I like this bit in ‘English Bread and Yeast Cookery’ by Elizabeth David. It reminds me that a good loaf (or beer) is something to say thanks for, a gift of grace.
“In Chaucer’s England one of the names for yeast or barm was goddisgoode ‘bicause it cometh of the grete grace of God.’These words imply a blessing. To me that is just what it is.It is also mysterious, magical.No matter how familiar its action may become nor how successful the attempts to explain it in terms of chemistry and to manufacture it by the ton, yeast still to a certain extent retains its mystery.”
This was good.
It is almost like the German version of pizza. I didn’t add the bacon but there is quite enough lard, eggs and double cream to be getting on with thank you very much.
The taste of marjoram is nice in the pastry.
I’m on a bit of a Penguin book grabbing frenzy at the moment and managed to pick up a grubby copy of ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol 2’ by Simone Beck and Julia Child. I’m not sure if I would have been aware of the book if not for sneakily watching ‘Julia and Julia once when it was on at home but I love it already because it is full of diagrams and lines like this:-
‘Use one hand only for kneading and keep the other clean to hold a pastry scraper, to dip out extra flour, to answer the telephone, and so forth’
I’m not sure why that line attracts me to the book, but it seems almost joyful to me. Of course you need to keep the hand free to answer the phone, life is still going on when you make a loaf of bread, you can talk to people and bake bread as well.
Maybe I’m influenced by Meryl Streep’s performance as Julia Child in the film but there seems to be a sense of joy in the writing of the book. I’ve an old grubby copy of Elizabeth David’s classic ‘French Provincial Cooking’ that I’ve flicked through over the last few years but it just seems to be missing something. I think it’s a sense of joy or enjoyment, or just having a bit of light-hearted banter
I think that is why I enjoy my Hugh Fearnley Whats-his-face books as there is a sense of joy in his writing whereas Delia Smith seems a bit less joyful in her cookery books. Perhaps the missing ingredient between cookery books I find useful and ones I love is a sense of joy.
In a larger sense, I wish I was more joyful sometimes, or enjoyed things a bit more. To often I let myself whinge or moan, find fault and be cynical about life. I don’t enjoy things and let others know that I didn’t enjoy it. I need to recover a sense of enjoyment about life because it’s life affirming, things aren’t all bad out there.
H___ was hanging out with Benedictine monks for few days so I decided to try and enter into the spirit of things and bake a monastery oat bread, four rises and 1hr’s worth of cooking later this slab appeared from the oven,a heavy and dense bread, like a nutty wheaten.
It doesn’t taste bad but I probably wouldn’t bake it again. Unless I ended up in a monastery or something.
I have been feeling a bit low the last couple of days and sometimes when I feel like that baking bread cheers me up and so I decided that I would try an easy rye loaf recipe from Elizabeth David.
A few things
1 It is like only a 1/6th rye, the rest is strong white flour. Should that even count as rye bread?
2 It was really hard to knead, like tough. On the plus side it didn’t stick to my sideboard which usually puts me in a grumpy mood
3 After I baked it the loaf had the hardest crust in the world, somewhere between cement and brittle granite. Although the recipe did say to put it in a tin, and because I am without tin I just put it on a baking tray. Maybe in a bread tin the crust might have been softer?
4 Elizabeth David just doesn’t agree with me as a cookery writer. I’m not sure why that is. Is it because she seems like a bit of a snob or lacking in humour?
So what we learned from all this was that we won’t be making the easy rye loaf again.The crust was hard (I like my teeth) and it didn’t taste that tasty.
I’m not sure I’ve ever lived in a house that didn’t have a half empty bag of muesli sitting in a cupboard, dry and unloved in it’s dust. Nobody seems capable of eating an entire box or bag of muesli and so it lies forgotten about until one day you think ‘I’m never going to eat that bag of Alpen so I might as well bin it‘
This has been my experience of muesli.
Then this weekend I flicked through a book on bread making and stumbled across a recipe for muesli bread and thought ‘I’m going to redeem you unloved muesli in my cupboard‘
Mix a sachet of quick action yeast with one teaspoon of honey and 150ml of warm, body temperature-ish water and leave for 10 mins. Or leave for a few hours as I did after forgetting and going out of the house.
Mix 650g of strong white flour, 90g wholemeal flour and 2 teaspoons of salt. Add the yeast mixture and 300 ml of water (the recipe in the book said 250ml but added 300ml by accident). Knead for 7mins and leave to rise until doubled in bulk (whatever that means)
Work in 125g of muesli and knead for a few more minutes, seperate dough and shape into rounds on baking tray. Leave for 1hr.
Bake in an oven for 30mins or so at 230 c.
Well that’s what I did and I got a nice little brown loaf. It was maybe not as light as it should have been but I just had a slice a few days later toasted and it tastes grand to me. Plus the bag of muesli in the corner has been tamed.
There is also a recipe in this book for Weetabix and it just so happens that there is a packet of unloved Weetabix in the cupboard as well so I must give that a go next time.
We had a little party on Wednesday for Mrs Canalways which involved some cooking and preparation of food, of making tortillas and baking bread, whirling up some pesto and dips, cleaning and washing up afterwards.
This might sound like hard work or a lot of effort (why not just go to M&S and buy a few bits and bobs?…which we did do) but I enjoyed doing it. And it seems like a good thing to do.
If there is one truth that I’ve learned about Christianity over the last decade or so, and if there is one setting where it seems to make sense it is around a few olives or a beer or two. Around a table there is a bit of give and take, you can enter long and lazy conversations, you can get to know your neighbour and it seems like an equal relationship.
I’m not talking about over the top, best china and dressing up type of hospitality, but the casual gathering with a few bits and bobs. |
I was reading this in Mediterranean Cookery by Claudia Roden.
‘Mediterranean society is family-based and that is where real Mediterranean cooking at its best is to be found. The home cooking of a society with strong family ties, large clans and women at home has none of the rigid rules of haute cuisine. And when dishes are passed down in the family they are fill of the little touches which make them both exquisite and individual.
I once asked a wrought-iron craftsman in Turkish Anatolia who builds pavilions in Seljuk and Ottoman styles, why he thought food in Turkey was regarded as being so important. He replied ‘What we enjoy most in life is being hospitable. That is all we have. You must not eat alone.’
That seems to me like pretty good advice for a church to take on board as well.