So what else has been concocted in my kitchen this week to create a frugal feast? Home-made bread, for starters (and for breakfast, as a sandwich, for dipping in a supper-time boiled egg and much more).
Ah yes, I have discovered the joy of baking bread from scratch, so much as to the point where I have developed a point-blank rejection of all processed and shop-bought varieties as a result. Sounds a bit extreme? Maybe, but if you’re anything like me, once you’ve absorbed the smell of a warm loaf as it emerges from the oven, the crunch of the crust as you plunge in the knife and tasting your first slice, you’ll never go back.
I recently discovered the skill behind making bread on a day-long course at a local community cookery school and have since turned my hand to making every loaf that has passed my lips.
From fougasse to pitta, wholemeal baps to white dinner rolls, sourdough to brioche and ciabatta to pizza, once you know the basics, you’re set up for life. And all of this is born from just four ingredients (and the only four ingredients you should ever need to make quality bread at home): flour, yeast, water and salt.
In a bid to clear out the chemicals, pass up the preservatives and banish the baddies from our diets as part of The Pinny Project, it feels rather comforting to know how pure and how beneficial it is to make your own bread from scratch. This, alongside the satisfying “squidge” between your fingers as you first start to knead (it’s all about the kneading, don’t you know), is a sign that you’re doing something rather virtuous.
You’re not saving lives or fixing the economy, but you are creating something worthy of your time and a place in your everyday life. And it’s really not that hard.
Let’s not forget the undeniable, essential factor in bread-making at home: time. A wonderful bi-product of learning to make bread is the requirement to really slow down and savour time itself as an accessory, not an obstacle. It’s about taking your foot off the pedal of life’s prevailing accelerator and allowing the passing of minutes and hours to be savoured and enjoyed as a necessary cog in the handmade bread-making machine.
Talking of a bread maker, I must admit I’ve used one for years! So why am I moving away from a mechanical genius to a truly hands-on approach? Fundamentally, apart from an excuse to don my pinny, roll up my sleeves and get stuck into some dough, it’s about going back to puritan basics.
So whether it’s brioche for breakfast, sourdough with soup, ciabatta with grilled chicken and spinach or pittas on a picnic, there’s much to be said for making a decent crust…and making life taste a little better, too.