Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Truck tires crunched into the freshly fallen layer of dry fluffy snow as the truck turns into our new Milford lane on Old Milford Road in ‘The County’. We had already sited our winged flat roof of our ‘net zero home’ and shared a relieved smile that our newly constructed home was waiting for us still for our wintry January retreat.

Only three months ago, we were live-in guests at the little cottage built on our property we affectionately call the ‘mini-house’ and then Bob, the architect of our new home was on site with journeymen friends to close in the roof for the winter while the foodsmith rambler took to preparing nutritious snacks and meals for the crew. With that important step of the construction project behind us, we stuffed the truck with camping gear, construction tools, a hundred and thirty pound dog and bid farewell to the county for the fall season.

After the Christmas festivities in Kemptville had died away and New Year’s resolutions still ringing in our ears, our thoughts turned to a January retreat day on the land.

Our shared excitement began with mapping out our departure time and planning a warm winter menu for a cottage evening in the ‘county’. If this was to be an afternoon trekking in our juniper grove picking berries, the main dish had to be very minimal in preparation, hearty and seasonal.

Turning down our laneway 200 metres further, Bob checked our equipment on site and we stealthily surveyed our masonry walls, our roof trusses and the flat slab and it passed the inspection with flying colours with no winter damage.

Juniper berries need to be a frosty blue in colour for picking. They provide a delicious compliment to pork while also having aromatic and medicinal applications. January seems to be the right time to seek out the female juniper plant for harvesting. As this is our third season for harvesting we noticed that these wild berries were smaller and not as abundant as last year due to coyote and other small animal consumption.

Once we settled into the cottage, Bob began building a fire that held and grew into the afternoon so that I could prepare dessert in the wood stove oven. Our winter dinner began with rustic crackers, hot pepper jelly and apple plum chutney with thin slices of a local cheese producer from a farm in Oxford Mills along with a local wine from Sandbanks Winery called Waves. Next we prepared a light and flavourful raw salad we called Winter Cole Slaw that set the stage for the Pavarotti of all pastas we newly dubbed Carbonara Canadiana. This Italian dish with Canadian variations requires little preparation and is designed to simmer in one pan so I used a cast iron skillet on the wood stovetop. We concluded with a French Peach Cake using a Peach Almond preserve made in the fall with fresh Ontario peaches.

Jim and Michelle’s 500 square foot cottage is cozily tucked into a corner of our 34 acre property in the county, is powered by solar panels and heated with this charming wood burning cookstove that provides all our heating and cooking for our winter retreat. Within this tiny house lit only with candles, the fire crackling not far away, we shared this magical winter dinner with gently falling snow settling on the hushed landscape that was ours.

February Recipe List

Hot Pepper Jelly/Stuffed Dates Appetizers

Fine Herb Pate de Foie

Split Pea and Ham Soup with Cheese Biscuits

Rideau Lake Bouillabaisse

Winter Cole Slaw*

Sundried Tomato, Leek and Herb Quiche

Carbonara Canadiana*

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom and Beet Tarts

Pork Medallions with Apple, Sage and Cranberry Jelly

French Peach Cake*

Date Nut Squares

Mincemeat Loaf

Lemon Torte

Seville Orange Marmalade

Orange Liqueur


Cranberry Liqueur

Winter Cole Slaw

This lovely fresh winter slaw defies its humble vegetable roots. Prepare this salad in larger quantity and have it waiting for you a few times during the week. It makes a lively colourful starter to a dinner, but consider it too as part of a light lunch as the bed for grilled vegetables or for added substantiveness, on whole wheat bread as a Danish sandwich.

4 cups finely chopped red or white cabbage 1000 ml

1 large grated carrot

2 small beets

1 cup sultana raisins 250 ml

1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds 125 ml

1/3 cup lemon juice 75 ml

1/3 cup olive oil 75 ml

1 tbsp dill seeds

Prepare by using a blender or hand mincing the first three ingredients. Blend the oil and lemon juice and toss into the cole slaw along with dill seeds. Use the almonds and raisins as a garnish on the plate.

Carbonara Canadiana

A Carbonara sauce is defined as a spaghetti sauce with bacon or ham, egg and cream. The origin of the word comes likely from ‘carbonata’ literally ‘charcoal kiln’ when salt pork would have been grilled and used in the sauce. This stovetop pasta recipe returns to its more rustic roots by using a Canadian peameal bacon rather than the Italian bacon or ‘proscuitto’. After a day out cross-country skiing at the cottage, this is a perfect dish to make on a wood stove and enjoy the sizzle and crackle of a wood fire.

6 cups water 1500 ml

1/2 tsp sea salt 2 ml

4 slices peameal bacon

fettucini pasta for 2-4

2/3 cup 35% whipping cream 150 ml

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese 125 ml

In a large skillet, sear the peameal bacon strips. Add the cream and parmesan cheese while stirring to thicken. Bring water to a boil and add salt. Once the pasta is ‘elle dente’, transfer the drained pasta into the skillet and gently coat the pasta with the simmering creamy sauce . Add chopped parsley and last, drop one egg yolk and toss the pasta one last time before serving. Have an additional mixture of parmesan and parsley to garnish the steaming pasta.

French Peach Cake

This very traditional French clafouti offers an easy way to use preserved fruit prepare dessert before the main course has begun. Of course this dessert is useful twelve months a year while using fresh or preserved berries, peaches, or any apple variety. Pre-heat your oven to 425F.

2 cups sliced peaches 500 ml

2/3 cup white sugar 150 ml

1 tbsp cinnamon 15 ml

pinch of allspice

1 lemon

1 tbsp all purpose flour 15 ml

1 cup all purpose flour 250 ml

1/2 cup sugar 75 ml

1 tsp baking powder 4 ml

1/4 tsp salt 1 ml

2 egg yolks

1 tbsp melted butter 15 ml

1/4 cup milk 175 ml

Slice fruit and place in a greased deep dish pie plate. Sprinkle the peaches with sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Grate the lemon and sprinkle on peaches, then squeezing the juice onto surface as well. Dredge all with flour. Finally, pour 2-4 tbsp melted unsalted butter over all. To prepare the cake batter, sift dry ingredients together. Then blend yolks, butter and milk. Pour sifted flour mixture swiftly into the wet and spoon batter onto surface of cake. Spread gently over surface and place in oven for 30 minutes. Serve warm or with ice cream.