Sourdough loaf with Sussex Magister Wheat

I tried a different variety of wheat in my sourdough loaf yesterday and it made a surprising difference to the crumb and lightness of the loaf. I usually buy wheat grain from the local windmill at Heage but the milling had to stop due to wet rot in the main beam thingy so I lost my grain supply. The good news is that after much fundraising the windmill now has it's sails back on and is back in action. In the meantime I bought wheat grain from Imbhams when I ordered spelt grain and maize so have a different variety to bake from. I'm not sure where Heage windmill source their grain from but it is definitely not the Sussex Magister wheat that I used yesterday. This has a much darker reddish colour and the dough was more springy and stretchy, whereas the Heage grain made a more rustic loaf with a greater depth of flavour. That is not to say that my new grain has no flavour, it is just lighter and more subtle (and just as delicious).

If only a photo could convey the heavenly smell and taste of a sourdough loaf

If only a photo could convey the heavenly smell and taste of a sourdough loaf

Whilst researching Heage Windmill for this post I saw that there was a classic motor bike event today so we picked an interlude between the showers and went for a look. It was a small but friendly show with much shiny chrome and classic bikes coming and going and roaring up and down the lane.  It was marvellous to see the windmill sails whipping round in the wind and of course it was quite essential to buy a bag of flour :)

Yet more holiday

I've had a few days off during the February half term holiday and been able to spend some time just doing stuff; some baking, some chilling, some walking.......and I've had some new binoculars. Admittedly, these are for my birthday, even though it's not my birthday for ages, but well, I needed them now whilst I was on holiday. Anyway, this is how we spent our holiday at home:-


I've been trying to eat more greens and have been experimenting with adding spinach to, well, almost everything. A very colourful breakfast ensued with green sourdough pancakes (with spinach) and purple smoothies with blackberries, banana, avacado, yoghurt and coconut water. It was quite a substantial breakfast and so needed a walk to work it off. I should probably say that the pancakes did taste much nicer than they looked.


A spell of nice weather (and a huge breakfast) meant that we needed to be out and about so we went to Crich for a short but glorious walk. We parked near the purple dot below and set off along The Tors which is a ridge with a great view over Crich and Amber Valley to one side and views over the hills towards Matlock and Crich memorial on the other side. The main objective of the walk was to investigate some building works at Ambergate reservoir (marked 'Resr' on the map). The underground reservoir was built 100 years ago and was in need of rebuilding and extending, although we didn't know all this until we reached it. We skirted around the reservoir,  and up through Bilberry wood, climbing up the steepest bit of hill to get back onto The Tors and into Crich. It wasn't a long walk, but it certainly gave the lungs some exercise.

Bird Watching

We are not very good at bird watching, in fact binoculars are usually called 'bird scarers' in our house. This does not put us off from watching the birds if we can find any. In our quest to try out the new binoculars, we made a visit to a nearby reservoir at Ogston. Disappointingly, there doesn't seem to be much access to the reservoir unless you are a member of the bird club, so we zoomed up to Carsington reservoir which is a much bigger (blooming huge) reservoir near Wirksworth with a visitor centre and loads of public bird hides.


A final baking extravaganza for Sunday family tea included a mixed seed sourdough loaf and a marzipan and mincemeat tea loaf. Plus of course, I've been waffling for Britain as described on a previous post.

Sourdough lesson


I've been spreading the sourdough word and teaching one of my sisters how to make sourdough bread. We started on Friday with some of my Derbyshire/San Francisco starter, and mixed the loaf and shaped it ready for baking on Saturday. Well, what a success it was. It came out of the banneton with out any problems and into to the preheated oven with a tray of boiling water at the bottom for plenty of steam. We then sat in front of the oven window watching it rise whilst chatting and drinking coffee. We were so excited when it grew and grew - it's the simple things in life :D


Poncho Progress

crochet poncho

You make something nice for one child, and it's like a fever going round, because you get a request for another. In this case it started with a pattern for a poncho from Simply Crochet magazine. It seems to take me about a year to get on trend, so you could argue that I'm decidedly untrendy. Anyway, the poncho thing started last year, maybe even the year before? but last year I thought it would be nice for our budding crochet beginner (a daughter) to have a go and she really liked the idea but was making all the usual excuses..... "too slow" and "hadn't got enough time" and "it would be quicker if you made it", and in truth I really thought it would suit her and would solve that perennial problem of the birthday present, so made use of all the spare time during the Christmas holiday and quickly made one up. I digress, however, and back to today's story, I inevitably was requested to make one for another daughter, it being another birthday present opportunity. As is the case amongst sisters, they have their own style and this poncho is as different to the other as night is to day. The first is an explosion of rainbow colour, and this is more 'grey is the new black'. It's coming along nicely, and should hopefully only take another week if I crack on with it. Just a quick note, for both poncho's I have used Drops 'Nepal' yarn which is a wool and alpaca blend. I didn't want to make so much effort with cheap acrylic and the Drops yarn is so reasonably priced, especially so if you can get it in the sale :)



After a day (yesterday) of the most appalling diet choices which included a bevy of biscuits and crisps and wine, today has been atonement day. Starting with a deliciously decadent smoothie of banana, avocado, blackberries, almond milk and apple, it was followed up with a fabulously fishy lunch which was surprisingly quick to do and was really, really tasty. It starred stuffed and baked rainbow trout with stir fry spiralised vegetables. The stuffing was a zesty sourdough and buckwheat concoction, whizzed in the blender with lemon zest, seasoning and lemon thyme, coated in olive oil to stick it together a bit. This was stuffed into the trout, placed on a foil lined baking tin and baked at 200C for 20 mins. Whilst this was cooking, the spiralised courgette, carrot and sweet potato was stir fried with some garlic and chilli. Super quick and surprisingly hearty (and I can wear my healthy diet halo with pride).


As an aside to all the making and baking, my Christmas cactus has again surpassed itself by flowering for a second time this winter, adding a bright splash of colour against the grey backdrop of the window.



Sourdough buckwheat loaf

sourdough buckwheat

sourdough buckwheat

Just a quick post as I'm so excited about my sourdough buckwheat loaf. It's a recipe I found on a really interesting blog at . I don't usually bake on a school night (working day) but I was intrigued by the prospect of a gluten free sourdough loaf. It's made with just water, buckwheat, salt and sesame seeds and has taken 48 hours from start to finish. I've no idea if it tastes nice, but will let you know. Nb the picture above shows tomorrow's lunch -frittata and buckwheat bread - all part of the eat well and exercise more plan for life.

I'll also try and catch up with my latest crochet and sewing adventures (poncho, elf, quilt, hat) and New Year holiday in Kent.



Chocolate and banana muffins are another (delicious) way to use up sourdough starter, along with ripe banana's that no-one wants to eat. The sourdough starter needs to be fed regularly otherwise it will get too sour and probably a bit mouldy (or even die), so I try and use some every week and refresh the remains with some flour and water to keep it a happy. You may have noticed that I have a very relaxed *read 'lazy'* attitude to maintaining my sourdough starter!  

family tea

family tea

I combined my two starters together (Derbyshire starter and a San Francisco starter from Christmas) because I hadn't labelled them and was getting them mixed up. Interestingly, they definitely had a different smell, although I couldn't tell any difference on baking. Now I have a single starter that could be described as multi cultural. Anyway, back to the story. I wanted to make some different bread for family tea instead of a sourdough, so looked for inspiration at the recipes on the BakeryBits blog. These are generally devised by Vanessa Kimbell and I love that she comes up with new recipes for sourdough bread, and also some interesting cakes and muffins using sourdough starter. She also uses a 'la cloche' baking dome so it fits my style of baking perfectly.

I digress......back to family tea..... I found two recipes that fit the bill for today's family tea; Chocolate and Banana Sourdough Muffins, and Cumin and Sultana rolls.

The muffins are incredibly easy to make. It really is a case of mix the crumble topping ingredients and set aside , mix the dry ingredients together, mix the wet ingredients together and then combine the wet and dry together. Plop the mixture into the muffin cases and then pile topping  on the er.... top. Bung in the oven for about 20-25 minutes and there you have it, delicious chocolatey muffins

Muffins ready to mix        

Muffins ready to mix



chocolate and banana sourdough muffins

chocolate and banana sourdough muffins

The bread rolls are an unusual combination of cumin and sultana, but it really works as a taste combination. The fragrance of the lightly toasted cumin seeds and the baking bread  permeates the whole house making you instantly hungry. The rolls are shaped and then proved in the baking dome base and then popped in the oven with a pre-heated lid. It's so easy. In fact I made another batch this morning, since the last lot didn't make it past teatime.

cumin and sultana bread rolls

cumin and sultana bread rolls

I have to mention the amazing purple smoothie I made last week. It started with a spot of blackberry picking from the back of the car park at the flat. They are the most succulent, huge blackberries ever. I just couldn't resist and it only took about 20 minutes to pick nearly a kilo! I didn't fancy making jam using the pretty useless cooker that's in the flat, so decided to freeze the blackberries for smoothie-ing and juicing. What a purple delight a blackberry, yoghurt and banana smoothie is! And so very delicious with sourdough cheese scones for lunch.


Sourdough Cheese Scones

sourdough cheese scone

Instead of making a sourdough loaf this week I decided to make sourdough cheese scones. I have two sourdough starters on the go and I like to give them some attention, at least fortnightly, so that they don't die on me. This is based on a great recipe from the bakery bits blog. I've made the scones before and they always turn out light and moist, and they don't have the baking powder taste you get sometimes with bought scones, you know, where your teeth feel as if they are being coated with something nasty. I've adapted the recipe to make cheese scones because they are my favourite. Bakers preference applies in nearly all cases! I usually make double quantities in the hope that there will be some to freeze. Having a big family means that this rarely happens, but what is life without hope?  I used Shiptons Mill white bread flour (on this occasion, but it really depends on what is to hand or if I want to make wholesome wholemeal scones). Instead of buttermilk I used a mixture of homemade plain yoghurt made with raw (unpasteurised) full fat milk thinned down a bit with some more milk. I buy raw milk every week from a farm near to where I work. The milk is absolutely delicious, all creamy and tasty, although I know unpasteurised milk might seem a bit controversial. Normal pasteurised milk and yoghurt will also make delicious yoghurt (or scones). The sourdough starter works better if it is hungry (ie unrefresehd) as the remaining starter is a fed afterwards. I've stated 50g parmesan cheese, although I only used about 30g, because that is all that I had. It was a veeerrry ripe and strong parmesan anyway as it was a reduced price bargain due to short "use  by" date. I like to add a little mustard to my cheese scones as it adds an extra depth of flavour. I prefer to use Colemans English mustard powder as I think that "wet" mustards are a bit too vinegary. I think a good quality salt is also very important. I really like Cornish Sea Salt and found some garlic flavoured salt when we visited family in Cornwall and went to the Padstow farm shop. We bought a little pot for all the kids as a holiday present - makes a change from a stick of rock or box of sticky fudge!

Sourdough Cheese Scones Recipe

  • 450g flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 150g butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp Cornish Sea Salt (I used garlic sea salt)
  • 250ml plain yoghurt and whole milk mixed (full fat milk or buttermilk would also be fine)
  • 200ml unrefreshed sourdough starter
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 50g grated parmesan or other strong hard cheese
  •  grated cheddar for the top of the scones
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients with the butter to a bread crumb consistency. I used my Kenwood Chef. 
  3. Make a well in the centre of your bowl. In a large jug whisk the unrefreshed sourdough starter and the yoghurt and milk  and lemon juice then pour into the centre of your dry mix. Bring the mixture together to form a sticky dough. I used my hands for this so that the dough is not overworked which will make it tough. If the dough seems a bit too dry, add a drop more milk slowly just a few drops at a time. Likewise if the dough is too sticky then add a dusting of flour to handle it more easily.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and use your hands to press the dough form a round about 2.5cm in depth, but try to avoid overworking. Cut out shapes from this using your cutter and put them on a baking tray. I used a medium sized cutter which made 15 scones.
  5. Sprinkle grated cheese on the top of the scones. You can glaze them first with some milk, but I was too lazy and didn't bother. Bake for 18–20 minutes until lightly brown on top and firm to the touch. I needed an extra 5 minutes for mine because the temperature gauge on the oven is a bit temperaturemental.
  6. The scones can be frozen as soon as they are cool, which might be the only way I'll ever get some in the freezer, but will also taste nice the following day if they are wrapped in a cotton or linen cloth.

The final step is to feed the sourdough starter. This week I used my 'Derbyshire' starter which is mostly wholemeal, although it does tend to be fed with whatever is handy. This time it was white flour so I added equal quantities of flour and water (100g) to the remaining starter, stir it well and put it back in the fridge.

sourdough starter or "mother"

The freshly baked scones were perfectly timed for an impromptu family lunch at daughter J's house where some Dad DIY is underway.

sourdhough cheese scones lunch
sourdough cheese scones lunch

My culinary efforts didn't end at the cheese scones, let me tell you. DIY Dad was going to need something tasty and preferably done by someone else after a hard day grafting so I put my thinking cap on and rustled up some store cupboard dinner (I couldn't be bothered to shop). So, based on only what was to hand I came up with a butternut squash and sweet potato risotto. I've got loads of brown risotto rice which takes an absolute age to cook so I set that cooking with some chicken stock. Not home made chicken stock because I checked and we didn't have any in the freezer, and not vegetarian because I had only had meaty stock pots thingies. I added some wild rice as well for a bit of variety and this also takes an age to cook. While this was bubbling away I fried some spices. I decided that cumin seeds and cardamom seeds were the way to go so I bashed them about a bit with the end of my rolling pin in a bowl (mortar and pestle is boxed up somewhere) and then added them to some heated oil in a frying pan. I added some paprika for a bit of heat and colour and let them toast for a little while. In the meantime I peeled and cubed some butternut squash and sweet pepper and stirred them about in the spice mix. When the rice had been bubbling for a while, I added the vegetables and spice. It did look like there was too much stock, but by the time it had simmered gently for about 50 minutes it had soaked in and reduced down. A little seasoning added and a tasty (and very easy) risotto was ready.

runny risotto

runny risotto

Mmmmmmm risotto  

Mmmmmmm risotto 

Sourdough success....

Hoorah, success with the sourdough. We couldn't wait until teatime to try the bread so it made an appearance at lunch. The crumb was perfect; a little chewy, but light and tasty. Phee-ew!

 I'm just making a teatime cakey treat and just to prove that not all my culinary attempts are successful, I had a bit of a disaster.  I opted for 'Coconut, berry and walnut breakfast bars' a recipe found on 'don't feed after midnight' blog. I think the recipe is based on a Nigella recipe. Anyway, it has lots of oats, coconut, nuts, berry's and seeds and sounds so very healthy. It also has a less wholesome inclusion of a tin of condensed milk which has to be warmed gently in a saucepan until it is runny. The recipe says to be careful that the condensed milk doesn't burn. Well, guess what, I burned it. Bah. A multi-tasking failure for womankind. Fortunately, we have a Co-op shop in the parade of shops where we live and they came up trumps with emergency condensed milk. It's a bit like having a giant store cupboard next door. I'll report on the success (or otherwise) of the breakfast bars soon.

Meanwhile, I'll share a few of our holiday photo's. As reported on the  barn conversion blog we had a research holiday in a holiday cottage that was a converted Victorian stable near Beverley in Yorkshire. We had one damp day in Beverley with no photogenic opportunities in the rain and a day with beautiful sunshine which we spent at the seaside. More specifically, we visited Spurn Point, which is an unusually long spit of sand just above the Humber estuary. It is formed naturally by the sea pushing sand and debris down the coast and is a national nature reserve run by the Yorkshire wildlife trust. There are cottages and a lighthouse at the end which are serviced by a road, or at the moment only part of a road as bad storms and a high tidal surge in December 2013 washed part of the road away and is now only accessible by foot or land rover.

Our last morning was spent in Beverley, thankfully in sunshine this time. Unlike our first visit where we couldn't view the minster due to a wedding, this time it was open for business and very interesting too. 

And finally,  the coconut, berry and walnut breakfast bars were a complete success, despite their inauspicious start. Hoorah.

Breakfast bars