Hunger Gaps & Cafes

You'll hear us mention the "hunger gap" if you frequent our market stall between now and June. I'm pretty certain I blogged about this this time last year, but here I go again. This funny period is essentially when one season (ie summer) hasn't picked up the baton passed on by last season (ie winter). It's a time for lots of sowing and planting for the months ahead, but also a time for salads, and lots of them. Luckily, we had a great root year last year. The roots are lasting a lot longer then the previous few growing years we had, so the hunger gap isn't as evident, but you'll slowly notice the stall becoming more and more green in the next few weeks. Tasty, delicious leaves. Rocket, Mizuna, Mustard, Lettuce heads (red oak, green oak, cos, butterhead), Spinach, Texel Greens, Dandelion, Catalogna, Chicory, Watercress, Landcress, Lambs Lettuce, Sorrel, Parsley, Tarragon, Mint(s), Sage, Fennel, Chives, Lovage, Thyme, Chervil, Parcel. Yum.

The last couple of years we have started supplying a few cafes & restaurants. Quite a large leap for us. Markets were, and still are our main focus. Selling our produce directly to our customers is how we started out in Temple Bar Food Market 20 years ago, and our variety of veg we grow is mainly down to the encouragement of our customers (and sometimes us trying to persuade a customer to try something a little less usual). In the earlier days, whenever approached by a cafe to supply veg we would have to say no - we could barely meet demand for our own customers at the markets, and that is our main priority. We did however get to a point in the last few years were we have finally caught up with you all (for the most part), and a few lovely cafe owners and chefs pestered us just enough for us to give it a go. Supplying cafes seemed less daunting. They were more willing to work with us then we realised (due to the size of our operation we don't deliver etc.) Seeing chefs, cafe owners and baristas working with a small supplier, arranging a day to pick their veg up on and choosing veg from a list we supply rather then the other way around almost warms the cockles of our hearts.

And sometimes, they give us cake. 

S x

PS, it took all my self-restraint to not make this whole blog about our new puppy. A tiny Springer Spaniel, who loves falling in to giant mud puddles, eating whatever veg she is near, and barking at the hens. 

Storms & Spring

Our farm is based atop a hill. A lovely hill, with views of the sea and the Mourne Mountains on a clear day. A lovely, windy hill. Doris really took us by surprise. 

We are used to wind, we are used to losing plastic that covers some of the tunnels, and over the years we have learnt new ways of protecting the tunnels - whether it be parking the tractor in front of one of the weaker tunnels on the eve of a storm, or tying the outside of the plastic down with weights and rope. We knew Doris was coming, but not in the strength she came in. 140km/h winds swept down the hill, taking many trees with it. The tunnels got a severe beating. One (albeit it was already a weak one) was lifted off the ground and thrown into the tunnel beside it, ripping its plastic off. Another got its bars bent so out of proportion that it's an entire new shape, and our propagating tunnel was ripped apart, exposing the seedlings to the elements (namely the tomatoes, but Jenny managed an emergency evacuation of these guys, only losing one tray, hurrah). 

A lovely, windy hill. 

It's Spring tomorrow. Onwards and upwards!

S x

ps. It's Jenny Pennys Birthday today, 30 years old plus VAT as she likes to tell people. Eating lots of delicious food in celebration. There is a Broughgammon Goat Shakshuka bubbling away downstairs, made with chopped tomatoes we froze from last summers bounty (breaking out the good stuff!). Served with some eggs and some Purple Sprouting Broccoli (anyone wondering what's at its best at the moment, stock up on the PSB!!). Cake to follow, but that one is still a surprise, so we'll post it up later...

February & Flower Sprouts

I've been cooking a lot of Flower Sprouts lately. They're bloody delicious. For those who have yet to try, they are essentially a cross between Brussels Sprouts and Kale. They're small, purple-y - green, sweet and slightly nutty. And so, so tasty. 

It was an English seed company who developed them, in an attempt to make Brussels Sprouts more palatable whilst also tapping in to the huge following that the humble Kale plant boasts. Their popularity has grown fast, so fast that they have now been branded as "Kalettes", and even have their very own website, kalettes.co.uk.  (I refuse to refer to them as Kalettes, Flower Sprouts they are and Flower Sprouts they will be)

They also have oodles of nutritional benefits, but i'm not going to get in to that here. I studied a small bit of nutrition in college and got so hung up on what vitamins are in what veg, and exactly how much I need to eat of a particular veg to get the optimum nutrients from it etc. It was almost exhausting. I find it much easier to trust my instincts. With veg I just eat varied, eat seasonal and eat lots of it. 

Now back to the important part, eating them! I've been telling people to just steam lightly (2 mins), drizzle with some good oil, salt and pepper. Simple and delicious. But on cold days when i'm looking for a bit more comfort from my food, I get an oven proof pan and stick it on a low flame. Add a large glug of olive oil, crush and roughly chop 4-5 cloves of garlic (i LOVE garlic) and put in the pan with the oil. Allow to sizzle away for a few minutes without turning brown, then pack the pan full of Flower Sprouts. (I leave them whole, but you can trim the bottom and half them also). Make sure to really pack them in, and stick a lid on. Leave for a few minutes then sprinkle some sea-salt on top (just a pinch), and crumble some cheese over (I usually use Corleggy Goats Cheese or some good quality Feta, but whatever tickles your fancy). Eat as is, or if you're looking for more of a snack, transfer your pan to a pre-heated oven (160 C) for 10-15 minutes. Take out of oven and devour. Crispy happiness. 

Have a recipe? Do share! 

Blogs & Big Carrots

Hello!

I'm not going to lie, I completely forgot about this website, let alone this blog, for pretty much all of last year. 2016 was jam-packed, in so many ways.

The farm was (and is) the busiest I have ever seen it. There has always been constant work to do, but I've never noticed job after job being completed so quickly. A new bed weeder was purchased during the year - it's probably the main reason for our outstanding carrots, parsnips and beetroot that you are seeing on the stall at the moment. Ensuring that no weeds were growing alongside the veg meant that there was no competition for growing space or nutrients etc. After many years of failed crops or substantially smaller root veg, this is quite the success for us. We do however get the odd person at the markets whispering that "that carrot can't possibly be organic, it's too big". It's something that irritates me, as I know how much work is going on behind the scenes (as do so many of you who say it every week to us). We've been growing organically for almost 20 years, we have learned a thing or two. 

Personally, I've been busy with a business I set up with a friend, The Market Kitchen. Which is where I am on Saturdays in Temple Bar instead of on McNally Family Farm stall. We set up MK to help showcase food from the Producers at Temple Bar Food Market by cooking up food with ingredients from the market. Cheese from Corleggy, Bread from Le Levain and Veg, Herbs, Eggs from McNallys. The menu changes weekly at TBFM, depending on what veg there is a glut of etc. It's a really exciting way to cook, for both ourselves and our customers. Essentially, the menu is chosen for us by the seasons and changeable weather. We just make the most of it! We were lucky enough to have a stall at Ballymaloe LitFest, FoodonBoard @ Body&Soul and a lovely pop-up café in an old cornmill in Kells, Kilkenny last year, aswell as writing and hand-binding a wee cookbook about a dinner we did in said cornmill at Halloween. Here's hoping 2017 brings as much luck.

I'm going to try keep up blogging this year, with bits on seasonal cooking, what's going on on the farm, vegetable stories (who doesn't love a good vegetable story?!), bits about Market Kitchen, and anything else that pops in to my head. As you have probably guessed, I don't work on the farm anymore, but I am highly involved in cooking, general farm goings-on and the ever lovely markets. Plus, I'm the only one who has time to even think about blogging. Hahaa. 

Til next time!

S x

Greens & Gaps

The "hunger gap". Some of you who grow your own, or have shopped with us frequently enough will have heard of it. It's essentially the period between two seasons, when one season is ending and the other hasn't quite started. 

Winter is finishing up, and Spring hasn't quite sprung. Don't get me wrong, our variety is still as big this time of year. It's just very... green. It's not a bad thing, but we do notice the surprise on peoples faces when we tell them that salads are pretty much all we eat/have to sell during these few weeks. (In saying that, Leeks had a great growing year last year, the end of them may never be in sight!) Our salad range at this time of year is larger then ever - mixed lettuce leaves, spicy leaf, rocket, landcress, watercress, lambs lettuce, purslane, sunflower shoots, pea shoots, herbs, parsley, dandelion greens, catalogna greens, cima di rapa, pak choi, mustard greens, spinach, baby spinach, barley grass & wheatgrass. 

Our entire stall will be green & green alone in the next few weeks. It's a time for really working with what we have, being more inventive with how we use our food, and enjoying this interval of young, fresh leaves. Eating in season has never been so apparent. 

S x

Goose Eggs & Winter Rhubarb

I was planning on making this a weekly thing, but for the next few months I feel blog posts will be fairly sporadic, bare with us! We lost an absolutely amazing woman to Cancer in January. Our granny was the most spectacular lady - unbelievably hard-working, loyal, courageous, brave, blessed with green-fingers,  encouraging & creative.  If you ever wondered where any of us got our work ethic or love for farming from, you wouldn't have to look much further than Oma & Opa.  January was a particularly tough month for us all, and we'd like to thank everyone for their kind words & support. 

The transition from Winter to Spring is always subtle to begin, but when Geese start laying eggs, we really start to notice it. When we started selling goose eggs, it was more as a novelty to have on the stall than anything else - very few people trust an egg bigger than their hand. A few years on and we have trouble keeping a weeks supply on the stall for more then 30 minutes. We describe them to people as being "richer & stronger" than a duck egg, but they're so much more than that. Geese lay at a time when all vegetables, herbs & salads stand still in the cold. The first goose egg in the new year signifies the end of winter to us - the days are lengthening, the daffodils are in full bloom, new seeds will soon be sown. They will stop laying when Spring has well and truly sprung, when we don't need something to push us through the cold end to winter anymore.  

Anyone who has ever eaten one can agree that a "regular" hen egg will just never be the same. Goose eggs are about 4 times the size of a hen egg, with an orange yolk big enough for a whole baguette to dip into.  We just simply fry them, with a bit of flaky salt, ground peppercorns and buttery hot toast - the ultimate Monday morning* breakfast. They also make the most spectacular omelettes, big enough to feed two hungry people.

*As we are up at 630am to work at markets all weekend, we have our "weekend" breakfasts on a Monday!

Speaking of winter "ending" (I know many of you may be laughing at this , as it is currently -1 outside, but the days aren't as dark and the evenings brighter, so i'm staying positive on this one!) Myself and Aoife picked the most spectacular baby rhubarb just before Christmas. The unseasonably warm weather in December encouraged the rhubarb to grow  when it should have still been dormant. I'm not complaining. Rhubarb, along with pumpkins, is one of my favourite foods, and this baby rhubarb was the most spectacular I've ever eaten. About the size of my index finger, shockingly pink, and so, so sweet. We ate a few stalks raw, and roasted the rest with just a small drizzle of honey to grace our Christmas Day pavlova. It was another little teaser of what lies around the corner...

Toodle-Pip,

Sarah x

 

January & Eggs.

January, like for many of you, is a time of new habits, resolutions, making plans and sorting out projects. That's basically what we are doing during the month of January - planning this years crops, ordering seeds, mapping areas to work on, trawling through seed catalogues to find new and wonderful things to grow, planning new projects (don't hold me to it, but we may have mushrooms in 2016) and putting up new tunnels. As well as trying to suss out our food smoker (smoked eggs are quite interesting..), copious amounts of baking, preserving and recipe testing.  It's a nice way to start the year - slow n' steady so to speak! 

And of course, we're eating eggs. Many, many eggs.  I know many people say it all the time, but eggs really are the most versatile of ingredients. We've had quite an influx of eggs in the past few weeks - due to the Christmas break and our young hens beginning to lay, so we've been thinking of multiple ways to use up whole eggs (There's only so many eggs one can eat for breakfast..). Among the usual, we've been having Kale-Egg Fried Rice, Frittatas, Baked Eggs (with plenty of Corleggy Cheese), French Toast, Huevos Rancheros, Quiche, Cakes (and everything else associated with cakes!), Meringues & Shakshuka. Our favourite sweet egg treat at the moment, and newest addition to our preserves, is Lemon Curd with Orchard Apples. Currently smothering a scone with it as I type. This curd thankfully requires the whole egg, and not just the yolk - an added bonus! It is a recipe I picked up from River Cottage when on placement there, if you're looking to give it a shot find it in the RC Preserves Handbook, or else online. 

Toodle-Pip. 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome!

Welcome! We've been meaning to start a website/blog for years - and 2016 is finally the year for it. Here, we hope to give you more of an insight into our farm, a bigger look into working with the seasons, information on growing fruit and veg, recipes and cooking tricks and anything else that may pop into our heads.

Keep an eye out for posts, and Happy New Year.