Bread for the Frog Princess: Wheat-Free Sourdough Recipe

09/04/2014

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.

unnamed

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?

WHEAT-FREE SOURDOUGH

Mix:

300 gr. Rye Flour

200 gr. Buckwheat Flour

100 gr. Linseeds (or mixed seeds)

14 gr. Salt

Add:

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.

The dough halfway through rising. Still shaggy. It's OK.

The dough halfway through rising. Still shaggy. It’s OK.

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!

What a fine grain for a wheat-free slice!

What a fine grain for a wheat-free slice!

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.

 

 

On Documentation

30/03/2014

On Saturday I performed. The act went well. The audience laughed, despite or because of what the MC called my “surrealistic touch”. I performed, people engaged with my act, and that is what it is all about!

Except that if I am a Serious Artist, or even just one who wants to work, I am supposed to document everything. I think there is a grainy smartphone recording of the evening, and I saw one man’s face bathed in the glow of a raised tablet with which he was probably taking a photo. I could hunt down these images, put out a call out on Facebook: Anyone who attended Noche Piripi on Saturday Night, Please Send Me Your Photos!

Smile! You're being documented!

Smile! You’re being documented!

 

But I should have bribed or hired someone with a proper video recorder. I should have a list of go-to photographers.

Why don’t I?

I think because of my “surrealistic touch”.

“Document” comes from the the Latin “documentum” meaning proof, example or lesson, and from “docere” meaning to show or to teach. A document is evidence. “Evidence” in turn comes from “evidentia” meaning obvious to the eye or mind. So to document something is to be rooted in an accepted and shared reality. I am increasingly doubtful that there is a shared reality, rather shared realities, other realities or surrealities. So I don’t like to document, to fix.

That’s all true, but it’s an excuse. The real reasons I don’t document is fear. I am afraid of being pinned down in one moment, because the way I navigate difficult moods and thoughts is by faith that a new wind will come. Calm waters are too akin to the doldrums.

Still, I have an inclination (and a professional obligation) to carve an “I was here” into the ports I pass. I do it by writing down my reasons, reveries and excuses.

And my observations.

Perhaps redefining “documentation” as “observation”, stemming from the Latin “observationem” meaning a watching over, an observance, or an investigation will allow me to build my portfolio. To investigate is different than to prove. To watch over is not to pin down.

On Harrowed Ground

19/03/2014

Uh-oh. I made a mistake. I made an announcement. I said I’d resume this blog. I announced spring! New birth and inspiration!

But what will I write? And why does it matter? Who cares?

Waking up to formless days between being done with one thing and searching for the beginning of another, I have to, even if I don’t. I need something to focus the “small unfocused blur, a standing chill/That slows each impulse down to indecision.” (That’s from Philip Larkin’s Aubade. Great poem. But not the greatest thing to read when meaning has suddenly become nebulous.) Afraid of the indecision, the astigmia of unemployment, I made an announcement and have decided to care: I will resume this blog. It may be an arbitrary responsibility, but it gives an hour a shape nonetheless.

It won’t be about food. Or not often. (I may have to amend the subtitle to the blog so it reads The Waiting Artist: drinking and crying.) But I will write about how to feed oneself from the fallow fields of un- and underemployment, how to survive that hungry gap. I will consider appetites.

Today, sticking in the mud of my agricultural metaphor, I simply note that ‘fallow’ describes land that is “ploughed and harrowed but left for a period without being sown in order to restore its fertility.” (Citation: google dictionary!) So: the waiting time that restores fertility is by definition harrowing. That’s why I feel like I do in this no man’s land, on harrowed ground.

To Spring!

15/03/2014

I’ve planted lettuces and they are starting to sprout. Their names are “Rocket” and “Thom Thumb”. The egg man had goose eggs for the first time today, and my displaced succulent that has been shrinking into itself throughout the grey winter to dream of subtropical soil is responding to the sun: the dropped leaves I took for dead are taking root and shooting up.

It’s early still. I’m sitting in the company of my plants watching the morning fog disperse into a sunny day. I’ve completed the course that kept me from my blog and am in a still phase until I know my results and can move forward. I’ll spend this fallow time watching the lettuces, potatoes, the radishes and flowers sprout out of theirs. I’ll start to write again–things that aren’t essays or meant to be marked. And I’ll scramble those goose eggs gently in butter and serve them on the balcony with a glass of Prosecco that I raise To Spring!

Sourdough Class Successes!

28/06/2013

Last night I taught a sourdough class at The Lord Palmerston.

Breadclass1

Here are the students’ beautiful loaves:

 

 

BreadClass3

(The photography is less beautiful than the loaves deserve. It was dark in the pub.)

All students went home with a dough to let rise overnight and a bit of sourdough starter to feed and continue to bake with. This blog post is not mine, but an invitation to the students to send me pictures of the loaves the bake at home, so that I can upload them and make the post theirs.  So: Send them to me! And enjoy your bread.

 

Feeding on Air: the Sourdough Life

08/10/2012

Today I start school again, and this blog, as it stands, shall end.

My training to become a Drama and Movement Therapist is intense and full time, and the few other projects I have germinating will require all the extra attention I have.

Here is a fundraiser for one of my projects.  Leave a comment to order a loaf!

This is one of the other projects. Leave a comment if you’d like to buy a loaf!

I’ve fiddled with lots of food that I still want to write about. Autumn abundance too is tempting me away from my decision to pause, or at least change, this blog.  But it’s sell-by date has come.

I started writing as The Waiting Artist in a fit of desperate, unemployed boredom.  It turned into a food blog thanks to the pitiable state of English store-bought bread, and my subsequent (and good!) attempts to bake my own.  In the three years I’ve written, I’ve had lots of shitty jobs, and a few good ones.  I’ve baked my daily bread, and written a steady stream of essays and recipes.

Writing about food atuned me to the lessons I can learn from it, so let me take a tip from the sourdough quietly bubbling on my counter:

She sits there, unconsciously cultivating a colony of bacteria that mix and ferment and froth and grow.  She absorbs them from the air, taking in all that the atmosphere offers, without knowing which dough her specific mulch of  enzymes will ultimately be kneaded into, will be needed by to rise into something tangy and crusty and new.

My blog will change.  I will post less frequently.  I will focus less exclusively on food.  But I will write.  When I have time.  When I start to understand the fecundity this fresh air breathes in.

Something from the Sky, Something from the Sea: Quail’s Eggs, Winkles and Whelks

05/09/2012

I only assembled this starter because I liked the beauty of the speckled eggs in contrast to the sea-mottled molluscs.  And the pleasing symmetry of three different treats from three different shells.

I say assembled, and not cooked, because all it takes is five minutes of boiling.  The eggs go in for 4.5 minutes, and are then shocked under or in cold water.  The cold whelks get tipped into a fast simmer.  They immediately cool the water.  Allow the pot return to a full boil, then drain.  Add the winkles about 2 minutes after the whelks.

The molluscs improve if you cook them in a mixture of half water and half dry wine with a bay leaf and some chopped up celery.  The eggs are nice dabbed in celery salt.

Goes best with a stiff, clear drink.  I’d choose a Sipsmith’s gin martini.

Sauer Macht Lustig: Red Currant-Limeade

24/08/2012

“Sauer macht lustig,” my father would say to me as I bit into super-sour Haribo French Fries, wincing as the acid kick hit my jaw.  And thus I always assumed “sour makes funny”, which is the inelegant but literal translation of the German saying, referred to the faces people make when they bite into tangy treats.

A quick google, however, revealed that it is most likely a shortening of the older “Sauer macht gelüstig”, meaning that sour things make you keen, hungry, eager, full of all kinds of appetite.  That explains why so many cocktails are sour:  to arouse hunger for the meal to follow, or for your date.

Sour is a summery zing of flavour.  It refreshes as much as it awakens yours cravings, and it’s pucker is as often balanced by nostalgia as it is heightened by anticipation.  I only ever ate those sour Haribos sitting on a damp towel in the back seat, chlorinated hair whipped by the wind from the wide-open windows as we drove home from the pool.  And just think of homemade lemonade.  Or better yet, pink lemonade.

Whether you want to indulge your sentimentality or stoke your fires, this recipe is a good one, and sour enough for a first-sip-funny-face.

Red Currant-Limeade

This makes an excellent nonalcoholic cocktail as it is more sour than sweet, more complex than regular lemonade, and a beautiful pink.  Cutting back on alcohol consumption is often a good thing, but omitting the ritual of a drink to mark the end of a day’s work and the beginning of an evening’s relaxation never is.  And anyway, you can always add gin and call it a Pink Collins.

per person:

Juice of 2 Limes (a staple of summer)

A small handful of Red Currants (these are local and in season now if you live in England or similar climes)

Simple Syrup or Sweetener to Taste (start with 1 TBLSP of simple syrup.  It’s easy to add more later)

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 4 large cubes of ice.  Shake vigorously.  (If you only have small or rounded ice cubes, you will need to muddle the currants before shaking.  Large cubes will crush them and release the pink just through shaking.)

Pour into a tall glass, with the ice or over fresh ice.  Top up with plain or sparkling water.  Adjust sweetness to taste.  Garnish with a sprig of currants or a slice of lime.

 

Holiday Essential: Love Letter to my Pocket Knife

16/08/2012

Mr. B and I just returned from Jersey where we biked, hiked, swam, and spent all day every day in the sunny, salty wind.

Each night we would come home to our self-catering flat hungry and laden with just dug potatoes and boat-fresh crustaceans.  We could have done nothing but boiled what we had and still feasted, but our pleasures of the kitchen were even greater because I anticipated the dull bane of all holiday rentals: knives so blunt they couldn’t cut cold butter.  I packed my Opinel folding knife, and we got to enjoy Jersey, chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, slivers of dried sausage and all.

hiking food

Go out an buy yourself one!  It’s the best pocket knife you can get:  a holiday saver, and in a pinch, probably even a life saver if you have to remove vicious splinters or saw off an arm trapped under a rock.

post hiking food
The kitchen, though equipped only with dull blades, did have a whisk, so the mayonnaise on our just-off the boat lobsters was whipped up by Mr. B.

Beach Food: Methods for Kipper Mousse and Coleslaw

02/08/2012

Stop looking at me with those beady eyes.

I know I’ve bee remiss; a lazy blogger; a reluctant cook.  I’ve been uninspired!  I’m a bit burnt-out.  Everyone needs a vacation.  And I’m taking one!  And while I’m away, you reproachful-eyed kipper, I’m going to make paté of you and your expectations, and eat them on the beach.  So there.

Mackerel Mousse for Burnt-Out Bloggers

To be packed into a rucksack and eaten on the beach.

Place 1 Kipper per 2 servings in a heat-proof container and pour boiling water over it.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  (It will curl up in shock, and might stared up at you.  But stop anthropomorphizing!  He’s already dead, and also sustainable!  Incidentally, this process is called jugging.  Do it in a jug for maximum authenticity.)

Remove from water and when cool enough to handle (this will be almost immediately if you have un-ladylike cook/waitress/cyclist hands like me) and remove the flesh from the bones.  Blend with a generous dollop (about 2 heaped tablespoons) of Crème Fraîche or Sour Cream2 heaped tsps. of Horseradish (not horseradish cream, unless that’s all there is, in which case, add a bit more for punch) and 1-2 tblsps Lemon Juice.  That’s it.  Capers make a nice addition if you want to fancy it up, as do cornichons.

Serve on bread, with veggies, by the spoonful; whatever you holiday appetite dictates.

—-

You can balance your meal out with some

Coleslaw

 

For this, I won’t even offer a method, much less a recipe.  I just have some tips:

Celery makes and excellent addition.

So do Radishes, Carrots and a very Small Amount of Very Finely Sliced Tomatoes.

Mix the Colours of Your Cabbages: purple, white, various greens.

Soak Very Finely Diced Red Onion in Apple Vinegar for 20 Minutes, then add to the slaw.

If using mayonnaise, balance the richness with Harissa or Lots of Lemon Juice, or Both.

Salt Before Dressing.

A Pinch of Sugar really brings the flavours out.

And what really, really brings the flavours out?  Being tossed around in your bag while you hike all morning to the perfect picnic spot.

 

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25 other followers