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Sourdough success! (well… sort of…)

July 20, 2010

I’m certainly not the Sourdough Queen and that’s really because I’m lazy. I don’t want to knead my bread and I don’t have the patience for traditional hand made sourdough – although I do love to eat it!

Being someone who likes to potter in the kitchen, I really wanted to crack this sourdough thing and decided the “wet method” of sourdough making that I learnt at Sandra Frain’s workshop was for me. This is a method where you don’t have to knead the bread! It’s very easy – you just take your “starter” out of the fridge, dump 2/3 of it in a bowl, feed it with flour and water and put it back in the fridge for next time. Then to the bowl you add flour and water and leave it to sit (ferment, rise) overnight. In the morning you add fat (e.g. coconut oil), acid (e.g. apple cider vinegar), molasses, salt, and more flour, mix it and put it in the tin to rise for about 4 hours. Then you bake it. No kneading!

I wouldn’t say it’s the most delicious sourdough bread I’ve eaten and I’m sure it can be improved but it passes. Mine is a bit doughy inside still which is possibly my ancient oven (30 year old commercial Waldorf, such a furnace we have to cook everything on low) or it’s the cooking time. Meanwhile I continue to dream of a programmable breadmaker as a friend once showed me how she makes the most divine sourdough bread in her breadmaker! Yes, I’m a technology girl, I confess. If it makes it easier, quicker and more efficient (but still healthy) then I’m into it! (I hate microwaves though).

Bread is pretty addictive so at least with this very rich rye sourdough, we don’t eat too much of it! I did succumb to temptation and order a Middle Eastern fruit loaf in this week’s Food Connect delivery though.

The best thing about bread is the butter…. real butter and lots of it! We get beautiful creamy yellow yellow butter made from cultured cream from the farmers’ markets in Brisbane. Oh boy, once you’ve tried real butter you can never return to the poor excuse for butter that you buy at the supermarket (even organic) and margarine? Don’t get me started! My lovely mother grew up on a farm and she says that our butter tastes just like the butter her mother used to churn when she was a girl.

A final comment about butter before you start sucking in your waistline and feeling for palpitations: A friend was telling me the other day that his grandparents used to put thick thick slabs of butter on their bread. And guess what? They lived to 100! Now isn’t that saying something? Kayo, my little almost 2 year old, loves butter. Forget the bread, just give her a little bowl of butter and a teaspoon and she’s happy!

sourdough workshop with Sandra Frain

May 22, 2010

Phew! Time has flown by and there has hardly been a moment to stop, let alone blog. Below, some photos from the wonderful sourdough workshop held at a friend’s house in the Ecovillage a couple of weeks ago. It was so nice wandering down the greenway, through Berniece’s garden and in the backdoor of her lovely rammed earth house to attend the workshop.

Sandra Frain, our sourdough teacher, was just magic and created such a special atmosphere I had tingles in my spine. This is a woman who is full of joie de vivre, passionate about what she does and what she creates. We learnt about grain and the importance of fermenting grain to improve digestibility. We admired her sourdough cultures which were literally bubbling over with life (far left in the first picture), about wet loaves (which don’t need kneading) and dry loaves (which do). In this picture, the dry loaf is at the back and the wet loaf in front of it.

Kayo thoroughly enjoyed the workshop too, especially the kneading of her own piece of sourdough.

At the workshop, we also made butter from real cream, passing jars around the room and singing “Come butter come, come butter come. You’d better hurry up or you’re gonna be late. I’m gonna beat you to the garden gate”. And it was oh so yummy to eat freshly baked sourdough bread with real home made butter!

The next day, we had  a 30 minute journey over the mountain to visit friends in Murwillumbah. I decanted some cream off the top of our milk and put it in a jar. We spent the car journey passing the jar between us and singing the song and by the time we arrived at our friends, we had real butter to share with our friends.

John Palmer – garden angel and patron saint of the valley

April 22, 2010

I’ve just come across some photos taken in 2008 and am inspired to write about John Palmer. I often talk about this beautiful man whom Kosuke and I hold in such high regard and who is so adored by our children. We call John our garden angel. He is the patron saint of many people’s gardens and indeed of this valley about which he is so knowledgeable. Kosuke and I are such black thumbs – famous for killing even pot plants – but John never gives up on us and I know he believes that one day, we will become green thumbs and we will start to grow our own food. Plant by plant, he shows us what is edible in our garden, what to pull out and what to protect. He turns up here week after week and year after year with stuff foraged from the side of the road and slowly we are covering up the grass and, with his help, creating garden beds from nothing and with no money.

For me, the garden is overwhelming and intimidating. Others, like my dear friend and now cherished neighbour Kacey, take to it like a duck to water. My mother loves gardening and her father was a wonderful gardener creating a lush vegetable garden on their farm in the Hay district in NSW even in times of serious drought. My mother finds computers and technology rather daunting and difficult whereas they come quite naturally to me. My father is a technology man so I guess I inherited some of his genes. I would love to be a gardener though – I think it’s such a nurturing and health-giving past-time – much healthier than computers!

What is also beautiful is to see the relationship between Taiji and John. Taiji sees John’s car and goes running out calling “John Palmer! John Palmer!” and together they explore the garden. Taiji now knows more of the plants and edibles in this garden than I do – African lettuce, south american spinach,…  – so many plants considered weeds that really are nourishing foods. Sometimes I feel as though part of why John is gently and patiently teaching us about weeds is so that one day, if we ever had to, we could survive on the food that grows abundantly all around us that we are still so ignorant of.

John usually finishes up with a quick song, singing about what he and Taiji have created together that day. One day, we will make John proud of our new found passion for gardening. In the meantime, I am reminded of a story in the Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff in which she describes the culture of the Amazon Indian tribe she lived with. Each family has a garden and grows their own food, except for one man who was raised in town away from his tribe. He’s lazy, sour-faced and always complaining. Jean is surprised by how tolerant everyone is of this man and how they provide him with food grown in their gardens. His neighbour laughs and comments to Jean that the man doesn’t realise that he is unhappy because he doesn’t have his own garden or grow his own food. One day – after many years – the man asks his neighbour to teach him how to make a garden. He starts to grow his own food and he becomes a much lighter, brighter and happier man.

Cosmos – a balanced universe

April 22, 2010

We have this beautiful little forest of cosmos flowers in our garden at the moment. Taiji calls it his secret garden and loves to disappear in there with his friends looking for fairies or trying to find caterpillars to feed the ever elusive robins that he plans to catch (“just to look at and give some food Mama, then I’ll let them go”). Lately I’ve become obsessed with taking photos trying to do the cosmos justice and capture on camera just how beautiful it is. I haven’t succeeded yet (partly my limited photographic skills, partly the limits of my little camera).

Here a locust (?) sits on our french door window in the late afternoon. I had a chance to have a very good look at it close up from the other side of the glass and pondering whether I could ever eat one like they do in Thailand and Africa – very nutritious I’m told. I decided it would take a lot of self-persuasion and hunger to overcome my aversion to eating insects. Funny how culturally conditioned we are to food. Recently, John Palmer showed Taiji how to eat little green grasshoppers and Taiji and I have since been having lots of discussions about insects and how edible they are.

I just love this sea of orange flowers. Everyone who visits comments on them. Kacey used them to decorate Sandy’s wedding cake.

Apparently cosmos is derived from the Greek meaning “a balanced universe”.

Morning dew on cosmos.