Self isolation, week 5: creating monsters out of scraps

Time: it’s elastic, continuous, it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Hence, I’m writing this post almost a week late, and I feel zero regrets about it.

Beer-started sourdough starter

During week 5, the experimentation started in week 4 continued. The sourdough starter which I had “kickstarted” with the bottoms of several bottle conditioned craft beers became frothier, bubblier and livelier with each new feed and/or refreshment.

So much so that I decided to give it a go and bake two loaves, both using the same white flour, but each using different starters. On the left, the loaf made with Dan Lepard‘s starter, on the right the loaf made with the new kid on the block, the beer-starter.

Two sourdough loaves, side by side
Two sourdough loaves, side by side

I decided to make a smallish loaf because I wasn’t sure if this starter would be ‘productive’ already. What if the loaf came out too acid, too tangy, due to an ‘immature’ starter?

Turns out I needn’t have worries. This bread, apart from raising like a bread skyscraper during proving time and then collapsing and developing a sort of French beret ‘hairdo’, turned out to be really fluffy and tasty, with notes of sweetness which I attribute to the fact that the liquid in the last refresh cycle had been mostly contributed by beer 😏

And it toasted really well too. What a nice surprise!

The "accidental beret" loaf
The “accidental beret” loaf


In contrast, the other loaf was ‘fine’. And I mildly regretted having baked only a small loaf with the ‘experimental’ starter.

So: if you can’t find yeast in the shops and don’t fancy starting a “classic” sourdough starter, yet have some beers at hand (with yeast sediment at the bottom), maybe you could try this adventurous route!

It didn’t taste of beer or hops at all, more like a sweet bun.

Re-growing spring onions

This one is more science experiment than anything else, I don’t have actual expectations that I’ll be able to eat these.

I saw someone tweeting that they had planted a spring onion and it had re-grown and I wondered if it was an actual thing that happened or just a photo montage.

After a few days of bathing in water they started growing the central ‘stem’ and also some roots back, AND a green bit in the middle! Very promising.

I also soaked a few seeds in water (anise, fennel, etc) to plant, out of curiosity… 🤔🤓

The treats delivery

A beautiful display of greenery
A beautiful display of greenery

Devvers really fancied a fish pie and somehow also found that The Oystermen restaurant in Covent Garden now sell groceries online AND would deliver the ones that were essential for such pie (prawns and hake), and also the chard that was essential to the rice with chard that “had been requested” multiple times in the last few weeks (but which had been impossible to cook, because chard was nowhere to be seen in the local shops).

So here’s the beautiful pie, expertly made by Devvers:

Despite living in the UK for such a long time, these pies still seem super exotic to me, the stuff you eat only when you visit a sea-side pub or something like that. It was really delicious, and also really filling and I couldn’t finish it, so I saved it for breakfast the next day for the ultimate treat.

I sliced and washed all of the chard, and stored it in resealable bags in the fridge, so that then it would be super easy to use as we needed. We washed and chopped the parsley, which we then froze.

I used part of the chard for a Sri Lankan coconut dal with chard mallum, which I made correctly for the first time, following a recipe from Meera Sodha’s Fresh India book. There’s so much coconut and lime and spices in this dish; it’s truly wonderful and it lifts anyone’s spirits.

Sri lankan dal with chard mallum
Sri lankan dal with chard mallum

Sunday is rice time for me, i.e. time for the classic Valencian rice with chard.

I didn’t have any fresh pepper at hand, so I was happy to use one of the dry ones I had bought from Brindisa a couple years ago. I thanked past me for the resourcefulness!

Roast… roast everything

We still had a bunch of “random fruit and vegetables” from the previous week’s delivery that we wanted to process, and in absence of better ideas we decided to roast with abandon, i.e. everything at once.

Whilst slicing the root vegetables I noticed how pretty they looked inside. Here for you to enjoy too, since you can’t eat our food, because you’re not here and also because we’ve already eaten it anyway 😂:

The bundle wrapped in foil in the corner was a bunch of green apples. Apart from that tray, there was also another one to bake potatoes; we did all of this at once in the oven in parallel!

Here’s a couple of really un-photogenic baked potatoes with cheddar:

Jacket potatoes
Jacket potatoes

We don’t have a core removing tool, so we removed the apple cores after baking and mashed them to make a sort of compote… and with ‘we’ I actually mean Devvers; my contribution was more like adding a spoonful of sugar and stirring before placing the mix in a kilner jar 😇

It was nice to have it with some cottage cheese on toast…

Cottage cheese on sourdough toast, with apple compote
Cottage cheese on sourdough toast, with apple compote

… or with a banana porridge (we also had some ripe bananas that needed finishing).

Banana porridge with apple compote
Banana porridge with apple compote

The other thing we did with the roasted root vegetables was to have LOTS OF SALADS. I warmed the vegetables a bit in the microwave because it isn’t that hot at the moment, though.

The key “trick” here was to add some toasted almonds to the mix; it gave the salad a good depth! (It was Devvers’ idea).

Salad with roots, broccoli and roasted almonds
Salad with roots, broccoli and roasted almonds

We made bagels

Two other ingredients the Oystermen had were… flour and fresh yeast! 😱

I actually hadn’t seen fresh yeast in a couple years, so I will admit I spent some time sniffing and smelling it as if it were some sort of drug; this behaviour is probably some sort of pathology and defined somewhere, but I don’t care.

As much as I like using sourdough starters, the sight of a fresh block of yeast has always brought lots of promise to my head and especially to my pituitary gland (or maybe it goes in the other direction), and this was no exception.

How exciting!

Bagels are a bit more laborious to make than baking a big loaf of bread, but they’re quite fun and a nice thing to do together. They reminded me a bit of taralli, the Italian crackers which are also loop-shaped, and boiled before baking.

We followed the recipe for “New York bagels” from the Bread Ahead Baking School cookbook, which has a wealth of interesting assorted recipes and I can recommend. We attended a class a couple years ago and it was a lot of fun; they seem to be doing online classes now, so maybe you could give it a go if you’re feeling intrigued, but insecure about baking.

The gift that keeps on giving

Special mention for the lamb stew that we still enjoyed this week, this time over rice. Ah, that was so good. I’m still thinking of it.

Lamb stew, with rice
Lamb stew, with rice

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