Sunday, 27 May 2012


At last we have actually had some sunshine, the trouble is, and I don’t want to sound grumpy, it’s now too hot and we are watering the garden and generally getting stressed with it all. I’m sure that when I was younger! It gradually got warmer from about the end of March, so that by June although it was hot you had got used to it. Then from September it gradually got colder as winter approached. Now it seems that one day its cold, then the next its hot, then the next its cold, all through the year. Certainly this year it’s been miserable until last Sunday night, we went to bed cold and woke up to a hot Monday. And then it just got hotter. By Saturday it was really hot, and although it rained on Sunday morning, it’s not cooled down.
We were in Totnes on Friday and saw a very inspiring sign, at the Leech Wells,

There was a strong Easterly breeze when I took the dogs round on Saturday morning, and I could hear the waves on St Mary’s beach from quite a distance away. It was a hypnotic sight and I stood for a long time just feeling the energy.

In my quest for sourdough excellence, I have built a small proving (or is it proofing?) box to help in controlling dough temperature. It just takes one banetton, as yet I haven’t tried it out, as I am on other projects.

Jason has started catching Mackerel again,

 and my freezer is now bulging, just in time as we used the last of our stock this week. There were four fish left in the freezer, so I wrapped them in foil, after oiling and sprinkling with herbs, then in the oven for 20 minutes. I always cook first and bone second, as I find it easier with smaller fish, the remains were used to make Kedgeree, a favourite from the seafaring days, when it was routinely made to use up whatever fishy was lurking around. 
I started mine by boiling rice until just a little liquid was left and the rice was 95% cooked.
In a separate pan I  fried onions with some curry powder until soft and aromatic, 

 adding the flaked fish and a few prawns,

 then the rice and liquid, warming it all through together before serving with the traditional accompaniment of hard-boiled eggs and some tomato halves. Home-made Naan bread completed the meal.

Saturday was multi-tasking day, I think I told you about the Sausage Shed a while ago, well we decided to try their Pork and Marmalade sausages,

 with onion gravy and mashed potato for dinner (dead sophisticated aren’t we?) followed by mixed fruit crumble (Apple, Blackberries and Strawberries from the freezer) with custard.

Whilst that was cooking I mixed boiled water with the elderflowers, lemons and sugar, now I must give it 4 days to infuse before bottling.

I also picked some elderflowers to dry for my store.

I found a visitor in the Kitchen, peering over the leaves of our aloe,

and when he (or she) moved I got a better view. Please ignore the dirty window.

There was a scary moment over the front patio, a pigeon perched on the woodwork eying up the seed feeder, when I looked back there were two, a moment later I glanced up at movement and there were three, it was like something from Hitchcock!

Ages ago I brought a book called Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day, which advocated a no-knead method of bread-making. I had a go and then left it, not because of any other reason than that I had other methods to try, anyway I was surfing a couple of days ago and found a link for no-knead bread on an American website.

So I thought that I would revisit it, and the initial mixture started to rise so well that I had to move it to a bigger container.

However I must have made a mess of converting the measurements and ended up with batter instead of dough, I was actually using 100g less flour than I should have been, which I didn’t realise until it came to the final preparation of it for the oven, still nothing ventured etc. It actually came out quite well, like a crusted ciabatta, and the taste was superb, next time however I will check the conversation before I go blundering on.

Bottled Apples update, Yvonne used a bottle of the apples that I preserved in Campden tablets and water last September to make a cake this morning.

The cake wasn’t allowed to cool before sampling. Yum.

Also I wanted to try a recipe I had found for Pistachio shortbread,

and make some elderflower cordial for summer drinking.

So to disprove the theory that men can’t multi-task, I set about doing it all at once, including blanching the Potato peelings for Homity Pie later in the week.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Beer Bread and Bombay Potato

It’s really not a bad day today (Saturday 19th May), warm and bright, it’s a pity that I’m at work.

I just have to work today to do then I have 11 days off, I can’t wait, Yvonne’s Birthday is coming up and the things I ordered from USA have not arrived, so I had to do some more shopping, just so she actually has a present to open.

The Devon show was good but damp, very busy for a first day; the queue for the car park was back to about a mile before the junction on the M5, but really well organised. Unfortunately it rained quite a bit but there were plenty of tents to hide in and loads to see. Lots of good, local food as well, far too much to mention individually but must give a plug to the Common Loaf Bakery, and also Beer Engine Brewery.

At work, I piloted the biggest vessel of my career, 300 metres long and 42 wide,

mind you it was in quite a wide part of the river, when it turned around it had at least 100 metres clearance at each end,

further up river there is less room, so although the ships are smaller, you have less at each end (Sometimes 10-15 metres). When you get above the Thames Barrier with a large ship, there are only a few places to turn, so you often end up going backwards for a while, taking a 156 metre long passenger ship backwards through Tower Bridge is a fun way to spend a summers evening.

 Beer Bread, I had read about this in Richard Bertinets book “Crust” and wanted to try it, it takes about 8 hours with all the rising time but is no more work than an ordinary loaf. Basically it consists of a pre-ferment which you leave for up to 5 hours,

 then adding the rest of the ingredients and carrying on as normal.

I made two baguettes and a loaf which worked well for the quantities given.

We decided to have a take-away curry on Sunday, as the Local Indian Restaurant is rather good, and I had been asleep all day after work and driving home. Anyway we did the rice and home made Naan bread, just buying the curry. I made Bombay Potato using a spice blend from an Indian supermarket in Gravesend.

I fried chopped onion and Cubed Potato in oil adding the spices and some water and tomato puree.

 Gardening, my runner beans are in,

and everything else has shot up, potatoes,

salad leaves,

 raspberries etc. My new apple tree has blossom

and the Strawberries are showing signs of berries to come.

I started making some elderflower wine from the trees in my garden, the first fresh batch this year.

Yvonne made a Chilli, and it was good,

 instead of rice or any other conventional accompaniment, I put some of the part fried potato peelings in the oven for 20 minutes, and made a sort of Potato Nacho style thing from them, with a bit of cheese

and some Garlic Focaccia.

  Not only has Yvonne made Chilli, she has also made some jewellery, after the inspiration of her taster day at the local college.

She has now signed up for a short course at the college, and a day class at a shop in Torquay.

Hortense has outgrown her jar, and now resides in a large plastic container; I’m feeding her up at the moment as I plan to bake bread again tomorrow.