn Club, who were having a Blues weekend.  Looked and tasted great.

We caught up with the Goulburn medieval club crew at the Old Goulburn Brewery (we’re having an event  there next month, and then they all came over to dinner.

At the last minute, Allison remembered that I’d promised to man the bar at the Goulburn Club, so I had to race in there.  Actually a fairly easy night with some great music.

On Sunday, we took D back to Sydney, which took most of the day.  When we left, the place looked like a bombsite, but by the time we had come back the magic wwoofer fairies had restored it all to some semblance of sanity.

And so for another week.

Riding again

We’ve had more than a week of lovely weather, delightful at any time of year.

This has allowed us to bring the horses into work, courtesy of our wonderful equestrian wwoofers Katy and Julia.

Paulie my standardbred has been great; which was the case last time we rode him, too.  Last year we brought him into work *after* all the spring green grass, and he was a bit patchy to start with.

Gawaine my young Clydesdale-cross was perfect at the first attempt, and looks splendid as he races around the field.  Julia says that riding him is like sitting on a couch.

Katy did some work with Doc, a young horse of Jan’s.  I was worried about him because he’s cheeky, and thinks that anything humans do has to be more interesting than being a horse.  He too was exceptionally well-behaved at first go, and is proving a quick learner.  Unfortunately he’s got some sort of infection in his throat and he’s under vet treatment for the next while.

I have ridden just a bit, and have found that my trotting muscles have disappeared.  So I’m sore as I’m writing this.  Will have to keep it up.

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We went to the Canberra SCA’s monthly pot luck dinner.  I made some gingerbread: basically it’s hot honey with breadcrumbs and spices mixed in.  The original recipe for some reason had no ginger — maybe it was an economy measure, or maybe the scribe just forgot it.  I used ginger, mace, cinnamon and plenty of white pepper.  Spicy!  Tasty!

Allison and the wwoofers made some pork pies.  She has a new hotwater pastry that she’s playing with; it’s really good.

There was a splendid range of food on offer, some part-singing and some dancing.  One fellow there has a “pipe and tabor”, a sort of medieval one-man-band comprising a kind of whistle or recorder, and a flat drum.  We wants one, my precious…

The fox returns

When Allison returned from the US, she worked out that we were missing a number of ducks.  It seems that Mr Fox had been jumping over the gate to the orchard behind our house, and removing one duck every couple of days.

Allison was less than pleased with this situation.  She moved the ducks to the bottom chookhouse, once a pen for racing pigeons, to which we have added an outdoor area fenced from (under)ground to an enclosed roof.  She locked the alpacas in the surrounding woods paddock just to be sure — they hate foxes and can kill them.

Alas, on the first night under this arrangement, the fox dug under the outside wire and took several more ducks, wounding a couple more.  So much for the alpacas.

This leaves us with one pair of mallard ducks, including our sentimental favourite Nellie.  The male has a damaged leg, and we hope he’ll recover.

We have three muscovy girls left — including one with a bodgie leg from an earlier attack, which I would have euthanised if it hadn’t been such miserable weather at the time.

For some reason we still have all three indian runner ducks that someone gave us.  Maybe they’re faster, or smarter, or just taste bad to foxes.

We’ve had three years without any problems, and now even careful precautions aren’t working.  Our idyllic rural lifestyle really takes a beating at times like this.

Allison was by this stage apoplectic.  We and the wwoofers spent the weekend building fortifications.

Fort Knox, once the bottom chookhouse, now has galvanised roofing iron buried in a trench, as well as heavy iron bars laid along the edges, and the whole lot covered in field rocks.  There is an internal sliding steel door to provide an extra layer of defence.  I was just able to dissuade her from electrifying everything.

Alcatraz, aka the top shed, already had heavy steel walls and a buffalo-proof external run.  It now has a new door, a gate to cut off half the run, and rocks.

God help the fox should Allison get her hands on it.  Because we’re being organic, we can’t lay poison baits.  Because we front the highway, we’re not meant to shoot on the property, and I might not be safe with a gun.  There’s no way Ally is getting one in her current mood!

We do nevertheless have some plans for Mr Fox, suggested by our neighbours, so we’ll see what comes of them.  Further suggestions most welcome.