Sunday 20 July 2014

Bread and butter pickles

I have been predicting for some time now that the fad for hipster pickles will cross the Atlantic, and it’s started. I was expecting to find some bearded guys turning up at the farmers’ markets with tub of brine, but it has come from an entirely different, more prosaic direction.

You can now get Brooklyn Brine pickles at Marks & Spencers. Brooklyn is supposedly a small New York operation, though I wonder how small they can be if they are able to supply a grocery chain with hundreds of stores on the other side of the Atlantic.

The Brooklyn pickles are nice pickles but quite pricey at £4.99 a jar – for comparison, M&S’ own brand sell for less than half that (though it is fair to say that Brooklyn Brine are not cheap in the US either). I decided to make some of my own. I’d been meaning to do this for some time anyway.

The hardest part was finding a greengrocers that sells the right kind of little knobbly cucumbers. Through a tip-off from a friend, I eventually found them at Polish Taste in Partick. Total cost £3.70 for cucumbers and dill, plus a few pennies’ worth of garlic, vinegar, salt and peppercorns.

For half the batch, I made a solution of about 30% malt vinegar and 70% water with some salt. The other half just gets a 4% salt brine and will get to ferment naturally. Two jars were kept as close to each other as possible so I can check out the difference when they are ready.

Friday 2 August 2013

A new loaf for Strathbungo

It’s quite ironic that one of the reason I started baking my own bread is that when I moved to my current abode on the South Side it was quite inconvenient to buy anything decent on the way home from work. The closest I could get was at the southern edge of Queens Park where the greengrocer Stalks & Stems stocked the bread from the Bavarian Bakehouse, but that involved a diversion that I couldn’t always be bothered with.

Times have changed now. In the last few years small specialist enterprises have sprung up along Pollokshaws Road with the highest concentration around Nithsdale Road. The Glad Cafe, Tapa, Gusto & Relish, Cookie and the new, bigger Locavore shop.

The more coffee-centric outlets don’t see too much of me, because I live so close by that I can just go (or stay) home and make some coffee if I want it. But I can now wander along to Cookie and get Bavarian Bakehouse bread, and since this morning Locavore is selling bread from a new bakery, bakery47.

The bakery has been established (as far as I can tell) for just a few months and has been supplying the nearby Glad Cafe with a custom loaf, the “Crossmyloaf” named after the Crossmyloof area of town. Now Locavore is also getting its house bread.

The shop says “Up until now we have been unable to source bread which meets Locavore standards as most loafs contain flour grown on other continents. The loaf is made using rare-breed, organic, stone-ground flour which is grown and milled just across the border in Northumberland using renewable energy, which is produced on site. For us this is the most sustainable loaf and ticks all our boxes.”

I’m not as purist as that about sourcing flour but I went to grab a loaf anyway.

It’s a tin loaf, topped with oat flakes, with a richly chestnut-coloured, soft crust. The crumb is soft, airy and fluffy and ever so slightly damp. The most distinctive thing for me is the aroma. My own sourdough bread smells a bit milky, like mild cream cheese. The Locavore loaf has an amazing, seasidey aroma, like oyster shells and sea spray. No idea where that comes from – the bread just smells really fresh.

Seems quite low in salt. Wheaty sweetness and some chewy grains to munch on, and there’s an unusual, somewhat bitter finish. On the whole there’s an awful lot of flavour going on in this bread. 8/10.

I still think Glasgow is very under-bakeried, but things seem to be moving slowly. Perhaps we will see someone snap up a few of the shops of the sadly collapsed Bradfords chain, making good bread a bit more accessible.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Two year old homebrew

Over two years ago I brewed a pale mild to a 1950s recipe. I didn’t like it much at the time, as it was very honeyish and a bit sickly. Visiting my mum last week I came across a left over bottle of the stuff.

Opened it up, fearing it would gush, but it didn’t. Whew, I calculated my priming sugar all right then. It was a bit spritzy, but not over-carbonated. It had the strong Ribena aroma of heavily oxidised homebrew, which I was expecting. It also had a very nice head, and is bright orange, which I wasn’t expecting.

Tasting it, it’s bone dry and rather reminiscent of Orval. Not as good as Orval, obviously, but in the same kind of style.  At the time my house yeast was Worthington White Shield yeast, which dries every beer out, so that shouldn’t be too surprising.

I still poured most of it away, but it was interesting to see the effect of time on a beer.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Oat ale demonstration

I will be at Locavore, a new hippie food shop on the south side, on Thursday 30th September, giving a brewing demonstration.

I have never done one of these on my own before so it’s likely to be fairly chaotic. I am trying to minimise the chaos by only making a small batch of about a gallon. This will also mean less waiting around for wort to come to the boil, etc. and I can do the boil in a jelly pan on the stove.

As it’s part of a series of events involving oats, I have to include oats in the beer somehow. Rather than do an oatmeal stout, which doesn’t really show off the oatiness (well, it does, but it’s overshadowed by the general stoutiness), I am thinking of a pale beer:

50% pale barley malt
20% oat malt
30% porridge oats

I will be using a grain bag, so am not concerned about the potential  stickiness of the mash. Dunno about hopping yet. I have some Hallertau and Bobek in the freezer. Yeast, well, I should probably get a starter going.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Unprocessed Day 2

Breakfast: wholemeal bread with butter and salted salmon, coffee. The bread is baked, the salmon cured, the coffee roasted, but it all counts as unprocessed, bizarrely.

Snack: More of the bread with some cheese and a pint of homebrewed stout. The bread was heavy and dense and smelt of malty bran flakes, but it’s quite good with savoury things like the cheese and salmon.

Dinner: mushroom curry with polished white basmati rice. I guess the rice counts as processed, but I don't care.

#Unprocessed Day 1

A bit difficult today as I spent the night at my mum’s.

Breakfast: fried bread, eggs, bacon. Maple syrup and brown sauce (not unprocessed). Coffee.

Dinner (at cafe): wrap with lamb kobba, salad, baba ghanousch. Processed tortilla chips on the side which I gave to my friend.

When I came home I had a few slices of salted salmon and made bread dough to be baked in the morning.

Saturday 1 October 2011


I’ve been humming and hawing, trying to decide whether or not to take part in #Unprocessed. It’s a virtual event designed to enable people to feel smug about their diets by eating nothing “processed” for the whole month of October.

The name is a misnomer, of course, as many foods are processed in some way: bread and beer are some of the oldest processed foods. But in this case a very liberal notion of “unprocessed” applies.

But can I do without Nutella for a month?
I eat (or think I do, at any rate) relatively little “processed” (in the sense of October Unprocessed) food anyway, so it will be interesting to see what difficulties I encounter. What I don’t make from scratch passes the “kitchen test” in most cases: bacon, jam, pasta ... things I could make in my kitchen if I really wanted to.

So while I have my reservations about the concept and am aware there are likely to be a lot of food faddists on board of the sugar-is-poison school, eating more whole grains and fewer things packed in plastic can’t be bad.

I have already slipped this morning and had brown sauce on my bacon and eggs. So I’m not going to be a purist and will be guided more by common sense than someone else’s criteria. I’ll still choose a home-baked white loaf over a wholemeal one from a supermarket.

At the moment I’m thinking of what to do with the box of mushrooms in my fridge. I would make risotto, but I don’t have any stock, and stock cubes are out of bounds. When you make risotto with stock cubes it just tastes like packet soup anyway, so perhaps #unprocessed is doing me a favour.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

London Review of Bread (reprise)

Down in That London last week, I am now able to confidently go into bakers’ shops and say “Is it alright if I take some pictures of your bread, as I’m a bread nerd?”

Cut loaves on sale at a branch of Gail’s in Crouch End.

I love huge loaves cut into halves or quarters.

This is the one I bought, white sourdough. But it looks better than it tastes.

Good looking baguettes in a café in Brockley, made “somewhere in Tottenham”

Beigel in Brick Lane, seen here with a salt beef filling

Sunday 24 July 2011

Breakfast bread

I’m quite happy with the way this loaf has turned out. Rather thick crust on it so best eaten as fresh as possible.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Call for homebrewers

After last year’s Glasgow Beer and Pub Project, a group of drinkers was inspired enough to get together to organise the first Glasgow Beer Week. Homebrewers are wanted to come along to a night of the homebrewers next Friday and produce beer for a pop-up pub during Beer Week. You can sign up here.