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sheepish

eG Foodblog: Sheepish (2012) - Eating and drinking in a Welsh farmhous

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I thought I'd use blog-eve as chance for a brief introduction.

I'm Rob. I live just outside a village, around 35 miles North West of Cardiff, in Wales. For those of your not familiar with the principality, it’s the blob of land attached to the left of England. Mostly hills and mountains that tends to flatten out towards the coast.

I have an 80 acre farm on which I keep an ever growing flock of Welsh-Mountain sheep, plus occasional Tamworth pigs and Welsh Black cattle. I'm not a farmer though, as any of my farming neighbours will attest to. I pay the bills “doing computer stuff” for a big telecommunications company, although mostly I can work from home which is great for me.

I grew up in London, England, but have been living in Wales for nearly 20 years. I share the house with my wife and two small children.

Food wise, I’ll eat and drink pretty much anything. I particularly like to investigate offal, although Mrs Sheepish isn’t so keen.

So this week I’m going to try and show you the sort of things we usually eat, with a bit of bias to Welsh ingredients and recipes where possible. I’m very keen on Sichuan food too though, so there’ll be some of that. Plus Mrs Sheepish has a birthday next Saturday and as has become traditional I shall be attempting to knock up a relatively fancy meal for 2, so there’ll be a fair bit of prep for that. Oh, and Mrs Sheepish is Irish so there’ll be a bit of influence from even further to the left.

Here's a couple of library pictures to give you an idea of where we are.

Track from the farm towards the village

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Looking down from fields to the village

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Last year's Tamworths

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I’ll leave it at that for now. Tomorrow, food! And hope you don’t get bored until at least Tuesday.

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I looked up Welsh Mountain Sheep and apparently they are both for fleece and eating. What do you do with yours? How many do you have? Do you keep herding dogs? Do you sell the sheep for others to eat? Thanks.

Yes, I am interested in sheep. Used to work with fleece in another life.

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This should be interesting! Looking forward to the next update.

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A foodblog from you, Rob. Splendid. And a nice hit of nostalgia from that first pic.

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Rob – Thank you for doing the blog this week, I look forward to following along. Looks like you are in a gorgeous location, that’s a lovely view of the town.

I have a sudden hankering for Sichuan pork, and I blame you. Perhaps you can do something about that . . .

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Gorgeous countryside -- and nice-looking pigs, too! I'm looking forward to this.

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I'm so looking forward to your foodblog. It must be my Scottish heritage but I long for a day when I can buy mutton online in the US.

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Very much looking forward to your blog. Will this be more "village focused"? Sechuan cooking and offal...Welsh ingredients...Irish food...wonderful teasers. :smile:

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Food and drink update!

As it's the first thing my eyes finally begin to focus on I should introduce you to my cafetiere. A masterpiece of the cafetiere makers art. No matter what angle or pour velocity you choose it dumps a sample of your chosen beverage (mostly coffee) onto the table next to your mug.

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This is breakfast every day I work from home. I'm not a fan of early morning eating. But by mid morning I'm getting peckish and what better way to break fast than with a slice or two or Bara Brith. Mrs Sheepish is outraged I've chosen to showcase shop bought Bara Brith but as I'm not detecting the delicious aromur of a freshly baked loaf this will have to do.

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Bara Brith is a bit of a Welsh institution. A moist fruit bread that distinguishes itself with the addition of tea to the ingredients. I think you soak the fruit in the tea. Never made it myself, I can find out the details if anyone is interested. Anyway, it's jolly good. Bara is the Welsh word for bread. No idea what Brith means, but I don't think it's fruit.

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Later on we'll be returning to an Irish childhood memory with boiled pork ribs. I've had these before. They're worth looking out for....

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Quick update on the sheep for those who asked. Currently have 40 breeding ewes, although I bought another 30 last month, just need to arrange delivery. They are primarily for meat. Fleece purchase is a monopoly in the UK, but as of last year we've started getting paid more than a couple of pence per fleece, although still not enough to cover sheering costs if you employ someone to do it. Welsh Mountain fleece is rough and oily. Excellent mountain weather protection. Not so good for a nice soft jumper. We keep a few lambs to grow on into their second year and then have them slaughtered for our freezer. The rest get sold through livestock markets. I have an un-herding dog. I run around pushing the sheep into a coherent group, and then she runs through the middle and disperses them. I really don't have enough sheep to justify a herding dog. They need a lot of work to keep them fit and interested. The theory would be to continue expanding the flock and make use of the common grazing rights on the mountains behind the farm. Then a dog would be a necessity to go and collect them.

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Looking forward to seeing more food on the hoof. Love the fruit bread on a Hello Kitty plate. This week should be fun. From perusing the web,looks like brith means "spotted," which makes sense.

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Tamworth is a breed few farmers around here (mid-Atlantic U.S.) raise and that is a shame. The best pork I've eaten came from a farmer who raises Tamworths but his farm is located an hour and a half from here and he no longer comes to the farmers market nearby.

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Quick update on the sheep for those who asked.

Thanks so much for your answer. Good of you to do it.

I love lamb, even mutton. DH hates it and will not eat it. When we are on the Navajo reservation in NM, I order mutton stew...Ed does not. End of story.

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Looking forward to this one Boyo! Tamworth and Welsh Black are two of my favourite breeds of meat. Do we get to see some butchery this week?

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Looking forward to this one Boyo! Tamworth and Welsh Black are two of my favourite breeds of meat. Do we get to see some butchery this week?

Probably not too much butchery this week. I might be pulling some ribs from a lamb breast tomorrow. So here are some butchey library pics in lieu. You might spot this fella was a Welsh pig rather than a Tamworth.

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Was butchery something you got interested in after (if indeed you did) you moved out of the city? Did you take a course on butchering your own animals?

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Was butchery something you got interested in after (if indeed you did) you moved out of the city? Did you take a course on butchering your own animals?

Until I moved out of the city I was a vegan, so yes only really interested out in the sticks :-) Learned from books and a DVD. I'm not a great butcher, but it's very satisfying to do yourself, if slow. Turning 3 whole pig carcasses into joints, bacon and sausages is an exhausting way to spend a weekend.

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Ohhhhh you live in such a beautiful place!

Thanks in advance for sharing your life this week . :)

I've butchered a hog or two in my lifetime. Boy did they stink--had to wash them off. :blink:

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Rob, thanks for sharing and putting your part of the UK on the map so to speak.

Couple of questions.

Clearly the price of lamb is now, as I understand quite good for farmers, but is it really cost effective or profitable to rear these days.

I have heard nearly all of a pig is put to use when butchered. Do you manage to utilise all of the carcass?

Homemade Bara brith was really enjoyed last year in North Wales, strangley enough in sad curcumstances, at my best friend,s funeral.

It was the only time we have eaten it and vowed to try making it sometime.

Perhaps now is that time. :smile:

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I've a recipe for Bara Brith (speckled bread) handed down from my maternal great-great grandmother (Arnietha Davies) that, unlike most recipes, uses yeast.

I've cut it down from the original, which made seven loaves, to a single loaf and modernized it to where one doesn't need to grate the sugar off a loaf.

I'd love to see photos of your kitchen too.

I love the photos of the Tamworths. I recently watched a British mystery where a painting that included Tamworths was a critical clue in solving the mystery.

Lovely countryside.

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Oh, Rob! With that picture of the village, you took my heart! I am madly in love with your part of the world – England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Only been once (just last spring) and Mr. Kim went to Ireland in August, but with an English stepdad, I’ve loved it and dreamed of it forever! When we were in England we SO wanted to come to Wales. We were as far west as Stroud, so it wouldn’t have been difficult, but we could only cram so much into the short time we had. We loved everything we saw and did, but the villages were our favorites! And we came home with about 200 pictures of sheep! I am looking forward to this blog very, very much! Along with all the obligatory pictures, I’d love to see your house and surrounding land!

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Well I'm pleasantly surprised that thus far I haven't induced narcolepsy into all of eGullet. So onwards and upwards, and this evening it's boiled pork ribs with champ. This is a dish from my wife's childhood. She's from County Armagh in Northern Ireland. If you don't know what a Northern Irish accent sounds like, listen to the word Brad Pitt uses 75% of the way through each sentence in the film Snatch as his "Irish" accent veers from Wicklow to Antrim.

Take some pork ribs. This is where my poor butchery comes into its own because there's a nice chunk of loin left stuck to these.

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You probably don't want the spine bit, although my dog does, so saw that off really quickly (or use a slow exposure on your camera).

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Simmer the ribs in well salted water for an hour or so. Meanwhile boil some potatoes. Mrs Sheepish's tip is to put the drained potatoes back in the hot pan to steam out some of their water and prevent the mash becoming soggy.

Add a tiny smear of butter

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Add a pile of spring onions. Mrs Sheepish calls these scallions, but she's from Ireland and so doesn't speak English properly like I do. Spring onions!

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Serve with a bottle of two of Gwynt y Ddraig cider. Made about 10 miles from here in Pontypridd.

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Delicious

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Told you

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David. As you say, lamb prices are going up and up. I'm very much like an international pop star in that I have a very poor grasp of what lamb cost at the butchers because I never buy any. Last summer Mrs Sheepish was trying to kick start a local farmers market and sold some of our lamb. We had to price up the joints and I was amazed at how much it sells for in a supermarket. My understanding is that as China and India get wealthier they are buying up more lamb. That might be from New Zealand rather than the UK, but the lack for New Zealand lamb in Europe then pushes up the prices here. I'm very un-commercial because it really is a hobby for me, but reckon on about £35 profit per lamb. It can make you a living if you have enough land. Would it pay the mortgage on a farm you buy? Probably not. But then nothing will really. You also have to factor in the complex world of subsidies but I'd still think it's a very hard way to eek out a living if you don't get a farm handed down to you from your parents.

The only bit of a pig that the dog might see are the lungs. I can use some lung. But a lot of lungs I struggle with. Everything else though, yep, eaten. If I can find some in Cardiff on Friday I'll buy some faggots, if nothing else to give American readers a giggle. They would be the traditional Welsh way to use up the squidgy bits from a pig.

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I'd love to see photos of your kitchen too.

I've told Mrs Sheepish to clean it up first.

Only joking. She's reading these posts. :-) But in all seriousness, it needs a wipe down before I'm going to reveal it!

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I can see why the boiled pork ribs would be tender and tasty. I love them when I simmer the ribs for one of my favourite Chinese vegetable soups - with bok choy, celery, carrots, and ginger. :wub:

I will be interested in seeing what you do with the pig stomach and large intestine!

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