The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009
The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

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Monday, 4 May 2020

Birdy: Business as Usual

It is has become harder to network Windows XP with Windows 10, so we missed some of the pictures during the development of this nest full. But now a new solution, which makes the traditional old camera into an IP device brings the pictures right home.

For a live feed look here

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Ransoms again! Wild Garlic Bread

The ransoms season is rather short, so take advantage while you can! At this site  in southern England they are approaching their best in early April, but I have seen fine ransoms in Scotland at the end of May.

Two weeks after this first picture was taken, the bluebells are fading, and the scene is a mass of white star-like flowers, and the air is alive with a savory fragrance of onion-garlic!

The leaves make an interesting seasonal ingredient for salads, for dressing mashed potato, for creating a special take on pesto, and a myriad of other uses. Cooking tends to reduce the flavour but it is still satisfying to use ingredients from nature which are not found in the store.

For me this season is a time to add colour and subtle flavours to my breads. Nettles is a regular, ransoms is another, both come earlier than the herbs grown in the garden and fields around and about.

A sourdough levain provides a good and flavoursome base for the loaf. This step however can be skipped and the additional flour and water added to to main recipe; just increase the active yeast amount by 50%.

This levain is a standard start to a light sourdough loaf. The ingredients are mixed together and left for 12 hours at around 22 deg C. Because I'll be using yeast too, the timing is not so critical; today it was left for more than 18 hours.

strong white flour 145g
rye flour 10g
water 90g
sourdough starter 30g

To prepare the ransoms pick over the leaves, taking care to remove other plants (one of their cohibitants in the woods is lilly of the valley, which is quite poisonous), and then rinse them in cold water. A minute or two in the microwave reduces the volume, when they can be chopped ready to be mixed into the dough.

Ramson Bread (2 loaves)
Levain 275g
activated dry yeast 5g
water 420g
strong white flour 805g
rye flour 40g
salt 18g
ransoms (wild garlic) 250g

Disperse the active yeast and levain into the water, then add some of the prepared ransoms, before adding the flour and salt.

Mix to incorporate and distribute all the ingredients. As always when adding a lot of green vegetable matter the water content will affect the hydration of the dough in a slightly unpredictable way. The 250gm of ransoms, with my flour, and the water quantities mentioned produced a dough of medium stiff consistency (see picture).

Then mix for 3 or more minutes to develop the gluten. The dough was stretched and folded one time after an hour, before bench rest an hour later and shaping into bannetons.

I used my normal baking method but added about 10 minutes to take account of the extra water content from the leaves.

The front two loaves are from ransoms, those at the back from nettles!
After 45 minutes or so in the oven the loaves came out with a nice even crumb with visible patches of ransom leaves.

The flavour is a little savoury, but fairly neutral. Good for cheese at breakfast (or any other) time, and fine with marmalade too!

Friday, 24 April 2020

Sprout some beans in this season of growth!

We have bags of beans! Black eye beans! Butter beans! Haricot beans! Lentils of different hues! Rosecoco beans! And now  - moth beans!

 This latest addition is like a spherical lentil and can probably be cooked in the same way.
And all these beans are seeds!

Many of them can be planted in the garden. And many can be sprouted quite easily to produce a different nutritious and digestible food to be added to salads and stir fries.The supermarket bean sprout comes from mung beans, but we started with our moth beans and were very happy with the result.

Here is what we did:-

1. First soak the beans in cold water for 8-12 hours.

2. Rinse and then place in a bowl lined with damp paper towel.

3. Put away in a dark place - it does not need to be especially warm - we use the unheated oven. If we needed to use the oven we just took them out for a couple of hours.

After 24 hours or so a few sprouts will begin to develop. Rinse the beans in a sieve, and return to the bowl. Make sure the paper towel does not dry out.

After 24 hours the beans are beginning to sprout
Depending on the type of bean and your preference this process can be continued for several days. If mold starts to develop rinse it off and increase the frequency of rinsing.

Rinse regularly to discourage mold and fermentation
After 3 days I am impatient and want to add them to my cooking. For some, just 24 hours is enough. Others will wait 5 days or more before eating them.

During the germination process which leads to sprouting, changes take place in the constituents of the bean producing simpler and more digestible proteins and sugars. In parts of Asia it is common to start the day with a portion of bean sprouts eaten as a salad.

The 3 day old sprouts below show a variation in degree of development, but all are good for nibbling or adding to a stir fry.

Once sprouting is stopped, store in a refrigerator. Continue to rinse regular and use within a few days.
After 72 hours

These joined our chilli and szechuan pepper spiced brocolli. And on the next day they garnished our duck and pak choi noodle soup. Mmmm!