Category Archives: Key ingredients

Sourdough Starter

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 Before the gluten free epidemic of our time, people ate bread. Even before our ancestors could manipulate and forge metal, they ate bread. There are so many references to leavened bread products in ancient writings that it gives us the impression that bread is almost as old as time itself. How did they make bread without those fancy 5g packages of yeast found in every supermarket? Answer: They relied on natural occurring bacteria and the process of fermentation. Sourdough is the quintessential post apocalyptic ingredient. If you have access to flour and water you can make bread. My wife was given a lump of starter for her birthday last year so the job of feeding and maintaining it was left up to me. I can’t even count how many loaves of bread I have made all stemming from that little blob of dough kept alive by regular feeding. If you already have a starter, give it a feed and get baking. If you don’t, you have a choice to make:

  1. You can purchase a specific bacterial culture online at a place such as culturesforhealth.com
  2. You can create one from scratch. A great tutorial can be found at the kitchn (I could have written this out myself, but this tutorial is good, so there is no need to duplicate) 
Once you have your starter you now have to commit yourself to regular feeding. (think of children here) There are a lot of ways people approach this. The technical and most accurate way is to measure all your ingredients and feed that way. I’m lazy and I’d like to think that cultures are simple and robust enough organisms that I don’t have to be that precise. I use the 1:1:2 method. Say you have one cup of starter, you add one cup of water and just under two cups of flour. That’s it. The only thing left to discuss is how often do you feed? I store mine in the fridge and I feed about once a week. If you plan on baking a few times a week, store your starter at room temperature and feed it everyday. With an active culture at your disposal you can bake bake to feed even the hungriest caveman.

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Walnuts

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“Where is your nut cracker?” My friend asked with a level of intensity that made me want to obey. As I pondered the question, I realized that I did not actually own one. So not wanting to disappoint I handed her a rather large hammer. Looking at it with slight disbelief and instant understanding she commented, “That will work.” So for the next 15 minutes we cracked walnuts, talking and joking and discussing the merits of walnuts and the length of drying time needed for the perfect walnut. Growing up in a geographical region that did not have walnuts, I was very intrigued by the multiple layers that you have to go through just to get to the edible portion of the nut. The process is essentially thus: in late August or early September you gather the nuts, either directly off the tree or foraging them off the ground. You then remove the outer husks to reveal what we recognize as a walnut. Now this is where the debate rages, how long to dry them before eating? The longer you dry them the stronger and more pronounced the bitter walnut flavour will be. The walnuts we ate were young, slightly moist, subtle in flavour and tasted exceptional with our avgotaraho Messolonghiou, (mullet roe cured in beeswax) fried green beans and lemon juice.

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Fresh Raisins

In the technical sense an oxymoron but… Looking out upon a field of freshly drying raisins you can’t argue with the accurateness of the statement.  Ripe grapes + hot August sun = really tasty raisins. This particular field is located in a rather lush area of southern Greece called Messinia. Messinia is generally famous for… continue reading

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Eggplants

This post is less of a recipe and more of an appreciation of an ingredient. Let me explain. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, Canada, precisely in a time and place when meat and potatoes were at the top of the culinary food chain. It wasn’t until I was 20 years old and… continue reading

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