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Archive for February, 2013

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Bitterly cold again outside. Which makes me think of warmer times and so I’ve spent some time updating the Courses & Events page on the website this morning whilst I huddle next to the woodburner and try to mentally prepare myself for going out and getting cold again.

On the rare occasion that the sun does pierce the snowladen grey clouds I have been treated to some very season displays of colour –  as here when I was preparing pea sticks from the cut stems on Lynchmere Common when the low angle of the sun lit the bronzed bracken against the Silver Birch stems and the grey skies behind.

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If we can’t actually go out with our scythes then at least we can get together and talk scythes!  There’s not a lot of opportunity for mowing with scythes during the depths of winter – they tend to be hung up on the wall waiting for warmer days like these blades and snathes in John Lett’s office cum snug on in his barn on the farm near Gt Missenden.

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So with mowing withdrawal symptoms in full flood last weekend we (members of the Scythe Association of Britain and Ireland that is) congregated at John’s barn for a weekend of talking mowing, grass, blades, snathes and of course peening.

As John grows around 100acres of ancient grain varieties we had the bonus of discussing traditional wheat varieties as well. It’s a subject I have started to get interested in, the natural consequence of starting home bread making and wondering just what is, or perhaps more important isn’t, in the bread for sale in the local supermarkets. And thanks to Vince a master baker who works with John’s flour who came along to find out what was going on – we got to do some baking with the traditional wheat varieties as well.

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This loaf was baked using a kind of sourdough recipe with John’s traditional wheat variety wholemeal flour, left overnight to rise and then it only needed a quick fold (no hard labour kneeding the dough) and left to prove before into the oven

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– and quite rapidly into our mouths! Thanks to Vince’s expertise it wasn’t long before we were putting away a selection of various breads.

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Like this simple focaccia – made with plenty of olive oil, rosemary and a bit of finger exercise.

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and Simon Damant (not known for his gentle approach) attempts to fold a pretzel.

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It’s always a pleasure to eat hand crafted artisan bread but we don’t often get an opportunity to look at where the flour comes from. With John’s grainstore just next door it was a fascinating opportunity to link the grain characteristics directly to the flour and the bread being made.

Amongst the ancient wheat varieties that John grows is Spelt, originally a cross between the one of the earliest cultivated wheats Emmer and  wild Goat Grass. You can buy Spelt flour in the UK now but it’s harder to get the grain, which can be used like pearl barley or lentils in soups and stews. John very kindly polished some Spelt grain for me – which effectively ‘pearls’ the grains. Cooking with Spelt in this way helps to retain the nutrients and fibres and because it’s not processed (ok it’s arguable that the polishing is a form of processing) it slows down the carbohydrate overload on your digestive system that highly refined white flours can often cause.

Thank you John and Vince for a really ‘riveting’ and fascinating winter wheat weekend (I am sorry for the in-joke but ‘rivet’ is a medieval wheat variety that John grows)

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