Sourdough revived (sourdough no. 4)

You may have read my previous sourdough posts. I have killed a previous starter, in fact twice, I got some back from my brother and killed that too!
Last time I was in London my brother in-law gave me some more, this time from a pizza restaurant, it made very nice bread. I made a few batches, have left it two weeks and it was fine. Then last weekend I forgot to start it off on the Friday night… oops, then forgot to start it off on Saturday night… oops again. I work as a supply teacher and didn’t have work booked on Monday so I set a batch off on the Sunday night.
Sods law I got a call on Monday, worked, got home and found the starter bubbling away, now I had work booked on Tuesday and Wednesday and nearly threw it away, but the fridge had room so I put it in to see what happened, I do hate throwing food away.

On Thursday (so it had been 24 hours out then 2 days in the fridge) I had a day free, so I looked at the starter, it smelt fine, (kind of sour!) I mixed 50g of flour with 100g of boiling water and then mixed that into the starter from the fridge. I wanted to get an answer as to whether I would be able to use it as quickly as possible so wanted to warm it quickly. After about half an hour in a very low oven (about 40 degrees Celsius) it was obviously alive and well so I went ahead. I took away the flour and water that I had already added from the recipe. This time I also added about 80 g seeds, a mix of sesame, poppy and sunflower, I added them with the olive oil after the one hour proving.
I also tried the bread in a loaf tin for a change, that also seems to have done well, tin oiled and floured and dough proved in the tin.
I do use the oven to prove it, as the house is pretty cold at the moment, I just leave it less than the 3-6 hours recommended in the original recipe I was given, yesterday the loaves had doubled in size in about 1 1/2 hours.

So a recap of the recipe (with experiential changes)

24 g of the starter you keep in the fridge,
add 150g of tepid water and add 150g of flour,
mix and leave covered in a warm place overnight.

To the remainder of the starter add 10-20 g of flour and up to 10 g tepid water mix well, leave out of fridge for a couple of hours to allow the yeasts to get going on some of the new flour/food then put back in the fridge. (I left it overnight once and then had very active starter that kept trying to escape from the plastic pot in the fridge).

Next day (or some time later!) to that add;
250 g tepid water and mix
add 500 g flour (1/2 white, 1/2 brown)
5 g salt and mix.

Leave for 10 minutes in a warm place then mix by dragging the edge into the middle with your hands, repeat twice.
Leave for an hour.

Add 20 g olive oil and 80 g or so of seeds if you want.
Mix as above then tip out onto a work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, divide in two, prove, either in a basket lined with a flour dusted tea towel or in a tin, oiled and floured.
Leave in a warm place until doubled in size (1 1/2 to 6 hours depending on how warm it is).
Bake in a hot oven 220 degrees Celsius, (put a roasting tin with 1/2 pint of water in the bottom of the hot oven, this gives a better bake) for 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

It freezes really well, lasts well and is supposedly easier to digest than “normal” bread.

I read (probably in McGee on Food and Cooking) that oil can inhibit the gluten release from the dough, hence adding it right at the end, salt on the other hand did something good, can’t remember what, so goes in at the beginning…


First batch of green tomato chutney this year.

So I started, one of the baskets from previous post was 4 kg so the recipe is as follows (for variations see previous chutney post).

4.4 kg green tomatoes
1.2 kg onions
1.3 kg small apples
70g fresh root ginger chopped very small
2 pints vinegar
50g chilli powder
500g sultanas
1kg sugar
2 tsp salt

I have shown the method in pictures. For more detail see previous post. This batch made 20 jars in a selection of sizes.

Chopping the tomatoes first

Chopping the tomatoes first

The tomatoes and onions are in the pan, now the apples, this year half from my trees, sharp and half from my inlaws trees, sweet, 1.3 kg down to just over a kilo peeled and cored, you could of course leave the peel on.

The tomatoes and onions are in the pan, now the apples, this year half from my trees, sharp and half from my inlaws trees, sweet, 1.3 kg down to just over a kilo peeled and cored, you could of course leave the peel on.

All "veg" in the pan, I put on the heat when I'd finished the onions.

All “veg” in the pan, I put on the heat when I’d finished the onions, the ginger is in too.

Stir it all up and add the vinegar. Up to that point it had taken one hour.

Stir it all up and add the vinegar. Up to this point it had taken one hour.

After about half an hour simmering, added all the rest of the ingredients and stirred. Keep stirring every 10-15 minutes to stop it sticking too badly to the bottom of the pan.

After about half an hour simmering, add all the rest of the ingredients and stir. Keep stirring every 10-15 minutes to stop it sticking too badly to the bottom of the pan.

After about half an hour with everything in.

After about half an hour with everything in.

After two hours of simmering it's a deep orange/red. I used 50g of chilli this time, I think it's a bit hot, but as it will fade with age (who doesn't!) I'm not bothered.

After two hours of simmering it’s a deep orange/red. I used 50g of chilli this time, I think it’s a bit hot, but as it will fade with age (who doesn’t!) I’m not bothered, no molasses in the cupboard this year so it’s not as dark as usual.

Messy jars, with jug and jam funnel, as you can see I'll use any old jar, some are on their 4th or 5th use.

Messy jars, with jug and jam funnel, as you can see I’ll use any old jar, some are on their 4th or 5th use.

Cleaned lidded and ready to label. The last bit that wouldn't fit in a jar on a plate, really quite pokey this year!

All cleaned with a damp cloth, especially the thread of the jars, lidded and ready to label. The last bit that wouldn’t fit in a jar on a plate, really quite pokey this year!

Green Tomato Chutney

small chutneyFollowing a phone call with my sister where we talked about tomato blight and what to do with the fruits themselves she commented that she’d like to make some chutney. I make it every year as there are always tomatoes that won’t ripen, and those plants that have been struck by blight are less likely to ripen, in my experience anyway, what happens is that the green tomatoes develop yellowy brownish blotches, so I try to make the chutney before I lose to many to the manky blight.

The recipe I have developed over the years originally came from Keith Floyd on the BBC website, after looking through a load I chose this one as it was the most straightforward. My Green Tomato Chutney variations have been well praised so here is the basic recipe and tips from my 10 or so batches.

The picture shows the sweet version on the left, hot on the right and on the plate.

GREEN TOMATO CHUTNEY the basic quantities

2kg green tomatoes roughly chopped, I often take out the white “core” from where the tomato was attached to the plant, especially in Marmande toms where it is often large, with cherry toms I just chuck them in whole.
500g apples cored and roughly chopped, I have used various varieties over the years sometimes free from friends (or from my trees when they produce any!) and once or twice I have bought cooking apples, it doesn’t seem to make much difference to the taste, you may want to use slightly more sugar if using cooking apples.
625g onions chopped, I have used home grown or bought.
8-10 chillies and 15g root ginger, I have used lots of different spice variations see section below.
250g raisins or sultanas, I use the cheapest ‘no brand’ ones available around 85p for 500g, once I had started without checking I had all the ingredients and used some dates instead.
500g brown sugar, I have given up using brown sugar due to the expense, I add some molasses, which is all the good stuff left over from the refining process I usually add 1 dessertspoon of molasses.
570 ml malt vinegar, I again use the cheapest ‘no brand’ possible about 40p.
2 teaspoons salt.

Start with a very large pan, preferably not aluminium or enamel due to the acidic nature of the chutney. However I use a 10 litre (30 cm diameter 20 cm high) old aluminium catering pan, just don’t leave it longer in the pan than you need to.
Put in the chopped toms, onion and apple and turn on the heat (chop to a size appropriate for you, smaller size will take less time to cook and provide a more spreadable chutney, but will take longer to chop!) I often turn on the heat as I am still chopping, the green tomatoes can take ages to soften, add the vinegar when all the toms, onion and apple are in. After about half an hour add all the other ingredients and stir until the sugar has dissolved, cook gently and stir frequently until the chutney is the consistency you like. I usually do this for around 2 hours, but there is no set temperature as with jam, the chutney will thicken a little as it cools, so decide how you like yours-for sandwiches or as an accompaniment for main meals.
The house does end up smelling vinegary and spicy.
About 1/4 of an hour before it will be ready put some jars, (about 20 clean preused jars of various sizes) on a baking tray in the oven at 100 degrees Celsius. Keep the lids separate and make sure they are clean and dry. It’s better to have too many than too few jars, if using kilner type jars take the rubber seal off before putting in the oven.
Turn off the heat and leave for a few minutes, use a jug to scoop out some chutney and a jam funnel if you have one to fill the jars to about 1cm below the rim of the jars. When you have used it all up use a very clean wet cloth to wipe any spills away, especially from the screw thread on the jars. Screw on the lids tightly and leave the jars to cool if the lids have a pop up section in the middle that should pop in as the jars cool, if some don’t do that use them first as the seal will not be as good. Label, (it’s amazing how quickly one forgets which recipe was used or the year it was made!) A  well sealed jar should last for many years, if reusing jars the lids can sometimes deteriorate especially if they have been used several times, watch out for signs of rust.


I have variously used whole or ground chilli, TOWPCOE loves the hot versions to which I add lots of chilli.

Sometimes I have used a range of spices, I personally don’t like cinnamon very much so don’t use it. The smell of the bubbling mixture will give you an idea of the finished taste (except for chilli which is tricky to judge), so do experiment with flavours you like.

Most of my batches have been just ginger and chilli, chop the ginger finely, I have usually doubled the amount of ginger. For a hot version I have used 10-12 teaspoons of powdered chilli, but different batches of chilli will have different heats so it is quite tricky to work out how much to use.

Hot chutneys will fade in heat over time, so don’t worry if you add too much chilli it will be edible at some point!

A sweet one from last year which went down well with my sister had…

125g extra sultanas,

almost twice as much sugar which was probably a little excessive, try 750g,

1 tsp hot chilli powder

10g ground coriander

20g mustard seeds

20g ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

and an extra large dessertspoon of molasses.

Another spicy version…

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp chilli

3 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp salt

and some orange zest and juice.

I’ve killed my sourdough!

Having been so pleased to get a sourdough starter off a friend last Autumn, I have been careless enough to let it die.
My excuses are a lack of the usual amount of “free” time I have had since mid January as I have had a part time teaching job, and a nearly 2 hour daily commute, and that we have a new bakery in the village which we have been trying to support.
I left it at least a month the last time, 2 weeks seemed to be fine, but obviously it ran out of food as I had not kept it topped up with fresh flour.
Anyway the good news is that I’m going to see my brother at half term and he had some off me so maybe he’ll give me a bit back. He has been much more scientific than me about the whole process reading loads of stuff on the internet. Typical of him! I tend to be a bit random with my cooking, usually it works well.
So here’s hoping he’ll spare me a bit and I can get back to great bread.

Christmas presents No.3

So we don’t do presents for adults, (see last Jan post) but TOWPCOE’s sister forgot that and went completely mad, in a very nice way of course!
I carried the present home, well I nearly did, half way I did a very unusual thing and accepted a lift from the ‘village’ the 1/4 mile or so home…
Christmas present No.2 was a massive (10lb) chicken which turned up courtesy of a friend in town on the 23rd Dec with no warning. It made a great meal when our second guest turned up on Christmas eve and will be lovely when we defrost what was left.
Anyway Christmas morning came and we were thinking about smoked salmon canapes and which alcohol to start on, when we remembered the present…SL701503
Spanish Jamon (and the stand).
A great addition to the meat consumption over the festivities, we’ve had a little every day, it’s still going and hopefully will for some time, especially now we know to keep the fat to place over the cut part of the meat, it is sitting wrapped in a tea towel on the counter. YUM YUM.


Keeping your sourdough starter alive

Having posted about making sourdough bread I have since handed out a bit (to my brother) and so thought I’d better write about keeping it alive!
I have had mine for 2 months and have made 4 batches. So you can tell that it doesn’t mind being the fridge for ages between uses. When you do use a bit you just add a bit more flour, around 15 g, and mix it well putting it back in the fridge. SL701505
When I gave some away last night I thought it might be unwell, as I hadn’t used it for a couple of weeks, so I left the jar out of the fridge having added around 30 g of flour and 20 ml or so of tepid water as I had given half of it away. It was bubbling away this morning so it went back in the fridge.
If you find that there is a load of grey ‘water’ on top of the starter in the jar then you need to tip off the ‘water’ and add 30 g of flour and 30 g of fresh tepid water, leave the jar out of the fridge for the night and see how it is in the morning. (I have done this and it worked.) According to the sheet I was given with the starter you can add 30 g more flour and try again, though I didn’t need to.

Sourdough Bread at long last.

I’ve been wanting to make some sourdough bread for years, since I started eating wheat again after 12 years of avoidance. SL701477I never had the courage to just leave some flour and water out to make a starter as I have seen on the internet. However when visiting an old friend a few weeks ago he had a starter, and offered to give me some of it. (I’ve known him a massive 30 years not that he’s old!) I gratefully bit his hand off and came home delighted. Didn’t get round to making any bread for ages, I thought I’d managed to kill it, but thankfully he had given me a copy of the instructions he had got from the course he had been on. So I refreshed it as per instructions and had a go, the first attempt was a total disaster, I didn’t follow the recipe exactly and was a little impatient which resulted in 2 brick like baps. (Although grated and soaked in hot water the chickens have enjoyed them…)

Last Friday I had another go and it worked wonderfully, even though I say so myself!

So the recipe…

25 g of starter mixed with 150 g white flour and 150 g/ml tepid water and left overnight.

To the resulting mixture, bubbling away, add a further 250 g/ml tepid water,

then add 500 g flour (I used half white half wholemeal bread flours) and 5 g salt and mix well.

Leave covered for 10 minutes then pull the dough from the edge of the bowl into the middle and turn it and repeat until you’ve been all the way round the bowl.

Repeat twice, then leave for an hour.

“Knead” by doing the same as above on a work surface a little bit more than before, split the dough into 2 parts, put in a basket lined with a tea towel with a bit of flour on it and leave to rise (prove) for 3-6 hours… yes that’s what I thought! Until doubled in size.

Turn onto greased and floured baking sheet and cook for 30-40 minutes at 200 degrees (fan oven), with a tray of water in the bottom.

Success seems to be dependent on the proving, it’s been pretty cold in my kitchen recently so rather than put the heating on I put the small oven on for a few minutes on 50 degrees and used that for the last part of proving in the baskets, I put the oven on a couple of times, making sure it wasn’t hot enough to kill the yeasts or singe the tea towels! It was around 34 degrees most of the time.