A couple of weeks ago I attended the Real Bread Campaign’s ‘Real Bread Uprising’, a conference bringing together bread-heads and foodies from across the UK united by a passion for bread (made from four simple ingredients; flour, water, salt and yeast/starter) rather than highly manufactured industrial loaves (with a host of extra ingredients added to aid mass-production). I met so many interesting people and had a great time chatting about bread, flours, bakeries, food projects and food festivals across the UK.
Many people I spoke to were discussing upcoming food festivals they were heading to and I recommended one which takes place right here in Pembrokeshire as well as extolling the many foodie treats our far south-west corner of Wales has to offer. These conversations inspired me to write a (very overdue) blog post. So… here it is!
Narberth Food Festival, which is coming up this weekend on Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th September, is a gem of a food festival. I’ve visited for the last few years, the first time while on holiday before we moved to Pembrokeshire. As food festivals go it’s not the largest, compared to the packed streets of Abergavenny it’s tiny, and I think that’s one of reasons I enjoy it so much. Many stallholders are from Pembrokeshire with some from further afield, offering a wonderful array of Welsh produce.
This year I’m really excited to be involved with the Education Day, on the Friday before the festival proper begins. Another great feature of Narberth Food Festival is the invitation extended to local primary school children to get involved. They experience talks, demos and hands-on workshops run by a range of local food businesses. For my workshop I’ll my challenging their sensory perceptions as they choose, smell and taste foods. It’s going to be surprising, don’t want to give too much away..!
I moved to Narberth last year, drawn to it as a buzzing little town with great live music and arts venues and strong community spirit (last year a grassroots campaign saved the swimming pool from closure and it’s now run as a community enterprise). Wander around town and you’re spoilt for choice with independent food shops and producers, upmarket clothes and gift shops and a host of vintage clothes and furniture shops.
For anyone new to town I’d recommend trying Spanish deli Ultracomida on High Street and taking a seat at a shared table in the cafe at the back of the shop to sample the tapas and Er Boqueron on tap – the world’s first beer made with seawater. On James Street the eponymous owners of Plum Vanilla cafe offer an interesting menu including great salads and cakes. Across the road Fire and Ice have a juicy selection of Welsh and West Country ciders, lots of local ales and Welsh spirits alongside their award winning homemade ice creams produced in small batches of seasonal flavours and refreshing cider and cocktail sorbets.
Lovers of Welsh cakes can pick up a bargain at Tan Y Castell’s factory shop on Redstone Road, besides your mamgu’s (Welsh for ‘grandma’) these are the best around. Anyone visiting Narberth on a Friday should pop in to Queen’s Hall for the local producers market, the veg stall is a highlight and there are a handful of other food stalls most weeks alongside craft makers and the teddy bear doctor – a lovely curiosity. Wisebuys delicatessen on High Street is a treasure trove of local and exotic delicacies and can be relied upon to stock the most obscure ingredients (liquid smoke anyone?!). Even the Spar has a good selection of local foods and beers alongside their standard stock.
I love showing visiting friends around town, especially those from big cities who are pleasantly surprised that a small Welsh town has so much on offer. Do get in touch if you’re visiting and want any local tips, I’ll help if I can..!
Image Posted on Updated on
The Real Bread Campaign are working tirelessly to promote good, honest, tasty bread in the UK. I’m proud to be a member and planned to support their Sourdough September promotion. I am a little late..!
I hope this addition to the plethora of sourdough bread recipes available will prove useful, I have illustrated it with lots of photos as I think this helps if you’re trying it for the first time.
Over the past few years I have honed my recipe based on my life at the time. The long fermentation and proving process is adaptable and I’ve been able to fit it around a busy working day, lazy weekends and now the demands of a small child. The process relies on time but demands very little from the baker, probably an hour of your time over 24 hours. I now use a food mixer but it’s not much more work to mix and knead by hand.
You will need:
665g (250g+115g+300g) strong bread flour (white, wholemeal or a mix)
230g sourdough starter (make your own or beg some from a friend/friendly local bakery!)
415g (300g+115g) water (use bottled if your tap water is especially high in chlorine, my tap water works fine)
10g fine sea salt
Create the sponge; put 250g flour into a large mixing bowl/food mixer bowl, add starter and 300g water. Mix/whisk until smooth. Cover and leave overnight, it should be sticky and bubbly in the morning. (Refresh starter by replacing 115g bread flour and 115g water).
To make the dough add 300g flour and the salt to the mix.
If kneading by hand, it will be sticky to start with, try not to add much extra flour as a wetter dough will make a better loaf. Knead until a smooth, stretchy dough is formed.
If kneading in a food mixer, use dough hook on low setting to start with, when a dough forms increase the speed to medium for a few minutes then return to slow for a few more minutes, until a smooth, stretchy dough is formed.
Cover and leave to rise until double in size, timings will vary depending on the temperature, a few hours in a warm room, and longer if cool.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and deflate and ease it into a rectangle shape by pushing it with your hands. Fold the bottom third up over the dough, fold the top third down (like making puff pastry). Rotate 90 degrees and repeat twice. The dough should become smooth and springy.
Create a proving basket by laying a tea towel in a large bowl. Dust with flour and place the dough smooth side down on the tea towel, dust the top of the dough with flour and cover with the overlapping tea towel. Leave to prove until doubled in size, probably around one and a half to three hours (depending on room temp, you can slow down/speed up to suit you by placing in fridge/warm place).
Heat the oven to the highest setting, 250 c/Gas 10. Place a large cast iron pan with lid in the oven, to warm up as the oven heats up (the pan will create similar conditions to a bread oven, giving the loaf extra lift and great crust. If you don’t have one just bake on a baking tray).
When the oven is full temp, remove the pan and dust inside with flour, tip the dough straight in, place lid on pan and return to the oven.
Bake at full temp for 10-15mins then reduce temp to 200c/Gas 6, bake for a further 20-30mins then check. The loaf should have risen well and a good crust should be forming, it will probably still be quite pale. If the loaf seems well risen and crusty, you can remove it from the pan and return to an oven shelf to finish browning for 5-10mins. If not quite firm/crusty enough, leave in the pan with lid on for a few minutes before removing from pan and browning in the oven. The loaf should be quite dark and crusty; it will lighten and soften a little on cooling. (Ideally you will hear it cracking and sighing as it cools, this is a great sign!)