Biscuits and Bullets – Life on Masala Farm!

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.

Biscuits

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.

biscuits

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

36 thoughts to “Biscuits and Bullets – Life on Masala Farm!”

  1. Hi Zoe – You were such a dear to allow me to come over and bake my grandmother’s biscuit recipe with you the other day. As usual, the photographs are beautiful and the day was such a delight! I look forward to another day of baking with you soon. Thanks Dear!

  2. XOXOXO!!

    You Zoë are too sweet! I am missing you, Graham, and the boys as I read this. I brought guns to your life and you brought meringue to mine – what a trade! LOL

    Cannot wait for the next visit, will promise to clear my schedule so that we can all have more time to play, and kayak, and bake, and bake, and bake, and bake…. you get the idea!

    1. Hi Charlie,

      Thank YOU so much for such a gorgeous book. It feels just like your farm, full of love and life! I can’t wait to return and I look forward to baking day and night.

      Huge congratulations!

      xo z

    1. Hi Rose,

      It would be a dream come true to share a kitchen with you, Charlie and Suvir at Masala Farm! I so look forward to the day!

      Cheers, Zoë

  3. Wow. Now *I* want a Masala Farm, or at least to visit Masala Farm! But I’ll “settle” for making those fantastically sumptuous looking biscuits. And what a wonderful compromise that will be. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Zoë This was a very beautiful blog about the farm! I love it! I feel blessed living so close and having both of them in my life as well! I hope next time you come visit i can get in on those shenanigans with all of you! The farm is Magic! Its the place I think about when I’m miserable that makes everything better!

  5. Hi Zoe,
    Thanks so much for such a wonderful article! I’ve read and heard so much about Masala Farm, and your words just deepen my admiration and respect for Charlie and Suvir; for the gracious and lavish hospitality they give so freely to so many.

    I just made those biscuits for the first time yesterday! They were meltaway and crispy on the outside and light and airy on the inside. Suvir says in his video that they are easy–and they are, believe me–if I can do it, just about anyone can!

    And I just got my Masala Farm cookbook today! It’s a gorgeous book–full of beautiful pictures and wonderful homegrown ponderings about life on the farm. I wish Suvir and Charlie and every creature on Masala Farm all the best!

  6. Zoe, Such a beautiful post about Charlie & Suvir’s Masala Farm, Brett’s grandmother’s delightful biscuits (which Suvir graciously made for us this summer, complete with homemade Masala Farm jams) and a real life story about this very real place in Washington County. My own copy of Masala Farm arrived today..on Suvir’s birthday (HB Suvir!! May you have had a most lovely day). So, I cannot wait to make them for Peter and maybe the neighbor’s if they are deserving of such deliciousness. I have to thank all of you (Suvir, Charlie, Bret, Zoe) for being ever so real and touchable in all that you do. You are genuine folks in every sense of the word.
    Never change the way you are….never.

    Now…leaf lard. Can you elaborate (Zoe, Bret, Suvir) on the difference in leaf lard and lard you might find at the store? I am fortunate to get lard from our CSA farm but it is not available year round. I have begun using lard in biscuits and just love the texture and lightness it gives to the biscuits.

    Did the boys see or hear any coyotes during your visit? Did they stay in the front room with all the wonderful windows? I think that is my favorite room of the farm.
    Aaahhhh, time to make the biscuits….

    1. Hi Bonnie,

      Yes, that porch room is magic! Aren’t we lucky! 😉

      Leaf lard is just a very high quality lard that is rendered from certain parts of the pig, around the organs and loin. It has a cleaner flavor and is perfect for pastries. You can substitute other lard in its place.

      Thanks, Zoë

  7. What a yummy post. I think I will try it with some gluten free flour, and let you know the results.

    It was lovely meeting you this summer, and spending some quality ping-pong time with your boys in our living room. I wished I had remembered at the time to thank you for the King Arthur brownie mix I won from your give away many months ago.

    1. Hi Paula,

      It was such a pleasure to meet you this summer. Graham came home and made himself a paper wallet from your design. It sits on our dresser as a piece of art!

      Cheers, Zoë

  8. My grandmother Flossie was known for her biscuits made with her own lard, served with her own butter and fig preserves. We all remember them a huge, fluffy, dreamy.

  9. Hi Zoe
    I follow your blogging for more than three years and i rally love your articles, pictures, wonderful recipes and all the work you are doing. And i have to say this one was the best of all because it feels so full of love. It made me happy so thank you for sharing.
    Ieva

  10. I loved every bit of this article. The romantic and rustic allure of a farm filled with animals and chickens and canning and baking is just too irresistible not to like! Thank you! And…Happy Birthday.

  11. I want my own Masala Farm too!!! I tried to convince my husband to let me raise a few chickens in our backyard, but that idea was quickly vetoed!
    I’m a huge fan of Suvir…and I’ll definitely be checking out the book!

    I also think those biscuits may make an appearance on Christmas day! I’m picturing them smothered with a little sausage and sage gravy. YUM!

  12. Zoe, you embarrass me with such high praise.
    Charlie and I were smiling, blushing, crying and excited – all at once, as we read this post on his computer the day you posted it.

    Sadly, my computer would not let me get onto your site at the farm. What a shame! But I saw the post as you posted it, and I was in your debt from the second on. Deeper in your debt I should say.

    Thanks for sharing this post, thanks for bringing Grandma Mae into the world of so many of your fans, and thereby so many more homes across America. Eacn and every person that makes these biscuits will be richer for that experience, and happier too.

    Thanks also for sharing the book with one and all. Our lives at American Masala Farm, and this book, Masala Farm, are both blessed to have been associated with you. Your presence in our lives, at the farm, and as a friend, has shaped a lot of what we do, how we think, and how we live and share.

    You are a darling presence, a kind friend, a generous peer and the most gracious person anyone can wish to know. Thanks for being you, thanks for always being beyond adorable. And thanks for bringing tears to me eyes, as you spoke, shared and celebrated my third baby, this new book.

    What can I say. My words are mortal, mediocre, and miserable in comaprison to the majestic brilliance of those that come from your mind, heart and fingers onto the screen. I hope you will realize how much I am amazed every day by who you are, how you share with all, and how you are able to express yourself.

    Thanks dear friend. For this post, for your friendship, and for your presence in our lives. We are blessed to know you, to have you as a friend, and to have your magic in the kitchen in our own kitchens, through your amazing books and recipes.

    With humility, gratefulness, adoration and much love,

    Suvir

  13. Zoë,

    Thanks for yet another installment from the farm (you had me with the pie recipe though). I just made a batch of these biscuits and they are phenomenal… many thanks to Grandma Mae, Bret, Suvir and yourself for sharing these treasures.

  14. Hi Zoe,

    Thanks so much for the wonderful post! I just love the beautiful photography. I love the video, also. So nice to see what Suvir looks and sounds like–you talk about him so much!

    Sadly, I won’t be able to make these because of the lard. But I did learn some techniques about shaping biscuits that I can use.

    Thanks again,

    Judy

  15. To make these gorgeous biscuits kosher, should I substitute vegetable shortening or unsalted butter the 5 Tbsp. of Lard?

    Thank you for sharing this biscuit recipe, that is worthy of being kept a family-secret. Thank you for not keeping it a secret and for keeping the art of baking old fashioned biscuits alive!

  16. What an amazing experience! Like your boys, I’m a city kid, but I’ve always dreamed of having a huge garden and keeping a couple of chickens… probably the closest I’ll ever come to working on a farm 🙂 Gorgeous photos!

  17. So I am quite late to the biscuit party, mostly because I thought they would take some time to make. But, somehow they magically were made in a matter of 20 minutes (Prep) time, and then in the oven for 25 minutes while kids woke up and got ready. Thanks for a wonderful article and tutorial! These biscuits are just wonderful. I personally love that there is no rolling them out and cutting them…easy and delicious! and the jam from the Farm is wonderful too! Lucky me!

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