Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine

self-sufficient­ly lynda

She’s cooking up a murder mystery


It was a murder most fowl. Last week, we had three roosters: Frederico, a pedigree silver-laced Wyandotte, and his two mongrel sons. But now there’s only one.

It wasn’t Frederico’s fault that his sons grew up feral. Sure, their father slept around, but he did it with decorum. He always stayed the night. He answered his ladies’ calls. Our cockerel Casanova was loyal to all seven of our hens.

Shame the same couldn’t be said of his sons. Arrogant and aggressive, these juvenile delinquent­s developed an Oedipus complex and made a cuckold of their old man. Then, not content with molesting their mothers, they turned on us. They plundered my vege patch, defecated on the deck and attacked anyone who dared cross their path. Vegetarian­s and vegans: I suggest you turn the page now. Enough was enough. The Hunk cornered them both in the chook run and, when they flew the coop, he felled one with a bullet while his mate Boogie wrung its brother’s neck.

I came home to a roast dinner with all the trimmings: crunchy Agrias, golden Beauregard kumara, honeyed carrots and a bird so big it barely fit in the oven. It certainly looked the part (if you ignored the half-plucked bum fluff on its breast) but the meat was as tough and dry as a microwaved turkey. Disappoint­ed, we fed it to the dog.

How could a six-month-old free-range rooster taste so terrible? How indeed. The answer dawned on us when Frederico failed to crow the next morning – one of his sons did the duty instead. In a tragic case of mistaken identity, the blokes had unwittingl­y butchered and baked our poultry patriarch. We commiserat­ed with coq au vin, that famous French chicken casserole. Chop up a whole chicken and marinate the pieces overnight in a bottle of good burgundy or pinot noir, then place in a slow cooker with a splash of olive oil, 20 pickling onions, six cloves of garlic, a packet of smoky bacon, button mushrooms, bay leaves, fresh thyme and parsley. (In Allyson Gofton’s book Slow, she recommends adding a tablespoon of chicken stock powder to compensate for modern factory-fattened birds’ lack of flavour.)

As for Frederico’s surviving son? His manners haven’t improved one bit, so he’s destined for a creamy chicken fricassee. Then I’ll follow Pam Corkery’s lead and find a pure-bred Houdan to pimp out to our girls in spring. Lynda Hallinan is editor at large of NZ Gardener magazine. For tips on growing your own food, sign up to the magazine’s free weekly vegetable gardening e-newsletter – email

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