Wednesday, 28 January 2015


Mr. MiddleB makes the most amazing bread, and I have been pestering him about teaching me how to make a good loaf for ages. For Christmas this year his present to me was some strong Canadian bread flour, some Dove's Farm instant yeast and some of his time. So today I am claiming my bread lesson.

Plain White Bread

500g strong white bread flour
7g instant yeast
10g salt
a level tablespoon caster sugar
a good drizzle of olive oil

We started off by putting all the dry into a bowl - no need to sieve which makes me happy - and then putting a nice slug of olive oil over it. We started to mix it together and then added 250 ml of warm water. Our tap gets pretty warm so I did it straight from the tap. I started to mix it together until the consistency was pretty even, I added another 50 ml warm water in bits until I got there. You never want to add more than 350 ml of water.... and wholemeal flour is more absorbent, it can take more of a beating.

We then put it a tea towel over the bowl and left it to rise in the airing cupboard for an hour. I had homework: to look up the slap method of kneading.

He says 20 mins in this video, I am assured that you can get away with about 20 slaps. It's mostly about getting to know the texture of the dough. The reason you knead dough is to stretch out the gluten strands over and over again with every knead, so when you break into the bread you get a really nice texture - think of a French baguette, when you break off a chunk you get that slight twirl.

We put down oil on the surface and slapped the dough around. Then we cleaned the bowls, painted them with olive oil so that the bread would come out easily, and then put them into the airing cupboard to prove for another hour.

Then we put the oven on at 180 or 190 C. The dough had about doubled in size. We put the pan in the oven to heat up, that make it easier with not sticking.

We put oil on the surface, gave it a bit of a knead again and then shaped it. I opted for a simple loaf - fold both ends over, fold the sides over and then turn it over to rest on the crease, so all neat and tidy, hospital corners and all that. We put more olive oil on the side and left the loaves to prove again for another half an hour under some tea towels.

If I was doing wholemeal I could do an extra prove for half an hour before shaping it. If I was adding olives or sundried tomatoes or any wet things then I would probably add them now before the shaping. If I was going to add herbs or spices or dry things then I would add them at the beginning. If you over prove it then it starts to flop because it has exhausted all the sugar and goodness that the yeast is liking. In that case, just chuck it in the oven and hope for the best, you will probably get a loaf that doesn't rise as much.

We lifted up the bread - make sure you don't handle it too much because the air will go out - and put it in the centre of the pan. I did some hatching on it and sprayed it with water all the way round so that it gets a decent crust on it and then put it in the oven.

We checked on it midway, left it for about 30 mins in the oven. You know it's done when it comes off the tray easily, if you turn it upside down and tap it then it should sound hollow. We left the loaves on a rack to cool for a while, my one is the one on the right.

Finally we got to cut into it and sample some!

I'm really happy with how it turned out - it cuts well, it has a nice texture when you tear it, and the housemates gave it the thumbs up. I think next time I'll try half white and half wholemeal flour and maybe a bit less salt. Exciting!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Curry, Russian Revel-ette and Bird Watching

I just came home from a weekend with Mrs Im. All of us were pretty tired so it was pretty chilled. As usual I showed up bearing something ridiculous:

Yes! I finally managed to finish the symbiotic sock sea slug I was working on! Now Agatha has some company :)

We fairly much just hung out and chatted and made curry. This time we decided not to go for lemon noodles, so the lads had beef chilli hotter than the surface of the sun (you know it's hot when Mr. Im starts sweating....) and we had rice, quorn sausages covered in tabasco and a dry roasted cauliflower curry:

Mrs. Im's Roasted Cauliflower Curry

2 pts ground coriander
1 pt cumin
1 pt ground ginger
1/2 pt ground fenugreek
1/2 pt ground turmeric
some chilli
some onion seeds

Chop a cauliflower and place in a roasting pan. Mix all of the above with some groundnut oil and paint onto the vegetable. We used a cauliflower and some potato beware that the potato takes longer to cook than the cauli. Bake in a medium oven until the cauli looks soft and a bit crisp on the outside.

After dinner we watched The Last Leg which was hilarious, and played Russian Revel-ette with a bag of Revels - I mostly got malteser but Mrs Im kept getting the coffee ones which she passed on to me or the Mr. I passed on my orange one to her so it evened out somewhat!

The next day we had coffee and marmite and quorn sausage sandwiches for breakfast and then we took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch - - and sat for an hour with binoculars recording all the birds we could see in the garden (once we'd locked the cats inside of course). We saw starlings, blue tits, wood pigeons, collared doves, a robin, a magpie and plenty of swallows.

Then we chatted about life and parents and other things and Mrs Im remembered to give me the 2kg bag of red lentils she had brought me, and the spicy peri-peri nuts and I was away to catch my train. What a lovely weekend!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Birthday Bash!

Miss R has a birthday bash every year and it's usually somewhere I've never been before. This year she hired out Tea and Times after hours and we transformed it with candles, a sound system and an awful lot of booze.

After a couple of us had transformed the joint, we were pretty hungry so we cracked open a bottle of cava and.... went out for fish and chips. The gentlemen behind the counter were so lovely they gave me a free curry sauce!

We had a ridiculously large bottle of Ouzo that no-one opened, two amazing birthday cakes, and a very beautiful non-alcoholic punch. I started off drinking it with gin, but later on I drank it on its own and it was just as glorious.

Megan's Amazing Punch

Make some really strong chai tea and leave to steep. Juice a couple of lemons (or use lemon juice) and several limes, leave a couple of limes sliced so you can garnish the punch. Add some 3 or 4 star anise and some soda water to taste.

As usual Deb and I chatted some crafty-ness and then spent the rest of the night dancing about in the silliest possible manner. He fella even tried to teach up to twerk but I think I might be needing more tone in my bum muscles for that one. The playlist was much more classy than I would have had it, but I'm not particularly hip. I did at least recognise All About The Base, and later on they started playing 90s stuff like Fat Boy Slim so we got a chance to have a dance around.

Deb also passed on her grandma's sugar free cake recipe that she used to use from the Ration Cookbook from the war. Originally this would have had only 2oz of fruit in it! I can't wait to try it.

Grandma's Sugar Free Fruit Cake

- 8oz marg
- 8oz flour
- 8oz mixed fruit
- 2 eggs
- a little milk

Rub the flour and marg into breadcrumbs. Mix in the fruit and then beat the eggs in with a little milk until the mix gets to dropping consistency. Bake at 140 C for 1hr - 1.15.

We all had a great night, I got to meet exciting people, and I was one of the few who stayed behind and cleaned everything up. We got that place ship shape in half an hour, we're so good! I got home about 2.30am and fell into bed.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Film Night in 3D

It's the first time in a long time that I've visited Fairy Princess Mummy and the family and it was delightful as always. The older FP now has her own bedroom so I was on the sofa in the front room for the night which was surprisingly comfy. She is growing up pretty fast! FP Daddy had just bought a 55" 3D telly with a couple of 3D glasses so of course we had to have a play about. We ended up drinking lots of wine (and bucks fizz... and prosecco...) with various neighbours and watching films. FP Daddy always has an interesting film or two lined up for me when I visit, and Saturday night was no exception. We watched What We Do in the Shadows

It was just hilarious! and as an added bonus it has Jermaine and Murray from Flight of the Conchords in it. Well worth a watch. We also watched Dark Knight Rises which I hadn't seen before, and some documentaries about sea life in 3D - that really was exciting. I'd love to see David Attenborough in 3D, that would be amazing!

On the Sunday we all rose pretty late, even baby FP who got up at 9.30! We had panettone for breakfast and mooched about til I caught my train home at about 4pm. It was so lovely to see them - I look forward to more film night fun next time.

Saturday, 3 January 2015


I've been moving some stuff around in my room and I found these quotes written on scraps of paper.

'Pray not for a lighter burden, but for stronger shoulders' - St. Augustine

'Learn to wish that everything should come to pass exactly as it does' - Epictetus

'People long for the light and that's what the books in my store do. They shed light in a time of darkness. That's why a bookstore is the place where heaven and earth meet.' - George Whitman, Shakespeare & Co. (I have two books from there!)

'We're all one thing, Lieutenant. That's what I've come to realise.  Like cells in a body. 'Cept we can't see the body. The way fish can't see the ocean. And so we envy each other. Hurt each other. Hate each other.  How silly is that? A heart cell hating a lung cell.' - Adaptation

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year!

So it's the first day of a new year again, and time to reflect on comings and goings (or rather goings and comings). It's been a year of growth and challenges, moving mountains inside of myself and nurturing tiny seeds and watching them grow. I did many things for the first time - making chutney, making my own toothpaste, and going on a nebuliser, - and did a few things I haven't done for a while - riding a bike, and moving house. It has been a year of suspended animation, of tying up loose ends.

This year I would like some adventure, a lot of joy and maybe even bliss. We shall see!

'Be kind to yourself in the year ahead. 

Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It's too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them. 

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love' - Neil Gaiman.