Through a friend of ours in Switzerland, we were in touch with the people behind Herdershof, a small scale organic farm, near Antwerpen in Belgium.
Ann heard of our interest to do some work with such farmers, to get to know and appreciate what goes into growing the things we eat on a daily basis. We believe that these relationships are increasingly important, for both farmer and consumer, as the globe puts mounting pressure on the food chain.
Affiliated with Herdershof is Emiliushoeve, an organization who work with and offer opportunities to people with disabilities, who come to the farm during the week and help with growing vegetables, animal husbandry, handcrafts, brewing and cooking. They are nurtured and encouraged to excel in different fields which often leads to individual talents being discovered. What truly lovely people doing such an incredible thing in the community.
We spent eight beautiful days here, getting a great insight into their daily lives, assisting on the farm and harvesting all sorts; carrots, fennel, lettuce, parsnip, leek, celeriac, cabbage and corn.
The day we arrived we helped Emiliushoeve cater for 70 people from similar organizations around the area who had travelled by bike to eat, talk and laugh before setting back off on their bikes again.
One of the cooks for Emiliushoeve would arrive to work by bicycle, her front basket filled with freshly picked herbs and an array of vegetables. The pleasures gained from harvesting the vegetables you planned to cook with and then within the hour having them on the table in the form of dinner was incredible.
It’s not only the satisfaction from using the local ingredients that is nice. The flavour of – we call them – ‘happy’ vegetables and animals make a world of difference.
One day as we wandered through the woods looking for mushrooms we found this beauty, very likely a relative of porcini; we had a few good rounds of jokes of what can happen to us eating a mushroom that we didn’t know too much about. Shortly it was confirmed that it wasn’t just edible, but delicious.
They were fascinated and curious by the BBQ we were carrying on the roof of our van and told us there was an excess of beef ribeye that needed to be used. One evening some close friends and family came over, the potatoes roasted, vegetables grilled and ribeye seared over the last of our cherry wood.
Following a muchly enjoyed BBQ we were asked to cook for everyone on our last day. It came out the night before they had all been thinking we make a traditional Hungarian goulash. Coincidentally, we were thinking exactly the same thing – from here the decision was easy. Using beef and potatoes from the farm and paprika we had brought from Hungary it was surely going to be a winner!
Looking around the room at 20 happy, smiling, enthusiastic eaters is truly rewarding. Keep up the amazing work guys, it’s very inspirational.
Below are the artistic drawings and writings we are left with on our van to remember our time here.
Traditional Hungarian Beef Goulash, serves four
3 large white onions, medium diced
5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
3 carrots, half or full moons, 1 cm thick
700g stewing or braising beef, 2cm dice
400ml beef stock
3 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds
4 sprigs parsley, leaves only
salt & pepper
slurry (a mixture of equal parts water and flour)
Potato dumplings (recipe below)
In a liberal amount of oil, brown the diced meat in two batches. Remove and set aside. Sweat the onion and garlic in a little oil, then add the carrots and caraway seeds. Add meat back in, cover with the beef stock and bring to a simmer. Add the paprika and simmer until the meat is tender. Meanwhile, make the potato dumplings.
Before serving the goulash, adjust the thickness with the slurry. Make sure it’s simmering when you do this, and do a little at a time.
To serve, place a few potato dumplings into each bowl and pour over the sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
3 medium mashing potatoes
1 whole egg
1/2 C white flour
salt & pepper
Peel and roughly chop the potatoes into chunks. Bring to a boil in salted water and boil until cooked. Mash and add the remaining ingredients.
Form into little balls and drop into boiling salted water until they come to the top. Boil for about a minute while they bop around on the top and remove. Oil and set aside.