Sourdough Starter

Quite a few people have been asking me about Däve recently. This household pet that brings so much joy to my life isn’t a cat or a dog, it’s actually a natural yeast culture, cultivated right here in the Cotswolds. I made him by exposing an organic flour and water mix to the elements to collect the wild yeast spores that blow around on the wind. It really is as simple as that. The crossing of fingers helps a little too, but these dormant spores are even present in the flour itself.

Starters or leavens like this are beautiful things, as they’re unique to their surroundings in terms of their taste and behaviour. They’re also alive, and as such require a degree of husbandry. My sourdough bread is merely a combination of Däve, flour, salt and water. The most vital ingredient in good bread is without doubt, time. All bread used to be made with wild yeast, but mass produced commercial yeast is faster and much easier to store and control.

Now, I skip over the fact that our starter is called ‘Däve’, as I’m quite used to it now, but I must stress that it wasn’t my choice of name. Much akin to Boaty McBoatface and Brexit, be careful when asking children to make important decisions.

Fancy making your own starter? Just follow these basic instructions.

Ingredients:

  • organic flour of your choice (spelt, white, wholemeal, rye)
  • water

Method:

  1. Thoroughly mix together 50g of flour with 50ml of water in a bowl and cover it with a cloth or a shower cap. Leave it at room temperature for about 24 hours. (covering it will prevent a dry crust forming).making a sourdough starter
  2. Feed your starter with another 50g of flour and 50ml water, whisk thoroughly to incorporate plenty of air, cover and leave for another 24 hours.
  3. By this point you should see small air bubbles forming and notice an odour developing. Don’t be alarmed by what it smells like – it will change dramatically as your starter culture matures. fermentation in action
  4. Tip half of your starter away and feed it with another 50g flour and 50ml water, mixing well. Cover and leave for another 24 hours.
  5. Transfer your starter to a large glass jar or Tupperware pot. As your starter becomes more active it will froth up and expand, so make sure your receptacle isn’t too small… otherwise you may find yourself in this position: dave the sourdough starter
  6. Feed your starter each day for a week, discarding half before whisking in another 50g flour and 50ml water.
  7. At this point you’re good to go.
  8. If you’re baking frequently, you’ll want to keep up this daily routine of tipping half away (or using it to make bread, pancakes, whatever) and then feeding your pet with a 50g/50ml flour and water mix, however you might want to pop it in the fridge (with the lid tightly secured) as this will slow the fermentation process down so that you only have to feed it once every week or so. You’ll save plenty of flour this way, but you’ll need a couple of days of feeding at room temperature to get it back up to speed. This is all about yeast farming, and to make really good bread you’ll want your culture to be really active and lively.

Dave is born

Remember that keeping your starter small (in volume) means that it’ll be easy to manage; the bigger the volume, the more flour it will need at feeding time.

I’ll write a further post covering my favourite bread recipe (at the moment), but please do make good use of your sourdough starter instead of dried yeast in whatever bready adventures you embark on.

Check out: https://foodfitforfelix.com/2018/12/18/sourdough-2-0

Prithvi

Indian food, but not as we know it. The unassuming and understated entrance to Prithvi leads you into a welcoming and convivial environment inhabited by swans of the hospitality industry. Unexpectedly small, but perfectly maximised like an Ikea showroom space, my first impressions leave me feeling relaxed and excited at the prospect of what’s to come.

prithvi

My wife and I are at Prithvi for the first time thanks to a kind invitation to sample their new Autumn menu at a VIP lunch. How cool is that.

I’m very quickly appreciating why this Cheltenham restaurant is listed as No.1 on TripAdvisor, regularly referenced by my friends and colleagues as their go-to venue for a special occasion, and the source of eternal consternation as it’s so hard to make a reservation within the same decade.

Jay is the main man – move over Fred of First Dates fame. What a wonderfully professional and thoughtful host. Service at its absolute best; I was tempted to get up from the table just to see how quickly one of the lovely staff would appear to refold my napkin. There’s a point at which this becomes OTT, but in the finest of establishments as I would regard this one, you don’t even notice their presence until you need them.

So let’s talk about the most important factor – the food.

This is like no Indian restaurant I’ve ever had the pleasure of dining at; they’re taking Indian cuisine to a new level. Exquisite, refined and elegant. I’m so pleased to see the team adapting their menu to the season and making the most of the wonderful ingredients in abundance at this time of year.

We started with an amuse-bouche of crispy curly kale on a rice cracker with mango – so simple, yet so perfectly balanced and delicious.

kale cracker and mangoNext was a panipuri to die for, devoured in one mouthful to avoid the tamarind reduction decorating my shirt. Heaven.

gorgeous panipuri at Prithvi

Next to the big guns. Tandoor baked salmon with beetroot, cucumber and mango. Taking my time and sampling just a sliver of beetroot with micro-herbs as my introduction to this plate took me to somewhere very special. The thoughtfully selected 2015 Charles Sparr Gewurztraminer from Alsace was an inspired choice that balanced the spice like only a semi-sweet white wine can, it’s viscosity culminating in smiles blossoming around the dining room. The fine, fine details that elevate their dishes is what puts them on the map.

tandoor salmon

Welsh lamb, couscous and legumes paired with a delightful glass of Carménère and then the hearty and seasonal venison with butternut squash, ginger and cinnamon reduction. Oh take me back already.

I’m not a dessert kind of customer; give me a tray of starters or a cheese board any day. However.. The plate of sunshine that arrived with the precision delivery we were becoming happily accustomed to, rapidly vanished, much to even my surprise. Passion fruit cream, mango gel, coriander and honey crumble.

Passion Fruit Cream, mango gel, coriander & honey crumble

Honestly, what is this place? I’m starting to question myself and I’m not quite sure of anything anymore. One thing’s clear, I’m smitten. I’m happy, satisfied and remarkably comfortable (unlike as I’m sure you’ll agree, every visit to a regular Indian restaurant).  I headed down the road happy as a proverbial pig in shit. The plates were relatively small, yet they cleverly combined into a neatly balanced meal that left me undeniably content, rather than a bulging and belching all the way home.

I can’t stop thinking about what Jay and his excellent team could accomplish in a slightly larger purpose-built space. I sincerely pray that Prithvi maintains its trajectory as I desperately scrimp and save for our next visit.

For more information, check out bit.ly/lunchwithprithvi

 

Rosehip Syrup

October has brought a distinctive change in the weather, and with it, an influx of sniffles, coughs and colds. We flick the switch on the central heating and the onslaught from the invisible invaders begins; are our immune systems caught off-guard in the ambush?

Our go-to remedy is hot Elderberry Cordial, but I’m not entirely sure what happened to the elderberries this year – whether it was a short season, a poor crop, an influx of birds (or foragers) or just my poor timing, I missed out and had little opportunity to bottle up any of their medicinal goodness.

So here’s another of nature’s hedgerow miracles, the humble rosehip.

wild rose bush

Packed with an insane amount of vitamin C, the little red fruits of the rose family have been used by man for centuries. Commonly used to make tea, I personally recall the bright red hips from my days at primary school in Cheshire, where little hands reached through the fence to harvest them as a remarkably potent source of ‘itching powder’. Every hip is packed full of seeds, each covered in tiny irritant hairs that you really want to avoid. Kids can be pretty cruel to each other at times.

Take care when foraging rosehips as it’s all too easy to shred your hands on the thorny bushes – wear gloves or snip the hips off with secateurs.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg Rosehips, washed
  • 1 ltr Water
  • 500g Granulated sugar

You’ll also need muslin cloth for straining and sterilised jars or bottles for storing.

Method:

I like to trim the hips but it’s not essential.

  1. Roughly chop the rosehips in a food processor and pop them in a large pan with the water.
  2. Bring it to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  3. Strain the hips and their pesky hairs through a double layer of muslin cloth, squeezing out as much liquid as you can.
  4. Strain the liquid again through a couple of layers of muslin cloth into a clean pan and add the sugar.
  5. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and bring the mix back to the boil for 3-4 minutes.

It’s advisable to bottle the syrup in small quantities as it will need refrigerating once opened.

homemade rosehip syrup

Pasta for Italian Day

What a great day. I’d forgotten just how much fun it is to make fresh pasta; very satisfying. I’d also forgotten how much hard work is required to knead the dough, especially when you have an audience of 8-year-old schoolchildren. This is the 10 minutes or so between the lovely eggs nestling in a flour well on your work-surface, and that perfectly formed, smooth ball of elastic dough (which is routinely skipped over in every TV cookery show you’ve ever seen).

Nonetheless, it’s a joyous and virtuous task with a far more delicious outcome than a trip to the gym.

Year 4 from St James C of E primary school did a Stirling job helping me roll and shape said pasta into lasagna, tagliatelle, angel hair (capellini) and farfalle. They learnt about the origins of pasta, its ingredients, geometry, gluten, composition and chemistry, the extrusion manufacturing process, not to eat raw pasta… etc. 

Italian day was a blast and has got me thinking about classes for parents too. 

Eggs and flour

The basic principle of making egg pasta is as follows – go on, dig that pasta machine out of the depths of your kitchen cupboard and get the kids involved.

Ingredients:

  • 400g Tipo ’00’ (super fine) flour
  • 4 Eggs

Method:

Beat your eggs and gradually mix in the flour. You can do this on a clean work surface by making a well in your mound of flour (like a volcano as the children cleverly observed) and cracking your eggs into it, or just bung it all in a food processor and pulse it a few times.

As it all starts to come together, give it a good knead as if you were making a loaf of bread. You’ll be surprised how what appears to be a particularly anhydrous mixture will turn into a beautiful smooth dough with a bit of elbow grease.

You’ll know when it’s ready as it’ll become smooth and silky to the touch.

At this point it needs to rest; wrap it tightly in cling film so the air can’t get to it and pop it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready, you can start to cut it, roll it out (using a rolling pin or a pasta machine) and form it into a plethora of shapes.

measuring pasta

If you’re cooking it fresh it will only take a minute or two in a pot of rapidly boiling salted water (traditionally as salty as the Mediterranean sea), or alternatively, you can dry and store it.

Have fun!

 

pasta machine

pasta shapes

Teach A Man To Fish..

As the adage of much disputed origin states, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

That’s exactly what’s going on with Jamie Oliver’s latest venture. He’s teamed up with Hotpoint to not only provide free cookery lessons for children and adults around the country, but teach locals in 6 cities how to become cookery teachers in their own communities. How awesome is that!?!

The Hotpoint Teaching Kitchen started out in London, travelled to Bristol, and is about to transform back into a truck – very robots in disguise – and journey up to Middlesbrough for a couple of weeks before taking in Sunderland, Widnes and a mystery location…

It’s a remarkable piece of engineering and boasts 7 fully-stocked cooking stations and everything that the team needs to get the public, young or old, boshing out amazing dishes. Yes, I have to admit that it puts my humble kitchen to shame.

The crack team from the Ministry of Food are truly some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet; Jimmy, Maria, Mandie and Trish are not only welcoming and engaging, but my word do they know their stuff!

jamie oliver food foundation team

I had the pleasure of catching up with them outside the Ashton Gate Stadium as they put a group of trainees through their paces and helped them to develop their skills – not only to cook Jamie’s recipes, but to lead a classroom, appreciate nutritional information and healthy eating, follow food safety guidelines, field questions and queries, and evolve dishes based on seasonality, availability and personal preferences. I’m so impressed.

demonstration

The depth and detail provides so much more than you can get from a watching an equivalent TV show. The most significant lesson to be learnt is around balance – mindfully balancing food groups, your plate and your diet. Giving students the ‘why’ alongside the base skills helps to embed behavioural change and promote a positive attitude towards food and cooking in general. We’ve come a long way in the last couple of decades, but we’ve still got a long way to go. This shiny cookery school is really making a difference in the community, and the simple fact that it’s on wheels enables the Food Foundation to get out there and disseminate the life skills needed to help people live happier, healthier lives.

nutrition class

Please do check out their journey and show them the support they deserve on social media or in person! https://www.jamiesministryoffood.org/hotpoint-teaching-kitchen/

Hotpoint Teaching Truck

 

p.s. thanks for the delicious Teriyaki Salmon breakfast ;o)

teriyaki salmon