Friday, 11 May 2018

Classes at the School of Artisan Food

What a fantastic day spent learning new skills at the fabulous School of Artisan Food!

The Food and Drink Forum have organised lots of amazing free courses lately for food businesses and I have been lucky enough to participate in three over the past fortnight.  These were all held at the school in the historic Welbeck Estate
near to Worksop - what an privilege to go to what I believe is the most exclusive food school in the country.

So first up last week was Sourdough baking with a lovely tutor called David.  Now I have been baking sourdough for a long time and I know the basic principle though never follow a set recipe (tut tut!) and rarely get those lovely huge air bubbles!  It was fantastic to be in a class as the pupil for a change and was wonderful to hear about all the history of sourdough.  I picked up many tips and met some other lovely people.  My favourites being the lady from The Rustic Crust Pizza - amazing pizzas baked in the back of a Land Rover and of course fellow "Witch" Alison from Apothecary Mead (I have always wanted to keep bees and try brewing Mead but that is another story!).

So the sourdough class done last week it was time to return yesterday for 2 more back to back classes.  First was Cheese and Butter making, which is very relevant to bread baking.  One simply cannot eat freshly baked bread with no butter!!  The lovely Katy was so enthusiastic about her subject and so knowledgeable.. We started by making a soft cheese (Colwick Cheese) using raw milk from the local dairy farm.  Then while that was waiting to "flocculate" (great new word!) we had a go at making butter.  What fun!  It is basically made by just over-whipping double cream until it looks like scrambled egg then suddenly goes liquidy again.  At which point you have to get rid of the liquid (the whey) by washing the butter and patting it (whacking it with butter pats!)

Best part was wearing wellies in a kitchen! (not sure about the hat though)

A nice big wodge of butter to take home, also the cheese which I hung up on the washing line to drain a bit more, and a few tubs of buttermilk (waste product from the butter making) and whey from the cheese making - both of these can be put into bread so let's go!!

Then for the afternoon there was the much anticipated Brewing Workshop!  Historically baking and brewing were very connected.  The baker would get his yeast from the brewer next door.  I actually should say "her" yeast as I found out from Alison (the Mead Lady) that going way, way back in history both of these jobs were always done by the women.

The workshop was actually run by another lady - Claire Monk, microbiologist turned brewer from Welbeck Abbey Brewery just opposite the School.  What an inspiring afternoon indeed!
As I am writing this I am really wishing I had bought a bottle from the farm shop now!  We started by hearing some interesting facts about brewing from Claire, it was all very fascinating, as was all the informal discussion along the way (there were some other brewers in the room too).  Then we had some beer tasting which was great!

Next we went for a tour of the brewery itself and I left really wanting to have a go myself.  I went away with a tub of brewers yeast too to have a go at baking with, so thank you Claire!

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Community Bake April

Well what a lovely time at our Spring Community bake!  It was the first sunny day in a LONG time and I was wondering if anyone would turn up at all but luckily they did!

The lovely new venue at Nuthall Methodist church has a lovely feel to it and turned out to be the perfect venue.

Bakers and musicians started turning up well before 2pm and before we knew it there were at least 15 humans (ie adults and children) ready to bake.  I think we had quite a lot of fun with this recipe - Wild Garlic focaccia.  A few of us had already met a couple of days before in a lovely spot to collect basketfuls of wild garlic :)

As usual, we got baking as soon as we could (there must be time for the dough to rise of course!) and there is always plenty of time to socialise and chat in between and even while we are baking, though we were all having to concentrate a bit with the recipe.

Late-comers, who got a bit lost, declared they found us merely by the strong smell of garlic outside the hall (they were not even joking!).  

Thanks must go to Dave and his lovely band of musicians from Middle Street Resource Centre in Beeston.  We were treated to a lovely set of tunes followed by some well researched bread related poetry and songs :)

And Julian gave us some brilliant tunes as usual on his accordion.  It was a lovely afternoon - thanks all for coming

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Wild garlic - foraging, community and baking

This time last week we were out foraging for wild garlic in a beautiful spot in Derbyshire.  Dale Abbey is a favourite spot of mine for walking and plant spotting.  It is a small area of ancient woodland on the edge of Derbyshire (bordering on Notts) - the prime indicators of it being ancient woodland are plants such as Bluebells, Dog's Mercury and Windflower.  There is also a patch of Sweet Woodruff which is not a common plant.  It is the sister plant of sticky weed and looks quite similar.

But we were going for the garlic and got very muddy on the way!  There were 10 of us in all and we made our way up the hill.  It was rather a blustery day but an enjoyable jaunt nevertheless.  On the way we found some other interesting edible plants and then stopped off in the Hermit's Cave  How I love this story and it is quite relevant as he was a baker himself!  Richard ( a most excellent guitar player and who I was glad to meet for the first time on our expedition) and I decided we would come back and play some music there sometime soon.  Indeed I have made some recordings there myself already :)

We all went for a drink and chips after in the local pub and went home with lots of garlic indeed!

If  you want to join us to find wild garlic again there will be another chance to go this time in Bulwell

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The bread tasted great!

So, a quick update - seeing as though I was being slightly dramatic the other day!  The bread actually tasted great!  The extra day that the sourdough had to ferment really made it taste great.  Sometimes we just need a bit of extra time to process things, to simply just BE.  Modern life is conducive to creating the feeling of "overwhelm" I think.  It is glorified to be "busy" all the time but often we just run out of steam!

Baking bread is such a good way of bringing oneself bake to the moment. Knowing that all moments of your life led up to this moment now is a good one to remember.  Living fully in the present moment can be hard, especially when that may make us feel sad.  But try and let those thoughts pass, without judgement and focus on what you can see, hear, feel, taste and smell, in this moment NOW.   Mindfulness is now recommended by doctors to help with things such as anxiety and depression.  How brilliant is that!?

Oh and PS if you want to explore this further and put it into practice I have this event coming up in June :)

Monday, 16 April 2018

Do our emotions really go into our food when we cook?

Yesterday I felt far too sad and exhausted to even move, let alone bake bread.  The dough was there all ready but it just seemed like way too much effort. Also, and this is the biggie really, I just did not want to put my bad/sad feelings into the bread.  Sounds crazy?  No it's not at all.  I honestly believe that whatever emotion you are feeling while cooking and preparing food, goes into the food.  Could it therefore follow that the emotion could potentially make the food taste bad or be passed on to those eating it?

One of my ALL TIME favourite books about this very subject is Like Water For Chocolate - originally written in Spanish by a Mexican author. It is a wonderful tale of a young girl (the youngest daughter in a family) who is doomed to look after her widowed mother and never marry.  Centred around food, the novel also contains many wonderful recipes.

The girl grows up helping in the kitchen and we see that all her emotions go into the food she prepares and are transmitted to those eating it.  So, for example, when she is distraught that her sweetheart must marry her sister, she cries into the wedding cake mixture.  At the wedding feast, upon eating the cake, all the wedding guests cry so much it causes a flood.  OK so it sounds a little far fetched and in the film they really made a great job of this scene, but what a great illustration!  I so loved reading the story and then seeing the film and highly recommend to anyone who likes cooking.

So back to feeling sad... In England we very much carry on regardless and when someone asks us how we are, we all say "fine thanks" don't we? Even when we are not.  Often it is best to work through the feelings ourselves but other times it's so good to reach out to others.  I know it really does depend on the individual.  Communal cooking, like we do at our Community Baking afternoons, can be a opportunity to share how we may be feeling.  Or just getting together with others and having a nice afternoon can cheer you up!

I just had to wallow a little yesterday.  It was probably because all my focus for the past month or so had been towards preparing for Saturdays Bake (full report to come soon), amongst other things and making sure it went to plan.  But today I feel great! So upward and onward :) and I shall get that dough made into bread today.  It is a sourdough dough so it has just had an extra day to ferment!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

How to bake bread with wild garlic

"Garlic bread?"  "Garlic bread?" - I can hear Peter Kay now! 😀

How exciting is it when you see the first signs of wild garlic peeping through the soil?  Or rather even more so when you go in to the woods and the ground is carpeted with the stuff literally as far as the eye can see.  Allium ursinium, also known as Ramsons, has always been a favourite of mine.  We made pesto and also tried fermenting some for the first time last year.  And I've just spotted in my cupboard this evening a jar of wild garlic flower buds pickled in vinegar from a year ago! Still tasty.  The whole of the plant is edible (flowers and all), though I have never dug one up to taste the bulb. 

We are going foraging next week as a group in preparation for the next Eat Bake Sing Community Bake on the 14th of the month (details on Facebook page if you are local and want to join us) and it is a toss up between two possible places.  One is very close to the baking venue - in fact a couple of fields away and approx. 5 miles from Nottingham City Centre.  The other is in ancient woodland on the Derbyshire/Notts border which is also carpeted with bluebells come May-time and also, for any of you keen amateur botanists out there, has a nice little patch of Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) as well as many other interesting edible and non-edible plants .... but back to the Garlic and how to bake with it.

In the past I have just mixed in the chopped up leaves with my sourdough dough.  You can do this in the latter stage of any bread.  Once you have the dough ready and have kneaded it a while then knocked back, add the garlic by just kneading it into the dough.  Then prove ready to bake.  In fact at Green Scene Forest School today we made a flat bread cooked in the open fire and just before baking we kneaded in the chopped up garlic.

Wild garlic focaccia has become a delicious favourite even though I have actually only made it for the first time today - what a treat! For this recipe you need
  • white bread flour (get organic as it is better),
  • sea salt,
  • pepper,
  • fresh yeast (or dry will do),
  • warm water,
  • olive oil
  • and of course wild garlic.
  • greaseproof paper

The above recipe comes from a brilliant website called "Eat Weeds".  Of course a "weed" is really any plant that is growing where it is not wanted.

As for the foraging trip still cannot decide where to go - might just have to do two trips!

Friday, 23 March 2018

Baking and Singing

Singing while working really passes the time and can turn a very menial task into something quite beautiful and meditative.  Lets take Sailors and their Sea shanties...  these were the songs that the sailors sung when they had heavy work going on for some time - like raising or lowering a heavy sail.  The songs are quite rhythmical and would help the sailors keep together.  Perhaps giving them a rest in between hauls.

While researching this I came across a rather interesting article called The 10 manliest sea shanties  - number 9 is one of my all time favourite songs (and so sad too)

And of course the other trades would have had their own "working songs".  From farm workers taking part in the harvest to the women doing weaving and spinning.  These songs formed part of popular culture, community and shared bonds of labour and even family life.  It was all tied together.

So what has this to do with baking? Well the different stages leading up to the final loaf all involve some hard work.  The growing of wheat (ploughing the land, sowing the seed and harvesting), the milling of the grain to make flour and then the baker's work too.

I realised the other day that when I am quietly going about a task - doing household chores or painting with my daughter - there is often a strong compulsion to hum or sing a tune.  I am sure many of you do the same.  What great joy it gives me when my children join in too having heard the same song sooo many times!

Granted - this is not necessarily being completely mindful of the task in hand (you can read about Mindful baking in my next blog) but it certainly is a lovely thing to do - rather therapeutic in itself.

Music has always been a huge part  of my life.  I grew up listening to my Dad play his grand piano almost constantly. And my mum's great love is listening to music - of all kinds.  And so it was no wonder I eventually took to singing,  although it took me until the ripe old age of 24 before I ever sang in public!

Being fan of folk music and song, here's a little English song about a Miller

Hope to see you at the next Community Bake on the 14th April

Details can be found here

Classes at the School of Artisan Food

What a fantastic day spent learning new skills at the fabulous  School of Artisan Food ! The Food and Drink Forum have organised lots of ...