Author Archives: lexiearl

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 9

I feel like this week was some sort of hump-week. I spent the weekend exhausted, wandering vaguely around the house, not really wanting to do anything but also not succeeding in doing nothing. I hit a slump I guess. On Saturday evening A- asked me about making bread. Wasn’t I supposed to be making some today, for this project? Yes, I sighed, but I can’t really bring myself to do it. Lifting my arms feels too hard today. Moving is hard. A- just smiled and encouraged me to try again on Sunday.

52 weeks of sourdough wk9

So on Saturday evening I mixed together a starter and set it on top of our boiler overnight, just in case I could manage some mixing and folding come the morning. Then I remembered that I wanted to take my sister a loaf on Monday. And that was enough motivation to get me out of bed and folding dough. That and the yoga class I’ve found on Sunday mornings in the city, which is magical. Even better, I tried out my own proportions of flour, levain, water, and salt. This was based on what I’ve learnt in the last few weeks. Brilliantly, it worked! My own proportions!

So week 9 verdict: hooray! I am starting to understand something about the proportions of sourdough breads.

 

Reading List (17/10)

“When you are in the water you can think differently, because you feel the whole of the world in a way that you don’t when you’re outside. We’re held differently by the world and therefore we think differently.” I loved everything about this article.

Pestle and mortars.

Academic guilt.

I loved this portrait of Philip Pullman, about his upcoming Book of Dust.

This week I devoured Heartburn, by Nora Ephron. I really loved it because it is clearly the source of one of my favourite quotes (which I heard first in Julie and Julia). “What I love about cooking is that after a hard day, there is something comforting about the fact that if you melt butter and add flour and then hot stock, it will get thick! It’s a sure thing! It’s sure thing in a world where nothing is sure; it has a mathematical certainty in a world where those of us who long for some kind of certainty are forced to settle for crossword puzzles.” In Julie and Julia, she talks about whisking egg yolks into chocolate, and sugar and milk, while making pie, but really it amounts to the same thing. It is all about the comfort of routine in cooking.

I listened to I found my tribe. I urge you to read this book (or listen to it, as I did. It is read by the author). It tells the story of Ruth, who has a tribe of 5 children and a husband with Motor Neurone Disease. Her story of coping with her husband’s illness while raising her children is captivating, heartbreaking, and arresting. There is some wild sea swimming in cold Irish water for good measure too. This book will make you grateful for what you have.

For most of Sunday I listened to The Girls. I have been drawn into this novel, wanting to know how things will end (although you have a good idea from the beginning as it is based on the Manson murders ). But it is the dynamics between the girls, the way teenaged is represented, that is so fascinating.

I’m not even sure we should really know how to make this ourselves but oh well: how to make your own cookie butter.

Food critics at London’s newspapers.

I love the look of this cocktail, especially for Halloween.

That is all for this week! Have a good one y’ll. x

 

 

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 8

Week 8 chaps! When I started this project I wasn’t sure I’d get quite this far along but already this practice (some might say habit) is taking hold.

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I got home from Stratford-upon-Avon late on Friday, having been there for most of the week. (I did get to see Coriolanus, which was awesome!) but I had also spent the week eating ready-meals in my tiny Airbnb, so I was totally up for spending some time in the kitchen. I started a levain on Friday night, and then got up early on Saturday to feed it. I went back to following instructions from Small Food Bakery, and also used their recipe for guidance. This week, I added poppy- and sesame seeds and I must say, I love this combination. I added enough that the seeds add both texture and flavour to the bread.

I baked the loaf on Sunday morning, and then had a dinner of leftover beef stew with slices of bread (smeared with butter obviously) to dip in. On Tuesday, I made myself a sandwich for lunch using the loaf. I get an immense feeling of satisfaction whenever I eat my loaves as part of my meal. I guess there is a little bit of pride in my work? Who knows. And look at the holes guys! Holes! In my bread! Eeeek.

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Verdict from Week 8? I am developing pride in my loaves. Who knows, maybe I will start to give them away soon!

Reading List (10/10)

It’s October people! Whaaatttt?! Yup. We are on that downward slope to the end of the year, short days, dark days, and colder weather. If you missed this list last week (and the one before), I’m sorry! I’ve been on book deadline and have also started traveling again for work so I have not had a moment to read anything unessential. But I am glad to be back here again. The book has gone in (cue dancing girls and twirling fireworks) so now I’m waiting for editorial feedback. Also, it is A-‘s birthday today! I spent the weekend making salted caramel for cake, and preparing gifts.

Chefs helping out in Puerto Rico.

Fish have a dawn chorus too! This is just wonderful.

The disconnect between our real lives and our online lives, as illustrated by a fake food festival.

I read my first Agatha Christie last week! I know crazy right? I chose Murder on the Orient Express. I found it superbly comforting (which is weird because it is a detective story) but in the same manner as Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (which we have been watching with delight), the stories are reassuring rather than scary. Everything always works out in the end. And I love the time period of the novels – the clothes, the formality of dinner – it makes train travel sound delightful. I’m going to borrow some more from the library now, to read while I’m traveling. And if you need a reason to read or reread Murder on the Orient Express, the movie is coming out next month and looks epic.

On academic engagement with the public.

This cartoon .

Books challenged in 2016 for being various stages of ‘inappropriate’.

I read this post on a gloomy Saturday morning and was transported to the wild forests of Sweden. The images alone are magical but the prose takes you into a forest-foodie heaven.

I subscribe to a lot of newsletters. It helps with finding things to read for these posts but also connects me into communities of thought that I might otherwise miss. This last week my inbox has been full of bloggers and writers celebrating the arrival of autumn. I love getting these kinds of posts. They are simple reminders of the importance of gratitude and the wonder of everyday life. Some of my favourites are here, here, here, and here.

I very much want to make this pasta with chickpeas for dinner soon. And I love the sound of this pistachio frosting. I do love all things pistachio.

A list of podcasts you could listen to. I randomly, and totally by accident, listened to an episode of Stuff You Should Know this week. It was great. Entertaining, funny, full of random facts (I do so love a random fact) and peppered with superbly interesting people.  Other podcasts I’ve made my way through recently: The Guilty Feminist (the last two episodes were totally brilliant and make me laugh out loud while walking in the street); Eating Alone – new from BBC Radio 4 Food Programme, and Violet Sessions, dealing with grief.

On weeds. On farming.

Sculpture making with wine corks.

Recognising that we cannot live in a ‘constant state of agitation’ is hugely important. Recently I have become increasingly interested in the connections between learning through the body and learning through the mind. I have a paper idea in my head so I guess it is at the back of my own mind, these embodied connections. I read this with fascination – all about the connections between our bodies and our minds.

OMG. Pasta grannies teaching you to make pasta via videos on YouTube. This is BRILLIANT. (Found via SK list).

I also finished Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey. I was expecting a book on the wilds of the islands, the natural world that exists within them, and a personal journey of discovery. This book is that but it is also a commentary on making a nation, the politics of islands, and the intricate histories that the Hebrides have. A truly great read.

Interesting ideas on creativity and minimalism.

A very elegant and interesting piece about knitting for organisations who then donate some money from sales of their products to charity.

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 7

I decided to mix things up last week and made an oat porridge loaf (well, two loaves – hello guilty person who didn’t quite read the recipe thoroughly before beginning).

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I had some oats skulking in the pantry and it was high time it got used up! I found a recipe online that follows Tartine and had gone through several iterations with some wise advice so I gave that one a go.

The loaves turned out beautifully! I was very excited when my new bit of baking kit (an oval brotform from Bakery Bits) created a perfect sandwich loaf that A- could eat through the week. I really loved the flavour in this – the oats is not overly present but adds a pleasant nuttiness and stickiness to the finished product. I will be making this one again!

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Verdict from Week 7? Excellent. Proud of now being able to adapt my techniques to new recipes and beginning to understand some of the lingo behind sourdough baking.

 

52 Weeks of Sourdough: Week 6

52 weeks of sourdough wk6

Week 6’s bread has a gaping yawn. It looks like a fish poised to kiss someone or a whale trawling for plankton! Secretly, I am rather chuffed with this development. Yes sure, it hasn’t quite expanded in all the spaces I wanted it to, but it has expanded nicely in one place!

After being in Spain for a week, I found that I was (somewhat unexpectedly) looking forward to loaf making this weekend. On Thursday evening as our ‘last supper’ (as we called it, chuckling to ourselves), we ate at La Taberna del Chef del Mar. A- is obsessed with Angel Leon, the chef behind La Taberna and the more formal Aponiente. Angel Leon is famous for serving only fish, and La Taberna has the same agenda, although in a relaxed, informal setting. We ate glorious, unexpected, fun food (the smoked oysters, holy moly) but what was truly superb was the sourdough bread (finally!) that they make over at Aponiente. It was superb – dark crust, sour and malty taste. I used it to sop up juices from various the dishes. It made me want to come home and make bread again.

On Friday, on our flight home, I was planning when I could fit the loaf into our weekend plans. On Saturday, as I mixed the levain together, I was thinking of how my Sunday evening would be spent, folding dough. And I felt a happy feeling of anticipation. A frisson of excitement. How would this loaf turn out? What would it taste like? Would it be better or worse than others? On Sunday, I mixed the levain for the second time and left it to bubble away while we went to the allotment. (Look! Beds are set out! I’ve ordered seedlings! And I had a visitor!)

When we got home, I mixed up the dough and then folded it while catching up on last week’s Bake Off (which was, totally appropriately, bread week). Even A- got involved in the Bake Off watching!

Every time I make a loaf, I have a feeling of purpose, a sense of doing something ancient and practical. I don’t want to romanticise the whole bread-making experience. Okay I do but I will check myself. I only want to note how this everyday/every week activity is shaping how I organise my time. I am making space for bread making. And I quite like that.

Reading List (19/9)

Hello again! I am back from my holiday in Spain, all rested and prepped for the coming academic year.

Chiclana sunset

Julia Child always reminded people to never apologise for the food you are serving. Even if it didn’t quite work out the way you wanted it to. They will never know that it is not how you anticipated it would be…

Swimming in the lochs in summer.

Things to make this week: plum tart, marbled banana bread, chocolate wheaty biscuits.

‘The traditionally low number of women in non-fiction, especially history, invites many questions about the kinds of discourse we consider useful or true’. You need to read this. It is a fascinating account of hierarchy, ideas, and who has the right to say certain things. It is necessary to know if we want to see more things by women writers.

On inconspicuous consumption.

Food writers who teach us how to live.

Over the holiday I finished two books. The first, Floating, is a(nother) swimming memoir. Joe Minihane, the author, follows in Roger Deakin’s Waterlog footsteps, swimming his way around Britain, finding all of Roger’s swimming spots in an attempt to quell his anxiety and help his depression. Joe writes: “Nestled deep in this Dartmoor valley, […] I remembered that true escape was the essence of wild swimming: escape from needless worries and anxieties, from fear, from being hassled“. I loved this book. It is honest about a struggle with mental health issues, and working to find various solutions to help them – be it swimming in the wild, or the community that develops around the swimming, or the meditation of swimming. Swimming memoirs have framed my year this year, and helped me encounter the water in a new way. (Including a fairly long swim at the weekend, in a lake where the water temperature was 15C!)

The second book I finished was actually a re-read of something I first read as an undergraduate, The Bone Woman. This is the story of a forensic anthropologist’s experiences of mass graves in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo. It makes for hard reading but I think it is important to find out about what happens to bring justice to families after a war.

Back-to-school food guide and a fall dinner guide.

If you read nothing else, read this Twitter exchange between the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. Sheer brilliance.

That is it for this week chaps! Have a good one! x