“I hope you haven’t done too much!”

I know, me too, but I had to try.

I saw Emma’s Hot Water Bottle Cosy earlier and thought it might be a good thing to try testing my hand out again. I’ve noticed a *slight* improvement this week, so I galloped upstairs to my stash of yarn and dug out my 5.5 mm hook. If I’m going to be honest I tried six places before I found it. I’m usually ‘a place for everything, everything in its place’ type, so when I couldn’t immediately lay my hand on the hook I could feel myself getting almost frantic, tempted to throw everything over my shoulder. Never the wisest choice, is it? Who’s got to pick it all up again at the end?! Deep breaths. And guess what? It was at the bottom of the first bag I looked in. Typical.

I planned to do only 10 minutes crochet, as advised before things got very painful. And so I did. I set an alarm actually, in the style of a sensible adult. It went off and I thought I’d just finish the next row, which I also timed. And then I wiggled my wrist, flexed my elbow and thought I could probably get away with a little bit more…always a risky strategy, isn’t it? Like deciding you’ll read one more chapter before lights out, and finding yourself finishing the whole book at 3 AM.

As you know this is the first craft of any kind I’ve done in weeks and weeks, and before that it was only a few times from April onwards. I’ve felt bereft at times, but I have perfected my Sourdough bread as I can make it one handed!

Last night I was looking for some bits for my sewing machine, as I’ve lent it to someone, and opened up a box full of various crafty things: pom-pom makers, Tunisian crochet hook, DPNs, vintage patterns, the lace tatting shuttle I bought in the sale at John Lewis a long time ago and have never even taken out of the packet, darning needles, stitch holders, spare crochet hooks etc and honestly it was like opening someone else’s kit. It feels like another life now.

I’m going back to see the Hand and Wrist Consultant and a Hand Therapist next week. It’s been so weird being one-handed. Now I’m trying things like picking up fairly lightweight items, opening door handles and taking small items, going carefully testing how it feels.

Anyway, I really enjoyed crocheting with this wool blend aran and a 5.5mm hook. It’s soft and cosy. Because the starting chain is only 20 and it’s aran yarn, it grows exponentially. That’s perfect if you’re limited time-wise or just want to see something grow quickly.

Next week I’ll be back with my monthly Taking Stock post and hopefully after that I can show you a crochet update. That’s almost a magical sentence. A Crochet Update!

Cross fingers and toes for me please.

Oh, the book has a playlist on Spotify if you want to play some of the music featured in the story. That’s pretty cool, huh.

Joining in with Ginny’s October Yarn Along.

10 from this week

1. We can put our food recycling waste in any kind of plastic bag now, rather than having to buy the compostable ones. I know in other areas you can simply put it straight into the recycling bin, but sadly we can’t. This is at least a good way to use some of the plastic packaging that comes with everything. At least it’s being reused for something, rather than going straight to the rubbish bin.

2. My sourdough bread baking fever continues, albeit with fewer larger holes then I would like, but I’m going to go back to trying the second prove in the fridge overnight, and maybe doing a no-knead version, folding and stretching the dough instead. I asked Kat Goldin (sourdough baker extraordinare) about the secret to good holey SD and she said that you don’t want it too holey or the butter gets out! She’s my kind of girl.

3. This was my amazing Monday find. It kept me smiling broadly for at least another two days after that. You know when you pop into a charity shop, not really looking for anything in particular but just wandering? Well I turned away from the bookshelves and saw this beautiful cast-iron pot. It’s my favourite colour red and completely unmarked. I grabbed it as fast as I could, instinctively. I couldn’t see a price on it and didn’t want to put it down, (mine!) it was love at first sight. I asked the assistant how much it was and I nearly dropped it on both our feet when she located the label and told me it was £3. I’ve never moved to a till so speedily! It’s 24 cm across and the 28 cm version of this brand sells new for around £45. I’ve never come across such an amazing charity shop find. It’s pure treasure. I’ve already road-tested it by cooking a one pot chicken and rice thing on the hob and oven. It’s absolutely superb, what a bargain.

Incidentally I’ve had my personal Facebook account since 2007, in that time I’ve posted all sorts of really important life events and celebrations. But do you know which post garnered the fastest likes/loves ever? Yep, it’s these pictures which I excitedly took when I put my treasure into the boot of the car.

4. Another find in another charity shop on the same day, not that I bought this, but my it brought back some memories. It’s just like a set my family had when I was very young. I have seen Kiln Craft on old TV sitcoms, but I don’t recall coming across a whole collection. This was priced much more realistically at £28 for the set.

5. A quick walk through the library and the cover of this book just jumped out at me, it made me chuckle.

6. I thought you’d like to see my Edenvale Cowl after blocking, it makes such a difference to lace. This weather is perfect for blocking and drying thick items. I’m really pleased with this knit. I did try it on and was thinking about doing a photo, but really it looked ridiculous as I was wearing a spaghetti strap top with bare arms!

7. Naughty, naughty Wednesday morning breakfast but these sourdough pancakes are delicious. I took the recipe from Tastes of Lizzy T blog. It’s good, too good. If you know what I mean.

8. A new lunchtime dish I made: it’s baba ganoush. You grill whole aubergines until the skin is blackened then scoop out and chop the soft flesh. Mix with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Delicious with toasted pitta or flatbread, a few olives and salad.

The recipe is from Paul Hollywood’s Bread book which I’ve borrowed from a relative. It’s got a good range of bread recipes, and for each bread there is one for an accompanying dish. The photography is beautiful and I want to make a lot from it.

The ingredients for salmon pate are on my shopping list for next week’s lunches. Needless to say I’ve added the book to my birthday wishlist.

9. A kilo of gooseberries picked from my Mother’s garden turned into my first ever batch of goosegog jam. I’m all about raspberry jam usually in summertime, but I’m glad I’ve made this because it is delicious, as you can see from the mere half remaining of one of the jars, after just a few days of opening. I’ve only eaten it once on two crumpets and it’s going down so quickly that I’ve grabbed another jar and put my initials all over the label! His and hers jam seems a good plan….!

10. Today I’ve baked my first loaves of bread in my 2lb tins for over a month. I’m now calling this doddly bread; as in it’s a doddle with commercial yeast. Does what it says on the tin! Unlike sourdough which dilly dallies. As the kitchen’s so warm, with our continuing high temps, the bread dough rose as fast as anything, sooo easy.

Are you busy in the kitchen? Have you found any treasure lately? What’s made you laugh this week?

Sourdough adventures

Last weekend my friend Safron posted these yummy photos of her first loaf of sourdough bread and homemade baked beans on her Safrolistics Instagram page. (Check out her papercuts, they’re amazing.) Safron was inspired by a friend, who makes his own sourdough bread and she inspired me in return. This is her first bread since a disastrous attempt at school. Wow! What a beauty.

I started my own sourdough starter last Monday. Apart from a phase around 2013 with Herman the German Friendship Cake, which I eventually turned into a loaf of bread, as we found there really is a limit to how much yeasty flavoured fruitcake you can eat, I haven’t maintained my own sourdough starter before.

It’s been a lot like when I first learned to crochet: researching how to do it, reading many blogs, books, checking out You Tube vids and making so many notes I’ve used up pages and pages of two notebooks (one upstairs, one down because I’ve truly been obsessed and found myself searching for answers to questions at all sorts of moments!) There are so many ways to end up with pretty much exactly the same thing, just like crochet (UK/USA terms, ways to hold the yarn/hook/start with a magic ring or chain and slip-stitch into a ring etc etc…) So in the end I decided to initially follow one method and stick to it, trying not to look at random websites and blogs anymore.

Sourdough starters and making sourdough bread can be incredibly complicated according to some people; I’ve seen articles written where people have made mathematical equations for the ratio of flour to water, the ambient temperature it needs to sit at etc. But really it boils down to just flour, water and the natural yeasts in the flour and your home environment. If pioneers could make it in one lidded pot over the hot embers of their campfire, we really do not need to make it too hard for ourselves.

I really like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Bread with Character article, written for The Guardian. He simply suggests using 100g of flours, and enough water to make a batter that’s roughly the consistency of paint! How easy is that?! I couldn’t quite be that haphazard free spirited especially at the beginning, so I have been using an equal flour to water ratio which is clearly working. I followed the excellent instructions on the Kitchn website. Luckily I had a bag of organic Doves Farm white flour in my baking cupboard, as it’s already my preferred flour when making bread using commercial yeast. There’s definitely a difference in taste and texture between using this flour and a cheaper alternative.

I was amazed that even after a couple of hours bubbles had begun to appear in the starter. ‘What kind of magic is this?’ I wondered with glee.

When baking the bread I mixed it up a bit: Patrick Ryan’s fridge tip for the second prove was a relief; as I was beginning to imagine I’d still be up at midnight watching the slow rise. I used his recipe for quantities of flour and starter etc for the dough. (Though a little less salt.)

There are about 3-5 hours between the top and bottom picture. This is when I decided to pop it into the fridge for the night.

On Sunday morning it sat out on the worktop again, for about 2 1/2 hours to bring it up to room temperature. It can be a slow process making sourdough but it’s well worth it. And it’s not effort, just patience that’s required.

I placed a tray half full of water onto the bottom shelf of the oven before I turned it on, it seemed a safer strategy for slightly clumsy me, than popping a tray of boiling water into the oven just before the bread. I also used Hugh’s method of putting a tray into the oven to pre-heat five minutes before the bread went in, then flouring it with wholemeal flour before the dough went onto it (although the dough was 100% white, I’d read that wholemeal flour is meant to prevent dough from sticking much more effectively than white.) This is also so much faster than oiling loaf tins and easy-peasy to wash up afterwards.

I felt nervous tipping it out of my new banneton proving basket (thank you Sainsbury Nectar points) but it fell softly onto the tray like a plump soft feather pillow. I actually cheered, which brought Someone running to see what excitement was going on!

I do need to find a better quality, thick baking sheet as it will be better for cooking the base of the loaf. Alternatively trying to make one in a cast-iron lidded pot (aka Dutch Oven) appeals. But I need to get one before that can happen… All the professional British bakers, that I’ve read so far, use a baking sheet (or pizza stone) to bake their loaves on, but I fancy trying the pot method sometime.

For a first loaf I didn’t expect much at all, I was prepared for a sodden lump but….

“It tastes as good as the loaves I used to buy at the village shop” oh my goodness! What praise from a sourdough aficionado, especially for a first loaf. It was delicious and I’ve never been a major eater of sourdough bread. Hugh’s right: sourdough is definitely bread with character!

Discarding half of the starter to maintain it, after the initial five days, was so unappealing that I’ve spent a fair amount of time searching for ‘discarded sourdough starter’ recipes. I hate wasting food and especially when I’ve used very good quality flour. Crumpets are already one of my favourite breakfast things, but I’ve never made them before.

I love the evolution of my crumpets, from left to right, the first pancake is always the manky one and that was definitely the runty crumpet! The last has proper crumpet bubbles and the texture was fab! They were just out of the frying pan here, cooling, before I toasted them under the grill.

I decided I would have the worst one, and the best one in the interests of fairness (it sort of makes sense, I think!) as a reward. After all, it was me who had talked to, fed and peered at the starter all week. It worked well; we both enjoyed them for breakfast. Someone had his with Marmite and butter, mine were with honey and butter. Yum, yum, yum.

Now I’m keeping all my discarded starter in a container in the fridge to make a batch of crumpets (I used this recipe.) I need to buy some crumpet rings. Crumpets can be frozen so I’ll make some, have a couple and store them. Fast! Before I eat them all.

I’m still on a complete crochet and knitting ban due to injury, as you probably know. (Boo!) This all started in April and I’ve now stopped counting how many weeks its been, as it can be a bit deflating. But I’m diligently doing my exercises, using ice and heat packs and seeing my physio every week. I am hopeful that I can begin again at some point soonish. Finding a new creative outlet, creating a sourdough starter and baking new kinds of bread has been absorbing. Not to mention homemade crumpets! Homemade crumpets….oh YUM!

If you like making or eating bread and fancy trying sourdough I’d say: Go for it!

You just need flour and water to begin. It’s great. It’s actual magic. And although it’s currently popular again, it’s hardly new; sourdough is thought to originate from the Ancient Egyptians, if not before!

10 random things

This morning I saw this post from Kate of the bloody excellent Foxs Lane blog and it inspired me so much that I grabbed my iphone and took some very random photos during the rest of my day.

I relate when Kate writes from time to time that she’s doubting the whole blogging thing and wonders who’s interested, why she does it and feels that it’s purely self-indulgent. I often feel the same, pause for a bit, then whack a post out into the ether and get busy in real life again. The often interesting, lovely and thought provoking comments which come back from you guys, plus all the connections I’ve made in the bloggy world, make it feel like a totally good thing, and so those feelings pass again for a while.
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What I didn’t mention when I was rhapsodising about my porridge habit the other day, was that even though I leave it cooking on the lowest setting I often burn it in the pan. I’ve got the knack of stirring it, very carefully if that’s happened, and pouring it out so there are no black bits in my bowl! I must look out for a small non-stick pan.

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I love daffodils and buy lots of bunches every year. These were a present from the market on Saturday. I always think they’re smiley happy flowers, a bit like pansies who have the cutest little faces.

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The knitted poncho has been used plenty. It’s so good for pulling on when I feel too lazy to go upstairs and get a warmer clothing. But the rhubarb ripple hasn’t really ever been used since it was crocheted. It’s been folded with other blankets at the end of the bed in the little room because it doesn’t really ‘go’ at all downstairs. The other day I decided to grab it because it was so chilly when I was sitting knitting and watching tv. It’s now downstairs to stay this Winter – so soft, warm and big enough to snuggle!

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This book is so British!

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A very small section of the many books in The Works which is becoming the place to browse and actually buy craft books, as opposed to looking elsewhere and going home to order more affordable copies online. They have Kat Goldin’s Crochet at Play (it’s where I bought my copy,) Lisa Comfort’s Sew Over it and The Great British Sewing Bee book (NEW SERIES begins next week) as well many other well-known and not-so well-known titles.

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I had to choose a plant for my summer pot for the porch so it can slowly grow on. It was nice to contemplate fuchsias (last Summer’s choice) lilies and geraniums.
I opted for this beautiful apple blossom geranium. I’ll chose some complimenting trailing plants nearer the time of potting up. Some gorgeous verbena (aztec dark pink magic) plants have caught my eye. They’re definitely on the short-list.
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Annoying! The back door is jammed, the lock has a fault now for some reason. A guy came to fix it last week and broke the key off in the lock. I came home to half a key on its keyring on the kitchen worktop, which made me giggle despite myself. Let’s hope he does a better job of sorting it out on Friday!
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You’ve seen this meadow here many times, but it’s never been this flooded in all the years we’ve lived here. It’s now turned into a lake really, especially further out. I’m glad to see there are still green bits showing as there’s still somewhere for more water to go. (Not thinking about the water table.) I read recently that if it hadn’t done such a good job as a flood plain over the centuries the centre of the city would have been under water many times.
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A cheering end to my 10 random things: my Winter pot of violas with the bulb shoots showing through. Despite the appalling weather it’s actually very mild here, snowdrops and other Spring flowers are appearing early. We’ve had up to 80mph winds and battering rain here, this pot sits in the front porch which is not enclosed, but these fragile little beauties must have a hidden strength!

I hope this hasn’t been too random to read. It is definitely self-indulgent but is the most fun I’ve had in a while making a blog post. Do you feel like doing one too? I’d love you to link to it here in the comments, or just let me know if you have.