My aunt Philippa is a brilliant cook. Totally inspiring. She and my uncle John live in rural west Wales in a cottage at the end of a long lane. They grow their own vegetables, bake their own bread. They don’t eat meat, but have the most wonderful food that Philippa cooks on a bright red Rayburn, often served in bowls made by John, who’s a potter. All very worthy and wholesome and believe me it’s totally idylic and hugely inspiring.
I’ve been going to visit them since I was about six years old when they moved there from Charlton in South East London, just down the road from where we lived when I was small and they were the best holidays.
I’ve been very busy performing recently, hence the lack of blogging. It’s been a combination of travelling all over the country performing my regular show, and writing, learning, and rehearsing a show for the Brighton Fringe 2013 with another performer, Joanna Neary, that’s occupied my time and kept me away from the mealmen blog. It’s also kept me away from the kitchen generally, so I’ve had little to blog about anyway! The festival show with Joanna was originally going to revolve around food, bread chiefly, but the link to things culinary ended up being a rather tenuous one. Even so it was a great success. While I’m writing about it I’ll direct you to Joanna’s blog which is charming and funny. And here’s a picture of our show poster, so you can see the intended culinary link!
As I said just now, my recent spate of busyness has involved a lot of performing all over the country, and last month I was lucky enough to have a run of three nights in south and west Wales, which meant I stayed with John and Philippa and was able to enjoy the food, the company and the peacefulness that so contrasts with hectic life in Brighton.
For as long as I remember Philippa has been baking wholemeal bread. Very simple unadulterated wholemeal bread in tins, one proving, no kneading, earthy, tasty, worthy fuel. And she’s always used the same flour, bought in large bags from a working water mill a couple of villages away in St Dogmaels. The flour is coarsly ground and it’s not unusual to find almost twiggy bits of wheat in it, lending an enchanting and ancient feel to the bread it produces. If you’re ever even remotely near west Wales it’s worth the extra effort to go and buy some flour from the mill, and from Michael Hall the miller himself. The bags are no longer 25kg, but 16kg since Michael is getting on and they’re easier to carry. He’s a charmingly lopsided man with one shoulder considerably lower than the other after decades of carry sacks. I’ll include alink to the mill’s website.
Here’s my bread recipe that I use with this flour. It’s very quick and you’ll have a warm loaf ready to slice in little more than two hours after starting the process. That’s faster than the Chorleywood process but without any of the crap!
1lb Strong Wholemeal Flour
12.5oz Warm Water
1 desertspoon dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
Set the oven to 200ºC
It could barely be simpler or easier. Just dissolve the yeast in the water and add it to the flour and salt and work together until combined and smooth. It’s not really kneading, just mixing.
Grease a 1lb loaf tin, form the dough into a rectangle and place in the bottom of the tin. Generously dust it with more flour, cover and leave to rise until it comes above the sides of the tin. It should only take about 45 minutes.
Bake for 30-35 minutes.
Remove from the tin and give it another 5 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.
Wait 30 minutes before you slice it, if you can resist.