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Permacooking – Milk, Tongue, Eel and Pizza Night

More Meat

I promised last week that I would tell you about the cows here at Zaytuna and I’m going to do just that. I’d like for the vegetarians out there (who will find most of this menu unpalatable) to still be interested in reading about these cows because it’s not just about the beef that ended up on our plates….

Zaytuna cow
Photo © Craig Mackintosh

Cow’s Breakfast Salad

Billy the bull
Photo © Craig Mackintosh

I spent some time watching the cows this morning. They’re playful these cows. Tame. I stroke their hides and smile at how beautiful they are. And as I have a chat with Jordan, the good lad who wakes up each morning to milk them, I keep smiling at all that he has to tell me about the fresh salad he prepares for them in exchange for their lovely milk.

He harvests some arrowroot, comfrey, bamboo leaves, acacia leaves, protein rich leaucaena and pigeon pea leaves, lupin cover crop in the winter and cowpea cover crop in the summer, the occasional helping of mugwort for worming. He takes all this good salady stuff and he chops it up, throws it into a bucket and prepares the dressing. Ha! These cows have got it made. For the dressing he takes a touch of copper sulphate and stirs it into some hot water. Don’t worry, Jordan won’t harm the cows- he adds a tablespoon of animal dolomite to the mix to neutralize poisoning effects of copper sulphate, then a tablespoon of sulphur to acidify the alkaline effect of the animal dolomite. Some dried kelp seaweed, some full compliment rock dust, a big spoon of molasses for sweetness plus a good half cup splash of organic apple cider vinegar. Bring it all together with some Lucerne (alfalfa) and pollard and you’ve got yourself one mineral rich dressing.

Jordan mixes it through the bucket of the chopped greens and I watch the cows eagerly follow him all the way to the milking station. They know a good feed when they taste one and they get this every day. You should see how healthy they are. Good looking animals full of energy and life.

And as I watch the milk squirt out, I can’t help but smile some more, thinking how all that energy and life is being transferred into the milk. This isn’t just good animal husbandry. This is intelligent design. Especially when you realize that the minerals Jordan gives the cows aren’t just in their milk. They get into the soil too, through the cow’s waste, also as a main compost and worm farm ingredient. Soil we grow our food in. Food that we dispel into the compost toilet…. The whole thing going round and round in a beautifully managed pattern.

Zaytuna calf
Photo © Craig Mackintosh

It makes sense and makes for some seriously tasty and nutrient rich milk in a raw form that can’t be beat. And away to the diet police out there who say milk is no good for you. Why, without milk we wouldn’t have cream or cheese or frozen yoghurt (flavoured with rose water and sprinkled with candied pistachios) and we wouldn’t have butter and all the good things that butter makes possible like croissants and scones and pasta flora and butter on warm toast and smiles all round. Food is too important to be restricted by fear or prejudice my friends. Let me eat in peace, with joy in my heart and hopefully some good folk to share the meal with.

Troop’s Breakfast

Goat milk porridge folded through with pan fried apple slices and sunflower kernels. Coffee and tea.

Photo © Marcelo Severo

The troops don’t dig the goat milk much so I slip it into their porridge and they don’t seem to notice or mind. (You can disguise liver into a beef pie if you chop it small enough and cook it long enough in a rich sauce. Slivers of poached tongue disappear amongst the other toppings on a pizza, the tongue poaching liquid goes into the Bolognese sauce, burnt biscuits into the muesli slice, left-over pancake batter into the sourdough bread…)

I gave them goat milk with their coffee and tea once and they used half as much as they do with cow milk. Nothing wrong with goat milk I reckon, but there was the odd comment and complaint. Goat milk tastes funny. I don’t like it.… When it’s in the porridge though, everyone likes goat milk only they don’t know it. And I don’t tell them otherwise, removing the chance of any discussion upon the subject.

You see, it’s my job to not let anything from the farm go to waste in the kitchen and to try to keep everybody here well fed and as happy as they can manage to be with the food I give them. I do my best and when I get that odd complaint I suffer the old cook’s customary desire to whack a chopping board across the complainer’s head. I’m too busy feeding all the people to discuss the issue of any one individual’s dietary dilemmas. And I keep my eye on the milk supply line like a hawk. I know what’s going on with the milk and I’ll make sure you get some, that’s all you need to know. In this world, just be happy there’s any milk at all.

Morning Tea

Pancakes with banana, honey and walnut cream.

Ever since the cows changed pastures there sure has been more cream sitting on top of the milk. We’re eating what they’re eating and today what we get to eat from the pasture via the cows comes in the form of lovely silky thick cream. I skim it off and beat it stiff. Drizzle in some honey and crushed walnuts. Fold it all through with smashed up bananas and a sprinkle of cinnamon and brown sugar. Yum, especially dolloped upon pancakes cooked on the wood stove. No complaints from the troops.


Caramelized eel. Thai-like beef salad. Steamed rice. Lemongrass tea.

Caramelized eel and Tai beef salad with rice
Photo © Marcelo Severo

A complaint drifted into the kitchen of not enough meat. I did the calculations and figured that we’d have to kill a chicken a day or use a kilo of beef or some other kind of meat to satisfy this request by (in their defense) only a few members of the group. It’s manageable I believe, but I’m not sure if it’s necessary. I figure most people around the world get by on a high carb diet with a little protein and some vegetable matter thrown in to help make more interesting and nutritious their humble serve of rice or cassava or polenta or tortilla or noodle or couscous or piece of bread….

Good enough for them. Good enough for me. Good enough for you if you’re eating from my kitchen. I’m fair though. Children and nurturing mothers first. And I take care of the workers who work and work and work. They’ve earned their crust.

But today there’s lots of meat for everyone. A surplus of three eels presented itself to the kitchen via a couple of the intern’s fishing efforts. Good on them for sharing their bounty with everyone and good on the Vietnamese for showing me the way to cook the eel.

Eel, raw and cooking
Photo © Marcelo Severo

Kill your eel with a good whack to the brain. Open up the guts and scoop all that stuff out. Grab a cleaver and chop your eel into chunky steaks… skin, bones and all. It’s all good stuff. Next, throw a handful or two of sugar into a pan with a little water and put it on the stove. Let it caramelize golden and lovely, not burnt and bitter. It’s a tightrope and you have to pay attention to the pan. When it gets to the golden lovely point, you pour in a good helping of soy sauce and let it all reduce a bit. (While it’s doing that, you can throw in some combination of garlic, chili, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaf, oniony things… all the usual suspects in Southeast Asian cuisine.) Add your chopped up eel to the pot (including the head, which is delicious) and let it all simmer for a good while. You want all that eel fattiness to melt into the sauce and for the sweet sauce to reduce down to a syrup that melts into the eel. A very satisfying way to eat eel. Thankyou Vietnam. Thank you eel.

To cook the beef for the salad, I stole a bit of the caramelized soy reduction out of the eel pan, added more fish sauce, more garlic, more chili, more galangal.… Massage this stuff into your beef then place into a baking pan, cover and shove the whole thing into the wood oven for a slow braise. When it’s done, you slice the beef up nice and thin and toss it along with the pan juices and some pickled strips of turnip and carrot and cabbage, roasted onion wedges, toasted coconut, fried peanuts, lemon segments, lots of coriander and mint. Only a vegetarian could complain and to them I say – do the same thing but swap the beef with some stir-fried tofu or shitake mushrooms or even some smashed up adzuki beans. Everybody happy? Let’s move on to dinner.…

Pizza Dinner

Photo © Marcelo Severo

Everybody loves pizza right? So why not use the opportunity to sneak in the somewhat less popular culinary item of poached tongue? Slice it thin and scatter it amongst the other toppings of leftover pumpkin wedges, sautéed calvo nero and onion, marinated olives.… Just watch the happy pizza eaters shovel it in, even the ones who think they don’t eat tongue.

I don’t know what anyone could have against tongue anyway. I love the stuff and made sure to keep some for my breakfast in the morning. Before I went to bed though, I marinated my slices of poached tongue in a bath of (50/50) olive oil and lemon juice. You can heat your marinade up with some sliced garlic, chopped chili, some lightly toasted coriander seeds, a bay leaf or two.… The next morning, you take a boiled egg and chop it up with some green olives and parsley. Put it all together on top of some toast and the only regret you’ll have is using too much of the precious tongue on the pizzas….

Tongue on toast
Photo © Marcelo Severo


  1. This is a really great series of posts… please keep it up Marcelo!

    Have you thought about making goat cheese with your excess milk? Or, even easier: goat milk yogurt? I find it to be a great substitute for sour cream… a bit cheesier than yogurt from cow’s milk.

  2. Marcelo, loved the eel dish & anyone who doesn’t like poached tongue deserves sympathy… yr pizzas had me drooling & goats milk? lead me to it!!

    Here’s a b’fast mix fr the veggie folks. This amount should feed 1 hungry or 2 only peckish people:

    1/2 cup rolled oats
    1/4 cup rolled rye
    1/4 cup buckwheat
    1/8 cup black sesame seed
    Add yr choice chopped almonds/walnuts/variety of seeds
    Add either chopped jubejube (Chinese dates) or dried sultanas/rasins etc

    Either: mix in yoghurt, stir well, leave in fridge overnight to eat raw
    Or: add 4 cups water & leave in lidded pan overnight & cook in morning till spoon stands by itself. Serve with goats milk or yoghurt.

    See ya in 2012,

    jim in Laos.

  3. oh my goodness! how wonderful! just beautiful once again! some day i hope to get to share some time with you in the kitchen :)! blessings!

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