Elaine Boland, owner and manager of Fields of Athenry Farm in Purcellville, has surely earned her nickname: The lamb lady. The farm's flavorful cuts of lamb are legendary. But Boland and her farm offer much more than well-tended and well-fed sheep, pigs, poultry (people line up to order her Thanksgiving turkeys), and beef cattle -- the farm's store sells eggs, honey, butter, cheese, wild-caught fish, and a range of health supplements.
Boland says she had always been determined to get a big farm and to own horses when she grew up. "When I was a little kid," she said, "we had hundreds of acres with cotton and cattle. I loved animals and was always bringing them home." Besides, she adds, her mother had grown up on a farm, so the farming passion was already part of her spirit.
Boland's dreams of farming became a reality when she and her husband moved to Northern Virginia, determined to find a country setting to raise their children. They purchased their land, naming it Fields of Athenry, an unusual name for a farm, Boland agrees. But as she explains, there was a reason. Not only is there an Irish ballad by that name, but it is a healing farm, she says. "The name Fields of Athenry comes from a close friend, Father James McCurry, whose family runs sheep in the true Fields of Athenry, about 30 minutes south of Galway Bay, Ireland," she says
When one of Boland's five daughters was diagnosed with Cushing's disease four years ago, she rededicated herself and her farm to promoting family health through the concept of nutrient-dense eating.
|If you go|
|Fields of Athenry Farm|
|Where: 38082 Snickersville Tnpk., Purcellville|
|Store hours: Thurs.-Sat., 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.|
"I started studying the teaching of dentist-turned-nutritionist Weston A. Price, and other health consultants," she said. Her studies also changed how she viewed farming. "It is the nutrition of the whole animal, and one that lived a very complete life -- from the grass and bugs that it ate, to the pebbles that helped with its digestion, to the sunshine that warmed its body, to the natural way it interacted with its mother," she said. "That produces an animal that produces true human nutrition ... My daughter would not have been transformed as she was by a simple organic approach to raising food."
She also started cooking in earnest, not only healthful meals for her family and organically based, homemade dinners to sell at the farm's store or for home delivery, but also quantities of broths, or soup stocks made from bones, meats and organs, and vegetables simmered together for hours. "It really gives a boost to the immune system," she said. "I make 8 to 10 stockpots of broth each week, plus other dinners I make," she says. To help structure her cooking program, Boland now works with chef Wesley Rosati, formerly of Lansdowne Resort.
What is your cooking philosophy?
A family that eats together, stays together, so eat, drink and be merry
What is your comfort food?
Eating steak in the morning
How do you get your inspiration?
From my mother
What is your cooking tip?
Don't be afraid of spices -- add them and taste. Play. It is just food!
What's in your fridge?
Raw Milk Amish Butter and lots of good Fields of Athenry meat. Asparagus, cheeses, salad makings. Fruits.
Fields of Athenry Lamb
Serves 4 to 6
Serve with peas and carrots, wild rice, and apples or a fresh garden salad and you have a perfect lamb dinner! Elaine Boland says, "I adjust the seasoning amount to the amount of meat I'm preparing."
1 butterflied leg of lamb, about 3 to 4 pounds, or a lamb leg top round, about 1 to 3 pounds
2 to 3 tablespoons salted butter, preferably Amish butter
1 tablespoon pork lard
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 teaspoon salt, preferably premier pink salt
1 teaspoon seasoning salt, preferably Mom's Seasoning (available at Fields of Athenry)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup diced onions
3/4 cup Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat the butter and pork lard in a heavv skillet, and add the seasonings. Sear the lamb in the skillet, and brown it on all sides. Place the browned rack in a baking pan, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes. The lamb should still be pink in the center.
While the lamb is cooking, add the onions, mushrooms and sherry to the skillet, and saut? until cooked through. When the lamb is ready, remove from the oven and pour the onion-mushroom sauce over the meat before serving.