Bitten by Veg-Box Bug: My Fingers Have Turned Green!

I no longer recognise myself. I have become a different, later, version of myself. This is one of those personality shifts that crosses into a new integral version number: Will 7.0 say, or a whole other big cat; OSWill Polecat.

That analogy went a little far, eh?

What in the blazes am I talking about? I’ve taken up gardening. There it is, in black and white. I am, one could say, a gardener, albeit a somewhat naive one, still wet-behind-the-ears.

Allow me to explain. I always knew I’d take up gardening one day, but until the beginning of March, that one day was a fairly distant, hypothetical one. I could imagine it, but it held no immediate appeal. Then my ever-inventive ladyfriend, instead of buying a trite ‘n’ tacky Valentine’s card, bought me a “grow your own chilli” kit, complete with seeds, compost and rather fetching terracotta plant pot. Continue reading

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Mellow Bakers – Quick White Loaf

Here we are, at the tail end of April. Where, may I ask, has the first third of 2012 gone? Up in a cloud of flour in my case. Though not as much flour, of late, as I would have liked.

On reading my blog a good friend of mine said, amongst kind words, that I apologise too much for not writing; that people wouldn’t really notice the dates of posts, and that I ought not to mention it. So I’m keeping absolutely schtum. Zip. Nada. Not a word about being behind in the mellow bakers Handmade Loaf bake-along despite only being in month one. Just as well they’re/we’re mellow…

So – quick white loaf. I must admit that, going in to this bake, I was a little bored of white breads. Despite a preference towards the more whole of meals, I have baked mostly white loaves since taking up all this yeasty business. On top of that, another of Dan’s recipes – his sour cream loaf from Short and Sweet, has lodged itself firmly at the top of my favourite white recipes list.

On the other hand, this bake offered the chance to try a couple of new things: baking with fresh yeast, finally sourced from Sainsbury’s, and adding millet flakes. Add to all this a couple of bodged transfers from improvised peel to baking stone in the recent past, and the stakes for this bake were particularly high.

Can you feel the excitement? Try and remember to breath. Continue reading

Bake-Along Business: Mellow Bakers & #ShortandTweet

I wrote this a short while ago, and somehow failed to publish it. Ahead of my upcoming post about my first mellow bakers loaf, I thought I’d let it out of its hiding place, for the linky goodness if nothing else! Needless to say, I am still somehow running out of time, despite ample supply.

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My brief foray into group baking was something I enjoyed very much, but haven’t quite managed to recreate. I had fully intended to make a batch of pita bread along with the folks over at #ShortandTweet, but ran out of time. Since then, I have been incredibly busy (especially for a jobless wonder) and very low on energy. But April marks the beginning of a new bake along, one to which I fully intend to apply myself as fully as possible.

The Mellow Bakers are working their way through “The Handmade Loaf”, the very book that got me started on serious bread baking. I intend to bake and blog each loaf so long as I’m able, and also try and cook up a sandwich recipe for those that inspire me. I’m really looking forward to learning from my fellow bakers, and have already been in touch with some very friendly sorts.

They are also baking through another book, “Bread” by Jeffrey Hamelman. So if you fancy joining in, pick your poison, and jump in! I’m a relative newby and everyone’s been dead friendly, and there’s a real range of abilities, including some people who have baked it all before and/or are schooled in such things.

Bread in Bristol: Bread Store, Gloucester Road

I miss Bristol. For reasons innumerable. Circumstances (with which I’ll not bore you) have forced me to move away from my adopted home city, but fortunately not so far as I don’t get back there semi-regularly. For most of my time in Bristol I lived near the Gloucester Road, which (reportedly) has the highest density of independent retailers in Europe (or some such statistic), and is almost always buzzing with a glorious range of humans, most of whom are wearing a contented smile as they go about their business.

One of the firm fixtures (for the last 15 years, at least) is the ever-popular Bread Store, which serves a range of loaves freshly baked (onsite?), from white bloomers to 100% rye sourdough loaves (in two sizes), via speciality breads such as their red pepper and olive breads (enriched with olive oil, but not as holey as focaccia). Continue reading

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

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