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Baking Sourdough

Baking is pretty fashionable at the minute following the huge success of The Great British Bake Off, so naturally I’ve avoided it like the plague for the past few years. Plus I’m not one for biscuits and cake, apart from the chocolate and cola cake I’ve whipped up for a few birthdays over the years.

But when I found out that sourdough is much better for those with gluten intolerance, I started buying it. Unfortunately my husband Alex is inflicted with the dreaded gluten intolerance (not just because he’s a hipster) and it did seem to be much better for him.

Unlike sliced breads, a good sourdough loaf is robust, chewy and crusty, with just a hint of sourness. It’s perfect for gooey cheese on toast, for eating when still warm from the oven with creamy salted butter and also makes awesome breadcrumbs for the best fish fingers you’ve ever eaten. However, the price is frankly eye-watering, and by the time it has been delivered, it’s gone stale and is only good for toast really. So I set out to make my own. After all, how hard could it be?

Sourdough uses wild yeast as opposed to the shop-bought stuff. Instead of dried yeast, recipes call for ‘sourdough starter’. The technique for making it involves leaving the bread for longer to rise. The extra time allows for the fermentation process which does away with those nasty gluten molecules that cause Alex so many issues.

I’m lucky enough to have got some sourdough starter from the lovely people at Farm Bistro in Harrogate. This excellent family-run restaurant makes their own sourdough bread. My friend Trev raves about it, buying his bread exclusively from them (because he is a hipster). Vanora, one of the owners, kindly donated a jar of her starter, giving me instructions to feed it overnight and bake in the morning.

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Feeding a starter involves giving it a tasty treat of 50/50 water and flour. I fed the mixture to my jar of beige goop, left it in the pantry on top of the fridge and went to bed. In the morning, I was met by a lovely, bubbly, boozy-smelling starter – all ready to go.

My first attempt at baking was a straightforward white loaf. I checked out a range of recipes online, all which offer a variety of different ways of making sourdough, and bodged them all together to make my bread. They all had a variety of techniques in common so I kept those and ignored others. What can I say, I’m adventurous.

The first thing that all the recipes had in common was a first rising stage called the autolyse. This stage helps the dough to become a little more elastic and stretchy, making it much easier to work with.

There are lots of kneading and no-knead recipes to choose from and many of the simple ones are no knead. However, I quite like the bouncy feel of kneading bread, so I decided that I’d knead mine.

Sourdough bread can be left to rise either in the fridge or out of it, anywhere from four hours to overnight. I made my bread in the evening and left it on top of the fridge as that is one of the warmest spots in my usually ice cold kitchen.

 

Simple Sourdough Loaf

Ingredients

500g strong white flour

300g water

100g sourdough starter

Pinch of salt

Butter for greasing the tin

 

Equipment

Mixing bowl

Loaf tin

 

 Directions

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl

Leave to rise for an hour

Turn out and knead for 10 – 15 minutes on floured surface

Place in greased loaf tin

Leave overnight to rise

In the morning, preheat oven to 220

Bake for an hour

Leave bread to cool on baking rack

 

The Results

My first loaf had an excellent crumb, which is the white part of the bread. Not too dry, not too wet, and also not too full of holes which I sometimes find with some of the shop-bought sourdough. The crust was crusty and not chewy, although a little tough after a day. The dough had risen a little too much over night, giving it a strange mushroom shape, but this didn’t impact the taste. However, because I had left it to rise for such a long time, it did have a very sour flavour which I managed to offset with copious amounts of Nutella.

Having done a little more research, I wouldn’t leave my loaf to rise for as long again, unless I was pairing it with a sweet cheese like Norwegian brown cheese, brunost. I’m also going to consider adding a little steam to the oven to help keep the crust a little softer.

I’m definitely excited to try more loaves, maybe experimenting with flavours like parmesan and olive, or cinnamon and raisin to make up for the fact that Alex can’t eat the bagels that I mostly live on.

Until next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Poetry

Brexit

Come friendly bombs and fall on England!
It isn’t like we had an inkling,
The island may as well be sinking.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
These lands that are ruled by kings and queens,
Owner of islands that should be Argentines,
Tinned smile, shit suit, blonde hair, no jeans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath.

Mess up the mess they call a country,
It’s the only option, bluntly.
Led to Brexit by a bunch of numpties,
And people’s fears

And get that man with pint in hand
Who’ll always cheat and say it’ll be grand,
Who wants the foreign to be banned
Hides behind beers:

And smash his xenophobic lies
And smash his man-of-the people guise
And stop his dirty Brexit prize
And make him yell.

But spare the workers and the young
The side which really should have won;
It’s not their fault that they are stung,
They’ve tasted Hell.

It’s not their fault they do not know
They were not taught in school, you know,
It’s not their fault, it was that Gove
That spoiled it all.

They talk of Greens and theirs and ours
In various bogus-Vintage bars
And daren’t look up and see the stars
But belch instead.

In rented poxy homes, with care
In a flat that three now share,
They can’t really afford it there.
Minor details.

Come, friendly bombs and fall on Britain
This ain’t going to be fixed with just a sit in.
The racists are coming now;
Because Remain failed.

 

(for Slough, by John Betjeman)

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Uncategorized

Migration: Time to tear up Leave’s last card

Flip Chart Fairy Tales

Nigel Farage told the TV debate audience on Tuesday that, under his proposed immigration points system, more black people would be allowed into Britain. The following morning, when grilled by Piers Morgan, he said:

What I would like is us to return to post-war normality. For about 60 years, we had net migration into Britain between 30,000 and 50,000 people a year.

Now there could be a bit of a problem with this. It depends on how you define black but I’m guessing most of the people from sub-Saharan Africa would fall into that category. Last year, net migration from that region was 21,000. Allow for people coming from the Carribean and you’d already be around half way to Nigel’s target. If he’s said that more black people are going to come in, that doesn’t leave much room for anyone else.

Meanwhile Priti Patel has been promising Asian voters that, after…

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Confessions of a former liberal feminist

youngradicalfeminists

Anonymous 

I don’t know when it hit me that sex positivity was hurting me. I’d had tiny glimmers of a revelation: feeling disillusioned as my friends cheering me on while I drunkenly stumbled home with a man I didn’t know. I remember telling myself I was empowered when, at 2 AM, I was in the house of an unemployed 35 year old man I met off Tinder. I didn’t have any money for a taxi back. I’d not met him before. I felt too drunk. The next morning, I scurried back to student accommodation, where my friends high-rived me for being so rebellious and spontaneous. I remember questioning that sex may not be good for me right now, that I wasn’t having it for the right reasons. My friends reassured me that the patriarchy shamed women who were promiscuous, and I had to counter this by continuing not to care…

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What are right-wing people? – a guide for under 10-year-olds

Pride's Purge

RIGHT-WING PEOPLE

toby young cartoon

This is Toby. Toby thinks he is great. Toby likes to tell other people how they can be great too. Toby is what we call a ‘right-wing’ person.

But what are ‘right-wing’ people?

Right-wing people are people who think they are great. Right-wing people think everyone can be great too if only other people were a bit more like them. Right-wing people think they know how to do things better than other people.

Some right-wing people even think they know better than experts. If you have a tummy ache, normal people go to a doctor. Normal people listen to the doctor and do what they tell them to do.

But right-wing people don’t like to listen to doctors. Right-wing people think they know better than doctors.

jeremy cartoonThis is Jeremy. Jeremy thinks he knows better than doctors.

Right-wing people also think they know better than firemen how to put out fires. And they think…

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family

Recipe Boxes – great idea or overpriced ridiculousness?

I love cooking. One of the hardest parts of being a parent has been the lack of time to cook. I can’t babywrangle, prep veg, and do everything else all at th e same time.

Now R is weaning, I can plonk him in the highchair and let him paint his face in rainbow goop using a broccoli brush while I actually make good food.

I heard about Hello Fresh from one of my friends who sent me a £20 off voucher for the first box. Being the tight Yorkshire woman that I am, I thought I’d give it a go, certainly at least once!

The box arrived, helpfully delivered within a window of one hour which you are informed of in the morning, allowing the day to be planned accordingly.

The meals were; Moroccan steak with lemon couscous; paprika pork, butter bean stew with new potatoes; and Jamie Oliver’s chicken noodle stir fry.

The produce was fantastic quality. The beef flank in particular was amazing. I found the portions overly generous, baring the single chicken breast between two people,  but I am a meat fiend so that’s to be expected.

Next up I tried the Gousto recipe box. The meals were harissa chorizo with white bean mash, Asian dipping fish nuggets with rice and sugar snap peas, and lemon pepper chicken.

Once again, these meals were excellent. A managed to cook one evening following the recipe so that I could work and was very pleased to have three pans on the go at once!

The cost was higher than if you put the meals together yourself coming in at £39 from Hello Fresh and £34.99 Gousto for three meals for two people. However, if the quality is consistent I can see why people would pay that!

The box was well received by R.

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If you’re short of time and ideas, or if you can’t cook, recipe boxes from these companies are great. For me, the convenience of the box does not make up for the price. I can feed my family for much less.

It was nice to have dinner cooked by my husband without worrying about it being burnt! He’s terrible at potatoes. Once he boiled whole jacket spuds for mash and didn’t understand why they wouldn’t cook through… A's Dinner

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family

On Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day has always been a difficult one for me. While the person that gave birth to me is alive, we no longer speak. She’s toxic, personality-disordered and in no way a healthy person to have in my life.

It can be hard though as the festival of mums approaches. The shops fill with reminders, emails are sent from online stores, and Facebook fills with outpoured sentiments all proclaiming that THEIRS is the best mum of all.

All that cultural conditioning meant that it took me a long time to cut my mother out of my life. My Nanna always convinced me that I should talk to her and it was only after she passed away I learnt that this was because it got my mother off her back; constant phone calls crying about how no-one loved her and how awful her daughters were.

It wasn’t just peer pressure though. There’s an idea of what a mum is and no matter how much my mother failed to live up to this, there was still a part of me that thought that perhaps she could. One day. If only I could be the daughter that she wanted me to be. Someone that neither of us could figure out what they were like. Her; with slaps, kicks, put downs and bizarre archaic punishments; me with self harm and quiet desperation.

I woke up this morning and still felt sad. I thought it’d be wonderful – no more reason to feel bad on Mother’s Day but honestly I’m still heartbroken and having my son makes me wonder how could she have done that?

Anyway, I’ve had a lie in. It’s 9.35am and R is down for his nap with me. I’m so happy that we had him and maybe this is the day of the year that cements my commitment to gentle parenting and not ending up like my mother.

 

I’m lucky to have met a fantastic bunch of mamas since I had R. They’re all inspiring me to do my best, to be loving, nurturing, and responsive to my baby’s needs now and in the future. Thanks to them, my husband and my wonderful son, doubts that I had about having children, about not being able to cope and resorting to reverting to the parenting example I had have been erased. I think our family is going to be alright..

 

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Six Glorious Months

Being a mama with no mum and dad is a bloody challenge. Not that my parents are dead, just that they aren’t parents. They’re sad, broken people that I have had to remove from my life. Well, my dad removed himself when I was one, but upon meeting up with him a few times when I was 19, I chose to cut off permanently myself. Let’s just say he’s a traffic warden and leave it at that, shall we? The mother situation will be discussed another time.

Without parents, becoming a parent is really hard. A(HusbandFace) was working and commuting for almost 70 hours a week and that meant that I was babywrangling solo most of the time. Plus writing. Argh.

It’s come on since then though. I realised it’s okay to ask for help with R. Getting to the point where I allowed myself to ask for help for me took over 20 years so if it’s only taken six months to ask for a helping hand with baby then I’m doing okay.

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We’re also rocking six months of breastfeeding, after mastitis five times, multiple blocked ducts, dealing with arseholes and an abscess. I’m feeling pretty damn proud.

Bring on the next part!

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Kindness

Kindness is the concept of the moment for me – one that I have been thinking a lot about. The phrase ‘being kind’ makes me think of pet owners or people who look upon children with a beatific smile. It’s not something that I particularly come across.

Kindness is a quality that is missing from my life. I’m too busy, as I think many of us are, to take the time to be kinder or to pay attention to kindness around us. I’m nice to people, helpful even, but not kind. I’m too bolshy and forthright, perhaps, to see any of my actions as kind. There’s a selflessness to ‘kind’ which I can’t achieve. I’m too snarky. Too quick to judge.

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Maybe I’m overthinking it. What is kind anyway? The dictionary says:

Having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature:

she was a good, kind woman

he was very kind to me

That seems easy enough. I just feel that there’s always a motive when I’m nice. I donate my time to Guides because I’m passionate about sharing feminism, not because I’m being nice. I help my friends because I have had enough therapy to know a few tips and tools and I enjoy sharing my knowledge.

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Is there always a motive behind kindness? Maybe the issue is my choice in language. ‘Motive’ is seedy, an unspoken greedy concept denoting nefarious subtext. ‘Motivation’ is, perhaps, better.

There’s no such thing as a selfless act. Everyone does good deeds because it makes them feel good. That doesn’t change the positivity the good deed does. In fact, it doubles it!

I know some kind people. I’m so thankful for them. Whether it’s helping me by bringing a branch round for our Christmas decorations or taking the baby while I write, my life is made simpler and more joyful by the acts of kindness that others have shown me. How can I do that for others? And is seeking to make others feel good so that I can feel good still an act of kindness?

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Having a baby and being responsible for another person, both to him and also a responsibility to be a good person for my husband; to not be a shit when I am tired due to night feeds, or sore from mastitis, or irate from baby crying has made me think about love and kindness. There’s not enough kindness in the world. My family of origin aren’t kind to each other. I’m sarcastic and take the piss out of my friends that I love. How often do I counterbalance this with good deeds or kind words? Maybe not often enough.

I’m determined to make sure that R grows up to be kind. To do this, I need to actively practise kindness myself.

Being kind isn’t just external. It’s easy to be unkind to yourself, to push yourself too hard or to berate yourself when things aren’t going well. I’ve struggled with doing too much of late and have been unkind to myself when I haven’t managed to do it all. Thankfully, I am working to improve this, to ask for help when I need it and not feel like that’s a bad thing.

I have also tried to be kinder to those around me. It’s a feedback loop, where the more I do for others, the less I feel bad about myself.

Kindness is important. Kindness is love in action. Through being kind, we share love with the world without asking for anything physical in response.

This post is to remind myself that in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, I’m determined to be kinder to everyone.

 

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