Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Quick and Easy Whitefish in Parsley and Wine

A very easy to cook meal, and a great way to do fish.

The advantage of this is that you also create a really nice, delicate sauce at the same time.
I hate doing dishes, so this is a way to cut back on washing up.

I used shop bought fresh haddock for this - but whiting and pollack are good as well.
This will easily feed 4 people.

4 haddock or other white fish fillet, about 200 gm each
2 tbl Lemon juice
2 tbl Olive oil
4 tbl water
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 large carrot - peeled and sliced into thin strips (use a peeler for this)
3 sticks celery - finely sliced
1 leek - finely sliced
Salt and Pepper

Optional - about half a glass of white wine to deglaze

Place the lemon juice, oil, water, celery, leek and carrot in a large, heavy based pan.
Season to taste and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat to a simmer and place the fish skin side down in a layer on top of the veg in the pan.

Cover the pan with foil or baking parchment - then use a lid to cover it and keep as much steam in as possible.
It only takes about 10 minutes for the fish to be cooked, its done when the flesh is flaking.

Using a fish slice, very gently transfer the fish to a warm plate.
Now add the parsley to the veg mix and cooking liquid.
A drop of wine can be added to deglaze the pan at this point.
Then spoon over the fish and serve.

I just had some quickly wilted spinach and lemony courgette as extra veg and some oven fries - what would fish be without chips after all.
The lemon courgette is very easy, in a heavy bottomed pot add a little butter and bring to a foaming point.
Throw in a julienned courgette, add a tbls of lemon juice and sweat off.
Then, just to add a little extra, try adding and reducing some spinach, it gives a lovely accompaniment to this dish.

It is a very handy light meal, which is what a lot of us like this time of year after the Xmas's excess.
Anyway - hope you find the recipe of use, and please take the time to comment - I appreciate the feedback.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Snowbound in Connemara

Just a few photos of the recent snow, worst I've ever seen in Ireland - in particular this far west with the gulf stream.
The Donkeys have moved back to Delilahs place until the cold snap passes, but the cattle seem happy enough where they are given enough fodder.
The Carna/Cill Ciaran region are among the worst affected in the country - no gritting etc. The nearest drivable road is the Clifden/Galway main road, as usual this far west and Galway CoCo dont give a fiddlers.
Nosey Donkey

Its all fairly hard core at the minute - and the most ironic thing is that the freezer just broke down


Garden on ice

Snowed in tomb
Delaney and Delilah on the move
Snowbound croft
Talking about the weather
Moonlight Donkeys
Here endeth the road
Pretty Cold!
Waiting for food
Moonlight cows
Fodder fiend

Cool Cats
Whats this?
Whoa! Me no likes
Whahh - Me really no likes!!!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Buttermilk fried rabbit

This is another dish from the southern states in the US - great with collard greens and a little home made blackberry chutney.

It also compliments home-made soda bread very well, and you normally use buttermilk for that - so its a great way to use up buttermilk.
Food is only as good as the ingredients used, and I would not hesitate to recommend Cuinneog buttermilk.

It works well with chicken, but is particularly good with rabbit as it stops the game drying out.
Perfectly tender, well flavored, crunchy - just what one wants in fried rabbit or chicken.

With the crunchy, fun texture it is an easy way to introduce more squeamish kids to rabbit.

Its also so much healthier than chicken nuggets, which are packed with preservatives, salt and re-constituted meat which is pretty gross - Mechanically separated meat, a chemically treated slurry - may not be described simply as "meat" on food labels, but must be labeled as "mechanically separated". Most chicken nuggets are made from this.

I had some belly and shoulder off-cuts left over from the Dublin Bay Paella so this is a very handy way to use them up - as I find the fore quarters of a rabbit too finicky to cook in any other way - like chicken wings.
Its also a great way to prevent waste and save some money.
For chicken wings this makes a great, and I believe healthier choice than the usual preservative sugar salt packed off the shelf mix that people normally use.

You need a lot of oil for this, as with Spanish omelette's - but you can reuse it a few times.
When you’re done, let the oil cool and then pour it through a fine-mesh strainer with a piece of paper towel set inside it that has been set over a bowl.
The paper towel will filter the brown bits and you can just pour the strained oil back into the container


350 ml - about 2 cups - of cuinneog buttermilk
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, thyme) or a teaspoon each of the dried herbs.
Clove garlic, minced or grated
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

I really like to add a 1/4 cup coriander or cilantro in this recipe as well - but only if fresh.
Recently in the centre of Galway I found an absolutely brilliant fruit and veg shop in the Eyre Square shopping centre called Mister Beans
It's run by a very helpful, nice guy called Paul Bradly. Great range of products, especially the harder to find herbs and veg - with a far better range than the nearby supermarkets.
Its well worth a visit - probably the closest thing Galway has to what you can find in Corks English Market, and I always try to support the smaller outlets against the retail giants.

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

As a highly recommended optional extra 1/2 cup rolled porridge oatlets - I just use Flahavans.
The idea is actually Scottish, they fry herring in rolled oats and it gives real extra crunch in this recipe
1 Soak rabbit or chicken overnight (at least 8 hours and up to two days) in buttermilk with onions, herbs, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

2 Drain in colander, leaving some herbs on chicken. In a plastic bag, mix flour and oats with seasonings.
Meanwhile, heat 2 cups of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet on medium high heat until a pinch of flour starts to sizzle when dropped in the hot oil (but not so hot that the pan is smoking)

3 Place rabbit or chicken pieces in bag with the oat and flour mix - shake until thoroughly coated.
Add the meat to hot pan and fry on 1 side for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown, and then turn the pieces over and fry for another 10-12 minutes, again until golden brown.

Be careful to keep the oil hot enough to fry the meat, but not so high as to burn, and a lid on the side just in case.

As always, I hope you find this post of use - please take time to comment or make other suggestions, and feel free to let others know about the blog.


Same marinade and batter recipe shown here using chicken - served with creamed potatos and collard greens

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dublin Bay Paella - Shrimp and Rabbit

Lidl are currently doing an offer on Langoustine - or whole Scottish scampi as they are labelled - at €9.99
We know them better as Dublin Bay prawns.
A thing you may not know is the reason the Scots write whisky and we write whiskey is about branding.
Irish distillers altered the spelling to differentiate their product from that of Scotland when exporting overseas.
At the time, Scotch whisky was of quite poor quality, but as they improved in addition to whisky, they also introduced the word Scotch to be synonymous with the drink, a very clever piece of marketing.
It looks that they are doing the same with re-branding langoustine.

Rabbit is not the easiest meat to source in Ireland, its a little different out here obviously being able to hunt them - but chicken makes a good substitute for this recipe.
Rabbit is high protein, low fat and low cholesterol, I am surprised we don't eat much more of it in Ireland, and that it is not that widely available.

Rabbit was actually introduced to Ireland by the Vikings, it is not a native species. The Irish for rabbit - Conin (cuh-neen) - is derived from the Norse word for the animal, in Dutch for example the word for rabbit is konijn.
I detest the practice of snaring animals, it's indiscriminate and cruel. For this dish, if you are shooting, get a head or chest shot with a .22 - if you cant do it, then in fairness you should not be hunting - please take note Mrs. Palin.

The reason for the shot, in addition to humane reasons, is that the back end of the rabbit is used for the meat, most of the front end is used for the stock - but I do advise you keep belly and shoulder cuts for a recipe from the American south - buttermilk fried rabbit - great little dish.
Paella is for some the definitive Spanish dish - It is a rice dish that originated in Valencia and got it's name from the type of frying pan in which it is cooked, a "paellera". The ingredients of a paella vary a lot depending on whats at hand.
It really is a great, colourful dish at this time of year.

This dish is very easy to adapt for other combinations like mussels, squid etc.
If you are using rabbit or game for the first time, it might be wise to add some fatty offcuts from a pork chop to stop it going too dry.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 rabbit saddles, boned and cut into pieces (or chicken)
Dublin bay prawns, shell and head on
Cup of frozen, tailed prawns (also available from lidl)
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 can chopped tomato's
2 Onions
Bell peppers
200g/7oz paella rice, you can also use a risotto rice.
Tsp Paprika
Tsp Oregano
a pinch of saffron or turmeric
1 litre/1¾ pints rabbit stock, made with rabbit bones boiling
Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the rabbit, seasoning, onion, garlic, herbs and spices.
Add the rice, making sure the grains are coated.
Transfer to a casserole dish.
Add the prawns, tomato's and peppers and mix gently.

Add the stock - bring it up to the top of the rice.
Cover and put in a pre-heated oven - 180 deg C for 30 minutes - or until liquid absorbed.
Ideally, if you have a big enough frying pan you can leave it cook on the hob if covered, but I don't so I had to adapt the cooking method.

Serve hot, its great fun to eat - breaking open the Dublin bay prawns.
Keep the heads, don't discard them as they make the basis of a lovely bisque.

I served with a spicy chorizo and kidney bean side dish with lemon soured cream, it compliments the prawn.

As always, please take the time to comment - the feedback is really cool

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Connemara Cassoulet

The humble banger is a major part of the Irish fry, further being deserted for a weekend treat. But we are improving on what types of sausage are available on the market.
A user on was asking about what to do with smoked sausages from Galway - and what came to mind with the ingredients mentioned was a traditional French casserole, the Cassoulet.

Using typical Irish food, its easy to develop it into a Connemara version.
Cassoulet is like collard greens in that is a poor mans food, a staple dish based on beans and meat.
It is a traditional winter dish from the south of France.
With the weather we have been having, this is ideal, cheap and easy food to cook, full of flavour.

There are several variations on Cassoulet, but what ties them together is the use of haricot - white beans.
Most Irish are very familiar with this particular veg, but we get it drowned in sugar and tomato sauce, as tinned baked beans.
Again, I am trying to take a French dish and give it an Irish twist, and it came out quite well.
I grew and dried Haricot and Borlotti beans this year.
But if you cannot find Haricot beans, there is an option - not great but it's still there - that is to buy baked beans and rinse off the tomato sauce, but there will always be a slight hint of that flavour which is not the idea for me.
Prep: 10 min - Bake: 35 min
4 sausages cut into 3rds - pick what you like, I a mix of apple leek and peppered from a local butcher.
I get mine, made in store, from McGoughs in Oughterard.
Fantastic tasting, they have won pretty much every award going.

2 tablespoons Cuinneog Butter
2 medium (1/2 cup) carrots, chopped
1 medium (1/2 cup) leek, chopped
1 medium (1/2 cup) onion, chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic
800 gm soaked homegrown or 2 cans haricot beans, rinsed, drained
I added some tinned kidney beans to bulk out the white beans.
100 gm black pudding (optional)
100 gm bacon or rashers, diced (optional)
1 can chopped tomato
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 180°C.
Oil a casserole dish casserole.
Melt butter in a pan until sizzling; add carrots, onion and garlic.
Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened (3 to 5 minutes).
Brown the sausages, bacon and black pudding.
Combine onion mixture, meats, sausage, tomato's and thyme in prepared casserole.
Cover; bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until bubbly and carrots are crisply tender. Sprinkle with parsley.
I did a bread crumb topping for the cassoulet.

To prepare the topping, combine
1 tablespoon Butter,
1/2 cup bread crumbs,
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic in a pan.

Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until bread crumbs are golden brown (3 to 5 minutes).
Sprinkle crumb topping over bean mixture.
Bake as directed above.

I'd did some Chickpeas separately, with coriander and red onion as a side accompaniment, just fry the onion with ground and leaf coriander, add the chickpeas and blitz in the blender if you like

As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to comment, I really appreciate the feedback - and there's also a new addition to the panel - a Facebook application to allow you to share this blog with friends.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter Garden Work

So, things are running out, and in the first year of this garden I have learnt a lot.
I will be expanding the plot with two more beds, and cutting surrounding trees to provide more light to the veg patch.

I think the best idea I had last year was the pathway preparation, with the pine needles and ash, it did help against the slugs.
It also gives room to dispose of stones in the beds, a problem we have here in the west.
I am currently renewing the path ways, building them up with needles and ash, to further develop the passive anti-slug barrier.

I already wrote about some of the winter plantings in a previous post.
Other work has been to use the recent cold snap to my advantage, turning the soil to expose the earth to the frost, which breaks it up and I hope it will also kill of some parasites.
Certainly the birds appreciate it when the earth is turned over, as the go in and pick off insects.

I will also start to put down traps for wireworms as well, early in the season to get as many as possible.
From what I have read, the longer the garden is established - the less of a problem they will be as they are worst in new gardens after grassland has been converted to cultivating veg.

Its also time to start thinking about enriching the soil. Along with seaweed I have found that Delaney and Delilah have quite tidy toilet habits - not something I expected from Donkeys, but most of the manure is centred in a few places.
So, with seaweed and donkey doo-doo dug in, I hope that will be enough for my fertilizer needs for 2011.

Weeds growing on the path edge are a pain, there is nothing for it but to hoe them out and backfill with ash and needles.
I am tempted to treat the paths with organic weedkiller, but I'm fairly concerned about salt leaching into the beds.
I do expect to be away a lot more next season, so the garden will have to be low maintenance.
One thing for certain, one of the beds - the one with the rhubarb - is being converted to a different type of bed, with Jerusalem and Globe artichoke, asparagus, herbs, fruit bushes and other annual plants that will be there on a permanent basis, not rotated.

So that's it, my Irish winter vegetable patch - still producing food and getting ready for 2011.
As always, please take the time to comment, I really appreciate the feedback.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Connemara Scallops with homegrown Oca

Oca is a firm small waxy crinkled tuber with an unusual tangy, acidic nutty, fruity flavour.
The oca is one of the important staple crops of the Andean highlands.
Its not that hard to grow in Ireland, although I should I think have earthed them up more and they certainly should have been in the ground earlier.

Next season - if I'm still in the country - they will be grown using stacked car tyres to make them easier to earth up and to increase the heat to the tubers.

Coming from the same place and growing in the same conditions as potato, it is quite frankly very surprising why they are not better known in Europe and Ireland.
The potato after all has become the staple carbohydrate for northern and eastern Europe.

With their blight resistance, it is particularly poignant being Irish as to how things might have been different had this crop been established on the Island from 1840 to 1880.

The skins range from red to white, sometimes a waxy green and its inner flesh is white.
They can be baked, boiled, roasted, mashed, or used in any dish calling for potatoes.
Its great to dig them at this time of year, to see new food come out of the ground after the frost, like new potato's in the winter.

Mr Robin at the top of the title picture was also anxious that I harvest them, and very happy with the newly turned earth for a snack or ten after the cold snap.

I got the original seed from Cristophe and Ciara on Clare Island in Mayo - he runs and Macalla farm. As far as I know is the only person in Ireland who supplies Oca as seed.

If you do buy seed from him, please be sure to mention that you heard about the farm on this blog, that way I can try to blag a few free ones from him this year.
The farms website is also on the links for this blog.

If you are interested in growing Oca then there is a really good blog run by a dude called Ian Pearson - In fact, its such an impressive resource, I have added it to my bloglist on the right - check it out for all Oca questions.

Delicious roasted, Oca is frequently eaten with roasted lamb in New Zealand where I first encountered it.
It is said the oca brings a “lost cuisine” back to life. Oca is native to the ancient cuisines of the Andes in South America and was grown throughout the Inca and Mayan civilizations.

The New Zealander's are very clever, resourceful, inventive people. They are also really good at marketing.
Kiwi fruit are a Chinese Gooseberry - but were re branded as Kiwi fruit, so people associate the food with New Zealand. Oca is now sold sometimes as New Zealand yam, even though it was introduced there sometime in the 1860's - but like other imported crops it thrives as a crop in NZ.
I'd say that it will become re branded as Kiwi Yam in the future, or maybe even Kahu Yam after the stunning hawks they have there.

I'm using Oca in this recipe, but diced potato would work - and to be a little more exotic maybe sweet potato which I think in Irish cities would be easier to find than Oca.
Having moved back from Holland I find the lack of variety and availability of foods and spices etc. a bit frustrating, hence the growing of things like Oca, Japanese mustard greens, acocha, root parsley etc.

I hand picked the Scallops from the strand at the bottom of the farm at low tide, so they are un-dredged, about as eco friendly as you can get - but a fair bit of work, cold toes and fingers.
Despite the cold, I still think of the foreshore as a living larder, wading out for mussels, clams and razorfish - all reasonably easy to find if you know the tides and the area. I just take what I need.
Lidl have a good offer on Scallop at 12 for €5 at the moment along with other luxury foods like venison, game birds and lobster - well worth checking out for Christmas.

Scallop is one of my favorite seafood's, it requires very little in the way of dressing up - its perfect as it is.

This recipe is kind of inspired by one of the Hairy Bikers Cook Off programs on BBC, one of their 7 minute supper challenges was made using scallops.
I had a similar idea in mind for scallops, In terms of presentation, I'd normally serve scallop in its shell with a bacon and cheese type sauce - but they put it together a little differently than I would have - with potato, so I decided to use the Oca in this dish.

I really like the programs that Si and Dave do, unpretentious, well explained and entertaining.
Along with Master Chief, I think they are my favorite TV cooks.
Coming from the North of England, I think they have a lot of the same cuisine culture and influences that I have with the Connemara climate - as would the Scots.
Leeks, herring, mackerel, kidney, liver, mutton, cabbage, kale, beetroot and turnip being just a few things they have used that other TV chiefs don't use that often or frequently.

Certainly the bikers were doing Kale before it became suddenly fashionable on other shows.
The other real advantage they have over me in terms of a cuisine background is the fantastic, rich heritage of Indian food people in the North of England are exposed to.
Mind you, I did learn how to do a cardamom martini from one of their programs, so they have a lot to answer for in that department.
This year I planted the Oca a little too late, and did not give it enough attention. I will do a separate posting on growing Oca as learn more about it. I am trying to save some of the larger Oca tubers for seed. I picked the smallest to cook with the idea of presentation.

Featured on Masterchief was Noma in Copenhagen, regarded as the best restaurant in the world.
Their cooking is based on a philosophy of local, seasonal, fresh and foraged food.
The food writers say that cuisine in Noma can be considered more an interpretation of Nordic food than classical Nordic food itself.
Its Northern European seasonal homegrown and foraged food - I think that is not too far removed from what I am trying to do, but there is no way I would, or could, have the interest, ability or desire to replicate what they do.
I certainly do not aspire to cooking and presentation of that level but with the Oca, beetroot, potato, side salad and scallop all coming from within 1km of the house, the presentation colours, and the adaption of Irish staples I don't think I was too far off the mark in terms of food philosophy. From what I saw I certainly liked the innovation and thought process - and I am thinking about getting the Noma cookbook.

My main interest in Noma concepts was sparked from the use of lightly pickled local root veg and seafood with wild coastal herbs, there is a lot there I could learn from.
Also, food cooked in ashes, I've seen that done on open fires in Connemara and the use of old nordic seasoning - like hay ash with leeks - the only time I have seen anything like this was fennel ash being used on whelks in Spain.
I also think it is worth pointing out that in what I considered to be a very close competition with little to separate the contenders, Nomas head chief RenĂ© Redzepi spotted Claire Lara, just saying she was about 5% better than the others - and she did go on to win, despite being the most unassuming of the contenders - fair play and congratulations to her.

Anyway - enough commentary - on with the food -
A word of advice on this one, read the recipe through first - timing is important, and use the oven to warm the plates you intend to serve on.

The Oca.
Very simple to cook, its a tuber that acts like a new potato and best roasted.
Having picked out the smaller Oca tubers they simply went in to the oven at 180 deg. with some olive oil.
After 20 minutes in the oven I tasted one, and as it was quite tart I sprinkled about a third of a teaspoon of sugar over the tubers and returned to the oven for another 10 minutes. 

The Beetroot Fondant.
In the meantime I quickly melted some butter in a pot and prepared some small fresh beetroot for a root vegetable fondant
As usual with a fondant, the beets were sauteed in the butter until they started getting crisp and tender - to that I added some home made stock from cubes in the freezer.
About 20 minutes in, when the liquids had reduced a lot, I had some sliced potato left over from the Spanish omelet. These went in with 10 minutes to go, cooked well and picked up a lovely colour from the beetroot fondant.

The Scallop and Bacon

I had some bacon in the fridge - you could also use streaky bacon. I cut of the piece with the most fat.
I sliced the bacon thinly. Use one piece of bacon for each scallop.

20 minutes after the Oca and beetroot were started, I fried the bacon in cuinneog butter and olive oil at a high temperature until crispy, rendering out the fat.
After about 6 minutes of cooking, the bacon was taken out of the pan, put in an oven proof dish and chucked in the oven to stay warm.

I reduced the heat under the pan to medium. Then the Scallop was added to the pan, using the rendered bacon lard to cook it.
This takes about 5 minutes - so the top and bottom of the scallop is dark brown, caramelised - but be very careful not to burn them. I always cook them with the tongue, not only does it add to the flavour - it also helps to colour the jus.
After they are cooked, put them in the oven with the bacon to keep warm.
Drain the pan over the scallop and bacon.

NB: At this point put the serving plates in the oven.

When the greens (spinach in this case) are done, return the scallop, bacon and liquid to the pan for about a minute, then remove the bacon and scallop reserving any fats or liquid on the pan
- move the scallop and bacon to the warm serving plate.

The Greens

I used spinach. My one regret was I did not use Beetroot leaves or Swiss chard from the garden for this, when I harvested the beets I did not think to reserve some greens for this meal, so next time I will know better. I was very tempted to use cavalo nero kale from the garden, but the delicacy of the scallop put me off - perhaps next time - as using chard, beetroot leaves or kale would have made this a truly winter dish.

Anyway, the spinach is easy, shred, chuck in the pan and saute until reduced slightly - put directly on the warmed serving plates.

The Jus and presentation
At this point the greens, bacon and scallop have been plated up.
Pour some white wine - about a third of a glass - into the pan to de-glaze,
then add three tablespoons of cream, mix through and allow to reduce.

While that is reducing, get the fondant beets and potato's onto the plate.

Remove the oca from the oven, and plate up.

The sauce should be reduced slightly, spoon it over the scallops and bacon - be generous.

If I had parmesan cheese, I would have added a few shavings on top of the scallop for taste and presentation, but as I said, scallop does not need much in the way of flavouring.

Side Salad
I used a small winter gem lettuce - a cos type.
The dressing was made to compliment the Oca.
1/4 tsp mustard
1 clove garlic crushed and chopped
120 ml walnut oil
40 ml lemon juice
tsp maple syrup or honey
Pinch Cayenne pepper

As a wine, I used a Kiwi Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc, available at Super Value. Although the name suggests it comes from New Zealand, its actually made in France.
I think as this is a European dish, influenced by my time in New Zealand it is an apt choice, and it does go very well with the meal.

I must say that as a meal, this is one of the best I have produced - although because scallop has such a fantastic taste and texture its hard to go wrong.
I am delighted at the way the oca came out, the colours make for great presentation, and the flavours all work so well.
You have the sweet, rich scallop, the dry, salty bacon, the slightly earthy beetroot, slightly bitter spinach and the soft lemony/nutty flavour of the oca with the jus ties it all together.
The side salad also gives a refreshing zing with the lemon juice through it.

So, there it is, Oca grows well in Ireland and you can use it to compliment some of our own great foods with something a little exotic and very simple. And dont forget, you can source the Oca from Macalla farm. 

As always, thanks for reading and please take the time to comment - I really do appreciate the time and effort taken for feedback

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