Weaving bread and why its fun to play with your food

I have this very fond memory from when I was a kid. Staying at my Nana’s house and being ‘let loose’ in the kitchen. She gave me a plate full of flour, sugar, milk, sultanas, an egg and spices. With these ingredients I could do what ever I wanted and then she would cook it. Blissfully happy, I have no idea how it tasted, but I remember vividly the pride I had that I could choose what ever I wanted to do with those ingredients. It never happened again, and if I was cooking at home I always had to follow a recipe. Mum said I had to learn the basics first before I tinkered. Actually she was right, darn right. Because I know a lot of the basics now, tinkering with food makes more sense then when I cooked that flour, milk, sultana  concoction.

Playing with food and its different flavours can be so much fun. The last few months I have been playing with sourdoughs, love it, love it, love it. The last few weeks I’ve been playing with plaiting sourdoughs, plaiting, plaiting, plaiting. Then just I was about to embark on a certain ‘starfish’ that needed an intricate amount of plaiting, my brain said oh oh oh…but what if we did this instead?…Cross this with that, then that with this…Oh ok…Lets give that a whirl.

sourdough woven bread

…and that dear people is why it’s fun to play with your food. As you never know what you’re going to get.

If you would like to weave your sourdough. Make up your usual dough and when its time to do the shaping make your self a large square. Cut equal strips to go down and across. (For this one I did 8×8 strips) Making sure the strips are well floured, otherwise they will just blob together when having the final prove. Then tuck and loop, tuck and loop. For the edges, trim and then gently tuck under to tidy the sides up.

This bread makes for a good addition to soup, as it easily pulls apart.

* This post submitted to yeast spotting.

Plaited bread and a frugal meal

What to do when someone is coming over for lunch or dinner and all that is on offer is a simple soup. Budget, time, resources all point towards a simple nourishing, belly warming soup. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. But how to turn that flaccid celery, pumpkin looking like its going to produce its own penicillin and the odd carrot or two in the bottom of the crisper into a delicious meal?

Place some simple plaited bread that looks pretty in the middle of the table and your meal is complete. After being inspired by Heidiannie and all her plaited and beautifully presented bread, I had decided to give it a go too.

Pumpkin Soup

good slurp of olive oil

a couple of sticks of celery

big hunk of pumpkin chopped up


Cook them up in some stock, then wizz with hand held mixer when soft. Add a spoonful of ready made asian sauce, (rendang, green curry paste etc) to give it an extra zing.

Serve with some fancy looking bread, (that’s actually really easy…shhh).

sourdough plaited bread

sourdough plaited bread

For more on braiding bread check out Celia’s latest post.

Evolution of Frugal Food

To me the evolution of food is fascinating. How dinner plates get changed over the years, dependant on where you live and what is available. Asking my family recently about food they grew up with had me fascinated as there were details there that I hadn’t been told before and I hadn’t even considered.

My grandmother grew up during the depression, in rural Australia. Born in 1930, her childhood years saw the brunt of the depression years followed by World War II. With both these factors, frugal dining wasn’t a life style choice, it was way of life. It was the only way of life that she knew for those first formative years.

A dinner meal might have what ever vegetables were able to be grown in the back yard. Such as potatoes, carrots, turnips, (turnip tops were eaten as greens). Mutton was the meat of choice with all parts being eaten. Mock brains were a favourite. Which consisted of left over porridge, beaten egg, salt and pepper rolled in to a rissole and fried. Rabbit would quite often replace chicken as it was cheaper and more readily available.

There was a lot of rationing during the war time, so this meant that everyone stretched out there dinner plate. Waste was not an option and anything ‘leftover’ was turned into something else. Every gram of fat dripping was used, and any meat that wasn’t as fresh as it could be was cooked up as a curry. A lot of people had chooks in the backyard, so there was always eggs.

Whats for dinner in 1930-1940 at Grandma’s house?

A boiled leg of mutton, with some boiled potatoes, carrots and turnips on the side.

When it came time for my grandmother to feed her own children, waste was never an option again. Even though bringing up kids in the 50’s and 60’s was much more a time of plenty. For my grandparents there was a certain amount of comfort brought with a steady doctors income and no Depression or World War lurking. However, to be wasteful of food was not going to happen. Those frugal beginnings were now in built.

My father would often eat food such as lamb brains, …. Much to his now disgust, offal was often served to both him and his younger siblings. This was a generation that hadn’t seen hard times, but still my grandmother liked to put on the table all parts of the beast. Those meaty offcuts so relished by her family during her childhood days. Meat was served at every dinner, in the form of lamb shanks, liver and bacon, rissoles. Spaghetti bolognese emerged and desserts were simple, such as bread and butter pudding.

Whats for dinner in 1950-1960 for my dad?

Meat and 3 vegetables. Lamb cutlets with steamed carrots, potatoes, peas.

After my father left home and had met my mother it was a time of the 70’s. New tastes were on plates. Things were appearing that hadn’t been available before. Food stuffs that were foreign and exciting. With more immigrants coming to Australia, also brought different ideas. For two young hipsters, living out the back of a kombie however food remained frugal. My parents were inspired by the ‘hippie’ earth magazines of the time, bringing new often Indian inspired dishes to the table. Spices such as cumin, coriander, tumeric, that hadn’t been used by their own families growing up.

My childhood, also saw its fair share of frugal food dinners. The dollar being stretched to feed myself and my siblings. There always seemed an abundance of food available, but looking back I can see that my mum would work for many long hours in the kitchen to achieve those delicious tastes. Fruit was preserved, jams were jarred, fish was bought whole, vegetables were bought in bulk (if not grown), and bread was made third daily. Chooks were always in the back yard. This substantially decreased our weekly food bills.

A frugal dinner in my childhood was often a bowl of lentils, Indian style. This dinner, some 30 years later is still a favourite with my siblings. A source of comfort? A nurturing food memory perhaps? Not one for cereal, my sister would often be on the brink of tears, if there hadn’t been enough lentils left over from dinner for the following breakfast. Yoghurt was emerging, vegetables such as capsicums were becoming available and olive oil was rearing its head as a food item rather than a medicinal one.

Whats for dinner 1970-1980 on my childhood plate?

Indian style lentils, served with brown rice.

Cooking a frugal dinner now. Jeez, so many options! So much produce is grown in Australia now, so many wonderful things to make while still keeping within a budget. My monkeys are lucky I think, so many great things. I’m sure as they get older there taste buds will mature, and my cooking habits will evolve as well. A diet that surrounds so many dishes that my grandmother in her childhood would never have heard off. Pesto, dhal, zucchini, capsicums, houmus, pizza, cherry tomatoes, all regular stars of the weekly dinner plate now.

So what is for dinner in the 2000’s on The Monkey’s plates?

Spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, diced capsicum, cherry tomatoes, and shaved parmesan.

So cheap, so easy, and utter silence at the table. Nothing but the sweet sounds of chewing and slurping. Just as it has been done for 3 generations before them.

Frugal Friday #2

Its the end of the week again, and the fridge is looking a bit slim. I actually don’t mind when it comes to Frugal Friday, as it’s a bit more of a challenge to make something tasty out of not much.

I have a few different breads on my brain this week. Flicking through the lovely ‘Bourke Street Bakery ‘ cookbook there is much to be inspired by. Each recipe makes my heart swell. If there is any cookbook to lay under my pillow at night this would be the one I would choose.

I have been toying with the idea of making a sourdough starter, but have been holding back as it just seems so much work for something I’m not sure of what I am doing- lazy I know. Also lack of space in this little kitchen. Also lack of time, the monkeys they take a lot of it. Excuses, excuses I know. Who knows maybe next week I will change my mind.

I ever entered a bread phase. All I feel like doing is surrounding myself with beautifully risen doughs. There is something quite soul uplifting in kneading, proving, baking, and then eating a food that has been around for ever. I love the science of it and the fact that one tiny little change can completely change the end result.

I grew up with the smell of fresh bread in the air. My mother would make it every third day for the majority of my child hood. When I think of bread, I think of huge rising mounds of proving doughs, rising on the same table that I made pasta on 2 weeks ago. Filtered winter sun coming through the windows, and the kitchen already warm from loaves already baked. It’s such a feeling of comfort to eat bread still warm from the oven.

So I settled on a olive oil bread recipe in the cook book. A little different to any bread that I had made before, but timing it with a monkey nap I could actually put in the mindful attention that it needed and ‘voila‘. Some happy little bread rolls. Sure they didn’t look exactly like the picture- but thats a only a guide right?… and I reckon the next time they just might though.

So budget meal- yes indeed. Resourcefully using a few ingredients that are floating around the fridge with mutterings of”eat me, please eat me”.

Leek and Potato Soup– In a pot put a lovely dollop of olive oil, 2x sliced leeks, 4x potatoes, some vegetable stock, a little  seasoning- and whizz it up. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

Serve with some delicious warm bread.