Thursday, November 27, 2008

The ocas.

How beautiful is the oca?
The day before yesterday I harvested all the ocas and boiled some up for lunch.
They are a south american tuber (like the humble spud) and taste like a kind of lemony potato. I think it is oxalic acid that makes the lemony flavour. Delicious.

Are they not incredible, all knobbly and brightly coloured, coming out of the rich dark soil?

And they are even more surreal looking scrubbed and ready for the pot.

The garden makes life feel so abundant, especially with all the talk of recession. Being able to dig these magical pink and yellow alien beings out of the soil and pick some bright green chard to wilt and serve with them makes me feel so rich.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chicken anyone?

Yesterday I went to a friend's house to learn how to kill and butcher a chicken. Having a broody hen this year meant we suddenly have 12 chickens, 4 of which seem to be boys... so I had to decide what to do with them. We can't keep them all as they fight and nobody wants to keep cockerels, so I thought, Ok, I'll give them to someone who will humanely kill and eat them. Then one chick, now called Limpy, had his little problems, or hers I should say (at least I think shes a lady) and after nursing her as much as I could (hot water bottles, fried eggs for breakfast) I realised I would be able to kill her if I had to...and if I had to, baby chick was probably quite tasty, and I thought, why are we giving the cockerels away! So, as a dress rehearsal and training session I went to the master butcher's house yesterday, and helped her kill a cockerel, by chopping his head off. Nasty, but fast.

As expected, the bird moved for several minutes after having his head removed.

After a dunk in hot water and being plucked, we went on to gut him. We cut off the legs, then took all the not-so-nice bits out and cleaned him out, ready for cooking after sitting in the fridge for a few days.

His gizzard was full of grass and stones, all bright green and surreal-looking.

We emptied it out and sliced it up with the heart, liver, and something like a testicle?! and fried the lot up with a little four spice mix - cayenne pepper, black pepper, ginger and cloves.

It was delicious! I thought I would feel funny eating organs as my first brush with chicken in 19 years but it was surprisingly easy and tasty. The whole experience was surprisingly easy. It marked such a change in attitude for me - still marked by a sense of looking after the animal (only in the Al Pacino sense now...)

But joking aside, there was a real sense of care that this animal dies as easily as possible, with as little pain as possible. And a very different engagement with the animal than what I am used to - suddenly relating to the animal as a food source. It made me think of eating eggs too. By buying eggs I end up supporting the chicken industry in general and this means cockerels being killed, whether for animal or human food. I would much rather keep my own chickens and watch them live a happy life in the garden, and produce the most flavourful eggs. But a by-product of keeping chickens for eggs is too many cockerels - and it makes sense to me that this is actually a really good source of protein for me - if I am going to eat meat (which after many years of vegetarianism I seem to be craving with a bloodthirstyness not seen in many meat eaters.)

The whole experience was marked by a sense of respect for the life being taken and gratitude for what was received, which I can only wish is there for every animal being butchered.

Grupat Show

Well, last week was incredibly busy putting up the Grupat show in Red, the South Dublin Arts Centre in Tallaght.

We were installing work by Violetta Mahon, including the above sonic reliquary - My Zang Tam Tuumb, and below, her dream diary - written in a phonetic alphabet used by the Mormons called Deseret.

And the grotto of Our Most Glazegilded Lady of Happiest Daze.

We also put up work by the Parks Service, called Legends of the Fornar Resistance.

Some of the geekier of you may have seen some of the drawings for the Legend of the Fornar Resistance... Under UV light you can see all the secret instructions written on them. The drawings all hang in the shed and there is a sound work to go with them.

Then myself and the Dowager Marchylove, aka Niall Quinlan, took a stroll up the Hellfire Club to shoot some photos and put down a geocache. The geocache contains 6 limited edition artworks by another Grupat member, Bulletin M. Anyone is free to go and get one from the box. Click on the above link to find out more!

We got shouted at a lot on the way down - HaHaah, yeh fuckin leprechaun!

We ended the week at the 12th Lock in Clondalkin, The Dowager Marchylove wowing the world with his/her fabulous dress sense.

All in all, very successful!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Prune cake

What a fabulous week it has been, and, to celebrate the election, I give you... Prune, Orange and Spice cake. I wanted to make a prune and bran cake and looked on the internet for a recipe - I found one with the advice that it was delicious and moist. It was not delicious and moist. It was like eating cardboard. I think I remarked "well, its not disgusting..." It wasn't disgusting. It wasn't anything. It definitely wasn't cake. It was flavourless and texturefull. All the wrong texture - kind of gritty, scratchy, exfoliating texture. Anyway, enough about that one, I have instead come up with a recipe based on the fantastic lemon cake taught to me in Devon by a beautiful woman. A far cry from the first version which had to be fed to the chickens.... (incidentally they loved it. And so did the dog...)

Prune, Orange and Spice Cake

4 oz butter
4 oz sugar
zest of one orange
1/8th tsp ground cinnamon
1/8th tsp ground cloves
a grating of nutmeg
one egg
4 oz self raising flour
1 oz oatbran
4 oz chopped prunes

This cake is very easy to make and can be entirely made in a saucepan.
Melt the butter and add the sugar until dissolved and gooey. (It doesn't take long.) Stir in the orange zest and spices. Let it cool a bit and beat in the egg. Gently mix in the flour and then the oatbran, then stir in the prunes, place in an oiled cake tin and bake for 20 minutes or until done (when a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean) in a hot oven - 180 degrees celcius or so.

It is a lovely buttery, lightly spiced cake, with a moist interior and biscuity top, and above all, very easy to make!