A few weeks ago, before we were all confined to barracks, I decided that it would be interesting to have a go at making sourdough bread. It takes a while to get the starter in a usable state and my first attempt just didn’t work – ending up watery and smelling rather unpleasant. Attempt number two was much more of a success and I have been carefully nurturing my lovely culture for a couple of weeks now. And then yesterday I noticed that it had gone mad and was bubbling out of it’s jar. So, the time was right to give it a go. I wanted to start simple and so I settled on a white loaf.

There’s mixing and kneading and leaving it to prove twice before finally knocking it back, shaping it in a basket and leaving it overnight in the refrigerator. after all the investment in time, I was itching to find out what it would be like. And the result? Delicious – a wonderful light loaf, not at all sour, but with a different taste to yeasted bread and a great texture. The next challenge is to keep the starter (now transferred to a much bigger jar) happy long-term and to experiment with some other flavours.

The recipe I worked from was in the Shipton Mill book A handful of flour. The starter is made with 1/5 wholewheat flour and 4/5 strong white flour, mixed with the same weight of water. I fed it every day for over a week, then every couple of days for another 10 days or so.

I like yeasted bread, but this is a rather good alternative – and how bread was originally made before commercial yeast was available. I’m really taken with the idea that every culture is unique because it’s the result of the person who makes it and the place and the specific conditions as well as the ingredients selected. So my sourdough will taste different to that made by anyone else – how great is that? Do you have experience of making sourdough?

A breakfast fit for… well, me

Almost every morning for breakfast I have a bowl of something oaty: porridge or muesli or granola. In the case of the latter two, I have it with stewed apple (yes, I’m still eating bottled apples) and homemade yoghurt. My favourite sorts of muesli are the ones where the grains are toasted, but no matter what brand or variety I buy, there is always at least one ingredient that I’m not keen on… very hard dried apricot in one (I’d like it if it was soft) and an excess of fat raisins in another. Granola is better as there are types that only contain seeds or nuts and seeds, but they tend to be very expensive. So, the other day I decided that I should find some recipes for granola and make my own, after all it’s only broken-up crunchy flapjack.

Halfway through cooking - personalised granola

Halfway through cooking – personalised granola

Granola is not something we make much in the UK, so almost all the recipes I could find were American, but this is fine because I have a set of volumetric cup measures. I trawled through recipes, rejecting them for exactly the same reasons that I reject ready-made breakfast cereals – ingredients that I don’t much like – before I realised that it didn’t matter. All I needed, in fact, was a recipe that gave me an idea of the relative proportions of dry ingredients (oats, seeds, nuts, sugar etc) to wet ones (oil and syrup). The one I settled on had approximately 3 cups oats, 3 cups seeds/nuts, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup syrup and 1/4 cup oil plus 1 cup dried fruit added at the end. Basically, you mix everything up together (except the fruit) and bake it in a cool oven for an hour and fifteen minutes, stirring it four or five times during the cooking. I warmed the syrup before mixing to make it more runny and easier to handle (I used golden syrup).

Because I wanted only to use ingredients that I like, I just took them out of the store cupboard. So, in addition to the oats, my granola contains cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds (which I grew myself) and Shipton Mill five¬† seed mix (malted wheat flakes, barley flakes, sunflower seeds, millet and oats). I completely forgot, but I also have homegrown poppy seeds that I could have added… I’ll use some of those next time. After cooking I added chopped dates. Now I have a breakfast cereal completely tailored to me.

It’s just cooling as I write, but already I can tell you it tastes delicious. In the future I will aim to increase the proportion of homegrown ingredients, but I’m already quite pleased with my first attempt.


And a little addition following some discussion on Facebook… as well as adapting the dry ingredients to your taste, there’s no reason to stick with golden syrup (I used it because I had some in the store cupboard). You could try honey, maple syrup, yacon syrup (you can grow yacon in the UK so you could make your own) or whatever you fancy. And you can change the quantities. All you need to do is coat the dry ingredients, so warming the syrup to make it thinner means you can use less, or you can water it down if you want something less sweet. I should note that I used a dark raw sugar in mine, which is less sweet than granulated sugar and adds a different flavour. Oh, and I guess you could use molasses if you fancy instead of syrup. Really, the point is that this is not so much a recipe as a pointer towards experimentation.

Garden dinner

I love the time in the year when it is possible to eat a significant proportion of our food from out of the garden. We are not quite there yet this year, but last night we did start with spring onions, potatoes and sage from the garden (plus an egg):

Ingredients for dinner

Ingredients for dinner

and ended up with Glamorgan sausages, boiled new potatoes (variety Colleen) and lettuce for our dinner:

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

Not quite  a garden dinner, as the lettuce came from a local farm and the Glamorgan sausages were made with breadcrumbs from a homemade loaf (organic white flour from Shipton Mill; wholemeal from Felin Ganol) plus Snowdonia Black Bomber Cheese and freshly ground back pepper, but with the sage and onions and bound together with the egg. Not entirely home-grown, but very satisfying that almost everything was fairly local.

I am having a slight problem, however, at breakfast time. Despite the strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and red currants being covered in fruit, none of it is ripe yet. Thank goodness for rhubarb to keep me going in this rather lean period!

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