Sourdough with Rye and Wholemeal. A Family Loaf.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecently I found a Romertopf baking dish at an op shop (thrift store) for the princely sum of $4.00. These turn up frequently in second-hand stores. They have become obsolete in many households due to the popularity of electric slow cookers.  But not for the bread maker. Snap them up!

Celia, of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, inspired me to purchase one. The Romertopf baker enables a high rise, moist loaf, to be made with a fairly hydrated sourdough mix. Don’t ask me about the level of hydration here- I am not that technical, yet.

The dough
Starter, 300g , bubbly and ripe,  (read Celia’s starter notes)
bakers white flour 500g
wholemeal flour 200g
rye flour 100g
water 610 g
salt 18g

Total flour weight 800g

The Method

  1. Place the starter in a large mixing bowl, add the other dry ingredients, then add the water bit by bit, mixing by hand until there is a sticky dough and all the dry has been incorporated into the wet. You could also use a wooden spoon.
  2. Let this sticky dough rest in a large bowl for 30 minutes or so.
  3. Attempt to lift, stretch and fold the dough in the bowl. As it was  fairly wet and this was a bit tricky, I tipped the lot into a stand mixer and gave it a slow knead with the dough hook for 3 minutes. The dough was wet but silky.
  4. It then proved in a large oiled bowl, initially for 4 hours ( winter evening). As it wasn’t ready for late evening baking, I put it in the fridge overnight to slowly prove (7 more hours).
  5. The dough was ready at 6 Am.  I then shaped the loaf on a floured board for a final prove, around 1 hour.
  6. As it was growing sideways, and looking ridiculous, I tipped the lot into a Romertopf earthenware baking dish. This had been pre- soaked in warm water, then lined with baking paper. The top was slashed, the lid went on.
  7. The loaf started in a cold oven turned to 220c , for 25 minutes, then 20 minutes with the lid off, then 10 minutes at 175c. The fan was on throughout.

    Slashed and laid in the Romertopf
    Slashed and laid in the Romertopf. Wet and unpromising.

Result. One huge family style loaf, good for sandwiches and general purpose eating. Everyone loves it- it’s disappearing quickly. The Romertopf method gives the crust a golden glow.
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Notes-

  • very moist loaf, open crumb, golden crust, not as sour as I would like it, though sour notes improved on second day. Will do this again, and increase the rye, or introduce spelt.
  • A great family loaf, huge in size and a good keeper. Next time, I won’t use the mixer. In summer, I might attempt the whole rise in the fridge over a longer period.
  • In a discussion with a gifted baker, Craig, I seem to recall his comments about slow proving and that modern bread may be causing digestion problems due to over yeasting and fast proving. I must explore slow proving further.

    Golden crusted loaf
    Golden crusted loaf

Grazie Mille to Celia for introducing me to the Romertopf  method.

Fettucine with Cavolo Nero, the Prince of Winter

Cavolo Nero sounds so much better than Kale, don’t you think? It rolls off the tongue, has romantic connections with Tuscany, where it has been grown forever by the contadini, and it isn’t as trendy as Common Curly Kale with its Commercial Connotations. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cavolo Nero,  Lacinato, Tuscan Kale, Tuscan Black cabbage, is the Principe d’inverno, the prince of winter.  In winter it is the star of the vegetable garden:  indeed it requires frost to reach its peak of princeliness. In summer, the leaves tend to toughen in the hot sun and even worse, it becomes prone to attack from white cabbage moths.  In winter, it grows like a triffid, reaching for the sky, its only enemy being the white cockatoo, the  Australian gangster parrot. They are easy to grow.  If you don’t have a vegetable patch, consider growing a plant or two in your flower garden to provide height, leafy contrast and architectural drama as well as a source of nutritious green.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My favourite pasta dish is based on Cavolo Nero. It is a five minute wonder dish, requiring  only a few pantry staples along with some freshly picked young cavolo nero leaves.

Fettucine con Cavolo Nero ed Amici.

Recipe for two people

  • 180g Egg Fettucine nests
  • 100 g freshly picked young cavolo nero leaves
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 3 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • a knob of butter
  • grana padano parmigiana
  1. Prep the ingredients as this is a speedy dish. Strip the leaves from the centre stalk of the cavolo nero.  If large, chop them roughly.  If small and delicate, leave them whole or tear them. Finely chop the garlic. Roughly chop the anchovies.  Grate the cheese.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Cook the pasta in ample salted water until al dente, as per packet instructions. Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan then add generous slug of oil. The oil makes up part of the sauce so don’t be parsimonious here. Add the anchovies, stir to melt them, then add the garlic and chilli, stir about briefly, then add the leaves and toss about.
  3. When the pasta is almost ready, scoop out around half a cup of cooking water. Drain the pasta. No need to drain it thoroughly; the starchy water adds to the sauce.
  4. Add pasta to the pan, along with a little cooking water ( it will disappear into the sauce). Raise the heat to very high, stir about, then add the knob of butter* and a few grindings of pepper.
    The secret last ingredient,  a knob of butter.
    The secret last ingredient, a knob of butter.
  5. Have a hot serving bowl ready, tip the contents into the bowl and serve. Also heat your pasta bowls. Pasta cools too quickly on cold plates.
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* About the knob of butter. I once ate a fabulous pasta dish at the famous Melbourne restaurant, Pelligrino’s. As the place was packed, I was seated on a stool out the back alongside the chef’s stove. The Italian Nonna tossed the pasta around with its sauce in a small aluminium pan at high heat, then added a knob of butter before re-tossing briefly. This old trick works so well with many wintery pasta dishes.

Antipasto of Egg Salad with Parsley Pesto.

Essere Come Prezzemolo is a handy Italian expression. It simply means to be like parsley, and is applied to people who turn up everywhere, or are always there. ( Steven Fry comes to mind ) Thank goodness parsley is always in my garden as it forms the backbone of many a meal. It flavours stock, is the main star in tabbouleh and it is sprinkled over many a dish, like confetti at a wedding, or a last blessing from the kitchen. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This little salad always gets eaten first at any family gathering.  The young wolves descend on it.It is an economical starter, especially if you grow parsley which is really like a weed. Serve this with another salad, some herbed olives and a tasty bread for lunch.

Mt Zero Biodynamic olives, warmed with oil, garlic and herbs.
Mt Zero Biodynamic olives, warmed with oil, garlic and herbs.

The dish employs winter produce at its peak. Avocados, which are cheap in July and August, come from our sunnier northern states. Parsley is always prolific in the garden but more so in winter as it tends to ‘bolt’ in summer. The eggs are free range organic bantam eggs but any small sized organic eggs you can get hold of will go well as they are the star.

Antipasto di Uova, Prezzemolo e Avocado

  • 6 eggs ( small size)
  • 1 large avocado, or more as required.
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • small handful pine nuts
  • sea salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Hard boil the eggs. Meanwhile make the parsley pesto in a mortar and pestle. Throw in the peeled garlic and some coarsely ground salt. Begin pounding. Add the pine nuts and continue pounding. ( Think of your least favorite politician). Add the leaves from the parsley bunch, a bit at a time. Continue bashing away until the parsley is broken down but still a little rough in texture. Add the oil, continue pounding, and add enough to make a green sauce, runny enough to drizzle. Arrange the halved eggs and avocado chunks on a platter, drizzle with the parsley pesto, and add another grinding of salt. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I usually reserve the term pesto for the classic basil pesto which I only make in Summer. This one is so similar, and the green is so vibrant, I’m allowing it to sneak into the pesto category.

Sourdough Diaries. Wholemeal and Spelt.

It’s 6 degrees outside and Kevin Bacon springs to mind! An odd thought to start the day, I know. Any plans to garden or gather plants have been shelved in favour of baking. I am experiencing separation anxiety from my lonely sourdough starter waiting for me at the back of the fridge. Time to light the fires and get ‘Celia’ into action.

50% wholemeal sourdough
50% wholemeal sourdough

Last week I made three different loaves using the basic foolproof tutorial provided by Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  My first loaf was white and gorgeous. Loaf number two was more appealing, made with half baker’s white flour and half wholemeal flour. The third started as pizza dough, but as time ran out in the evening and the dough wasn’t fully risen, it became the next day’s spelt and white sourdough loaf. The latter contained a mixture of 20% spelt flour to 80% white baker’s flour. I am keen to increase the spelt content on this one. The young visiting lads enjoyed the spelt loaf, eating all the crust, a good sign, and asking for more. This is the best compliment a bread can have. It is now two days old and while a little firm, is excellent grilled for bruschetta.

Some spelt added to the mix
Some spelt added to the mix

Now I am in search of some decent large packets of rye flour in Melbourne.  I found a large bag of Rye flour at Bas foods, Brunswick, but it contained added salt, sugar and oil and appeared to be a bread mix. The health food shops tend to pack things in tiny quantities and charge an arm and a leg. Any hints anyone?

20% spelt adds a nutty flavour.
20% spelt adds a nutty flavour.

Turkish Red Lentil ‘Bride’ Soup.

ottoman designs
ottoman designs

I first tried this nourishing soup a few years ago in Brunswick, near Melbourne. A young Turkish woman opened a small lunchtime cafe in the middle of an empty space in the Brunswick Market. She cooked her grandmother’s food from memory; it was cheap, sustaining and delicious. Her little restaurant didn’t survive, given its location inside a dingy arcade. Every now and then I see her around the streets of Brunswick and I feel like running up to tell her how much I loved her soup.  She served it in big deep bowls with a small pourer of white vinegar and a separate little saucer of dried chilli flakes on the side, along with fluffy Turkish pide, toasted in a flat sandwich maker. I have been making versions of this soup ever since then, trying to replicate her flavours and texture. It is so cheap and nourishing, you could live on it. The key to the ‘bridal’ quality of this soup is the butter. You could ‘veganise’ the recipe, but it wouldn’t taste as good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I am indebted to Patricia Solley’s Soupsong for this close version to the real thing, to which I have made slight adjustments.

Turkish Red Lentil Bride soup –  Ezo Gelin Çorbasi

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup red lentils, washed and picked over
  • 1/2 cup fine bulgur wheat
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste, or Biber Salcasi ( red pepper paste)
  • 8 cups vegetable stock, or water and 2 stock cubes ( use chicken stock if you prefer)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or dried red chilli flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon dried mint leaves, crumbled
  • Traditional Garnish: lemon slices, or vinegar and chilli flakes, mint.  Inauthentic garnish, yoghurt, mint leaves and chilli flakes.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan and saute the onions over low heat until they are golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in the paprika, then the lentils and bulgur to coat them in the butter. Add the tomato paste or red pepper paste ( or Biber Salcasi), the  stock and hot chilli, then bring to a boil.  Reduce to very low simmer and cook until soft and creamy, for about an hour. ( You may need a simmer mat for this and check that it doesn’t stick). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA When ready to serve, tear the fresh mint into the soup or crumble in the dried mint. Stir, remove from heat for 10 minutes, covered, then ladle the soup into large serving bowls, serving with lemon wedges and extra mint on the side. Great with warm or toasted Turkish Pide. It’s a meal!

Turkish Bridal Soup
Turkish Bridal Soup

“The origin of this rich Turkish soup is attributed to an astonishingly beautiful girl born in 1909 in the village of Dokuzyol, located on ancient caravan routes in the Barak plain. Ezo had red cheeks and black hair and was adored by camel riders who stopped by her house for water. Her story ends badly, though–her first marriage to a villager was unhappy and she was permitted to forsake him on grounds of maltreatment. Her second marriage took her to Syria and a mother-in-law who couldn’t be pleased…and for whom, it is said, she haplessly created this soup. Ezo died of tuberculosis in Syria in 1952, but in the interim had become a legend in her native land in both folksong and film. Her name lives on in this very popular, stick-to-the-ribs soup–which is now traditionally fed to new brides, right before their wedding, to sustain them for what lies ahead.”

Patricia Solley, An Exultation of Soups.

The bridal shops of Sydney Road, Brunswick, are notorious. Some specialise in elegance.
The bridal shops of Sydney Road, Brunswick, are notorious. Some specialise in elegance.
And others do amazing bridal kitsch.
And others do amazing bridal kitsch.

The Secret Life of Celia, my Sourdough Starter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACelia is the name of my sourdough starter. She is the daughter of Priscilla, the sourdough starter sent to me by Celia, of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  Some readers may already know the real Celia, baker extraordinaire and all round generous and inspiring woman. Her online tutorials are easy to follow, thorough and are well supported with photos at every stage of the process. In fact there are around 367 bread making related posts on her site, as well as further information on bread making supplies and equipment. This, I believe, is a far better guide than any bread making book and a wonderful thing.

The following post is a test case diary of my first sourdough loaf.  If you wish to make sourdough bread too, just head straight to Celia’s instructive post here .

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.
Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.

Celia , my starter, behaved as expected, just as her mother would have predicted. I began rehydrating her at 7.00 AM and, as instructed, added doses of flour and water at various times throughout the first day and evening.  On the second morning, she was alive, thick
and bubbly.  Hooray. After incorporating the remaining bread ingredients and a pause of half an hour, the dough was very easy to knead. Then off she went to happily sit in a winter sunny spot on my ‘proving’ high chair.

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Hand made Australian high chair becomes a proving station.
Hand made Australian high chair becomes a proving station.

The dough proved for around four hours (winter in a warm room) and then looked ready to rock and roll. The second proving was a little harder to judge.

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The loaf was slashed, spritzed and baked as instructed. It came out looking great and once cool,  we hoovered a few slices with plain butter. It smelt and tasted very good.

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I may have erred somewhere as it sounded quite drum like when first removed, but the base sounded a little softer on cooling, yet it didn’t really affect the flavour or texture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACost per loaf, around $ 1.20 (500 g flour = 50cents/ salt and olive oil/ 20cents/ oven running cost of fan forced 90 cm wide oven at full heat, then reduced,  per hour- around 50 cents)

Cost for a quality sourdough loaf retail – around $7.00. The cost would reduce to 95 cents per loaf, if two were made at once, as well as saving power. Next time I will make two and freeze the spare.

Thanks to Celia, the mentor who inspired this post. Just click on Bread at the top of her home page to find out more.

http://figjamandlimecordial.com/

Lentil Bolognese. Pasta Comfort food.

Two years ago, my favourite little Italian restaurant closed. Joe and his wife ran “Cafe Mingo”, located in Sydney Road, Brunswick. Their pasta dishes were so satisfying and cheap. Each night they would chalk up a new pasta dish or two. I remember having this vegetarian pasta one evening and I have played with it ever since. If you asked Joe where his recipes came from, he would just shrug and say “from the back of a Barilla packet!!” At the end of a meal, Joe would surreptitiously slide a bottle of home-made grappa across the table, along with a plate of wafer biscuits. It was like visiting their family home. How dare they retire!

This following is my vegetarian version of a Bolognese sauce, in the style of Cafe Mingo. The Bolognese would be horrified! What, no meat?

The soffritto
Three tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
one onion, finely chopped
one celery stick  finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
salt.
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The sauce
100 grams of Puy lentils
100 g of portobello or swiss brown mushrooms
10 grs of dried porcini mushrooms
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
one large tomato, seeded and finely chopped
oregano 
salt and pepper
 The pasta
100 g per person Casareccia or any other pasta that holds the sauce
grated parmesan, reggiano or grana padano, to serve
 
 
  1. Cook the lentils in a heavy based saucepan with plenty of water and a bay leaf. Do not add salt as this toughens lentils. Cook for around 20 minutes, so that the lentils still hold their shape and aren’t mushy. Drain.Image
  2. Soak the porcini mushrooms in boiling water, around 3/4 cup, to soften for 20 minutes. Remove the re-hydrated mushrooms, chop roughly and reserve liquid.Image
  3.  In a large heavy based saucepan or deep sided frying pan, heat the olive oil, then add the soffritto ingredients, adding the garlic last. Stir well and cook over medium heat for five minutes until softened. Adding a pinch of salt helps the onions sweat. Do not let the onion colour.Image
  4. Then add the finely chopped portobello mushrooms, cook for 5 minutes, lowering the heat, then add the chopped porcini mushrooms and stir for a further 3 minutes.
  5. Add the drained lentils, stir, then the mushroom soaking liquid, leaving behind any sand or grit, and continue to cook on low.
  6. Bring a large pot of pasta to the boil, add salt, then add casareccia or other pasta and cook as directed on the packet. Image
  7. As the pasta is cooking, add two tablespoons of tomato paste, and a finely chopped tomato (optional) to the lentil mixture. 
  8. Season well, add herbs, such as dried oregano, and check that the sauce is ‘wet’ enough.Image
  9. When the pasta is ready, scoop out a cup of cooking water before draining. ( I always retain a cup of the cooking water in case the sauce needs it- a good habit to get into.) Add a little to the sauce to loosen the sauce.
  10.  Serve the Bolognese through the pasta, with grated parmigiana.ImageImage