Rhubarb & Frosts…

As mentioned in my last post, we recently endured a spate of heavy frosts. While the visual effects were stunning, the aftermath in the gardens has been quite destructive! Citrus, lemons, limes, mandarins, etc literally froze on the tree, and because there was no reprieve from the frosts – they just kept coming, night after night after night, the fruit did not recover and turned to mush. Initially the fruit looked perfectly normal, but when you touched it, it was soft and squishy, and finally it just fell from the trees. That is not all, people in the district fear that their precious trees may not recover from the trauma, and it is the centre of many conversations within the community. That is just the citrus trees… There has been so much more destruction in the garden, and many have lost so, so many of their treasured plants and trees. Fortunately we were very lucky and my wonderful husband’s diligence saved so much.

That being said, I just thought I would show you what happened to our rhubarb… The stalks froze, and then they split when thawing!


My sister, Sonya, made the comment that all I could do with it now, would be to knit it!!! But remembering how my Gran used to cover her precious tomato plants when they were newly planted to save them from the spring frosts, we went in search of large pots to cover the plants each night – it worked… The rhubarb has recovered and we have a lovely new flush coming along…


I have also spent a lot of time trying to learn all about growing rhubarb, and have added the information here.

In the mean time, my sister Janice sent me a recipe via text message that she had found in an English gardening magazine, she just took a shapshot of it and sent it through. I managed to scrounge enough rhubarb, and decided that I would add some beautiful golden delicious apples from the local farmer’s market, tweaked the recipe here and there, and this is what I ended up with – Rhubarb Sauce. I have served it alongside homemade pork, ginger and sage sausages, roast loin of pork and added it to the jus I was preparing to accompany a piece of beef scotch fillet – it is amazing!


So if you have a little rhubarb on hand, give it a try, it doesn’t take too long and will be a great addition to your pantry…

Rhubarb Sauce

  • Servings: Makes 6 x 250 ml bottles
  • Print

My sister, Jan, found a recipe for Rhubarb Sauce in an English gardening magazine and sent me a photo – I changed it somewhat and this is the end result. It is slightly tart and a little tangy, and pairs beautifully with pork and is a wonderful addition to a sauce for steak.


  • 600 g Rhubarb (preferably red) washed, trimmed and cut into 2cm pieces
  • 400 g Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 600 g Purple onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2.5 litres Cider vinegar, (approx)
  • 300 g white sugar (appros)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp pickling spice
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • 2 cardamon pods
  • a few chards of cinnamon bark
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper


  1. Place the pickling spice, cloves, chilli, cardamon pods and cinnamon bark into a small piece of muslin and tie with a piece of cooking twine to form a small bag.
  2. Add the rhubarb, apples, ginger, onion and 250 ml of the cider vinegar, together with the spice bag to a large pan. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until the fruit is soft – approximately 20 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and discard the spice bag. Allow to cool slightly before pureeing the mixture in a food processor until smooth.
  4. Measure the puree and add to a clean pan and for each 600g of puree add 100g of sugar and 300 ml of cider vinegar. Finally add the ground spices and salt and stir to combine.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil and then cook over medium /low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and of pouring consistency.
  6. Pour into warm sterilised bottles and seal and lable.


  • You can purchase pickling spice from the spice section at the supermarket, or prepare your own.


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Until next time…

Happy gardening & bon appétit!


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The Frozen Garden!

We have recently endured a spate of heavy frosts, and for us it was very cold – minus 7.6 celsius etc. The first morning I got up and wandered down to the vegie patch, before heading into the garden for the community in Stratford. As I worked in the garden there I was kicking myself for not having got up earlier and taken photos of the beauty that a frost creates. I know that it also causes devastation, but all I saw was beauty.

Fortunately Mother Nature was going to ensure that I had ample opportunity to get my beautiful pics, and the following morning it was even colder, I got up earlier and with camera in hand headed down to the vegie patch. You know, I really didn’t feel the cold while I wandered around snapping photos of my frozen herbs and veggies… I’ll let you be the judge, but I think that while Mother Nature can be cruel, she can also create moments of great beauty.


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When I got back inside, my gorgeous Gary was up and getting ready to go down to water everything in an effort to save it. So all rugged up, he headed down, but there was a problem! There was no water – the pipes and hoses were all frozen, in fact one hose just snapped in two!! Not to be thwarted, buckets were gathered and filled, and with watering can in hand he set to work… With me in the house filling the buckets, Gary was down in the frozen Vegie patch watering all the foliage of the plants.


Now our vegie patch is not just out the back door, so I grabbed one of the trolley barrows and loaded filled buckets into it, and started my way down, a little water sloshed out along the way, but I must say, the majority of it found its way down there. With empties on board, I returned to the house and began filling again. When it was all done, there were hot drinks to wrap our hands around and the feeling of having done everything we could to save as much as we could.


With more frosts on the way, we thought we might try to cover the hoses and pipes in blankets that night, only to discover that they were still frozen! So the bucket brigade was on duty the following morning.

Inspired by the frozen beauty of the vegie patch, I knew exactly what I would prepare for our Sunday night Soup and Sweets meal – Blushing Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Kale and a Scattering of Brie ( I had planned on using a nice blue cheese, but when I went to get it out of the refrigerator, there was none!) For dessert Pears Poached in Wine nestled in a pool of Crème Anglaise?

Blushing Cauliflower Soup with Kale Crisps and a Scattering of Brie

Inspired by a spate of very heavy frosts that made the vegie patch look like it had been placed in the freezer, it was simply beautiful visually.


  • ½ purple cauliflower
  • 2 pink lady apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely diced
  • 2 tsp freshly picked thyme leaves
  • 750 ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 40g butter
  • 2 tbsp diced brie

For the Kale Crisps

  • 4 kale leaves
  • olive oil
  • sea salt


  1. Heat the butter in a large pan, or wok, over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté over gentle heat until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the cauliflower, cover with a lid and raise the heat a little. Cook until the cauliflower is tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the thyme and apple and continue to cook for another five minutes.
  4. Pour in the stock, add the pepper and season to taste with salt. Simmer until the apple and cauliflower are cooked.
  5. Leave to cool slightly before blending the soup in a blender or food processor.
  6. Reheat and serve garnished with kale crisps and a scattering of diced brie.

For the Kale Crisps

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Remove the centre stems from kale and discard. Tear the leaves into small bite size pieces, scatter on the baking tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and toss ensuring the leaves are coated in olive oil.
  3. Spread kale out in a single layer and bake for 12-15 minutes or until leaves are crisp. Sprlnkle with a little sea salt.


  • Source: SBA’s Kitchen
  • Ensure you keep the brie in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. When it hits the hot soup it begins to melt

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Oh, and was all the effort worth it to try and save our veg – I think so. While we have lost a couple of things, and couple of more have been damaged, the majority of our veggies live on, including newly planted lettuce and coriander, parsley etc… I have talked to quite a few people who have lost so many plants, they are devastated by the loss.  I feel so sorry for them and so understand how they feel…

Until next time…

Happy gardening & bon appétit!


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A Gluten Free Cooking Class

This week I held a one-on-one cooking class for a wonderful new friend, and fellow volunteer from the Garden for the Community at Stratford, Maggie. She wanted to learn how to make my gluten free Weed Pies – I continue to be fascinated how popular these pies are. I did a blog on them last year and whenever I serve them up they are a hit – they have been served at lunches, morning teas, even the opening of the local Stratford Shakespeare Festival a couple of months ago!

Anyway, I suggested we hold the lesson in her kitchen so that she could use her equipment, and if she didn’t have similar equipment and/or appliances to what I have, we could adapt the methods accordingly. I had forwarded the recipes for the Gluten Free Potato Pastry and the pies earlier so that she could have all the ingredients necessary, and also asked her to have two litres of milk on hand for the cheese.

On the morning of the lesson I decided to write up a recipe sheet for the cheese also, and took that along. When I arrived we sat in front of the wood heater with “Puss” her gorgeous grey cat, and enjoyed a warming cup of tea and a chat – we’re very good at the “chat” side of things…

Finally we went to the kitchen and started. First to be made was the cheese, based on the recipe for Queso Blanco from the book Home Cheese Making in Australia, the milk was placed into a saucepan, and stirred and watched, until it reached 80˚C. Vinegar was then added and stirred through, the lid placed on and it was set aside for a little while we got onto cooking the potatoes for the pastry.

When we checked pot, the curds hadn’t formed as I would like, so we added a little more vinegar and started to gather the ingredients for the pastry, and mash the potatoes before setting them aside to cool. This time the curds were perfect and Maggie carefully ladled them into a colander lined with a couple of layers of muslin, the corners were pulled together and tied with string, before hanging the cheese, in its muslin bag, over the pot to drain until we were ready to use it. All the time we were working, or should I say, while Maggie was working, we continued to chat and share stories about our life experiences, cooking, gardening etc.

It was now time to gather the ingredients for the filling for the pies – I couldn’t wait! We ventured into her gorgeous back yard which is filled with fruit trees, a magnificent chicken pen, and many beds of various shapes and sizes for vegetables and herbs. We wandered around while she explained what all the trees were, I got to meet her gorgeous girls,

we checked out all the herbs and veggies, and then we set to work gathering weeds and leaves for the pies. I had spied the nettles and suggested that they would be perfect for the pies, Maggie donned the gloves and gathered them while I gathered some chic weed and mallows to add to our collection of nettles, chard, bok choy, broccoli shoots, carrot tops etc. Finally some fresh herbs were added to our gorgeous basket of greenness and we were done.

Back in the kitchen we picked the leaves from all the greens, with Maggie very carefully taking care of the nettles. They were all washed and then chopped finely. Onion and garlic was added to a little oil in a pan and sautéed before the weeds were added and allowed to cook down a little.

With that done, the pastry needed to be made – with everything in the food processor, it quickly come together and was ready to roll out to line the lightly greased pie tins. Maggie took the cheese down, placed it into a bowl and salted it before adding some of it to the greens together with a couple of beautiful fresh eggs. The mix was seasoned and tasted, and it was decided it still needed a little more seasoning. Meanwhile I had rolled out the pastry, lined the tins with it, and had them resting in the refrigerator, and we had even remembered to turn the oven on!

Finally the pies were filled, the pastry lids put on and sealed. Finished with an egg wash and a scattering of sesame seeds they were set into the oven to bake.

Time for a very late lunch of Maggie’s delicious pea and ham soup in front of the fire – well kind of … With all our time in the kitchen and the garden we hadn’t been giving any attention to the fire and it had kind of gone out!. A little kindling, a couple of fire starters, and we were back in action. With Puss at my feet we settled down in front of the fire, enjoyed our soup and chatted some more.

Half an hour later, the pies were out of the oven, so with the main part of her dinner prepared, it was time for me to go home and start doing a little work there.

I love teaching people how easy it is to cook, how to use what they have and adjust a recipe to that end, I love teaching tips and tricks, and sharing my knowledge, I also love learning from others.

Oh and the verdict from Maggie – “Delicious”

Queso Blanco

  • Servings: Makes 250g - approx.
  • Print

I make this cheese for my weed pies and ravioli ignuedi recipes. I shorten the hanging time to an hour and it gives the perfect cheese for these recipes – not too wet!


2 litres of full cream milk ¼ cup white vinegar 1 tsp of cheese salt, or salt to taste


Stainless steel pot large enough for your two litres of milk Dairy thermometer Stainless steel perforated spoon Stainless steel ladle Tight weave cheese making cloth Large stainless steel or enamel colander String Somewhere to hang your cheese – an overhead cupboard door handle is ideal


Place your two litres of milk in the stainless steel pot and heat milk by direct heat to 80˚C. Remove from heat.
Add the white vinegar and stir well. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. There will be a clear separation of the curds and whey. If this separation has not occurred add a little more vinegar.
Line a large colander with your tight weave cheese making cloth. Carefully ladle your curds and whey into the lined colander and drain for a few minutes. Tie the corners of the cheese making cloth together and hang, using the string, to drain for a further six hours or until the whey stops dripping.
Remove the cheese from the cloth and place in a bowl. Salt to taste.


You can use skim milk, but you will not get as much cheese. The salt is important not only for flavour, but it acts to preserve the cheese. The cheese will last up to two week in the refrigerator. I make this cheese for my weed pies and ravioli ignuedi recipes. I shorten the hanging time to an hour and it gives the perfect cheese for these recipes – not too wet! This is similar to lemon cheese but has a milder flavour. This style of cheese is used in Mexican cooking and also for making béchamel style sauces and pairs beautifully with tomato based dishes. I like to crumble the cheese through salads and over smoked salmon tarts. Source: Home Cheese Making in Australia, V Pearson (2015) p42.

Weed Pies


  • 1 quantity of Savoury Potato Pastry
  • 350 g mixed greens (refer to note below)
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 150g dry ricotta or feta
  • 30g grated parmesan
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg beaten (for egg wash)


  1. Rinse the greens and remove any yellow or damaged leaves.
  2. Finely chop the onion and any stems, and then finely slice the leaves, keeping separate
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and stems, sauté until soft, then add the leaves and put the lid on the pan and cook until the leaves have all wilted. Set aside to cool. Drain off any liquid.
  4. Preheat oven to 200˚C (Fan forced).
  5. Combine the cooled greens with the cheeses, eggs and oregano, and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Lightly grease the pie tin(s).
  7. Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking, paper, and line the pie tin(s).
  8. Leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes, before filling.
  9. Cover with pastry, make a little hole to allow steam to escape, brush with egg wash and bake 25 minutes, until golden.


  • For your wild greens, use a combination of dandelion, mustard, chickweed, rocket, wild fennel, beetroot tops, turnip tops, silverbeet or rainbow chard. You could also add some fresh herbs if you want.


Mini muffin sized weed pies baked for a morning tea recently.

Until next time…

Happy gardening & bon appétit!



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Horseradish in the garden

I recently posted some images of freshly made horseradish mustard on a forum page and was fascinated to receive quite a few questions about growing horseradish.  So for anyone who may be interested, I have put together the following information.

Botanical name

Horseradish in the garden – Version 2

Horseradish in my garden

Armoracia rusticana




Horseradish is a hardy perennial and the perfect cold-climate crop capable of surviving winter temperatures to -20°F (-28°C). With leaves reaching between 60 and 90 cm high, its long tapering roots, which can be rich in vitamin C, calcium, sodium and magnesium, grow to be approximately 5 cm thick and up to 60cm long. The delicious, pungent flavour of the root is released by grating or cutting the root, but is neutralized by heat. Whereas the young tender leaves of the plant can be added to your salad leaves for a little zing.

With all this being said, one must be aware of the invasive nature of the horseradish plant and take this into consideration when planting it.


Cuttings taken from the roots of healthy horseradish should be planted out into enriched soil, in the spring (in Australia), taking care to plant it where its invasive nature is not going to create problems in the future. Green leaves will sprout in the spring and die back in late Autumn/Winter. Established plants may send up sprays of white summer flowers which are best removed so that the plant can put all its energy into the roots, and prevent unwanted seedlings. Keep free of weeds.

Difficulty: Easy
Soil: Deep well drained, enriched soil.
Position: Sunny to lightly shaded.
Spacing: 30cm apart.
Propagation: Root cuttings, division.
Sow and plant: Spring (in Australia)
Watering: Keep soil moist (it doesn’t like dry soil).
Climate: Cold to cool temperate.
Frost tolerant: Yes
Feeding: Feed established plants through spring and summer with an organic liquid plant food. Add a mulch of aged manure around the emerging plants in spring.
Enrich the soil regularly with compost and manure.
Do not over-fertilise with nitrogen as this causes roots to split.
Companions: Potatoes, fruit trees, brambles, grapes, sweet potatoes, strawberries, asparagus and rhubarb.


Cabbage white butterfly caterpillars and small snails are the main pests to watch for. Regularly check plants for caterpillars and remove and squash any that are found.


Plants need one or two seasons in the ground before they are ready to be harvested. While roots from an established clump can be harvested whenever you need it, it is at its best, and has the strongest flavour, if harvested from late autumn to early spring.

To harvest, use a garden fork and loosen the soil in a wide circle around the plant. Then use your hands to locate the direction that the taproot has grown. The main horseradish root will not be found going down, but running virtually horizontal in any direction it chooses! Follow this root, gently working the soil, to ensure you get the biggest and best roots. The roots easily break off if you just try to pull them out.

Horseradish - Picked and Washed

Freshly dug horseradish from my garden.


Roots the same diameter as your fingers are the easiest to work with. I use a scourer to wash and scrub them with and then leave them to dry on some paper towel. You can store unpeeled horseradish in an airtight container in the fridge for several weeks, or alternatively freeze them. If you freeze the horseradish you can grate what you need while it is still frozen and return the unused portion back to the freezer for another day.

For a little more convenience you can prepare some horseradish and keep it in the refrigerator. Simply add 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar to a clean jar and stir in 1 teaspoon of sugar and ¼ teaspoon of sea salt. Then using a microplane, finely grate your horseradish, adding it as you go, ensuring that is totally coated with the vinegar solution. With this on hand you can quickly add it to any dish you choose, in no time at all!

Horseradish - grated

Note: When peeling and grating horseradish, make sure you wear rubber gloves and work in a well ventilated area, preferably outside, it is worse than working with onion and chillies!

Uses in the Garden

As a spray, horseradish can prevent apple scab, and if sprayed at leaf fall and bud swell may lessen the incidence of bacterial infection in fruit trees.

To make the spray, pour 1 litre of boiling water over the top of 3 firmly packed cupfuls of roughly chopped horseradish leaves. Cover and leave to stand for 30 minutes. Strain, cool and use within a few hours. This spray is a good general fungicide.

By growing horseradish under fruit trees it helps to protect them from fungal issues.

Uses in the Kitchen

The more finely the roots are grated, the stronger the flavour – I like

Horseradish Mustard - Ready for the store of preserves (and gift

Horseradish Mustard prepared for a gift.

to use a microplane to grate horseradish with. A couple of things to note though, when peeling and grating horseradish make sure you wear rubber gloves and work in a well ventilated area, preferably outside – it is worse than working with onion and chillies; also horseradish is not cooked because it looses its pungent flavour during the heating process.

Horseradish grated into cream is the traditional way to use the root, but it can be added to other foods, including coleslaw and beetroot, or added to mustards and mayonnaise to liven the flavour. You can even steep vinegar with horseradish and then use the vinegar for pickling beetroot or livening up a salad.

Egg, smoked salmon and horseradish cream canapes-r

Egg, smoked salmon and horseradish mustard cream cheese served on a pumpernickel style bread – a quick and easy canape!

Until next time…

Happy gardening & bon appétit!


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Figs evoke such wonderful memories…


Fig tree - 2

To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean. (Elizabeth David)

The beautiful big fig tree down by the creek at our old family home – we always knew that if the creek flooded in the spring and/or summer that we would have a wonderful crop. Then there is the Christmas cake and pudding that I make every year, that has a jar of fig jam included in the recipe – I am happy to say it is always fig jam from our store cupboard. And who could forget a day at the races in the country, with my beautiful friend Sophia, where a platter scattered with fresh figs, feta, walnuts and prosciutto, drizzled with honey was handed around to get the day started. This is where I totally fell in love with the flavour of the fresh fig.

Freshly picked figs - 4

A great fig should look like it’s just about to burst its skin. When squeezed lightly it should give a little and not spring back. It must be almost unctuously sweet, soft and wet. (Yotam Ottolenghi)

We both have very fond memories of our time with an elderly couple in France where I received some of the best advice ever. Over breakfast, we were talking about the fruit grown on their property and how it was stored… Genevieve told me that the apples were stored in the old stone chapel across the way, and, in fact, we were eating the last of what they had stored away from last season for our breakfast. I asked, what to do with excess figs, apart from drying them or making jam etc. She told me that she just threw them in a bag in the freezer, then whenever she was cooking a roast, she would grab a few out and scatter them around the roast as it cooked – she assured me that they would keep their shape and not become mush, and she was spot on!

So whenever anyone asks if I could use some figs, I never turn them down. I bring them home, wash them, and throw them in a bag in the freezer.

This year I don’t know how many kilograms we have received, but I recently weighed what is left and there are still 11 kilograms frozen and waiting for me to use. I follow Genevieve’s advice and toss them around a roast, but I also take them out and dehydrate them. Occasionally I grab a few, slit them down squish in some feta and wrap them in prosciutto, grill them and then scatter with some toasted walnut and drizzle with a little honey or fig vinegar glaze.

Last week the weather turned very wintery providing the perfect opportunity to use some of the figs from the freezer, together with some dried figs and fig vinegar. This Slow Cooked Pork Scotch with Figs and Fennel Seeds was the perfect warming meal on such a bleak, cold day. The pork just fell apart and was perfect with all the sticky figiness!

Slow Cooked Pork Scotch with Figs and Fennel Seeds

This delicious winter warmer was inspired by the onset of winter and the need for some yummy comfort food - the thought of combining some delicious Coltish Pork with figs and fig products I had been making over the last month or so seemed obvious!


  • 1 kg pork neck
  • 150g diced onion
  • 80g diced celery
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup fig vinegar
  • 2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped sage
  • ¼ cup dried figs, diced
  • 2 cups pork stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 150˚C.
  2. In a mortar and pestle, pound the fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt to a powder.
  3. Cut the pork neck into four even sized, thick slices and season lightly with the spice powder.
  4. Heat oil in a large heavy based, ovenproof pan or casserole and fry the slices of pork in two batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove from pon and set aside.
  5. To the same pan, add the onion, celery and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender. Add the remaining spice powder and stir.
  6. Turn up the heat and the fig vinegar and diced fig, stirring to deglaze the pan. Cook until the fig vinegar has reduced by half, then reduce the heat, and stir in the sage.
  7. Place the pork in a single layer in the pan, add the stock and bring back to the boil.
  8. Cover with the lid and place in the preheated oven for 1½ – 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.
  9. When the meat is cooked. Remove it to a plate and cover to keep warm.
  10. Skim the fat from the juices in the pan, then place the pan over a medium heat to reduce the sauce to a nice syrupy consistency.
  11. Serve hot with steamed greens, creamy mash potato, and if you wish, some grilled fresh figs.


  • Source: SBA’s Kitchen
  • If you do not have pork stock, I would suggest using chicken stock.
  • I prefer to purchase the pork neck in the piece and portion it myself, but you could ask your butcher to do this for you.
  • If you do not have fig vinegar, try using a combination of cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
  • I love to support our local farmers, so purchase my pork from Coltish Pork. It is wonderful to get to know the producer and become friends with those who are providing such a wonderful quality of product to work with.


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Finally just this weekend we had our great friends, Caitlin and Paul visit, and to start a long, leisurely evening meal we prepared a Salade de Chevre et Figues. I love it so much when our guests join in the food preparation – I had such fun cooking and chatting and catching up.

Of course there is always a good supply of figs waiting in the freezer so that I can make another batch of fig vinegar, which is fast replacing balsamic vinegar in a lot of dishes in our meals.

Until next time…

Happy cooking & bon appétit!



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