Thursday, 27 October 2011

Bread bakeathon #14 and sheep

The next instalment in the River Cottage Bread book bakeathon is bread sticks. This is a dough similar to focaccia but is a simple enough thing. Mix it together, leave to rise, go for a five mile run, return (wearing the contents of a puddle courtesy of a Land Rover), roll out the dough, cut into strips, spread with oil, sprinkle with seeds, rise for a bit and then bake. They are shepherd's crook shapes because as you lift the strips of dough they stretch and become too long for the tin. I quite like the shape.

We ate them with what I call 'Trail soup'. It's a vegetable soup based on a recipe that I originally read in 'Trail' magazine, hence the name. Chop two carrots, a slice of swede, a leek, onion, garlic and a potato into smallish cubes and leave to sweat in a tablespoon of olive oil with a teaspoon of butter added. Then wash the horrid sauce off a can of baked beans and add those along with some stock or water and maybe some green leafy bits like Savoy cabbage or cavelo nero and a chopped tomato. Add a handful or two of tiny soup pasta shapes and cook until everything is soft. Adjust for seasoning and serve with grated Cheddar cheese and bread sticks. A bit of pesto is lovely stirred into the soup too. Next bread: Brioche.

This afternoon's task was to sort the sheep. They've been quietly eating grass in the fields over the summer and now we need to sort the ewes from the lambs, check the ewe's teeth (if they've got no teeth they can't eat enough to rear lambs so they have to go). The ones we are keeping also get a dose of worming medicine at this time of year. We're organic but this has the blessing of the Soil Association.

In the race they go, two or three at a time. We check they've got ear tags and replace any as necessary. The rules on ear tags change annually. A year or so ago they had to be tagged in each ear as lambs. Now it's one tag but they're plastic and are a real bugger very difficult to insert in the ears. Ewes and ewe lamb replacements are drafted through the gate to the left; lambs for meat and cull ewes go to the right.

Toby the cat is there purely in a supervisory capacity. He chose the wrong place to sit as shortly after I took this picture he was bounced on by a siily lamb. After that he supervised from inside the building.

A purple dot of marker spray shows that this ewe lamb is being kept and will go on to have lambs of her own. The dot also means we can tell the two groups apart which is lucky because when we thought we had finished and were herding the ewes out to the field again the lambs made a break for freedom and the whole flock got mixed up again.

I'm afraid I may have lost my temper a little (a lot!) at this point. We managed to herd them back into the yard, with a bit of shouting and chasing (there's always a stubborn one. I chased it, furiously. It being temperamental, stupid and intractable, flattened mum into a pile of sheep poo before we rounded it up. I hate sheep.) I redrafted the dots from the non dots, then we tied the gates really tightly this time and now (phew!) the ewes are on the hayfields, the cull ewes and lambs for fattening are on the field by the house and the ram and the pet sheep Chops are (noisily) in one of the little paddocks.


  1. My son loves bread sticks. I just use a straightforward white bread dough and then sprinklings of either poppy seeds or sesame seeds. OH does NOT allow me to use anything green and herby . . .

    Glad you've got the sheep sorted - a job well done, swearing apart!

  2. I love bread sticks - and those look perfect - I can imagine breaking them up into a thick veggie soup and munching 'til I was stuffed. Perfect.

    How do you decide which to keep and which to cull? I would find that part impossible. Do you eat the mutton? I like lamb, but recall mutton stew as a child, and that was in a league of its own with pearl barley and some veggies.

    One day I hope to have my own small small holding, until then, I'll content myself with the hens and bees.

  3. Bovey Belle - No swearing actually - I was setting a bad enough example to the children as it was! All done now though.

    Zoe - Which to keep and which to cull? We keep good records and rely on experience to see which ones just aren't doing well. Then we harden our hearts (and kick ourselves for naming them and having favourites). We don't eat lamb or mutton any more!

  4. Not much of a fan of bread sticks. I think I'll stick to bread, in loaves.
    Sheep, I'm certain, are interesting creatures to have around. Interesting. Yes, that's the word.
    Well done on the sorting, Mags.

  5. I have a similar recipe for a Tuscan Bean soup, waiting to be made. And breadsticks too. Yours look delicious!


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