Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sourdough 101 - Day 1

I've been keeping a sourdough starter for a few years now. It's quite fun - like a little bacteria baby (but the good kind!) that makes delicious bread. I am not as adventurous as some with my starter - those who make crumpets, pancakes, muffins and pretty much everything flour-based with their starters impress me to no end! I am just your standard, one loaf per week gal. So, this is definitely sourdough for beginners! If you want screeds of information and fangdangled recipes, google it, and you will no doubt find plenty to keep you busy!

I made a new starter when I moved into my new house, partly because my old one died, but partly because I like the idea of having house-specific yeasts for my bread making. Yes, I am a little weird like that! I loosely used the process from River Cottage to make my starter. It is quite a lengthy process - give yourself at least a week before you actually get to make a loaf - but I am going to try and break it down day-by-day for you.

To make a starter you will need:
  • a big, ceramic bowl (not stainless steel or plastic)
  • at least 1kg of good quality flour - I use organic wholemeal, but I've heard rye is the best
  • an organic grape (optional, but helps the yeast get going)
  • a warm place

Here's what you do:
  • measure 100 grams of flour and mix well with warm water to the consistency of a thickish batter
  • once mixed, drop a single organic grape in the middle of the mixture
  • cover with gladwrap and leave in a warm, draft-free place (hot water cupboards are ideal)
  • wait

Your mixture should look something like this

Starters take all different amounts of time to get going - mine took a good day or so, but some can be bubbling away within a matter of hours. I would do the above process at night and then check it in the morning to see if it needs a feed.

Tomorrow we will discuss feeding our starter to get it really going!

Please note: it will take about 7-10 days before you are ready to start making bread.

Part two here.
Part three here.
Part four here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

From My Kitchen - Sunday 25th March

Due to sickness and other events such as friends visiting etc, last week was a right off meal planning wise! However, I am back this week with a fridge full of delicious veges and a plan. A bit late maybe, but you know, life happens! I've got a yummy salad recipe this week, to help make a dent in that cabbage we all have lurking in the back of the fridge; and the first part of making your very own sourdough starter; so stay tuned!

Sunday - slow-cooked Asian style pork shoulder with jewel salad and roast potatoes, with quince crumble for dessert!
Monday - leftover pork made into rice paper spring rolls with carrot, capsicum, zucchini, coriander and soy chilli dipping sauce
Tuesday - last cooking class of the term, this week it's lamb vindaloo with Bombay potatoes
Wednesday - feta, spinach and roast pumpkin cannelloni with green beans
Thursday - homemade pasta with roasted tomato sauce

To Do
- make sourdough
- make muesli

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Crosswords and juice = my day
I'm not feeling so grand today, I have grown myself a fairly impressive head cold. Not surprising really, considering most of my day is spent getting sneezed on and holding the hands of little people who think it is a good idea to suck their own fingers before touching mine... mmm yum. I always prefer to take a day off work early on in the sickness, than end up being bedridden for a week. I am in that 'not sick enough to spend all day in bed, but shouldn't be around people' phase, so instead of work, today I will read my book in the sun, drink juice and channel health.

Today I have consumed a large vat of juice (carrot, apple, ginger, lemon and orange) and have taken a clove of raw garlic like a pill, to help increase my immunity. I'm carrying around a tissue with Olbas oil drops on it, tucked into my top; and am smearing my poor chapped lips and nose with Trilogy's Everything Balm (my favourite beauty product ever!). I also started back on my vitamin D supplement, which I take through Autumn and Winter, to strengthen my immune system. It usually works a treat, and I hardly ever get sick.

Here is an article I read today about the top 10 immunity-boosting superfoods. Try and add a few of these into your diet, to avoid yuck bugs this winter...

And, a repost from 2010, of my go-to recipe for chicken soup:


I've been feeling like I'm coming down with something these last few days, and I'm not happy about it. I've been on holiday from university for a few weeks now and it just so happens that the week I start back for the most intense stretch of my entire degree, my body decides to get sick. Not impressed body, not impressed.

At the slightest hint of a cold or flu, Paddy and I have a few things we like to do to try and knock back the bugs before they get started. Despite a number of interesting medical ailments, I try my best to avoid going to the doctor as I find they are much too quick to prescribe antibiotics. I much prefer to make my own home remedies.

Lemon Honey Ginger Drink
I used to make my lemon homey drinks by pouring hot water over lemon juice and honey and calling it a day. But, when an old work colleague enlightened me to the glory of juicing the lemon and ginger through the juicer, and then adding honey and hot water, my immune system was never the same again.
For this drink, I juice a whole lemon, with just the skin removed (leave as much of the pith as possible) and a good 2 or 3 cm of ginger through the juicer. To this liquid gold I add a generous helping of manuka honey, hot water, and stir to combine. This tart beauty will definitely make your taste buds tingle, but really does the trick for soothing sore throats and getting lots of vitamin C into your system. It's nice cold too if you are that way inclined. I drink as many of these a day as my bladder can handle.

Healing Broth
A cheesy name, but a definite winner. This recipe is adapted from James Wong's 'Grow Your Own Drugs' herbal medicine book and TV show.

We have been using it for a few years now and it never fails to make us feel better. It would also be easy to make vegetarian, by changing the stock to vegetable, and swapping out the chicken for some lentils or legumes. 

Healing Broth

2 litres homemade chicken stock
1 chicken breast, sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
Mushrooms- as many as you like!
3cm fresh ginger, skin removed, thinly sliced
10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 Tbsp goji berries, soaked in hot water
1/2 packet dried soba noodles
Extra garlic and ginger to serve

Place stock, chicken, onions, mushroom, ginger, garlic and chilli in a large pot. Simmer on low for at least an hour. Add drained goji berries and noodle and continue to cook until noodles are al dente. To serve, finely chop 1cm ginger and 2 garlic cloves per bowl, and ladle hot soup over. Garnish with parsley and enjoy! Best served with homemade sourdough, of course.

This makes a huge amount, that feeds Paddy and I for at least two days; by which time, we are feeling better!

Other ideas:
I have been using Vicks to clear chest congestion since I was a child, but with my new awareness of the potential risks of petroleum-based products, I am keen to change to a more natural alternative. ecoMILF has a wonderful recipe for homemade vapour rub using almond oil and peppermint or eucalyptus oil. This sounds like just the ticket to me, so I am keen to give it a go.

With these plans in place, as well as lots of extra water and sleep, any colds we have are generally gone within a few days.

Friday, March 16, 2012

This Week

I'm reading:

  • Many, many academic articles on emergent literacy and teen parents
  • - a rad kiwi taking on New York. Boy does this girl have style!
I'm watching:

I'm making:
  • yet another batch of wholemeal sourdough with many seeds, trying to re-create a loaf from my local Farmer's Market
I'm excited about:
  • impending school holidays... phew!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Saving the Harvest: Roasted Tomato Sauce

It's Autumn in my little corner of the world, which means produce is at it's most abundant and it's time to start storing things away for the winter. I have preserved excess tomatoes and fruit for the past few years and it is always such a treat to open a jar of fresh-tasting tomato sauce or juicy peaches in the middle of winter. After weeks and weeks of pumpkin, apples and greens, a taste of summer can be a welcomed change. I am going to do a little series called 'Saving the Harvest', on some of the ways I like to put away excess for the winter.

I was lucky enough to be given a few kilos of organic Roma tomatoes, and as time was short, this batch was turned quickly into three pottles of roasted tomato sauce for the freezer. This sauce is great on pasta, as a casserole base, as a baked bean sauce or as a starter for a multitude of different soups. It's a little more flavoursome than a standard passata, but neutral enough to lend itself to a variety of different meals. This is a very loose recipe, that can be adjusted to suit the quantity of tomatoes you have on hand.

Roasted Tomato Sauce
Ripe, red tomatoes
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Herbs, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper

De-stem the tomatoes and roughly chop in quarters. Place in a baking dish or roasting pan and cover with a good slug of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season generously with salt and pepper and a handful of herbs of your choice (I used basil, thyme and rosemary for my latest batch) and toss to combine. Roast in a 180 degree oven for 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally. Once cool, push through a sieve or mouli to remove skin, pour into pottles in serving-sized  portions and freeze. If sieving, the paste left over is also great as a rich flavour explosion to add to pizza bases, casseroles or soups. I freeze this in ice cube trays for easy access to the right amount!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Homemade Muesli

I am keen to keep our grocery bill down, and would always prefer to spend my hard-earned money on local, organic food rather than processed rubbish that has travelled across oceans to get to me. Keeping the food bill down is becoming achievable thanks to a few handy hints:
1. Reducing the amount of meat we eat, and when you do eat it, focus on quality over quantity. We eat good quality, local and usually organic meat once a week and really enjoy it.
2. Make our own cleaners!
3. Not buying prepackaged snacks/treats/junk food. You will not find a single packaged biscuit, packet of chips or whatever else is popular these days in my pantry. My wallet and waistline really appreciates it.
4. Making whatever we can ourselves. Everything from stock to bread to muesli to cleaners. If I can do it myself, I will.

I was shocked recently to find a packet of relatively 'nice' looking muesli is over $6.00 to buy at my supermarket. Checking out the ingredients list, I wasn't too impressed about what I found in it either. Many of the ingredients I didn't recognise or couldn't see a purpose for. I much prefer my own, homemade version for taste, price and piece of mind.

Homemade Toasted Muesli

3 cups wholegrain rolled oats
1/4 cup each of chia, flax seed, sesame seed and sunflower seeds
1/2 cup coconut (any style is fine, I used shredded)
1/2 - 2/3 cup roughly chopped almonds
1/4 cup canola/rice bran/olive oil
1/4 cup honey
Dash vanilla

Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine. Melt together the honey, oil and vanilla and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until all the mixture is coated and shiny. Spread out in a baking dish and bake at 180 degrees for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. It should be slightly brown when you take it out but it will keep cooking as it cools. Stir it a few times as it cools down to keep the heat distributing evenly. Leave to cool entirely before storing in an airtight jar.

I used to add dried apricots to to the mixture once it had cooled, but now I prefer it as above. I add fresh fruit in the morning with organic yoghurt and milk for a delicious breakfast.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

From My Kitchen - Sunday 11th March

Last week went by in a blur of activities - I didn't bother doing a meal plan as I only ate at home once! This week will hopefully be much more subdued as our visitor has left and evening events calm down. I haven't even opened my research proposal this week, which is a bit a naughty. I am aiming for 1000 words per week (not as easy as it sounds while also working a full-time job!) so will have to work extra hard this coming week to make up for it. I am really loving the work I am doing; the worst bit about it is trying to split my brain into work mode and writing mode; it can be very hard to separate out the two.

Anywho, here's the menu for this week:

Sunday - leftovers! Free-range chicken and vege soup with Chinese dumplings (made with friends last night)
Monday - Paddy special: potato cakes with mushroom sauce and green salad
Tuesday - cooking class: this week it's beef in tamarind sauce with Nonya-style vege stirfry
Wednesday - spaghetti with roast pumpkin, sage, brown butter and greens
Thursday - marrow stuffed with brown rice and veges, topped with tomato sauce and cheese and baked until awesome!

- wholemeal, multi-seed sourdough
- homemade muesli

To Do
- nothing this week, it's all quick and easy!