Tales from an Urban Farmyard in Copenhagen

Here’s a story about some chickens that came before the eggs…

IMG_6296

One of the lovely eggs from our Cochin hens – they taste even better than they look

Once upon a time
A couple of years ago when friends visiting from Ireland suggested that we get some hens for our small, urban back yard, I just laughed and thought they were mad. They sowed a seed though and one year later Mr. Foody was driving a van to England to pick up our specially ordered hen house. (You don’t have to go to those lengths by the way, but anyone who knows us, knows that we don’t usually do things by halves. If we were going to do this thing, we wanted to get a house that was going to stick the pace of the harsh winters here, wasn’t impregnated with all sorts of crap and, as it would be quite visible, we wanted it to look nice. Stephen at the Hen House Garden Company had just the thing.)

14 fluff balls
The next step was to get some occupants for the hen house. We proceeded to buy 14 chickens. They were only 1-2 weeks old and could all fit in a shoe box when we brought them home. We would not know for another 2 months what their gender was. Our reason for wanting to keep hens was for their eggs. We had been eating eggs every day for years, so to us it made sense to become self-sufficient on this front. The added bonus being that the hens would eat all the kitchen waste that wasn’t already going to our rabbits and the compost. So given this, and the fact that it is neither appropriate nor allowed to have a rooster(s) living in an urban area such as ours, we knew that any lads among the bunch were destined for the pot.

Rooster death row
Come December it began to become apparent at day-break who the boys in the brood were. Mr. Foody received direction in how to humanely rid us of the poor beasts and we had to, one-by-one, bid Richard Allen, Darren Allen, Steel Wire (he wasn’t nice), Ken Hom and Anon, farewell. This left us with 8 lovely ladies – Gordon Ramsay, Delia Smith, Amanda Wong, Julia Child, Camilla Plum, Kirsten Hüttemeier, Myrtle Allen and Rachel Allen.

Finally, eggs!
Then we just had to sit and wait. When would the first egg come? Finally, at the end of February, I opened the hatch into the nesting boxes one morning and there it was – the first tiny little egg. I’d never seen such a small egg before. It soon became apparent that within a few weeks the eggs become larger. It’s like they just have to get into the swing of things. Some of the eggs we get now are huge and have double yolks.

Happy hens
Over the next couple of months, the hens, one-by-one, began laying eggs. Now we get 8 eggs every single day without fail. And I can tell you, they are fabulous! You really CAN taste the difference. It means a lot to us that we know what our hens have been eating and we know they are happy. When I see how they love getting out to scratch and flap around, bathe in the dust and in the sun, I can’t help but feel devastated for all those hens that are kept in very confined spaces – worst of all, battery or caged hens. How this is still allowed is beyond me.

Who needs the fairground
For us this has been a fantastic family project. Every day we have stories to tell each other about the funny or crazy things we have seen the hens doing. They have also become somewhat of a neighbourhood attraction. We live close to a lot of nurseries and kindergartens and many parents have told us that coming by our gate and looking in at the hens has become part of the routine as they pick up or drop off their children. I also overheard a lady say to her dog one day, as the dog was straining to walk down our street, “No, we’re not going to see the hens today.”

IMG_3435

Even the neighbours got stuck in to help us prepare our (no longer needed) parking spot for the hen house

IMG_6205

The infamous hen house

IMG_5060

Gordon Ramsay – 4 weeks old (named Gordon because he, who turned out to be a she, seemed to be very strong-minded from the beginning and still is to this day.)

IMG_5069

Gordon Ramsay and Kirsten Hüttemeier explore the raised beds

IMG_6259

Myrtle Allen all grown up and checking out our bikes

IMG_6270

The eggs come in all sizes – the pale ones are from the Lohman breed and the brown ones from the Cochin ladies

IMG_6322

Ciara, our resident hen whisperer, with Delia Smith

Christmas, Cocktails and an Underground Evening

IMG_5674I’ve never exactly seen myself as the bartender type, but when given the chance recently at The Union bar here in Copenhagen, I felt quite at home. I was invited, along with 19 other food bloggers, to take part in the Ballantine’s Christmas Reserve Whisky Workshop. The Union has that authentic speakeasy feel – it’s located deep in a basement, behind an anonymous door, down a back street near Nyhavn. Basically, you have to know about it to find it. Stepping inside it takes a few moments to adjust your vision to the low-lighting. Not dissimilar to stepping into a scene of  the Danish series Forbrydelsen (EN: ‘The Killing’), I imagine. It is totally fitting though and, once you’ve got your bearings, it’s an extremely comfortable place to hang out.

The evening was a mix of whisky history-telling, a tasting of 4 different Ballantine’s blended whiskys, and full, hands-on cocktail-making. I must admit I’ve always felt Scotch is a bit of an acquired taste, and I have until now been more of an Irish whiskey kind of girl.  But then, I suppose it’s in my blood. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the evening though. Somehow knowing more about the whisky-making process in general made it all taste just that bit more interesting.  I found the Christmas Reserve in particular to be very pleasant and just the name conjures up all sorts of Christmassy, fireside scenes in my mind.

Guided by The Union bartender extraordinaire, Geoffrey Canilao, we mixed 4 different cocktails using Ballantine’s Christmas Reserve (Clementine Bauble, Golden Saffron Martini, the Pinky and Spiced Hot Chocolate). The one that stood out most for me was the Pinky – specially created by The Union using the Christmas Reserve. To me, this cocktail is the perfect balance of sweet, sour and spice and it hit several of my weak spots – lime, caramel and sea salt. Well I’m nearly always sold at the mention of sea-salt, in particular when combined with something sweet. Of course I couldn’t wait to put my newly acquired skills from behind the bar with Geoffrey into action at home. So when my parents came to stay this weekend they had the pleasure of experiencing the Pinky (pictured above). What will you be drinking this Christmas?

The following are some photos that were taken (by Martin Kaufmann) at the workshop:

Imag_12_0509_5

My buddies ‘Starvefood’ and ‘Louilicious’ trying their hand behind the bar

Imag_12_0506_5

Yours truly, watching and learning

Imag_12_0480_5

Geoffrey waxing lyrical about cocktail making

Imag_12_0474_5

Well and truly shaken, not stirred

 

The Pinky
Serves 2

6 cl Ballantine’s Christmas Reserve
2 dessertspoons pink peppercorns (also known as Baie Rose)
2 cl caramel syrup
2 cl freshly squeezed lime
Crushed ice
Sea salt flakes

A few days in advance pour the peppercorns into a small jar/glass full of the caramel syrup, cover and leave to infuse. Remove the peppercorns from the caramel before using it in the cocktail.

Pour all the ingredients into a chilled shaker and shake until mixed well. Serve in chilled cocktail glasses, topped with a few sea salt flakes.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Pan-Fried Carrot Strips

Halloween has always been celebrated in a big way in Ireland, where I come from. When I was growing up it was more about dressing up, spooking each other, playing games such as apple bobbing rather than today’s popular ‘trick or treating’. Irish folklore has strong links with Halloween, which is said to be linked with the Irish end-of-harvest festival, Samhain – a time when the door to the Otherworld was believed to open enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings such as harmful spirits and fairies, to come into our world. People took steps to try and ward off these harmful demons, which are thought to have influenced today’s Halloween customs, such as dressing up, carving pumpkins into lanterns etc. As well as being used to light one’s way while outside on Samhain night, the carved lanterns may also have been used to represent the spirits/fairies and to protect oneself and one’s home from them.

In the 18 years I have lived in Denmark, I have seen my adopted homeland increasingly embrace the traditions of Halloween. With this, the popularity of the pumpkin has grown enormously and opened up a whole new market for producers on the fertile island of Samsø, for example. My favourite pumpkins for cooking are Butternut squash or Hokkaido and the below soup is a good way of sampling them. Happy Halloween!

Serves 4

For the soup
500g pumpkin, de-seeded and peeled
2 onions
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 sticks lemongrass
1 red chili
1 dessertspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 dessertspoon cold-pressed rapeseed oil
600ml vegetable stock
1 tin coconut milk
salt and pepper

For the topping
4 carrots
1 dessertspoon cold-pressed rapeseed oil
coriander
creme fraiche
roasted & salted pumpkin seeds

Chop the pumpkin into cubes. Peel and chop the onion. Cut the top and bottom off the lemongrass, remove the outer layers and chop the sticks finely. Remove the seeds from the chili and chop.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and sweat the onions gently for a few minutes. Add the pumpkin, crushed garlic, lemongrass, ginger and chili. Pour in the stock, cover and leave the soup to simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft.

Remove from the heat and puree the soup with a blender until smooth. Return to the heat. Add the coconut milk and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the topping, peel the carrots and slice into strips using a peeler or mandolin. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the carrot strips until crispy-ish.

Serve the soup topped with creme fraiche, fried carrot strips, coriander and salted pumpkin seeds.

I found the above recipe in the Danish food magazine ‘Sæson’, published for free by saesonforgodsmag.dk

Source for Halloween information: Wikipedia