Jan 2012 Hello is there anyone there? I’ve wanted to begin a blog or preserve diary for some time but have been prompted to start writing by being on an excellent, pilot, course at Norton Radstock College called Women Entrepeneurs in Rural Tourism. It’s like a rehearsal I tell myself for the real thing- I’ll see what it’s like to write and take photographs on a regular basis, to see if I can do it & at some point publish it. I am encouraged to make a start by two wonderful bloggers who inspire me and make me laugh in equal measure- what julia ate & tigress in a pickle.
I spent Christmas & New Year in London with one of my dearest friends. I really needed a break from all the cooking/running around for the Farmers, Artisan and Xmas markets. Jammed out as much as I was, I was still hard wired to bus it over to Borough Market– & wander around, in a blur, looking longingly at all the amazing produce & buying the best ever licorice & hand-made biscuits: plus different types of funghi to make a pasta dish. I’d already bought some delicious truffle salt and olive oil from the Fine Cheese Company in Bath in anticipation of the funghi dish. Also loaded up in the car were my own Sweet Spicy Crab Apple Pickles, Wild Apple & Medlar Fruit Cheese , Xmas Morning Croissant Jam & Damson Liqueur with Somerset Eau de vie. It’s Xmas & more/ more/ more seems to be the default setting. The normal visit to the shops/supermarket/market is now in an altered state- a large packet of smoked salmon, normally not anywhere on the radar is making its way into the basket – that would be a good idea- but would it? And in this reverie of indecision you notice that the person standing next to you is also in the xmas food shall I? shan’t I? fog. The logic of I can’t afford it has melted away replaced with it’s xmas and you are compelled.
Met up with my lovely friend Jane for an Apero Frizzante at Princi, one of my favourite cafes. Like London this Christmas it was full of Italians. Buona Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo. Other highlights were discovering Venison salami at Fortnums & walking, walking , walking around London and seeing the Lygia Pape exhibition at the Serpentine.
Visited Lewes the day before coming back and had a very tasty Shepherds Pie at Bill’s.
Check Borough Market website for Sweet Roots Licorice & Cinnamon Tree Bakery for hand made biscuits.
Post New Year and back at home and having sold all the produce I decide to take a couple of months off from markets in order to trial new ideas and to also see if it’s possible to carry on making things from local and seasonal produce in the winter months: albeit with the safety net of a few kilos of locally picked fruit stored away in the freezer. Is this a gauntlet ? No I don’t think so it’s more a question of starting again from scratch, which is exciting and scary in equal measure. Also am on a bit of a cabbages are kings mission and in this endeavour I’ve been looking, in earnest, at Sandor Ellix Katzs‘ book Wild Fermentation: especially at how to make sauerkraut and kimchi. I start gathering the ingredients for sauerkraut: sweet and crunchy winter King cabbage & for Kimchi: cabbage, carrot, turnips, leeks and horseradish all grown and sold locally at White Row Farm. Turnips sliced very thinly in a mandolin are incredibly delicious- like radish but with a slight hint of onion and maybe even coconut?
The sauerkaut is now in it’s own special fermenting croc and I made Kimchi but not in the conventional Korean way- i.e I didn’t include fermented fish sauce or chinese cabbage but concentrated instead on lots of local winter vegetables with garlic & ginger and I managed to track down some authentic Korean Pepper Powder. I really enjoy cutting the vegetables in different ways- oh the joys of a mandolin! Now it’s been fermenting for a few days I’ll adjust the taste: add more salt-it’s Sel de Guerande-the heat is just right especially since it is freezing here in Somerset. The vegetables are very light, crunchy and smell delicious. The sauerkraut is matureing very well and a sour saltiness is developing nicely.
I’m also attempting to make my own yeast- with Sandor’s help. It’s magic basically and every school child should get the opportunity to witness the yeast coming to life- the tiny bubbles appearing on the surface initially & later becoming almost volcanic! Making the leaven has been prompted partly by the fact that reading about fermentation makes you realise how it is very much within your reach, so you want to give it a try. Also I have developed a serious food crush on Hobbs House sourdough bread –but – this habit requires the equivalent of a second mortgage. Instead I get Richard Bertinet’s book Dough from the library. The book includes a CD with RB demonstrating how to handle dough and transform it from what resembles porridge into a solid dough. I watch the CD several times and most importantly am listening intently to what is being said: it all seems to make sense. Yes, this is possible especially since RB is here in the kitchen with me. Yes it’s going to work. No the reality of it- my laptop on the kitchen counter, CD paused & the ingredients at the right stage to be worked into a dough ready for the oven are more the stuff of bad reality TV. More dough on the Mac and my hands & apron than on the work surface. A lot of swearing & repeating the same stages over & over but with no progress. Sourdough Day. But I am starting at the most challenging end of bread making : K2. Making sour dough and knowng when the leaven is at the right point takes great skill and a lot of practice- I continue. Mainly it doesn’t rise enough but it is really delicious; it’s dark & malty & it keeps & I love it. I also take some to a market and use it to go with samples of jam- one person who is asking lots of questions about the jams suddenly breaks off to say ” is this sourdough?” Yes.