Thursday, 25 April 2013

Love your farmer: Kilrenny Farm


 Over the years I have come to realize that being a good home cook is one part passion, one part skill and one part quality ingredients.  It seems to me that none of these aspects can stand on their own.  You can have the best skills in the world, but without good ingredients, your food isn't going to taste good.  Or you can have all the passion of a latin lover, but without the skills to actually cook the dish, you will end up fumbling in the dark. The reason why I write this blog is to inspire a passion for good food in my readers and to offer up some basic skills in the kitchen to give you the confidence to keep learning and trying new things.

However, one thing that I haven't done yet is talk about how to source out your food, which is half the battle to a good meal.  We are a single income family, so it is part of my job here to find the best quality ingredients at a price we can afford.  We are very fortunate here in the Cowichan Valley to have so many local farms and food producers.  And while many people know that we have this abundance here, everyone may not know where exactly to go to get it.  So I am going to start showcasing some of my favourite places to buy local food.  Now, I must say here, while I am willing to spend a little extra on food, primarily since we don't eat out very often, I can't go hog wild.  I am not always able to buy organic, but I try to as often as I can and when I can't, I buy as much locally grown food as possible.  This is where ideals and reality have had to form a relationship in our family and so far it is working for us.
Lovely madam hen as Julia Child would have called it.
She is one of the 10 that came home with me yesterday.
So yesterday I went to my favourite farm to pick up our chickens (roasters, not live) at one of my favourite farms.  When we moved to the Cowichan Valley 5 years ago, we were invited to a friends house for a post Thanksgiving supper.  We were served the most delicious turkey soup I had ever had and or course I asked where the turkey came from.  I was told from Kilrenny farm in Cowichan Bay.  I promptly got the phone
number and 5 years later, we are still very loyal customers.




Deborah Fahlman
Deborah and Russel Fahlman have been farming here in the valley for 25 years.  Their chickens are free run, non-medicated and given an all veggie feed.  They are very well cared for and have a flavour that I have yet to find anywhere else.  Their turkeys that they raise are also amazing, as I can testify from that soup.  They are free range and are also non-medicated and given an all veggie feed.  In addition to their beautiful poultry, they recently opened a farm gate store where they sell their homemade pastas and sauces.  These fresh pastas are wonderful, many of them made with organic or alternative grains.  In the spring and summer months they also produce beautiful heirloom tomatoes and other organic vegetables.

Farm Gate store where you can purchase pastas, chicken and vegetables.
Why I recommend them:  Deborah and Russel are committed to producing high quality, locally grown food that is worth every penny, but it won't break the bank.  They slaughter their chickens three times a year and we buy enough to fill our freezer.  I tend to buy 5-10 at a time so that I always have a chicken on hand for an easy meal.  I will often cut up 3 or 4 of the chickens and save the backs and necks for stock later.  It also makes it easy to cook up chicken quickly when they are in pieces and will save you a fortune from what you would buy at the grocery store.  Not to mention, with Deborah and Russel, you know your farmers, you know where your food comes from and you will end up saving money in the end.  Consider that I can buy a small package of chicken breasts at the grocery store that come from who-knows-where for the same price that I pay for a whole chicken at Kilrenny, the grocery store is not cheaper!  If you are reading this thinking, but I don't know how to cut up a chicken, no problem. For a long time, I didn't either.  Then I watched this and I learned it isn't so hard after all.  This really is a basic skill we all need to have.

You can find Kilrenny farm at 1470 Cowichan Bay road and at the Duncan Farmer's market on Saturdays.  Their farm shop is open Thursday to Sunday and I highly recommend that you stop in.  Developing a relationship with your farmer is a very important part of eating locally and buying the best ingredients you can afford is a vital part to home cooking.  If you don't live on Vancouver Island, I encourage you to start sourcing out your farmers.  Start at your local farmer's market, get to know the people who grow your food.  You may even be able to get a deal if you buy in large amounts, it never hurts to ask.  You will feel good about what you are eating and may even save some money in the end.







Perfect Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
olive oil
Maldon salt
1 Lemon
Fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or Herb de Provence

Preheat the oven to 400 ℉.  About a half hour before you are going to start cooking, take your chicken out of the fridge and wash and pat dry.  Let it rest for a few minutes to take the chill off of it.  Give the chicken a good massage with the unsalted butter, don't be shy.  Cut the lemon in half and put one half in the cavity, reserving the other half for later.  Drizzle a bit of Extra Virgin Olive oil on the out side of the chicken and season with the salt. If you have the herbs, put a good handful in the cavity and a few over top.  If you don't have any herbs, this will be just as good without them so not to worry.


Cook the chicken, uncovered in the hot oven for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until the juices run clear. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the chicken.  Once the chicken is cooked, take it out of the oven and squeeze the other half of the lemon over top, move to a board, tent it with foil and let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it.   

If you want to make a simple gravy, put your roasting pan on the stove, turn up the heat and add a cup of water.  Bring this to a boil and let it reduce.  You can add a bit of wine if you have it and test it for seasoning. Strain it into a jug and serve with potatoes and steamed veg.  I happened to have chives growing in the garden yesterday and they made the mashed potatoes so yummy.  Your house is going to smell like sunday lunch at your grandmother's house.

***Remember not to throw out the carcass!  You can either make a small batch of stock right away or put it in a freezer bag and use it another day.   

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