Well, the wheat ears are ripening. We have had the driest summer since the 1960’s (or so they tell us on the telly) and the parched grass is certainly evidence of that. We watered the wheat sparingly at the beginning of its growth and it hasn’t had a water for a few weeks now. We have been lucky to have had a few rainstorms during a few nights in the last couple of weeks which has just about kept the garden ticking over.
I am wondering if we will ever get to harvest the wheat though. This dry weather has meant there is very little food for the deer that roam locally and the other night they found our borlotti beans and stripped them off to as far as they could reach. As soon as I discovered this I reinstated the collie disruption mechanism , now renamed the deer disruption mechanism. I seriously doubt that it will really stop a hungry, marauding deer, but it makes me feel a little more reassured that I might yet harvest enough for a loaf. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
So it’s Day 27 of the wheat project. It is shooting up and is tillering. I wondered if it would tiller as a spring wheat and it seems it will. Tillering is when more than one shoot comes from the base of the plant (I have googled it!) and is all to do with the plant having sufficient space and light to produce more shoots. If it is grown in a tight space and is shaded by other plants it will put its efforts into growing up rather than out. I am giving it a light water each day as it has been a while since it rained here in Shropshire. But really nothing more than that. I let the chickens out today whilst I cleaned them out and they were showing far too much interest in it for my liking. They were put away again as soon as cleaning had finished.
Day 27 April Bearded Wheat
Instalment one and two give background to the project. I hope to make a loaf from the garden in the autumn. Fingers and toes are firmly crossed. Any advice from wheat experts gratefully received.
I have had the Veg Patch Loaf Project in my mind for the last year or so. The idea is that I will plant wheat in our veg patch next to our bread kitchen. This wheat will grow, (unfettered by bad weather, pest, disease or squirrel) and at the end of this year I will bake a loaf from home-grown wheat.
Well, I have finally managed to plant my wheat seeds today. I had hoped to plant some winter wheat seeds in the autumn last year, but with life being busy I didn’t get round to it somehow. I thought that perhaps I had missed the boat. Then, I was reading the latest copy of True Loaf magazine from The Real Bread Campaign and an article reminded me of The Brockwell Bake Association and their project to encourage allotmenteers, schools and community projects to grow heritage wheat. I visited their website and was very pleased to find that I could still order some spring wheat seeds from them. I know that I am far behind most farmers and growers but this is my first time attempting to grow wheat so even though I am really hoping I will get a small crop my expectations for success are fairly low. I am just going to give it a go and see what happens.
Brockwell Bake Association sent me 40g of April Bearded seed.
Here is the planted plot and how it looks today:
The wheat patch at Veg Patch Kitchen
The plot is roughly 3m x 2m with a path through the middle so I can get in and weed. I broadcast the seeds randomly, raked them in and then used a large piece of cardboard (a Shipton Mill delivery box as it happens) laid on the soil to tread the seed in. The canes and string are there as a collie disruption mechanism, in other words to stop our collie, Rascal, from digging up my seeds. For some reason his favourite game is to dig large holes in this particular patch.
I am an erratic gardener. I try my best every year to be better than the last. We always have a degree of success and a fair few meals from our garden every summer and autumn, but my gardening leaves a fair amount to be desired. Inevitably the weeds get the better of me. I hate pulling up self-seeded borage, nasturtiums and poppies because the bees and other pollinators love them so much. As a result our veg tends to be a little drowned out by these. Only the very strong wins through. I am going to try my hardest to be a diligent weeder of the wheat patch and I am hoping that the squirrels and pigeons give me a break when it comes to harvest time (if the crop survives that long). I will report the progress of the Veg Patch Loaf throughout the season. I very much hope I will be able to post a loaf that uses at least a bit of the wheat later in the year. Watch this space.
I was invited by Wot’s Cooking to join them on their Talks and Tastings stage at this year’s food festival at Ludlow. The Talks and Tastings was a more intimate affair than the larger chef demo stages, helping the audience to get a bit closer to the action.
The setting couldn’t have been better.
Ludlow Castle is wonderful and if you haven’t visited before and get the chance make sure you take the opportunity. It has wonderful little rooms like this one, which once you pass through that magical door is rather majestic inside. I doubt when it was used as a castle is was quite as majestic as it is now, it was probably poky, smelly, dirty and cold in there, but now, now it is majestic.
Inside were tables and chairs for about thirty people and a small stage up front for the speaker. When I arrived on the Friday I managed to catch some of the talk by the cheese monger from Ludlow Food Centre. He had bought a whole wheel of delicious cheese, which at the end of his interesting talk he used a very large knife to crack open to share samples.
While I waited for my turn on the stage I took a walk around the festival site within the castle walls. I haven’t been for a few years. Several years ago I judged the Sausage Trail for a couple of years, but it usually clashes with my eldest daughter’s birthday celebrations so it is a festival we normally miss out on. I was impressed by how many improvements had taken place. The flow through the stalls was much better than previous years and there are now several stages of varying sizes where you can take a pew and watch chefs and local food producers doing their thing. There is certainly plenty to see and do. I nipped into the Castle tearooms for a quick cup of tea before strolling back to the Talks and Tastings and managed to catch most of the talk by Our Lizzie. She specialises in teaching vegetarian and vegan food and her quinoa dish sounded delicious, unfortunately I missed out on one of the tasting pots that were handed around.
My talks and tasting was, of course, all about bread making and an attempt to help others catch the bread making bug. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope I spread the bread love.
Jon was managing the stage and took this photo of me in action – one day I hope to be photogenic…
More lovely people joined us on Sunday to learn new skills in bread making.
Here they all are with the breads that they made throughout the day. We made white and spelt loaves using the folded method, an olive dough using the kneading method which we shaped into fougasse, focaccia and pizzas. We also made an enriched dough making iced fingers, Shropshire butter buns, chelsea buns and hot cross buns.
On Saturday 6th February the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre are launching their spring cookery courses with a whole day of free activities. Come along to Craven Arms and find out about the fantastic courses that they have on offer.
The day starts at 9 am with the Craven Arms Farmers Market. At 11am 4-7 year olds can take part in a hands-on cookery course. At 12pm I will be showing you how you can shape your white dough into a whole range of wonderful breads from a focaccia or a fougasse, a turkish flat bread, a roll or a cottage loaf. At 1.15pm Melissa Rees will show you how you can cook a Shropshire chicken four ways. After that Sabrina Zeif will demonstrate the wonderful world of Cajun-Caribbean cookery. This will be followed by a talk on beekeeping with Tom Hall and a demonstration from Jan Morgan of fuss-free cooking with meatballs.
All of this is absolutely free and you will receive a voucher that you can use on one of the spring cookery courses. You can also enjoy a delicious lunch in the cafe and find out more about the Ready Steady Cook Community Cookery Project.
I hope you can come along, and if you do, please come over and introduce yourself to me.
If you would like to book a place on the bread making evening class that I will be running on Wednesday 23rd March at the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, you can find out more about it here.
Have I told you how much I love my job? Last night’s class was an absolute pleasure spent with three lovely people. We made plenty of bread in our action packed three hours. We started with a spelt using the folded method, then kneaded a white dough which we made into loaves and a pizza for each of us. We made some Shropshire Butter Buns with an enriched dough I had prepared beforehand and I even had time to demonstrate how to make soda bread. It was all baked in the fab ovens that Little Wenlock Village Hall is kitted out with and was taken home by three satisfied students.
One of the students was kind enough to take a pic of me, in full grin, with all of the breads we produced.
If you would like to join me for a fun evening learning a new skill then please do get in touch.
Another wonderful day of bread making was had yesterday with four people joining us for a day of baking. We made white loaves, spelt loaves, focaccia, fougasse, fruit buns, chelsea buns, iced fingers and pikelets. We practised both kneading and the folding method for making bread, using both fresh yeast and easy-bake yeast. We shared coconut cake and brownies and a delicious lunch in the glass room. I have had some really lovely feedback from the course participants already, with a lovely review on our Facebook page.
We are looking forward to our next course in July already.
We had a wonderful day of baking this Sunday. Three students joined us for a class using different flours. We started the day with tea and cake (as usual) and also sampling a wholemeal spelt and a khorasan loaf that I had made the day before. We then got stuck in making a spelt loaf (some of us made wholemeal and some mixed white and wholemeal spelt) and a khorasan (Kamut) loaf. We used the folding method for the doughs as neither spelt or khorasan benefit from vigorous kneading. The loaves were beautiful when they came out of the oven and word has come through from our students that they were much enjoyed at home. Just before lunch the students were given the choice of making an olive oil dough or an enriched dough. Together they turned out a very tasty looking focaccia with olives, rosemary and sea salt, some gorgeous looking iced buns and some very sticky chelsea buns. We finished the day off by making tortillas on the Esse.
As always, there was much laughter and fun had during the day and we shared a delicious lunch prepared by Leena and drank plenty of tea. I have received some very positive comments from the students about how much they gained from and enjoyed their day with us at Veg Patch Kitchen and that lifts my heart. I must say, I really do love my job.
I was enjoying the day so much that I forgot to take photos of the cooling breads. Silly me!
If you would like to join us at a future class please do contact us.
Another wonderful day of bread making was had by all when five students gathered to learn about the basics of bread making last Sunday. We made white loaves, iced buns, chelsea buns, fougasse and focaccia. We drank lots of tea with three cakes to choose from (clementine, ginger and chocolate, in case you are wondering) and a delicious lunch served by Leena.
If you would like to join us for a bread making course (and to eat cake) please contact us.
The breads cooked during the course.
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