Homemade seeded sourdough bread

Fermented Foods

My Journey Down the Bubbly Road

It started with a drive to economise. No, that’s not quite true; it was a serendipitous combination of events. To be honest it started upon our return from countries around the Mediterranean some years ago and our dissatisfaction with the available breads here in Perth, Western Australia. While some of the ‘artisan’ bakehouse breads were of better quality, but outrageously priced, they still didn’t match up to their European equivalent. The ingredients were also a puzzlement – the inclusion of additives that, for a commercial product that is removed off the shelf after one day, seemed quite unnecessary. As were the extractions from the grain itself, some only to be added back as if this were something to be proud of.

Sourdough bread- homemade fermentation

Anyway, my journey started with bread. The first experiment was making Rewena Bread (Rēwena parāoa); a traditional New Zealand Māori sourdough bread made from a potato starter. From there I progressed to a new starter made from Spelt wheat (sourdough, still). From this, hundreds of sourdough loaves and pizzas have been baked in our old gas-fired barbecue. This same starter also makes an excellent base for pancakes, deep fried dough balls, and even batter. When we go away for long periods it is dried off. When we return it is restarted by the simple addition of flour and water. Wholemeal flour (as freshly ground as can be sourced) is now my preferred flour to feed the starter.

Sourdough breadmaking at home

Moving on apace, sourdough’s fermentation process and the digestive benefits of sourdough bread has led to more investigation into a whole raft of fermented products:

Yoghurt – the starter made from chillies from our garden and using non-homogenised milk
Kombucha – from a scoby given to us from a friend
Red Wine Vinegar – from a ‘mother’ in a bottle of commercial RWV plus a bit of home-made kombucha added
Hard Cheese – incorporating home-made yoghurt
Cultured Butter – made from churning the cream topping from a cream-added yoghurt trial – a great success
Cultured Butter Milk – still working on this one 🙂
Olives – harvested from local trees, then prepared for preservation in salted brine

I use the excess whey from my yoghurt, butter and cheese-making in stocks and soups, or for watering our vegetable garden.

home-made-labne-straining-yoghurt

It probably needs saying, that a thermometer has never been used; even our old barbeque only has a ‘hot’ to ‘very hot’ needle gauge. Over time, through trial and error, I have learned to use my fingers, eyes, nose and ears (tapping the loaves) to succeed. A digital scale, though, has been very handy.

But behind all this is a firm belief, backed by historic research, that fermented products aid digestion, allowing the body to better absorb, and thereby benefit from, the key nutritional ingredients. There are, of course, many more traditional fermented products historically made and used all over the world, but my journey thus far, while not finished by any means, is keeping me plenty occupied.

And that classic fermented product, alcoholic beverage? I’ll leave that to my husband who currently is happy enough to leave its manufacture to the experts.

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Sri Lanka 2017 – Dambulla to Anuradhapura

Dambulla

In our travels we have come to the conclusion that less equates to more. Not for the first time, we are paying far less for a superb, high standard of room in Anuradhapura than the previous two nights’ accommodation in Dambulla. In this instance we are paying half of that.

It requires some prior research, but has happened so often for us that we hold to the maxim.

Dambulla Fruit & Vegetable Wholesale Market

Anuradhapura

Singer has had a long history in Sri Lanka and India, starting with the old treadle sewing machine. The company has now branched out into other appliances and its name is a common sight throughout the country – but, think on this: the majority Sri Lankans are Sinhalese and refer to themselves and their language as (phonetically) Singha. Now was it a happy coincidence for Singer, or very clever marketing?

Flora, vegetables and dried fish
Lakes, Buddhist temples, more delicious curries and snacks, more monkey business, the Bohdi tree leaf as inspiration for the Buddhist stupas and a tortoise
The lakes in Sri Lanka abound with bird life – many types of herons, and plenty of egrets
New Buddhist Stupa under construction – volunteer Buddhists and the Sri Lankan military help with the construction

This new Stupa in Anuradhapura has been under construction since 2010 and is about another 10 years from completion. It is solid and will contain more than 30 million bricks. It will end up gleaming plastered white and will stand nipple-proud adding to those that dot the landscape.

We were allowed to climb up a lot of steps to the top – no hard-hat or safety harness…..but we had to remove our shoes…..


Us and our hair shirts and other things

We mostly eschew the air-con buses in favour of the local 50-seater jalopies with crazy drivers. Hot and sweaty, we enjoy the circus as we await departure. Passengers (including travellers like us) cram in with their baggage. A line of pedlars noisily tout their tantalising food wares up the aisle and we take this opportunity to buy some goodies for the journey. Beggars thread their way through the crush doing their rounds, unfazed even as the bus starts to move off.
Once under way, the cooling breeze from the open doors and windows gives relief: the doors are never closed. All buses have on-board conductors who are as agile as monkeys and must have the proverbial memory of an elephant as passengers’ access is through both rear and front doors.

The frequent stops make the journey both interesting and lengthy. Believe me, the drivers have NO consideration for their passengers’ comfort – they are obsessed with passing everything in their way – however there is great skill in evidence here. The AC buses, however, fill up (right up, with fold-down aisle seats) and make minimal stops between A and B. Same standard of driving, but they take the highways. They cost only about three times more. We used one from Anuradhapura to Kandy.

Our 4-hour ‘local’ bus from Kandy to Negombo tested me sorely – sore arsed and sweat soaked I’m thinking it’s time to shuck this hair shirt shit – I’m going for a bit more comfort in these last couple of days. Only a few dollars more anyway.

Women can be seen in both villages and cities washing clothes the ancient way; thrashing them on the rocks (or concrete platforms) in flowing water.

Local people modestly bathe and wash themselves at the lakes’ edges in many an upland city. I suspect this has been going on for centuries, but feel that tourism will eventually force the practice to cease.

Rice production, which is second to tea production, is still very labour intensive but now mechanised. The use of the sickle is still prevalent here though.


Here’s an interesting fact

Especially for all you Kiwis and ex Kiwis:
Fonterra has a longstanding contract to supply Sri Lanka with milk. Mostly, the milk is sold under the Anchor brand – another once-famous product name in NZ. There you go, and you thought you knew everything!

For those cricket fans, the Sri Lankans also seem to have a healthy respect for the NZ cricket team.


Tropical Cyclone Ockhi

In case this completely escaped your attention what with the Australian media being obsessed with the riveting and ‘serious’ matter of whether politicians should only be Australian citizens, there has been some seriously bad weather over here:

Cyclone Ockhi – Wikipedia

Searches for fishermen during Cyclone Ockhi

We seemed to be charmed as we criss-crossed the island, missing most if not all of it.

Many fishermen lost their lives and my heart goes out to them – it’s a helluva hard way to earn a living in these parts and extremely competitive, without having the sea against you too.