Freshfield Grove

Tales of Tasmanian Adventures in Olive Oil


Recipes From My Kitchen – Farmer Fi’s Banana Bread

This is the quickest banana bread recipe I know – the ingredients are really easy to mix together and you can have it in the oven in under 15 minutes. The tricky bit is not eating it as soon as it’s baked, because the aroma is amazing! I eat it as it is, but you may like to toast and / or butter it. It’s a great snack or breakfast on the go – try a piece of fresh fruit to go with it.

There’s already a good dose of healthy fats with the extra virgin olive oil and walnuts, but try making it with wholemeal flour and brown sugar to increase the fibre content, and reduce empty calories further.

Calories: 232 per serving

Farmer Fi's Banana Bread

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Incredibly quick and easy banana bread recipe - a perfect snack or brekkie on the run.


  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g sugar
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • grated rind ½ lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g raisins


  1. Mash bananas.
  2. Mix with all other ingredients and beat ‘til smooth.
  3. Pour into greased or lined loaf tin (23x13x8cm).
  4. Bake at 180°C for approximately 1h 10minutes. You can check for done-ness with a skewer 5 minutes before time is up.

Possible substitutions and additions:

  • You can substitute wholemeal flour in place of all or half of the self-raising. If it’s not self-raising wholemeal flour, add 3tsp baking powder per 200g flour (in addition to the baking powder and bicarb that’s already listed).
  • Sugar can be granulated, caster, or brown. Flavour and texture will vary a little.

Other tips:

  • Bananas freeze well, just place them in a plastic bag or other container. Either buy when they’re ripe and put them straight in, or buy them unripe and pop them in the freezer when they ripen. This means you avoid the scenario where you want to make banana bread, but all the ones at the shop are green! They’ll be a bit wet and floppy when they come out, but it’s no problem for this recipe!
  • You can do things to ripen bananas faster. I’ve never tried, but this site covers the different methods…
  • Grated lemon zest can be frozen.
  • If you don’t have a loaf tin this size, then other size tins will work, but the quantity or cooking time and temperature may need to be adjusted. The mixture should only come about half to two thirds up the pan to best allow the loaf to rise and cook through.
  • Alternatively, bake as 12 muffins (approx. 20 mins at 160°C).
  • Lining the pan with greaseproof paper or baking paper can make the loaf easier to remove.
  • I slice the cooled loaf and freeze as individual portions – grab one on the way out of the door and it will have defrosted by the time you get to work.


Recipes From My Kitchen – Cherry Clafoutis

Cherry clafoutis is something that for some reason I’ve always wanted to make. I’ve got an image of it in my mind, with amazing puffy, golden batter rising around plump, juicy cherries. But cherries have always been too precious to do anything with other than just eating them, so I’ve never made it. But, recently I had a call from a neighbor saying that their cherry trees were ready for picking, and it needed doing before the birds got them!

A short while later we’d picked the trees as clean as we could, although it still felt as if every time we turned around there was another bunch of cherries hiding under a leaf. I took a share home and while munching happily, had a look for a clafoutis recipe. My favourite cook book, Mrs Beeton, had one, but it looked a bit fiddly, so I had a look online and found this easier looking Nigel Slater recipe.

I pitted the cherries, as it seemed easier on the eating front! I used a home-made cherry pitter to start with, as suggested by the Zero Waste Chef, but must admit that although it worked, I found it a bit fiddly. And although there’s a learning curve and I was getting quicker, I still had about two kilos of cherries to pit that were destined for the freezer, so I abandoned my vow to stop buying bits of kitchen equipment and purchased a cherry pitter. I can use it for olives too, right?!

This recipe includes the suggestion to substitute a portion of the flour for almond meal (aka ground almonds, almond flour) and I did this, mostly because I had some in the larder from my Christmas cake (AWESOME Nigella recipe!) and this seemed to be a great opportunity to use some more of it up. This substitution meant the batter didn’t rise as much as I think it would have done with 100% flour, but it rose enough, and lent a delicious texture and flavor. I was worried that the whole thing would be absolutely welded to the pan when it came out of the oven, but it didn’t stick at all!

I’ve heard that clafoutis can be tricky, but give this a go, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Cherry Clafoutis

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

Fabulous seasonal dessert enclosing fresh juicy cherries in a delicious golden batter.


  • A 20cm shallow, round baking dish (see tips)
  • 80g sugar
  • 350 – 400g cherries
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 60g plain flour
  • 30g almond meal
  • 150ml milk (I prefer whole milk)
  • 2 drops vanilla essence / extract
  • 30g butter, melted (grass-fed if available)
  • extra butter and sugar to prepare the baking dish
  • icing sugar for dusting
  • cream to serve (optional)


  1. Stone the cherries.
  2. Set the oven at 180degC (gas mark 4).
  3. Prepare your dish by buttering and then dusting with 2tbsp sugar.
  4. Tip the cherries into the prepared dish, and shake so they settle in a single layer.
  5. Melt the butter in the microwave (I go for 30 second intervals at medium power), or on the stove in a small pan.
  6. Take a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and beat in the eggs with a large balloon whisk.
  7. Sift in the flour and almond meal, then add the milk and vanilla essence and beat again.
  8. Add the melted butter to the batter mixture and stir in.
  9. Pour the batter over the cherries.
  10. Bake for 35 minutes until puffed and golden.
  11. Allow to cool slightly, then dust with icing sugar before serving. Delicious warm or cold.

Possible substitutions and additions:
– Use 90g flour if you don’t have or don’t want to use almond meal.
– Try other fruits, such as apricots, blueberries, blackberries, or cooked pears. You’ll need slightly less by weight, approximately 275g (as there’s no pits).
– Soak the fruit in kirsch for a bit before using, for a boozy version.

Other tips:
– I don’t have a baking dish of a suitable size, so I used my cast iron frying pan, which worked brilliantly.
– Do sift the flour – I don’t bother for most things, but it does make a difference with batters.
– Don’t be tempted to omit the icing sugar dusting – you only need a little, and it makes a BIG difference to the overall flavour.


A Tale of Two Brownies…

olive oil chocolate brownie

Wholemeal version on the left, Lucero version on the right.

I’ve baked brownies a couple of times recently. I’ve mentioned brownies before, and I still don’t feel they’re something I’m good at! This recipe from Lucero Olive Oil has been my go to (yes, using olive oil instead of butter – hooray!), but I’ve wanted to do some experiments using fewer refined ingredients. I found this one, on the lovely Passionate About Baking blog using wholemeal flour and raw sugar and decided to give it a go! The result is much cakier, but I have a confession… This second recipe calls for baking powder, and for some reason (well there are several, I’ve been a bit frazzled…) I read this as baking soda (aka bicarbonade of soda), and promptly added 1tsp of the stuff. I didn’t even realise what I’d done until partway through baking [“Oooh, how funny – that’s rising really well… oh noooooo!”] And I used all extra virgin olive oil in place of the combo of butter and oil (90ml in total).

So, the flavor is ok, the bicarb is mostly hidden by the chocolate, but overall these are a bit too cakey and crumbly for my perfect brownie. But I don’t think the use of wholemeal flour and soft dark brown sugar caused problems. I want to try this second recipe again, but would change the following:

  • Melt the chocolate alone, and then whisk in the oil – the only reason being that the aroma of good extra virgin olive oil being added to melted dark chocolate is simply divine. And much better than when the oil and chocolate are heated together!
  • I’d add maybe a tablespoon of full fat milk, just to increase the moisture level a little. Probably wouldn’t be needed if I’d used some butter.
  • Another top tip is that if you’re adding walnuts as I do because I LOVE the added texture of these, they should be added AFTER the flour has been folded in. If you add the walnuts and the flour together, the flour gets stuck in all the little walnut crevices, and it’s really REALLY hard to combine it all without beating the mixture. Which can tend to make the finished product rubbery 😦
  • And finally, I will pay attention to the recipe, and try and select the right ingredients!

If you want to read more about chocolate brownies, The Guardian did one of their excellent “How to make perfect…” series on the topic. But I’m off for now, I have brownies to eat 🙂 FFx

PS. Would love to know YOUR favourite brownie recipe – please share in the comments!


Busy Weekend

I started writing this a while ago, but then got sidetracked and never quite got around to getting it posted. But it was a fun weekend, although a bit hectic, and I wanted to share some of the things I’d got up to! I felt as if I hadn’t achieved much that weekend, but looking back, I’d got through quite a lot!

pruning freshfield grove olive

Pruning has been continuing, but it’s felt like slow progress at times. The area of the grove I’m working on has some of the bigger trees, with quite complex branch structures. I’m trying to simplify the main branches to 3 or 4 coming off the trunk at just over a metre height, but it’s difficult to do this without removing too much of the canopy. Added to this, it sometimes feels as if the trees aren’t happy about what I’m up to, and are fighting back. The leaves are just the right size and shape to poke me in the eyes, ears, and nose! The branches I want to prune are often just slightly too high, so I’m stretching up on my toes to try and reach. While still being VERY careful not to get my fingers anywhere near the powered secateurs!

When I cut one successfully, it seems that the branches try to hit me on the head on the way down. Pointy end first… I feel as if I’m under attack! And then I look around, and it feels as if the grove goes on forever! But I am almost done. Out of our 1000 or so trees, there are only about 125 left to go. And then it’ll be pretty much time to start again! I think it’s going to be like the Sydney harbour bridge…

Sydney Harbour Bridge at night

Sydney Harbour Bridge at night

When I’ve been getting overwhelmed by the pruning it’s hard to know whether to just keep going, or take a break! But I’ve been doing a few other things in between. I’m still experimenting with the olive leaf tea, and I have a couple of new batches to taste and compare with the original. One is dried at a lower temperature for longer, and another two have been steamed before drying, which halts the oxidation process. These different methods slightly alter the concentration of various compounds, and therefore alter the taste. The colour of the tea is also altered, as you can see from the photos (although I ran out of white mugs, so it’s a little hard to see).

olive leaf tea tasting freshfield grove

Also on the development board are olive oil granola bars. I’m in the amazing position of being able to get tons of fantastic local ingredients, so local rolled oats (rolled at Callington Mill, a Georgian windmill in Oatlands), local honey, local walnuts, butter, and olive oil. I’m looking for local dried fruit to add to the mix too. These bars vanish as fast as I bake them – I had been worried that if I was baking several times a week that I’d struggle to find homes for all the goodies, but this hasn’t been the case so far!

olive oil granola bars freshfield grove

And in between all this, I managed to fit in an evening visit to Whisky Live in Hobart, and a lunchtime trip to my friends at Wobbly Boot Vineyard for their quarterly fundraiser!

Whisky Live was an amazing event. It felt quite pricy when I bought the ticket at $99, but with well over 100 whiskies to taste from global distilleries, and a pretty constant flow of food and nibbles, it was worth every cent! I went through the event booklet afterwards, and although I felt I’d tasted most of what was there, it seems I managed less than 30. There were spittoons, but really, I wasn’t going to use them! I’m proud to say though that I ended the night vertical! There were about 30 stands, some for just one distillery, and others representing several. Some had just one or two to taste, and a few had more than five! The atmosphere was really relaxed and friendly, and although the event was busy, there was little time spend waiting for a drink! One of my more competitive companions was keen to make sure he tasted EVERYTHING on offer, but I can’t vouch for his state of health the next day! My overall favourite was probably the Sullivans Cove Double Cask, which seemed to me to be a very easy drinking tipple…

whisky live hobart tasmania

Anyway, after this, Sunday got off to a bit of a slow start! We had bacon and eggs cooked on the BBQ, with the compulsory Aussie side of avocado (I’m trying to identify a suitable avocado growing zone on the farm!) After breakfast I headed out to do some pruning, before setting off to Wobbly Boot. I hadn’t been sure what to expect, as I hadn’t been able to make their previous Anzac Day event, but as I approached, idly wondering what they’d do about parking, it became apparent that this was a well-organised operation! A fluorescent jacket-wearing gentleman greeted my car on approach to take the $10pp entry fee (incl delicious homemade soup and bread), and direct me to parking. Cars were parked on the side of the road, with 4WDs at the edge of the paddock. There’s been a huge amount of rain in Tas, after months of drought conditions, and there were concerns that cars would get bogged in the muddy ground. I parked the Hilux, and got Blizzard out. I’d left Gunner at home because he’s much too excitable around other dogs! And there were LOTS!

The fundraising was in aid of Small Paws Animal Rescue, and the event has a tagline of “Wine and Woofs”. Wobbly Boot has a very proactive “dogs welcome” attitude, and have even got two secure dog areas, one for big dogs, and one for small. They are in an amazing setting, fairly high up in the Coal River Valley, and it was fabulous to see so many dogs and their humans having fun together there. I love the Wobbly Boot Pinot Noir, but after such a whisky-laden night I stuck to the soft drinks!

wobbly boot pinot noir

Blizzard had a ball (she’s been to Wobbly Boot before, to help with the pruning!) and loved having a good sniff around. Lots of people had brought picnics and BBQs as it was BYO food, with Wobbly Boot wine, and a selection of Tassie beers available to buy. So plenty of good smells and new friends!

I’d arranged to meet Desma from ourstoryhouse ceramics at Wobbly Boot, as I’m on a mission at the moment to find some locally made ceramic tea strainers! They have a beautiful range of cups (amongst other things), and they’ve kindly said they’ll look into some strainer designs for me! I’m very excited, as I love beautiful, handmade items like these. I really feel that they add to the whole experience and ceremony of drinking tea and coffee with friends. By a happy coincidence, it turned out that they had recently adopted a dog from Small Paws, so it seemed very fitting that we could meet at a fundraiser for them!

After that it was back to the ranch for the final pruning session of the weekend, and I managed to finish the row I was working on before the sun went down! FFx

sunset gum tree campania freshfield grove

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Anzac biscuits

Another belated baking post today! In the same way that I helpfully posted a recipe for Sourdough Hot Cross Buns a few days after Good Friday, here’s a recipe for Anzac biscuits, only a day after Anzac Day itself… I’d forgotten just how fab these biscuits are, and how quick to make, so I write about them now because I see no reason why they shouldn’t be made and enjoyed All Year Long! They have a touch of the Hobnob about them in my mind, and I’ve often wondered how they’d be with a chocolate topping – even more delicious I reckon, if not authentic.

I always thought that Anzac biscuits were made and sent to Australian and New Zealand forces on the front lines, but Wikipedia suggests they were more often used as a fundraising item. They’re obviously now produced commercially. This recipe results in quite a crunchy biscuit, but some bought ones have a much softer texture. A shorter baking time would lead to a less crunchy biscuit, if that’s what you prefer.

There are lots of recipes out there, most pretty similar. The one I use was written down for me by a good friend, visiting us when we lived in the UK. I made it more frequently there than I have since we migrated, to give my husband a taste of home! But now I’ve been reminded how good they taste, I won’t leave it so long ’til next time!

This recipe makes  40-50 biscuits.


  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 130g butter
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Freshfield Grove Anzacs 2


Set oven to 170degC.

Melt the butter and golden syrup together in a saucepan over a low heat.

Freshfield Grove Anzacs 1

Mix the flour, sugar, coconut, and rolled oats together in a large bowl.

Freshfield Grove Anzacs 3

Mix the bicarbonate of soda, vanilla essence, and boiling water together in a cup.

Take the butter – syrup mixture off the heat, and stir in the bicarbonate of soda mixture from the cup. This will foam up a bit!

Pour all these combined wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix together.

Freshfield Grove Anzacs 4

Take approximately a tablespoon of the mixture and form it into a ball, then place it on a baking sheet and flatten slightly. I don’t grease my baking sheets, and so long as you get the biscuits off before they harden, they lift off easily. Leave some space between them to allow them to spread, which seems to happen mostly in the second half of baking. I end up baking in two or three batches, as I can’t fit them all in the oven in one go.

Freshfield Grove Anzacs 5

Bake for 10 minutes in total until golden brown. Halfway through baking, take the biscuits out and flatten them slightly with the back of a fork, then pop them back in the oven. This part of the method was emphasised by our friend, and I think it gives the biscuit a much better texture at the end! (I forgot to do it once and they weren’t as good.)

Freshfield Grove Anzacs 7

The baking time and temperature can be adjusted depending on your oven, to get the texture and colour you want. The biscuits are soft when they come out, and harden when cool. Leave them on the baking sheets for about 2 minutes to cool enough to handle without breaking, but it is VERY IMPORTANT to remove them before they are completely hard, as from experience they will be firmly attached to the baking sheet by this stage!

Eat and enjoy! They do keep really well, if you can manage not to eat them all at once… FFx


Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

I always like to make hot cross buns at Easter, and this year because I’ve been making sourdough bread, I wanted to make a sourdough version. My regular recipe is from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Cookery and Household Management (my standard cooking reference) and uses regular bread yeast.

sourdough hot cross buns baked

Finished buns!

I had some trouble finding a sourdough recipe, partly because a lot of sourdough recipes use cup measurements and I prefer weights. And in some I didn’t really understand the timings. I had a bit of a hunt around online, and eventually found two recipes via a twitter search.

Virtous Bread blog – The World Premiere of the Sourdough Hot Cross Bun at The Clink

Celia’s Fig Jam and Lime Cordial blog – Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

By an odd coincidence, I discovered that some of the blogs I’ve found since I started this one, also have links to Celia. That seems like karma! Out of all the tweets I could have stumbled on, I found hers… I’m still finding my way with sourdough, so I’ve loved reading through some of Celia’s old blog posts, and plan to give her overnight method a try regarding timings. Timings are one of my struggles: When do I have to start bread making to be able to finish at the time I want, without having to be up in the middle of the night?

The other sourdough problem I have is to do with the dough consistency. Lots of recipes say to avoid adding significantly more flour when kneading, and that the dough will become less sticky as you go. Not my experience. I haven’t been adding extra flour, but I end up with what can only really be described as glue. This is highly adhesive, and ends up entirely enveloping my hands, and stuck to the worktop. No photos – there’s no way I can get near a camera at these points. The bread always turns out ok, and rises, but I feel I’m not quite there! I wonder if it may have something to do with flour types, and / or starter hydration. Anyway, practice makes perfect.

I’m also delighted to say that my blogging buddy M-R has joined the sourdough community, despite protesting to me that she didn’t like it! Her first loaf (using, it transpires, a starter from Celia…) turned out pretty darned well! Read all about it here.

In the end, I kind of combined these two bun recipes above, with some inspiration from Mrs Beeton.

Mrs Beeton's book of cookery and household management

Slightly mangled copy of Mrs Beeton – the dog ate it!!

This sourdough lark always ends up taking longer than I expect, not least because of the amount of time I’m trying to remove glue-like dough from everything. The final day, when I baked the buns, took me about 3 ½ hours up the point of eating, and I ended up missing my intended elevenses / morning tea –time slot. If I wanted them to be done in time, I’d need to start the day before. I’d do everything up the point when the buns were shaped and on the baking sheet for their final rise, then put them in the fridge overnight. In the morning I’d take them out, allow about an hour to reach room temperature, and then bake. The timings below will allow you to bake either late on Thursday night, or on Friday morning.

So, here goes with the buns…



150g unfed sourdough starter (100% hydration, ie. fed at a ratio of 1g of water to 1g of flour). This will all be used, so make sure you leave some behind to continue your sourdough’s life!
75g flour
75ml warm water


160g milk, at room temperature
500g bakers/bread flour – divided into 300g and 200g
8g fine sea salt
60g brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground pimento (allspice)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
50g extra virgin olive oil (or 60g of softened butter)
2 large free range eggs
1 orange (optional)
100g currants
50g good quality candied peel, finely diced
Warm water


2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons white sugar


4 tablespoons plain white flour
4 tablespoons water


Stage 1 (eg Wednesday evening)

  • Take 150g of unfed starter (mine had been fed one week before, and stored in the fridge). All of this 150g of starter will be used, so leave some behind).
  • Add 75g of flour and 75g of water.
  • Mix together and leave covered at room temperature for 12 hours. (I cover with a plate or cling film. I tried using a cloth, but the surface dried out a bit.)

Stage 2 (eg Thursday morning)

  • Mix together the 300g of starter, 160g milk (at room temperature), 300g of bread flour, 8g salt to make a sourdough sponge.
  • Leave covered at room temperature for 12 hours.
  • Place the currants and candied peel in a small bowl or wide mouthed jar.
  • Add the juice of the orange (if using), and add enough warm water to cover the fruit by approximately 2cm. (I find this makes the fruit nice and plump in the finished buns.)

Stage 3 (eg Thursday evening)

  • Drain the orange juice / water from the dried fruit, and pat dry.
  • Put 60g brown sugar, 50g extra virgin olive oil, and 2 eggs in a bowl and beat until light.
  • Add the sourdough sponge and beat to combine.
  • Combine the further 200g bread flour, 1tsp allspice, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, then add to the sourdough sponge mixture from the previous step.
  • Knead for 10 minutes, then set aside for 10 minutes to rest.
  • Add the drained currants and candied peel mixture to the dough, and knead gently to combine (without squishing the fruit!)
  • Leave in a covered bowl somewhere warm for 60 minutes. (Under the heat lamp in the bathroom works brilliantly on a cool day.)
  • Divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape as desired. (I needed to use a bit of flour to reduce stickiness at this point.)

sourdough hot cross buns shaped

  • Place on a well-oiled baking sheet, and cover with a well-oiled piece of cling film. (If you don’t oil the cling film, it sticks to the buns and tears them when you pull it off. And then they deflate 😦 )
  • EITHER : (1) Leave covered somewhere warm for 60 minutes.
  • OR: (2) Put in the fridge overnight, then take them out in the morning and place somewhere warm for a hour or so until risen.
  • Preheat the oven to 200degC (mine is fan forced).
  • Get the glaze ingredients ready in a small saucepan.
  • Make the cross mixture by combining 4 tbsp plain flour and 4 tbsp water. Put in a piping bag (you can make one out of baking paper or a plastic bag if you don’t have one.)
  • Add the crosses to the risen buns, and place in the hot oven.

sourdough hot cross buns risen

  • Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees to help them brown evenly, and bake for a further 8-10 minutes.
  • When you’ve rotated the buns, make the glaze: heat the 2 tbsp milk, 2 tbsp water and 3 tbsp sugar in a pan on the stove. Bring to the boil and simmer for 6 minutes.
  • Take the buns out of the oven. Remove to a cooling rack immediately if possible, and brush with the glaze.
  • Allow to cool a little, if you’re able… Delicious enjoyed with butter, or a drizzle of fresh extra virgin olive oil! FFx

sourdough hot cross buns crumb


Sourdough crackers

What can you do with leftover sourdough bread? Especially the broken bits that were left after being stuck to the pan during baking (see previous post!)

... and after baking!

Broken bread

Well, you can slice them up really thinly (about 3mm), lay them out in a single layer on a wire rack, and bake in the oven at about 100degC for about 30-40 minutes. Or until they’ve dried out and gone crispy. I reckon you could also spray them with (extra virgin olive) oil, and maybe sprinkle with a little salt or paprika before baking to jazz them up.

Et voila! Sourdough crackers.

Et voila! Sourdough crackers.

My original inspiration for this type of thing is a recipe for Rosemary Raisin Pecan Crisps which are totally delicious, and very more-ish.

And then I saw this recipe for a Fruit and Nut Sourdough Cracker the other day on Selma’s Table. These have lots of yummy ingredients, and are clearly much more exciting than my plain ones, but require a more exciting sourdough to start with. And after the sticking episode I’ve promised myself to stick with a basic sourdough bread recipe until I’ve had a bit more practice!

Any of these are great for dipping in pretty much anything. I’m off to dip some in a bowl of guacamole right now 🙂 FFx


Sourdough And Other Fermentation Experiments.

My interest in fermented foods started perhaps a couple of years ago, when I began to investigate making ginger beer. This introduced me to the concepts of wild yeast, and starter cultures. I absolutely love the combination of food and science in this. I had a couple of ginger beer experiments, with varying success, probably not helped by being a bit inconsistent with my ginger beer starter (or bug) feeding patterns. Then life got busier (as olive oil started to take over) and I didn’t make much more progress.

Wild Fermentation book by Sandor Katz

Wild Fermentation book by Sandor Katz

One of my favourite blogs is The changes she’s made to pretty much eliminate waste from her home are inspiring, and I love the tips and tricks she shares about this. This week she’s posted about making soup from leftovers, including really simple and easily adapted recipes. She’s passionate about fermented foods too, and makes it sound really do-able. She runs workshops, and is now running regular free webinars for people who can’t make it to one of the real life sessions, which I think is such a cool idea.

So, having been thinking about fermentation for quite a while, I decided to get going this year. Something I’ve realised is that you have to be patient. Not easy in this current world of instant gratification… And it does take a bit of planning. Rather than doing one thing at a time, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to start it all in one go… Sourdough, kombucha, and ginger beer. Not quite as wonderful in practice, as I haven’t had time to keep everything going!

My new ginger bug is sort of working, but I haven’t quite got around to the whole making of the beer bit. The bug was bubbling reasonably well but then I put it in the fridge, to give myself a bit of time. It’s now been in and out a couple of times, but it hasn’t quite got back to where it was. Not sure about the likely survival of this!

Ginger beer bug (left), and kombucha (right).

Ginger beer bug (left), and kombucha (right).

Kombucha has been much better. I bought a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) from someone on Gumtree, followed the instructions, had to wait A WHOLE WEEK while the friendly fermenting bugs did their stuff, but got a tasty drink at the end of it. My husband won’t touch it though. He thinks the SCOBY is too weird. And although it is pretty weird, I’m kind of fascinated by it. Like an alien lifeform.

The sourdough has received the most time input and it’s been generally successful. I had an initial starter failure. Due to not reading the instructions properly, not feeding it at the right time, and letting it dry out. The second time went much better. I’m totally amazed that by mixing flour and water, and letting it sit around, that you end up with something alive. It’s so cool. But you have to be patient. It took about seven days to get a starter that was behaving in the way it’s supposed to, and consistently doubling in size.

There are lots of slightly varying instructions on how to make a starter, but for mine I followed advice from the zerowastechef “How to make a sourdough starter”, and also from this website “Sourdough Home”.

Weighing the flour worked better for me than using cup measurements. The consistency of the starter seemed too thick with the cups. I’ve used a mixture of white organic all-purpose flour and rye flour for the starter. The first time I used cheesecloth to cover the mixture, but it dried out too much. Since then I’ve been using cling film (sorry zerowastechef!), but actually I could use a plate instead. The water was another thing to consider, as some people find the chlorine in most domestic tap water to be a problem for the friendly bugs. Now I’ve got into the routine of putting some tap water in a jug and leaving it there for a few hours or overnight to let the chlorine dissipate.

So, finally I had some starter to use, and I wanted to make something to eat now!! Then I realised that pretty much everything sourdough related takes extra time to make too. Pancakes turned out to be what I could do straight away, while I waited another day to make some bread. To see the recipe I used click here. (I obviously used extra virgin olive oil instead of the suggested butter or coconut oil!) We actually had a batch of pancakes for breakfast this morning, cooked on the BBQ 🙂 Yum!

TIP – when cup measurements of starter are given, this seems to refer to starter that’s been stirred, so you’re measuring the actual starter, and not including the air bubbles. I have to say that I prefer to go by weight, it seems to me that that’s more reproducible.

Sourdough pancakes

Sourdough pancakes.

The next complication was that I couldn’t get my head around the timings of:

  • when to feed the starter prior to mixing up the dough,
  • when to start making the bread dough,
  • when, for how long, and how many times to let the bread rise,
  • and when it would be ready to cook, and eat!

I didn’t want to get stuck with a step that had to be done in the middle of the night!

As with the starter instructions, it seems like everyone makes their sourdough bread slightly differently!  This video from Hobbs House Bakery is great, it’s so useful to see what everything looks like at the different stages. And the step on shaping the loaf really helped me out. “Mould the dough into the desired shape” didn’t really mean much to me! They’ve got a recipe section on their website here.

Their list of equipment is a bit daunting, and a lack of several items nearly stopped me in my tracks! I don’t have a proving basket (didn’t even know they existed!), but this article from River Cottage suggested using a floured cloth lining a bowl, so I did that. And I don’t have a spray bottle, so I put a dish of boiling water in the base of the oven. And I don’t have a baking stone, so I used a heavy dish instead.

The first loaf I made was the little one from the Hobbs House recipe. It was small (Husband: “Is that it?”) but perfectly formed.

For reasons I still don’t understand, rather than following the same method the next time, I decided to use the measurements from their big loaf, but to try a “no knead” method. Like I said, don’t know why. I like kneading dough, so it was a combination of curiosity and laziness! I mixed up the starter, the flour, and the water until it just came together, and left it overnight. It rose well, but when I tried to shape it, it became apparent that it was just a huge sticky mass. No photos of this, as my fingers were totally glued together!! Eventually I managed to add enough flour to make it less like ectoplasm, and manoeuvred it into a bowl. It rose again, and I managed to get it onto the dish for baking a few hours later. I put baking parchment under it, because I was worried it’d get stuck. I’m not sure if this is the reason why when I took it out, the base was a bit damp, or whether that was just a reflection of the dough being too wet. Anyway I put it back in on the shelf for 10 minutes, and it dried out fine. Although the crust was a bit thick and tough. Not sure if that’s from having steam in the oven for the whole cooking time.

Fast forward to the current time – week three – and having not learnt from my mistake about trying something new every time, I decided to use a majority of white bread flour with some spelt flour. It turns out that spelt absorbs a lot less water than regular bread flour, so I ended up with a VERY STICKY pile of dough. It rose ok however, and I managed to sort of shape it and get it into the cloth lined dish for the second rise. It rose again, but when I went to tip it into a casserole dish to bake it was stuck to the (not floured enough) tea towel, and then and it got stuck on the side of the dish.  Then the top was too sticky to be able to slash it properly and it kind of wrinkled and tore. I threw it in the oven anyway (it was 10pm by this point…) and hoped for the best! The result is a loaf that has a pretty good flavour and texture, but is in several pieces because it was glued to the dish.

So next time, maybe I should just follow a recipe! I’ve been collecting a few on Pinterest. If you’ve got any favourites I’d love to hear about them. And if there are any other Pinners around, maybe this could be a community board? Please let me know your Pinterest user name if you’re interested, and I’ll invite you 🙂 FFx



Chocolate Olive Oil Brownies

I made these yesterday and wanted to share them. I haven’t ever really got to grips with making chocolate brownies. I had a flatmate at uni who made awesome brownies, and another who made excellent scones, and although those days are now long past, I’ve never really put any effort into making these things regularly myself. (I was the expert in upside-down chocolate pudding making!) The robust flavour of our EVOO can overpower some delicate cakes, but I think it balances well with chocolate. Well, doesn’t everything?!

If you’re not on Pinterest, you can go straight to the recipe here at Lucero Olive Oil. But if you are, and you want to check out some other cakes and desserts then have a look at  my “Sweet Treats” board.

This recipe made 16 brownies. They’re not as thick as some brownies I’ve made and are a bit lighter in texture, but  they are lovely and gooey, and rich in flavour. I don’t have a square metal brownie tray so I baked them in a silicone baking tray, 8.5 x 7 inches, at 170degC for 24 mins. I used our oil, instead of chocolate infused. And I substituted walnuts for hazelnuts (roasted for 10 mins in the oven while it was warming up, then chopped). I added the flour at the same time as the walnuts, but the next time I’d add the flour, and then stir in the walnuts. Because all the little crevices in the walnuts hid little pockets of flour that kept being released after I thought I’d stirred it all in. Yep, it’s a tough life 😉

Anyway, I have to to get back to “testing” our new batch of homebrewed beer. (Apparently there are recipes for beer brownies!?) Happy baking! FFx

PS. As part of my participation in blogging101 I’ve (belatedly) added an “About us” widget – what do you think (top right)?!

chocolate olive oil evoo walnut brownies