Tag Archives: learning

Reading List (25/4)

Canterbury

On book hoarding. I am very familiar with this problem. At present, there is a stack of unread books by my bedside and more mounting on the shelf in our bedroom. So many lovely books.

Pistachio cake.

Has the wellbeing cure gotten to individualistic? Should we be looking for ways to build community, rather than focusing on our individual wellbeing as the world burns?

Anna Jones’ recommendations for food and coffee in London.

Advice on getting rest (and why you should do this).

Food in books.

Spring pasta ideas.

Spring

Have a good week! x

 

Reading List (18/4)

Sea view Skye

I have been away this past week so I don’t actually have a very long list. (And this is also why I am publishing this so late today!) I’ve read a few things on The Guardian and The New York Times but I’ve mainly been reading a book called An Enchanted April, which I have just loved. It is, quite frankly, an enchanting read. (See what I did there?) The story has made me smile, sigh, and wish for Italy in springtime. I have loved the writing enough to seek out another of her books – Elizabeth and her German garden – to read this week.

Kitchen envy.

Christiane Amanpour’s favourite books.

It’s all about sleep people. As someone who loves to sleep, and is appreciative of at least 9 hours a night, I am all for this trend.

A new exhibition at MoMA on women artists.

I want to read this book. A review of Tartine All Day, yet another cookbook I want to read.

Oatmeal fudge bars. Please. Also, these almond cookies.

Have a good week! x

Reading List (4/4)

Spring bulbs

Hello April! It has felt very much like spring the last few days. It has been more sunny than not. It is warmish during the day (although still quite cold in the evenings). And the days are long! It is light when I need to get up and stays light so far into the evening that we have been eating dinner after 8pm. Spring and autumn are truly my two favourite months but spring might just win out. I love the light. The blossom on the trees and bulbs flowering on every street corner. I love the warmth.

Blossom

Words of advice from female chefs.

Cooking and the senses.

Learning to make stone tools, and understanding prehistory.

Claiming back religious traditions, through food.

For Mom: Anna Wintour’s Wild Garden. I love this garden. I love the wistful meadows and rambling roses. And the colours. I think it would be rather wonderful to spend a summers day meandering until slightly lost, lay a rug and read a book in parts of this garden.

I baked this weekend. For the first time in ages. I made an orange almond cake that walks the tightrope between a cake and a pudding. It is very bitter so I find it best served with yoghurt and a little honey. Good for breakfast too.

Orange almond cake

Fairytales.

McDonald’s is switching to fresh beef.

For when you are in need of perspective: a video of the known universe.

Food writing for everyone.

I’m still obsessively listening to Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series. I find Ruth is like an old friend and I’m catching up on her life. I particularly love listening to these books on lazy weekends, when I’m pottering about the house. I can knit, bake and hang up washing all whilst on the Norfolk salt marshes, solving mysteries. I’ve read these out-of-order because I started in the middle reading books 6 and 7 first and have now gone back to read 1, 2 and 3 in quick succession….

Have a good week! x

Reading List (28/3)

Margate sea

Grilled cheese.

I love this description of seeking the sun in the British winter.

Benedict Cumberbatch reading Sol LeWitt’s letter to Eva Hesse. Advice, fairly simple but good.

For Louisa: chicken-fried steak!

Yet more reasons to go to Paris. Jen/Ali/Lucy: maybe this could become part of #dessertskitastic2018?

On writing and teaching children’s literature, or books with magic. (Jess, read this!)

Creative projects in libraries.

Food and memory loss.

I’m busy reading The Little Paris Bookshop, which is lovely. All about a bookshop on a barge, love, literary remedies to life…

Morellis ice cream

Have a good week! x

 

Reading List (21/3)

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Jack Russells are just the best dogs. Here is some evidence.

The Two Fat Ladies. I used to love this show. Did you?

Being a mother and working in the food industry.

A woman in farming.

I am listening to Reader, I married him. It is a collection of short stories edited by Tracy Chevalier. All the stories are inspired by Jane Eyre. I am loving them. I don’t normally go in for short stories – mostly because I become attached to the characters and then don’t want to let go (it is a thing). But these are so wonderful and arresting. I particularly loved Grace Poole, Her Testimony by Helen Dunmore and Reader, She Married Me by Sally Vickers. But all the stories have been superb.

A round up of the weekend’s food news and recipes.

Peanut butter brownies.

Lucky Peach is closing.

Persian New Year. I also listened to the Bon Appetit Foodcast talking about Middle Eastern foods. After listening to talk of cooking rice, I finally managed to crack out some decent rice at the weekend, for our vegan cookbook club. (More on that hysterical experience another time.)

This picture of Viennese desserts. Plus the accompanying article.

Omelettes!

This is a beautiful piece of writing that makes me happy and sad at the same time.

Sketching the restaurants of NYC.

A library across borders.

Listening to podcasts is stress-relieving…

Swimming in Snowdonia.

Which bodies can go where‘ – reflections on travel writing. (There’s a number of articles in this series now up.)

Woman, dog, sea

Have a good week! x

‘I did that!’ list 2016

Greetings on the last day of 2016 everyone! I hope you are planning many festivities to rid ourselves of this awful year and ring in a new one. We are having dinner with family and friends at our house. There is talk of going out afterwards but I’ve been in bed all week with flu and so I may not risk it. I would like to be rid of the coughing fits before going back to work on Tuesday.

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You may (or may not) remember that last year I posted an ‘I did that!’ list, inspired by Karen Milford’s article. I liked the way it made me reflect on the year in a positive way. It was different to think about the coming year by looking back on the one just past, and rather than beating myself up about all that was left unaccomplished and continuing, I celebrated the sometimes-small, sometimes-big things that had made up the year, and had made me proud. So I decided to do it again this year. (I also have a list of resolutions, but I’m saving those until at least tomorrow, possibly Monday).

Here is my ‘I did that’! list for 2016.

1. I started a Cookbook Club, tentatively titled The Sunday Cookbook Club. I have many cookbooks. Some might say too many (my mother, for example, who, when she unpacked all the books we’d put into storage whilst she was moving house exclaimed, ‘you have 16 cookbooks on chocolate! How? Why?’) but I love them all. I don’t think I use them enough though and so I wanted to start a club that would encourage their more frequent use and would also provide an opportunity for entertaining without too much hassle. We have 5 members and have had several successful meetings. It has also meant I’ve increased my dinner-party hosting this year, which is something I wanted to do, and I’ve made frequent use of my local library. I intend to keep it going into 2017.

2. I submitted an article to a journal. Big academic step. Deep breaths. I also signed a book contract. More deep breaths. So in 2017 I will be writing a book.

3. I read more for pleasure. I cannot explain fully how happy this makes me. I have always loved reading, falling into magical worlds, being taken on journeys. Over my years as an academic, I read less and less for pleasure, concentrating instead on reading for work. This year, working outside of academia (and no longer being under PhD-related reading pressure) I rediscovered my love of reading. Related to this, I started a regular Tuesday Reading List on the blog, and posted every single Tuesday for the whole year. I’m very proud of the discipline that took to accomplish. (Reading Lists will continue in 2017!)

4. I re-learnt to knit. When I was small, my grandmother Ngonu taught me how to knit using two small red knitting needles. All through high school I knitted squares for blankets and then somewhere in the last 16-odd years, I stopped. When I got home from South Africa in September, I decided I needed some more creative pastimes and so I signed up for a knitting class at KnitNottingham. The muscle memory came back easily and I learnt how to purl and knit on the round. I’ve made several hats and am busy with a scarf. I even bought my first pattern. Now I just need to find a stitch and bitch so I can knit socially.

5. Andrés and I celebrated two years together and one year of living together. I took him to South Africa to meet all my family and friends. He survived and he is still around (so we obviously didn’t scare him too much). He also decided he loves it there and would be willing to move to Cape Town, if the opportunity ever occured. It has been a really rough year for us, but we made it through in one piece.

6. My sister and I went holidaying together in Barcelona. I was nervous of going to Spain without Andrés (my personal translator and guide) but we managed and had the best time. It was the first time in a long while we had traveled together, and I am pleased to say that it was just the same, only more grown-up and with slightly more spending money. My sister made the lists and I made the food decisions (including a totally extravagant and awesome food tour). She also provided all the commentary on the art that we saw. It was brilliant and I hope we do it again in 2017.

So that is my list for the year. What is yours?

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Saturday Night and Sunday Morning at Small Food Bakery (Part I)

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For my birthday this year I requested a cooking class. When my family asked what they should purchase, this was the best thing I could think of for a gift – a chance to do something fun and learn some new skills. I had a look around (online) at the very many different options available, but in the end chose the Saturday Night, Sunday Morning class at my local bakery – Small Food. The class lasts over 2 days. You spend Saturday afternoon and evening in the bakery and then return on Sunday morning. During this time, you learn loads about sourdough, fermentation, lamination, flour, yeast and sourdough starters. It was a fantastic way to spend (most of) a weekend. Because we learnt so much (and I took so many photos, most of which I want to share), I’ve written two different posts: this one is all about making bread and Part II is all about laminated dough (croissants and pastries).

Saturday afternoon began with the participants (six of us) sitting down with Kim (the owner) over coffee to talk about the plan for the weekend, and sourdough starters – the starting point for any sourdough baking. Kim had sent instructions for preparing a starter and everyone had a version of one with them. My starter actually comes from Small Food, as I had no luck trying to start my own last year and I have been caring for it for a number of months. As such, the flavour and smell is very developed – it smells very fruity, mostly of apples and has a wonderful cider-y (ferment-y), apple-y taste. Did you know you can taste your starter? I had no idea until this weekend when we shared our starters around the table, tasting and comparing them. Some were young, creamy and yoghurty; others, like mine, were more sour, with fruit notes. There is no ‘right’ taste to a starter, it all depends on the flours you’ve used, the water and the yeasts in the local air.

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Ovens to covet at Small Food Bakery

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Then it was straight into work! We began by making a large sourdough mixture, enough to generate four different loaves (for taking home) and two small(ish) pizza bases that we were to eat on Saturday evening. One of the reasons I love making sourdough is getting my hands into the dough, incorporating the flour, water and starter, squidging the mixture between my fingers, feeling and hearing the dough change shape, watching as it absorbs the water and changes into something malleable and usable.

Once we had our bulk dough made – you basically work the mixture until it forms a shaggy dough and has absorbed all the water – we put them into clear tubs and placed them in a proofer (of sorts) to relax. This is called the autolyse stage and allows the dough to absorb water and also lets the gluten relax. Then we mixed up a 100% rye dough from which we made rye loaves and crisp breads. The rye loaf doesn’t require any kneading. You just mix the dough and scoop it into the tin (scooping being the operative word here as the dough is very wet). Then you proof it very slowly at room temperature before retarding the rise in the fridge overnight.

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All this physical work was broken by much coffee and cake. Sarah is the cake queen at the bakery and she had whipped up banana and macadamia loaf cake with cream cheese icing, orange and poppyseed cookies, and chocolate chip and lemon shortbreads. (She also screenprinted the fabulous aprons we got to use over the weekend and have now taken home.) After our tea break, it was time to prepare dinner and flavour our loaves.

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Once autolyse stage is finished, you add in more water and salt, squidging this into the dough until all the water is absorbed and you can no longer feel the salt. We then rested the dough again before starting to perform the ‘turns’ which add structure to sourdough and ensure it doesn’t just collapse and seep all over the counter when you’re trying to shape it. These turns are completed at half hour intervals, so in-between we had time to think about flavourings for our breads. We all made a Radford Wild and a beetroot sourdough. I then made an olive, chilli and seed bread, and a chocolate, fig and pistachio one. When all the doughs were flavoured and resting once more, we turned our attention to dinner.

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Bubbles forming in the sourdough

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Turning the dough on top of itself

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Flavouring the dough

Dinner was sourdough pizza. Each pizza was formed of 250g of dough weight. Nathan provided instructions on how to thin out the dough into something that resembled pizza and then we were given free range to create pizza toppings. They were all baked in the large ovens before being sliced and shared amongst all of us.

I made a potato pizza with creme fraiche and a butternut, onion, mozzarella and chilli pizza that was super thin and crispy. (Potato pizza looks beautiful once baked as the edges of the potatoes crisp up and brown, making the whole thing look a little like fish scales.) There was green salad and wine (and beer), and lots of conversation about food and drink. It was rather hard to muster the energy to stand up again to do more shaping but the loaves were in need of attention!

After dinner we focused on preparing our sourdough loaves. The flavoured doughs had been proofing whilst we ate and were ready to be turned out, bench rested and then folded to provide structure and strength in the baking process. These are then tipped into sourdough baskets (lined with cornmeal) and left overnight in the fridge.

The next morning, we returned to the bakery to bake off all the bread loaves. Kim illustrated how to score the loaf – this has to be done so the loaf can expand whilst it cooks. If you don’t score it, the loaf will simply expand where it wants. By scoring it, the baker is guiding the expansion in a particular way. Scoring a loaf takes confidence. If you are too hesitant you will damage the structure and affect the aesthetic appearance too.

Once the loaf is scored, it goes into the oven where it bakes until a dark golden brown. The bread bakes directly on the base of the oven which is stone and therefore incredibly hot.

Whilst our sourdough loaves were baking, we made stencils for our rye loaves. Stencils are a fun way to decorate loaf-style breads and everyone got to create their own ‘logo’ of sorts for their rye bread.

The last activity with the rest of the rye dough was to make crispbreads. Kim says she came up with these by accident, after over-fermenting a dough but they remind me a lot of lavash and I suspect are fantastic with hummus. The rye dough is formed into sausage-like logs, using water on your hands and on the work surface (so quite messy to recreate at home). The logs are sliced into 2cm long pieces and these are massaged out onto baking paper until incredibly thin and delicate. You can flavour them pretty much any way you see fit – salt, herbs, seeds and the like. They are baked directly onto the base of the oven until crisps – about 7 minutes.

I had an epic weekend. There is nothing I love more than spending time with other food people, talking about food, eating, making food. Superb birthday present (thanks to Mom and the Princess!)

Small Food Bakery

Primary, 33 Seely Road, Nottingham

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning workshop costs £190. There are places available on the July and September workshops.