Hemingway Daiquiri

Alice Lascelles gave her version of a Hemingway Daiquiri on insta

50ml white rum
25ml pink grapefruit juice
15ml lime juice
15ml Luxardo Maraschino

And – oh look! Hemingway Daiquiri is a double dactyl

Chic-ery Shakery
Hemingway Daiquiri
Juice up some citrus and
Shake over ice

Oversimplicity –
In need of ornament!
Maybe a wedge of
grapefruit is nice?

The Difford’s version starts with a quadruple shot of rum!

Eurovision bingo, cocktails and bbq #linkdump

I’ve been using Meg Pickard’s Eurovision bingo cards for over ten years now. “Oompa loompa levels of fake tan” has entered into the lexicon.

I have possibly allowed myself to be too closely linked with cocktails in some people’s minds. Perhaps I need to dial back from all the photos on #socmed! But my neighbours asked for suggestions for Eurovision cocktails and here were some suggestions that crossed my radar:

BBC suggest Purple Rain – as a single drink or as a jug cocktail

Gin Club have a few suggestions here – two champagne cocktails (not a huge fan) – Waterloo Sunset and Bucks Fizz – and a colour changing horror which require butterfly pea flowers, which I had previously never heard of.

Randomly heard on the radio this afternoon that Bob Dylan liked a Kamikaze which is very doable

This lovely list of “retro” cocktails might also inform. Crème de menthe arrived this week as part of my attempt to get the ingredients for the insane Difford’s mai tai (although bugger, I now see I was supposed to buy white crème de menthe) so grasshoppers might feature tonight…

Over on facebook there were requests for Cobb bbq recipes that might fit the theme too. My quick google turned over a couple of marinade ideas for chicken – this Portuguese chicken recipe looked good and so did this German dark beer one.

TBH though it is a little hard to fit all of this in on Eurovision night. Watching the songs and reading Twitter takes up nearly all of the available time. Good prep is the key I guess.

Wanderlust

I had been feeling the urge to travel even before the pandemic. I did manage a wonderful escape last summer to Normandy and Brittany to a very different sort of holiday. Having got away there was much less pressure to Do Stuff as most places were still closed, so I had 10 days at the beach swimming in the sea every day and then spending the whole day reading, drinking coffee and thinking about what to cook. I’ll happily do that again and again!

It does presently feel that this year will be a write-off for any sort of travel. The school Easter and May weeks of holiday fall before the current timetable even for overnight stays with family. The summer holidays are the next big thing – have booked choir week in Gloucester but really only thinking at this stage it’s 50/50 whether that can possibly run, what with my choir having its fair share of vulnerable members, singing being rather suspect anyway in terms of filling the air with particles and whether the cathedral will be ready to reopen to visitors.

An American friend has floated the idea of coming to stay with me for all of August, and that’s theoretically fine – not least since it should prompt me, after 15 years in my house – to finally and properly sort out a spare bed. He can also stay on here by himself again theoretically to feed and drug cats and chickens while I’m away singing in Gloucester. But the amounts of theory here – travel from America being OK by August?? And is that it for me for travel this summer?!

So October would be next and mentally that’s very-lightly pencilled in as time for the promised and delayed trip with nephew to Paris. The Eurostar tickets were booked with Nectar points for last August and now I have vouchers which are valid until the end of 2021, again with a few assumptions, not least that Eurostar survives until the end of 2021!

Then winter? Last year’s ODL Hogmanay didn’t happen and I would very much like to do that again. Maybe a Christmas trip away to a Swedish log cabin the snow…

I’ve been feeling a long time that I haven’t travelled as much as I would like. Like returning to a favourite restaurant where the decision is always between eating what you always have and know you like or branching out to something new which might become a favourite or might not be as good as the tried and tested, travel is always a decision between returning the old favourite of France or getting further afield. I feel I really should branch out beyond Europe as even in my most distant travel I’ve never really left the EU. (Well, technically once when I had a weekend in Prague in 1999, and of course much more distressingly now that all of the UK has left).

I’d toyed with the idea of visiting my American friend in California and possibly then driving north from SF up the western coast towards Oregon and Washington to wave at a Canadian friend just over the water. I’d be looking at several thousand pounds just for the fights and one way car hire so it would be a holiday that would need some saving for! The last time I spent anything like that on a holiday it got me 6 weeks camping on a road trip around France and Switzerland. And I really want to do that again too!

When I’ve had conversations with better travelled friends about widening my horizons, I’ve asked for recommendations. Where in the world gives the best travel? Where would you go back to? Latin America comes up a lot as the most interesting place to visit and I’d be down for that.

I’ve not been independently to Germany since 2008 when I had a long weekend in Munich. So many parts of Germany I’ve never even seen. I’m quite tempted to go and see the north east coast. I’ve not been to Berlin since 1999 on my year abroad. I hear they’ve finished it now? It was awash with cranes when I was last there. Even the parts of the Rhine where we go on school trips are amazing and I would be super happy to go back there with adult friends too, maybe even wander around the castles we deem too boring for Y7.

We were planning an Easter trip to Vienna in 2020 that fortunately as it turned out never quite got as far as booking anything before the impending lockdown became more concrete. Would certainly be happy to reheat that plan again.

Maybe the Fernweh is more serious than that and I need to take steps into much more substantial foreign experience. Maybe it’s almost time to reconsider working abroad? There are plenty of posts for teachers in overseas schools around the world. But is that a young person’s game? Once you’re settled with mortgage and menagerie is there still the chance to take a long term post somewhere else?

Christmas dinner meal plan when cooking for one or two

@ianvisits tweeted a few days ago that someone was writing ideas on how to plan for Christmas day for 8 and that this wasn’t fair for the numerous people who needed to cook and eat for 1 over the festive period. My first thought was that recipes for 8 could well be 4 people eating the same thing over several days and wasn’t that unreasonable, but over the last few days I’ve been mulling over what a meal plan would look like for one over Christmas. I’m probably going to be in my support bubble of 2 for a couple of days this year, but I’ve spent Christmas alone in the past and would be entirely happy to do it again. Everything below would easily double to feed two, and would be a monumental, gut-busting and freezer filling feast for one. Which is what you want over Christmas, no?

The plan is for 3 or 4 days’ worth of food, and would be quite hard to fit in the fridge! I have been eating a diet which is supposed to be low in complex carbohydrates, but I might well park that over Christmas and eat some bread. I mostly shop in Sainsburys – I think I am planning to order online ahead of time and click and collect on the 22nd.

Christmas Season 4 Day Leftovers Bonanza

Sometime prior, eg Christmas Eve Eve – have a duck confit based meal and reserve lots of the duck fat. Also some time prior, you might like to look at this and make things like speculoos fudge, mulled wine truffles, Christmas martinis, choc orange martinis…

Start Christmas Eve afternoon by making the pudding you want on Christmas Day. I think I am making a pear frangipane tart, something like this maybe. (In the past I’ve made this awesome tarte bourguinonne, but have had request to not go mad on chocolate this year).

Another good thing to get out of the way on Christmas Eve is washing up the glasses you want to use over the festive period, especially if there are some that don’t get used all that often that might be dusty. I’ll be washing the Santa teapot at this point too.

For Christmas Eve dinner, while the oven is still recovering from the tart, bake a small bacon joint, two baked potatoes and a cauliflower cheese large enough to do two meals. If you like making it properly, roux, the works, do that. If you don’t, then buy the amazing free flow frozen cauliflower cheese in bags. It’s a bag of separate cauliflower pieces, each one coated in a cheese sauce, so you can put as many or as few as you like in an oven dish. As it cooks, the sauce melts and browns and turns into a really respectable cauliflower cheese. Add another vegetable of your choice. Green beans? Carrots? Whatevs.

Once it’s roasted, serve the dinner. The bacon joint turns into 4 portions, slices for Christmas eve and 3 other portions for the following day. Cut two portions to cubes and 1 to slices and put them in the fridge when they’re cool.

Defrost the frozen scallops for tomorrow in a dish in the fridge.

Christmas morning, I want bagels, smoked salmon and cream cheese. I’ll buy smoked salmon trimmings that are much cheaper, there’s no need for fancy slices here. Just toast the bagels, mush the fish and cheese on top.

This is also good time now to start drinking, because it’s Christmas, and for once, you’re allowed. For the last few years, I’ve started the day with Norman or Breton sweet cider, because I like it and it comes in champagne style bottles which allow for a feeling of celebration. I don’t really like champagne and this cider is also far far less alcoholic, making it a great breakfast drink. I thought ahead while I was camping in France over the sweet spot of the summer hols when we were allowed, and added some to my supermarket order. Last year I enjoyed using the carving knife to sabre my bottle and some of the glasses were augmented with things like crême de mûres sauvages or Clementine gimlet syrup.

Breakfast and the first bottle out of the way, suitably replete for an extended period out of the kitchen doing whatever awesome Christmas for one things you might want to do. A film, or phoning family or whatever. Ironing, or reading whilst you’re still sober enough to do so. Last year I went bellringing, but this year no so much.

You might want to get the lunch roast out to warm up to room temperature at this point.

Roughly two hours before you want your dinner, get going in the kitchen.

I’ve just scheduled scallops with romesco sauce as our starter this year having been inspired by this week’s Masterchef. Apparently you can make it in 20 minutes, and make a small amount of the sauce out of store cupboard ingredients in a Nutribullet smoothie blender. If you buy frozen scallops you don’t even need to spend 5 minutes opening and trimming them, you just need to remember to defrost them the night before. If you don’t, you can apparently do it in 20 minutes in a bowl of warm water. I will probably look at the plan in three weeks’ time and be completely baffled why it’s there. This recipe has it out of fresh ingredients, but I’m planning to make with sun dried tomatoes and peppers out of a jar. I’m also going to make at least 2 portions of the sauce.

I want to roast a chicken. A turkey is too much for one, and a chicken augmented with slightly more christmassy trimmings is enough for me.

The lunch sequence is roughly like this:

  • Oven on
  • Check the chicken cavity is empty and add a chopped lemon, onion and carrot
  • Chicken in
  • Parboil spuds for 10 minutes. Make waaaaay too many, they’re delicious cold from the fridge over the coming days.
  • Drain then shake the spuds with flour, put into roasting tray with the duck fat from earlier, and into oven for about the final hour of chicken roasting
  • Make and eat the starter at this point somewhere
  • Get the pigs in blankets and and stuffing balls in 30-40 minutes before serving
  • Put the leftover cauliflower cheese in to reheat
  • Take the chicken out when it’s cooked and let it rest.
  • Check the potatoes. If they’re not done enough, turn the oven heat up.
  • Make gravy
  • Start boiling your additional vegetables
  • Heat your serving plate (eg put it in the sink and run the hot tap over it – the oven is busy and too hot!)
  • Open the wine, if you’ve waited this long!
  • Carve the chicken, taking off just what you want for this meal.
  • Plate the rest of your feast.
  • Eat
  • Open the kitchen window and set the oven to pyrolitic clean

The dessert was done yesterday, remember? It could reheat in the oven’s residual heat. A vanilla mascarpone would go well with it – scrape a vanilla pod into a tablespoon of icing sugar and beat into a small pot of mascarpone.

A few hours for non-food Christmas activity. Queen, reading, film, presents, thank you letters, walk/stagger…

Fridge the now cold chicken and all the leftovers.

In the evening, cheeseboard, granary rolls, bits of leftover chicken, some of the leftover bacon joint. Chutneys, leftover pudding. Crunchy salad veg like raw carrots, peppers, celery, radishes all keep in the fridge much better than leaves; they could be chopped with a dressing. Remember cheese freezes, so maybe buy the several different sorts you want but chop half of them for the freezer before you start eating.

Boxing Day

This morning we are starting with poached eggs and with them the remains of yesterday’s romesco sauce. Perhaps with bagels if you feel the need for something crunchy.

Boxing day lunch – or maybe a picnic if you want to get out there somewhere – is the same as Christmas Day evening – cold cuts, rolls, salad, cheese, leftover pudding.

At some point on Boxing Day, find some time to strip the chicken carcass and make stock. Put all the chicken meat back into the fridge. I make chicken stock with my Pressure King Pro electric pressure cooker, so the bones and bits from the chicken, reserved veg peelings, salt, pepper, celery, carrots, bay, any herbs I have knocking about, in the machine for 2 hours, then cool. You’ll need 500ml stock for this evening and the rest can freeze.

The evening meal is risotto, made from the stock above, a portion of Christmas Day’s chicken, a portion of Christmas Eve’s bacon joint, the stock, mushrooms and dried porcini mushrooms if Santa was generous. Is there still leftover pudding? Then have that.

On the 27th December, start with more of the salmon/cream cheese bagelly goodness.

For lunch use a portion of the chicken to make coronation chicken and eat it with the spare baked potato you roasted on Christmas Eve.

In the evening use the final portion of bacon joint cubes and the rest of the eggs to make spaghetti carbonara. I sometimes put mushrooms in my mine just to annoy Italian friends but also to try and get past the idea that otherwise there are no redeeming health features in the meal at all.

So there we have it. Five days of eating like a king!

Christmas Eve Eve

Confit duck with sauté potatoes

Christmas Eve

Bacon joint with baked potato, cauliflower cheese and veg

Christmas Day

Smoked salmon, cream cheese, bagels

Scallops with Romesco sauce

Roast chicken, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, pigs in blankets, stuffing, sundry veg, gravy

Pudding

Cold cuts, rolls and cheese board

Boxing day

Poached eggs with Romesco sauce

Rolls with cold cuts and cheese board

Risotto

27th December

Smoked salmon bagels,

Baked potato with coronation chicken

Spaghetti carbonara

Outline shopping list

  • Duck confit in a tin
  • 750g bacon joint
  • 2 baking potatoes and large quantity roasting potatoes
  • frozen cauliflower cheese or ingredients to make
  • carrots and green beans, sprouts if you must
  • bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon trimmings
  • frozen scallops
  • jars of sundried tomatoes and roasted peppers, flaked almonds, garlic, olive oil
  • medium whole chicken
  • pre-prepared pigs in blankets and stuffing balls or ingredients to make your own
  • ingredients for a dessert or a microwavable Christmas pudding
  • mascarpone, vanilla pod, icing sugar
  • granary rolls
  • cheeseboard and chutneys
  • crunchy salad veg
  • eggs
  • risotto rice, porcini mushrooms, onions
  • mayonnaise, curry powder, sultanas or dried apricots, mango chutney
  • spaghetti

Solar panel performance – 2018 and 2019

Forgive me reader, it’s been over two years since I last blogged the annual performance of my solar panel. Again.

Solar panel annual output

A photo this time rather than a screen shot as since I upgraded my computer I have been unable to re-download the software that would allow me to connect my new computer to the controller. This is rather annoying because I paid extra for the computer control facility. A reader kindly reached out with a solution but it didn’t work with my then computer set up and I ran out of enthusiasm for fixing it.

In 2007 I read that graph as 2,700kWh so sticking a finger in the air and estimating from the graph I will consider 2018 as 2,900kWh and 2019 as 3,200.  Interesting levels of extra sun! Nottingham Energy Partnership have an Energy Costs Comparison table. I neglected to look at it last year, so will have to use the data from July 2020 now to estimate the financial value of the heat we got from the sun. I use the gas rate of 4.75p/kWh, since if the water were not heated by the solar panel, it would be heated by gas. The gas rate has increased by 0.15p since I last wrote one of these posts.

That means the solar panel gathered around £138 in 2018 and £152 in 2019.

The running total to the end of 2018 is therefore £1,646 and at the end of 2017, £1,798.

September sees the thirteenth year of operation.

There are all sorts of flawed assumptions being made to come to the usage figure, so take it with a fairly large pinch of salt.

If you are considering a solar panel of your own, whether for hot water or to generate electricity, and you live vaguely near Nottingham, do please get in touch with Sungain at Nottingham Energy Partnership, who would be delighted to let you know what to do next. You can also follow them on Twitter, and they also have a very helpful service on their website that lets you compare your electricity and gas tariffs and see if you can save money.

Buckets more information about my own solar panel under this link.

And a declaration of interest: I’m on the board at Nottingham Energy Partnership, where they very kindly describe me as an “energy expert.”

More food

Food I

I’ve settled into a normal routine of one big cooked meal in the evening with a variety of snacking throughout the day and evening.   Managing to go a long old time between supermarket visits – I went on Wednesday not because I’d run out of food but because I had some slightly specific ideas about what I wanted to cook over the bank holiday weekend. Specifically I wanted a chicken, which I was pleased to get.

Most things I wanted were in the supermarket and I again managed to spend a small fortune – in the long run although it’s only food for one person, it was a shop for two weeks’ food, so I suppose it’s not too bad really. I also found a rhubarb plant for the garden which is now planted… I wonder how it will do…

Alcohol is a bit of a feature – there is a fun weekly videoconference call with OutdoorLads where we all have cocktails and a chinwag.  I am still working through the last delivery from the Wine Tanker, although now I am out of red…  And recently I found the website Beer is Here, an industry sponsored directory to connect people to closed pubs and breweries who are nonetheless still providing a delivery service. They put me in touch with Adventure Beer, who, it turns out, are two streets over from me and specialise in Nottinghamshire breweries.

Further food

Here are some cocktail pictures to start with. The first week (we’ve had three of these now) I thought it would be fun to dress up and teleconf from the kitchen. By the following week I’d set up more of a zoomlab in the upstairs office and everyone else had decided to dress up but I’d decided to dress down.  Week two I joined late and just drank wine.

Further food

Red Snapper – a bottle of spicy tomato juice came with this month’s Gin Club and apparently if you make a Bloody Mary with gin, it’s a Red Snapper (with tequila, it’s a Bloody Maria)

Further food

Espresso martini. There was definitely something weird in the long-unused moka pot that I didn’t clean out properly.

Further food

White Lady – not many people have eggs spare for cocktails right now, I suppose. I started making these because they’re mentioned in a John le Carré book.

Further food

Tequila sunrise, only I don’t have grenadine so the red tinge is coming from Briottet Crème de framboise.

(I was making the cocktails with single shots, so it’s not quite as much alcohol as it looks like.

Risotto bolognese leftovers after the call finished, here’s Nigella’s recipe. It’s a great extra idea of a thing to do with a portion of frozen bol: just add stock, arborio rice and parmesan, optional glass of wine.  You don’t really need to defrost the bol before you start. This is from the huge bolognaise pot I made at the start of all this which is still in the freezer. So far it’s done pasta (but not spaghetti so far!) lasagna, risotto twice and topped a jacket potato.  To remind me to eat it, I’ve put “defrost bolognese” as a recurring event in my Google calendar which is also my meal plan.

Further food

Neighbours left me some chocolate biscuit cake to thank me for the sourdough starter I gave them.

Further food

I made a double batch of sourdough which I turned into a loaf and tried Jamie’s rollup idea as well as a round loaf.

Further food

Further food

Further food

Further food

Further food

The day I made the bread the oven was really busy all day proving and baking the bread, so I actually phoned for pizza while it was cooking. Pizza Roma is still open. I tried to get ham, pineapple, mushroom and black olives, but I think all that arrived was ham and olives…

I don’t eat enough fish but a month ago I put fishfingers and breaded fish fillets in the freezer for a very easy way of getting fish portions into a week. Wedges are perhaps the easiest way to ape chips at home: cut up a potato, toss in olive oil and spices and herbs and salt and pepper and cook with the fish.

Further food

Conscious of not eating enough fruit and veg, I had some tinned pears and a banana with Nutella/peanut butter sauce.  (Nutella sauce – easy – microwave a few tablespoons of milk and a spoon of nutella – microwave a minute or so but stop just before it catches fire, stir.)

Further food

I am loving these new pots from Ikea – they come with a variety of different lids including a microwave one and bamboo ones. Brilliant for leftovers in the fridge because you can see what’s in them!

There’s a couple of things I ended up making just because I heard about them on the radio. The Kitchen Cabinet is back, and they suggested hummus, so I opened the last tin of chickpeas (that’s proven quite hard to replace)

Further food

Great for using up really old bread and eating crunchy things like celery, radish, peppers, and getting an extra portion of fruit and veg.

Further food

Sheila Dillon on the Food Programme was just talking about cake so I made a Victoria sponge.

Further food

Dead classic – just jam in the middle and just granulated sugar on top. It’s a strange colour because I don’t have white caster sugar so made it the dark brown sugar I use for banana bread. I still don’t have scales so it was made with 4 eggs and essentially guessed quantities of butter, Stork marj, sugar and SR flour bought last year.

I made two cakes and baked till a skewer came out clean

Further food

But one of them still wasn’t cooked properly so mostly made chicken food and I cut the other one in half. Don’t know why that didn’t occur to me before!

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A  bacon joint made a really good roast dinner as a weekend treat:

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With frozen home grown beans from my neighbours (who’ve had a baby today!)!

The ham chunk is great for slicing and snacking, as chunks in carbonara (or wasabonara if you fancy adding wasabi?!) and risotto and cauliflower cheese.

Oh, yes, cauli cheese. I put this off for a couple of days and in the end made it slightly more macaroni than cauliflower because as a friend said on socmed, the cauliflower ruins the cheese. So mine had ham, pasta, cheese, the frozen cauli and brocc mix, and a breadcrumb topping.

Further food

Further food

The ham also went in an omelette and I still have a chunk left.

Not eating enough eggs – every few days I leave a bunch on doorstep in a bowl and let the street-specific WhatsApp group know that they are there.

Further food

Here’s a neighbourhood cat called Felicity who likes to supervise production:

Further food

I’m enjoying playing with nail polish. Was trying to do a different colour each week, but didn’t quite manage it.

Further food

Sainsbury’s tinned ravioli is surprisingly good – the sauce has actual pieces of tomato in it.  I usually buy it for camping and at the end of year there’s still a can or two in the pantry.

Further food

There’s lots of tins of soup and curry for the same reason. I’m mostly putting off starting them in case I do actually have a few days sick with flu and need super easy meals when starting to eat again at the end of it.

Neighbours have been pruning, so currently have a pot of clippings on their steps for people to help themselves to. I am trying to start cuttings:

Further food

Just the same has happened with wild garlic and bluebell bulbs, all of which I’ve planted, so hopefully they will come up next year.

Remedial smoothie features occasionally

Further food

Did a fair amount of cooking over the Easter weekend. The main idea was to roast a chicken and make hot cross buns, which I did.

The hot cross buns are awful. I don’t know if it’s because my yeast is BBE 2012 or some other reason, but the recipe did not go well. They smelled wrong whilst cooking, seem a bit damp in the middle and just don’t taste nice. Such a lot of flour too!

Further food

Further food

Chicken went a lot better 🙂

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And with loads and loads of leftovers for next week’s meals. Risotto is planned but the idea has changed a bit with Jamie’s suggestion of a biyriani. I don’t have curry powder or paste so will have to improvise massively.

I am watching a huge amount of food TV at the moment – I am enjoying the daily glimpse into how awful Jamie Oliver’s hair is right now. I feel for Jack Monroe who finally got a daily TV show only to start coughing the night before and have to present it from their own kitchen across an incredibly flakey internet connection and a bizarrely hostile Matt Tebbut in the kitchen. Masterchef is continuing too.

More news on cooking in the coming days…

 

Sourdough – here’s what I do

With lots of time at home and a lack of yeast in the shops a few people have got in touch with me about sourdough.  This does make me a little uncomfortable because I am really not very good at it and certainly no kind of expert. But I do have a live culture right now and some success in making loaves from it, so all I can say is what I do. There is so much to read out there on the internet and so many people with better answers, feel free to try that too.

What I do is based on instructions from S John Ross, but the home of that on the internet has changed a couple of times.  Here’s a version I found recently, but it’s less than the full pages that SJR wrote that I read ten years ago.

It’s worth bearing in mind that this is how humans have made bread for around 50,000 years. Bakers yeast is less than 100 years old.  If cavemen could do a version of this, so can you. It’s not going to be as beautiful as some of the bakers on the internet, but who cares.

My starter – made ten years ago, but saved some – I spread it on a baking sheet and let it dry out then froze it.  Last year I woke it up again and augmented with some crumbs posted to me from California in exchange for a few Paypal dollars thanks to the Friends of Carl. I have no idea how hygienic any of this and my kitchen is far from catering standards of clean, so if you have any concerns, and I’ve given you starter culture recently beware! Especially if you are in a vulnerable group!

Sourdough starter

Even worse, I did have a mould problem recently, which I fixed by pouring the mould off the top and taking a teaspoon of the culture from the very bottom, dishwashing the pot and then feeding frequently.

If you’re in feeding stage and leaving on the counter, the culture needs a daily feed. If you’re in a maintenance feed and it lives in the fridge, it needs feeding weekly.

You should wash the pot regularly – reserve a little bit of culture and wash the main pot.  I put it in the dishwasher every time I bake.

My recipe uses American style cups because  my kitchen scales broke years ago and I never got around to replacing them.  Two things to think about if you’re not used to cups: a) loads of things you already have in your kitchen are approximately the same size as a 250ml cup:

250 mls

and b) the recipe is a ratio  so it matters less what size cup you use and more that you use the same cup for all the ingredients.

To make a starter – Equal quantities of flour and water in a jar kept in a warm spot, every day for a week stir and pour half of it away and replace with more flour and water. It will start to bubble. Any flour except self raising, but strong white best and easiest, spelt and rye for flavour. In these days of limited availability of flour, you don’t need to use a whole cup every time.  Some people maintain a starter with a tablespoon of flour in a tiny jam jar, but I think if you do this you need to feed it twice a day.

It’s supposed to smell beery and yeasty and a bit sour.

Once the starter is alive, you can actually start cooking with the bits you throw away, you don’t need to go through the full knead and bake routine. You can just fry sourdough starter in a hot pan with a little oil.  There are also recipes for crumpets (be careful, baking soda and baking powder are different things…) and crackers. You can also make pancakes by beating an egg into one cup of discard. If you make tiny pancakes you can call them blinis.

If you were given a starter culture, here’s how you bake:

The day before you bake, you need to feed the culture to make enough starter for your baking the following day. You will need two cups of starter for the recipe plus leftover starter to keep alive for the next day’s baking, so feed the starter 1.5 cups of flour and 1.5 cups water.  Leave it on the counter.

Ideally the starter is vigorous enough to double in size over night – you can keep an eye on it by putting a rubber band around the pot and seeing how big it gets. Ideally you bake with it when its at its biggest, it will grow and fall back. So long as there are bubbles on top and hopefully bubbles you can see through the sides, it’s ok to cook with.

Measure 3 cups of flour into a bowl. If you want rye or wholemeal, use that for some of the flour, but you’ll get a very heavy loaf if you don’t include at least some strong white bread flour.  Add to the flour two cups of starter, then reserve the starter you’re going to keep in the fridge and wash up the starter pot. A tea spoon of salt. Optional extras: generous glug of olive oil and a table spoon of sugar to feed the culture. First stir it with a wooden spoon, then get your clean hands into it and knead. Some recipes have no kneading at all, some say you should knead for 10-20 minutes and do it so vigorously you get slightly breathless. I tend to punch it about a bit in the bowl or flour the worktop and stretch it a forearm’s length along the counter.  If it’s flakey at this point, it’s too dry, add a teeny splash of water. If it stays sticky and won’t come off your hands it may be too wet, add a little flour. (but some bakers try and keep it really wet as that’s the best way to beautiful sourdough holes in the finished loaf.)

A very great deal has been written about proving, kneading and shaping doughs.  You will found a million different ways of doing it on the internet. And making bread. Here’s the very little I do:

Make the dough as above.  The recipe will make one round loaf, two 2lb loaf tins, or a dozen little rolls / baps.  The rolls are good for me because I live alone and can’t eat a whole loaf before it goes rock hard. The rolls can be refreshed in the microwave or frozen and used as and when.

Let the dough prove in the mixing bowl somewhere warm until it doubles in size. Ish. Cover it with a tea towel or the top will try and go crispy (not a problem but not ideal). This might take a very long time – up to 18 hours.  IF you don’t have anywhere warm, you can put the oven on for a couple of seconds, then turn it off and put the dough in the oven. Just don’t use the oven for anything else accidentally while you do!  You can also do the initial prove in the fridge – this will take much longer but the sour flavour develops.

After the first prove, knock it back – do a very small amount of kneading and the dough will collapse.

Then shape the loaf and prove again, covered with a damp teatowel or in a giant plastic bag.

For a round loaf – you need to repeatedly gently pull/smooth the top down and bunch it underneath whilst turning it round. Then allow to rise in a floured banneton. If you don’t have one, flour a dry tea towel well and put it in a colander.

For loaf tins – you need to divide it into two, flatten into squares, roll up the square like a swiss roll and put that in each LINED tin – if you don’t use parchment you may never get it out again!  (I haven’t done this in ages and can’t remember if the dough makes 1 or 2 tins!!)

For rolls/cobs/baps – divide dough into half then quarters then each quarter into 3. Roll each piece in your hands and place into a baking tray with sides. Line at least the bottom of the tray.

(this is after it’s risen for the second time:)

Sourdough rolls

Look at the terrible portion control.

The second prove can be a variety of times too… maybe two three hours?

About 45 minutes before you want to put it in the oven, put the oven on as hot as it will go to have a good go at getting very hot indeed.

I then turn the oven down to 180 when I put the loaf in. Rolls about 20 minutes, loaves in tins about 30, round loaves about 45. Knock the bottom of a baked loaf – it should sound hollow.

You’re looking for “oven spring” which means the loaf gets a lot bigger quickly when it gets to the heat.  Because of oven spring it’s good to slash the top of the dough before it goes in the oven with the sharpest knife you have. This controls where the dough opens instead of having it burst at an unpredictable point.

Trad yeasted rye loaf

If you’re cooking a round loaf, you can get excellent results if you cook it in a Dutch Oven / Le Creuset / cast iron casserole. Allow the whole pot to heat up to as hot as the oven will go. Turn the round loaf out of the colander / banneton onto a sheet of greaseproof and use this as a sling to lower into the preheated pot. Try to be gentle at this point because you don’t want to knock the air out now! Slash and bake with the lid on.

You can also put icecubes in the oven, even a cup of water, which evaporates and makes steam, and keeps the crust slightly softer.

You’re supposed to let the whole thing cool right down before you slice it, I don’t always manage.  You can let it cool with a tea towl over it which lets the crust reabsorb some of the steam and stop it being too sharp on your teeth.

Let me know how you get along!

 

Food in the time of Coronavirus

For a bunch of reasons, some of which I can put a finger on, some of which I can’t, I have been off my game since before the start of this year. One of the several ways this manifests itself is that I have been well off track in terms of planning and cooking. When I’m fully myself I like to have a list of meals coming up and shop sensibly accordingly. When I’m not, I find myself relying on the places I can drive through on the way home and find myself eating my dinner whilst driving so that I can go straight to bed when I get home.

Two Mondays ago it was pretty clear that some serious societal change was in the offing, so like many many others I decided to go home via the supermarket and stock up.  I spent a lot of money, filled the freezer and shopped around the gaps other people had left.  Two days ago, very clearly stuff was up – by then, schools were closed, although we had a whole staff meeting (on socially distanced chairs in the hall) at 8.15 to set out a plan for how we would cope with setting work and supervising the key worker children.  So again I called at the supermarket for long life essentials – and this time also stocked up on some nice things as the week before I spent a small fortune without even buying alcohol or chocolate!

So, the first Monday I made a huge pot of bolognese. This was all the more challenging because judging from the gaps in the shelves, everyone else had had the same idea. There were no celery, carrots, or onions. No mince of any sort in the fresh isle. No tinned tomatoes.

Giant pot of bolognese

As it happens I pretty much always stockpile, so apart from the meat,  I had much of what I needed at home, including some wrinkly old carrots and onions. I eventually found a kilo of frozen lamb mince and used that. I blogged about a good mince sauce for pasta over ten years ago and I did just that. I also planned for the lasagna! I also hid a bit of extra veg from myself – supermarket trip netted a huge bag of frozen cauliflower and broccoli and I blended some of that till it was tiny and put it in the sauce and cooked down, and now you’d never know it was there!

My mince sauce was 8 portions – one that night (although I just ate it by itself because it took so long to cook I’d stuffed my face on bread by then), one the following night with a jacket potato, and then made lasagna at the weekend.

Bolognese

I am currently mostly cooking a meal for two each time I cook and having the spare one two nights later to try and avoid eating the same thing two days running.

Monday 16 – bolognese

Tuesday 17 – bolognese with baked potato. Cooked two potatoes to avoid toooo much wasted oven heat. Put the oven on a timer so it was ready by the time I got home from work.

Thursday – a pack of stuffed pasta with pesto. A delicious fast meal with nearly no nutritional benefits at all. All carbs and no vegetables.

Filled pasta and pesto dressed with pine nuts

By Thursday school was already a bit odd… we’d closed to two year groups and Y11 got the news that they would not have to sit exams this year which turned their remaining lessons into end of term lessons.

Friday I had the other baked potato with cheese and beans

Spud with beans and cheese

Saturday was the lasagna

Lasagna

Sunday – the other half of the tin of beans turned into an all day breakfast. I ended up cooking 8 sausages to eat two and have been snacking on the rest of them ever since.

All day breakfast

Monday leftover lasagna with jacket potato

Lasagna and jacket spuds

Tuesday – delicious mozarella pasta bake from this recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a while, although I simply left out the cream. Halved the recipe and ate only half of that and overdid the garlic.

Veggie(ish) pasta bake

Tonight – even more jacket potato, this time stuffed with tuna and chopped pepper and onion.

Stuffed jacket potato with tuna and finely chopped pepper and onion

Future meals as of now…

Well there’s 5 portions of bolognese still in the freezer so that could be risotto bolognese or simply with spuds or pasta or as lasagna again.

I opened a pack of bacon for all day breakfast so that needs eating… could maybe have carbonara tomorrow. Could add in the leftover mushrooms too.

There’s half a veggie pasta bake.  Grief, but I’m eating a lot of pasta whilst the rest of the world has run short!

I have breaded fish fillets so they could be eaten with potato wedges as both need the oven.

Today I left the milk in the sun a bit too long so made rice pudding.

Plan to make a cheese sauce and a gratin (breadcrumbs in the freezer from a less than successful sourdough loaf) for that frozen cauliflower and broccoli mix.

In all this I have also resurrected my sourdough from frozen flakes and been baking bread with highly variable results… A fuller post on this another night.

Sourdough rolls

 

 

 

Pudding club millionaire pots

A variation on a theme of chocolate pots…

Pudding club millionaire chocolate pots

These quantities made 4 large Ikea ramekins, which was a whole lotta pudding. I’m sure the same quantities would make at least 6 Gu ramekins and maybe 10 shot glasses / espresso cups and still feel like pudding was had.

It was a very simple recipe, which benefitted from fridge stages at each layer, so definitely need making the day ahead.

The biscuit layer is an entire packet of Oreos blitzed, with about 50gr melted butter stirred through. Pack into the bottom of the ramekins and fridge. I intended to use Bourbon biscuits, but there weren’t any in Sainsbury’s when I went.

The caramel layer is an entire tin of Nestlé caramel from the condensed milk aisle, which comes in a handy 397g serving. Put the can in a bowl of warm water before opening it to make it easy to pour / serve and help you get more out of the tin.

The chocolate ganache layer is a mix of dark and milk chocolate – about 100gr each – and an equal amount of cream. Boil the cream, add the broken chocolate, stir until well melted and pour over the top.

A friend on facebook saw the picture and estimated each serving at over 1,000 calories. I’ve just run the ingredients through MyFitnessPal and she was highly accurate. This recipe divided by 4 clocks in at 1223 calories each.   Try and get it to 6, 8, or 10 portions for a far more sensible serving!

MFL revision activities

We just invested in new textbooks, which brings with it opportunities for a highly structured approach: teach chapters from books, assess chapters from books, support both with vocab sheets from the book, and have a revision lesson using the vocab sheet the lesson before you do the assessments.

Here are some activities I’ve been doing for that revision lesson just before the actual test. The emphasis on this has to be students using their vocab sheet in depth in ways that go beyond just looking at it.

My old go-to was a form of snakes and ladders. Students begin by using the vocab sheet to prepare 30 questions, where the questions is a vocab item or sentence from the sheet which someone else will have to translate.  Once four people have 30 questions, they can play snakes and ladders with each other on a basic board with counters and dice. They use their questions for each square they land on – if they can’t answer their team-mate’s question for that square they go back to where they came from.

Obviously the main revision activity here is creating the questions, but the game has a nice fun element as a reward for creating 30 questions. You can be specific about the target, eg 15 word level translations and 15 sentences, or 30 sentences for stronger classes. You can have them create questions in pairs and then two pairs play the end game.

One-pen-one-dice is a great end of unit activity too – as the teacher you write 20 sentences in the target language and print enough sheets for everyone, with enough space to write translations underneath each sentence. Steve Smith gives details on how to play the game.  My end of unit twist was to go back through the text book, look at the listening and reading resources you’ve used over the last few weeks, and get the 20 sentences from there.

I have been using my version of the three column vocab sheet  for a while. Learners have a column of English words, a column of target language words in a different order and a blank column. They then write the correct TL word next to the English.  To help make this more understandable, I’ve started putting the TL words in a box at the bottom. Here’s an example with my layout, revising the spec vocab for charity words in French. You can introduce vocab as well as revise it this way – although I find I do end up using quite a lot of lesson time to go over the answers, and that may not be the best use of time on what is essentially a word level task.

My new revision twist is to get the learners to make their own sheets, again based on the vocab sheet from the topic. I initially created a resource to give them blank sheets to complete  – this particularly helps with counting to make sure they have exactly 20 TL words and 20 English translations – but it is equally possible to just explain what you want and have them create it on blank paper. Once everyone has made a sheet, they can swap with a partner, or, have them make their sheets on a deadline towards the end of the lesson, and photocopy them before the next lesson, so that students have to complete several sheets to complete the task.

You can even combine this with the “red pen/black pen” revision task (NB actual colour of pens not important… could be pen/pencil or your pen/borrowed classroom purple pen).  Students complete all the items they can do from memory in one colour writing implement then switch to another colour so they have a very visual sheet in front of them showing what they know and don’t know.

As with many classroom tasks, both creating and completing these sheets is something that learners will do at very different speeds, so you need something else for fast finishers… I still have many blank 80 Word sheets in my filing cabinet, so that was my go to.