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.

I got chatting to a chap from a fish-smokery, the name of which, unfortunately, escapes me (I’ll find out and report back, fish-fans), as well as a sourdough baker from La Parisienne, Tewkesbury. It may, perhaps, seem an obvious observation to comment upon the pleasure of speaking directly with artisans who are as passionate about their produce as you are (or, most likely, more-so), but it is a pleasure that, of late, I have been far too empty-of-pocket to enjoy.

I bagged myself a small, white, sourdough, a sun-dried tomato ciabatta, and a good dollop (both my words, and those of the vendor) of rather glorious looking smoked-mackerel pâté, and hustled homewards for a late lunch.

I tucked into the crust-end of the sourdough unadulterated so as to fully take in the flavour. The sourness crept up on me, with a lovely tang emerging, and the texture was textbook: soft but chewy. The crumb was quite regular, which I am currently inclined to prefer (though many ‘dough-heads would disagree with me. When I added a liberal-lashing of the mackerel, I was in heaven. I could almost literally eat it all day.

As well as serving as a quite delicious lunch, it also gave me food for thought (I’m sorry, sometimes the pun just creeps up on me and sneaks in before I can stop it, bedding itself in until I lose the will to purge it from my post. I’ll redouble my efforts), I’m yet to make a white sourdough loaf, which for many would have been a starting point. It’s shot up to the top of my to-do list.

This loaf baked by a pro also serves as a useful benchmark. It serves as a reminder of what I could achieve, with practice, but has also led me to consider my starter. I remember reading on the wonderfully informative Azélia’s Kitchen (to which, I’m sure, few of you need introduction) about how the temperature an hydration level of one’s starter can effect the balance of yeast to bacteria (article here), and that as one grows in experience you can manipulate conditions to one’s advantage. Having tasted the wonderful professionally-baked sourdough, I now have a perspective on my starter: it seems quite fast acting, but quite mild in flavour. Thus, I would like to adjust my starter and its conditions so that balance is shifted in favour of the lactic-acid bacteria. This will slow down the prove, but increase the flavour. Or so my understanding suggests. Experiments to follow!

In other news, I’ll be out on my friend’s (dad’s) farm this weekend, sourcing material for an ambitious, and probably somewhat foolhardy, first DIY project: a yurt! Fortunately aforementioned friend is significantly more practical and experienced with such things, so I foresee a steep learning curve and bruised thumb or two. Here’s to recreating nomadic dwellings for leisure purposes!

Have you got any favourite suppliers or producers that you deal with regularly? How did you find them? Have you ever built a yurt?! Spill the proverbial beans in the comments!

Toodles peoples.

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2 thoughts on “Fun With Farmers: Market Mackerel, Super Sourdough, and Weekend Wanders

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