A Light Breeze, Rising Slowly.

“The inclusion of peas also seems to stop the wind, the other sort, not the one that rattles down the chimney.”

That’s Nigel Slater, in his new book, The Christmas Chronicles, writing about his recipe for Jerusalem artichoke and pea soup. I’ve heard, of course, of the explosively flatulent effects of the Jerusalem artichoke but I had never even seen one, let alone eaten one, so I didn’t fully appreciate how significant the inclusion of peas might, or might not, be. Still, Slater’s doggedly honest writing really hit a nerve in me, not just this recipe but his writing in general, and I resolved to set forth on a search for the infamous root.

Then, would you credit it, on the very same day (last Saturday), I was picking up a bottle of organic wine in the farm shop (how fantastically middle class is that statement?) at Ballymaloe Cookery School (yes, very fancy) when I discovered they had the aforementioned artichokes for sale (well, naturally). The stars were aligned, my friends,IMG_0057

and my bowels were in for a shock.

No, Mr. Slater, the peas did not alleviate the situation, or if they did, God help the soul who went without them. Dear Lord, I was so full of gas my ears popped.

I suppose I ought to mention that the soup was delicious. Everyone agreed it was yummy, and then quietly removed themselves to private (well-ventilated) spaces.

I’m left with two tubers which I held back from the soup pot with the intention of planting them. They are, by all accounts, ridiculously easy to grow. I can’t decide, now, what to do with them. Has anyone any advice? Is there a secret I don’t know? Maybe I should just raffle them off on Instagram? (WIN!! Farty tubers!! Tag your friends!!…)

Let me try to redeem myself somewhat from that unseemly interlude:

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That blue Le Creuset pot was a wedding present, making it twenty years old. I used to use it for making casseroles until the family out-grew it and I had to buy a bigger pot (not Le Creuset, sadly, more the industrial catering variety). The lovely blue pot, then, fell out of use for years and years which was a source of genuine regret. I would move it about from shelf to dusty shelf with a mixture of affection and irritation.

About eighteen months ago, I discovered The Common Loaf from Riot Rye and set about becoming the sort of person who has a sourdough starter living at the back of her fridge (I do!) and makes real, really good, bread. I think I’m about three-quarters of the way there. In other words, my bread turns out to be really good about 75% of the time. The two things that make the greatest difference, I think, are time (it really needs at least twenty-four hours rising, there’s just no way to cheat on that) and the blue Le Creuset pot.

The pot gets pre-heated in the oven, the dough goes in, and when I lift the lid an hour later I get this:

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I’m experimenting at the moment with a recipe for walnut bread. It’s a long story but the shortest version of it is that, when I was in Paris, I bought a booklet of recipes for things to make with leftovers of Poilâne’s walnut bread. (Here is an article from The New Yorker about Poilâne, if such things interest you, and here is a video in which Julia Child visits Poilâne and bakes bread.)IMG_0096

Now I have managed to make myself some very good walnut bread. Yeay!It might not be from Poilâne but listen, short of moving to Paris, what are my options ?IMG_0119

However, the chance of there being leftovers is slim to nill. And, could there possibly be any better use for them than buttery toast?IMG_0147

I’m 160 pages in to The Break by Marian Keyes. I’m totally hooked…need more toast…

Hope you’re having a good week,
Lynda.

PS. There is NO LIGHT at all coming from the sky these days and my photos look miserable. A set of fairy lights (three euros twenty-six) is the most cost effective lighting solution I can come up with.

13 thoughts on “A Light Breeze, Rising Slowly.

  1. That bread looks amazing. As for the artichokes, they grow easily but you may have to move unless you contain them as they are UNSTOPPABLE! I used allotment produce once by adding artichokes and celeriac to a stew. Well, I thought I’d killed Baz that night, the noises from the bathroom were like a brass band!!

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  2. I love Jerusalem Artichokes but they do need to be taken in familiar company, I think …. or if you want to exact some sort of revenge on a prim relative or po-faced colleague. Your remark about the bread being a good substitute short of moving to Paris for the proper-P loaf instantly takes me to a ludicrously pretentious deli in Cambridge Massachusetts where once a week the customers fall on baguettes at $7 a throw flown in from Paris. My French friends fall about with laughter when I tell them because of course the whole point of la baguette is that it is daily fresh and they imagine all these ‘pauvres américains riches et foux’ gnawing on stale bread and congratulating themselves that they are so much more knowing than their neighbours because they have REAL French bread. Sometimes it is better to be poor and ignorant, n’est pas? 😉

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  3. OMG can you send me your bread recipe. Great idea in the blue pot, hadn’t thought of that one. I have a large red cast iron one-same issues, little used since no kitchen-but that might just make me haul it out for a run.

    L0ve the fairy lights.

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  4. This post made me laugh, Lynda — thank you for that!
    It’s also reminded me I need to get back to baking bread. (Our scorcher of a summer wasn’t at all conducive for bread-baking and I’ve been remarkably slow this fall to get back into the swing of things…)

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  5. What a lovely blue pot, and divine-looking bread. I used to have the most fantastic sourdough starter. Stopped making it as everyone preferred normal bread, but I do miss it sometimes. I’ve never tried Marian Keyes, I think I shall look out for one of her books on your recommendation. CJ xx

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  6. The bread looks fab, and by the concentric circles I guess you even use a proper proving basket? I never went that far.

    Now that I am no longer cooking for a vast number of children, and am, for the first time in almost 30 years living all alone, I know I must not bake bread as I would eat it all up. And probably while still warm. But I do miss it. I also have the le creuset, but I did buy a vast one as well when the children came along. I made stews and things, filling it to the brim if we had other families over at the weekend. That never gets used any more… Must be time to invite some friends over!

    Maybe there’s scope for a cookbook for the divorcee or empty nester? Though with limited time and funds I have lately been looking at recipes designed for students. I can never resist ‘improving’ them though – I do have a well-stocked kitchen and some experience.

    I can feel a blog post coming on, about the unexpected joy of being able to eat what I want, when I want after decades of catering to a family. Maybe I will write that book…

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  7. We grew Jerusalem artichokes and yes, they were powerful! So good roasted or in soups but therein lies the problem, we couldn’t get enough of them but would later suffer the consequences. I once invited our neighbour over for dinner where I served them. Poor lady probably never forgave me!

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  8. I wouldn’t plant Jerusalem artichokes in my garden if I were you! Luckily for me they are grown widely (even wildly) at my allotment site so I’m never short of the offer of a root or twenty. Interestingly they are considered a great delicacy in France where they go by the delicious name of topinambour. I bought my first round Le Creuset pot when I went to university in 1980. Nowadays it languishes in the garage containing gardening bits and pieces, it’s interior indelibly ruined by chutney making. Your bread looks great and in my experience homemade sourdough bread just keeps on improving. Gail’s bakery Cookbook is my sourdough bible.

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  9. When we moved here there was an old butler sink in the garden planted with Jerusalem artichokes – I initially thought they were rather weedy sunflowers but realised what they were when I dug them up. We didn’t eat them… Once bitten, twice shy 🙂
    My husband bakes a weekly sourdough in our large, red Le Creuset pot (he puts it in to get furnace-hot beforehand, then drops in the dough, pops the lid on; after half an hour he takes the lid off, turns the pot round and bakes for 25 mins more – it’s 90% of the time perfect). Your loaves look fantastic (I love walnut bread).
    I’ve read a few Marian Keyes and thoroughly enjoyed them all. I’m currently in the fine company of Mr & Mrs Abbott (Miss Buncle Married) and loving every minute. S x

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  10. I have never eaten Jerusalem artichoke and now I fear I may never be brave enough to try! that bread on the other hand look amazing, I think I would like to be that kind of person with a sourdough starter in her fridge too.

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  11. your bread is beautiful, I can smell it from here, and there is nothing I love better for breakfast is French bread, sweet butter and a hot cup of coffee to dip it in….that’s all I ate for breakfast in Paris, What a great idea for your cast iron, see it was just waiting for you, being moved around the kitchen lovingly…I have one of the cheaper models myself and I love it. The fairly lights are perfect…xxkat

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