Robert ‘Baz’ Stilwell – Jack Of All Trades & Bazshouka

Baz is a Sailor, Surfer, Navy Diver, Chef and Farmer. He is a well traveled man and experienced the best of both worlds; the good, the bad and the ugly. He is a husband to Cathy and a Father to two beautiful twins; Emma & Francis. Living under the pettycoat government when he is home; he finds relaxation in food along with his family and friends whom take turns trying out different cuisines, creating new dishes and even turning out the savoury into the sweet side of things. Their farm is a paradise of its own.

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Wouldn’t it be nice to own your own green dream home, made with recycled and natural materials and packed with custom features? ………..…………… a natural eco-friendly home with user-friendly, low-cost materials like straw bales, dirt and wood from your own land with lots of reclaimed and salvaged materials like hardwood flooring, doors and windows.

A small ecological footprint that has tons of personality along with the owners whom each play their part in keeping it a.ll together, never mind creating it. It takes passion and the know via trial and error.

Like life we all keep learning and by learning we grow, and in growth one reaps what one sows………………..

It is a self sustainable farm that comprises of true Nguni, horses, original boar pigs along with chickens, ducks, geese, peacocks and more. Their fruit and nut orchards are maturing until big enough to produce more. They have planted a variety of fruit, berries, and nuts that will help to ensure more food, often with much less work than their big vegetable garden. Having some form of animals on their farm helps to provide fertilizer for the soil. From starting small, they have expanded the amount planted, as with time one finds which plants work best. Learning to grow their own food and establishing self sufficient food production is a rewarding and liberating experience. Planning and planting a garden based on the plants that grow well or don’t grow well together is referred to as “companion planting”.

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Soil must be fertilized. Vegetable farming rapidly depletes the nutrients from fertile soil. To have a sub stainable farm, systems must exist to fertilize, enrich, and protect the soil. Their vegetable and plant waste is used to create compost. Their horse and Nguni manure is super rich in nitrogen, and often used as fertilizer. If not fully composted, the manure will have too much acid and then lime is added to balance the Soil ph. Concentrated liquid fertilizes are made by soaking the manure in water, and this is called manure tea. Chickens and pigs are sometimes used to fertilize the soil, by rotating their pens around the garden, their chickens run free as well as the ducks, geese during the day. It is a real family farm. “One big family!”.

A combination of raised beds and a field of row crops allows their farm to take advantage of both approaches. In order to be a self sustaining farm their plants are grown from “standard” seeds. With each seasonal harvest their best plants are set aside for seed for the following year.

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Just as important as growing the plants, is storing and preserving the food. Preserved by the traditional canning, drying, or freezing methods. Some food, such as potatoes and the like are stored in their cool dry underground cellar. The harvest and storing of their produce requires time and effort, just as growing the food does. Using glass canning jars, their farm fruit and vegetables can be preserved for the winter. Cathy has wooden shelves laden with beautiful combinations of fruit made into jams, compotes and whole preserves. With also a wonderful array of vegetables. Home canning of vegetables and fruits, along with drying culinary herbs and freezing produce are all excellent ways of assuring that your family reap the rewards of your home grown produce throughout the year.

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We went to their smallholding for a delightful Shakshouka made by Baz. So in the end we called the dish Bazshouka; and what a delightful combination of fresh farm eggs poached in a delicious sauce freshly made using farm produce. “A peaceful family day in the country!”.

Shakshouka means “a mixture” in Tunisian Arabic or other maghrebi dialects. It is likely that it was first known as chakchouka, a Berber word meaning a vegetable ragout, although “shakshek” means “to shake”, in Tunisian Arabic, Berber and Hebrew, giving a possible punic origin to the name of the dish.

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baz-farm6Bazshouka with a spin on the original Shakshouka.

Personified…….

A hearty egg-based Tunisian meal-in-a-pan that will make the perfect brunch specialty that showcases a beautiful array of farm veggies: red and yellow bell peppers, onion, and tomatoes.

These veggies, along with a flavourful blend of spices and herbs, simmer away to create a perfectly spiced sauce.

This vibrant, colourful spicy and fiery sauce serves as a bed for poached eggs and can be served family-style or individually; then dressed in fresh coriander leaves plucked straight from the farm garden.baz-farm11baz-farm7

This is a very impressive and welcoming dish that would be perfect for entertaining. Not only is it pretty to look at it, but the sauce can also be made in advance.

In fact Baz would encourage you to make the sauce in advance because the flavour actually improves with time.

The morning of your breakfast or brunch you simply reheat the sauce in a skillet (add a touch of water if it’s too thick) and break a few eggs to poach gently within. You’ll have a very inviting dish in less than 10 minutes. This meal is all about grabbing that chunk of bread for dunking into the delightfully tasty goodness to mop up the wonderful sauce on your plate.

You are eating your veggies for breakfast after all.

1/2 teaspoon cumin seedsbaz-farm8
60ml olive oil
2 large onions, sliced
2 red bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
2 yellow bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
4 teaspoons muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 or 2 bunches of fresh coriander leaves, plus extra to garnish
6 whole fresh and ripe tomatoes, skinned and diced
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, optional
1 small pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup water, or more to thin sauce down
8 eggs or more

For Garnish:

*Various fresh herbs ( coriander, parsley, etc.)
*Feta Cheese, if you like
*Preserved Lemon, for a touch of acidity upon serving

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In a very large pan pan-roast the cumin seeds until fragrant on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar and herbs and continue cooking on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes to get a nice colour.

Add the tomatoes, saffron (if using), cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavourful. You can prepare this mix well in advance.

baz-farm14Remove the bay leaves, when a pan is hot add the sauce over a medium heat to warm up, then make a gap in the tomato pepper mix in the pan and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with a lid or foil. Cook on a very gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the eggs are set the way you like them. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with fresh farm baked bread of choice.

Over an open flame; always spicy and sure to be hot and tasty. 

Shakshouka reminds me of ratatouille with eggs, but even more of the classic Mexican dish huevos rancheros.

So recently I cooked “the pita shakshuka:” the pita soaks up the juicy fiery sauce so deliciously, instead of poaching the eggs in the pan over a flame, bake them Huevos Rancheros-style under a layer of grated cheese.

Add a shake of Za’atar-Zaatar Exotic Spice, the beloved Middle Eastern spice, at the end.

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