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Down on the farm making charcoal.

A mud charcoal making house.

This is the mud charcoal house where the charcoal is made primarily for fuel to cook…no mod cons here at all. Well not yet pretty much everything is done how it has always been done through the generations. The skills passed down and that is what I like here so much tradition still and in the main so much happiness.

But the lifestyle is hard there are some concessions to this and progress is slowly coming but much is still done the old way and by getting your hands dirty.

Making charcoal is an art…me I just said do you just throw the wood in and light it?….The look this crazy English lady got was a look of I suppose bemusement.

Of course you don’t, for a start the charcoal house cannot be built on or close to the water table or where the drainage is poor.

The wood must be properly stacked so that when it burning the air can circulate correctly but the beauty of it being on your land is that you can stack over a period time as you come across the wood.The wood must of course be dry and the time needed to complete the burn does depend on the moisture content of the wood and also the evenness of the stacking of the wood so this is all very important.

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WOOD DRYING PRIOR TO BEING STACKED.

Once it is correctly stacked it must be stacked vertically into the charcoal house then a fire is started or burning coals are put through the air vent at the top of the charcoal house once this has taken then the door must be sealed effectively to ensure proper air circulation.

The initial smoke which comes out through the top air vent and the air holes around the base is dense white smoke  which after a few days turns to a blueish colour finally it becomes practically clear smoke.

Once the burn is complete then the opening at the top of the charcoal house is sealed as are the bottom vents.

This then takes 2-3 days to cool down, when the earth kiln is cool it can be opened but there must be a supply of water available in case there are any  red fires still burning as they need to be extinguished.

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Once the charcoal is completely cold then it is bagged or put in baskets for home use or sale.

A typical fire for cooking on.

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Cooking the steak

This is a time-consuming and back-breaking task no one has an easy life here as I am finding out but kudos to them I am often just amazed and it has made me realise what an easy life I have had. With my running water, gas, electric all the mod cons and it has changed me and I hope for the better. When the house is built here yes there will be some luxuries but you know what I am not so bothered anymore.

 

I won’t be cooking over a small charcoal fire unless it is a BBQ but lots of things I used to have no longer hold the same allure for me it is definitely an eye opener and maybe not the life for everyone. Just for  this crazy, whimsical English lady  it is the life I have adopted and I love it!

If you missed my previous posts on Down on the farm I have added the links below. I hope you enjoy these posts please let me have your thoughts.

Down on the farm Jambulan Plum

How to make traditional Thai Pancakes

How to make your own Coconut Oil

Thank you for reading about my life in Thailand I do hope you enjoy it 🙂

 

Down on The farm… Thai Potatoes…

Thai potatoes which in Thai are called Man sam Palang but are also known as Cassava, Yuca or Tapioca root. It is widely grown throughout the east and north-east Thailand as cattle food  and also for starch and Tapioca flour.

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It is a very drought resistant vegetable and there are two main sorts sweet or bitter with a hard brown outer shell and yellow or white flesh. It is the bitter one which contains more of the chemical bound cyanide.

The smaller sweet rooted varieties which are used for desserts here in Thailand like the famous Khanom man sampalang where cooking is deemed to be enough to break down the cyanide.

There are a lot of warnings about eating raw roots and how they should be prepared carefully before eating as it can cause death.

Modern thinking is that it is not as dangerous as it was originally thought to be  however it is always wise to err on the side of caution.

This root should NOT be eaten raw.

Cooking is said to cause the cells to break down and the cyanide to be broken down which renders it safe to eat.

Thailand is the worlds largest importer of dried Cassava.

Down here on the farm it is grown for animal feed and to make flour. The potato is harvested when it is around 3-4months and the roots 30-45cm, harvested by hand although now some farmers use mechanical means generally the lower part of the stem is raised and the roots pulled from the ground.

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It is then cut into approx 15cm pieces and sun-dried for 2 days. As cattle feed it is high  in proteins and contains tannins and is  valued as  a good source of roughage for cattle food.

The cassava root which is going to be used for next seasons crop is soaked and treated for termites before planting prior to the next wet season.

The remainder of the outer shell from which the flesh is extracted is sometimes used for wood or just burnt as it has no further use. The picture below is the empty root with the flesh extracted.

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Other uses for the root  are:

To make starch for clothing.

To make tapioca, the tapioca beads are balls of Cassava. When fermented it is called garri.

Crackers for frying as in a previous post can be made from Tapioca flour. Thai pancakes

It is used in the making of MSG ..Monosodium glutamate.

Boiled as a vegetable it is similar to British potatoes.

Now for a recipe:

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Khanom  man sampalang is cross between a cake and a dessert and is very popular here in Thailand. It is thick, hearty, smooth and sticky. A steamed tapioca cake.

You will need:

2   cups of grated Cassava

6 tbsp of tapioca flour

1 tbsp of mung bean starch

1/2 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of coconut milk

1 cup of shredded coconut.

Food colouring

Let’s Cook!

 

Put all ingredients except salt and shredded coconut in a bowl. Mix well for 5 minutes get your hands in there and work it until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the colour and mix well to combine. Add 1/2 cup of the shredded coconut and salt and mix together. Set to one side.

Put small cups into a steamer and pour some mixture into each cup. Steam for 15 minutes then either stir in the remainder of the shredded coconut or spread over the top of the cake. before serving. If you spread over the top then it is lovely toasted before spreading over the top of the cake.

Enjoy!

It was also time to plant some more banana trees as the land has been built up and there are lots of bananas for frying and making Somtam..A thai salad where banana is used instead of green papaya. These ones are for eating and the trees don’t grow as tall as the other banana trees the bananas are lovely eating ones and a nice sized banana.The rice has just been planted also and it is fingers crossed that this last down pour didn’t wash all the rice away…Time will tell.

I hope that you enjoyed this trip down on the farm. Some more posts on life in rural Thailand can be found on  my Niume posts.

I do hope that you enjoy my tales of life on the farm. This weeks post was going to be about our new baby turkeys which we went to collect on Saturday . Unfortunately there was very high winds and very heavy torrentail rains during this last week and the chicks got too cold and died. I was so sad as we were looking forward to getting them and settling them in their new home. The plus side was we got to see the baby calves one which had only just been born which will be our next acquisition. He was so very cute and beautiful.

Down on the farm..Star Apple

Down on the farm Snake Gourd Raita

Down on the farm our 1st Passion Fruit

Until next time stay safe and laugh a lot …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sala Keoku Sculpture Park. Thailand

Featuring giant sculptures is Sala Keoku sculpture park in Nong Khai close to the Laos border.

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This first picture helps you to put into perspective how high these sculptures are. See how they tower over everything.

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The park features giant concrete sculptures some 25 metres or more high they are gigantic and the park has in excess of 100 statutes I think it is made all the more amazing as there are so many and all close to one another. The sculptures were inspired by Buddhism and Hinduism  thus contain images of Buddha, Vishnu, Shiva, a goddess of multiple arms, Naga snakes and all kind of human/animal hybrids.

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Legend tells us that a young man called Luang pu bun Sulilat  fell  into a cave where he met a hermit called Keoku who became his spiritual mentor, after completing an apprenticeship and graduating he began sculpting and in 1958 built his first concrete garden in Laos. This park is called Buddha Park and is near the town of Vietienne in Laos.

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When the communists came to power Sulilat was very afraid that his unorthodox views would not be understood and he escaped over the border into Thailand. He was very popular locally and in 1978 he started on the construction of Sala Keoku aided by donations of building materials from the  local areas. The park actually took 20 years to complete and became something of  a religious headquarters. It is not a Wat ( temple) but many people come here to pray.

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After a bad fall from one of hs sculptures Sulilat died from his injuries. His body is buried in the main building which has many pictures of Sulilat throughout his life and is almost as strange as the sculptures he crafted it is also claimed by his faithful followers  that his hair still grows.

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If you get opportunity to visit this lovely quirky park then it will not disappoint and afterwards you can go down to the banks of the Mekong and either watch a sunset like this one..

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Or wander through the market which sells many lovely goods from neighbouring Laos and Cambodia and the prices are very reasonable and the Laos whiskey is very nice. Just saying.

Thank you for reading this and please feel free to share or reblog.

Until next time stay safe and laugh a lot .

Down on the Farm…Jambulan Plum.

Down on the farm this Jambulan plum- tree is another tree which is bearing fruits for us and another one which I have not seen or tasted before now …It is so exciting all these wonderful tasting fruits that are coming into season.

Jambulan is a nutritious seasonal fruit found in abundance in Asia. It’s season is April to July. It can be found growing in forests, backyards and along the roadsides. Naturally it has a single seed . The hybrid varieties are seedless.

A purplish black oval- shaped fruit when it is mature has a sweet and sour flavour which can be acidic and astringent. It is rich in the plant pigment anthocyanin and if you eat too much it is likely to leave you with  a purple tongue and you may get the same feeling as I did when as a kid I ate too much of that sour lemon sherbet which made your fingers where you dipped and licked wrinkly and your tongue tingle. Who remembers that??

It can be used to make Jams and jellies but due to the very low pectin levels must be mixed with a fruit with high pectin or a commercial pectin substitute.

It makes a lovely accompaniment for pulao or a rice pilaf. Just mix chopped deseeded Jambulan with fresh yogurt and combine . Add chopped coriander and powdered cumin and stir. Taste and season with salt.

The pulp is used to makes sauces and fermented beverages like shrub, cider and wine. Now if you are wondering what shrub is ( and I was) it is flavoured vinegar. Which makes wonderful drinks with soda and ice or with cocktails…But that is another post for another day.

Jambulan Jelly.

13/4 cups of chopped and seeded Jambulan.

1 1/4 cups of water

1/2 cup of liquid pectin

1/2 cup lemon or lime juice.

7 cups of sugar.

Combine the Pectin,juice and water with the Jumbulan and bring to a fast, rolling boil. Add the sugar and stirring bring to a fast rolling boil for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat and skim of any foam. Pour quickly into hot pre sterilised jars and seal.

N.B: If the fruit is too astringent then it can be soaked in salt water before cooking.

 

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The Jambulan plum can also be known as Java plum, black plum and Jambul it is also often eaten just as a healthy snack sometimes with a little salt to taste. It is rich in vitamins,minerals, anti oxidants and flavonoids.

The fruit, seeds, bark and leaves all have medicinal properties and it is believed to have its origins in Neolithic times. In  India it is known as  ” Fruit of the Gods

They can vary in size due to the soil and the weather conditions but can survive and thrive in dry , humid conditions.

The seeds when dried and powdered  are a known effective treatment for diabetes. Bark powder mixed with the juice of the fruit is an effective treatment for coughs and colds. Leaves when they are ground are effective against dysentery and also for healing wounds.

Bark powder is also used as a cure for tapeworm. I am always amazed when I come across fruits like this as to how much they are still relied on in the villages  here as cures for so much.

When I got stung by a jellyfish a couple of years ago one of the ladies in a close by restaurant went and picked some leaves crushed them and mixed them with something and put it on my sting and gave me the rest to take home and apply when needed ….It worked..

At the time I was in so much pain and I didn’t ask the name of what she mixed it with or the name of the leaves she picked  but my point being she knew what to use and it was obviously a remedy which had been passed down.

I am not saying that conventional medicine is not an option at all as sometimes it is a necessity and has saved many lives but there are times when if we know what to use we can find very effective drug free ways to heal and cure ourselves and our families.

I hope you enjoyed learning about this little fruit I hope to bring you a few more I habe at least one more which is ripe and ready to eat so until next time.

Stay safe and laugh a lot 🙂

Down on the farm…… Snake gourd Raita.

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Everything in the garden is coming up roses as the saying goes it looks like we will have fruit and vegetables galore.

Some of the fruit and vegetables I am familiar with as you can get them almost everywhere.

Others are very new to me and I am having to do a little research as sometimes there isn’t an English pronunciation for the Thai word.

This one looks quite creepy I think and I was quite expecting to see a snake so I go along quite gingerly watching where I tread.

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Snake Gourd Riata.

2 cups of natural yoghurt.

2 small snake gourds diced.

The snake gourd has a naturally occurring waxy white surface so rub some salt on the surface before cooking or using to remove.

4-5 green chillies

2tbsp grated fresh coconut

10-15 shallots finely chopped.

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 tsp urad dal powder/paste

A handful of coriander leaves chopped

Salt to taste

Oil as required.

Let’s Cook!

Heat some oil on a medium flame and fry the mustard seeds and urad dal for 20 seconds.

Add green chillies and chopped shallots saute for 2 minutes, add diced snake gourd cook 1-2 minutes and add grated coconut and mix well.

Remove from the heat allow to cool slightly, stir in yoghurt and add salt to taste.

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Garnish with coriander and serve.

Here are some more facts about the fascinating Snake gourd.

The snake gourd or Buap nguu, serpent gourd, chichinga or Padwal are some of the other names it is known under.

Native to south-east Asia it is a vine which grows around a tree or trellis and then unfurls its large white frayed flowers. Then fruits which grow straight down towards the ground.

Can grow up to 5 feet in length sometimes a stone is tied to the small gourd to help it grow straight down as it can grow into all sorts of shapes.

Also because of its length, it is used to make the traditional didgeridoo in Australia.

It turns orange when it is fully ripe but this is when it is very bitter so it is usually used in curries and raitas before it ripens fully. When ripened the flesh is sometimes used as a replacement for tomatoes.

The leaves, tendrils and other leafy parts are used as vegetable greens lightly steamed or raw.

It’s strange names and appearance have often caused it to be overlooked for its health benefits. It is proven to be very effective at improving the strength of the body’s immune system, reducing fevers and treating diabetes. Currently there much medical research into other health benefits of the Snake Gourd.

Until next time thank you for reading this.

Update on the farm: There was a slight delay with the building of the enclosure for the Turkey chicks due to the weather but work started today so it should finished by the time we pick the chicks up in 2 weeks.

Exciting times and I will be guaranteed a turkey for the xmas table this year.

Pasta wih sausage and tomato sauce.

sausage and pastaMy pasta recipes seem to go down very well so I am having a bit of a change from Thai Food maybe it is not to everyone’s taste. I love pasta and it always goes down well although my love is Thai or Indian food as yoou all know.

 

Pasta and sausage with tomato and cream sauce.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp Olive Oil.

1/2lb of sausages skinned and broken into pieces. I use a spicy sausage but you cann use any sausage of your choice.

1/4-1/2 tsp of red chilli flakes

2 garlic cloves finely  chopped.

Diced and skinned red onion.

I can of tomatoes diced or if like me you have a glut of fresh tomatoes then I also use them skinned and chopped.

3/4 cup of cream

1/4 tsp salt  I use  pink Himalayan salt.

2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leafed parsley.

Parmesan to serve.

Let’s Cook!

For quickness you can put your pasta on now in boiling salted water or if you are making the sauce in advance then cook pasta when you are ready as per instructions on the packet.

To make the sauce.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the crumbled sausage. Cook until sausage is no longer pink about 7-8 mins then add the onions and garlic and cook for a further 5-6 minutes until sausage is nicely browned and onions are soft.

Add the tomatoes, cream and salt and simmer..do not boil for a further 4 minutes or until the sauce has slightly thickened.

If you are making the sauce in advance then cover and store in the fridge until later or the next  day.

If you are using the sauce immediately then put pan to one side and cook pasta in boiling water. When ready, drain and add the sauce and stir to combine. Bring the pasta and sauce back to simmer and make sure it is heated through.

Serve in serving bowl or individual bowls , sprinkle with chopped parsley and grate parmesan over the top.

Serve with green vegetables or salad and garlic bread.

Enjoy!

 

Tuna and Linguine # Fish Friday#

Tuna and linguine

Tuna & Linguine # Fish Friday#I   It’s # Fish Friday# and I am doing one of the kids favourite meals today. It’s quick and easy to make and I can add chillies…Oh Yes!

You will need a can of Tuna in spring water, drained.

2 tbsp Olive oil

1/4-1/1/2 tsp of red chilli flakes. or 1 fresh chilli finely chopped.( you can omit this step)

2/3 large cloves of garlic, crushed.

2 small shallots finely chopped.

The zest of 1 lime you can use lemon.

3/4 tomatoes chopped.

Chopped parsley.

Fresh parmesan as desired.

400 gm of Linguine or pasta of your choice.

While you are cooking your pasta in boiling salted water as per the packet instructions.

Heat your oil in a pan, add the garlic and the shallots and chilli if you are using cook for 2-3 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.

I often just add a small piece of butter to this..it stops the burning.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for two minutes then add the drained tuna, the lime zest and parsley and cook for a further 2/3 minutes.

Drain the pasta and reserve 70 ml of the cooking water.

Add pasta to the tuna mix and gently combine. Season and add some freshly grated parmesan cheese..this is where I can get a bit over zealous as we love parmesan, also adjust seasoning if required. Stir in all or some of the reserved pasta liquid and sprinkle with parsley to serve.

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I serve with a green salad and lots of garlic bread. I also sometimes if I have them throw in some green olives.

Enjoy!

I will be posting a different food dish each Friday as when I was a child we always had Fish on Fridays and I suppose I am being nostalgic…So please humour me…lol