I have finally joined a CSA – which stands for Community Supported Agriculture – to be more precise I am now the proud owner of a share in Silver Lake Farms CSA. In a nut shell you sign up for a weekly selection of locally grown farm produce on line and once you’ve registered and paid for the first six weeks, a big box arrives on your doorstep.
Oh the anticipation and excitement I felt last Friday with the first delivery – like Christmas, Easter and my birthday rolled into one – only better because it’s like bringing a taste of the farm in Devon home to California, a box of Proustian memories of eating freshly grown farm to table fruits and veggies in a box.
I am a farmer’s daughter – one of said farmer’s four daughters. We all grew up taking the beauty of the rolling Devon hills for granted. Over the years my father has farmed different animals – currently he farms a rare breed called White Park. The beef is supposedly so good the king of England called for his sword and knighted his steak – hence the term Sir Loin. I adore my Bickleigh Bag – made from a fluffy White Park hide that has been cured in Italy and stitched together by the designer Bill Amberg. People suspect it’s fur but it’s shaggy from the cow hide. These bags are more rare than the breed that they are made from – each one numbered with a special tag. For Christmas we were given a White Park hide for our new house – not sure if we will bring it back in our hand luggage this summer or if it’s already on its way on the Slow Boat, via China?!
One of the highlights of the Silver Lake Farms CSA is that there are various add-ons to the basic family order – I chose a dozen farm eggs and the most beautiful bunch of naturally grown Silver Lake Farms flowers – PRETTY! The eggs will alleviate the ever growing desire to keep hens, transferring that energy into bees perhaps and the flowers have inspired a whole new project that is in its infancy and not fully formed but hugely exciting. Here’s an initial still life I’ve called Think Pink.
Long before rare breeds were fashionable we had two large Gloucester Old Spot sows – Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth. There was Rambo the ram that we bottle fed from a lamb, the jersey cow that everyone loved, various fluffy legged chickens and punk rock bantams and sometimes ponies – Bluebell, Charlie, Toffee, Tramp and Peanuts that my father dutifully put up with. The bigger headache were the donkeys – Hercules, who I rode as a baby, and Mrs. White. They were always getting out until they were finally retired to the Donkey Sanctuary.
Then there were the goats, which I learned to milk by hand very early on. Mummy would make cheese for Harrods and win prizes at county shows.
Some of these animals were pets but some of them went on to become supper!
We have always had a bountiful supply of freshly grown vegetables from the polly-tunnel on the farm – tomatoes, runner beans, potatoes, herbs, leeks, peppers, cougettes and more. It’s exciting to share this with Minty and Rémy when we visit the farm. Last year Minty picked and carried a giant marrow from the polly-tunnel up to the house for supper. There was one summer – the hot drought of 1976 I believe or maybe it was Silver Jubilee year, 1977 – when we have a whole field of peas and the dreaded summer of 1996 when Daddy grew hundreds of delicately scented sweet peas for my wedding that never happened, I called it off just as the first flowers were blooming. I am sure my love of the farmers’ markets around town are all tied up in these childhood and early adult memories. With the pressures of life I make it to the farmers’ market a lot less than I would like and when I do it’s more often than not it’s work related and I leave with a lemon verbena plant and perhaps a bag of salad and a couple of tomatoes if I’m lucky. I might get to Santa Monica Farmers’ Market on a Wednesday only to have the time taken up catching up with chefs, farmers and friends. It’s far more of a social than a retail experience. So now I own a share in a multi-farm CSA thanks to Silver Lake Farms’ and the farmers’ market produce comes to me.
The first box contained two baby cauliflowers, a bigger head of cauliflower, a romanesco cauliflower, sugar snap peas, kohlrabi, asparagus, leeks, one bunch of celery root with the tops on, komatsuna and watercress aquaponic greens, baby lacinato kale and three punets of the sweetest most fragrant strawberries EVER. So my creative juices were thrown into overdrive – too much choice and what a wonderful selection – how could I do justice to these delicacies that have arrived in a cardboard box?
The baby kale was snacked on straight from the bag by me and then what was left was sautéed and used as the base for an omelet with those fresh eggs on Saturday morning. The leeks went into the farfalle pasta with bison meat sauce I cooked for sunday supper. The cauliflower went into the mashed potatoes alongside the asparagus, made to accompany the roast chicken legs and thighs on Tuesday. Still figuring out what to do with the kohlrabi… ideas please.The strawberries provided me with the biggest challenge – they were large and full of flavor and tasted just like the fat juicy strawberries we ate as we picked on the many visits we made to Pick Your Own farms during the summer that Penny, our nanny/farm girl/helper developed a giant crush on the young man who ran the strawberry farm. Minty and Rémy snacked on them every time they came into the kitchen and even as Minty cooked cupcakes for the twins birthday party she would munch on a strawberry.
Before the white parks Daddy had a dairy herd and milked cows twice a day. Fresh milk was then turned into thick cream using a device that looked pre-war, and possibly was, called the separator. The cream it made was so thick you could stand a spoon up in it. It was spooned over fresh fruit, churned into yellow butter or best of all was when the farmer’s wife, my step mother, would make the most decadent ice cream. I remember thick creamy chocolate and also strawberry.
Yes, the think pink would be for the strawberry ice-cream. I would replicate my step-mother’s ice-cream. I ‘m pretty sure she never used eggs – I suspect it was pure cream, strawberries and some sugar. Taking out the egg usually found in a custard based ice-cream makes for a very simple recipe. I added a good glug of cassis, but feel free to leave it out, it’s not essential but it does make it even more special. All the ingredients are blended together and then put into the ice cream maker. Simply delicious and pretty in pink – so much so Minty set up a photo shoot before she ate hers.
Strawberry Ice Cream Recipe
2 cups fresh ripe fragrant strawberries
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup Greek yogurt (you can use another cup of cream but this lightens the recipe and gives depth of flavor)
½ – 1 cup powdered sugar – depending on the sweetness of the strawberries used
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup cassis (optional)
Makes 2 pots
What to do:
- Freeze the ice cream bowl of your Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment.
- Place all the ingredients into the Vitamix and blend until pale pink and no seeds remain. Chill in the refrigerator.
- Place the frozen ice cream bowl onto the (pink!) Kitchen Aid stand mixer and pour in the chilled strawberry/cream mixture.
- Turn on and churn for about 10 minutes until the pale pink ice cream turns to thick ice cream. Transfer to freezer in containers (I used recycled Talenti ice cream pots) or for softer ice-cream you can serve immediately.