July 25, 2014

Garlic Braid: Curing and storing Garlic

This is the story of our garlic after the happy ending that was the truly epic moment of harvest. As you might recall a few weekends ago we pulled over 30 garlic bulbs from our allotment. A fantastic experience as the abundance simply blew our little gardeners minds.

However, the high only lasted until I had carried the 30+ bulbs home. There, spread out on the dining room table, it hit me. What now? How to preserve and store our garlic, so the effort and hard work doesn’t rot away simply because I couldn’t stuff enough garlic into our meals?
Clearly it was time to expand the gardening experience beyond the digging and weeding. So I embarked on a research journey on how to cure (I learned that along the way, it means drying the garlic out, so the remaining sap from the stalk gets sucked up by the bulbs making them even more juicy) and store our garlic. My favourite resources were this blog and this famer. I watched the latter doing his thing with the garlic like he probably has done for the last 40 years over and over again.

I simply loved the garlic braid he created. Not only because ideally a braid solves the curing and storing problem in one go, but it also had me dreaming about Italian kitchen moments. You know the ones, where you no longer dig for garlic bulbs in dusty cupboards but snip them fresh off the humongous garlic bulb braid that is dangling above your stove.

So here is how I cure and plan to store our Garlic: First I cleaned the garlic by stripping off the outer layer. If the curing and storing would be done in two steps, this step isn’t necessary. However, I wanted to dry my garlic in a braid and ideally leave it stored like that. So I felt a bit of cleaning would be good. I also snipped of the roots. I didn’t get all of the garlic clean, as with some bulbs I had to leave a few layers to avoid exposing the bulbs.

Once cleaned, I organised the bulbs by size. Then I started braiding. I decided to go with the technique from the youtube video I found, because I loved how the farmer didn’t need many tools.

I started with two bulbs next to each other. Then I flipped the stalk of the right bulb over and under the stalk of the left bulb so it would point towards me, before I bend it up again between the two bulbs. Then I grabbed a third bulb and placed it in the middle of the first two. Starting from the right I began braiding – right-left, right-left – adding more bulbs as I went along. To add bulbs I kept placing them left and right in turns and aligned their stalks with the opposite stalk. Based on trial and error I came to the conclusion that 13-16 bulbs are a good number for one braid (depending on the size of the bulbs).

Once the braid was done I tied a garden string around the top of the stalks and hung it in our kitchen. Garlic is best cured and stored in a place that is dark (the bulbs can get sun burn, who would have thought!) and well ventilated to prevent rotting – fortunately that sounds just like our kitchen. We are only three weeks in but I can already see how the bulbs got bigger the dryer the stalks got. Garlic braid for the win so far.

July 22, 2014

No. 7 // K├╝mmelstangen aka Bread Rolls with Caraway & Sea Salt

Last night I was sitting with a lovely group of girls and told them how excited I was that I discovered this easy-peasy recipe for bread rolls with caraway. As a response I got a collective Ew! Caraway! I had never thought about it, but it seems caraway or no caraway is a relationship decider as old as the olive question. You either hate it or you love it. Well I freak’n love them. If you’re with me, here is the how I make bread rolls with caraway at home.

I used this recipe (in German) as a base and just changed the ingredients and the procedure slightly.

Here is what goes into the rolls:
200 g wholemeal flour
200g strong white flour
1 sachet dry yeast
100ml lukewarm water
2 tsp caster sugar
2tsp salt
150ml water
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp milk

The whole baking process didn’t take much longer than 2 hours and 1.45 hour of that is resting time for the dough. So it’s really quick and with a yummy result (IF you like caraway).

To start with mix the yeast with the 100ml lukewarm water and the sugar in a jug. In a large bowl then mix the two flour types and sprinkle the 2 tsp salt in. Press a dent into the flour big enough to hold the yeast-water-mixture and pour it in. Cover it lightly with some flour and let it all rest for at least 15 minutes. The yeast will soon start to bubble.

Mix everything in the bowl well together and give it a simple knead in the bowl. Then place the bowl in a warm place to let the dough rest and rise a bit more. I pre-heated my oven to 180° degrees and then turned it off before placing the bowl inside it.

An hour later or more the dough should have doubled in size. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until a bit firmer, add flour while kneading if it is too sticky. Roll the dough out into a big square(-ish shape) and cut it into evenly sized square pieces.

Roll the pieces out a bit more individually and then roll them into sticks starting from one corner. Place the bread rolls on a lined baking tray and let them rest for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven again, this time to 200° degrees, and mix the egg yolk with the milk.

Once the bread rolls had their rest, coat them with the egg yolk-milk-mixture and sprinkle caraway and sea salt over them. A nice even coating is best, because some will fall off again when baked.

Place the bread rolls in the oven and bake them for around 14 minutes. When they’re golden brown take them out, let them cool down a bit and enjoy with a nice bit of butter...Happy baking!

This was Number 7 of my 13 baking adventures on The Bread List, for more recipes and adventures from my kitchen, check in next Monday.

July 18, 2014

Behind The Hedges // Our Garlic Is Dead, No?

This year is our first year as allotment holders. Tucked away on Sheffield’s hillside, our plot is lined up with 29 other gardens. With keen garden neighbours all around us, advice, tips and help is never far even in the most daunting situations. In Behindthe hedges I would like to share my experience in gardening and being part of a great community that is our little allotment society.

For many months the garlic was our greatest success in our young allotment career. Planted at the end of last November as our very first plants, they were for the longest time the only living reminder why we did what we did. It was a green patch of hope amongst the mess of weed, rubbish and soil, which   occupied our garden for most of winter and spring.

It wasn’t until late into spring that the garlic was joined by other young plants, but none of them was as thriving and plentiful as the garlic.
Then one Thursday afternoon we walked up to the allotment to water the thirsty plants to find some garlic stalks lying lifeless on the ground. We were shocked. What had happened? Surely they couldn’t have been that thirsty. So, who dared to knock our garlic over? A fox?  A bl**dy badger?  
Wildly guessing at the perpetrator that harmed our proudest garden inhabitants, we decided to water the garlic first, hoping the cold splash would restore its energy. Days past, then weeks in which we carefully watered, fed and observed the garlic almost every day, but the scene stayed unchanged. If at all it appeared that more stalks had been knocked down. What made it worse, the stalks started to show rusty patches. Clearly that couldn’t be anything good.

Just about when we were ready to say Good bye to our idea of a fruitful garlic harvest our most trusted allotment neighbour stopped by. ”Oh”, he said, joining us at the garlic patch. “I see your garlic is ready.” Ready? Did he just say read? We exchanged puzzled looks.
“Really, they are not just dead?”
“Dead? Oh no. When the stalks start to go down the bulbs are ready for harvest.”
“They are not dead? They are ready to be pulled out?”
“Yes, yes, they are ready!”
“Haha, they are alive! Did you hear that, they are alive and ready!”

It took a few minutes to process, but then I immediately ran for the fork to start digging. “They are not dying”, I shouted in joy. “They are ready!” Oh how ready they were: Ten minutes later we were holding up more than 30 juicy, sweet smelling bulbs of garlic. The most exciting overload of garlic I ever had.  

July 16, 2014

Eating seasonally // July

This year, as part of my goal to eat more intentionally, I want to celebrate the seasons with its best produce. Not only do I want to focus on buying vegetables and fruits when they’re “in season”, but when the local crops are hitting the markets. However, among the abundance of vegetables and fruits that fill the supermarket isles every day I sometimes find it hard to determine whether something is actually in season and therefore from local farms or just available because it still grows in other countries. With “Eating seasonally” I create a monthly list of what to get and what to leave in the vegetable and fruit isles to help me and others to make better choices while food shopping and enjoy the freshest produce.

Here is to eating seasonally in July.

At its’ best this month... Cherries, Cucumber, Curly Lettuce

Other local produce on the vegetable isle:
Aubergine, Beetroot, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower, Courgettes, Greens, Fennel, French Beans, Garlic, Kohlrabi, New Potatoes, Onions, Peas, Potatoes, Radishes, Rocket, Runner Beans, Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress.

And in the fruit section:
Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries, Cherries, Gooseberries, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Strawberries.

Happy fresh shopping (or foraging), friends!

Note: This list is based on the UK and its seasons and farms, because this is where I currently live and shop. If you live elsewhere in the world, I am sorry that this article might not be as much help to you, but I would be delighted to read about what’s currently growing in your country in the comments.

July 14, 2014

No. 11 // Sonnenblumenkornbrot aka Sunflower Seed Bread

This bread had me realised I’m an addict: I am seriously addicted to picking sunflower seeds of baked goodies. I have made that bread twice now (yes, it is that easy!) and both times found myself nibbling big holes into the underside of the bread which was supposed to be covered in seeds. It was just like back in the days when I used to have sunflower seed bread rolls for breakfast and would spend a good 15 minutes on picking all the seeds of the outer side, before even cutting the bread roll open. Good times.
Anyway, since this bread is not only covered in seeds but also stuffed with them a few missing here and there make no difference to its yummy, crunchy, luscious taste and you know what, I almost came up with this recipe all by myself. Well, I used this recipe (in German!) as an orientation for the ingredients but then changed it all up.

Here is what I used:
500g wholemeal flour
1tsp salt
200g sun flower seeds
1 tsp dried yeast
450ml water

To begin with I mixed the yeast into the luke warm water and let it sit there while I weighed the flour. Then I mixed the flour with the salt and 100g of the sunflower seeds and poured the yeast-water-mixture into the middle. I let it rest for a few minutes (well ten minutes) to give the yeast a chance to activate. Meanwhile I greased the baking form with unsalted butter and sprinkled it all over with the remaining sunflower seeds.
After ten minutes I returned to the flour-water-yeast-mixture and mixed it all up until the dough came away from the bowl. I transferred the dough ball onto a lightly floured surface and kneaded it for a few minutes. The dough was quite wet, so I kept a bowl with luke warm water nearby to dunk my fingers in (a tip my best friend gave me ones and despite my hesitance at fighting fire with fire or in this case a wet dough with more water: It really works!).
Once the dough lost a bit of its stickiness and became fluffier I placed it in the prepared baking form and let it rest there for at least 45 minutes. Ideally you would want to leave it somewhere warm; since our house doesn’t really have that feature I simply had turned the oven on before (180degrees) and then turned it off again to place the baking form inside it with the door just a tiny bit open. Snug, but not boiling hot.
After 45 minutes (or the dough had doubled in size) I took it out of the oven to pre-heat that one back to 180 degrees. As soon as the oven was ready again I put the bread in and baked it for another 45 minutes. When scrumptious brown on top I took the bread out and turned it over to slide it out of the form. Now I had to wait just five minutes to let it cool before I could start nibbling away the golden toasted seeds.

If the bread survives the nibbling stage, try it with cream cheese and radish. Super yum. Happy Baking.
This was Number 11 of my 13 baking adventures on The Bread List, for more recipes and adventures from my kitchen, check in next Monday.