The mornings are cold. Frost clings in sharp little lances to everything, the sky is a pale blue blanket, and we all shiver underneath.
My morning routine is a chilly one; let chickens out, defrost chickens, feed chickens, stare at the sunrise until my eyes freeze over, drink tea. I worry that the chickens are too cold, but the inside of their house is reassuringly warm. We’ve taken to feeding them cracked corn in the evening as a last feed, as they digest it more slowly than pellets, and this helps keep them warm throughout the night. The problem seems to be that they love the corn a little too much, and are beginning to turn a haughty beak skyward at the sight of their usual feed. Remaining strong and not giving in to their more ‘refined’ tastes is a battle of wills, as I am a softy.
They are eating a great deal more than they did when we first got them at the end of the summer, and they are still laying daily – a surprise, as the shortened hours of daylight should mean that their laying slows down during the winter months. I am not complaining, although as chickens only have a finite number of eggs in them I worry about them running out.
A friend in the UK got in touch to let me know about the current DEFRA ban on moving chickens, and the fact that he has to keep his inside, due to outbreaks of bird-flu. There is bird-flu in France, but far to the South and the West of us, and not yet in Saône-et-Loire, our département. There is also a turkey festival in Marcigny today (no idea, I’ll tell you when I get back later), so the locals are clearly not too concerned. I keep an eye on the news, and the chickens, and I worry.
I worry that I am worrying about chickens too much.
The fruit trees are all planted. As I planted them, I pulled even more scrap metal from the ground, along with sheets of plastic, and an entire car windscreen. Even here, in what seems to be a culture that works more closely with the land, people buy things and use things with no plan of how to dispose of them. Manufacture, buy, use, bury in the ground and hope no one notices. A microcosm of capitalism, in my field.
On misty mornings we spy deer and wild boar, and there is a black woodpecker who pecks away at the same tree, each morning, Morse Code patterns in the fog.
In the evenings we light the fire, and eat hearty, warming food, and delay going to bed as it is so cold upstairs we can see our breath.
There has been no recipe here for a while (I wonder how many of you, Dear Readers, want or follow my recipes), but there is one today.
Boudin-Noir with Apples, Potatoes, and a Honey Mustard Sauce.
(serves 2 if you’re greedy like me)
This is a properly seasonal supper (yes, pig’s blood is in season right now), and a rich, filling, simple way to push away the chill of the day.
(for the sauce)
2 shallots, finely diced
250 ml dry white wine
250 ml stock (I used pork stock, because I had some in the fridge, but a good organic chicken stock will do nicely)
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
The leaves from 2 sprigs thyme
(for the rest)
300 g boudin-noir (or black pudding – they’re not exactly the same, but close enough for us), cut into 2 lengths
2 large floury potatoes, cut into chunks
1 large eating apple, cored and cut into thick slices
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
A handful of curly parsley, finely chopped
Quite a lot of butter
Cook the potatoes until just tender, drain, and set aside.
In a small pan, cook the shallots in a little butter until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients for the sauce and bring to a simmer. Reduce by about 2/3 until quite thick, season to taste, and set aside.
In a large non-stick frying pan, melt a little butter and cook the boudin-noir until warmed through and a little crispy on the ends. Remove from the pan, set aside somewhere warm, and cover.
Add more butter (yep) to the pan, and cook down the sliced onion until soft and just starting to brown. Add the cooked potatoes, apple, and garlic, and fry until the apples have caramelised and there’s some lovely crispy bits on the potato.
Place the boudin-noir back in the pan, pour over the sauce, cover, and let it sit on the heat for a couple more minutes to warm it all through properly.
Season to taste, scatter the parsley over.
Eat straight from the pan, and try not to worry about chickens.Follow @wordpressdotcom