Here we are, in France , where we wanted to be for so long. On lockdown since 12h 17.03.2020. Its actually not too bad now that it has sunk in. We are not on holiday- yet not working ( not in a paid role anyway ) . Its sureal , not having the regular flow of cars and walkers going past , or the usual number of trains . The trains that do go by have many empty seats in them.
Noel , our neighbour, has been a creature of habit ever since we arrived, Passing on foot or on his bike at least 4 times a day when he ” faires le tour ” like clockwork at regular hours . Then their is the man that sleeps in his car during his lunchbreak , visible from my kitchen window. And the Facteur , who either sails past at break neck speed in his yellow post van, or stops just long enough to to sling our post into the box from his open window. I havent seen them for days now. I have passed the time of day with an elderly lady who walks with Nordic poles, clicking along the road. We had a small chat at a large distance last week . She tells me my French language has really improved since we arrived . I think in the last 22 months my ears have tuned in .
I am so very grateful that we are here , with space and time to do things that need doing. I can’t imagine how awful it must be to be completely isolated and unable to venture out for whatever reason, or to be in a high rise flat with several children, also unable to escape their boundaries, or to understand why . Hats off to any of you reading who are having to deal with this Crisis in that way , you are all amazing .
Luckily for us we have been carrying on as normal , but with a slightly different slant on things. Over the preceeding few months had taken to grumbling about the number of parsnips, swedes and leeks left in the ground needing to be used. Now I am extremely grateful that they are there. I am also grateful that the preserving I did last year ( some of it during the canicule when all I wantd to do was basically nothing due to the heat ) is all proving delicious. The simplest preserve was the glut of cherry tomatoes, that I bottled and sterilised. They are now the basis of pasta sauces and soups. Simple, but delicious.
Although we have to stay at home, it is permissable to shop for necessary food. I have chosen not too so far . When it all started – with the exception of chicken food we had plenty in stock to last at least 2 weeks. Now at 9 days I am realising that the flour situation wont last beyond 14 days. I have placed a click and collect order .
In the meantime I am perfecting the art of bread making in various forms. None of your arty farty stuff, Just decent loaves, that are good to eat fresh, and then make good toast .
Yeast surplies here are currently a little difficult to source. I have some, but an eeking it out. Being drawn to WW2 coping strategies, alongside Aramageddon prepardeness blogs I stumbled accross some information about soda bread . Traditionally a wholemeal bread made with buttermilk I had dismissed it as a quick alternative to the usually labourious yeasty affair . However , it can be made with normal plain flour, and either a yoghurt/ water mixture or milk soured with a liitle vinegar .
Here is the recipe that worked for me yesterday , but sadly no photograph becase we ate it too quick !
QUICK SODA BREAD ( for 2 )
175g plain flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
140 mls of either plain yoghurt watered down to a milky consistency or milk with a dash of lemon juice or vinegar added to sour it
Preheat oven to 180C
Mix all dry stuff in a bowl, then add the wet stuff, make it into a ball shape if you can- if not flour your hands and encourage it into a pile on a greased baking sheet . If you can mark a deep cross on the top it will improve the even cooking . If not, dont worry .
Cook for about 30 minutes . Check it after 20 .
Its brilliant with soup, or cheese , either sliced or just broken up .
Its quick , and its cheap , and its homemade .
This picture above is of my slow bread, that uses a tiny amount of yeast , but a 24 hour window for manufacture.
3 cups flour ( I used ordinary plain- nothing fancy , not even strong plain bread flour )
1/4 tsp instant quick action yeast
1.25 teaspoons salt
mix it all in a bowl, add approximately 1 1/2 cups of tepid water .
Mix it well with a fork. it will be quite a wet dough. Leave it to do its thing in a warmish place for about 18 hours ( use a larger than you think basin just in case it does its thing a bit too much. )
After this time, knead it a bit, and shape into a loaf shape. If you have a bread proving banetton line it with a cloth and put the dough in it . If not …. put it into the cooking vessed of choice . this will need to be either well floured, of have a very good layer of grund rice or semolina in it to prevent sticking . Either way, when you reach this tage, cover it again with a cloth or lid. Leave it to rise for 2 hours or so. Then heat your oven . 200C is good to start off a loaf.
I cook mine in a lidded cast iron casserole dish . It works brilliantly for me . The bread rises well, and develops a good golden crust .