Sarnie-Shop Review: Peppers

There are a few things in my home town of Gloucester, outside my family home, that I miss when I live elsewhere, and most of them are on or around Westgate Street. As such, Westgate tends to be where I head to show visitors Gloucester’s highlights. Gloucester has a beautiful cathedral, one of the first built in the gothic style, which is well worth a visit, and a pub, The Fountain, which is on a site that’s has had an Inn on it for hundreds of years, and still features folk music and morris dancing regularly. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to sing in both of them at different times. Very different experiences.

But as I was showing my ladyfriend around my home town for the first time, I was dismayed to see the shopfront of one of my other Westgate favourites sitting empty and unlit. Peppers, the delightful organic sarnie and salad shop had closed! Disaster! Continue reading

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Fun With Farmers: Market Mackerel, Super Sourdough, and Weekend Wanders

Gosh what a fortnight I’ve had. For a man who hasn’t worked more than a couple of shifts a month for several months, it really has been quite exhausting. I’ve played two gigs, watched one, had two recording sessions, one job interview, celebrated one parent’s birthday, baked four loaves in a day, and moved my ladyfriend into a new flat. In the space of 5 days I travelled from Gloucester, to Newcastle, to Coventry, to Bristol, to Gloucester, to Coventry, to Cardiff, to Bristol to Gloucester. Phew!

Having returned yesterday from said chain of cities, and interviewed for a job this morning, I decided I was due a wee treat. So, while idling away an hour or two in the centre of Gloucester, I browsed the farmers’ market, and picked myself up some loveliness. Continue reading

Leftover Lunch: Pesto Cheatza

We’ve all been there. It gets to lunchtime, and there’s next to nothing in. You should have gone shopping days ago. You finished the last of the bread yesterday. You’ve nothing handy in a tin, and cooking proper is OTT, but the shops are an X-minute round trip away and that sounds like X-minus-2 minutes too far.

This happens more often than I care to admit, and being a bread-head, I normally reach for the flour.

If I had time to wait for dough to rise, I’d have time for the shops. I need a quick fix. Time for my patented (well, not really) 15-minute flat bread cheatza! Continue reading

That’s How I Roll: Seedy Rolls and Contemplating Campagrain

I have reached another level of bread-baking obsession. I have started receiving sacks of flour as gifts. The word is getting out: get this man some gluten! Shower him with sacks of stoneground flour and he’ll thank you with thick-crusted cobs and tin loafs aplenty.

One such bag was of “Campagrain” flour, bought from a mill in Derbyshire. A mixture of four flours and five seeds. “Yum!” thought I, but what to do with it? Being unfamiliar with the name, I asked the baking twitterati if they had any recipes or advice. I used the hashtag #realbread. My only reply was from the Real Bread Campaign, who asked about the ingredients, and if there were any additives. I looked. There were. Two E numbers and an anonymous enzyme. This excluded the flour, I was told, from being used to make real bread, by their definition.

I confess that, until that point, I had not read the details of the real bread campaign. I had assumed it meant bread baked by hand, not using mass manufacturing methods etc… It’s that, but more so. Simply put, “Don’t go putting no additives in our bread, thank you please”. A fine and noble aim. One that I instinctively support. But it did leave me with questions.

Are all additives bad? Or just all artificial additives? How artificial is too artificial? I am unfamiliar with the science of all of this, and I hadn’t ever questioned the wisdom of avoiding them where possible. Yet I am quite happy to take artificially created medicines, with a variety of clearly stated possible side effects. Is this any better? Dan Lepard recommends using a crushed vitamin C tablet in wholemeal loaves, and from my brief research, one of the additives in the Campagrain flour is essentially artificially created vitamin C. Is the tablet just a shortcut to that additive, and if so, if it seems reasonable to take a vitamin, why is it not acceptable to have that in bread?

I don’t know the answer.

Also, why add stuff to flour?! It seems daft to make the decision for the baker. Presumably it is designed to give better results, and hence encourage people to go back for more. But is that unreasonable? To want your flour to make better bread?

If you have any thoughts on the matter, or any recommended reading on the subject, leave a comment.

Apologies for the serious, and contemplative tone of this post. Normal levels of whimsy and jocundity will return soon, I assure you.