Sunday, 25 September 2011


Black Swan Bread
End of July Bread
September Bread with Plums and Hazelnuts
Rye Sourdough Boule with Sprouted Wheat
Sinful Loaf.
These names conjure up another world. I imagine some rustic, Eastern European village somewhere, all thatched cottages with wooden beams; a few chickens and dogs scratch around in the mud; golden, flat fields of wheat stretch to a distant mountain range; the smell of freshly baked bread wafts from house to house. Everyone is speaking Polish:
"BOCHENKOWO Moj chleb: jest robiony recznie na kazdym etapie, koniecznie z pelnoziarnistej maki i na domowym zakwasie.  (BREAD AT HOME To bake the real bread I use: my hands, some sourdough and whole grain flour)."I am not quite sure where or when I first came across the Bochenkowo sourdough bread blog, but I do know I have been reading Anna's recipes for some months now, intrigued by the entirely different traditions and flavours that she packs into her loaves. 
It took me quite a while to realise that she is blogging from Maspeth, New York.

Here is a loaf that has evolved out of several different recipes from her blog.

430g rye sourdough starter (equal water and flour)
240g dark beer (or water)
350g stoneground rye flour
250g wheat flour (white)
20g salt
130g soft prunes
70g soft dried apricots
Mix the starter, beer, flours and salt together.  Knead for 15 mins until pliable and stretchy.  Leave to ferment for 3 hours before putting the dough into the fridge overnight.  
Remove the dough from the fridge and leave it to warm for a couple of hours; knead it briefly before adding the dried fruit and kneading it in until evenly spread.  Sprinkle some flour over the dough before shaping it into a boule: leave to rise for 3 hours.
An hour before baking, place a baking stone / sheet in the oven and heat to 220 degrees.  When the dough is ready, place a tray of ice cubes in the oven for steam; slash the dough to your own design; transfer it onto the baking stone / tray, and bake for 45 - 50 minutes.

Sunday, 18 September 2011


What mental picture hoves into view when the word 'sequel' is mentioned: The Godfather or Jaws? This is not a flippant question because therein lies your attitude to having another crack of the whip, as in 'why bother?' or 'why not?' Anyone who read my first try at bacon curing may wonder why I would once more get back in the water; oh yes I mean this literally - and I'm talking the pork-flavoured variety. Well combining the steeliness of Al Pacino with the unhinged insouciance of Robert Shaw I make another attempt - with a dry-cure this time (I'm unhinged but not stupid). Here's how it went...

1. I go to Gog Magog Shop, buy 1kg rare breed pork belly and receive some good curing tips. The butcher there also removes the skin and scores the flesh (not doing this was one of the many mistakes I made last time).

2   At home, I pierce the flesh with a wooden skewer.

3. I rub the curing mixture into the flesh:
 37-40 g curing salt (bought from e-bay or )
2 tbsps crushed juniper berries
1/3 grated nutmeg
1 tsp cracked black pepper
(you can experiment with spices)

4. Then put it in a plastic bag and rub it a bit more. 

5. I then add 2 tbsps dark treacle and 1 tbsp maple syrup to the bag...

6 And then squidge it some more before putting it in the fridge for a week, turning and massaging daily (the bacon that is).

7. After a week I wrap it in muslin and hang it in the shed outside like a mummified corpse. I don't think you need to do this - you could keep it in the fridge, but I always do this as it helps dry it out and develop flavour. 

8. After a week I unwrap the bacon. It is fragrant with the spices and syrups and is a very good firm texture (if it has spots of white mould I just rub them off) . It slices well and cooks quickly to a satisfying crisp.

9. It's bloody delicious. The sequel is an Oscar winner.

Sunday, 4 September 2011


There are three of us in this marriage. 
This is how it started...

An epic outdoor play at The Globe (who knows what now – this was six years ago) had enriched us, I assume, culturally but rendered us cold, slightly grumpy and starving. We schlepped to Moro in Exmouth Market – no tables but, thank God, a couple of free stools to slump at the bar. What happened next is an epiphany ... not for me but for T; if only I’d foreseen the consequences and how our lives would change ...
Along with our drinks a basket of warm sourdough bread appeared fresh from the wood-fired oven, chewy, fragrant and with a crisp crust; the light of love kindled in T’s eyes - oh he wasn’t looking at me.
Over the following weeks, our smallish kitchen housed a hellishly stinking bubbling tureen of rotting grapes in a pool of slurry to create the sourdough starter – THE MOTHER.  This monster demanded to be fed; my husband was obsessed – he’d become Dr Frankenstein, Macbeth’s three witches, Steve Martin in The Little Shop of Horrors, Anthony Perkins in Psycho…our house in Cambridge had been transformed into a Gothic castle.
This incubation phase lasted for about a month before the creation had fully come to life, ready to be transferred to its permanent home. Our small fridge struggles to fit a block of cheese, six eggs and a jar of olives, however for the last six years one entire shelf has become the permanent residence of a large plastic box containing THE MOTHER. 
Now sourdough bread is not made in a speedy fashion; there are manifold stages I soon discover: a gloopy mass is slopped in tins or slumped on baking trays; in the airing cupboard, laundry is swept aside to make room for proving dough. Occasionally we escape to the pub: “how about another drink?’ I say. A watch is consulted … no, time for another round of kneading. We go home. Later in the evening, last cup of coffee drunk, television watched: “I’m going to bed, you coming?” “Uh no it’s time to bake”… and so it goes.
Six years on I’ve kind of got used to the rhythms of the sourdough, the concentrated study of books by Dan Leader or Andrew Whitley, the obsessive scanning of blogs on Sourdough Companion website (I’m serious, this does exist).
OK, the bread is bloody delicious, but spouses be aware: once taken over by the sourdough virus your partner may look the same but they are not: their allegiance is to THE MOTHER.  There is no known antidote.
"Oh Mother...."