Aug 08 2010

Bread

Last week brought a huge treat. My dear friend Felicity invited me to bake bread in her wonderful bread oven. Having cooked for years enthusiastically both professionally and for friends and family, my knowledge of bread making would fit tidily on the back of a large postage stamp. The reasons are twofold, or maybe three; first, I was given a bread machine years ago, second, we have a fantastic French Patisserie in our local town, as good as any you will find anywhere in France and lastly I’ve just been too idle to try! Just one day, and all is changed. My fresh yeast is already sitting in the fridge and a new enthusiasm has been ignited.

Felicity’s oven is a very large affair standing in a corner of her beautiful garden in mid Devon. It was built by her son, Fred, a couple of years ago. Fred has been the driving force behind Slow Food Devon for a number of years now and his enthusiasm and knowledge of bread making has culminated into this wonderful project.

..foccacia in the oven…
The day before my visit I dive into Tom Jaine’s “Making Bread at Home” and David Jones’ excellent bread making notes which I gleaned from a wonderful day’s cookery at Manna From Devon.
A Biga, that’s what I must make. I mix 8 grams of fresh yeast with 150 mil of warm water and 150 grams strong bread flour and I leave it overnight.
Next morning I use Tom Jaine’s Italian Country Bread recipe of 200gms of my Biga, 300ml tepid water, 15grm fresh yeast, 2 tsp. salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 250 grams each of white and wholemeal flour. I mix the dough, knead it for ten minutes and let it prove covered in a bowl in the car as I drive across Devon.
When I arrive Felicity is surrounded by huge quantities of proven dough in her glorious kitchen. My little bowl looks somewhat inadequate but I’m on a steep learning curve today so watch and listen. Together we knock down, shape and set bread to prove a second time in cotton lined baskets. Fred and Felicity’s husband, Simon lit the oven early in the morning so the temperature is already rising promisingly. Fred bakes Focaccia.
We have lunch in the garden. Tomato soup; “last year’s tomatoes and the contents of the bread bin” Felicity says. Eaten with the warm rosemary tinged focaccia, delicious I say.
Fred checks the oven; our dough is risen and ready. Fred rakes out the ashes, in go the loaves. The “door” is sealed. We sit around the oven in the sun listening to the sheep over the hedge and wait as the air is filled with the sweet smell of baking bread.

….the finished loaves…
Out they come one at a time on the great metal peel. We stand around congratulating each other and admiring the day’s work. I leave with my loaf and Felicity fills the still hot oven with a great dish of beans and deliciousness for their supper. I’ve had a wonderful day.

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Aug 03 2010

July in Jersey

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Gentle rain and the valley is green again. Soft weather mists the air, grass begins to grow at last. The sheep come home. Donkeys, sleek in their summer coats flourish on such meagre fare. Bantam chicks grow up fast and new hens settle in. A fine cockerel has gone missing, a feast, I fear, for hungry fox or badger with young to feed. Mid summer comes and goes.
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Dear Briony arrives to take care of animals. We join friends in Jersey to quietly celebrate a birthday. A gentle old fashioned hotel enfolds us in its comfort, history even. The sun shines. We begin to relax. We swim in a deserted cove, the silence broken by oystercatchers calling overhead. We collect tiny shells, sit on warm rocks and gaze out to sea. There is time to read, to sit quietly, just be, to wander through the tiny fishing port and, best of all, to spend a day at the Durrell Conservation Trust.
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…..sitting quietly and just being!

Discover Durrell, Jersey from Paul Vincent on Vimeo.

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Aug 01 2010

Seville Orange Marmalade


My favourite marmalade recipe, the one I use year after year comes from Jane Grigson’s beautiful “Fruit Book” first published by Michael Joseph in 1982: the simplest, easiest and best-flavoured marmalade, she says, I agree.
Scrub 1 ½ kilos of Seville oranges and put them in a pan with 3 ½ litres of water. Simmer until skin is tender, about 1 ½ hours. Take oranges out of the water, cool, halve and remove the pips. Put the pips in a piece of muslin. Cut up the orange flesh or pulse in a liquidiser being careful not to reduce it to a mush. Return shredded fruit to water. Add 3 kg of preserving sugar and hang the little bag of pips over the side of the pan on a piece of string so they bubble along with the fruit and release their pectin. Stir gently over heat till sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and boil vigorously till setting point is reached. Test for setting by placing a tiny spoonful of syrup on a cold saucer and putting it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes. If setting point is reached a wrinkled skin will form.
Leave the marmalade to stand for 15 minutes to allow peel to settle, remove the bag of pips and discard, then pot the warm marmalade into warm sterilised jars and cover: so nice!

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