I’ve just been thinking about…salt. One of my most valued kitchen companions (along with BBC 6music) and a mineral humankind cannot do without. Salt, simple, complex, flavour enhancer, taste modifier, food preserver, what would we do without it? Half of the world’s salt comes from the sea, and half from salt mines. My favorite, Cornish Sea Salt – Local, unrefined and delicious.
How about some salty foodie facts then folks?
Dough salt tightens the gluten network making it more elastic.
Green veges – salt in the cooking water will speed softening and minimise the loss of cell content into the water, helping the veg retain vital nutrients and colour.
Potatoes – are different! You want to keep the surface firmness, that’s why we start potatoes off in cold water and omit salt from the water as it encourages early softening of the fragile skins.
Beans – Most cooks agree that adding salt to the cooking water keeps beans hard, however if you pre-soak beans in salted water they cook much faster.
In sauces – Flour and starch used as thickeners in sauces tend to diminish the flavour and aroma, the simple addition of more salt improves both. Magic!
Aubergines – salting before cooking draws out excess water and the bitterness of older aubergines.
That’s all for now, but do email us with any nutritional or geeky food questions and we shall do our very best to answer them. (We love food geekdom!)
On the menu this year for the Totnes Christmas Markets was:
Chocolate and Venison Stew with local venison from Quarry Farm
Beef and Ale Stew, with beef from Sladesdown Farm, Landscove and Ale from Red Rock Brewery
Cider Glazed roast vegetable stew with Puy lentils, with vegetables from Bee Organic, Staverton.
Crown Prince Squash, butterbean and leek stew, with leeks from Bee Organic, Staverton and squash from Riverford Farm.
Chickpea, Cauliflower and Date Tagine, with local cauliflowers
Many thanks to all of our customers this year, we hope you enjoyed the market as much as we did.
Wow, what an excellent festive season it has been, with the Totnes Christmas Markets and many staff Christmas parties catered for. Christmas is one of my most favorite times of year and it’s great to have been getting in the spirit of things both with the business and at home.
Our top Christmas parties this year included catering for the chefs and serving staff at Riverford Field Kitchen, such a pleasure to cater for one of the top restaurants in the South West. They said of us -
“Thank you so much for looking after The Riverford Field Kitchen’s Christmas Party on Sunday. The team really enjoyed the food and the desserts were especially good! We really enjoyed having you in our kitchen, meaning we could all relax and take a well deserved night off.”
We also loved catering for Greenlife’s staff party, with 50 staff members all feasting on our festive menu. Fantastic. Happy Christmas everyone.
Last week we had a surprise visit from a reporter from Al Jazeera news, who came and filmed us preparing for the Totnes Christmas Markets. We talked about our particular business model which is all about supporting other local businesses. Its a way of working that values community strength and resilience above profits and ensures that we all survive in these tough economic times. With Osborne announcing more tax breaks for large corporations, we talk about why it is important to support the smaller businesses – something that our government should be doing.
Watch the video here
I would like to congratulate President Obama on winning his second term in office today. A far better candidate than the opposition. Hopefully he will be able to get his teeth into the issues America faces without too much hindrance from the Republican congressmen. I urge you, among other things, to not start a war with Iran, and to make good your promise to break America’s addiction to oil. Well done, enjoy your victory and I will enjoy my lunch.
I don’t know many folk who would stand up and say they liked battery farming. However some believe that it is the only way to provide for our nations growing meat consumption and population. If our land and traditional methods of farming where animals have some semblance of a natural life is insufficient to feed our love of meat then I believe a fundamental shift in attitude is needed. How can we justify farming methods that allow animals, in the most extreme example, to be in a cage that does not provide enough space to turn around? Factory efficiency and economies of scale are business concepts far removed from natures ebb and flow. I understand that farming is business and needs to make money but building US style mega-farms in order to give us super-cheap meat and dairy is a response to a flawed system. We, the public, must start paying our farmers decent prices for their goods. Supermarkets have forced food prices to be so unrealistically cheap that we now expect these prices and are shocked at the true cost of food. Farmers markets are the playgrounds of the middle classes who think nothing of spending more of their budget on quality food. But for the average income household it takes a larger shift in attitude to get over the growing different between prices in a supermarket, and what it should cost. For example you can buy a loaf of bread in a supermarket for £1 whereas if you are lucky enough to still have a bakery in your town it would cost nearer £2.50, and should cost at least that. There is no point to berating the loss of butchers, fishmongers and bakers if we do not support the existing establishments with our money. One way of supporting smaller farmers with decent animal welfare standards is to eat less meat, but make the meat you do eat count. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recent ravings about vegetable consumption sums it up nicely. Britain can and must eat less meat and more veg. Read his article here http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/26/hugh-fearnley-whittingstall-vegetables We clearly do not support battery farming either, recent EU legislation requires all laying hens must be kept in “enriched” cages with extra space to nest, scratch and roost. A step forwards certainly. Last year plans for a mega-dairy in Nocton Heath, Lincolnshire were overturned after an angry response from opponents who labelled it “the equivalent of battery chicken farms for cows”. Essentially we need to eat less meat and more veg. That way we don’t need to search for more intensive methods of farming. More ways of getting more for less. Animals deserve our respect, as do the farmers who look after them. Hannah
A strange package came through my letterbox last week. A sealed plastic bag containing a splodge of unidentified brown paste. My housemate raised his eyebrows as I sniffed it tentatively. Ah ha, first whiff identified it as the sourdough starter a friend had promised me before Christmas in return for my Rewena recipe (a traditional Maori potato bread I used to make during my time as a baker in New Zealand).
After having lovingly fed it on rye flour and water for the last week I am now ready to do some baking. It has grown from a splodge into a bubbly sponge of activity, most definitively alive and ready to rise some bread without the assistance of added commercial yeast. The joy of sourdough is in the wild yeast collected from the air, different places have different yeasts creating an endless variety of unique flavours. I’m sure you can guess where Lactobacillus sanfraniscensis is from?
I used a blend of rye and wheat flour to make my two loaves which came out well risen and smelling of home-baked goodness. Can’t imagine they will last long…
Why not try making your own sourdough bread? All you need to start it off is equal measures of flour (try rye to begin with, it’s the easiest) and water (blood temperature is best). Feed it every day on 2 tbsps of each and keep it in the kitchen with a breathable cloth over the top (it needs access to the air to collect the wild yeasts). Your sourdough is active when it begins bubbling away. You can then use it. Try this basic recipe and remember not to use all of your starter in your baking. Keep some back and feed it immediately. If you are not going to use it for a week you can keep it in the fridge (it’s called retardation, which slows the yeasts down rather than killing them).
Basic Sourdough Bread, one large loaf
200g active sourdough starter
200ml lukewarm water
25g olive oil (a good splash)
500g flour of your choice
N.B Your starter may be runnier or thicker than mine, so don’t blindly follow the recipe, add the flour slowly until you have a kneadable dough.
- First make a ‘sponge’ by adding the sugar, water and 200g of the flour to your starter. Stir well and leave in a warm place overnight. It should be bubbly and ready to go in the morning.
- Add the salt, oil and the flour and knead into a smooth dough. The more you knead the more you develop the gluten in the flour so keep at it for a good 10 minutes.
- Leave the dough to rise in a bowl covered with a damp cloth. It needs to be in a warm place, and remember that wild yeasts take longer to rise than commercial ones so be prepared for this to take a few hours. Go out, get some coffee drinking in or watch a film….
- Once it has risen, knead again briefly, and pop it into a greased loaf tin. Rise again for an hour or two (not quick is it!)
- Preheat oven to 180c and bake for 40 mins. Check if they are done by tapping its bottom to see if it sounds hollow. Cool on a cooling rack. Eat and enjoy with all the family. Hurrah.
Do comment if you want any more details or advice on sourdough bread making.
If you live in Totnes and are interested in learning to make sourdough bread there is a Transition Town Totnes skillshare on March 4th 2012 at 12.30 – 3pm at 5 Collins Road Totnes. Visit http://www.transitiontowntotnes.org/whatson?mini=events%2F2012-03