Thursday, 17 December 2009

What are you doing for Christmas?

Tell us about your Christmas plans. What are you going to cook? Are you having turkey, goose or something totally different? And come 26th December tell us whether it went to plan or not. Does it ever? Go on, tell all.....

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Borough Market - What's Its Future...?

As the person responsible for the "fragile start" way back in 1998, I want to have my say. In her article in G2 today, Ms van der Zee says the market "will survive" - I'm not altogether so sure. I hope I'm proved wrong but Borough, like any market, is a living, breathing organism that needs to support - and be supported by - its traders. A consequence of the lack of the former brings about the lack of the latter and over the past few years rumours have swirled around the market and its environs - difficulties, quarrels, heavy-handedness of the former towards the latter... Whilst I'm not privy to details, and whilst I also know from years of running the FoodLovers Fairs how tricky it can be to found and build upon those delicate relationships, to be honest, over the years I have had some concerns about how Borough Market has been run - too many foreign stalls, too much food-to-go, no emphasis on food shopping, little long-term planning and development. The worry is that the temptation by the organisers is to go for the easier, more lucrative option - to turn it into a tourist attraction. This should not be allowed for a variety of reasons and primarily because as consumers we will all lose out. PS: Any suggestions as yo who could come in to help here? Boris, our mayor, for example.....

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Carnivores vs Vegetarians - What do you think?

At Ludlow Food Festival last weekend I chaired a lively debate on Carnivores vs Vegetarians - What does the future hold? Speaking for meat-eaters were Tim Dobson of Chestnut Meats and Adam Glyn Jones of September Organic Dairy; veggies were represented by Das Sreedharan and Keith Squires, both vegetarian chefs. If the two sides didn't quite lock horns, then the points debated were certainly contentious. You might be surprised to hear that the pro-vegetarians were actively encouraging the meat-eaters and the carnivores were all for eating less meat... and both sides made some interesting points, particularly with regards the contribution rearing livestock makes to carbon emissions and how essential pasture land is to transforming the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It was all good-natured fun - mostly - and by the end on a show of hands, it was felt that one of the answers to this conundrum is to eat less meat - but better quality (higher welfare, etc) over the year. I think this is an argument that bears further exploration. Is it better to eat less, high-welfare meat or to abstain completely? If you're a vegetarian, would you prefer that cows, sheep, pigs, etc didn't exist at all or is there a way to get the world farming responsibly? Is farming even a viable existence these days or are farmers just out for the profit - and what role does the government play...? What do you think...?

Friday, 11 September 2009

The Food Lovers have spoken...

Last month at we launched our first FoodLovers Poll in order to see what you, our discerning foodie public, think of some topical issues. We asked: "When shopping for food, which is most important?" with the options of organic, locally sourced and price. The results are now in: Organic 10% (8 votes) Locally Sourced 64% (52 votes) Price 26% (21 votes) What do you think of these results? Do they match with your views? From my perspective they're spot on. Organic is all well and good but what's the point in seeking out organic produce if it's travelled miles to get to you? Let us know your thoughts or if you have any suggestions for future polls....

Friday, 14 August 2009

Recommened Reads

The Ultimate Student Cookbook by Fiona Beckett with Signe Johansen, Guy Millon & James Ramsden Since writing the now infamous Beyond Baked Beans cookbook, Fiona Beckett has become something of a queen of the student cookery scene. The book opened the proverbial can and now has its own website where students can exchange recipes, cooking tips & general hints on budget living. Sounds pretty good whether you’re a student or not. Anyway, six years and many books (several other student cookbooks, our recent favourite the frugal cook, and many more on subjects such as beer and wine) later, Fiona’s back with what has been bravely called The Ultimate Student Cookbook. A bold choice of title indeed. The beauty of the book, though, is that it is just that. It’s formed from a compilation of the best recipes & techniques which have been posted by students on the beyond baked beans website over the six years since it launched and comes complete with helpful hints from 3 of the website’s most prolific posters – Guy, James & Sig. Fiona Beckett’s student cookbooks are known for their un-patronising, straight-talking style – in fact it’s largely this which sets them aside from the others on the market, and which made Beyond Baked Beans such a revelation. The Ultimate Student Cookbook is no exception and, using Sig, Guy & James’ repertoires as a starting point goes off into unchartered student territories such as smoking (food smoking, obviously…), ice cream making & - shock-horror - healthy eating. As a foodie student with reasonable cooking skills, I must admit that the last cookery book I would have ever considered buying was one aimed at students. If there’s anyone out there who thinks the same, then take a look at this as it is something of an exception. It’s not about fairly edible meals which cost 50p and take 3.5 minutes to make, instead it is full of ideas for cooking delicious, varied and interesting meals which happen to be fairly quick, fairly easy and, most importantly, good on a budget. Cleverly, it also comes at a very student-friendly price…. for just Buy online at Amazon for just £7

Monday, 15 June 2009

STOP PRESS: CherryBake

Our CherryBake line-up is hotting up.
Ed Baines of Randall & Aubin, Oliver Rowe of Konstam, The Sunday Times' Lucas Hollweg, Sainsbury's Magazine's Sarah Randell & cherry expert Helen Lindsay Clark are now confirmed.
We've had lots of entries but there's still room for more so if you'd like to take part, please sign up online - Sign up for CherryBake now! For more information on our cause, see our special CherryAid microsite. and become an official CherryAider & join our Facebook Group

Friday, 5 June 2009

CherryAid is back!
We're gearing up for CherryAid 2009 - building on the huge success last year - and you should be doing the same! Over the past 50 years, Britain has lost around 90% of its cherry orchards and now 95% of the cherries sold here are imported - so we really do need your help to save the British Cherry.
There will be cherry-tastic events up and down the country throughout the summer and particularly on National Cherry Day - Saturday 18th July.
Put the date in your diaries now as we'll be spending the CherryAid weekend from Thursday 16th July - Saturday 18th July at London's Borough Market. There'll be fresh cherries, trees & all kinds of special products from raised pies with cherries to cherry fudge.
The highlight of the weekend will be our CherryBake contest on Saturday 18th July. We want you to come along with your masterfully baked cherry dishes (made with English cherries, obviously!) to enter into the competition for the chance to win a Cherry Tree (& all the cherries on it) in Michael Dallway's Kent Orchard. Celebrity Foodies Diana Henry, Ed Baines & Oliver Rowe will be on hand to judge & a winner will be chosen on the day. It could be you....
If you'd like to take part, please sign up online - Sign up for CherryBake now!For more information on our cause, see our special CherryAid microsite.Become a CherryAider & join our Facebook Group

Monday, 1 June 2009

Home-Grown Harvests - It's all over

We've had enough. As Oscar memorably said - it's a fight to the death and one of us shall have to go. So the rocket, my friends, is going. I shall pick as much as I am physically able without giving myself a disc rupture, give it away to everyone in the office and the neighbours, and then we're.... starting all over again - this time sowing less more often as it were. We are also the proud owners of a nice neat row of celery - what is one to do with so much - and a wigwam of beans. However the beans in the bucket, so happy the other day, are determinedly dying on us and we haven't figured out why. Any clues? Oh and another pearl of wisdom - oh how they do come... Never plant melons in the same grow bag as tomatoes. They will hate it, them, you and then die. However they seem to get on better with courgettes. Go figure...

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Henrietta on Radio 4 - The Deighton File

Make sure you tune in to Radio 4 on Tuesday 26 May at 11.30am for The Deighton File. Patrick Humphries will be talking to Len Deighton about his writing career stretching back to The Ipcress File in 1962. Of course, he wasn't just a writer of spy novels - he was also a food writer of some renown. Amongst the highlights, Henrietta, a complete fan, will be talking about his Action Cook Book.

Home Grown Harvests - the rocket is taking over...

Aargh - we're being overtaken by rocket. As I mentioned in my last post, it's a straight-edged variety rather than jagged, but - and I'll be posting new pictures soon - the leaves are massive. Truly massive. A small handful easily does enough for two of us as a side salad to whatever we might be having. MCD is threatening to give bags away at the roadside. However it wilts down a treat - which saves on washing up, so we can fit it on the same plate as our main meal. It also doesn't have that sometimes antiseptic taste that supermarket rocket increasingly seems to have. It's not all a raving success though. One of the runner beans seems to have been invaded by black fly and treatment might have come a little too late. But the kale and cavolo nero are fighting back against the odds - the C.V. even looks a little like it should... god knows what we're to do with it all if it all grows well. This weekend we get our next batch of goodies - tomatoes, courgettes and perhaps melons. We're going to have a go at growing them against our sunny wall. I'm not hopeful but - hey - experimentation is all. Tonight's treat - Chicken caesar salad made with lettuce leaves and rocket from the garden - I can finally make a stand against supermarket lettuce!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Home Grown Harvests - it's still hard

Further to my rant - gosh a little carried away there - on the de-merits of seed packet labelling, we've now planted out our cavolo nero and kale. Well, people, at this early stage, it's hard to tell whether it's disaster or triumph (again). Some of the cavolo are looking a little - well - green around the leaves and have slumped to the soil, overcome at the challenge; some are sturdy upright and going great guns. Others have been decapitated as if by a tiny, discriminating beastie... The kale, widely spaced as we thought they grow so very wide, have taken to it a little better, but now, with all this weather - (eh - so much for May's blissful sunshine), will our little seedlings survive the weekend - gales, rain - it might be too much... On a brighter note, the lettuces are looking fulsome, the rocket is curiously smooth-edged rather than jagged, but tastes like it should and the broad beans are flowering. Should they be - does anyone know? And how do you know when onions are ready? Next time - pictures for the defence.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Home Grown Harvest - The Hard Way

Well - I don't know if it's a disaster or a triumph. The spinach, as mentioned in my last post, was going great guns on the kitchen windowsill. There's not a huge amount of advice on the back of the packet about when to plant out - in fact it disregards the process entirely - so MCD went for it, and planted out about half of the seedlings into the veg garden. So severely traumatised where they by the experience, they've all fallen over, and he now thinks they might be dying. So i am fiercely protecting the half left in the seed tray - they need to toughen up a little more I think, but at what stage do you plant out - does anyone know? How tall should they be? And further to the seed packets - a little rant. I wanted to grow Cavolo nero - or Tuscan black cabbage as you might know it. Quite distinctive and completely addictive with anchovies or chilli and garlic.... When we were buying our seed packets from the local garden centre, how can you tell if you're buying the right thing when the packet quite clearly shows an image of cavolo nero, but calls it curly kale - something else entirely - and if you haven't got that much space, it does make quite a difference. Who is making these decisions and why - where are they getting the information and is it even worth complaining when they might bamboozle you with a whole load of Latin genus and sub-genus jargon. Here in the office, we're starting to feel the whole world of vegetable naming (think swede/turnip or any of the various lettuces) is starting to become a bit like the world of fish - endlessly confusing with anyone sticking any old name on they fancy, be it right or not... Vis a vis sainsburys and their pollack/colin fiasco. Not that I'm sure anyone has the slightest problem with pollack, but we were under the impression - from holidays in France - that colin is hake - but then the only person to know all this absolutely and lay down the law was Alan Davidson - and he's no longer here. However, on a happier note the basil is coming through, it seems to like the terracotta pots as they're nice and deep, and the afore-mentioned cavolo nero seems to benefit from a little more water than we thought. In the garden, the broad beans are coming up thick and fast and we can start to see the tops of the onions and even a sprinkling of rocket. It's looking good...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Home Grown Harvest - The Hard Way

The cavolo nero has been planted - and according to the packet, we should leave it in the seed tray till June. But given that in a week - in a week! - it's a couple of inches already, it'll be Day of the Brassica Triffids on the kitchen windowsill by the end of May. Any ideas on whether it can go out a bit sooner...? The spinach and rocket are - ahem - rocketing along - perfect for summer salads. Rocket is particularly good tossed through those Mediterranean bread salads like Panzanella or Fattoush. Don't spoil them by using tasteless tomatoes. Although the little sproutlings won't be ready by this weekend, we'll be having our first BBQ of the year with a similar accompaniment. I also plan to barbecue asparagus - now gloriously in season - until golden and wilted, then with a little lemon juice and shaved Parmesan. Or even some semi-melted potted shrimps for a delicate Spring lunch - why not?. Check out Focus On... Asparagus for details of asparagus events, menus and celebrations around the country. And if any of you have managed to get hold of some wild garlic, I've been snipping it over the first Jersey Royals, sometimes simply boiled or boiled and then lightly smashed with a rolling pin and roasted in hot oil until sticky. An amazing combination...

Friday, 17 April 2009

Home-Grown Harvests - the hard way

So we've finally got it. A veg plot - almost an allotment if you will - courtesy of my fabulous father who turned up unexpectedly and unannounced a couple of miserable rainy wednesdays ago to build my husband a surprise raised bed for his birthday. Well, i say it was meant to be a surprise - I was working from home and my husband (henceforth MCD) was made redundant not an hour later - so in the end we all built it together - well i supplied bacon and mushrooms sandwiches and coffee, and MCD was allowed towards the end to dig the compost in - but only after the tree trunks had been removed, the 3 feet deep concrete drilled through (that wasn't part of the plan) and 4 or 5 tonnes of soil worked in to our frankly nutritionless mud. All in the pouring rain. And with birthday banners to boot.
But still - it's done and is a thing of joy and beauty. We've got potatoes, broad beans, onions, rocket planted out in serried ranks - with cavolo nero, rocket, runner beans, sorrel and lettuces all straggling through on the kitchen windowsill till they're old enough to look after themselves.
I shall be posting on a regular (hopefully weekly!) basis on how we're doing. We're complete novices - it's my parents with the green up to their elbows (They're in the Yellow Book of Gardens for Goodness' sake - how can we compete?) but we are embracing the grow-your-own zeitgeist with open-armed and unalloyed naive enthusiasm. After all last year we had a stonking crop of tomatoes. But it's hard work - we don't know what we're doing AT ALL - and Alan Titchmarsh is a godsend, but MCD isn't one much for reading, so the theory comes via me - and i'm not the one at home doing it all (Gardening leave need not be a euphemism...).
Any hints, suggestions, even - god forbid - questions, i shall try to answer them or direct you to the lovely Alan at the allotment blog on the observer. He really does know it all. Hopefully in a year's time - so will we.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Recommended Reads

Essence & Dessert by David Everitt-Matthias

Essence and Dessert are proper chef’s books filled with recipes from David Everitt-Matthias’ Cheltenham restaurant Le Champignon Sauvage. What makes them such a refreshing change to the horde of books brought out by the TV personality chefs is that there is no dumbing down. The recipes are exactly as you will find at the restaurant. In Everitt-Matthias’ case, this is particularly exciting since the recipes in question are just about as dynamic as they come. Though a look through the index did initially make me think that recipes may have been created with the specific intention of being unnecessarily quirky and different, the excitement soon regained control. The array of ingredients, many of them wildfoods such as silverweed and woodruff, which are used is enthralling – and Essence’s glossary of these less common ingredients and the accompanying suppliers list makes a useful reference tool as well as an aide to the recipes. The dishes themselves are equally intriguing. Ingredients are used in ways you would not imagine – and surely that is what a cookbook should do, inspire you to think of things that you wouldn’t otherwise. Everitt-Matthais plays with taste, texture and presentation, as well as our preconceived ideas of sweet and savoury. Dessert in particular does this with puddings including Jerusalem artichoke cheesecake, beetroot parfait and a swiss chard tart – all of which are high up on my list of must-try recipes. Though perhaps not ideal for beginner cooks, the recipes themselves are less complex than you might imagine. Split into their constituent sections, they are time consuming and protruded but very doable. The way they are broken down also means that they can be adapted easily to suit what you’re cooking. Accompaniments such as jellies, sorbets & sauces can be mixed and matched as desired or even made as stand-alones. If you’re as interested in different ingredients and flavour combinations as I am, then these books are must haves.

buy Essence online at Amazon

buy Dessert online at Amazon

Monday, 23 March 2009

Recommended Reads

Arabesque by Greg & Lucy Malouf
I always think middle eastern food has something magical and precious about it. Scattered pomegranate seeds, the bold contrasts of savoury and sweet and the warm fragrance of spices such as cumin and cardamom evoke an intriguing sense of enchantment that no other cuisine can. In many ways, I find this book has similar properties. The beautiful photography, high quality paper, and rich content makes it one of those occasional books which you’ll treasure, but rarer still, one you will both treasure and regularly use. Divided into ingredient-specific chapters, authors Greg and Lucy Malouf take a heartfelt approach in guiding readers through modern middle-eastern food. As well as covering basics such as ingredients’ flavours and uses, they address the mythologies which surround them and the feelings and memories they evoke for them. This isn’t limited to the ingredients, either. Recipes are given life by introductions which explain their origins and the reasons for their inclusion in the book and their repportoirs. These descriptions are so vivid that they almost make up for the distinct lack of photographs of many of the recipes – though this could still be seen as the book’s one real downside. The recipes take a clever approach to middle-eastern cooking. Although classics such as hummus, tabbouleh and falafel are all present, it is the modern adaptations which are of the most interest. Preserved lemon guacamole, goat’s cheese dolmades, saffron scrambled eggs and rose water infused berry fool all show how the cuisine’s staple ingredients can be played around with and used to bring new life to classics from completely separate cuisines. A genuinely inspiring book which, despite the array of exciting recipes, encourages experimentation and the creation of your own recipes from the list of ingredients provided. I can’t tell you the number of banquets this book has been responsible for in my house….

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

The Office Snacks

From time to time at FoodLovers Britain, we hear about and get samples from businesses which we really love but just can't put onto the site because they're not British. The latest case in point is Conscious Food. Based in India, they make an intriguing range of sweet and savoury 'Power Snacks'.
These pure, unrefined snacks are all wheat, dairy and gluten free, using less common ingredients such as millet, rice, sorghum, nuts and seeds. Their philosophy is to source pure, unrefined and often local ingredients from small organic farms and communities in India. The snacks are then handmade in small 'factories' before being packaged and sold.
The range includes such delicious oddities as walnuts coated in palm mollasses and cocoa powder; coconut nuggets; millet crackers and chewy peanut and mollasses bites and - my personal favourite - sesame chews which are made with black and white ssame seeds and more palm mollasses.
After Kristina Locke discovered these snacks on a trip to India in 2006, they've now been brought to the UK and can be bought from the Conscious Food Website which is great. Apparently there's more to come - and organic flours too....
Try them for yourself and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

ITV1's Taste the Nation

So last night saw Henrietta's debut on Taste the Nation as one of the fearsome panel of judges, along with William Sitwell of Waitrose Food Illustrated and Food Writer Richard Johnson. Here at the office we're waiting for Nick Hancock to get into his stride and be funnier and for John Burton-Race to hit his stride and blow his top at someone - anyone...please.... But what did you think? Will you be watching the rest of the series - did it entice you in for more. Will you be looking for another glimpse of Henrietta's incredible cherry lips top? Did you think the scoring complicated - or did it add interest? And most importantly - do you think the judges made the right decision? Tell us what you think. We're dying to hear your feedback and it's got to be more interesting than blogging about minimum prices on booze or chocolate taxes...

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Recommended Reads

Pepper by Christine McFadden
“A whole book on Pepper! Are you mad?” you might think wondering the mileage of that all purpose seasoning sitting in your mill.
Well, at times I may be a bit mad but I found this book fascinating. Of course, it’s not just about that stuff in your mill, though. The part of the book which I found most enlightening was Christine’s listing and explaining of the many different types of pepper. Black, white, pink, red and green peppercorns are literally the tip of the iceberg. Long, Cubec, Szechwan and Sansyo are all included along with numerous others which, though I was mostly familiar with (I’m a bit of a spice junkie), I would never have categorized as pepper. Admittedly, many are completely unrelated and so a little bit of a cheat on Christine’s part, but still the botanical family is extensive.
The confusion of terms was another point of interest. I now know, for example, that whilst proper green peppercorns are a totally separate, though related, variety to the black we are so familiar with; others labeled as ‘green’ may be the under-ripe versions of the black.
Christine also goes into great depth about the history of pepper, the sheer quantity of this detail is initially slightly daunting but once you start reading it, I guarantee you’ll be fascinated to learn the huge impact the spice has had on the world, playing a considerable part in deciding which countries are rich and which are poor, even to this day.
There’s so much knowledge in the book, that you could almost forget there are also 100 recipes. Though some are fairly standard, others are extremely interesting. Paradise Cake, for example, which uses ‘grains of paradise’ in a syrupy sponge-cake, or peppered figs, which are made by pressing layers of dried figs and black peppercorns together and leaving to mature.
All in all, it’s a fascinating book for both reference and recipes, and is well worth a place on your bookcase – though it’s unlikely to be one that just sits there.

Monday, 2 February 2009

We Are The Champions

Food Inc's How To Be A Better Foodie quiz at Whitleys shopping centre on Thursday set the scene for FoodLovers Britain's monumental victory and proved once and for all that our foodie knowledge is second-to-none. Not to mention our modesty, of course.
Eventful from the start, the quiz seemed blighted by various unavoidables. Thanks to quiz master Sudi Pigott's shaky and flu ridden voice, her equally shaky understanding of her megaphone, and a group of noisy onlookers, actually hearing the questions was the first hurdle to overcome. In honesty, our rather boisterous team probably didn't help much either.
A mixture of table shuffling, careful listening and can you repeat that's got us through, and anyway the growing risk of pneumonia was slightly more pressing. Although we didn't manage to beat the air conditioning, which had the upper hand throughout, we did manage to remain focused on the job in hand. We named obscure kitchen paraphernalia, we identified restaurants and we solved foodie riddles before being crowned (not literally, unfortunately) the winners.
In retrospect, the quirks of the evening probably made it all the more fun and, volume aside, Sudi was great. May I say, though, that I do hold doubts about the validity of the question "Cassia, Star Anise, Cloves, Fennel and which other ingredient makes up Chinese 5 Spice?".
The recipe varies enormously and actually tends to include more like 6 or 7 spices. My (ever so slightly obsessive) label reading over the last few days has revealed mixtures including Coriander, Ginger, Szechwan Pepper, Black Pepper, White Pepper, Cinnamon and even Dill. Since we won, I'll let it drop but I would be interested to hear what you think. Are some Chinese 5 Spice recipes more authentic than others? which ingredients do you think should be included?

Friday, 23 January 2009

Book Reviews

In the FoodLovers Britain offices we get loads of cookbooks sent to us for review (lucky us!) but I still can't get enough (you really never can have too many) so I thought why don't we swap reviews so that we all know which are worth splashing the cash on and which aren't. I'm going to start regularly posting reviews of new books I read as well as some favourites from my personal library here on the blog and you can leave your comments on the books you've read and then together we can build up a review archive to guide our shopping...
Leave your book reviews here in the comments section. There may even be a book or two for some of our favourites...

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Taking Part In The Sourdough Challenge

I've received an update from Fresh and its seems their Starters are doing well. They're a little worried about the weekend, though, because they're going away and won't be able to feed them. We'll have to see whether their "extra large dinner" tomorrow will sustain them...

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


Rejoice one and all! I think it's time. I thought she might have been yesterday but today I am certain - my Starter is ready for the production leaven stage. As you can see from the picture above, she's gone really runny and has bubbles all across her surface. It was quite a sudden change after a quiet weekend.
Before leaving work today I will use 50g of my starter to make my leaven ( as per my recipe )which then needs to ferment/prove for a further 24 hours. Tomorrow evening it will be time to bake my bread! I'll bring my bread into work for my lucky workmates on Thursday and I'll be sure to post a picture so you can all see how it turns out. As impartial judges, I'll let my workmates tell you how it tastes - though I can tell you now that it's bound to be amongst the best they've ever tasted!

Monday, 19 January 2009

No gluten free bread yet...

I called it a disaster...others said it was a minor set back, but my first attempt at making my own gluten free bread did not go to plan. Essentially, I didn't do the one thing my Home Economics teacher taught the recipe. I had the correct ingredients, even in the right amounts. However I had not even thought about how long the bread would take to make. Having never even made gluten-ous bread before I was diagnosed, I completely failed to notice that bread needs up to 5 hours to prove in a warm place. And here was my downfall. Time and a warm place. In my memory, I recall my mother baking her own bread and proving it in the airing cupboard. I don't an airing cupboard and started bread making preparations at 5pm on a Sunday. Now, don't laugh, but this is how it went:
  • I left my scales at the office from when we created the sourdough starter.
  • I bought some new scales (for their bigger capacity, honest) but they were rubbish, barely registering ingredients as I lobbed them in.
  • I made my production dough and left it on the radiator to do its thing. But the heating was barely on.
  • Reading further into the recipe, I read how the bread needed to prove for up to 5 hours in a warm place. This was at 6.30pm and I had just made the production dough which needed up to 3 hours.
  • So, I decided to honour all bakers and rise with them at 5.30am to bake the bread I had started. (Actually I hate waste and was determined to have bread for breakfast).
  • I mixed the dough at 11.30pm and took it to bed with me (not literally - but its the warmest room at night) to prove.
  • I woke up at 5.30am to find that my dough had not risen an inch.
  • I went back to bed.
  • I dreamt of toast.
But, this was always going to be a learning process, and in typical Kim cooks fashion was winging it at the last minute. Next weekend, I will start in the morning - now that I know how long the total process takes and use my trusty scales now safely back home. What I will say is that it was incredibly easy to make and fitted nicely into the loaf tin. Now I just need to find a warm place... Watch out for my more successful recipe next week. Do you have any foolproof (or Kimproof) bread recipes?

Friday, 16 January 2009

The gluten free sourdough starter recipe

For those of you who would like to follow in my gluten free footsteps, here is the recipe I have been following, slightly amended from Bread Matters book:
Day 1
Mix 30g brown rice flour with 40g body temperature water in a plastic tub and cover with a tea towel or polythene bag in a warm room.
Day 2
Add another 30g brown rice flour and 40g water to the starter from day 1 and mix well. Cover and leave in the same place.
Day 3
Mix in another batch of the 30g rice flour and 40g water to the now 14og of starter. The mixture should be rising like a dough with bubbles and a yeasty aroma. Stir well and cover for another day.
Day 4
Add 45g brown rice flour and 50g water to the starter, and after 24hours you should have a sourdough to get baking with.
This is where I had problems...I ran out of brown rice flour. To compensate for this, I have repeated day 3 and will do day 4 on day 5 at home where the rice flour is, then get baking!

Gluten Free Sourdough Challenge - Day 3 and 4

Initially, it looked like nothing much was happening beneath the tea towl. It smelt slightly more yeasty, but there didn't appear to be much visible difference in how my gluten free sourdough looked. Until I looked at the pictures of the past 3 days...
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
As you can see, it has developed from a white grainy paste, to a slightly yellow, moussey mound that has developed some bubbles and a rather acidic aroma. I often get wafts of yeasty smells as I am working at my desk through the tea towl. Nearly the weekend...what shall I have on my toast?


Not much change today and my Starter seems a little less bubbly than before, especially after he next feeding. I'm a little worried about her but hoping it's all part of the process. There are still a few bubbles and a definite yeasty smell though, so fingers crossed... It's still not too late to take part. Look at my recipe and go ahead. Then send me your pictures and I'll make you a post so you can comment on your progress

Taking Part In The Sourdough Challenge

There have been some interesting developments in the Fresh magazine office today. I'll let Henrietta Clancy and Felicity Cloake tell you about their Starters' progress...
Henrietta: Well, mine’s doing exceptionally well – bubbling away happily, smelling encouragingly yeasty......I’ll leave Felicity to tell you about aromas emanating from her glass jar this morning...
Felicity: I came in this morning, and mine, which was right next to Hen’s, had progressed from a slightly odd Brie-aroma to full-on vomit. Which I sense, after smelling Hen’s, is not the idea. I know I should have taken a picture, but I was so upset with it that I tipped it straight into the kitchen bin before anyone could complain about the smell. I am going to start a new one tomorrow morning at home, so I can nurture it through the difficult first days, and then bring it into work on Monday.


Yesterday was Sourdough Day 4 and time for another feeding. There hadn't really been much change with my Starter overnight (slightly disappointingly) but she's still very bubbly and even more pungent smelling. I guess I'll just have to be patient - shame it's not my strongest virtue.
I had to be a little creative when taking half of the mixture out to replace with new flour and water. I'd forgotten a wooden spoon and all we had in the office was metal, which can apparently be reactive. My makeshift scoop from a business card holder was ingenious, though - even if I do say so myself.
There wasn't much Hooch - but a little fluid had gathered around the sides of my Starter. You can see a bit of it in the picture above which separated out from the mixture I scooped out.
Roll on day 5...
It's still not too late to take part. Look at my recipe and go ahead. Then send me your pictures and I'll make you a post so you can comment on your progress

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Taking Part In The Sourdough Challenge

I think my Sister and Co. are having a bit of a joke with their inventive use of props, but the froth on their starter is still pretty impressive for Day 3. All the Hooch they had which they stirred back in yesterday seems to have gone.


Yesterday was Day 3 of my Sourdough Challenge and look how bubbley she was! My worries about the office being too cold overnight were clearly unfounded. Her reward was a good feeding. As per my recipe, I took out half the mixture and rreplaced it with new flour and water. I don't think the quantities need to be that exact but since I used 100g each of flour and water, I added 50g of each this time. After stirring this in, she became runny and smoothe but soon began to puff up again - you can really tell something's happening! The other thing to mention is the smell. My Starter's getting whiffier by the day- though not in a particularly bad way. It's just like a strong, sour-doughy, bready smell with overtones of yeastiness and beer. There's still no Hooch.
It's still not too late to take part. Look at my recipe and go ahead. Then send me your pictures and I'll make you a post so you can comment on your progress

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Taking Part In The Sourdough Challenge

Last night:
This Morning:
My Sister and co back at home are taking part in the Sourdough Challenge - probably just to stop me going on about it - and I've just got sent some pictures of how they're getting on and I must admit I'm a little irritated that they've got Hooch and I haven't!
You can read about Hooch on my recipe, but it's basically a liquid bi product of the fermentation process which looks, smells and is very like beer - and you can see it clearly in the photo here. It's nothing that's necessary to the process and why some get it and others don't is a bit of a mystery but to have it after just one night is pretty remarkable!
We'll have to see how they get on! You can see their comments below...


Yesterday was Day 2 of my Sourdough Challenge and having left my Starter alone for the first night I was naturally anxious to see how she'd got on. Well is the answer. As you can just about make out from the photo, there are definite signs of bubbles. All that had to be done was stir my Starter, which made her a lot runnier. As the day progressed, though she soon became thick again with more bubbles.
Today is her first feeding - I will remove half of the mixture and replace with new flour and water - I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow....
It's still not too late to take part. Look at my recipe and go ahead. Then send me your pictures and I'll make you a post so you can comment on your progress

Taking Part In The Sourdough Challenge

The FRESH Sourdough - Day 1

My friends Felicity Cloake and Henrietta Clancy at Fresh Magazine are joining in the Sourdough challenge and making their own Starters. Apparently "hoodwinked by the deceptive simplicity of my original recipe", they have used plain white flour to make their Starters and put them in glass jars. There is no reason why this shouldn't work, though - and they have left their jars open in order to avoid explosions as I warned about in yesterday's post.

Day two of gluten free sourdough

My office pet
My new office pet - a gluten free sourdough starter - had it's second feed yesterday on day 2 of our sourdough challenge. Strangely, on the way into work I got quite excited about feeding him and arriving into work added another 30g of rice flour and 40g of room temperature water.
GF Sourdough - Day 2
Ben's post made me think to tell you that I have used an organic, brown rice flour from Wholefoods essentially because I already had some at home, but the organic ones are meant to have more of the naturally occurring wild yeasts. So, it's already looking more viscous and smells really yeasty - some say it also smells of rice, go figure! Apparently, tomorrow it may even start bubbling, but I am thinking I may take it home overnight to prevent the drop in temperature in the office from slowing my baby down.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


Yesterday was Day 1 of my Sourdough Challenge and time to start growing my Starter. As per my recipe, all that needed to be done was mix equal quantities of flour and water together (I used 100g of each). Time and the natural yeasts in the air around us will, apparently, do the rest.
I used a standard 2 litre water bottle with the top cut off to make my starter in - hopefully it should be big enough to cope with my Starter's (fingers crossed) imminent expansion. I've been hearing all sorts of stories of exploding jars (don't use a glass container!) and messy radiators!
Obviously, chosing the flour to use was a big decision. I changed my mind between rye and wheat several times but eventually settled for rye - which is the most traditional for Sourdough and apparently a little more reliable. I used wholemeal organic flour since this has more of the natural yeasts and proteins in it which will help feed my Starter.
I'd love to hear your comments or if you're a sourdough veteran who has any tips .
And it's not too late to join in and start growing your very own Starter. Follow my recipe (or try your own if you prefer) and let me know how you get on. If you email me photos of your Starter, I can create you your own post which you can leave daily comments on charting your Starter's progress. If you email them to me, I can add daily photo updates, too since you can't post them in the comments directly.
I look forward to hearing from you - and that's a challenge!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Day one of gluten free sourdough

Based on the recipe from Andrew Whitely, I have started my own sourdough as part of the sourdough challenge. It only takes 4 days to create this natural leven and then I can get baking. Day 1: Mix 30g of brown rice flour with 40g of water (at just warmer than body temperature) in a large pastic container and cover with a polythene bag or clean tea towl.

Leave the mixture in a warm room - mine was left in our lovely warm office. Peeking at it on my desk during the day, it quickly began to smell of yeasty bread - evidence of the natural yeasts abundant in the brown rice flour. It quickly became more viscous, like thick double cream and tomorrow, I'll be adding more rice and water to it... Home made gluten free bread here we come!

Kim's gluten free rice sourdough challenge

We're quite a foodie little team here at FoodLovers and when Ben decided to run a sourdough challenge on the blog, making his own starter from scratch running in conjunction with Our Daily Bread, I thought I should represent my own. I love bread. Who doesn't love the smell of freshly baked bread, or the mouth watering aroma of bread toasting...? But you see I can't eat it. I have Coeliac Disease. However this doesn't mean that I cannot appreciate real bread as I used to before I was diagnosed.
In keeping with the foodie experiments in the office, I too am taking up a sourdough challenge - just this one happens to be gluten free. In all honesty, I haven't even tried many of the ready made gluten free breads as they are dry, laced with additives to make it like "real bread" and deliver none of the satisfaction of simple well made bread - such as loaves from Born & Bread. So now I am attempting to make my own - truly from scratch - starting with the brown rice sourdough as per the recipe in Bread Matters by Andrew Whitely which uses brown rice flour, rich in wild yeasts as the natural leven for my gluten free bread. Like Ben, I will post the activity of the sourdough each day complete with pictures and observations, finishing with my first, home baked gluten free Potato and Quinoa Bread. I am quite excited about the prospect of eating amazing gluten free bread...have you ever had such a thing?

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Masterchef: Gregg Wallace's Spoonfuls Go Large

Has anyone been watching the new series of Mastercef? In the FoodLovers' office, it's been a big topic of conversation. As far as I'm concerned, though, there's 2 things which I feel the need to comment on.
The first is Gregg Wallace's tasting of the dishes the contestants make. Do you think there's some backstage rule that he and John Torode are allowed only one mouthful of every dish? Gregg has become something of a master at piling a spoon so high with food (particularly puddings) that it wobbles under the weight - rather like himself. In fact, he should probably contact Guiness about setting a world record...
The second point which has dominated my viewing experience is one of annoyance. Sad though it may be, I like to play along with the show when watching and,during the first, so-called 'invention' round, think what I would make with the ingredients given. Yet time after time the irritating voiceover woman (who I, perhaps unfairly, hold responsible) fails to give a full list of ingredients. "Mint, lamb, chilli, avocado and yoghurt", she will say and only when I have nearly finished mentally creating my dish of chilli rubbed lamb chops with a mint raita will I see one of the contestants peeling a mango and realise that I could actually have made a slightly more interesting avocado, mango and mint salad to accompany the chops. My dish is ruined!
Does anyone else do the same - or is it just me? What are your views on the latest series? And what would you cook in the final round? I'd love to hear your thoughts. If enough people feel the same about the voice-over, perhaps we should form some kind of petition...

Thursday, 8 January 2009

2009 Predictions

Hi everyone - Happy New year. I've just been looking through the latest batch of foodie mags and press releases and they all seem to be making predictions for the year ahead. All well and good - but be a bit bold, people! According to Olive magazine, cooking from scratch is going to be big. And people are going to be more environmentally friendly and more into local food and provenance. Is it just me or were all these mentioned last year, and the year before? And as for predictions that we're all going to be more more price conscious by shopping around for the best deal and using cheaper cuts of meat, isn't that a bit of a credit-crunch no-brainer? Still, I would question Olive's prediction that we as a public will turn our nose up at champagne in favour of cheaper sparkling wines and Metro's suggestion that we'll abandon high-end restaurants for cheaper alternatives. For special ocassions, I'm sure both will still be wanted. The prediction that trattorias, cafes, bistros and other less-formal restaurants will be big is a little more worthwhile but, with meze, tapas and antipaste bars already popular and growing in number, it's still a bit of a cop out. I'd be interested to see if any of you have any proper predictions. What will be the big new superfood? The latest top cuisine? What will the big name chefs be doing - who'll be going up and who'll be going down? My main prediction is probably more of a wish - that Teff flour (an ancient form of wheat used to make Ethiopian Injeera bread) becomes readily available - it could also be a bit of a superfood given its high protein content. Maybe it will be the next Spelt or Kamut! In the meantime, if anyone knows where I could get some Teff flour, please let me know!!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Happy Food Loving New Year!

First of all I want to wish all Food Lovers a happy and delicious 2009. According to the press, its going to be a year of cooking and eating at home. I have to admit, for New Years Eve we treated ourselves to supper at Le Cafe Anglais in the anticipation of cutting back on eating out in the new year - so maybe I am just like everyone else. The other trend being reported is the down turn in organic food sales... I am a dedicated subscriber to my muddy, just picked organic veg box - and will be turning to my new season savoy cabbage tonight instead of meeting with my partner for an impromptu dinner on the way home from work.
If you are one of the reported foodies cutting back on the eating out - spend a little of that saving supporting our farmers in these tough times and make your suppers all the more interesting. What else would Food Lovers spend their money on...?