When I grow up I want my very own Masala Farm. The first time I visited Suvir and Charlie’s home I felt as though I belong there. They have created a home in the countryside made of magic, an impeccable sense of style and an art collection from their travels to every corner of the world. Not to mention a kitchen that makes me weak at the knees, as much for the equipment as for the sun light and views. Masala Farm is the perfect blend of The Selby and the city to farm show, Green Acres. Their 120+ chickens roost in a stylish hen house with ample sky lights, so they will lay the tastiest eggs on the planet. The alpacas, sheep and goats share a pasture with the domestic geese, all living in harmony. It inspires the body, heart and soul just to be there. It is not by chance that the place evokes such love, it is Charlie and Suvir who created such a utopia. They seem to have created this wonderland in order to gather their friends and family. The entire upstate NY community has dined with them, their friends travel thousands of miles, from city homes, to restore at Masala Farm. These two men are the most beautiful, creative, gracious, generous people I have ever met. This is reflected clearly in their home, their food and in their new book, Masala Farm.
This past summer my family stopped at Masala Farm after attending my brother’s wedding. We arrived just as the animals were being fed and my boys, who have grown up in the city, jumped right in to help. I realized they know nothing about this kind of life; farming is a theoretical concept, but not a part of their experience. It was a joy to see them fearless in the task of collecting eggs from the chickens to eat for breakfast. What a gift to show them where their food comes from.
Suvir cooked them fresh eggs, with yolks the color of marigolds, and baked biscuits that made us swoon. I believe my exact words were “Holy &%$#, these are good!” They are like nothing I have had before. Suvir made them with Rose Levy Bernanbaum and she had the same reaction, so you know they are something crazy special. The recipe was a gift to Suvir from our mutual friend Bret Bannon, who grew up eating his grandmother’s biscuits for breakfast. Lucky, lucky man. Bret was kind enough to share with Suvir and I am grateful that the recipe found its way into Masala Farm. Suvir said I can share the recipe with you, so I had Bret, the expert, come over and bake them with me.
The bullets come later.
Grandma Mae’s Biscuits from Masala Farm: Stories and Recipes from an Uncommon Life in the Country (To say they are merely good, is like saying Mona Lisa has a nice smile.)
3 1/2 cups (450 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup butter
5 tablespoons lard (preferably leaf lard, which is the highest quality and can be found at your local butcher shop)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
To make the biscuits: Preheat the oven to 425°F
In a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the flour, baking powder and salt.
Blend 1/2 cup of the butter and the lard into the flour mixture using a dough or pastry blender.
It will resemble course cornmeal, with pieces no larger than a small pea.
Pour half the buttermilk into the bowl…
and use a butter knife to gently stir it into the dough.
Add more buttermilk, 2 tablespoons at a time, until there is no more dry spots remaining, but the dough should not be wet looking. (We ended up with 1/4 cup left in the glass, but you may have more or less depending on humidity.)
Gently press the dough together to form a rough ball.
Take off pieces of the dough and form small balls, dipping your hands in the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, as Suvir shows in this short video.
Melt the remaining butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Place the biscuits in the pan and then turn them over, so the butter side is up.
Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Let them cool for about 5 minutes before serving. Thanks to Bret and his Grandma for sharing this remarkable recipe.
During our trip to Masala Farm, Suvir also canned blueberries. The recipe is here and in the book.
As are his seasonal fruit jam recipes.
The other side to farm life is dealing with the pesky intruders that threaten the farm animals. A reality in this rural fairytail is that coyotes, wild cats and enormous predator birds have killed their chickens and geese. In order to protect the livestock, they have to know how to use a gun. Suvir refuses, but Charlie is quite a shot and Mark, who helps them keep the farm running, is well trained and a great teacher. If you thought that gathering eggs and feeding goats is exciting to a couple of pre-teen boys, just imagine the opportunity to shoot a rifle.
Needless to say my sons think Suvir and Charlie’s farm is a boy paradise. I have to admit I tried my hand at the rifle, and it is harder than I thought. It must be a boy thing.
The boys also got to go fishing with the Battenkill Valley’s best fishing guide. Dan knows every fishing hole in a 50 mile radius and was overjoyed to show the boys his secret spots, one of which is right on Masala Farm and is quite famous for its trout. The boys didn’t catch any trout, but next summer they will and Suvir will hopefully make us the Salt-Roasted Trout from the book. (Suvir, that was a not-so-subtle hint!)
Congratulations to my two friends for putting together a book that represents the heart and soul of your amazing farm.
I dream to have my own Masala Farm someday, but until then, I will be grateful for every invitation to visit Charlie and Suvir, and I will cherish the books they create from there. Please join me in wishing Suvir a very Happy Birthday!!!! xo