Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Punching above their weight

One of the first things we said that we would do when we moved to the countryside was buy chickens. Real live clucking, pecking, laying chickens so that we could have the freshest organic eggs possible. Unfortunately, these have gradually slipped down the shopping list to make way for more essential items such as a sofa or bookcases to house the many hundreds of books we’ve collected over the years. And to be perfectly honest, I can barely look after courgettes and kale so it is probably best that I get used to tending plants before I’m entrusted with something that breathes and craps.

The benefit of living the rural life though is that we don’t have to go very far to get our eggs even though we haven’t invested in any hens ourselves as yet. A mere four houses down the road is the extent of the distance we have to travel to buy eggs laid by happy birds free to see the sky above or peck at worms and bugs below.

We usually go for plain old hens’ eggs, occasionally stretching to duck eggs if we are feeling indulgent – the yolks are larger and richer and they poach beautifully thanks to their freshness. But in addition to these conventional ova, quail and bantam eggs are also on sale.


Now, I’ve never really been able to see the point of quail eggs. They make a relatively good garnish. If you are crafting a selection of canap├ęs, for example, then a fried quail’s egg sitting proudly atop a morsel of toasted truffle brioche is a delicious mouthful but they have little everyday application.

I was also unfamiliar with the bantam breed until quite recently. These are about half the size of a traditional brown hen with eggs proportionally smaller which is why we’ve never really bothered with them before. It would seem that we aren’t the only ones and our egg people struggle to sell them, instead they gave us a box for free on Saturday morning for which we were truly grateful and curiously intrigued.


They are an absolute revelation. On cracking one into a hot pan, I was surprised by how much egg managed to fit into such a small shell. The yolk was a deep yellow and larger than any supermarket yolk I’ve ever seen. It took less than a minute to cook and, once done, I slid it onto a waiting slice of home-baked bread, lightly toasted and generously buttered so that a little of the butter dribbled over the side. Topped with no more than black pepper and a few flakes of sea salt, this was comfort food at its delicious and simplistic best – guaranteed to force and smile and convince me that these bantams pack a serious punch.

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10 comments:

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I myself have the dream of owning chickens someday! In fact we were just talking about it a few hours ago! :)

dp said...

Raising chickens seems to be a Portland pasttime. I personally know 4 people who raise chickens, and while it's nice to get the eggs, it's not all that easy. There's adapting the chicks to the outdoors, then building a coop for them, letting them out in the morning and locking them up at night. Racoons are a problem so the coops have to be fortresses. It seems the eggs come all at once or trickle in. Too much work for me. Plus the damned things peck at you. It drives me batty whenever I visit my one friend because she's got one hen that's curious and agressive at the same time. My poor son won't even go into her backyard unless the chickens are put away. Waaah!

James said...

I was told that freshly laid eggs remain fresh longer if they're not washed. I've seen freshly laid eggs covered in freshly laid poop. I'll take my chances and give the eggs a wash.

Foodycat said...

Wonderful post! Fresh eggs really are a wonderous thing - especially with buttered toast as you describe.

Alex Rushmer said...

Bring on the chickens, that's what I say! Thanks for your comments guys. Always appreciated.

the Aspirant Abecedarian said...

The photos on this post are magnificent!

Alex Rushmer said...

Thank you. I wish I could take credit it for them but it is my girlfriend who is the photographer.

food_apocalypse said...

I made delicious deviled quail eggs on toast points with creme fraiche and truffle oil and dill for one of the appetizers at my last party. :)

food_apocalypse said...

also, I am also planning on moving to the country and raising chickens someday, hopefully soon.

Alex Rushmer said...

Best of luck with it food apocalypse. I will keep my fingers crossed for you. Let me know how it goes.