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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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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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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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An Olive Branch – a short play

Is it art?

He said:

‘Maybe send him a message saying that while you appreciate the linguistically perceivable intent behind his olive branch, you can’t accept it, due to knowing what he is like… underneath.’

I put forward an alternative:

‘I should simply say, “I shall give that message all the consideration it deserves”. That should do it. God knows ignoring it doesn’t appear to be fucking working.’

 

 

 

 

 

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Five point Five Months

So R is approaching his sixth month. Wow. Six months of being a parent.

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Honestly, it’s been quite easy. We’re blessed with a child who is happy, cuddly, smiley and who doesn’t have any food allergies; a worry of mine while I was pregnant. I’ve heard horror stories of one year olds who learn to propel themselves through projectile pooping before they learn to crawl.

It’s also been hard. Statutory maternity allowance doesn’t cover rent and bills. A started a new job when R was three weeks old which before he passed his driving test had him out of the house for 70 hours a week. I’ve had mastitis five times, an abscess which had to be drained twice, norovirus and flu. How the hell do naps work because frankly R doesn’t know and I’m damned if I can work it out.

Losing my support network with the Blues Bar bollocks was emotional. Facebook keeps popping up with memories from past years and they’re all in there.

In fact, it’s not been as difficult as I had thought. After 12 years of visiting a place almost daily, it can be wonderful to suddenly look around and see that everything outside the place has changed. Harrogate is a beautiful place and is slowly morphing into somewhere with a good independent spirit, not just posh old people and tea shops.

I’m still breastfeeding. R has good chubby legs and a little round belly. It’s a great feeling of pride to look at him and think I did that. He’s starting on food, mostly just licking it and looking shocked but we’ll get there.

I’ve not done everything I meant to. Recording his changes in any way other than photography hasn’t happened – I’m worried any poetry I try to write will just be a poor woman’s Plath knockoff.

I’ve applied for a job on the other side of the world. That’s big. If the Colgans hadn’t been so odious, I don’t think I would have even considered it when the opportunity arose. I’m not one of those people who believes in fate but likewise I do think things happen when they are meant to. To resort to cliché, one door opens when another one closes. Maybe I can wander through this new one with my family, ready to face the next big adventure.

 

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Homelessness in Harrogate

Homelessness in Harrogate is a problem.

The scale of the Conservative austerity agenda means that while the issue grows on a daily basis, there is less and less help for those affected by the issue.

I was homeless. I lived in a damp squalid squat, a bedsit with four people in one room. There was black mould that stretched from the window to the opposite wall. We were all desperately ill that winter. I sofa surfed for years, living out of bin bags. I lived in the homeless hostel which is just by my house now, a grim yet inspiring reminder of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.

Nobody seems to notice that there’s a massive problem with vulnerably housed people in Harrogate, partly from lack of concern and mostly because there are schemes in place to help those affected by the issue, such as the No Second Night Out scheme and the work of people like Corrina Young.

Corrina’s Cafe was set up to help the homeless through getting people to pay what they could afford for a meal and the profits being pumped into helping people. Now, the project has changed its scope, dedicated to solely helping those who need them. A worthy cause. I went hungry. I begged on the street outside ASDA so that I could eat. It’s horrible. A hot meal would have meant the world of difference to 16 year old me.

I received a frantic phone call from one of the workers at the cafe yesterday. There is currently another Tory-inspired scheme going on in Harrogate – getting alcohol off the streets. The homeless eating at Corrina’s cafe have been blamed for the rise of drinking in the area and there is a campaign orchestrated by local Tory councillors who own rental property nearby to get the cafe closed down.

Targeting the vulnerable and kicking them when they are down does seem to be the Tories favourite hobby. Drinking on the streets of Harrogate is a problem, but when cuts have meant that HADA, the drug and alcohol counselling facilities that were on East Parade were shuttered, there isn’t any actual help for people caught up in addiction to stop. There was an article in the Advertiser saying it was saved, but it wasn’t. Like many essential services, it got kicked into the gutter and left to rot by local government.

The move to sweep the issue under the carpet is swift. People seem to be more concerned with saving property prices over people’s lives. It’s another problem that Harrogate doesn’t want to be seen to have.

Corrina’s Cafe is a lifeline for those who haven’t got anything else. When she opened, there was a great feeling in the community that she was here doing something wonderful, and she really is. Unfortunately, the blissful glow of helping those in need soon loses its shine when people realise that there’s more to helping folk than donating a tenner then forgetting about it.

Soon the campaign to get drinkers off the streets will target Corrina and her team’s good work helping those who need it most in Harrogate, under the guise of getting drunks off the streets. Can’t we try and work on the actual root case of the problems instead of hiding from them, sticking our fingers in our ears and singing the new Adele song until we can’t hear people’s cries for help?

Please help to save Corrina’s Cafe.

 

People affected by homelessness and vulnerable housing now or in the past are invited to the Haunt​ creative writing workshops at the Mercer Gallery 11am-1pm, 24th November and 1st December.

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