Monthly Archives: August 2017

Reading List (29/8)

Dog days of summer people! I hope you all had a lovely bank holiday. I am back from Copenhagen. What a lovely city. Swoon. Now I am trying to do book edits and article edits and noting down all the ideas I had while at ECER. We are going to Spain next Friday for a last minute, before I start traveling for work again, time spent together week of holiday. I am trying to get another book draft polished before we go…

CPH harbour

On performance and public speaking.

Why you should blog as a PhD. Reasons why you might blog as part of a research project.

Issues of postdoctoral mental health.

Community and allotment gardens, and the question of selling produce.

A new zine.

Eating as an agricultural act?

Urban meadows in Oslo.

George Monbiot on the importance of language when describing our planet.

Brave Tart on chocolate chip cookies.

The various editions of Joy of Cooking. What I find most fascinating about the book is the way it has been updated and revised for each edition – the way new recipes are included, out-of-fashion food trends are cut. It is like a living commentary on our food habits. I did not grow up with this book – we had others – but I think I would like to track down a copy to read and digest.

Food photographs that look like still-life paintings.

Do food magazines perpetuate whiteness? An important read. And an extract from Michael W. Twitty’s book The Cooking Gene. On class and food in America.

Celery used to be a luxury. Who knew?

A portrait of Alice Waters, who has a new book coming out. This made me smile and roll my eyes with equal measure.

This past weekend I read The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit. The book is a collection of essays on everything from silence to books women should avoid to rape culture. As Jen (who lent me the book) and I noted in a conversation we had while at the Ladies Pond at Hampstead Heath, once you read essays like these, your world is never the same. Everything looks different.

Is this satire? Is it real? Somebody read it and tell me please.

If you are in the southern hemisphere, please make this blood orange wreath!

The internal micro biome.

Have a good week!

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 3

I didn’t get to as many bakeries as I would’ve liked to while I was in Copenhagen last week. Conferencing is often full-on and bakeries don’t stay open very late. Fortunately, Jen was more than happy to find delicious things for me to try. She even trekked to Mirabelle to buy one of their epically large loaves (half of which I brought back home in my backpack and which is now sliced for toast and in the freezer). The best bread we ate  was at 108, where we went for dinner one night. The whole meal was excellent (and the corn sorbet was just genius) but I cannot stop thinking about their bread… And the whipped butter. Sigh.

52 weeks of sourdough wk3

As you can possibly tell, my sourdough this week is not as beautiful as last week’s loaf! Upsetting but true. When my loaf baked so beautifully last week I thought Yes! I have this nailed. Obviously the universe decided to teach me a lesson and my bread this week is aesthetically disappointing (although still delicious). There are probably many reasons for this, but below are two things I learnt in the process of being disappointed:

1) Deciding to undertake a project requiring input every week means making bread even when you are ill and would rather spend the day watching Orphan Black on Netflix on a loop. But you can’t, because of the aforementioned deal/challenge with/to your self. So I got up and turned dough and lay down on my bed feeling very sorry for myself in-between. Pastry chefs will tell you that pastry can tell what mood you’re in. Can bread? I suspect it can, and does.

2) Different flours really do affect the kind of loaf you can make. I know Kim told me this last week but I’d never really experienced it as vividly as I did this week. I forgot to buy more Gilchester’s flour when I was last in Small Food, and so I had to make do with regular strong white flour. The effect on the bread was remarkable! This dough was much more vigorous than last week, but as such, also prone to collapsing when I turned it out of it’s baton to bake. It didn’t expand as much as the Gilchester’s loaf while baking either, although it proofed up significantly (more than double than last week), it didn’t seem to have the internal structure to support itself when it came out of the baton. I will be reverting to the Gilchester flour from this week again so we can see more results next week.

So the project continues. Despite my sickness, I still love the rhythm bread-making brings to my week. And the discipline I have to exercise to meet my goals. And if I ever get near to making bread like that from 108, I will be a happy bunny indeed.

Reading List (22/8)

Greetings from Copenhagen!

CPH

If movie directors made food films. Brilliant.

The comfort of tea rituals. I particularly love the description of office tea habits. Totally true!

Ice cream sodas. Personally, a cream soda float from Wimpy (particularly in the middle of a road trip) will always have my heart.

Remembering a friend with a coordinated dance in a pool.

Glorious old collections of wallpaper. (Thanks Jo for finding this!)

Aubergines, tomatoes, ricotta. Really the best things for a summer dinner. Or, this zucchini pasta.

Trends in grocery shopping and meal-making.

I do so love a rice krispie square.

A handmade Oreo.

Artisan food products, ‘craft culture‘, and race. You need to read this.

New book on Andalucia, from Elisabeth Luard.

With the new biography, there is a lot of writing about Patience Gray at the moment. (I picked up the TLS in the airport on Sunday and so read this too. You can read it online only if you’ve got a subscription.)

Slablova!

On eclipses.

It is no longer just about apple cider. And why you should add water to your whisky.

Last week I finished The Last Painting of Sarah de Vos. My sister and I read it almost simultaneously, and so shared thoughts about it on Saturday. We both enjoyed the story and the characters, but did think there would be more mystery and searching involved. I did wolf it down though, and particularly loved the character of Marty de Groot as an old man.

Have a good week! x

 

 

 

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 2

52 weeks of sourdough wk2.2

So it turns out, fitting sourdough into a working week is hard! I left for London at midday on Saturday in order to stay with my sister before catching an early flight to Copenhagen on Sunday morning. So I thought I’d make bread on Friday, while I worked from home. The only problem was, I needed to leave the house at various points. I worked backwards from when I thought I would be able to bake the loaf in order to work out the timings. Even with my careful planning – getting up at 6am to feed the starter so I could mix the bread at 10am – I still ran into trouble. Well, not trouble exactly, but just unplanned refrigeration. I had intended to time my errands with the end of the turning process and the beginning of the bulk prove – this would give me 2.5 hours before I needed to bench rest and shape the dough. Once I’d actually thought about everything that needed to be done, I realised that this was totally unrealistic a timeframe. So I decided to slow down the proofing process by refrigerating the dough after turning.

Flour and grain

One of the reasons I went out was to attend a bread tasting at Small Food Bakery. This is something I would probably normally have skipped, but with this new sourdough project I decided to tag along. (I am really chuffed that this kind of thing is already happening in Week 2.)

The tasting was an opportunity for Small Food Bakery to show us their new breads, explain their processes, and to talk about different wheats and wheat farming in the UK. We tasted four different breads: the Radford Wild, the Heritage Wild, the YQ, and the Ey Up. Kim explained that this year, the bakery has focused on converting to using flours from farmers that they know – that is, they know where the flour they are using is grown, who it is milled by, and the farmers and millers who support their process. The different breads use flours from different places – so the Radford Wild uses Shipton Mill flour, whereas the Heritage Wild uses Gilchesters flour. (This is also what I used in my loaf this week!) Gilchester’s flour is milled on the farm and is from a wheat that is allowed to crossbreed in the field. Kim explained that it is a 75% extraction flour (that is, 75% of the wheat grain going into the milling process is extracted at the end) and is stoneground. This results in an oiler, darker flour that develops into a nuttier, browner-bread flavour than the Radford Wild.

 

The YQ is a fascinating wheat, and bread. The bread is 100% wholegrain with an unpredictable flavour. It starts off sweet and malty, but ends with a sharp sour note. The wheat was developed by Prof Martin Wolfe and you can hear Kim talking about the wheat, as well as more info on the wheat breeding process on this podcast.

The Ey Up is a bread so called because the grains in it – spelt and rye – are grown locally to Nottingham,  on a farm in Sutton Bonnington. The flours are milled at Green’s Windmill in Sneinton. The loaf is lighter than the YQ and the flour has a purple colour!

Kim explained that all her breads use sourdough starters. Using the wild yeasts present in sourdough starters allows bakers to ‘go slow’, and to approach baking differently than if you were using regular yeast. The slower ferment also makes for a more digestible loaf.

Kim also explained that you can feed your starter with the same flour that you intend to use in your baking. You can have a rye-based starter and a white flour-based starter in your fridge. This gives your initial dough a ‘boost’ as the yeasts feed off flour they’ve already adjusted to eating. This week was week two of using the Gilchesters flour, and I’d also fed the starter with it last week. Perhaps that plus the longer, slower ferment allowed for a better loaf? We shall see!

52 weeks of sourdough wk2.1

 

 

 

 

 

Reading List (15/8)

Summer Notts

I just loved this description of French markets in the summertime.

Cormoran Strike is coming to the BBC! Whoop!

This pie. On huckleberries. The pictures of all these different pies. Drool.

The atmosphere is listening. Read this!

I finally got around to listening to Samin Nosrat on Radio Cherry Bombe this weekend. I totally have a chef crush on Samin. She just sounds like the kind of person I want to be friends with. She is now also a new columnist for the NYT magazine and has a list of the cookbooks that shaped her as a cook and a writer.

Chefs on the foods, mentors, and meals that influenced their cooking.

I love these photographs, contrasting college first-years with their final year selves. I wonder how I would’ve said I had changed at that point?

Rare cooking books.

The truth about glamourising chef work.

Two vice chancellors talk about the challenges facing early career academics.

Trying to decide what to eat in an incredibly noisy media environment. A doctor is criticising the medical advice on Goop.

A review of a new book on food conquests of the British empire. Some interesting criticism is drawn on the use of language, and how this perpetuates ideas of the empire.

New website find. This is both hilarious and true, all at once.

I listened to an episode of the Guilty Feminist (I just love them, and they make me laugh out loud, often when I’m walking in the street so other people look at me awkwardly and I just think yeah!) called Intrepid Women and now I want to read the book they were talking about – women resisting the Nazis in occupied France.

Have a good week! x

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week One

For a while now I have been playing with the idea of making bread on a weekly basis. Then I stopped to compose the 2017/18 Life List and realised that one of the sub-projects of my life list could be to actually make bread every week for one year. So this is the beginning of that project. Here is my first loaf!

52 weeks of sourdough - wk1

This is not actually my first ever sourdough loaf. But it is the first loaf for this project. My interest in sourdough has been long-lasting, and at various points in my life (pretty much since cooking school in 2005!) I have kept a sourdough starter in the fridge, nursing and caring for it. I have taken a few courses on sourdough baking, at Small Food Bakery and also at The Sourdough School. Both were wonderful but when I got home, I found I couldn’t recreate the loaves like my teachers had and so even though I baked sourdough occasionally, I didn’t do so enough to develop my technique or skill. I also only really know how to bake bread with sourdough, but I am aware that there are many cake/pastry things that you can make and I want to explore these too. However, the main  purpose of this project is a quest for the perfect loaf.

Another purpose is to provide us with fresh bread every weekend (or whenever in the week it is possible to make it, if the weekend is unlikely). My life with the Spaniard includes adjusting to an expectation of bread at every meal, something my carb-fearing-young-self would balk at. Whilst A- does have a penchant for what I would call ‘trashy’ bread (food snob, yes I am very aware), I am slowly, slowly converting him to sourdough.

The third purpose of this project is to learn and understand the cultures of bread. One of the reasons this project came about is through discovering The Grain Gathering – a once yearly conference held by the Washing State University Bread Lab. I only know about this because Kim, from Small Food Bakery, has now been twice and I stalk her Instagram during this period. The researcher in me is totally fascinated and compelled by the people who gather for this conference -academics, activists, bakers – and the cultures they bring with them (both real sourdough cultures and imagined ideas about bread culture).

The final, fourth purpose of this project is to provide a type of structure to my week. Like crafting a space for writing each day, I want to craft a space for bread baking each week.

So! That is it. Let me see how I get on. The first week is always the easiest no?

Life Lists and Recovery

So a few weeks back my sister asked me where the life list for 2017 was. I realised that I hadn’t written one. I did write an ‘I did that’ list for 2016 but somehow I’d never written any goals for 2017. I suspect it is because I wasn’t feeling very goal-setting-y at new year. But now, as we begin the slide into the new academic year coupled with my now being 4 weeks post-surgery, I thought I might do some goal setting. (God, that sounds so pretentious and ambitious and just weird!) Of course, this awkwardly puts my 12-month list in line with the Northern hemisphere academic year, rather than the calendar one (something I’ve always found troublesome, having grown up in the south where the calendar year matches the academic one), but never mind. Change hey? Sometimes you just have to embrace it.

SFBakeryRoses August17I’ve thought a lot over the past four weeks about what I want to do over the next year. (Being incredibly slow and being forced to time spend resting allows for such contemplation). Full recovery from ACL reconstruction, including a return to twisty sports like netball, takes between 9 and 12 months. So my surgery recovery neatly maps onto my goals to find success outside of work. This is part of my post-PhD life goal, to define myself as something other than my work. I came dangerously close to losing myself in my PhD, and it has taken a lot of hard mental work to learn that I am not my PhD, I am not my work. My work does not define my worth. (That sounds like a mantra. Sometimes I have to treat it as such).

Nottm streetWall detail

So I have devised a number of things that I would like to accomplish in the next 12 months. Okay, I have 13, not 12 but 13 is one of my lucky numbers. (And really, let’s not be pedantic about the parameters of a wellbeing effort). These vary in both ambition and scale, and are connected to my work, health, wellbeing, and creativity. I am sharing them with you here as a way to keep myself reminded of my goals (so that they don’t squander, lost in a journal somewhere) and also because I have one that I am going to try and write about weekly, on this site!

So here is the 2017/18 list:

Take a yoga class. Survive it. Then go back to doing yoga regularly.

Run 5km

Swim in open water. If possible, swim outside all year round. If not, just lane swim a few times a week. Book to swim the Swoosh.

Learn to make a loaf of sourdough. Do this every week. Write about it, even when unsuccessful. Call this 52 weeks of sourdough. Create a hashtag on Instagram for this part of the project. #52weeksofsourdough

Knit a cardigan. (Possibly this one).

Finish the current book and submit the manuscript. Contemplate writing another book proposal. Think about writing a cookbook.

Submit another journal article. Possibly two. Push out the boat and write a third.

Establish the allotment! Put in raised beds. Grow things.

Keep an allotment diary. Take photos of the progress and print them. Or use the instant camera.

Investigate beekeeping!

Have people over for dinner. Try and do this once a month.

Get really good at ice-cream making. Try unusual flavour combinations. Use the herbs you’re growing on the allotment to experiment.

Finally, take some courses for fun. Spend time doing things you enjoy.

So that is my list. Watch out for my first post for 52 weeks of sourdough project, coming this weekend!