Tag Archives: baking

Great day in the bread class

It was a self-taught bread session today as Gail is of on her yearly pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. (I’m not sure what she does in the other eleven and a half months of the year that necessitates a regular pilgrimage to cleanse her soul, and I’m not prepared to speculate because I’ve seen the way she handles a knife). I would say something about trying to curry favour, but that would be an appallingly obvious bad pun, even by my low standards.

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Very interesting but what about me getting a look?

The subject was flat-bread, and Nina took the class. Now, she could have done types of world flat bread, with notes and theory and an overview and a summing up. It would have been good and we’d have all learned something. But she knows her audience better than that. We did flat-breads of several varieties but we also ended up with a chickpea and potato curry, a bean and courgette curry (hows that for a summer glut-buster when only beans and courgettes seem to be producing?) plus an apple chutney and a bean side dish. And we still learned something.

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Circular chapatis are not as easy as they look. Mine usually look like a map of Africa

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Note the special pan

It was also something of a training exercise because a small group of the bread students are off to India in January with Nina as guide. It’s sounds like it’s going to be fun but after my last trip abroad (which featured a riot, close shaves on the road, police attention, Kalashnikovs and a really bad bowel problem) I let my passport lapse and decided to leave travel to people with stronger nerves.

I’ve seen the Marigold Hotel films and I’m not sure I have the energy for a tour of India, what with the traffic and bustle and all that dancing. Even the promise of meditation and yoga doesn’t tempt me. And I certainly don’t have the fortitude to drink well water containing living things, even though Nina assures me she has never been ill from such water and that it contains healthy minerals. I like my water to stay still while I’m trying to drink it.

All I can say is that I’d be happy to be a vegetarian if I could always eat like this. Sadly it won’t happen as I just can’t season food like Nina, and what tastes absolutely brilliant after she has made it always tastes either insipid or searingly spicy after I’ve done it. I know practice makes perfect but I just don’t have the digestion for experimentation any more.

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Yes, it was every bit as good as it looks

The bread group, in case you are near, meets alternate Thursday mornings but it doesn’t always include curry. I’m probably safe in claiming that it covers the whole bread making experience for A to Z as we did once make zopf, which is the difficult end covered. Come along – you’ll enjoy it. And Gail always makes biscuits for the tea break.

Contact office@farmeco.co.uk for more details.

End of advert.

A blog in in which fingers are mentioned

I’ve been sleeping badly for the last few nights because I have a painful finger. Yes, that’s right, the large bearded man is whining about his finger. Sorry, but it hurts and I can’t get to sleep.

I know it doesn’t measure up to the pain of childbirth and stuff like that, and I realise that having to open bottles with my left hand isn’t officially recognised as a disability but it’s amazing how a little thing like that can affect your life.

Probably the worst thing is the uhtceare. (Read the list behind this link by all means, but if you are one of those people who thinks in pictures, do not click the link in Number 9). Yes, fitful sleep causes a constant state of uhtceare, and for a man that has a lot to regret, this is not good. The result was that I travelled to work this morning wishing I didn’t have to go. This is very unusual.

Now, just in case you are thinking of telling me, as Julia does, that “it’s just arthritis”, stop and pause a minute – I don’t want to be told that bits of my body have entered old age.

Anyway, things got better when I reached the farm. The new apple press and scratter have arrived! We can now travel with and demonstrate pressing in schools (if anybody wants us while we have apples) and we can use it for the juicing days (starting from 12th September) instead of having to set the big one up to do a bucket of apples. That’s why the picture at the top of the blog shows two cardboard boxes. Not a very interesting picture by most standards, but quite exciting for me.

We had a nice steady flow of breakfast, there wasn’t much I needed to do and it was all very relaxed.I met the author of the nottsvillages blog, showed several people the visiting Painted Lady (it came back!), secured the offer of a moth trap, found a volunteer to do the job of Santa (let’s face it, I’m not a natural), took details from someone who wants to help with the bread group and took £10 after we were supposedly closed.

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As if that wasn’t enough, I also took the name of another baker, persuaded someone to come and do crafts at our Winter Event and had a good look round Project Molish (which started this weekend).

That, in the language of my youth, is a result!

I’m tired now – time for tea and cake, I think.

Catching up

I just added a recipe for Fat Hen soup on the recipe page. It’s slightly misleading as there’s no hens in it, though I used butter to soften the onions so there’s plenty of fat.

We’re going to taste test it at lunchtime with fresh bread rolls that we’re cooking with the kids. (Fourteen kids of mixed age, half a dozen parents and two kilos of dough – what could possibly go wrong?)

Here’s a picture of the “staff”. We’ve been having trouble with the toaster.  It’s difficult getting staff when you don’t actually pay, even worse when you promise them toast and marmalade and the toast bit doesn’t happen because the toaster will only do one side at a time.

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It’s hedgehog rolls today (another misleading recipe title) for the kids and a bread roll for the soup if the parents want to make one. I will be making spares anyway because I need to get back in practice.

I’m slightly worried about the dough. I used a half measure of yeast and put it in the fridge last night. The result is three balls of dough that have risen but not risen quite enough. They aren’t actually refusing to rise but if they were human you’d think they were typical truculent teenagers. Apart from the fact that they are out of bed at 10.25am.

After bread rolls and soup we’ll be making woodland masks and (possibly) toasting marshmallows.

Have a look at @QuercusCommy if you want a progress report on the baking. We also have some pictures of the harvesting that started yesterday, including a shot of the combine cutting between the rows of apple trees in the agroforestry field. I say trees, but you might have to squint a bit as they are only two years old.

I’ll put some pictures up on the farm page to show a bit more of  the field and harvest.

Bees, bugs and baking

It’s been a hectic day of baking bugs. The bug hunt was a bust due to the weather – the only butterfly we saw was a Large White imitating a clipper under full sail as the wind whipped it past at  a rapid rate. The hoverflies are still about and the larger types of bee are also getting to grips with the serious job of feeding. .

They say (and I can’t vouch for this as it’s on the same internet that thinks Miley Cyrus is a celebrity) that a bumblebee with a full stomach has only enough energy to fly for 40 minutes and enough honey in the nest to last just a couple of days. You can see from this why they have to keep plugging away at it. I have enough energy to last several days, enough in my pantry to last several weeks and I don’t get lost when farmer’s spray neonicitinoids. Makes you realise how lucky you are.

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Magic Disappearing Tree

(Update: I just took a break from typing and spotted a Red Admiral in a sheltered nook of the garden. No photo as Julia has my camera.) Two butterflies in one August day – hard to believe.

Anyway – back to baking bugs. Sadly this should read “baking bug-shaped buns” as we’re not allowed to feed insects to children. Another example of political correctness gone mad if you ask me. Not that anyone does…

We have shaped silicone baking trays, we have icing, Smarties, red fondant, black fondant, cutters and coloured icing pens. We have cake mix, we have those hard shiny metallic balls and we have a dedicated team of bug builders.

By mid-afternoon I confidently forecast that we will see several new species described in a mixture of cake and icing. Probably with fingerprints in the fondant and bite-shaped pieces missing round the edges.

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New species for the British List

Yes, this has all the makings of a classic day on the farm.

The Sourdough Session

The sun was shining, the temperature has once more returned to sanity and the venerable yogis in the centre were saying “om”. I don’t think they would object to the word venerable for although it contains overtones of age it is also a mark of respect. Anyway, some of them are quite old (one is over 90) and a number of them do have to sit down to do the exercises. That’s actually quite a worry for me as some of them, though 20 years my senior, are a great deal fitter and more supple.

In the distance goats bleat, birds sing and the the chirruping of the guinea fowl can, like the song of the biblical mourning dove, be heard throughout the land. At the kitchen a group of people have gathered to bake sourdough bread and eat pizza for lunch. To this end the outdoor oven is smoking gently and salads are in preparation.

This is the sort of day that you rarely experience, the sort of day that calls for the sound of leather on willow and John Betjeman talking of muffins on the Light Programme.

It’s a pleasure to come to work on a day like this and a temptation to post a “this is the view from my office window” picture on Twitter.

The group is baking sourdough today, and in the lull where they wait for it to rise they are going to make pizza and cook it in the outdoor oven. The Bread Lady is in charge today; so many people call her that now in recognition of her great bread-making knowledge that I have decided to go with the flow. In passing, I shall mention that I am known as the Fat Man these days, though in truth I have no special knowledge of lard or polyunsaturates.

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Bread Lady and sidekick

That, at least, was the plan. The bread-making, as you can see from the pictures, was a success.

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Air kneading

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Cutting the dough

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The finished article

So was the salad selection, including foraged green salad (though it may be slightly immodest of me to say so) and the salad dressings seemed to go down well too, particularly the blackcurrant vinegar. Expect more recipes to appear soon, and and a bit more in the Wild Food section.

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Mallow, Fat Hen and Nasturtium with borage, flowers, chive blossom and daisy and marigold petals.

The pizza oven fell victim to the farm’s command structure and parsimonious attitude with regard to wood, which, I must point out, DOES grow on trees. Once again we were faced with inadequate temperatures and long cooking times (so long that most people gave up and cooked them in the oven).

Despite this it was an interesting session and as I said to the Bread Lady afterwards, it’s amazing how well the group has gelled and how far we have come in technique in just a few years. This is proved by the way that they have worked so hard to run the catering at the last two Open Farm Sundays. (Do you think the word “proved” could look a bit like  a weak pun in this context – it wasn’t intended).

She said: “You’re only saying that because they gave you free pizza.”

The words “Bread Lady” might convey the impression that she’s a softer, crumbly version of the “Iron Lady”, but as you can see, she still manages to be both tough and accurate.

Screveton through the Looking Glass

Well, that’s the paperwork up to date. I can clear my desk with a clear conscience now and feel virtuous until we start tomorrow morning – that’s a whole 17 hours.

I’ve been struggling with the organisation of the Lammas Fun Run. The two things (one being an ancient Anglo-Saxon festival of Loaf Mass) and the other being a twenty first century celebration of people looking uncomfortable whilst running. At least Loaf Mass does what it says on the tin. Fun Run isn’t fun, and it’s barely running. Now, I’m no athlete, as you might have gathered from my comments on food, exercise and youth, so I do admire fun-runners: I just don’t understand them.

It’s also another example of the Random Events Generator that seems to be in use round here. Lammas is about loaves. We normally do a couple of wheatsheaf loaves (complete with traditional mouse) – though that’s more a harvest festival sort of thing. Last year we also made soda bread straight from the field (and had it back to the combine crew in time for lunch) and did a couple of plain loaves which were used in the Communion service.

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having mentioned it I’m seriously thinking of building a random event generator – that’s for “Events” as in Open days and such, rather than just things that happen. What with guinea fowl and goats we have enough randomness in everyday events not to need any more. No, this is Over 60’s Limbo Championship territory, plus the Santa Fire Walk and Full Contact Knitting. We already have Breakfast and Yoga next Saturday and Doga in a couple of months. That’s Yoga combined with dog walking – I’m told it can be a bit lively when the dogs get together.

Yes, it’s like the Through the Looking Glass version of The Office working here.

Fortunately I’m not in it for the money or the glory, I just like a laugh and the feeling I’m doing a bit of good.

So let’s see what the next week brings.

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And watch out for the further adventures of Farmer Ted…

 

TV and shopping, a tirade against tedium

TV and shopping. It’s hardly the Cigarettes and Alcohol you promised yourself as a young man is it? (To be honest Milk and Alcohol is probably more my sound, and era, but it didn’t have the right ring to it – such are the compromises we make…)

If you are sensible, or a woman, you may have had other ambitions. Though I’m not sure that a desire for TV and shopping really qualifies as an ambition.

What do you do if your life is so dull that even you yawn when you’re writing about it? As I just did.

Tell lies, I suppose. I did see an article a while back claiming that the top lie people tell on blogs to make themselves more interesting is the “spontaneous weekend trip” lie, when the top truthful weekend activities are – you guessed it – TV and shopping.

Going on a trip at the weekend makes you look more interesting? It’s not setting the bar very high is it? Last weekend I fulfilled an ambition by driving a Formula Ford racing car. Next month I will be participating in a “chicken dispatch course” as they call themselves these days.  It’s a course to teach people how to kill chickens and then dress or bone them.

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Much more scratching in that bed and they may well end up trussed and drawn…

Both lies, of course. Last weekend I worked and shopped and watched TV. Next month I will, in all likelihood, be working, shopping and watching TV.

Not total lies, though. In 1976 I was taught how to kill and dress poultry as part of my first job and in 1978 I did drive a Formula Ford car. It wasn’t as much fun as I had thought and when I worked the foot pedals my feet lifted the nose cone in a most disconcerting manner.

I did start off with the intention of being dismissive about people who lied about going away for the weekend, but now I’ve proved that my lies are actually rooted in the 1970s (was it really that long since I did anything remotely out of the ordinary?) I’m on shaky ground. When I go on to say that I haven’t been on a trip since November last year when we had four days away to celebrate 25 years of marriage, I merely make things worse.

However, there is always a bright side. This morning I went to Melton Mowbray to collect baking supplies. It was a beautiful day in the Vale of Belvoir (pronounced Beaver, no I don’t know why), the sun was out, the cows were out eating luxurious grass to make Stilton cheese and all was right in the world.

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Once I got to the office, with a list of outdoor jobs to do, including planting and cutting, I made the mistake of checking my emails. I’ve been stuck inside since then, partly coping with the emails that were there and partly coping with the ones I’d been putting off for the last week.

So that’s how a blog that should be about the great outdoors turned into one about tedium, and how a blog about life on Care Farm seems to be turning into one about my life.

Sorry about that, I will try harder in future posts, but until then this is all I have to offer. How’s your life going?