Comfort from the Cold


Boy, its been cold this weekend! It snowed on Saturday and it was still only 2 degrees by lunch time today.

People tend to think that we don’t have cold winters in Africa, but that is definitely not true. Quentin calls the Free State province where we live the “Freeze State”. The first winter I visited the farm the minimum temperature dropped to -14 degrees Celsius! That’s definitely the coldest I’ve ever been outside a ski resort! But snow is still a novelty for us and people can’t help getting excited when the world turns white. In the three years that I’ve known Quentin this is the first time it has snowed at home – twice already. Unfortunately it generally melts quickly here on lower ground (1 650m above sea level), but the Maluti mountains will still be covered in snow for a few days.

The mountain behind the house.

Footprints in the snow.

Roses in the snow.

I love this old photo from the 1950s taken from almost the same position as the photo above, which shows that there can sometimes be much heavier snow falls.

Snow at Vastrap in the 1950s.

On a weekend like this, there is nothing better to me than holing up inside and cooking comfort food. We were expecting friends for dinner on Saturday night so I decided it would be a good opportunity to get cracking on the mid-year resolutions I made at the end of our Italian holiday. On the menu: spinach and ricotta ravioli with burnt sage butter; slow roasted pork shoulder with fennel and orange; and tiramisu. These tick all my boxes for comfort food, but if it wasn’t for my current obsession with everything Italian I might have preferred to end with a golden syrup steamed pudding with custard. I’m a sucker for anything that goes with custard!

Of course everything was cooked on the Aga stove. In weather like this one cannot help but put things inside and on top of the Aga, especially when the fire is well stoked and burning hot. As you already know – I love, love, love it!

The ravioli turned out beautifully. The pork was juicy and succulent and fell apart at the touch of a fork after 6 hours of slow roasting. The tiramisu was good, but not as good as in Italy. I think it has something to do with the type of finger biscuits we get here. Soaking them in the coffee for a bit longer might help.

Happy in the kitchen as my guests help with the ravioli making.

Experimenting with ravioli shapes using my new tools.

The recipes I used all come from food blogs that I have recently discovered. It is amazing how much information is out there and how many people are sharing their passion on the internet. For the pasta I used Grandma Menna’s ravioli from Juls’ Kitchen. It is extremely simple, but delicious. I learnt that for ravioli you only roll the pasta to the second last setting and if you can’t find durum wheat semolina use bread flour to make the ravioli more robust. I also used the tiramisu recipe from this blog.

I found the slow-roasted pork recipe at Leite’s Culinaria. It’s a real keeper. The flavour is all in the rub (orange peel, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, garlic) and the long cooking time. I had it in the Aga for almost 6 hours! But I took a risk since I didn’t actually know how hot the oven was. I had it in the “cool” oven for the first 4 hours and then put it in the hot oven for the last bit to caramelise the fennel and orange. I also added a glass of white wine at the start of cooking, but I don’t think this made too much difference to the outcome.

The weekend is coming to an end and the forecast is for it to get warmer towards the end of the week. We went out this morning to see if Quentin’s embryo calves that have been born to surrogate mothers over the past few days are still okay. The ones born yesterday would have been very vulnerable in the wet and cold. Fortunately everything was fine and we found one newly born girl calf, which made Quentin very happy. The dogs loved their muddy run behind the car and all had to be bathed when we got home. The air is fresh and clear, just as it should be at this time of year. Beautiful.

It’s a girl!

View of the mountain behind Vastrap and the winter sky.

3 thoughts on “Comfort from the Cold

  1. Aw Maris, I do love living vicariously through your blog. Thought I wouldnt mind missing some of the posts if things were too hectic but find myself going back to catch up as I go along. Well done for being brave enough to do this and for all the bits you’ve added as you’ve gone along. Can’t wait to see you guys again. PS Jordan has already said “not this year but next year, please can we go to the farm when it snows” – I have no idea how we going to predict that one 🙂 Sending love my friend xxx


    • Thanks Debbs! I’m very glad you’re enjoying it. Sometimes it seems like a silly thing to be doing, but so far I am having fun! Btw, we’re in Joburg for the big Boran auction this weekend. Xx


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