Friday, June 25, 2010

Where does time fly to?

Some time has admittedly gone in reading a totally delightful book, Wildwood by Roger Deakin. Is was a slow but intensely pleasurable read (I can rip through a novel in less than a day very often). I would have started it over again had it not needed to return to the library, but I have my own copy on order because it is the perfect bedside companion with so many wonderful tales and anecdotes that can be visited and revisited over and over. How sad that the author died soon after completing it.

I tried to order some more of his books from the library, but I wasn't allowed. I've made it a habit to try and order books from the library as a way of previewing and auditioning to see what should be added to my bookshelves, but the computer said no. Today I visited my local branch library and was told it was because I owed too much money and I could not even borrow any books until I paid up! This was not owing to overdue loan fines, but the fact I had so many books on order, so I had to hand over a sizeable amount of dosh "on account" for books I've requested in order to be allowed to take some which had arrived home with me. Luckily, I found this quite funny and I could manage to find the money to do it. It's those interlibrary loan requests - they do add up!

I've found another way of enjoying books without adding to the bookshelves - and it's not another electronic device, either, because I like to curl up with my paper tomes. I visited Silverpebble's lovely blog and learned of her Pass the Book giveaway. I am reluctant to mention it here really, because I really would like to win, but doing so gives me more potential to succeed, so, swings and roundabouts!

A sign of the passage of time is the arthritis whch is giving me a bit of a hard time at the moment, especially affecting my dominant hand, my right hip and giving me a tailor's bunion and cyst on my right foot. It's a literal pain, but at least it seems right to relax and read as much as possible.

And I'm taking time to smell the roses - and the sweet peas!

Friday, June 11, 2010

This is not a food blog -

but you'd be forgiven for beginning to wonder! I blame my daughter for my current experiment, as she discovered a recipe she thought I might enjoy trying.

One of the problems with a gluten free diet is bread. Purchased bread that is also gluten free is usually costly and often not very good. Some resembles madeira cake more than bread and is so spongy it is hard to swallow, others turn to crumbs if you look at them, which is a costly way of making breadcrumbs. Genius is the best I've come across and I feel churlish saying this, but it tends to have over-large air holes which make the slices fall apart, and also it comes in white or brown only - I long for something with a bit more substance and fibre.

I have tried making my own bread and, again, have had some success after a lot of testing and perseverence. We bought a (Panasonic) breadmaker and a number of books. I tried using gram flour (chick peas). The best ready flour mix I have found is made by Glebe Farm Seeded Brown Bread Mix. The snag with this is that the breadmaker paddle leaves a big hole in the bottom which makes the slices of bread fragile (as does the lack of gluten), but I should try to make the dough in the machine and then bake it in the oven. It requires the addition of egg or egg substitute to make it work, so it does not taste altogether authentic, either.

Spelt is a primitive form of wheat and I can tolerate it fairly well (I'm not coeliac). My daughter forwarded this recipe for Three-minute Spelt Bread from the Guardian's blog post on making wholemeal bread, and the idea of quick natural bread mde it seem worth giving a go. The rest of the Blog entry is really interesting and gave me some further ideas to pursue.

I used a mix of 400g wholemeal spelt to 100g white spelt flour. I mixed the dough with my Kenwood Chef mixer. The dough was quite wet and did not form a clump, so I decided I might as well also use the idea of cooking in a well-oiled cast-iron casserole (it is suggested that the trapped moisture encourages rising). So, I oiled my casserole and used a spatula to transfer the dough therein, and proceeded to bake as instructed having placed the lid on the casserole.

The oven has a bread baking setting, so I used that, and left everything alone for an hour.

The loaf looked wonderful when I took the lid off the casserole, and had risen somewhat more than the photograph suggests.

However, the oiling of the casserole was not sufficent lubrication to allow an easy release of the baked loaf and I had to dig it out, leaving most of the bottom crust behind. The flavour, however, is wonderful.

I need to try some further variations on this theme, but oh! The pleasure of eating bread that tastles like bread is a great joy indeed.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Scotch Eggs

I have been eating a gluten-free diet for some time now, and I am fairly well-adjusted to it, but from time to time I really miss something from my wheaten days. At the end of last month, my eldest daughter celebrated her birthday with a trip to Bristol Zoo, and my younger daughter picked up a Scotch Egg as part of her lunch for the occasion. I felt very envious, but decided I needed to find a way of making them that did not involve wheat or gluten and preferably baked rather than fried - deep fat frying is just not a way of cooking I am equipped or desire to use.

Where would we be without the internet? So many recipes to choose from! I referred to this and this. I bought minced pork from the butcher, and processed it with sage, thyme, ground cloves and black pepper while my free-range hard-boiled eggs were cooling and shelled. Now I know how to make my own, rusk-free, sausage meat for Christmas stuffing! I divided my meat into six portions, one for each egg, and made a sort of egg-sized dip in a portion before moulding it around the egg. Once the six eggs were all enrobed in meat, I blitzed three slices of gluten-free bread into breadcrumbs, and beat another egg. The eggs were first rolled in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs. I sprayed oil onto a baking sheet and put the eggs onto it before giving them a little oil spritz and placing them in the preheated oven.

The result:-

Really delicious they were, too, with salads, for all the family. Definitely another recipe to keep and repeat.

Elderflower Cordial

I have been playing at being a Domestic Goddess again. Yesterday I managed to find some accessible off-road elderflowers, plus citric acid, granulated sugar and fresh lemons in the local village shops. Syrup was made, lemons had their zest peeled off and were then sliced and steeped overnight in the syrup with the elderflower heads and citric acid.

Today I found clip-top bottles at the hardware shop in the next village and now the cordial is bottled up. A tip - if you are sterilizing your bottles by washing them well, then sterilizing in a warm oven, remove the clip tops first. I found out the messy way that the caps are no longer ceramic, but plastic. Luckily more bottles were available.

Loads of recipes exist on the internet - I used this one as a basis but deviated a little in quantitites. It tastes wonderful and I'm looking forward to finding ways of using it - it's wonderful with gin on the rocks! Now I feel like exploring more elderflower recipes - but first need to gather more blossoms. Anyone got any spare?

This photo was taken using flash and the colour is a bit more truthful, but I loved the light and contrast of the previous one, with only natural light.

It looks as it it will be a good year for blackberries, too.

The bramble bushes are absolutely smothered in buds - I've never seen the like before. Definitely worth a return visit later in the year!