Feb 23 2006

The Culling Field


February 2006….

grass, no rain, just cold grey days, even the snowdrops are reluctant
to show their little green petticoats. As I look back to this time last
year I find talk of camellias, daffodils and singing crocus; no sign of
any of them showing their face this cold, dark February. In fact as I
look out beyond my desk the cloud seems to be sitting over the whole
valley, just topping the trees with a thin grey veil. And still we wait
for rain.


mind has been on chicken problems recently. Not avian ‘flu, I’ll cross
that bridge if I have to, if I must, when I must, if, alas, I come to
it; all DEFRA registration in place etc. No, it’s more to do with
cockerels, cockerels, cockerels. They are taking over the yard! Fierce
little men squaring up to each other ready to take on the world
regardless of size. Sound familiar? They sidle up, fluff out their
feathers to look as big as they can and launch themselves into
fiercesome battle. Their ferocity is appalling, injuries horrific. Something has to be done.

with great reluctance and some sadness because they are all, without
exception, such handsome birds, we must round them up for a cull. Not a
pleasant job at all, but essential to avoid a blood and feather bath.
The two big Marran boys are reprieved as are the two Araucana fellows.
I couldn’t let Mr White go either or that little Marran Bantam boy. Is
he, perhaps a Cuckoo Aruacana? Better keep him. And, oh, perhaps we
should keep just one of the Minorca Men. Of course that means creating
separate dwelling places, international boundaries, for them all!


Marran boys live peacefully with the regular chickens, some two hundred
and fifty little free range Orange Egg Machines. Both cockerels seem to
have a code in their house by night and in the fields by day, enabling
them to pretend the other simply doesn’t exist; enough space I suppose.
Mr Lavender lives with the few Araucana ladies who survived last years’
badger attack.


Wyandotte lives there too. She’s happier away from those huge bossy
Marran women who push her about and stop her feeding. Those same big
women can stay with old Mr Araucana, together with the light
Sussex lady and that sort of Welsommmer hen.



leaves the Araucana Bantams and their cockerel in the Ark, Mr White and
his Minorcan girls in the stable, Mr Minorca and his ladies in the
sheep shed and, oh dear, still too many. Mr Bantam Marran in the field
shed with his really beautiful harem of mixed up Minorca bantams. And I
thought I’d rationalised and simplified by sending some fourteen
cockerels to their heavenly maker and cock au vin!


course that inevitably takes my mind to the culinary end of the scale.
What to do with all those eggs again? More pickling. I suppose. Funny
how each year our retail outlets cry out for eggs in November,
December, Christmas, when the tourist trade lurches briefly into gear
again before the winter hibernation. Chickens say “ no thanks, give us
a break, its dark out there”; no eggs, many visitors. Then the light
creeps back, the evenings begin to draw out just a little, the chickens
perk up and start laying. “ No, not now ” say our customers " really
quiet at this time of year, no visitors”. Hotels close for a breather,
pubs rely on the locals. No one wants an egg! So pickled, pickled,
pickled eggs it is again. Eggy gifts to friends, donations to anyone,
anything rather than waste. Then suddenly it’s
Spring again, Easter, the new season and everyone is clamouring for
free range eggs once more.

confit’ed an old cockerel a while back, delicious he was too! Others
turned up in Terrine du Campagne for guests at Christmas, no one knew,
just said “what delicious pate”, well it was !! But these chaps will, I
think, be the classic Coq au Vin.


Hm, but
what on earth is “Classic Coq au Vin”?

Larousse Gastronomic dispatches
it in one brief paragraph, Constance S doesn’t give it a mention and
Hugh FW does it proud, of course. But I, as usual, return to my dog
eared French Provincial Cooking. Elisabeth David reiterates once more
that however apparently simple this classic is, to get the balance
right is a real skill; sauce just the right consistency and chicken
perfectly cooked. Maybe this is why it has fallen from grace for too
long? Too many nasty stringy chickens in thick pink goo….and where do
you get that cockerel? Well you know now where I do! But, oh, how
delicious it is if you can get the balance right!

Cut a chicken into four pieces. Warm some three quarters of a bottle of red wine in a saucepan together with a crushed garlic clove, a bay leaf and a pinch of dried herbs. Add a little really good chicken stock. In a heavy pan soften some peeled button onions in the fat which gently flows from chopped streaky bacon. Add the chicken pieces, brown those gently too. Fill a ladle with brandy,
set it alight and pour, flaming, over the chicken. Pour the wine and
stock over the chicken as the brandy flames die down and simmer gently
for about 40 minutes depending on the age of the chicken! When you are
confident the cooking is almost complete add button mushrooms and
simmer a further five minutes. Carefully remove chicken, onions,
mushrooms onto a large serving dish and keep warm. Thicken the sauce
with buerre manie, a tablespoon of flour worked into a dessert
spoon of butter, then stir gently for a couple of minutes till the
sauce is thick and shiny. Serve with salad and fried bread, oh so unfashionable, and oh, so wonderful!

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “The Culling Field”

  1. ali & rog & winnie & harryon 27 Feb 2006 at 8:30 pm

    My mouth is watering after reading about all that wonderfull home cooked “REAL” food.
    A&R xx

  2. farmgirlon 12 Mar 2006 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Sally,
    I just linked here from the lovely comment you left on my blog, Farmgirl Fare. I love what little I’ve seen so far of your site (the chicken photos are wonderful), and it certainly does look like we have much in common. Donkeys! : ) I would be flattered if you included a link to FF here–thanks for asking. I’m looking forward to delving into your archives but right now I must get back to the critters. I’m so happy you “found” me! : )

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