It’s Sourdough September — if you’ve never tried to make your own, there’s no better time, writes Valerie O’Connor
I find myself humming “Like a Rhinestone Cowboy” — immortal lyrics from the recently passed Glenn Campbell, when I get random requests from people looking for sourdough starter. (No, that’s not what he was singing about in his amazing song that I used to sing for the nuns in Caherdavin, aged 4, and no doubt turning my foot cutely inwards as I did so.)
What am I on about? Sourdough, yes I’m the sourdough cowboy, because it’s September and that means Sourdough September. Who needs Movember when you can have amazing home-baked bread instead? The starter, ah it is shrouded in mystery. “Where did you get yours?” “Will you give me some?”
But it’s all over the internet, it’s in books; one of which I wrote (Bread on the Table, 2014 O’Brien Press, €20). It’s just flour and water, really. It doesn’t matter how many times people hear this, getting some magic sourdough starter in a jar is still what people are after and so I bring good news in two forms.
One is how to make your own, for those who like to do things themselves and the advantage of this is that if you let it die, and this does happen, you know how easy it is to wash another jar and start your starter again.
Sourdough starter is an initiative started by the Real Bread Campaign in the UK and continued by an Irish version of the same gang. The point is to enable the public to bake their own fermented bread at home. Anybody who loves good food will have great bread as a staple, and a gut-loving backbone in the bread bin. Reading how to make a starter I can see why someone would want to get some from someone else, but still, it’s simple when you sift through it.
50g wholemeal flour; 50g water Place the flour and water into a clean bowl and stir together until fully combined. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
To the sourdough starter add 75g wholemeal flour and 75g water. Stir together until fully combined. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight.
Discard 100g of sourdough starter and add 100g water 100g wholemeal flour. Add the flour to the starter, and mix in the water. Cover and leave overnight
Discard 150g of sourdough starter and add to it 100g water 100g wholemeal flour. Add the flour to the starter, and mix in the water. Cover and leave overnight. The starter should start to smell pleasantly sour with small bubbles appearing on the surface.
Discard 200g of sourdough starter and add to it 150g water 150g strong white flour Add the flour to the starter, and mix in the water. Cover and leave overnight. The starter should appear active and full of bubbles.
The starter should be quite active now and be full of little bubbles and smell slightly sour. Discard 250g of sourdough starter and add to it 200g water 200g strong white flour Add the flour to the starter, and mix in the water. Cover and leave overnight
The starter should now be very active and full of bubble and is ready to use. Remember when making your bread always retain some sourdough starter which will be fed/refreshed, ensuring you have some sourdough starter for the next dough.
There ye go, yes it takes a week, but then you fully understand your starter and will be less likely to let the little divil go to seed. If you can’t be bothered with this, however, the good news is that some lovely people are sharing sourdough starters across the country. Here they are.
Back in gorgeous Cork City, on Academy St, I was blown away when I walked in, (late to the party, of course), to the rainbow warrior of a cafe that is Loving Salads. Ah, how I have been hungry for variety and colour outside of my own lovely Limerick where I swear by The Grove on Cecil St for the tastiest veggie food (more about this another day. The brains behind the business is Jason Carroll who works with local farmers to create varied and delicious salads, raw juices, curries, and amazing chocolately nibbles for people who love good healthy food.
Also at local food markets around Cork, these salad folks were super-busy at lunch time firing out gorgeous-looking, tubs of salads bursting with butternut squash, lentils, noodles, spuds (yes, actual potatoes) and they also cater for meat eaters with the smart addition of a chicken breast or slab of salmon.
A nut burger to be brought home can be fried up later, but I was thrilled to just indulge in a dessert that wasn’t an apple, a most divine vegan lemon curd chocolate-something topped with chocolate bubble wrap. Amazing. Thank you, Cork, for yumminess and inspiration. Seems there are loads of tasty places to go here, next on the list is the original of the species; the Quay Co-op.
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