Gregor Samsa woke up as a bug. I start many mornings as a frog, or at least as a tadpole sprouting bulging eyes on the way to ranid maturity. My eyes swell up. Sometimes my cheeks and lips, too. Weirdly, so do my feet. (What animal am I turning into then? Elephant? Kangaroo?)
I don’t know why this happens. Allergy? Hereditary angioedema? Is it idiopathic? (That’s doctor speak for “Dunno why, probably never will,” and the most likely explanation.) Or have my vague neuroses and bona fide mental illness (Depression. Well-managed. Rarely debilitating.) finally decided to lodge themselves, classically, in my body?
Whether the reasons are hysterical (Freud), mythological (Jung) or physical, I am frustrated enough to try anything to make it stop, and the latest cure I’m giving a chance is the anti-inflammatory diet. Summarised, this means eat no dairy, no wheat, limited grains of any kind, little sugar. Some people say no nightshades. I ignore them, as I don’t believe “anti-inflammatory” and “starvation” should be synonymous. The plus side? Eat lots of oily fish, avocados, linseeds and walnuts.
It seems to help, especially eliminating dairy and wheat. And I’ve gotten used to living without a lot. Mashed avocados and salty tahini spreads are decent stand-ins for the savoury richness of cheese (except on pasta, which isn’t allowed anyway.) What I miss more than anything is bread, particularly as I am a passionate baker. My solution has been to cultivate a rye sourdough starter and mix my loaves of buckwheat (which is not a variety of wheat at all) and rye with a generous handful of linseeds stirred in. And the bread is good! Less springy, because of the lack of gluten (rye has a very small amount of gluten, so what follows is not a suitable recipe for people with coeliac disease), but not the crumbly mess that so many “free-from” recipes are. It holds together just fine for sandwiches on the go, spread with a mash of that beneficial oily fish, chopped pickles and and a spoonful of horseradish.
So I am getting a handle on the embarrassment of frog eyes. But what am I going to do about the shame of turning into one of those special-dietary-needs-without-clear-diagnoses people?
300 gr. Rye Flour
200 gr. Buckwheat Flour
100 gr. Linseeds (or mixed seeds)
14 gr. Salt
250 gr. Rye Sourdough Starter (see note below)
380 gr. Water
Mix well. This will be difficult at first, so use a sturdy spoon or dough scraper. (I’ve broken many a lesser spatula mixing dough.) You will end up with a sticky mass. That’s OK.
Leave the dough in the bowl, cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise for 12 hours.
After 12 hours, preheat oven to 220°C. While the oven is heating, shape the dough into a smooth-ish (it will never be as smooth as a wheat dough) ball or oblong on very well floured surface (Remember NOT to use wheat flour for this!). With a floured knife, slash a cross, hatches or whatever design you want into the top of the loaf. Place loaf on a baking sheet (The sheet can be pre-heated for a better crust, but it makes the operation a little more fiddly, and the crust should be nice in any case.) and pop in the oven. After ten minutes, turn the heat down to 200°C and bake for an hour. Don’t open the oven door until it’s done!!
After the hour and ten minutes it’s been in the oven, take the loaf out and allow it to cool completely on a cooling rack or other contraption that allows air to circulate all around the loaf. (I used an oven rack.)
Then: slice and eat!
NOTE ON RYE SOURDOUGH STARTER: The easiest way to make a sourdough is to get a small piece from somebody else and then feed it. If you need to grow a starter from scratch, google away! There is a lot of information out there. It is easier, though, to grow a wheat starter from scratch than a rye starter. (That’s according to anecdotal evidence only, but still.)
If you have a wheat sourdough starter, take a small amount (say 30 grams) and grow it with rye flour, adding 30 grams rye flour and 30 grams water. After a day, discard half, and grow again. Repeat for three days, and then grow to the amount that you need for your loaf, always adding equal weights of rye flour and water. By this time, the amount of wheat will be so minuscule as to be insignificant unless you have coeliac disease. The amount of wheat will decrease with each baking and feeding cycle, and very soon you will have an all rye starter.