Sunday, August 31, 2008

KG Day Cocktail, 2008



Several people have asked me for the recipe for the Crystal Blue Cocktail, I served at Kitchen Garden Day, 2008 and I'm pleased to pass it on...

The recipe is given by volume so use any measuring cup to produce the amount you think you will drink!!!!  There are a total of 14 units of measure in the recipe....

2 Tequila
2 White Rum
1 Blue Curacao
1 Cane Sugar Syrup
8 Schweppes Tonic
Be careful though.
The drink is very pleasant but all that Schweppes can give you a false sense of security....

I hope you enjoy it....

There are a lot more photos from the KG Day 2008 event in our web album.  Just follow the photos link in the sidebar.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kitchen Garden Day 2008 France

Ft Potager 01About 30 people turned up here on Sunday to celebrate Kitchen Garden day with me.

Kitchen Garden Day is a celebration of local food instigated by Kitchen Gardeners International. It takes place on the fourh Sunday in August and is celebrated all around the world.  I know that year it was celebrated in the USA, Pakistan, UK, Norway, and two states in Australia as well as here in France.Ft Potager 044

For our celebration, we organised a meal at lunchtime which was held in the garden.   Everyone who came brought some food to share, made either from produce from their garden or from something farmed locally.

On arrival, guests were served with a special KG Day cocktail which had been dreamed up by Michael, the photographer and myself.  I was looking for some connection with the earth and eventually came up with this crystal blue cocktail, which was deliciously lovely!!! but which also represented what our oceans would look like if they and the atmosphere were less polluted.  Continuing with the sea theme. we served aperitifs with farmed smoked salmon.

Ft Potager 102Here in France people tend to organise their food into distinct course and I have started to think that way myself... So although I broke the dishes down into courses, really it was just a superb buffet.  There was so much good food it's impossible to list it all and I may well have forgotten something.. but it was all very tasty and very beautifully presented.Ft Potager 011



One of the things that the Perigord region is famous for is duck.  So for our local starter we had a duck liver mousse served with some homemade multigrain and muesli bread....

Guests arrived from all directions and even the gardener turned up.

The meal continued with barbecued pork for the omnivores Ft Potager 023amongst us and a delicious mushroom  and aubergine quiche.  The quiche was made by one of our guests and the pork was reared, slaughtered and cured right here in our little community.

I was surprised at the range of ages of people attending with the seniors in their 80's happily joining in the fun Ft Potager 090 with some of those a fraction of their age.  The youngest person in attendance was minus 3 months but seemed to be enjoying the food pretty well!!!!

The meal finished off about 6pm after everyone had eaten some of the delicious range of desserts, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, rhubarb crumble, fruit tart, rhum baba, cherries in juice and of course, all home made....

Thanks to Roger Doiron of Kitchen Gardeners International setting aside this day to give people all round the world the chance to celebrate together and get just a little bit closer to the planet we live on... and to think, I almost forgot my friend Bernard, who provided the wine, Bergerac AOC Rouge 2007 from his vineyard less than ten miles down the road

Ft Potager 034


Friday, August 22, 2008

getting ready for Kate...

image[23] I'm lucky enough to be having Kate of Hills and Plains Seedsavers drop in for a few days during her Vegetable Vagabond tour of Kitchen Gardens.... She's due here in about a month, and, as I walked round the garden yesterday looking at various bits and pieces, I realised what a huge job there is to get ready for her.

We've exchanged a couple of emails and have discussed some of the things we are going to look at together, but from yesterday's perambulations, I'm not sure that I can actually beat a path to the willow tree, let alone make any sense of it when we get there.

My kitchen garden is tiny...  really tiny.. and it still gets into a terrible mess... Kate is talking about expanding it.....

Up to now, I've grown what I consider safe crops.... Kate wants me to diversify....

And as for chickens....

So, if there are no new postings over the next couple of weeks you'll know that I'm busy in the garden....getting ready for Kate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kitchen Garden Day 2008


Sunday is Kitchen Garden Day... and here we are expecting about 20 people to celebrate it with us.

As this is France we thought we would celebrate in the traditional way so we are having a meal.    Our meal will be in the garden at midday on Sunday and everybody who is

coming is either bringing something made with produce from their own garden or something farmed locally.  A neighbour has provided some wine made from his own grapes and "My Friend Bernard" is also providing some wine.

I had my first full day in the garden today for several weeks...  and realised what a mess it had  become....I wonder how much tidying up I can get done by Sunday......


Back in the Garden

Regular readers will know that the Kitchen Garden in France is situated at my home near Issigeac in the Perigord Region of South West France.   The property also has a self contained  holiday apartment.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been very busy constructing a swimming pool for use by our holiday guests.  It is a part of a grand scheme..... which will probably take longer to complete than the 300 years the main house has already been standing for....

Anyway, I mention this simply because, for the past two or three weeks, day after day I have been building this kit and not attending to my garden.... and therefore not having very much to write about in my blog....  You may have noticed a move away from kitchen garden towards la vie Français...  the parties I have written about were wonderful events and deserved their place in the blog.  The article on Summer and sunflowers similarly. 

However, tonight I want to return to the dirt....


So... I have some red cabbage which have been in for a long time now and are looking superb.  Onions and Garlic are ready to pull and will be out of the ground tomorrow I would guess..  The strawberry patch has been ok... It was planted late and although we have had a few berries we are expecting the main crop next year.  The plants have really established though, and I have just about twice as many as I planted back in April/May

The one rhubarb crown has been prolific this year and I have been cutting and freezing for a month or so now.  I'm thinking of moving the crown around November time but am unsure as I hear bad storied of people moving them....  My intention was to lift and divide it and move it at the same time.

A few days ago, I sowed some broccoli which are now up and with tiny little leaves.   I'm not ever so successful with seeds so anything like this is a challenge.   They have survived so far.....  Today I sowed some batavia lettuce (a French version of Webbs, I think)and on Tuesday some Fennel.

Tomatoes have been my biggest success this year.  Tomato plants ended up dotted about and that hasn't proved too good for watering etc.  Next year I really must put aside some space and grow all my tomatoes in one place.....

But we haven't bought tomatoes for several weeks now and are enjoying the different varieties.... Marmande, cherry red, golden sunrise... and a "unknown"variety which Michael and Mary gave me.

On the beans front, I have been very unsuccessful.   Patrick, over at Bifurcated Carrots gave me some Dog Bean seeds earlier in the year.   I have grown them but not at all well.   I think the spot I chose was too shaded and I did get them in the ground quite late as well.   The few beans I have had have tasted wonderful though... but not enough for a good meal.  I'm not giving up with these and am hoping to sow some again next year... a bit earlier and maybe in a better spot and hopefully have a bumper crop.....  IMG_0060

I mentioned that Michael and Mary had given me some tomato plants.  I didn't realise until recently that Mary is quite a kitchen gardener herself.  I stole this photo whilst she wasn't looking  during a recent visit to see them.

I've been eating salad leaves for some time now and haven't bought any recently.  I have 3 varieties of lettuce, as well as some wild chicory.   I recently entertained a professional chef for dinner.... which was quite daunting... but he commented very favourably on the fact I had included mint leaves in with the mixed salad leaves.....

Lettuce is bolting now as the hot weather hits but I'm looking a shady bed where maybe I can persuade some to grow for a little longer yet....

Finally, in the herb garden, I'm doing ok with the basics, basil, flat leaf parsley, mint and dill, all growing in containers on the terrace.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another Saturday, another party....

This is a nice time of year in South West France with everyone organising a variety of social events.  There is always something happening every weekend and often the odd evening during the week gets taken up, as well, in a whirlwind of social activity...Ft Pindrat 017

Last week I wrote a piece about a nice party we went to on Saturday night... This weekend it was another Saturday and another Party.

This particular party was a celebration for the residents of the tiny community amongst which I live... Everyone was invited and everyone turned up so there were just 20 of us there.

The evening started with a cocktail being served....  It wasFt Pindrat 001 delicious, but was a secret recipe of the host... he did list all the ingredients for me but I lost track after Gin, White Rum, Grenadine and lots of tonic water.... To soak up the alcohol, there were little pieces of a fruit bread... I had the Fig one and it was fabulous.....but there was also an olive version.

For the main meal a cous-cous had been prepared.... everything was served in separate dishes so you just helped yourself to copious quantities of lamb, sausages, meat balls, a super vegetable dish of mixed homegrown vegetables in a light jus...the jus was delicious poured over the cous cous along with a vast array of accompaniments....It was great as it catered for both the omnivores and vegetarians amongst us with everyone just choosing whatever they Ft Pindrat 036could eat.

There was a cheese board with a selection of locally produced cheeses and then for dessert...

Well, to start with I should probably say "desserts" as there were a choice of 7 or 8.  A fabulous mixed fruit tart, a lovely cherry cake,which was my favourite, Ft Pindrat 054aniseed biscuits, a Perigordian gateau amongst a few others.

One of the residents used to play in a rock band and happened to have another member of the band staying with him for the weekend, so they turned up with guitars and provided some great 1970's music.  The girls provided the backing vocals but everyone joined in and drowned them out....

Another neighbour plays the saxophone and he was subsequently persuaded to play a couple of very nice pieces as well....


Eclipse 0020BThe host for the evening had one last piece of entertainment lined up for us and at about 11.00 pm he invited us all out into the garden to see the lunar eclipse.  the eclipse was spectacular and a clear sky ensured a great view. It wasn't a total eclipse but was very substantial.  Our host Ft Pindrat 065apologise for this, but explained that nowadays, a total eclipse was just too expensive to afford....


Michael was there and of course, provided all these photos for me....The party went on well into the night and some of the younger guests just curled up and went to sleep.

It was another wonderful moment in my life in France


Tuesday, August 12, 2008


It's been a funny old week here in South West France....

Summer is truly here and the sunflowers are out as I mentioned the other day.  In fact , that's one of the funny old things.... 

I had to take the car to our local village the other day and on the way I stopped and took the photos that I posted on Summer's here and subsequently in the photo album.

It was just about midday, a week ago, when I took those photos and, as I commented at the time,when I got back to the car the thermometer read 45C (113F).  A bit hot for this part of the world!

This morning I had to pop out again to another village and the the clock at the pharmacy read just before noon.... the thermometer that alternated with the clock read 19C(67F).... so much change in just a few days.

But as I said, Summer is here....

One of the things I like about summer is the way it brings out love in everyone and everything...  Spring is supposed to be the season of love.... but I believe it's summer, especially here in the South West France...

The doves play noisily in the trees, just like young lovers, flitting from tree to tree, sometimes apparently trying to hide their true mission, the squirrels on the ground chase each other across and around the park, up one tree and down another, making death defying leaps between the two. little lizards, geckos, run up and down vertical walls and even run across  the ceiling in gravity defying antics whilst chirping their love for each other.

In the town, vast numbers of tourists have arrived to take a moment out of their lives and enjoy their own love. Young couples with babies, taking their first holiday together and unashamedly enjoying the love they share.  Older couples, some meeting for the first time after a whirlwind romance are wandering the streets and alleyways, arm in arm, and hundreds of other couples of all ages just enjoying being together, one with the other.

Then, this time of year is the time for parties.  We went to a party last Saturday night where we enjoyed great company, great food and a great game of cricket with a group of people, all in love with someone and ranging in age from 15 to 75.  Next week I'm going to another party with another set of friends and I shall again enjoy being in love and being with people in love....

As the song says... how do you measure a year? Measure it in love.  Remember a year in the life of friends, Remember the love! (Lyrics from Seasons of Love (the Movie "Rent")

I seem to be completely enveloped in love at this time of year and it seems to carry me right through the summer and into autumn.  Just very nice.... I can't think of a better word... lovely maybe!!!!!!

Share love, give love spread love
Measure measure your life in love.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Drinks with a Lerot....


Lérot 007 We were invited out for a meal last night in the very pretty garden of one of our neighbours.
There were about 15 or 16 people attending and we were to have a drink and aperitifs, then play a game
Lérot 017 of cricket, then carry on with the meal.   The second team would have their innings before dessert and then it would all end up with coffee and digestives....
That was the plan, and
Lérot 030 Mrs Ian and I duly arrived about 6 pm for the start.
Of course, in France, aperitifs went on far longer than planned...
Then we got the game underway with two teams of five picked each with a
Lérot 031 mixture of British and French players.
About half way through the game we discovered this Lerot had come to join us and was happily eating the grapes totally oblivious to the huge

amount of noise and all the cameras...What a budding star he is...

Michael was there, with Mary, and I thank him for these photos... I did take some with my own camera but Michael is a bit more skilled than I am!!!!

The first team were all out for 51, as the sun set and the moon rose in the sky.   By the time we had eaten the first course, and the second team were put into bat, light was failing fast....  Even the strategic use of the car headlamps failed and the match was eventually stopped for bad light when an entire over had been bowled with not a single person seeing the ball....

Then we just sat and ate and drank and chatted and drank and ate and chatted until the early hours of the morning when we all left for our beds.  By that time, the Lerot had, apparently, already found his..

Ah.... life in Summer in France....



My friend Patrick over at Bifurcated Carrots has been organising a food growing bloggers meeting in the UK which will happen towards the end of September.  There may be a seat or two left if you would be interested in going.   Probably the best thing to do is to contact Patrick directly on his blog although I do know he's away for a few days, visiting Germany and Spain.

Sadly, I can't go as I have a prior family engagement the same weekend.  I say sadly because I would very much have liked to be able to attend as there are people going I'm very keen to meet in person...  Maybe I'll get to meet you on another occasion..

Which neatly leads me into promoting my own event in 2009.   September 19, 2009  - the same weekend, next year, that Patrick has used this year.....  My goodness, it's almost beginning to look like there is some sort of plan unfolding....

The event, near Bergerac in France, will happen over two days, Saturday and Sunday, and I already have confirmations from Australia and the USA, as well as here in France. The weekend will be organised in such a way that it will be possible to come along on either day or for both days...  I will be getting a schedule together in the near future.

Thanks to Patrick for organising this event.

FoGroBloMe, 20 September, 9:30am - 5:30pm, Oxford Botanic Garden, High Street, Oxford, UK


Sunday August 24th is Kitchen Garden Day

Just a quick reminder of Kitchen Garden Day, later this month....  I'm holding an event here near Bergerac which consists of a meal in the garden at lunchtime...  I'm asking all attendees to bring a dish of something to share, preferably something grown in your garden or farmed locally.  I shall be providing a barbecue of local pork, but there will be lots of choices of both vegetarian and omnivarian dishes.

If you want to come, then please, leave me a contact email address as a comment..

Hope to see you here later this month....

Friday, August 8, 2008


Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have not had a great deal of luck with my attempts at capturing digital images for use on here.

Behind the scenes a fair amount of discussion has gone on, with the general consensus being that I simply needed a better camera.

Of course, in the age of the digital revolution, that statement in itself proved a minefield.... What exactly was a better camera, and having established that, which of the myriad of manufacturers should I choose.  Then having come up with a manufacturer, which model would suit me best....

After some research, including establishing what I actually needed in the way of features, I started to narrow down the choices.   Many friends offered advice and some were able to lend me a camera to try out...

As a result of all this activity, I have just ordered a new camera from the Canon A series.   One of the features that came out high on my want list was a view finder - ok I'm old fashioned!!!  but I like to look through a lens and see what I am photographing....   With a lot of the camera's offering a rear monitor screen, I actually couldn't see the image in bright sunshine.

I'd just like to thank those friends out there who advised me and helped me choose

The new camera arrived today, so now we'll discover whether it really was my camera or simply that a bad workman always blames his tools....

August garden

On Tuesday I wrote a piece about Sunflowers entitled Summer's here. Today, I was out in the garden raking up fallen leaves from our huge horse chestnut tree, which is rapidly shedding it's leaves and preparing for autumn.....
IMG_0019 In the rest of the garden, the trees are not looking to bad.  There are a couple of large weeping willows which I really like.  We try and keep a path cut through this one, to a hidden little garden beyond .
IMG_0021 However, elsewhere in the garden, summer is still in full bloom.

This linden tree sits right outside our bedroom door and provides beautiful shade on a day like yesterday when midday temperatures soared above 45c (113F).

IMG_0020 I inherited most of the garden when we bought the property about four years ago and I am only just learning what everything is.  I wrote an article on a "scary tree" although since I published that piece, several people have told me that they think it's a beautiful tree and I'm inclined to believe them.

We have several large fir trees in the garden as well as numerous shrubs.

IMG_0013 The hibiscus flowers at the side of the area where we park our car and looks spectacular at this time of year.  I took all these photos today....
IMG_0015 The hedge, bordering the road comprises many different shrubs.
IMG_0011 Sadly, I haven't learnt what they all are yet so if anyone wants to tell me just leave a comment.
IMG_0016 These flowering shrubs were all photographed today.

We have a piece of field which is just being left wild to encourage wildlife and wild flowers.

I photographed these yesterday as well.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How to make a Compost Pile

This video was recently put onto Kitchen Gardeners International and I offer it here for anyone who's interested.


I have added a new link in the right column: PHOTOS

The link to Photos will take you to albums of photos, many not used on the blog. I have just started using this and will be adding more and more content as time progresses.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Summer's here


sunflowers 0808

The first fields of sunflowers are appearing in this part of France and I always take this as a very special symbol of the arrival of summer.

Today, when I took this photo, the weather was a bit overcast, as you can see, so the flowers have not all oriented in the same direction, but I'm always fascinated at the way the heads turn towards the sun.

Fields of sunflowers, to me, symbolise summer here in southern France and it is always a delight when they appear.

The French name for them is "tournesol", which literally translates as "turn to the sun".

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday evening on the terrace

I have just been sitting out on the terrace after a day of gardening.   Sitting quietly, letting my mind drift and watching things grow.  Today has been a beautiful day here, not too hot and now - about 8:30pm  it's just about 20/22c (70F)... very pleasant.

The sun is getting lower in the evening sky and I watched as golden sunbeams played in the trees.  The dominant tree, of course, is the one I recently wrote a piece about called scary tree, although I must admit, I've now come round to thinking that it's not at all scary and, actually, is a beautiful tree.

There are a pair of red squirrels which live in it but I haven't seem them this evening..  and of course many birds come and go.

I was sitting there, doing nothing in particular and thinking how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place.   The sunbeams made a wonderful golden patchwork across the garden and off into the countryside beyond. There was little noise, the birds having silenced for the night, the sound of a distant lorry climbing the hill on the main road south and an occasional motorbike screeching along, with it's engine going far faster than it was ever designed for, so that it's young rider can get an extra mile or two per hour but use 4 or 5 times the fuel and wear out the mechanics 4 or 5 times as fast.

It was beautifully peaceful and I sat there for a good 20 minutes, maybe 1/2 an hour just soaking it all up...  I wanted to come in and share it with you all... but I didn't want to leave it as it would surely go as the sun set...  so I took my time and spoiled myself a little and then I  came in and spoiled myself a bit more by sharing it with you all.....

But I want to bring you all here....  I want you to be able to share the simple experiences that give me so much pleasure, like the one I have just been enjoying.  I find these times incredibly powerful and they are able to calm me beautifully.

So, come here later this month, for Kitchen Garden day, or again in August next year or come to the KGI global event in September next year, and let me share these magical moments with you.

If you'd like to come and I don't already know, then just leave a comment with a contact and I'll be in touch...   Hope to see you here.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Another Saturday at Villereal

As many of you know I go to the market at Villereal every Saturday.  market_hall

It's funny what goes through your mind as you wander round a beautiful market and today was no exception.

Last night I was reading round the world in blogs and I arrived in Adelaide, South Australia at the Central Market.  Kate's Friday visit to the market has become a regular piece on the Hills and Plains Seedsavers Blog and I enjoy to read it each week.   This week , there was a paragraph about the preparations for her 50th birthday party amongst the wonderful words describing life in Central Market.

No doubt, partly as a result of reading that last night and partly from seeing a huge crowdsbirthday cake in a patisserie, I suddenly found myself thinking that at the same time I was wandering around my Market, over on the other side of the world, Kate and her family and friends were having a party to celebrate her birthday.  So Kate, by the time you read this, your party will be over,.    I hope you had great fun....and thanks for a great blog.

July and August are the busiest months in the markets in this part of France as the incoming tourists swell the numbers of shoppers dramatically.  The queues in the fruit and vegetable stalls which I frequent grow as fast as the  local produce on the stalls increases.melon

This week, I saw local producers selling strawberries, apples, melons, tomatoes, plums, prunes, walnuts, homemade jams and walnut oil.  This farmer only sells melons, and this week, only one variety of melon.... Charentais a popular French variety which does well in this area.  We were discussing a dish where you cut the melon in half and scoop out all the seeds. Then you fill the recess with our local sweet dessert wine.  I've never known what this dish was called so I refer to it as gwm (great winey melon).  It's poultry2 wonderful.

In my own garden, I've had quite a lot of produce lately.

We had some friends for dinner the other evening and served tomatoes, salad leaves, a few beans and potatoes all from the garden...I accompanied these with some poultry and home made bread to make a delicious meal.

The poultry guy at Villereal is there every Saturday, whatever the weather, all year round.  I don't think I've poultry3ever known him have a holiday.  He always has far more customers waiting than he has chickens ready....and just look at those quail on the bottom spit.... Talking about gwm in that last paragraph, makes me think this guy should be called pwm - poultry with meaning!!!

Today was the same, except that this week, the queue was particularly  long.  In the photo above,the queue for chickens starts with the girl in the foreground, goes almost to the opticians and then comes back to the guy in the white tee shirt.  As soon as I took the photo another strawberries2 couple joined the queue...

We've had a few strawberries from the garden, but they haven't made it to the kitchen, usually getting eaten before they leave the garden.   Again, this is a picture of the produce of the strawberry lady.   This week she had only one variety of strawberry on offer (Marais des bois) but they looked, and I'm sure tasted, delicious.prunes

I almost missed the prune man who was tucked away this  week in a corner.  By the time I got to him he had almost sold out.   Prunes, which are actually dried plums, are another speciality from this part of France... Pruneax d'Agen are sought out all over Europe, Agen being a town just a few miles south of here. This farmer just sells plums and prunes with a few odds and ends from his vegetable garden.   His prunes always look delicious.


There was one lady I had not seen before selling tomatoes.  She had two varieties, the huge Coeur de Boeuf and a black tomato whose name I'm afraid I don't know.  She sells all her produce at one price.  What I particularly liked was that the tomatoes had been grown for taste.  They weren't pretty, but she had almost sold out when I finally came across her, and I suspect they tasted wonderful. 

homemade jams

Another new lady was just selling some home made produce.  She had a selection of jams and jellies, a few walnuts and some gorgeous looking walnut oil.  I bought a jar of the jam and will be trying it out soon, probably for breakfast tomorrow. 

There were many other stalls at the market this week, wine producers, fishmongers, fruit orchards, flower sellers, nurserymen, book sellers, clothing retailers, jewellery makers, artists, foie gras producers, bakers, butchers and candlestick makers etc and there was a buzz of activity that really only happens in July and August...

Do I prefer the market at this time of year?   There are certainly far more stalls with many, many more customers about, on the other hand, it's hard to park, hard to get a seat for coffee, hard to get served and none of the sellers have quite as much time for a chat, which for me, is a big part of the experience.  I know that tourism is a huge part of the economy in this part of the world and provides a great deal of what I enjoy whilst living here.... but for me, the markets in May, June, September and October still have plenty of things to make them interesting but don't have urnsthe crush of people making them hard to enjoy.

I took this picture of some urns just because I thought the colours made an interesting subject and to remind myself of the diversity of products available.

Villereal market is not a farmers market....  It is a general village market, similar to those that happen up and down the length and breadth of France.  It happens to be in an area where some really good farmers and producers bring their produce to sell.


So, next time you're in south west France come to Villereal and just bwm (browse with me)