Weekend food with Darina Allen: Kylie Magner's free range eggs

KYLIE MAGNER grew up on a mixed farm in south-east Australia where she developed her love of the land and animals. There were always chores to do through challenging times and good times.

At a recent Slow Food event here at the Cookery School, Kylie recounted the story of her arrival in Ireland where she immediately felt at home. She met her husband Billy at Coolmore Stud where she worked her way up to media director. The couple now have four children and live on Magners Farm in Moyglass near Fethard. Kylie wanted to pass on the love of the land and farming that she inherited from her parents in New South Wales to her children.

Kylie racked her brains to find a way to earn a living on their small farm in Tipperary. Free-range egg production seemed a good solution — below is a selection of some simple and delicious recipes to whip up should you have a few eggs in your pantry.

For Kylie, chickens seemed relatively inexpensive to get started with, they would generate fast cash flow and have the environmental advantage of a lighter footprint on the land than cattle.

Magner’s hens are truly free range and are moved to fresh, green pasture every week, sometimes every day. Kylie believes chickens should be allowed the freedom to act naturally.

When a hen is fed on a diet closer to their natural omnivorous state, the nutrition of the egg improves significantly. This results in a flavourful, nutrient dense product and the manure they produce enhances the fertility of the soil.

Eggs from hens raised on pasture can contain a third less cholesterol; a quarter less saturated fat; two-thirds more vitamin A; two times more omega-3 fatty acids; three times more vitamin E; seven times more beta carotene; and four to six times more vitamin D.

This is because they consume a more natural diet including seeds, worms, insects, and green plants plus a lot of sunshine.

The colour, flavour, and texture of pasture-raised eggs is distinctive. They contain vitamins A, D, E, K2, B-12, folate, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, beta carotene, choline, and tons of omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, EPA, ALA, and AA.

A pasture-raised egg is a true ‘superfood’. Second only to the lactalbumin, protein in human mother’s milk, eggs have the highest-quality protein of any food.

A little over one year later, Magners Farm now have more than 600 laying hens, yet they can scarcely keep up with the demand for their eggs. Last winter they had a 96% laying rate so pasture-reared hens are clearly happy.

Magners Eggs sell at local farmers markets at €5 per dozen.

Last summer, they produced 250 free-range chickens for the table, using the same high-welfare principles. Kylie has now started another project making chicken bone broth, available in glass jars, €5.50. see magnersfarm.com.

Their plans for the future? This is a sustainable model of farming, and Kylie would love to see more pasture-raised chickens around the country, generating income for farmers and improving the land at the same time. The country needs more people like Kylie, with a commitment to sustainability and to producing nourishing wholesome food.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 4

4.5 litres (8 pints) water to 1-2 tablespoons salt

450g (1lb) spaghetti

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

200g (7oz) thick sliced smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, cut into strips 1 cm (half inch) wide

Half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3-4 free range eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley

90g freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)

1-2 tablespoons flat parsley, freshly chopped to serve

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain well.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the smokey bacon or pancetta and cook, stirring frequently for 5-6 minutes, until coloured and slightly crispy. Add the black pepper and cook for another minute. Add the spaghetti and toss with the smokey bacon or pancetta and oil until warmed through.

Combine the eggs, crème fraîche and parsley and add to the pan. Remove from the heat and stir constantly for a minute to allow the heat from the oil and spaghetti to cook the eggs. Stir in three-quarters of the freshly grated Parmesan.

Transfer the hot pasta to a large shallow bowl and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and freshly chopped parsley.

Spinach, Feta and Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Frittata

The basic frittata recipe here can be used as a basis for many herbs and vegetables in season, we love this autumn version. We use blobs of Ardsallagh goat cheese in this recipe if we don’t have feta.

Serves 8

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

500g (18oz) sweet potato or pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1cm dice

10 large eggs, preferably free range organic

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons marjoram, chopped

2 tablespoons curly parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

150g (5oz) fresh spinach, shredded into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice (weight 380g (13 1/4oz) before de-stalking)

75g (3oz) Gruyére cheese, grated

25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated

200g (7oz) feta or fresh goats’ cheese

25g (1oz) butter

To serve

Rocket leaves

30g (1 1/4oz) toasted Italian pine kernels or cashew nuts

extra virgin olive oil

Equipment

Non-stick pan – 22.5cm (8 1/2 inch) frying pan

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4

Put the sweet potato or pumpkin dice onto a small oven tray, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with half teaspoon flaky sea salt (the feta cheese will be salty so don’t overdo the salt), and lots of freshly cracked pepper, stir and cook in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes or until cooked and tender. Remove from the oven.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, shredded spinach, and grated cheese into the eggs. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs. Sprinkle the roast pumpkin evenly over the surface, dot with feta or goat cheese, press in gently. Cook for 3-4 minutes over a low heat.

Transfer to the middle shelf of the pre-heated oven and cook for 25-30 minutes. Flash under the grill for a couple of minutes if colour is needed. Allow to sit for five minutes before serving.

To Serve

Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate.

Arrange some rocket leaves on top of the frittata, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and scatter with toasted pine kernels or coarsely chopped cashews, and a few flakes of sea salt.

Freshly Boiled Eggs and Soldiers

Mothers all over the country cut up fingers of toast for children to dip into soft-boiled eggs. In our family we call them ‘dippies’.

2 fresh free range organic eggs

salt and freshly ground pepper

a few pats of butter

1 slice of fresh best quality white loaf bread

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, bring the water back to the boil and simmer gently for 4-6 minutes, according to your taste. A four minute egg will be still quite soft, five minutes will almost set the white while the yolk will still be runny; 6 minutes will produce a boiled egg with a soft yolk and solid white.

Meanwhile toast the bread, cut off the crusts and spread with butter. Cut in fingers. Immediately when the eggs are cooked, pop them into egg cups, put the ‘dippies’ on the side and serve with a pepper mill, sea salt and a few pats of butter.

Boiled Eggs with Marmite

Spread the hot buttered toast with Marmite and cut, dip and enjoy.

Stir-fried Eggs with Garlic Chives and Shrimps

I’ve been to China several times recently — this is a favourite Cantonese family recipe.

If Chinese garlic chives are not available use common chives but less. I use the deliciously sweet pink shrimp from Ballycotton on the south coast.

Wild garlic or ramps are, of course, wonderful to use while they are in season in spring.

Serves 2-4

40-50g Chinese chives (garlic chives — allium

tuberosum

)

4 organic eggs

1 tablespoon milk

110g cooked, little Ballycotton shrimps, peeled

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon peeled ginger, freshly grated

Garlic chive flowers

Accompaniment

Soy sauce

Slice the Chinese chives into 2cm lengths.

Whisk the eggs with the milk, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok until almost smoking.

Add the shrimps, toss for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to toss for a further minute or so. Add the garlic chives, toss once or twice and turn out onto a plate.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok, allow to heat again. Add the beaten egg and cook, stirring with a straight ended wooden spoon until the egg starts to scramble and form soft folds. Add the shrimp mixture, stir for a minute or two.

Taste and correct the seasoning.

Turn out onto a serving plate, scatter with a few fresh garlic chive flowers if in season and share while still warm.

Serve with soy sauce.

Hot Tips

Christmas Courses: We have two exciting festive courses coming up in December, a great idea for an early Christmas gift or even a fun festive day out. Christmas Cooking, Monday, December 10, from 9am to 5pm, €295, and Hands of Christmas Party, Tuesday, December 11, from 2.30pm to 7.30pm, €185. See www.cookingisfun.ie for more details.

Guest Chef Ruairí de Blacam of Inis Meáin is coming to Ballymaloe Cookery School. He and his wife and Maire-Therese created the now iconic Inis Meáin Suites in 2007 so guests could experience their unique island location. Their fame has spread and Inis Meáin Suites have been written up and lauded by numerous publications from the New York Times to the Australian Gourmet Traveller. Consequently one needs to book months ahead and readers will know that it’s one of my favourite secret getaways. Don’t miss this event on Wednesday, November 28, 2pm-5pm, €145, places are limited. inismeain.com/suites

Plant an Apple Tree: Now is the best time to plant fruit trees. Think of how lovely it is to have your own gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes laden down with fruit for pies and compotes – red and white currants are also super easy to grow and, of course, there’s the Bramley seedling for flaky apple tarts. Irish Seed Savers are a great source of heritage varieties. irishseedsavers.ie

- www.cookingisfun.ie 

- www.instagram.com/darina_allen 

- www.instagram.com/ballymaloecookeryschool


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