THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Mar14

The Foie Gras That Tastes Like Nature

Ethical Foie Gras? Is That A Real Thing?

 

Foie gras – can it be ‘grown’ ethically? The video showing how this farmer works suggests it can…

We first read about this in a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber. I loved it and I love how Eduardo the farmer, who farms on the Dehesa in Spain, has a ‘take half leave half rule’. When talking about how the geese eat his olives…

“They’re always quite fair. If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s way of thanking us for providing so much good food for the geese.”

This sharing attitude eventually makes him more money!

But it is not just him that has to share. The geese do as well, when they lose half of their eggs to hawks. That is half of his potential profits, but is it a problem?

“I don’t think so. It’s why nature has a goose lay so many eggs. There has to be enough to pay the revolutionary tax for living outside.”

How great is that?

A Foie Gras That Looks Funny

Eduardo’s foie gras is different. Normally foie gras has a yellow colour, which comes from corn. But his livers are grey, so people wouldn’t buy them. Then one day his geese spent the time on his farm eating lupins. He noticed it changed the colours of their livers to the yellow that was expected.

So now he allows the geese to feast on lupins.

They also eat the acorns from the Holm Oak, which is what gives the famous Jamon iberico its distinction too.

“The geese eat tons of acorns, but if they don’t move around, if they don’t eat all this grass, the acorns are nothing.”

He thinks the grass makes the acorns taste sweet, so more grass means the geese eat more acorns. Healthy animals not just eating fat, but getting balance in their diet.

“The aim of a goose it to seek conditions that are conducive to life, to happiness. When they come here, that is what they find.”

And so Eduardo finds many wild geese come to his farm, and stay. Can you imagine a chicken going to a poultry farm in the UK and wanting to stay?

foie gras chickens

 

The Taste Of His Foie Gras

Is described as a sweet, deeply flavoured livery liver. ‘It was a whole lot of liver flavoured by a little fat,’ rather than the other way around, as you normally find with foie gras that is farmed.

“The fat should be integrated, should carry the flavour.”

Eduardo says he seasons his livers in the field, before the harvest. That if they are fed plants with a salinity to them, they will be salty, whilst other plants provide peppery qualities. So he makes available the plants they might like, then they decide what to eat.

It makes me wonder could you raise other animals on land that flavours them as you go. Pigs on coffee plantations perhaps? After all, with wine people talk about how the terroir (the land) gives a flavour to the product. It also suggests each part of the food chain that the final product feasts on must be good.Or else the flavour is affected all the way along.

The Personality Of A Goose

Eduardo knows you cannot force a goose, you cannot mollycoddle it.

“What’s winter to a goose that’s had food delivered to him for six months? Geese are too smart for this. Why gorge when they know the next meal is coming? They cannot be tamed. They have to feel wild to kickstart that instinct for gorging.”

They must work within the bounty of the seasons, they must forage in amongst the trees of the Dehesa as well as in the pasture. This work foraging also helps change the flavour, as the animal is working, moving the body.

Dan Barber speaks in his book about how tasting this foie gras makes you think about the goose, the ecology behind it, the culture and cuisine that supports this system of eating….

“Our modern way of eating supports the opposite. It dumbs down nature. It makes a duck liver – or a loin of lamb, a chicken breast, or a cheeseburger – taste the same whether you’re in Scarsdale or Scotsdale, in June or January. Which, in a way, dumbs us down too.”

You can read more about ethical foie gras in the brilliant, brilliant book by chef Dan Barber ‘The Third Plate’.

Sep29

New Topiary In South London Out Of Yew

Making a new topiary out of the large, dull facade of a Taxus blob… My work was to change it up from a ‘jelly drop’ shape and give it texture, open it out and let the light through, and make it a sculptural feature in the background of the garden in summer… yet a major part of the garden in winter. A few more years before it becomes something special, but there was far more leaf and growth inside the plant than I thought and so it will not take too long for it to gain in character and become …

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Sep27

Topiary Teacher – Put on The Spot!

topiary teacher

Two weeks ago I was invited to teach topiary at the garden of Griselda Kerr, the author of The Apprehensive Gardener. I love teaching and sharing skills, but I was placed on the spot in the afternoon and asked to show how I would make a new topiary from an existing shrub. So below is a speeded-up video of me creating a cloud-pruned topiary from an old boxwood tree. I particularly love the ending when the class get involved….! See the video here. One hour was all it took, and though it needed a little tidying-up, it was made by …

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Sep27

Book Yourself A Topiary Workshop 2022

organic topiary snow

Charlotte Molesworth, my topiary mentor, and I are running our popular topiary workshop again in 2022. You can email me for details – or go here for information, your ticket and to find out about dates. Book A Spot On A Topiary Workshop, September 2022