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Salade Niçoise with guinea fowl eggs

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To be honest; until I started writing this post I didn’t know very much about guinea fowl (or guinea-fowl), never mind their eggs. I’ve bought guinea fowl on a few occasions, to make Ghanaian dishes like Nkatenkwan, as their flesh is almost gamey and really benefits from slow, moist, covered cooking methods. I also knew the bird originated in West African, hence their name, and have long been a favourite with chefs (Larousse suggests they’ve been domesticated since Roman times).

Guineafowl egg & duck egg

I’ve also spotted them pecking around farmyards on a few occasions, looking a little haughty and slightly out-of-place with their blue faces and wonderful op-art speckled plumage. Last week my friends from Porcus persuaded me to leave their farm with a selection of wonderful guinea fowl eggs (these are the same people who sated my quest to enjoy turkey eggs last year too)

Guinea fowl eggs

So I came home with six speckly guinea fowl eggs, undecided on how best to use them. I’d been warned they had thick shells, which could prove a bit of a challenge to break through, but I had an extra pair of hands in the form of our mum who was visiting. A quick search on the web threw up very few recipes specifically for guinea fowl eggs, but a friend suggested making a niçoise salad. This proved to be an inspired recommendation, as the diminutive hard-boiled eggs (sized somewhat between a quail and a bantam egg) looked gorgeous nestled against the other ingredients. Not that we needed an excuse to enjoy a classic summer salad (even when the sun is somewhat lacking) which manages to combine some of our favourite family ingredients.

In this case I followed an Antony Worrall Thompson recipe from the BBC website, deviating a little from some other versions, but ticked all the boxes in terms of fresh flavours. I started by marinating the tuna steaks for an hour or so in the vinaigrette mix while prepping the veg. These and the other ingredients filled a large salad bowl. Once the tuna was sufficiently soused it got seared on a very hot ridged griddle, then rested gently.

Meanwhile we boiled the guinea fowl eggs for six minutes, then cooled them off in cold water. They proved quite difficult to peel: the shell was indeed tough, and the inner membrane was equally resistant. Eventually we managed to de-shell and slice them, and were rewarded with sight of bright yellow yolks. They looked wonderfully pretty set against the rest of the salad. Once they were in place the tuna steaks were added, everything was drizzled with the vinaigrette, and we sat down to eat.

The whole thing looked and tasted wonderful: salty, smooth, crisp, sharp and rounded flavours contrasted just as you’d expect a salade niçoise to do. The eggs were creamy and more flavoured than hen’s eggs. The final verdict: great salad, and really tasty wee eggs. If you’re lucky enough to find guinea fowl eggs, don’t pass up on the opportunity to enjoy their delights. Cracking!

Pork chops and spring gems

After the harsh winter (thankfully an ever-more distant memory now we’re firmly into May) the recent bout of superb spring weather has brought welcome warmth and cheer in more than one way. Spring heralds two of our favourite fresh British delights: wild garlic, and asparagus. We’ve already written about both on several occasions, but with seasonal goodies this great, I’m not ashamed to sing their praises a little more. They provided the perfect partnership to prime Pennine pork last month.
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Ham, cheese and malt toastie heaven

Sometimes simple pleasures are the best. For me, this ticks all the boxes: great local cheese, great local ham, and not-quite-so local but equally great bread. The cheese was the remains of some of the original Calderdale Cheese which needed eating up, and I had a few small pieces of the air-dried ham left over, so I whipped up a bit of a rarebit-like mix. Miss South was visiting at the time I made this (this post is prompted by me finding these photos from early in the year), so I raided my stash of precious Veda bread from the freezer in celebration.

Veda, you say? Yes, these are slices of Veda bread (truly one of the high points of Northern Irish baking culture), and for the uninitiated, Veda is a dark, malty loaf. A bit like Soreen, but without the fruit, and not as dense a mix. It seems at one time Veda was widely available across the UK, but over time tastes have changed and the last remaining backwater of the country to keep Veda in a place close to their heart is Norn Irn. Several bakeries still produce it over there, but try as I might I’ve never managed to track it down on this side of the Irish Sea.

Miss South and I grew up eating (and loving) the humble Veda bread. One wouldn’t do much with it… possibly toast it, or add a few slices of mature Cheddar… the slightly sweet malty flavour, and almost sticky texture was enough. I’d often eat half a loaf of this diminutive loaf in one sitting: something encouraged by the fact Veda never comes sliced, so you tend to cut off big doorstep-like wodges to toast. I’m salivating at the very prospect, just writing this now… I’ll be filling a suitcase with Veda next time I go back to see family. Over the years I’ve converted more than a few folk to the exquisite delights of Veda… I would dearly love to proselytise further. Let me know if you fancy a slice of Veda toast some time!

Frittata? That’d be lovely, ta…

Onion, potato and tomato frittata

“Frittata, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Free-ta-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Free. Ta. Ta.”*

A long time ago I was deeply influenced by the writing of Marcella Hazan. She was, and remains, one of my favourite food writers; not just for her playful tone and homely style, but also for her authoritative standing on all things Italian-American. Our family used to holiday regularly in Italy when we were growing up, so the palates of Miss South and myself were honed through years of exposure to appreciate in simple yet perfect Mediterranean staples and delicacies. A Marcella cookbook or two always stood, well thumbed, on the kitchen bookshelf, and I’ve upheld this tradition since living here in England. I was given “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” many moons ago, and almost immediately alighted on the chapter on frittate. I fell in love and I’ve not looked back since.

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Giving thanks for ham and turkey eggs

Ah, turkey eggs. Not quite as rare as hen’s teeth, but still something you don’t see every day. I was lucky enough to be given one a couple of years ago by a colleague whose dad works with a lot of farmers (and I made a 3 egg frittata, with hen, duck and turkey egg… wow!) Thanks to Mr S for that experience…

I’ve been trying to source them ever since, but there are two fundamental issues in tracking down turkey eggs. Number 1: turkeys don’t lay as many eggs as, say, your average chicken. Many fewer, in fact, so that many eggs are actually fertilized and used to grow little turkey chicks. Number 2: they taste rather wonderful as well, so even if they’re not going to be used to expand the turkey population, only somebody benevolent or with bounteous quantities of spare eggs is actually going to allow other non-poultry farmer types to sample them.

As you can see, they’re delightfully speckled and have a distinctive pointed end – not sure if this makes them any easier to pass – turkeys often look rather aggrieved so perhaps not. They also have a very flavoursome taste and a creamy consistency.

I was lucky enough to have been given a few as a birthday present by my friends from Porcus up at Height Top Barn this morning, alongside picking up my bread order, so I resolved to make a luxurious breakfast. First I toasted a couple of slices of wonderful home-made bread, generously buttered it and covered it with some torn air-dried ham, before finishing with two poached turkey eggs and a good dose of freshly ground black pepper. As the photo above might suggest, such a simple and classic combination as ham and eggs was taken to the next level with this delightful breakfast plate.

So, if you ever get the chance to sample a turkey egg, don’t let it slip through your fingers. Although my final advice would be that, due to the thickness of their shells (equal to goose eggs) even if they do slip through your fingers they may well land intact. They just won’t be around for long afterwards!