Category Archives: food

Bread is Life: Easy Sourdough

I’ve got writers block and I am decidedly flat.

I can feel Spring is in the air and Summer is peeping around the corner. I know that I am very lucky and have great pillows, but it doesn’t stop me feeling flat as a pancake, or as flat as Norfolk or flatter than the Earth during the middle ages.

I created this blog because I had a ‘realisation’ and I needed to share it. I also felt strong enough to share because I was feeling well and on-point. The problem is, that when you’re not feeling so well, you might not feel ready to publish that. When you have depression your mind becomes this elastic creature that can go from normal to sad, or elated to despairing daily, hourly or even less. So it goes without saying, that this blog can’t have ‘fresh and engaging articles each week’ like other blogs. I might be feeling highly creative and articulate in April, but then completely Ryvita-style-dry and uninspired in June.

My guilt for not feeling ‘switched on’ all of the time comes from living in a world in which nobody is supposed to have an off-day, or an off-week or month. We need to be able to give presentations, visit Sainsbury’s, smile in pictures at weddings and be totally on-top-of-your-game at job interviews on any given day. We also need to answer the phone whenever it rings and this, I believe, is unrealistic for anybody.

When I’m feeling like this, I need to go back to basics. Which basically means running around in the woods (naked if possible) and I also need to make BREAD.

Making bread is one of the most natural things you can do (apart from having sex or picking your nose.) It’s been done since the dawn of human life. Well, since whenever they started milling flour. It feels honest and real and in the end you can eat it with a massive slab of cheese. Without wanting to sound Mumsy, which I often accidentally do without being a Mum whatsoever, there’s something very therapeutic about making bread. It’s creative, it’s practical, it’s satisfying, and it’s way fucking easier than pie.

So if you’re feeling uninspired, or a bit sad, I reckon that making this recipe for a big fat sourdough loaf will put a little smile back into your soul. At least if it doesn’t, you have something yummy to eat, and we all love eating.

I took this recipe from BBC Good Food, because it’s my holy grail, but I used spelt instead of rye flour and it was delicious.

You’ll need…

For the starter:

100g strong white bread flour

100g spelt flour

1/2 a 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast

For the main dough:

400g strong white bread flour

1/2 a 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast

1 tbsp salt

Do this…

1.) Put all of the ingredients for the starter plus 250ml of cold water into big bowl, mix it all together and then clingfilm it over and leave for 24 hours at room temperature. Just forget about the whole damn thing for a day, safe in the knowledge that those little yeast granules are gleefully busy fermenting .

2.) After 24 hours you can start making the main dough. Tip your white bread flour, a tbsp salt, the other half of the yeast sachet and 200ml cold water into the bowl with the starter. Mix this together until a loose dough forms. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead for at least five minutes until you have a spongy elastic dough. (I always need to add more flour during kneading because otherwise it sticks to EVERYTHING.) Leave the dough to rise in the bowl at room temperature for at least an hour.

3) Tip the newly risen dough onto a floured surface, and gently shape into a round without knocking too much air out of it. Plop this onto a parchment covered baking sheet and leave to prove for one more hour.

4.) Score the top with a knife, dust with flour and bake it in the oven at 220c for 25 minutes until it is starting to brown and sounds hollow when you tap it.  A little tip, if you’d like a crusty crust, splash a cup of water in the bottom of the hot oven as you put the bread in. This creates a lovely steam, which somehow, creates a lovely crust.

5.) EAT IMMEDIATELY WITH CHEESE.

Annie x

Bloody Vegans!

‘Oh just go and kill yourself!’ That’s what someone said to me after I turned down a mouthful of juicy and delicious looking fried chicken because I am now a ‘Bloody Vegan.’ I would normally have been rather disturbed by this outburst, but it came from a jovial friend and it was very much said in jest.

It did however inspire me to write about my foliage-loving ways, because this was not the first time I had been publicly shamed for eating plants. ‘What do you actually eat then?’ and ‘how do you survive without bacon?’ and ‘YOU’RE A BORING RABBIT’ are some of my favourite utterings from vegan poo pooer’s.

I'm a boring rabbit

 

I must say that the disbelief from many in my veganism probably stems from the fact that I was once a supreme championer of meat. A warrior of ribs, and devourer of chicken. I bloody loved the stuff. I’ve never had a sweet tooth – so pork pies, scotch eggs and chicken & stuffing sandwiches with beef & onion crisps were my poison. I wasn’t sorry, I ploughed through burger after burger, copious helpings of sweet and sour chicken and sticky slow cooked pork. My social life happened with meat, dates were full of meat, i just loved meat. I was a funny, jolly, pork lover. ‘Everyone love’s a good sausage’ was my favourite phrase.

Now though, apart from the occasional relapse with oily fish – I am a complete herbivore. I am no longer the fun-loving eat-anything sausage-roll baker and stewed chicken maker. This remarkable change happened when I snaffled myself away to the highlands of Scotland to meditate with a group of Buddhists. I was fed nothing but vegan food for a whole week, and although I missed the richness of meat for a while, the saltiness of bacon and the smell of a roasting chicken, I got used to it.

The first thing I noticed about switching was the fact that it seemed to clean out my entire gut (discontinue reading here if you are eating.) The sheer number of times I pooed per day doubled, and they were ‘good poo’s.’ Yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Perfectly formed and effortless to evacuate. I shall say no more. My skin cleared up and felt softer, I had more energy, I was never bloated after meals, my stomach was flatter. Over a period of 5 months I lost a stone.

It was a new habit that felt constructive, adding a new layer of self-care for mind and body – let alone the World. Anyone who has watched Cowspiracy knows that the livestock industry is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions – which is more than all the cars, planes, and other gas guzzling vehicles in the world. Not to mention the fact that the food grown to feed livestock could more than adequately feed all of the 1.4 Billion poor and starving people around the world. I didn’t know any of this until after I became vegan – but this knowledge has certainly kept me away from that chicken sarnie.

The second and most remarkable thing I noticed was the adverse reaction from others when I mentioned the word vegan. Instead of a jolly pork-loving Shropshire lass with pink cheeks from meat over-load, I had become (in their eyes) a fussy, anti-social middle class bore. There is nothing like the conversation killing power of the sentence ‘I’ve just made a vegan casserole’ compared to the animated response you might receive by saying ‘I’ve just roasted a whole hog in my garden, would you like some?.’ It seems that pork is funny, lentils aren’t.

Yes I am aware that the current movement around ‘eating clean’ and ‘getting the glow’ spurred on by Deliciously Ella‘s Instagram is a little tiresome, but I am not convinced by the idea that my personality has evaporated in the absence of meat. I am still the same person, I’m just less meaty.

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Refusing that golden fried chicken was no mean-feat. It was hard –  and it took all of my will-power to look away and focus on my curried lentils. So if you’re a carnivore and you have a vegan friend, show them a bit of love – they probably aren’t being snobbish, and they most definitely aren’t being boring. They are just enjoying their new life of good skin, boundless energy and harmony with cows – not to mention the pleasure of a healthy pooing gut. Let them get on with their legume-filled adventure without pressure, and no they most certainly do not want any of your eggy bread and bacon, although I have to admit – it smells delicious!

Annie x