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

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Sourdough Diaries: The Start(er) of Something Beautiful

A few people have asked me “Whatever happened to that sourdough starter you were harping on about?”. Well, not necessarily in those words. I may have slipped a little defensive self-deprecation in there for good measure.

Well, I’m pleased to confirm that the starter has started starting, and indeed continued to start. In starting terms, it’s off to a startlingly good start. Ahem.

The loaf pictured above is my first ever sourdough loaf. To say I was pleased would miss out ecstatic, smug, and as surprised as you. It used a 60:30:10 blend of strong white, strong wholemeal, and rye flours. Essentially, I “adapted” Dan Lepard’s Mill Loaf recipe. And by “adapted” I mean “misread”. Continue reading

Sourdough Starter Days 4, 5 and 6…

…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Leaven.

Day 4 in the Natural Leaven house, and the raisins have been evicted.

Urgh. I feel slightly soiled by that. Don’t you? Apologies for that.

Couple of days to catch y’all up on. One of them quite eventful. Are you sitting comfortably?

Starter Day 4 - as I found it

On Day 4 Señor Starter was looking much the same: the early signs of fermentation (pin hole bubbles), and a sheen on the surface where liquids and solids had begun to separate. There was more pronounced discolouration where the raisins had began to break down. They’ve served their purpose, i.e. to boost yeast and “friendly” bacteria at the beginning of the process, and so the time has come to remove them. Sniff. Continue reading

Sourdough Starter – Day 3, plus a Quick Primer on Natural Leaven

A confession: I recognise that a day by day update on a mixture of flour and water probably doesn’t qualify as a ripping yarn to most people. I am finding it a fascinating process, and I realise that there are people out there who agree. I also hope that some of those for whom this is proving a free treatment for insomnia may, in the fullness of time, see why a niche corner of the interwebs, and the populace thus represented, seems to enjoy peering at small jars of a smelly substance.

It is for the baffled, confused, and those peculiar few interested enough in what I’m writing who don’t share my fascination, that I will include in today’s post a wee primer on what it is that I’m doing. For those of you who are already on board, and just hang out here to get your fix of fermentation, skip to the end. Continue reading

On Your Marks, Get Set… The Start of a Sourdough Starter

I remember when I first tried sourdough. I happened upon it at a farmers market, with my girlfriend at the time, and bought a large loaf. I couldn’t tell you what made us decide to buy it; perhaps the recommendation of the stall-holder, perhaps it just looked delicious. But I remember toasting a slice, slathering it with butter and Marmite (a fairly typical litmus test for me), and being completely blown away by the fullness of its flavour, and the chewy, firm texture. I also remember that we consistently failed to get to the market in time to pick up a sourdough loaf, before they sold out, in the months that followed. I blame shift work and a lifestyle it would not be entirely wise to describe in any detail in the public domain.

Though it made a lasting impression, it was a while before it cropped up on my radar again, and only relatively recently has it made anything other than an occasional, rare appearance on my menu. But when I realised that it was not only possible, but enjoyable, to bake my own loaves, it wasn’t long before the notion of making a sourdough loaf began to seem really rather appealing. Continue reading

Holy Mackerel Batman! It’s Nigel’s Smoked Mackerel Sandwich!

This one really is a no-brainer for me.  Nigel Slater is my kind of cook – simple (but never simplistic) food, based on good ingredients, attention to detail, and made with heart.  So his combination of smoked mackerel (winning), cheddar (bi-winning) and double cream (surely the Charlie Sheen of the dairy) in a grilled sandwich… I had to make it mine.

Read more for the recipe. Continue reading