Tending the Starter

Some time ago I set myself a target – to make good sourdough.  Seems reasonable enough, I love cooking and experimenting with different cooking techniques.  But what happened was unexpected.  It opened a whole new world for me, the world of fermentation.  This lead me on a journey towards cheesemaking too (I’ll save that for another post).  But back to sourdough.

I tried a recipe from the Internet from a well known personality, but did not have much success.  I picked up the Bourke Street Bakery book by McGuinness and Allam, and with a bit of patience I was off and running.

I don’t have any pets, but this starter became my real pet.  And a baby pet at that.  I tended it according to the instructions, used organic flour and spring water.  I worried about the conditions in the room, too hot… too cold?  It took a while, but I started to see some evidence of life.  A gardener tends his garden, I had my starter.  And it really is a living thing.  Once it got going, I found it was more tolerant to my sometimes neglect.

When I prepare the starter for making bread, I take a whole day and feed it three times, the first feed is wholemeal flour.  I use a 50:50 ratio of flour to water.  For the second and third feed I use a good quality flour, like Lauke single origin white flour.   Many recipes recommend organic flour, but I found this unnecessary.  The next morning, I start making the dough itself.  The starter will have become fluffier and somewhat bubbly.  At this stage it is hungry.

I take most of the starter for making the dough, but save at least one cup and stir in the same amount of flour and water.  It is stretchy and sticky at this stage.  I leave it to sit for an hour or so at room temperature, and then pop it in the fridge.  It will stay there, happily, until I make the next batch.

I try to make sourdough bread twice a week, it keeps well and makes good toast.  As Nigella Lawson says in her Women’s Weekly November article “..I’m always on the lookout for avocado toast, whatever the time of day..” .  The only thing I would add is to make that Sourdough toast – it just tastes better and dare I say, feels better.

Nigella’s Serenity

In the waiting room at the physio, I spotted the latest copy of the Women’s Weekly with Nigella Lawson on the front cover.  Naturally I picked it up, as I am intrigued by Nigella’s work and life.  She looks calm on the cover, serene almost.

Nigella seems to personify the “goddess mother”.  The blending of the parent with the dignified strength of the individual.   Someone who has encountered tragedy and difficult times, but positively persists regardless.

So many mothers are consumed with looking after others, often sacrificing their own needs in the process. Goddesses are both outward and inward focused, they achieve a sense of calm through this balance.  To achieve the goddess calm, take time to nurture yourself.

Meditation can be really beneficial.  You can choose an “active” type meditation such as walking, ideally first thing in the morning, not just for the exercise, but for the steadying influence on your psyche.  Make the time count, walk silently,  and take time to draw deep breaths, notice the sky, the trees or perhaps a beautiful piece of architecture.  Anything that reminds you of beauty and peace.

Or join a meditation class, not just a short session at the end of another exercise class, but a  special purpose meditation class, with a knowledgeable instructor.   I have been attending just such a class for a few months now and can attest to the tangible sense of calm that is possible.

Not only is it important to achieve this calm for ourselves, but also for those around us.  Our attitude spills over into our environment, colouring the attitude of our colleagues, family and friends.  It impacts the food that we cook and serve to others.  It is difficult to eat when we are upset and even more difficult to digest!

Of course, it is unrealistic to think that we can achieve goddess mother serenity all the time – it is something that we strive for.