Slightly better night’s sleep still awake at 6 though. When I finally got myself up, the ponies started. So when you are first in the New Forest and the whole concept of wild ponies wandering about is a fresh state of affairs, you just wanna get some pics and exclaim, ”Wow this is incredible, they are so friendly.”
Then, it starts to become like a horror movie. Almost all animals, no matter how cute they are as individuals, tend to feel a bit menacing as soon as there are a bunch of them, especially if they keep staring at you. Horses aren’t even that cute to begin with, and they are big. It definitely seemed like I had popped my tent down in a patch that had been recently been getting rave reviews from whatever the equine equivalent of Tripadvisor. It got so that I was surrounded in my tent and at one stage, my solar panel was attacked by an horse who was obviously very heavily invested in the oil industry, or had some other anti-green energy agenda.
As the day wore on, it fast approached the time to depart, so I thought I would strike camp nice and early to give the groundsheet time to dry off so that i could pack it away in good time. Pulled up the pegs and everything was bone dry, so actually had to do nothing at all, meaning that I was all ready to go about 2 hours early. I left my bags at reception and headed to the pub. Can’t lie, the chips they did must have been the chunkiest you can make chips before they become jacket potatoes.
I then took a slow walk back to the campsite to await my lift, where I am currently sitting, in the shade of a tree, vibing with my spirit animals.
Wow, what a horrible night’s “sleep”. I definitely need to invest in a proper pillow, as that certainly did not help.. The trains barrelling through the night like banshees delivering their fatal warnings. Plus the rain, obviously it was gonna rain, it wouldn’t be a camping trip without it, but does it have to be so noisy?
When I woke, I had to get dressed and make my way to the toilet block, which was at about 6am. the only positive that I can offer is that sunrise was about 4am, and my eye mask thingies kept the light away. When I had wake up two, the day did look amazing, almost worth the bad night for the view.
Then, after having washed up my cook kit with no cloth or washing up liquid, I made a cuppa that tasted of curry, and lay there enjoying the tranquility. While I was enjoying the stillness, the Cheltenham cup felt like it was run past my tent. I swear one of them, if not jumped my tent, at least jumped the guy ropes. Managed to grab a quick shot of them disappearing into the trees. When I had recovered from this, I got up and sorted my shit out. Decided to go on a little walk. There were instructions at reception for a couple of walks, and I picked the easiest one, obviously. I have included the route below:
I barely got lost, only taking a wrong turn which meant I had to walk way further to get back over the railway tracks. At one stage I was practically opposite my tent, just on the other side of the rails. Got back and chilled for a bit, made some lunch, which had a faint taste of curry still, and then booked a late departure for tomorrow. Loads of ponies wandering around but still have not seen any deer.
Took a wander around to find a Co-op and some indigestion tablets, which although it wasn’t a huge walk, was hot as hell and seemed to take longer than it should have. Got fizzy water, a can of meatballs, some crisps and Gaviscon. Wandered back and my meanderings took me past the pub, so I thought it would be polite to stop in and freshen up. After a refreshing few pints, I took myself back to my tent and cooked the meatballs by boiling the can, as cleaning the stove was beginning to be a pain. This brought me inexorably to chilling and awaiting unconsciousness.
After what has been a scorching few days, followed by rain and misery as far as the weather is concerned, I have been recently stockpiling camping gear with the intention of going lone camping somewhere. I have been buying all the most lightweight items as i am a physical weakling and felt that if I have a tent that weighs less that a 2 litre bottle of lemonade, I should be onto a winner. My camping mattress is a thing of beauty, about the size and weight of a pixie’s fart and twice as fragrant. The cooking kit I just bought weighs the same as a can of beans, so I felt that even with my multiple physical infirmities, this should be a breeze.
The issue is that when you start adding food and clothing, the weight just piles on, until the point that I could barely lift the rucksack to get the train to Ashurst. Added to this, obviously, was the cool bag containing the 5 litre keg of beer, which I could not possibly be expected to go camping without. I decided that dragging all of this to the train station, and then across the New Forest to the campsite would be a hideous drain on my energy if I expected to drink all of that beer, so I chickened out and got an Uber.
Uber driver was a gent, dropped me right at the campsite, even though I cheekily set the destination for the village centre. Got settled in and also found out that the website had overcharged me so I got a refund processed. Then came the first real test, getting from the campsite office to wherever I wanted to pitch up. I was told I could do it anywhere so I was completely overwhelmed by choice. I picked a nice looking spot under a tree, enough out of the sun that I would not cook in the afternoon heat, but not so underneath it that I would be crushed by any falling branches.
Got myself settled and made a cuppa with my new camping stove. The thing is a beast; boiled water for a cuppa in about 50 seconds. Had a bit of a wander about to get my bearings and then headed to the pub for a refreshing pint.
Had a couple of these and then felt that a lie down would do me the world of good, so sauntered back to my tent and fixed up the mattress and sleeping bag. Had a quick glass of homebrew from the keg that was still icy cold.
When I woke up again, it was raining, absolutely pissing it down. I also discovered that trains run past Ashurst all through the night, and they don’t do it quietly. My incredible mattress is too narrow, so that if you wanna do anything with your arms, you are shit out of luck, and although I brought with me every kind of medication you could imagine, to deal with every possible disaster, I neglected heartburn. All in all, not my best night’s sleep ever.
Soooo I realise that it was a while since I posted the very short guide on sourdough starters, and although you do need a little time to get it going, probably not as long as this. Luckily nobody tried so there is no loss.
I will provide a quick recipe for making some awesome bread, although I have not dialled this recipe in to be perfect quite yet.
Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread
Baking Prep Time: 15 mins | Cook Time: 30 mins | Servings: 1 1/3 loaves
Ingredients: 151g ripe (fed) sourdough starter 227g lukewarm water 241g Flour 200 grams More Flour 1 2/3 teaspoons salt 2/3 teaspoon ground pepper
Directions: Combine the starter, water, and the first of the flour. Beat vigorously for 1 minute. Cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Refrigerate overnight, for about 12 hours. Add the remaining flour, and the salt. Knead to form a smooth dough. Allow the dough to rise in a covered bowl until it’s light and airy, with visible gas bubbles. The dough will expand and become puffy. Depending on the vigor of your starter, this may take up to 5 hours (or even longer), depending on how active your starter is. For best results, gently deflate the dough once an hour by turning it out onto a lightly floured work surface, stretching and folding the edges into the center, and turning it over before returning it to the bowl. Adding these folds will give you a better sense of how the dough is progressing, as well as strengthen it. Gently divide the dough in half. Gently shape the dough into two rounds or oval loaves, and place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise until very puffy, about 2 to 4 hours (or longer; give them sufficient time to become noticeably puffy). Don’t worry if the loaves spread more than they rise; they’ll pick up once they hit the oven’s heat. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 220°C. Spray the loaves with lukewarm water. Slash the loaves. If you’ve made round loaves, try one slash across the center, and a curved slash on each side of it; or slash in the pattern of your choice. For oval loaves, two diagonal slashes are fine. Make the slashes fairly deep; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here. Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s a very deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack. Store bread, loosely wrapped in plastic, for several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.
Give this a go, but it is not perfect, but that is the joy of sourdough baking, you never know whether you are gonna just fuck it up, or produce a pistorial masterpiece that would not be equalled by Mr Warburton himself.
So I will start with my usual apology for not having posted in months. I have been busy with work and keeping myself sane, so I am not sure why this didn’t occur to me earlier. So lockdown has continued, working from home is still a thing, and leaving the house has not been a major focus. With this in mind, I have turned to one of my favourite pastimes, finding ways to get fatter. So I have purchased KitchenAid stand mixer, in the first instance. this is to facilitate cake and cookie making, when I feel the call of sweetness. I have also put shelves all over my tiny little kitchen so that I can store stuff, as there is very little cupboard space available. But I am sure that nobody is interested in my DIY skills, or even my outlandish purchases. What you are here for is sourdough.
This is such a simple idea that I am shocked that I have no fallen into this before, although I did have an attempt at making sourdough a year or so ago, and what I ended up with was a jar of mould that refused to shift, and is probably now taking over a landfill somewhere. I have read hundreds of different recipes and suggestions for how to make your sourdough starter or mother, and have condensed all if these differing ideas and theories into a simple concept which anyone can try. I have found it to be not only successful, but damned tasty too.
What you will need:
Well that was simple. You can experiment with whichever flour you usually use, but I use strong white flour, as that is what I like. Apart from those you will need something to put it in, so any old jam jar or glass container will suffice, size dependant on how much sourdough you feel you are likely to need. I also use a secondary jar for what most sites will call the discard.
This is not a quick process, in fact not much involving sourdough is, so be prepared to find your happy place and remember that things you wait for are way better. Except trains, and test results. Also worth noting that everything here is done by weight. When it comes to baking, weight is way more accurate than volume, which is how the real bakers do it.
I will start with 30g being the magic number, as this is where I started. Start with this as your magic number and amend this if you need once you are up and running.
Get your jar, and pop it onto your scales and set it to zero.
Pop in 30g of your flour.
Top up with 30g of water.
Mix together into a thin paste.
Put to one side. Do not seal the jar, put a lid resting on it so elves don’t fall in, but allow air to get in and out.
Go to bed. Unless you did these first steps in the morning in which case do other shit until it is bed time, then go to bed.
Wake up. Lament the lack of sourdough bread for breakfast, then remember that you are just starting to make the stuff and do that.
Add another 30g of flour and 30g of water and mix it all up. You now have 120g of gunk in a jar. Congratulate yourself and go back to bed.
Wake up on day 3 and it is now the dawn of a new age where you will own sourdough.
You now need to pour away half of your gunk. You can either dribble this down the toilet (do not pour gunk down your sink, I guarantee you will regret it at some point), or you can use the secondary jar, and pour off half your gunk into your ‘discard jar’.
Now put another 30g of flour and 30g of water into your original jar and mix it all up again.
Return to bed.
Repeat from day 3
So that is the basics. I personally leave the discard jar to get sourer and then when I have enough, make a loaf out of it. So basically every day you chuck half of your starter away and then top it up with new. By keeping your chuck away, you are being less wasteful and making yummy stuff all the time. I regularly make crumpets, bread, pizza dough, pasta and am always looking for new things to make with it.
There are loads of other sites that will tell you more about the science behind this and how it works and recipes with what to do with your sourdough once you have it, so I will leave it to them to give you ideas on what to make once you have extraneous gunk to use up. I might include the sourdough crumpet recipe someday, as this is so simple it is amazing. In the meantime, feel free to post pics of your gunk.
Well I don’t really know what to say to cover everything since my last post. I guess most of it has been consumed by Covid, the rest has been consumed with work and feeling ill. Luckily I have avoided the cough and temperature, but this has not saved me from feeling like shit the majority of the year. I managed a few days of holiday like experience, and have brewed and drank a pint or two; although a the time I was blissfully unaware that they might be my last drinkies, as I have become teetotal, at least for the time being.
Sadly, there has not been time or energy for the allotment, which I fear I may lose, but did get a nice late crop of spuds from there and the bag in the garden.
I have made some new friends, some of whom I have instantly lost, and I have had way less funerals to avoid this year as last year.
I am entering 2021 with a sense of optimism, if only for the fact that while the morons run around with their masks warming their chins complaining loudly that Boris isn’t gonna ruin their socialising, I will be inside waiting for them all to die off, so the lucky survivors can get on with our lives when this finally dies out.
I have also discovered hash brown fries, ate reindeer for Christmas dinner, and have lost my shit to the ‘Clips’ app on iPhone and iPad. I have also experimented with the new mini HomePods, that are, for the record, amazing.
I will close this off with some photos, as this blog may no linger be here next year, I fail to see why I am bothering with it.
Have a great new year to me and anyone else who reads this.
I feel I should try and explain the cover photo of the last post, that appeared to be a brace and a half of bottles dangling upside down with greenery sprouting from them. Actually that was exactly what that photo was of, but it is well worth searching the internet for videos of people using old plastic bottles in the garden. What I have done is planted some upside down tomatoes, that against all expectation, seem to be thriving.
I do not believe these will be the first ones to be harvested this year, but they have survived a summer of horrific storms and winds, mainly due to their inverted lifestyle.
In fact, their dangling mitigated the wind quite nicely, and they turned out to be sweet and petite. When added to the yellow tumbling toms, they made an amazing pasta sauce.
Worth mentioning that the salad bowl at the top was salad from the garden with a mix of the tomatoes from the upside down bottles, and tumbling toms, with some home made mozzarella and free range quail eggs from a local farm. This is undoubtably the healthiest thing I have eaten this year.
So it is far that I have to offer up such massive apologies to both of the readers of this blog, although I am pretty sure both of them are google bots, but it has been an inexcusable amount of time since my last catchup.
I guess what has made me post is that it has been a year since I first saw the allotment that the council granted, and to admit that I miss some of the people that I have lost contact with since then. A year has had a birth or two, and a plurality of deaths. I guess if you want one, you have to put up with the other.
Anyway, there was spring, and I went to Bulgaria, narrowly avoiding being stuck in the country as the airports were close to closing.
So March brought lockdown and a lot of looking at the same four walls. Although I guess it was more a case of looking at the same two monitors for a few months. On the bright side the allotment was declared an open zone and free to visit, as long as we stayed away from people and vegetables that coughed.
Planted an array of potatoes, from Marris Pipers to Congo Blue, that are totally weird.
I feel that I should not go into the entire previous six months in one post, for a number of reasons, mainly because I am mildly inebriated due to the soporific effects of the home-brew that I have been cultivating for a while, so I may leave this post here; nobody is reading it anyway. If I am wrong, pop something in the comments just to gee me into writing the next instalment.
As per my previous post, chrimble day was bereft of the previous volunteers that were once eager to pluck parsnips from the soil. But what a gorgeous day; sunny, blue skies, utter silence. If you could block out the noise of the adjacent motorway anyway. Even those cars seems reverentially quiet, as if they didn’t really want to be disturbing anyone on the dayoffiest day of the year.
The only contributor to the parsnip proceedings was Lottie, the allotment cat, who offered sage wisdom with regards to proper hand/fork coordination. This led to successful excavation of a handful of ‘snips, and a sense of satisfaction that a Christmas tradition was born. Next year there will definitely be way more fresh food being dug up especially for the chrimble meal.
I don’t think you can get much fresher than being pulled out of the ground and then roasted in goose fat, before being ravenously devoured. If only more than one carrot had been willing to make the effort and grow.
For next year I definitely hope to have the majority of this plate dug up in the morning, making the freshest dinner possible. Even the sprouts, which might possibly be edible if fresh. I am even open to a vegetarian meal if anyone has any suggestions on what you can roast to make it as tasty as duck.
So merry December and looking forward to a great new decade, coming soon to a new year party near you.
So as the year draws to a close, it is time to look back and summarise what has transpired in the previous 12 months. Well the allotment was a huge bonus, and the fact that I will be enjoying fresh parsnips on Christmas Day, is worth it in itself. I have test driven the parsnips, and they are a triumph.
So it has been a year of losing some good friends, and gaining some new ones, but I always believe that when someone ghosts you, you gain two good friends in their place. And of course, their loss, and they weren’t really a friend if they drop out of your life etc etc. It’s a good lesson at this time of year to ensure you keep the good friends close. I will see how good my friends are when I have to trawl up to the allotment with volunteers on Christmas morning to dig up the parsnips. I foresee this being a job that will be fraught with a lack of companionship, but conversely, gotta be mildly nuts to be on an allotment on Christmas morning.
So with it being the premiere of Star Wars episode 9 first thing after midnight, it is time for my nap to prepare, and just pausing to wish everyone a merry Chrimble and may the force be with you.