Sunday, 29 July 2018

A Weekend of Food and Kitties


I made two nice meals yesterday. For lunch we had a combination of the dishes I cooked last Wednesday.

I made a bed of bulgur wheat, on top of which I added some green salad, embellished with chopped dried apricots and raisins. I finely sliced one of the fried chicken thighs and coated them in a little of the barbecue sauce in a bowl, before arranging them on top of the salad. I put a bit of the slaw on the side, and dressed it all with some of the light dressing, and finally topped it off with some warmed roasted vegetable, with some sourdough bread on the side. (I found this sourdough loaf in the freezer and can’t remember where it came from – I’m sure I didn’t make it because it’s too good!!)

For supper I made pancakes from some excess sourdough starter. These pancakes are so easy to make and are really delicious and nutritious.

This time I fried some chopped spring onions in coconut oil before pouring in the pancake batter which had some flour in it for extra fluffiness, and some chopped flat leaf parsley. Because the flour made the batter too thick, I thinned it with the addition of a little kefir whey from the last time I made kefir cheese. After flipping the pancake and before folding it in half, I sprinkled some cooked spinach and some grated cheese onto one half of the pancake.

The pancake was topped with a poached egg and garnished with a sprig of flat leaf parsley and some cherry tomatoes, and I served it with a slice of sourdough bread on the side.

Both meals went down a treat, and it was satisfying to know how healthy all the ingredients were!

My first really successful sourdough bread!

I got Esmeralda (my sourdough starter) out of the fridge on Friday evening in preparation for making bread on Saturday, but she got so lively, so quickly, that I put her back in again or she’d have been climbing out of her jar by the morning.

I took her out again for a couple of hours on Saturday morning and she was almost back to room temperature when I started making the next batch of sourdough bread. I had hoped things would move pretty quickly but by lunch time the dough had hardly moved, so I popped it in the airing cupboard to get it going. Esmeralda probably wasn’t quite warm enough when I started. It was only after supper that I was able to knock it back and start to shape it.

This time I adapted the recipe a bit. Rather than producing another large batch of not-so-good bread, I halved the quantity, and I also reduced the hydration a little, in the hope of making the dough slightly easier to handle, but it was still extremely sticky! I spent ages stretching and folding it until I got a satisfactory “window pane” effect – when you stretch the dough out really thinly, it no longer breaks apart, but creates a translucent sheet that you can see your hand through. Next time I shall do the majority of the knocking back in the Kenwood with the dough hook, to develop the gluten molecule chains before final shaping, to save time and energy. Finally I was able to divide the dough into two portions, and with wet hands, fold and shape each portion into a nice round shape with a good skin of gluten on the bottom and the seam on top. This time I used the linings in the bannetons again, and floured them well, and although they did stick a little when turned out, it was nothing like as bad as before.

They turned out beautifully onto the heated baking sheet, and hardly spread at all. The improved shaping I did this time definitely made things a lot better. I managed to slash the tops and get them in the oven without them collapsing, and poured a good amount of boiling water into the heated roasting tin in the bottom of the oven, to create a nice burst of steam to prevent a crust forming too soon, and thus allowing the bread to rise in the oven. This it did beautifully – for the first ten minutes I left the oven at maximum temperature (250 deg. C) and I could actually watch it rising. After this I turned it down to about 210 deg. and left the bread in for another 20 minutes.

Two lovely little loaves came out, beautifully opened out where I’d slashed them.

This morning I cut one of them to reveal the crumb.

The structure was still a bit dense, without the large holes which characterise sourdough bread. Increasing the hydration would probably help with this, but it does make the dough very difficult to handle. I need lots more practice!

I have made conventional bread most of my life. Making sourdough is a very different process and I’m learning all the time. Eventually I shall make the perfect loaf!

This morning after we got back from church, I went to the fridge to get some stuff out for lunch and found that Esmeralda had been a very messy girl indeed. She had a bit of a binge eating session yesterday after I made the bread and she threw up in the fridge sometime overnight or this morning.

As soon as I gave her a stir, she subsided to about half – it was all gas! She’s very active indeed – all this activity even though she’d been in the fridge overnight. I transferred the required amount to a bowl in order to make a double quantity of sourdough starter crackers later, and transferred a bit more into the excess starter jar (must keep an eye on that as it will be quite active, even if it is in the fridge). Esmeralda is now a more reasonable size again, in a nice clean jar, and I hope she will behave herself and go back to sleep until next weekend, with no further feeding until then.


Up until now we haven’t let the kitties in the sitting room without supervision because they have always been very naughty in there, playing with things they shouldn’t – it’s a strictly “adult” room and has never been kitten proof! However, yesterday evening they snuck in and we found that Lily had discovered the kitty hammock! (We bought a couple of these years ago for an earlier generation of kitties.)

The last time this was used, it was by Beatrice, probably 18 months ago in the winter. It’s been on the radiator all this time but has been empty of kitties and my hubby often used it to put his books in as it’s beside his chair. He’s going to have to stop doing that from now on, though, if the current activity is anything to go by. In the above photo, Lily doesn’t look too sure about it yet!

Settling down now, though.

Ruby has joined her!

Lily generally does new things first, and her sister is quick to follow her.

Now Ruby has settled down beside her sister.

A bit later in the evening, really settled down and asleep, and as usual Ruby has gone at least one part of her anatomy draped over soft little Lily!

Is this going to be their new sleeping place? It certainly beats the trolley for comfort!

They are going to think they are in heaven when winter comes, and the radiator is nice and warm.

Before I went to bed, the two of them were entwined, and deeply asleep in the hammock.

This is definitely scoring a hit with them. It may become their next favourite place to be, after the garden. I just love how they are always together, and how they love to cuddle up together to sleep. Our precious babies!!

This morning I found them like this.

Just look at those two tails!

This morning they both went out into the garden, and quickly came in again, all wet. After all that hot sunny weather, we’ve suddenly got heavy rain. They didn’t like this one bit, although they have been out again since, when it was a bit drier, but came in with very wet muddy paws. They didn’t look very happy about the situation and since coming in for their supper, they have been a lot less tired than usual because they haven’t had enough exercise and excitement during the day! I told them, “Life isn’t all sunshine and butterflies, you know. Into every life, a little rain must fall.” All part of the process of growing up, learning these important life lessons!

Not being able to go out and play, they are likely to get bored and naughty indoors. Lily at least does enjoy watching TV, and she got very excited about a nature programme we were watching over lunch.

I think this programme should really have been viewed by Lily after the 9 o’clock watershed. Note Ruby watching from the equivalent of behind the settee! (Memories of doing the same, watching Dr. Who and the Daleks in my youth!)

More Cooking

Finally, the sourdough starter crackers I made this evening.

Not a great success! I didn’t roll the dough out thin enough and had to cook them for much longer than stated in the recipe and they ended up somewhat overdone and rather tough to eat! I made double the quantity of the recipe and should have ended up with twice as many biscuits. I’ll do it better next time. They do go extremely well with kefir cheese.

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