Local Food Heroes
Bob Milner retired from dentistry and decided to keep a few chickens – 9000 of them. The major producer of free range eggs on the Island, his hens are happier by far, ?It?s the higher standard of welfare.? he says, ?My hens are kept in mobile houses, which allow them access to the surrounding fields. As there are no natural predators in Jersey – unlike foxes in the UK – we don?t need to shut them up and they can come and go as they please.? The Happy Hens roam free in Grouville and are so chuffed, they offer up a staggering 6000 eggs a day.
But it?s not just the birds that are loving it, the eggs are going to taste better than those squeezed from a poorer indoor bird. Happy Hens? eggs are super fresh too, usually delivered to supermarkets, shops and farm shops within 24 hours of laying. By contrast, UK eggs are usually collected twice a week for grading and packing and they?ll be 7-10 days old before they reach us here.
Buying local and free range also ensures a boost to the local economy as well as a smaller carbon footprint all round. The packaging is reused – far better than recycled – and there are fewer stages in the steps from field to plate. So spare a thought for the chicken as well as the egg when you shop.
Sunny side up
To recognize a fresh egg when you meet one, try the following test. Break the egg onto a flat plate, a very fresh egg will have a high, rounded yolk surrounded by an egg-shaped blob of thick egg white. There should be a very small amount of thin runny white spreading on the plate. Less fresh eggs will spread out all over the plate and will have a flattened yolk and will be no good for scrambling.
The outlandishly coloured vegetable that thinks it?s a fruit, rhubarb makes deliciously comforting puddings. Forced rhubarb has been in our shops and markets for a few weeks now but make the most of it before it disappears and the tougher, tarter outdoor variety comes through next month. This early rhubarb is grown in the dark, mostly in an area around Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield, known (like something out of Wallace and Grommit) as the ?rhubarb triangle?. Nimble fingers pick the luscious pink stalks by candlelight, in true Victorian style, to protect the younger stems that are still growing. Choose crisp, firm, plump, vibrant pink stalks with curled, mustard yellow leaves. Wash, trim and chop into two centimetre lengths. Cover with crumble and bake or put in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of water and brown sugar and stew gently. This compote is great with custard, yoghurt, cream or ice cream. Reduce the sugar slightly and it makes an excellent sauce for delicious local mackerel.
Super Love Apples
Pomegranates, pumpkin seeds, green tea and beetroot have all jostled for a position at the top of the superfood tree. But the latest in this list is the pomme d?amour, the pomodoro or, to you and me, the humble tomato. In his new book, ?The Red Bodyguard?, pharmacist Ron Levin has collated decades of research confirming the health-giving benefits of the gorgeous, ripe tomato. Tomatoes contain loads of beta-carotene, an anti-oxidant that supports the immune system and benefits healthy skin. One medium-sized tomato contains half of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. However, the real punch packed by a tomato is a potent anti-oxidant called lycopene, present in the dark red colour of the flesh. The Mediterranean diet, with its tomatoes and olive oil, has been linked to a long healthy life, and now there is scientific research to show that lycopene can suppress the production of cancer cells.
Until now we have had to make do – or do without – imported Spanish tomatoes. Now the early crop of Jersey tomatoes is ready from Fauvic Nurseries and Holme Grown farm shop. Unlike the Spanish variety, these local lovelies ripen on the vine so you can maximise on flavour and health benefits. Halve the deliciously sweet cherry tomatoes and cook in a nice slug of olive oil over a gentle heat. Tear up some lovely local basil leaves, season and add to cooked pasta for a taste of spring.