Saturday, 31 December 2011


It's the last day of a very wet year. I have just walked the dogs in what seems to be unending drizzle. Sometimes it is difficult to stay upright it is so squelchy and slippery underfoot.

The fields are full of little pockets of muddy water. When you slide into them in your welly the water is squeezed up in a fountain of cold brown water which plasters up the front of your jeans.

The big dog seems largely impervious to mud. It doesn't show up on his black fur, not even on his paws. He leaves prints on the cream tiles. The small dog is more attractive to mud and water than a sponge. He has housedog privileges so judicious application of the hose and much towelling is required before he's allowed in.

It's been like this for months and it will be like this for months to come - unless we have a cold dry spell or even snow like we had last year. We were snowed in last year and hold secret hopes for the same again.

This time last year

Meanwhile the birds sing happily  in the treetops, despite the drizzle. At the end of our walk I noticed Scamp had something in his mouth. A stick? No! Is that a feather sticking out? PUT IT DOWN! He put. A bird, swollen with rainwater and unrecognisable. Canine treasure.

Back inside and it's time to light one of the wood burners. The small dog and I quietly steam while the girls paint.

I have been reading the Ivington Diaries by Monty Don (Christmas present from my mum) and this has inspired me to take a more diary like approach to my blogging. It's a sort of New Year resolution. Short pieces recording what's happening on the farm and in the garden. I always find Monty Don rekindles my enthusiasm for my garden, especially after a difficult year. I might even order some seeds now.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Another year gallops on by

It flashed past, 2011 did. Is it old(er) age that makes the years fly past? So what happened?

We started the year with a new puppy and a house full of newspaper, red tops, which brought out the Margot Leadbetter in me. "Why can't we have something suitable like the Telegraph?" I wailed as the puppy squatted over the boobs on page three.

Where's the newspaper gone?

We got new hens, then the sun came out in February and we rejoiced not knowing that would be pretty much it sunshine-wise for the rest of the year.

The lambs were born to an F1 theme (what shall we have this year? Open to suggestions!) flowers bloomed and the oil price shot up so I turned off the heating. (December 2011: It's still off. Because it's broken.)

We went to Devon in April and cuddled lovely friends and donkeys. The garden went nuts with flowers in May.

In June Tardis sat on a clutch of eggs and produced a brood of pretty chicks. The following month saw the arrival of a trampoline, new bicycling skills and and I got the sewing machine out and started to make things.

In August we headed back to Devon (and Dorset again), H9 and R7 went riding (twice), we went to the beach (only twice and on one of those visits it rained) and we dashed down to the Cafe on the Quay in Lawrenny to do the walk/cake thing another twice (or it might have been thrice). I started to bake my way through the River Cottage bread book.

In September I took lots of pictures with my new (old) DSLR and they dug up the road outside school causing mad chaos.

Let them eat dog.

By October the car bills had reached new heights of disaster, I threatened to cook the dog in lieu of meat (we decided to go mostly vegetarian instead) and I ran Cardiff half marathon while my children met the Olympic torch.

It rained in November. We had sickness and head lice. I baked and maked and we oohed and aahed at Bonfire night fireworks.

In December I continued the making and baking theme, discovered I could make a pony out of marzipan and broke all my previous records on how to maintain the required standards at Christmas without parting with too much money.

The year is quietly fizzling out. I'm not one for big New Year parties (I don't think I've ever been to one!) Onwards now to 2012.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone who visits my blog. Have a lovely festive season.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Scenes from a long run #4

Today's run was the first for a week. This picture is just over a mile from home and I wanted to capture the colour of the sky; brooding dark clouds illuminated by the bright sunshine. I'm glad I did take it so soon because by the time I got to the hills, another four or so miles straight on at the crossroads, the clouds had scuttled over the sun and it was mostly just a grey sky.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Dog's Blog

I sid on das compootar cadair today. You dere? I sehen you. De mummy she say GED OFF DAS COMPOOTAR CHAIR! I hignore har. Dis is my blog.

I say TIDY ZIS DESK! IST MESS! She say GEDDOWN DOG! I hignore har 'gain. She rool das eyes at mir. Vat I sehen of das blog? You haf problem? You tell Schnauzer. I fix.

Today I hav visdom vor you. Dis visdom is vrom Johan Wolfgang von Goethe. Das not easy nach type mit paws. Vot he? Volf? Goat? Anyways. He sehen: Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success. He right. I tell dat to de mummy 'bout desk. She sehen: GEDDOFF DAS COMPOOTAR DOG!!! I hignore 'gain.

Das ist the end of dis blog. My favorit ist auf dem TV.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

An alternative Christmas tree

Things are a little tight this Christmas (I'm tempted to add 'as usual' here!) so this year we decided not to buy a traditional fir tree but to look for something a little more alternative. For the last two years we've done the excited trip out in the car to choose a tree and bring it back on the roof with happy little faces watching it through the sun roof.

This year our expedition was a little closer to home...

This tree has been growing behind the old churn cooling shed (this used to be a dairy farm) for - ahem - a year or two and we've been meaning to move it. It has a sort of Christmassy shape, I thought, so why not.

A quick buzz with the chainsaw...

Trying it for size. We have low ceilings so it needs to be about the height of Brian. I grab my secateurs and we take it indoors...

A bit of trimming here and there and it fits. (There then follows a short delay while we hunt down the ball that screws into the bottom of the trunk so it can sit in the tree holder. This takes a few hours so I start my new project which is to scrub the top of my old dresser so it can be brought into the kitchen.)

Finally the ball reappears (it was in the bottom of last year's tree of course, which was on the bottom of the wood pile in the big shed which is why it took Brian all afternoon to find it) and the tree is decorated. I'm rather strict about colour scheme. White and gold for this one... for the dining room tree (which is ancient and artificial but no trees were harmed in the making of this tree. If I find a cheap potted tree in the next few weeks this one might head back into the loft.)

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

On sleep and the lack of it

I'm having one of my not sleeping terribly well times. I keep waking up at 4.35am, feeling bored and going over lists in my head.

Annoyingly I've just had a period of good sleeping; whole glorious nights of deep slumber, waking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at about 6am. I say annoyingly because that phase seems to be over and I'm back to tugging fretfully at the duvet, trying to get comfortable and longing to fall into the comforting arms of oblivion.

Some of it is worry. Things that seem small irritations during the day can assume giant proportions in the middle of the night, only to dissipate with the beep of the alarm clock.

Experts talk of sleep hygiene. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every day. The latter is easy, I'm usually up and about by 6.30am having been gently awoken by my sunrise wake-up light. Going to bed at a set time is difficult with a husband who works shifts and doesn't get home until after midnight. Sometimes I can go to sleep before he comes home; sometimes I can't.

The flip side of late shifts is the earlies and it's difficult to fall back asleep when you've been awoken at 5.30am by a symphony of alarms accompanied by angry percussion from your nearest and dearest. He also has the habit of going back to sleep or forgetting to set either of his two alarms the night before. Both of these put me on red alert. I've saved him from being late for work on more than a couple of occasions now.

This leads me to the next problem; the clock in my head. It knows Brian needs to wake up at 5.30 for an early shift, so it wakes me up at 5.25am just to make sure he does.

I can shock myself back into sleeping by making myself stay up until 3am. This breaks the cycle, especially if my brain has set its internal alarm to 4.35am which it has this week. Why 4.35am? Who knows. It used to be 3.03am. Exactly. Every. Single. Night. But shock tactics are tiring and not conducive to a happy time the day after.

Not sleeping at night can turn into sleeping during the day. I have a lull at about 4pm which can turn into sleeping at 4pm if I'm not careful. I once woke up in the armchair, tucked in with a blanket and cushions. My children, preferring sleeping mummy to grumpy tired mummy, had taken the law into their own hands.

Hmm. So it will be Horlicks last thing. A wee dram is a good thing too but the cupboard is bare of such treats at the moment (austerity cuts!) Then off to bed at a sensible time with Radio 4 and a Book at Bedtime. If I see 4.35am again I may be a little cross with it.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Scenes from a long run #3

Plenty of water around today. On my favourite nine mile route the road crosses many little streams and rivers. At this time of year they gush off the hills with musical enthusiasm.

The water is in such a hurry to get to lower ground.

How ancient is this stone bridge I wonder? This is a drovers' route and I imagine they needed this little bridge to cross this stream before the road was built.

How to make a marzipan pony

My youngest daughter always asks for a pony-shaped chocolate birthday cake. This year I decided that a simpler option would be to make a chocolate cake and sit a pony on top of it.

I don't like fondant - it's completely inedible - and at least marzipan has almonds in it. So this was the solution I came up with for my marzipan-loving pony-mad eight-year-old.

A quick Google search brought up this charming YouTube tutorial and my efforts in marzipan are pictured above. I coloured the chocolate marzipan by kneading it in cocoa powder until the desired colour was achieved. For other colours use paste food colours as the liquid type make the marzipan too wet to model. I stuck to a two tone au naturel palette.

The ponies were a huge hit and I sat them on a chocolate cake (basic choccy sponge recipe) on a bed of custard-based buttercream (less sugary than the icing sugar sort) fenced in with chocolate fingers.

Monday, 28 November 2011

St Fagans

On Sunday we went to the National History Museum at St Fagans, near Cardiff for our annual family Christmas present swap. This has become a habit in recent years; Brian's sister and her partner always fly off somewhere hot for Christmas so the present swap and get together has to happen in advance.

St Fagans is about half way between them and us, in fact it's half way to so many places we go to that we often use it as a stopping off point on journeys east (instead of the motorway services which are expensive and soul-destroying). Here you just pay £3.50 to park and the museum is yours to explore.

We generally wander around houses and indoor displays according to the weather, in between scoffing a roast dinner in the Vale Restaurant (of locally produced meat) and topping up our caffeine levels in cafe Bardi.

This is Kennixton, a typcial Gower farmhouse. The glorious red colour was thought to protect against evil spirits.

I love the shape of Kennixton's roof trusses. 

These lovely bronze turkeys were in the farm yard. The farm is the only original building at St Fagans, the others - and there are more than 40 - were painstaking moved there stone by stone.

Who would eat this handsome chap? I wouldn't! We'll be having chicken so he's safe from us (but I suspect he's destined for the restaurant).

The mill was grinding wheat after lunch. H9, R7 and grandmother are waiting for the flour to arrive down at the bottom of the watermill from the stone above. St Fagans is very much a living museum and you can buy the produce from the craftsmen who demonstrate their skills.

The resulting flour ready to be bagged and sold in the gift shop.

So many traditional Welsh cottages were thatched - but there's only one left in Pembrokeshire which is Penrhos, near Maenclochog. Like this one at St Fagans it was a ty unnos, a house built in one night. If you could build a house in one night on common land, you owned the freehold of that land. Tai unnos are single storey and have tiny windows.

The cottages have their own productive gardens.

There's also a Celtic village with a collection of roundhouses to give a taste of Iron Age life in Wales. We warmed ourselves by the fire in the comforting gloom of the biggest roundhouse and emerged smelling like kippers.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Scenes from a long run day #2

Today's route is my absolute favourite - over the cattle grid and along the feet of the Preselis. The pictures are taken with my mobile phone, so excuse the quality. Today's conditions were grey and windy but there was good visibility right along the hill range.

Carn Bica with a lone walker (one third down on the right. I could see him/her anyway!)

No sheep for company today. I've chased hundreds along here in the past. They always run on ahead assuming I'm rounding them up.

On the main road, once I've run through a corner of Mynachlogddu. These signs are sprouting at the end of farm lanes. I need one too. The scrap dealers call and ask for "the boss" meaning a man. They ask for scrap while surveying your farmyard with greedy eyes. If you're not in they help themselves if they think they can get away with it. Parasites.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


I had a nice blog post lined up about all the lovely things I have been making recently for Christmas presents, complete with pictures and everything.

Then I realised that bunging the aforementioned on the blog would rather defeat the element of surprise should any of the recipients happen to read it.


You see Christmas this year is rather on the home made side on account of us being cash poor since the cars ate our savings. This left us being in the position of being skint but with access to raw materials. Recipients of home made things have been complimentary in the past (more fool them!) so I've been preserving, sewing and generally crafting my little cotton socks off for the past few weeks.

Even H9 and R7(nearly 8) have requested home made items, as has mum. Others are having them sprung upon them, not that our gift giving list is that huge (fortunately).

Santa examines R7's list
There is one small cloud on the horizon, however. The offspring have sent their letters to Santa by the medium of smoke and R7 is confident that Santa will be able to get her a Nintendo 3DS and Mario 3D game to go with it because (I quote): "Santa makes all of his presents so he doesn't need money to buy them".


I gently explained that even Santa has to get his Nintendo 3DS from Nintendo and that Santa is strapped for cash this year too on account of the global economic situation. I would have gone on to explain the about the crisis in Europe and the plight of the Euro but her eyes had glazed over.

"You won't be disappointed if he doesn't bring you one?" I asked (gingerly).

"Oh no," said R7. "But he DOES make them so you never know..." (Exit R7 stage left with a confident skip.)


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Good things

As it's the dark and dismal days of November I thought I'd share with you some of the things I think are useful and good (and you never know, they might make nice presents). NB: This is not a sponsored or paid for post, these are just things I own, like and recommend.

Ten minute solution ultimate kettlebell

I have a few of the Ten minute solution DVDs and they are all good but this is the one I use the most because it's fun and it gets results fast. I tend to be a bit half-arsed about using fitness DVDs - mainly because they take ages to get results. Kettlebells are like nothing I've ever tried before. Because of my back injury and post-natal diastasis I can't do sit-ups but I can do Turkish curls with a kettlebell and I've now got abs for the first time. Kettlebell work outs make you strong quickly. You'll notice the results within a month - if you do use the thing (but only two 10 minute workouts, three times a week). I rarely do the recommended hour per week (as I said, I'm a bit hit and miss) but the results are still obvious. I do more if I can't run for any reason (if it's snowing, for example).


Metal kettlebells are smaller and easier to hold. Vinyl ones tend to be bigger, full of rattly bits (annoying) and the handles are too fat and slippery. I use a 1kg dumbell and this 5kg kettlebell. I'd probably get a lighter kettlebell too if I could afford it, perhaps 2.5kg. Some of the over the head exercises are a bit too challenging with a 5kg bell (at first). If you want a stronger core, get a kettlebell and swing it. See Kettleworx for inspiration.

R and B hair moisturiser

This is from Lush. I chuck a big handful of this onto wet hair and it turns straw into silk. It smells divine (orange flower and jasmine) too.

I'm a big fan of Lush - their solid deodorants are good too and I love the It's raining men shower gel. I'm not such a big fan of the pushy sales people in the shops though. I like to be left alone to make my own decisions.

River Cottage Everyday and Veg Everyday

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Everyday is well-named as I use it almost every day. It's full of simple, tasty ideas for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and treats. My children like to cook from it too.

We often make the apple and almond pudding cake and the ten miniute chocolate chip cookies (to which I add 75g dessciated coconut and 75g porridge oats and cook like flapjacks). We've got into a Sunday morning drop scones habit and there are some good fish ideas and some excellent soups. I tend to dip into it for inspiration and then adapt recipes according to what I have got in the fridge.

Veg Everyday is the newer one of the two and full of lovely ideas for making veg the star of the meal. As a family of fussy meat-eaters this is a godsend for good non-meat ideas.

So far we've tried and enjoyed Raid-the-larder bean and spelt broth; pasta with greens, garlic and chilli; vegetable biriyani; curried sweet potato soup; Brussels sprouts, apple and cheddar salad and the Kale speltotto (but made with pearl barley). The biriyani was the biggest hit so far.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The humiliation of the school PE lesson

There's an interesting article on the BBC website today by Dr Andrew Franklin-Miller about the 'Missed Olympic opportunity' to get children exercising.

Dr Franklin-Miller, an expert in sport and exercise medicine says: "Teachers and parents need support with training and a curriculum that builds on the lessons learnt in athlete development, and sport talent identification, not to build potential superstars but to change a lifestyle."

Children are fat and don't exercise enough, we are constantly told, and the finger of blame is variously pointed at parents, schools, junk food manufacturers, the government and computer games.

I'm not sure who is to blame (probably all of the above and more) but I agree with Dr Franklin-Miller that PE is not properly taught at schools. The focus seems to be on achievement of certain skills, not how to be fit. Where are the lessons, at the beginning of term, that suss out who is fit enough to run a cross country race and who needs a bit of training first? Just telling a class of kids to run a mile long cross country course serves only to establish who is already fit and put right off those who are not. Everyone is different - some can sprint, others better at endurance. (Just because a girl is tall doesn't mean she can throw a shot putt or discus Mrs Richards, she might prefer - and be better at - running.)

I would hope PE has changed since I was at school. I remember being terrified of my first cross country run. There had been talk about people fainting and coughing up blood (you know how dramatic kids can be!) There was no training in how to do it nor any preparation like running shorter bits first. There seemed to be the basic assumption that children were fit and able to do it and had been born with the knowledge of how to do it. No wonder so many people grow up hating running, particularly of the cross country variety. (Although I loved cross country running there was no way I would have admitted it at school. I wasn't considered a 'runner' then and I wouldn't have put myself forward for the school team. I just have the satisfaction of knowing that the last time I ran cross country at school I came back first.)

Perhaps schools should take a look at the resurgence of running among women in their 40s and older. This has been encouraged by the Race for Life series, non-competitive 5k runs raising money for Cancer Research. I and so many other women like me started off that way. We read Running made easy by Susie Whalley and Lisa Jackson and followed their six week plan to go from walking to running for 20 minutes. (This is probably the most inspirational book I had read - the fact I have now run three half marathons is testament to its efficacy!) It breaks training down into achievable bite-sized chunks, makes it fun and tops it with a liberal sprinkling of motivation and inspiration. At the end (presuming you do the 5k Race for Life) you get a goodie bag and a medal. It's fun, it's addictive and its contagious.

Back to school days though and the weekly popularity contest of netball or hockey team selection (chosen in order from prettiest to fattest and lamest) and the humiliation of the changing rooms and showers. Why was it vital for a fully clothed female teacher to stand in front of the showers and take a register of who was showering and who was not? If you couldn't shower you had to shout across the changing rooms that you had your period. That was in addition to the naked scrutiny of your peers. Who wants to be unclothed in front of bitches and bullies? You had to have a thick skin and a lot of body confidence to survive that unscathed.

I look at my own children and wonder if they are to be put off sport at school as I was. Not yet, but then they are at primary school in Wales where sport is the second religion. I suspect the rot might set in at of secondary school so I plan to teach them what I have learned about being fit first. They are both rather envious of my running medals and have ambitions to get their own. That, funnily enough, has been the plan all along.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Long run day

I always have my mobile phone with me on my runs and I thought I'd share some of the things I see as I'm plodding around the roads.

Today's run was just six and a half miles. This is an easy week in my Smartcoach running plan designed, I think, to give tired muscles a rest.

I took these at the top of the long straight upward slope, past Elizabeth Haines' gallery, before I turned right to continue my clockwise circuit past the forestry. There's nothing but sheep and fields between this road and the top of the Preselis and it has lovely sweeping views of the hills on a clear day. Today though, the hills had stayed in bed.

Who's pinched Foel Cwmcerwyn then?

I'm sure the road must have gone straight on here in days gone by (before tarmac). My mobile isn't so good at showing it but this gate has a twin along a pretty much straight green lane. It's a footpath and theoretically goes up on to the hill but I've never walked it.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Spoilt for choice

There were Christmas craft fairs everywhere today. We went to the one at Colby Woodland Gardens which gave us free entry and Claire of Cake Carousel was there with her delicious cupcakes which H9 and R7 are quite fond of sampling.

But we could have gone to two in Narberth - one foodie one vintage - or one at the Steiner School or another at the hall in Clynderwen.

Colby though is one we've been to before and after you've perused the stalls you can wander the pretty walled garden.

The fuchsias are still in full bloom, despite the fact it's only five weeks to Christmas.

The rill looks pretty all year round. The octagonal house at the top hasn't been open to the public before this year and all we've done previously is peer in through the windows.

Now though, they let you inside. It's a real sun trap and has clever trompe l'oeil pictures on the wall. You can hire it now for fully catered functions. I just have to work out some sort of a function I might need fully catering. It would be lovely here.

H9 and R7 had raspberry and white chocolate cupcakes and then bought bug catching pots from the National Trust shop. I bought beads and other sparkly bits and bobs for Christmas decorations from Carole at Begelly Beads. All the while the sun shone and it felt more like March than November.

Friday, 18 November 2011

In defence of food

Yum. Food (she says sounding like Homer Simpson). I love food so much I carry it as a spare tyre around my middle. Just the one though, since I'm now back at the weight I've always been. I'm the same now as I was when I was 20 and I wanted to lose that extra bit then too.

I've been reading Jane's blog posts about dropping four stone (not four actual stones, 56lb) and it reminded me of Michael Pollan's rules in his book In Defence of Food.

I read it and then gave up dieting (apart from a brief and foolish foray in to the Dukan diet which was awful. I just don't like meat enough to do that one). Pollan says (on an ad for the book I clipped from a magazine and stuck to my fridge):


The ad also conveniently lists his The Rules of the Real Food Revolution. My comments in italics:

 1. Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognise as food. Quorn, for example. What the heck is Quorn anyway? Ugh. 

 2. Eat a wide diversity of species. Pizza is NOT a species. Don't eat anything that's on the 'at risk of extinction' list though.

 3. Pay more, eat less. This absolutely applies to ALL types of meat. Eat good meat or none at all. Free range chicken is more expensive but it's worth it.

4. Avoid foods containing ingredients you can't pronounce. I don't think this means avoiding Szechuan pepper and chorizo. It means things like butylated hydroxytoluene.

5. Shop at the peripheries of the supermarket; stay out of the middle. The cakes, chocolate and junk are in the middle. Run in, grab some Green and Black's 85% plain chocolate, run back out to the vegetables, pulses and nuts.

6. Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot. This means the likes of Twinkies. Sugar doesn't rot (except your teeth). Honey doesn't rot either but I think that's an exception to the rule (in my world). Does chocolate rot? I've never managed to keep it long enough to find out...

7. Avoid food products that carry health claims. I can't think of any examples -  slimming tea? In the UK this sort of thing is quite strictly regulated. I assume it doesn't include blueberries and other such fruit although I'm deeply suspicious of goji berries...

8. Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does. Or, in other words, you don't need chocolate just because the car needs petrol and sandwiches from that sort of a place are just plain wrong.

Grow your own if you can. This year's winter salads (half of them) pictured today.

9. Cook and, if you can, grow some of your own food.  Cook from scratch. Cheap, easy, more delicious. Home made doesn't require additives to keep it 'fresh'. If you've made it you know what's in it (and you've only got yourself to blame!)

10. Eat meals only at tables, with other people and always with pleasure. The BEST bit. Families that eat together stay together. The table in front of the TV doesn't count (except on Saturdays with home made pizza and the X Factor - or is that just us?!)

Sound advice from Mr Pollan. Eat good food, not rubbish. Simple. (Oh and move more - run! - but that's a whole other blog post.)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Reflections on duty

Should you, as a parent, force your child to do something they don't want to do? H9 has a thing this weekend which basically involves singing a song in a group of children to entertain adults at a meeting.

She doesn't want to go.

"It will be boring," she says.

Well perhaps it will, perhaps it won't but should she give up her Sunday afternoon for it? We had a similar dilemma over Remembrance Sunday. We bought poppies and she went (in torrential rain) with the school to the village war memorial on the 11th and on Sunday could have gone to a service with her Brownies pack.

But she has a father who works every other weekend and does shifts during the week so they spend time together when they can. For the past two years their Sunday swimming treat has coincided with Remembrance Sunday and she's gone swimming instead. Should we feel guilty?

I try not to. Perhaps life sometimes is set up for those who work nine to five on weekdays and have every weekend free. Perhaps it's set up for people who don't have a longish commute and who don't work night shifts which mean that for half of each month they don't get to say goodnight to their children.

Sometimes we have to do what is best for us so I don't plan to force H9 to go and sing on Sunday if she doesn't want to. Then I'm going to do my very best not to feel guilty about it.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The ridiculous and the sublime

I found something in the River Cottage Bread book that I didn't like. Vetkoek (pronounced 'fet cook' meaning fat cake in Afrikaans) are basically deep fried bread rolls. Nothing fancy about the dough, just fried not baked.

I hate deep frying - it makes your house, clothes and hair smell like a chippy - but I was willing to try in the name of the Big Bread Bakeathon.

Fresh out of the pan they were almost acceptable - crispy on the outside, soft bread within.

Vetkoek. Hot, crispy, glistening with vet.

Two minutes later, once they were cool enough to eat, they had the taste and consistency of a squash ball. I cooked seven and we all tried one each (with three spare for the hens). I used the rest of the dough to make some very nice white rolls. Never again. The vetkoek were odd, like a tasteless doughnut, and as chewy as a car tyre. There are doughnuts and churros later in the book and for them I will have to contrive some method of cooking that does not require hot oil.

Next in the book was Flatbread, a Turkish bread a little like pitta made with yoghurt in the dough and cooked in a dry pan and then under the grill.

They were divine. We tried the first hot from the pan sprinkled with cheddar cheese and the rest (seen here) we ate with a Moroccan-inspired veggie stew the following day having kept the dough overnight in the fridge (which, if anything, made it taste even better). These were soft pillowy breads with a useful pocket like a pitta but fluffy like a naan. They are really intended to be eaten with taramsalata and hummus and I can see me making more of these in the future.

Next should be pizza, which I make most Saturdays (so that one is done) and then barbecue breads. I thought about barbecuing in November and postponed that one to next summer. Instead it's full speed into the Bread Made with Wild yeast chapter and sourdough.