Tag Archives: food

April 2013: Bread

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Our speaker for the April meeting was Dave Francis, who taught us some of the basics of making sourdough bread.

It’s always great to have someone who is very passionate about their craft and Dave certainly is. He gave us a real insight into how bread is made, from start to finish, and explained the differences between traditional methods and those used to mass-produce loaves for supermarkets, which was very interesting.

The first half of the evening was mostly taken up with making our own dough. Everyone was given the right ingredients and set to work mixing and kneading. It was a messy process and involved a lot more water than most people were used to, but Dave seemed happy with the results and instructed everyone on what to do with the dough once we got it home.

After we had tidied up and had a quick cup of tea, it was time to hear a bit more about the process of making sourdough, including how the starter (the bit which gets the whole process going when you begin mixing) is made.

Dave had thoughtfully brought in starters at different stages to show us what their appearance, size and – most distinctively – smell should be like. We all got a chance to have a look at what we should be aiming for, and some of the ladies even had a go at grinding the raw ingredients which looked like very hard work!

In true Blue Peter style, Dave produced some sourdough loaves he had baked earlier so we could all try a piece. It was a useful guide for us so that, when we baked our dough at home, we could get an idea of whether it tasted as it should, particularly as sourdough has a very different flavour to ordinary bread.

It was a really interesting evening and even those of us who had baked bread before learned something new. Dave has also allowed us to reproduce his recipe for perfect sourdough, which can be found here: Sourdough.

Happy baking!

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October: Happy birthday to us!

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We marked the end of our first year of meetings with a birthday party, complete with balloons, silly games, presents, party food and of course a birthday cake.

ImageThe evening began with a game of wink murder, which saw the first ‘murderer’ almost wipe out the entire room before we had really begun. Luckily, everyone was back on their feet in time for the chocolate game. It involved sitting in a circle, while everyone took turns to roll a die. When someone rolled a six, they were allowed into the centre to eat some chocolate which had been placed on a tray – but before they could do that, they had to put on a hat, scarf and gloves, and they had to use a knife and fork to cut the chocolate up and feed themselves.

 

 

ImageOnce all the chocolate had been eaten (or had been on the floor!), we played another game led by Catherine. In groups of six, we had to turn our bodies into whatever shape she shouted out. We began with simple tasks – the number 10, the letter S – and moved onto more complex things, like a depiction of one of the sessions we had enjoyed during the year, and a scene from a haunted house.

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With our energy spent, it was time for food.

Everyone who came was asked to bring a plate of something and the result was a table heaving with delicious food, including cheese platters, home-made sausage rolls, pizza slices, some beautiful cupcakes and even a tub of jelly.

There was plenty of time to socialise while we ate, before the birthday cake – an impressive creation by committee member Tessa – was brought out and we sang happy birthday. Bex even played Jerusalem in the background while she thanked everyone for their support during the year and the group presented her with a card to show our appreciation for all her hard work.

There was just time for one final game – musical newspapers, where everyone has to dance around to the music, then stand on a piece of newspaper when the music stops. Our games-master, Catherine, stole a few pieces of paper between each round, and whoever was left without a sheet to stand on was out. In the end we had four winners and no fights – a good outcome all round!

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At the end of the night, everyone who had brought a gift for the bran tub was allowed to take something home with them. There were some great gifts, although a few ladies were very restrained and took theirs away to open at home. Everyone was given a slice of birthday cake to take away.

It has been a brilliant year: we’ve all learned a few things and made a few new friends. Thanks for your support, ladies – and we look forward to many more birthday celebrations!

April 2012: Foraging

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Our speaker in April was Chris Bax, a forager who lives near Knaresborough and is becoming well-known in food circles.

Chris took us through a fascinating “walk” around woodland, roadsides and the coast, looking at pictures of all the natural plants that can be eaten safely. We were told what time of year to pick the various leaves, how to use them in salads and how they can be included in other recipes, such as soup.

There were a few surprises along the way, such as some plants being edible despite it being common belief that they are poisonous. However, Chris warned us to be careful too – it is all too easy to confuse an edible plant with an inedible one which looks quite similar and give yourself serious stomach problems. But he told us the key identifying traits to look out for to keep us safe and reassured us that, in all the years he has been foraging, he has never poisoned himself or his family!

Chris is becoming very well known and has taken part in several television programmes about foraging and cooking with wild plants. When he visited us, he told us he was due to appear on Countryfile a few days later, and that he was working on a top-secret new project with a famous chef. He runs courses throughout the year, but they are in high demand so have to be booked a long way in advance.

For more about Chris Bax, visit his website.