Thursday, 31 March 2011

Sourdough Skill-Share

Camilla Storm's lovely pictures of Sourdough Skill-Sharing on Patrick Whitefield's Sustainable Land Use Course at Ragman's Lane Farm in Gloucestershire.

And some comments once back home:

I would like to report a thoroughly successful sour dough experience in my kitchen! I was worried the starter may explode on the hot train journey, but it endured and Doug is fully won over on the lovely loaves :) thanks so much ladies - the mother dough lineage continues! (Cari)

I have also had a great time with the bread, and passed the skill on to my daughters (and blogged about it here should anybody be interested)  and they love the bread and have been extolling its virtues at school! (Jackie)

I have used your sour dough with my conventional process (not wet) and it has worked very well producing a delicious bread. (M)
Made up some bread last weekend but managed to badly burn it in the electric oven. Trying again this weekend, in the AGA, after I've cleaned the burner. (R)

Photographs courtesy of Camilla Storm


Sourdough Muffins chez Ed 'n' Ali
Banqueting yester’ eve with permacultural friends, Ali and Ed, so-sadly-so-soon fleeing the county, ‘midst the household gifts offered in flight, (hosepipe, tentpoles, belt, all of utter usefulness) a screw-top jar of: Rye Sourdough Starter.

This starter is reputed to be over twenty years old, gleaned from deepest Russia by Andrew Whitley (of chef-d’oeuvre Bread Matters), gifted through many hands, to now reach my own. 

I have stirred it up (Starter, Organic Rye Flour, Water, Salt) into a very wet mix, and it sits rising downstairs.  Rye is low in gluten so doesn’t have to be kneaded and stretched like high-gluten doughs, and as Mr Whitley says, it turns out like concrete unless it is very wet…

Only a fortnight before had I first tasted this Rye Sourdough, and fallen to my knees in a plea for a fistful of the stuff, on that occasion Ed had solved the issue of wet-sourdough rolls by stuffing the wed-kneaded dough into muffin trays…(see pic)

Slow-risen the flavour develops fully, the Rye has sharp nutty taste and the sourness gives it a real depth, like a blackbread of Eastern Europe.

Last night’s loaves had hollow backs, they had slightly sunk in cooking.  After some amateur troubleshooting we decided the dough had over-risen. 
Recognise over-risen sourdough by a very bubbly surface that is starting to drape and looks as though were you to stick your finger in, or shake the loaf-tin, the whole thing would collapse.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Tomato Chilli Cinnamon Chutney, a note on experimentation.

With experimental preserving, the tendency is to concoct a certain food on one inspired day, to eat it several months later and in the mean time to have forgotten what impulsion gave rise to said concoction.

There is but one way:  A very meticulous method of noting down experiments and recipes (step 1) is imperative, to be  followed by a taking down of results: tasting notes/success or otherwise (step 2) in order that processes may be repeated, altered, improved etc…

All too oft’ I find myself wondering yet another time how on earth I had preserved a certain jar of tomatoes, or what quantities of salt I had used in that perfect sauerkraut.

There are many methods and each to his own, I love to write the recipe on the label of the jar, but 'tis utterly impractical, tending to have faded or run when eventually the preserve is tasted.

All this to say: 

On Clare Island, in the depths of the stores:  a small jar of last year’s Tomato Chilli Cinnamon Chutney.  An eccentric experiment, that had now had time to mature.

And what a chutney!  The sweetness of the Summer-ripened tomatoes was picked up by the Cinnamon and then, all at once, a sharp chilli bite… it spread thick like butter and deep rusty red, it was quite the marvel of the crowd.

For once, I had written the recipe down, and still had to hand the little book I had inscribed it in, here it is:

Tomato Chilli Cinnamon Chutney, an experiment.

3lb of the Tomato glut (eat your best and ripest raw and sweet, use the rest for chutney)
1 lb Onions
1 lb Demarara
1 pt Vinegar
3-6 Chillies (according to strength)
2-3 Sticks of Cinnamon (ground)

Bring the lot to the boil.
Reduce, simmering and stirring till thick and sludgy. (a spoon should stand up in it)
Pot in Sterilised Jars.
Allow to mature several months, then gorge with friends.

Chillies on Clare Island

Thursday, 24 March 2011

An 'elpful 'int from 'Arry

oho, I have tales to tell... a week away in the West of Ireland and I am brimming... tales of such ebullient gastronomy I can bare withhold... but first, a note from Harry's pantry: 
i thought you might be interested in the attached and wonder if you've come across it before? i bought it at a lebanese stall the other day, and it's truly delicious. the ingredients look pretty straightforward, so no doubt you could make your own - white wine vinegar, pomegranate molasses, sugar and orange blossom water - and i'm having fun experimenting with it in salads, with oils, dressing grilled meats and sometimes just a nip from the bottle. complex and sprightly, it's magic stuff. and of course a little goes a long way.

p.s. and have you ever had a spoonful of madeira in your porridge for breakfast? if not, do!

Monday, 14 March 2011


A great Germanic tradition of preserving fruits is: the Rumtopf.  Literally meaning “Pot of Rum”, it is a large ceramic jar in which fresh Fruits, Rum and Sugar are layered throughout the spring, summer and autumn seasons.  A plate is placed on the fruits to keep them below the level of the liquid, the jar is lidded and they are allowed to slowly mature.   The sweet rum-saturated fruits are then eaten in the depths of winter… a lovely, low-energy way to preserve those summer glutss.  We are just finishing last year’s pot in readiness for the coming seasons…

To 1lb of fruit add up to ½ lb of sugar and cover well with rum.
(try with: Gooseberries, Blackcurrants, Redcurrants, Whitecurrants, Strawberries, Loganberries, Jostaberries, Raspberries…)

Look out for traditional Rumtopf pots in charity shops, flea-markets and carboot sales, or make your own – I’m sure a foodsafe bucket or a plugged flowerpot would do... and ready yourself for the harvest.

Friday, 11 March 2011

A Figgy Pudding

The resurgence of cold nights and dawn frosts the last few days has offered a welcome opportunity to think once more about Puddings… to delve once more into the Store cupboards.  This recipe for storing Figs is a real favourite, and perfect for those not-quite-sweet-enough, not-quite-ripe-enough late-Summer Figs common to our climate.  I’ll blog about this more come Fig season, but for now, because it is sweet, sticky, figgy and utterly sublime…
The recipe actually comes from an American blog my mother found.  Here it is adapted to suit the British pantry…

1lb Figs
¼ lb Sugar
¼ lb Honey
1 Vanilla Pod
1 Lemon
Glass of Whisky

Halve Figs and place in an earthenware bowl with a split Vanilla Pod.  Douse in local Honey, Lemon Juice, a spoonful of Sugar and leave to macerate, covered at room temperature, for an hour or so.  Then gently move the Figs and liquid to a pan and bring to a simmer.  Return to the bowl and leave overnight in the fridge.  The following day strain off the liquid into a pan.  Add a glass of Scotch Whisky to the mix, flambĂ© or boil off the alcohol, add the Figs again, simmer briefly.  Pour into preserving jars, chopping the Vanilla Pods into each one.  Close tightly, will keep for at least a year.  Serve with a home-made scoop of ice-cream as a sumptuous end to a dinner party, or indulge alone on those frosty winter nights.

The quantities given are a rough guideline as to the amounts.  I think this Summer I will try a version with more local ingredients.  We have our own Honey, and Norfolk now produces its own Whisky, perhaps with a dash of apple juice for the acidity...

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Great Garlic Forage

'tis indeed the season, and those wild about garlic are surging into the woodlands to forage the bounty of the woodland floor - besides my own below, there are some great Wild Garlic Recipes just posted on The Outdoor Lab...