I’m standing on line in McCalls waiting my turn when my phone rings, it’s Daddy. He’s excited to share that the Farm was featured on the telly today on BBC’s Countryfile. BBC Countryfile visits the White Parks on the Farm:
Through a host of golden daffodils lining the lane, the verdant rolling hills of Devonshire popped on to my screen – Oh to be in England now that April’s there. To see the green fields, the hedgerows, the centuries old beech and oak trees that line the lane, the giant pots of daffodils in front of the house – this is the Farm in all her springtime glory.
Easter is my favorite holiday of the year to be at the Farm, it’s all I can do to stop myself hopping on a plane for a quick visit. The primroses, Rococo chocolates, fresh farm eggs with orange yolks and soldiers for Sunday breakfast, muddy walks in boots, the grand Easter egg hunt around the farm, the early evening light making long shadows on the edges of the higgledy-piggledy green fields – I’m not sure if seeing it all helps or makes the homesickness worse.
It was so lovely to see Audrey – 19 years old – and Ferdinand – the steer with the super long horns, both beautifully shot with a bright blue sky as a backdrop. These White Parks are now kept on the farm, out to pasture as it were, they are Daddy’s pets more than farm animals being raised for meat or to produce calves. As Adam says, Daddy is a real softy when it comes to certain of his ‘friends’. Audrey was the first calf born on The Farm 19 years ago. Obviously an A name being year one – we are now up to the letter S. Audrey was very naughty as a young heifer, she produced a lot of calves and is now enjoying her retirement, chewing the cud.
Daddy explains the rich history of the White Park – how Sir Winston Churchill sent a bull and two cows to America incase the Germans invaded England during the second world war.
He also tells the Knighthood of the Beef story – how King James the First, son of Mary Queen of Scots and of bible fame, was so pleased with his steak that he called for his sword and knighted his White Park steak at Hoghton Tower, near Preston, Lancashire, in 1617. 400 years later and we still refer to this cut as Sir Loin – sirloin.
Nathan shows off an aged rack of ribs of a White Park from the Farm by cooking up a steak for Adam in a pan on top of a little burner.
Nathan talks about the meat with an understanding for its provenance and how this is integral not just to it being a rare breed of the finest British Beef but also to the rich depth of flavor in the steak that came from an animal that grazed on the lush green grass of the Devon hillsides.
As we end our brief phone call Daddy tells me they are about to put the animals out – the White Parks will be roaming the green hills, munching on fresh grass, rather than their winter diet of silage.
So tonight I cooked an homage to The Farm for our family Sunday supper – a hearty beef stew – sadly not White Park Stew – but the closest I can get here in LA. This is my idea of comfort food, thick tasty gravy, chunks of meat, softened veggies all out of a single pot – reminds me of my childhood:
Gravy and potatoes in a good brown pot
put them in the oven, and serve them hot!
Beatrix Potter’s Appely Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes (1917)
The woman behind the counter at McCalls carefully selected and cut the leanest of grass fed chuck steak. I had delicious farm to table veggies including rainbow carrots, onion, potatoes and parsnips that Paul Feig brought to the Bu this weekend (note to self Great Hostess Gift for a homesick farm girl). And then behind the counter I spot the last Rhubarb and Strawberry pie – Didier’s favorite.
And most importantly the perfect vehicle for good old Devon custard.
BBC Countryfile visits the White Parks on the Farm – Inspires a Devon ‘White Park’ Stew
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 lbs grassed Beef chuck – preferably White Park – cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 large onion, cut into large dice
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Pinch of chili flakes
Bunch of Rainbow Carrots cut into 2 inch pieces
4 parsnips – cut into 2 inch pieces
4 small potatoes – cut into quarters
2 cups wine – I used dry white but red works just as well
2 tablespoons Cognac
2 cups beef stock
bunch of thyme
What to do
- In a large Le Creuset heat the olive oil and add the beef to brown – stirring to move the pieces around. Add the onion and cook on high heat for about 5 minutes.
- Add the paprika, Worcestershire Sauce, tomato paste, red chili flakes and a generous amount of freshly grated black pepper,
- Add the carrots, parsnips and potatoes and sweat for a couple of minutes.
- Add the wine to de-glaze the pan and the cognac and stock.
- Add the thyme – I add it all – stalks and leaves because you can removed the stalks just before serving. If the meat and vegetables aren’t immersed in liquid you can top it up with a little water or extra wine.
- Once boiling reduce the heat to medium high and cook for 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about an hour to reduce the gravy and cook the meat and vegetables.
- The potatoes will be cooked through and soft – mash a couple on the side of the pan and stir in to sauce to help thicken it.
- Remove thyme stalks and ladle into shallow soup bowls. Serve immediately.