Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Flower fritters

This is just such a cool idea - dandelion flower fritters. We found it here at LearningHerbs.com.

The batter's really simple: a cup of flour, a cup of milk, and an egg. You just gather open dandelion flowers, dip them into the batter whole, and fry 'em up (turning once or twice till brown on both sides).

They end up crisp on the outside; juicy and just a little sweet on the inside. Yum!

We've been bingeing on them, and here's what we've learnt -

* The flowers have to be new. Older flowers get fluff in them as they start to turn into dandelion clocks.

* Some of us like them dipped in soy sauce.

* Whole onion weed flowers make great fritters too!

Also - I've been experimenting with onion flower tempura, and as soon as I get a recipe I'm happy with, I'll post it on my recipe journal site. (In the meantime I've put up our version of lemon kefir icecream.)

(25/10/08 - Update: I've put up the onion flower tempura recipe here.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

The social side of sourdough

So I have Rebecca's wonderful Kaitaia sourdough starter. Now I'm going to do a similar swap with Ruth in Westport. (Ruth's sourdough starter is twelve years old, and quite well travelled.)

Unfortunately all I can offer Rebecca and Ruth at the moment is an IOU, since I washed my last starter down the sink some time ago in a brain-dead moment. The pressure will be on for me to try and get a new one going this summer that will make a worthy exchange!

I love the ways that live cultures connect people. Sourdough, kefir, yoghurts, kombucha ... You can share them with friends so easily. If you keep them going, you always have some to give away.

And I love the way they can span time and space. Swaps by post link people across geographical space; and the many live ferments that are looked after within families and passed down through generations link people through time.

(Although what happened to our kombucha? I have a sneaking suspicion my mother-in-law threw it out while kindly but zealously cleaning out our fridge for us ...)

There's also another quite different way that fermented foods bring people together. A lot of fermentation processes are about preserving food (cheese, sauerkraut, miso, to name a few). Preserving is often done in bulk, and so it makes good sense to get a bit of a working bee going when you're doing it.

Apparently in some parts of the States they have 'sauerkraut parties' - where everyone comes along bearing cabbages and other veges, which are then pooled. Everyone works on the chopping and brining together, and then leaves with their share of the finished jars of sauerkraut.

It sounds fun. Anyone interested in doing this sometime this summer?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Introducing Uglybread

One of my favourite pieces of advice came from a cheese making course I did with Katherine Mowbray last year.

Katherine said: when you make cheese, don’t get too stressed out if things go wrong because (within reason) no matter what mistakes you make, you’ll still end up with cheese. It might not be the cheese you intended to make – but it WILL STILL BE CHEESE.

I remembered this advice today when I was making bread. This was not the bread I intended to make – but it IS STILL BREAD! (I’m sure the general principle behind this reassuring advice could be applied to many things, food and otherwise.)

I made this bread with the lovely sourdough starter that Rebecca from Farmlet sent me the other week.

The trouble was, I made a very moist dough and then attempted to cook it on an oven sheet without putting it into a container. In the oven it began to spread, rather than rise.

I wasn't sure what to do. I wondered whether I should just leave it, and accept that it would be a very wide, low bread - but I didn’t really want to.

I wondered whether I should shore up the sides with a couple of ovenproof containers - but I could only find one that was the right shape and size.

Finally I decided to scoop it all off the oven sheet and put it into a loaf dish! I'll leave you to imagine how that went.

I ended up with a very rough, crumpled pile of dough in the loaf dish, and as it rose and cooked it didn’t smooth out.

So – above is the end result. I call it Uglybread.

I was going to say that it still tasted very good despite how it looked – but actually I think it its roughness added something ... I’d smothered it in olive oil as it cooked (because I like the way it makes a crunchy crust). And with all those bumps and folds there was plenty of extra surface area to go crunchy.

Anyway – thank you Rebecca! This is the first loaf I’ve made with your sourdough starter. It proved beautifully, and the flavour is divine – with a strong sour tang that I’ve been missing from the sourdoughs we’ve bought in stores lately.