In shooting jargon the term ‘ release pen’ is slightly misleading as really you want the poults to stay in for as long as possible to develop a good sense of ‘home’. One of the techniques used to achieve this is the use of pop holes, one way openings in the pen’s perimeter which allow the young birds to get back in if they flutter over the netting. These contraptions should have in place on B’s pen a fortnight ago when the birds arrived, but a delayed order for them has meant the job of rounding up escapees being done manually. Each morning B or I, or occasionally both of us have opened the gate and patiently driven the birds round the pen and in.
I’ve cobbled together pop holes from scratch, using grates and chicken wire lots of time, but being faced with a pre-made flat pack was a little bemusing – not least because it involved reading instructions which we all accept is an entirely unnatural act for the male of our species. In the end it wasn’t as taxing as I feared and we had them in within the hour.
Growing pop corn is a new project for this year and to my great relief ‘Brit Pop’ turns out to have rather pretty pink silks, unlike the normal sweetcorn. This is good because I made no record of which were which after planting, trusting instead to my memory!
Dinner – Rolled mutton chops with garlic and basil tomatoes
My parents produce the best mutton imaginable by running on wethers for two or three years. Usually I like to slow or pot roast it, but when the meat is this good it works wonderfully served pink.
- 4 Mutton or lamb chops (loin or best end)
- 3tsp dried oregano
- 2tsp dried thyme
- 2tbs red wine vinegar
- 2tbs vegetable or olive oil
- 5 ripe tomatoes cut in half
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- small handful fresh basil roughly chopped (I know you’re meant to tear it, but what the hell)
- Remove bones from the chops and trim excess fat.
- Combine the other ingredients from the first list in a bowl, add the chops and stir carefully to coat the meat. Leave to marinate for at least 4 hours.
- Put the crushed garlic in a metal baking tray, put the tomatoes on top, season and roast in a hot oven.
- While the tomatoes roast, roll the marinated chops and thread them onto skewers.
- Grill or barbecue the chops for roughly 4 mins per side and put aside to rest.
- The tomatoes should be cooked by now. Put the baking tray on the hob and boil off some of the liquor, then stir in the basil and allow it to wilt.
- Slide the chops off the skewers and serve piled with the tomatoes.