Nostalgia is a Freshly-Baked Loaf

The queue’s gone down outside Vanora’s now. You could pop in for a loaf.

A couple of months ago, a new baker’s opened in Ripon.  Goodness, it was welcome.  A baker’s shop as a baker’s shop ought to be.

Vanora and Andrew get up in the small hours, when all the world’s abed, to fashion and bake their loaves.  The great pails of dough will already by then have been slowly proving and rising over a period of hours.  This is sourdough, fermented from  the natural yeasts present in the air we breathe, rather than using the commercially-available yeast usual in British breadmaking.

And oh – the bread it produces!  A wonderfully chewy crust, and a loaf with a slightly sour, characterful taste.  Riponians have taken this extra-special bread to their hearts, and ahead of opening time (only Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at present) an eager queue forms outside the door.

How this reminds me of our years in France.  The first job of our day was to queue outside the baker’s for our morning bread, croissants or pains au chocolat.  It was an unhurried task.  We’d all stand cheerfully in line, catching up with neighbourhood gossip, swapping recipes: generally having a sociable time.  And so it is outside Vanora’s.  We meet old friends, make new ones, and once inside, are greeted by name by Vanora and Andrew as we take the time to chat to them too.  This, we all agree, is shopping as it ought to be.  Oh, and on Saturdays, Vanora makes croissants too.  Don’t tell anyone in France, but …. these are the best croissants we’ve ever tasted. You could stock up on brownies, focaccia, sausage rolls and pork pies too.  These last two aren’t our thing, but I’m told they’re far and way the best in town. (Please note:  I am not being paid by V&A for this shameless piece of advertising.)

Vanora serves a customer….
… perhaps with one of these loaves.

This isn’t the only reason for my feelings of nostalgia though. Brought up in London as an Anglo-Polish girl, east-European-style sourdough loaves were as much a part of my life as baps, cottage loaves and wholemeal tins.  Good memories.

This is an entry for Lens-Artists Challenge #75 – Nostalgic, despite the fact that I was limited to using my non-smart-smartphone to take my snapshots.

 

Cabbage glut? Be Korean – make kimchi!

Kimchi jars outside a house in Seoul.

If Korean, serve at every meal.

Fermented cabbage: sour, pungent and addictive.

To prepare … set aside whole day …

Ever since our holiday in Korea, I’ve wanted to make kimchi.  Every house had its earthenware kimchi jar, or jars, with various kinds of pickled vegetables fermenting happily away within.

This week I had a cabbage mountain, and two days ago, had the perfect excuse to get started, even though, strictly, it wasn’t the right sort of cabbage.  I watched this YouTube video by Maangchi, who’s the Korean cook to watch if you want to acquire a bit of know-how.  You can watch it too, but if you don’t feel like it, here’s my summary underneath.

Between soaking chopped cabbage, salting it for long hours; cooking and cooling a sauce base; preparing and processing onions, garlic, ginger; chopping piles of vegetables finely and adding Korean chilli flakes; mixing the lot together; packing it into an airtight container – you won’t be doing much else between breakfast and a very late lunch.

Now … now it’s beginning to ferment.  Sour already, it’ll become more pungent as the days and weeks go by.  Try a bit? If it’s your first time you may not like it.  But you may come to love it: fermented, sour, spicy, soft yet crunchy, it’s a meal in its own right or a fine addition to a simple plate of rice or noodles.  Just as well I made a lot.  It was a bit of a palaver.

Making kimchi takes a long time.

It’s worth it – don’t you think?

An offering for Six Word Saturday.

 

(Almost) all is safely gathered in…

Regular readers will know I’ve got into the habit, once a month or so, of revisiting an old post. And I’m reminded of what October used to mean in France. Blackberrying’s over now in England (the devil spits on the fruit as soon as October kicks in, didn’t you know?), but my inner-Frenchwoman has been squirreling away scavenged apples, pears, mushrooms – even a few unimpressive walnuts. It all reminds me of France, where foraging is a way of life…

October 25th, 2012

‘All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin’ *

Autumn colours mean it’s harvest time for foragers.

I’ve written before about the ‘au cas où’ bag: the carrier you always have with you on a walk, ‘just in case’ something tasty turns up and demands to be taken home and eaten.

Well, at this time of year, it isn’t really a case of ‘au cas où’ .  You’re bound to find something.  A fortnight ago, for instance, Mal and I went on a country stroll from Lieurac to Neylis.  We had with us a rucksack and two large bags, and we came home with just under 5 kilos of walnuts, scavenged from beneath the walnut trees along the path.  A walk through the hamlet of Bourlat just above Laroque produced a tidy haul of chestnuts too.

Yesterday, we Laroque walkers were among the vineyards of Belvèze-du-Razès.  The grapes had all been harvested in the weeks before, but luckily for us, some bunches remained on the endless rows of vines which lined the paths we walked along.  We felt no guilt as we gorged on this fruit all through the morning.  The grapes had either been missed at harvest-time, or hadn’t been sufficiently ripe.  They were unwanted – but not by us.

The walnuts we’re used to in the Ariège are replaced by almonds over in the Aude.  You have to be careful: non-grafted trees produce bitter almonds, not the sweet ones we wanted to find.  But most of us returned with a fine haul to inspect later.  Some of us found field mushrooms too.

Today, the destination of the Thursday walking group was the gently rising forested and pastoral country outside Foix known as la Barguillère.  It’s also known locally as an area richly provided with chestnut trees.  Any wild boar with any sense really ought to arrange to spend the autumn there, snuffling and truffling for the rich pickings.  We walked for 9 km or so, trying to resist the temptation to stop and gather under every tree we saw.  The ground beneath our feet felt nubbly and uneven as we trod our way over thousands of chestnuts, and the trees above threw further fruits down at us, popping and exploding as their prickly casings burst on the downward journey.

As our hike drew to an end, so did our supply of will-power.  We took our bags from our rucksacks and got stuck in.  So plentiful are the chestnuts here that you can be as picky as you like.  Only the very largest and choicest specimens needed to make it through our rigorous quality control.  I was restrained.  I gathered a mere 4 kilos.  Jacqueline and Martine probably each collected 3 times as much.  Some we’ll use, some we’ll give to lucky friends.

Serious business, this scavenging.

Now I’d better settle myself down with a dish of roasted chestnuts at my side, and browse through my collections of recipes to find uses for all this ‘Food for Free’.

Jacqueline, Martine and Maguy’s chestnut haul.

* Two lines from an English hymn sung at Harvest Festival season: Come, ye thankful people, come’

A contribution to Six Word Saturday, and Jo’s Monday Walk: it’s more than one walk Jo.  Extra value?  Or disqualified?

Breakfast like a king…..

When in Spain, do as the Spaniards do….

Every time we come to Spain, we know we could easily buy a carton of orange juice, a pack of coffee, a box of cereal and some milk and make our own breakfast. But where’s the fun in that?

No, when in Spain we do as Miquel does. We do as so many Spanish do. On our way out to begin the day, we call in at a local bar or bakery-with-café attached.

We sit down, maybe glance at one of the newspapers lying around, and order a coffee and a pastry and enjoy a few quiet moments before launching into action.

Our breakfast of choice includes a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice – such a treat. We may choose a wholemeal croissant: I promise you, they’re delicious. Or even better, pan tostada con tomate. Chased down with a café solo, and a few minutes of people-watching, there’s no better start to the day.

A very English afternoon tea.

What could be more quintessentially English than tea and cake?  What could be more quintessentially English than fundraising with tea and cake?

Hire the village hall.  Get the Good Ladies of the Parish to closet themselves in their kitchens, dig out their favourite recipes, don their aprons and get stuck into a couple of hours combining butter, flour, sugar and eggs with favoured additions such as chocolate (got to have a chocolate cake), lemon (got to  have lemon drizzle cake), coffee, walnuts (got to have a coffee and walnut cake), dried fruit (it would probably be a criminal offence not to offer scones), and any other pièce de résistance that the accomplished home baker can offer.

And on the day itself, friends, family, passers-by, readers of the Parish magazine will all be tempted to drop in and cheerfully while away a half hour or so with a slice or two of cake, or even the makings of a light lunch, all in pleasant, light-hearted company.  All talk of calories and healthy options is banned.  This is waistline expansion in a very good cause.

On Saturday, we gallantly took ourselves over to Fewston Village Hall to support our sporty friends Barbara and Tim. The cause? Almscliffe Tennis and Bowling Club.  Now what could be more English than bowls?

All the home bakers ready for action in the Village Hall.
… and overlooking the proceedings at Fewston Village Institute ……

Click on any image to view it full size.

Hungry?

My recent blog posts have been a bit of a guide book. Perhaps I should be working for Lonely Planet.

Let’s get back to basics. Food.

We’ve been beginning the day as the Spanish do. In a coffee shop. Emily’s boyfriend wouldn’t consider eating breakfast at home, and neither do we. A huge glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Maybe a roll, with jamon, or cheese, or sobrasada (a Mallorcan spreading sausage) or simply olive oil, then lightly toasted. Coffee, obviously.

Our favourite camareros from Los Siete Gatos in Granada.

It’s hard to resist tapas later on. Order a drink, and you’ll be served with a tapa too. Olives maybe, or patatas bravas. You may get a choice. Maybe not. It’s easy to knock up enough food for a light meal by ordering another drink.

A busy tapas bar.

We’ve been struck by the difference between the food in Granada and that in Córdoba. Granada celebrates making delicious treats out of very little: patatas a lo pobre – potatoes with onions and peppers. Migas – fried stale breadcrumbs with peppers, onion, garlic and fatty bacon. Both simple. Both good.

Both cities celebrate the pig and lamb in many forms: lots of piggy sausage dishes. Lots of chick peas too.

Córdoba pushes you in the direction of berenjenas – aubergine slices deep fried in batter and drizzled in honey. Every restaurant here has an oxtail dish, and is proud to tell you that the city is a foodie capital.

Berenjenas con miel.

Every shopping street has a selection of independent greengrocers. Just as well. After all that stomach-lining food, a piece or two of fruit is more than welcome.

Ragtag Saturday: Foraging in Valencia for marmalade in England

One of the joys of being in Valencia was walking down streets and through parks lined with orange trees.  It’s orange season right now, so they were looking at their best.  They’re bitter Seville oranges of course, the ones we use for marmalade.  Juicy sweet ones would probably be too much of a temptation for passers-by.

Orange trees in Valencia.

Last Sunday though, when we were walking in the Turia, we spotted fallen fruit under many of the trees.  A forager by nature, I couldn’t leave them there to rot.  No, we had to gather them, so that when we returned home, we could have a very special souvenir of our holiday.  Home-made marmalade, cooked from fruit gathered in Orange Central: Valencia.

I can’t show you the finished article.  The marmalade is simmering on the stove as I type.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is: cook

P.S. …..