Comfort

The blanket of snow across the landscape has been shrinking slightly, holes appearing despite continuing squalls of fresh flakes.

Pony in the snow

I am still startled by how bright the world is beneath this sparkling layer: particularly when night has fallen. The darkness is almost complete here on our hilltop, without street lights or much other light pollution nearby, and I am not used to the bright glow as I pass an undressed window that would usually yawn blackly.

Faith, a black cat, in the snow from above

With the temperatures hovering around freezing, what better place to be productive than in a warm kitchen? In fact, I finally began something I’ve been meaning to make for some time: a wild yeast starter for sourdough. When this has fermented, and been fed for several days, I’m looking forward to making some loaves of sourdough bread, something I’m rather partial to but have somehow yet to make myself.

Wild yeast starter; grated squash

Once the starter was resting in a warm room, I grated a remnant of one of our Crown Prince winter squashes to make a pumpkin and raisin tea loaf (another first-time recipe from our copy of River Cottage Everyday Veg).

Pumpkin and raisin tea loaf
This is an interesting recipe, already dairy-free, as the pumpkin (or squash) replaces butter or oil to make a rich but light cake. I altered the recipe slightly to make it gluten-free as well, substituting a gluten-free mix for the standard flour. The result was wonderful; a sweet, fragrant, spicy loaf. King of the Hill is often sceptical about vegetables in baking, but this loaf was half-gone before it even left the cooling rack.

Pumpkin & Raisin Tea Loaf from River Cottage recipe

As this was baking in the oven, filling the kitchen with its sweet spicy scent, I turned to savoury things. Using up the last of our home-grown onions, I made another batch of vegetable stock, and incorporated most of it into a batch of soup, this time of spinach and puy lentils.

Spinach and puy lentil soup

It was quick and delicious; ideal on this cold winter’s day, and a fine way to serenade the last of our onion harvest, just as I start thinking about ordering sets for this year’s crop.

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22 thoughts on “Comfort

  1. Suddenly I feel hungry! Which is a shame because I’ve to a limited an fairly tedious food supply in. The tea loaf looks lovely, moist but with a nice crust. Yum!

    • Hope the weather lifts soon so you can stock up with more exciting food.
      I’m really pleased with the tea loaf – and feeling a bit hungry suddenly too! 🙂

  2. I was quite surprised at how much the snow illuminated our garden last night. I thought a light was on somewhere.
    I’m not that sure about vegetables in baking either but I can recommend courgette cake next summer

    • It’s surprisingly bright, even without the moon or stars visible.
      I’ve made a few courgette cakes in previous summers (one chocolate based, another with lemon) but while I enjoyed them, my husband didn’t so much.

  3. Your food looks delicious. I wish we had total darkness where I am (too much light pollution) – and I agree the contrast between the dark and the snow is very strange and startling.

    • Thanks. We do have some strong lights on the horizon, notable in one or two directions, but are otherwise pretty lucky to escape most of the light pollution.

  4. Thanks for sharing your kitchen pursuits – the tea loaf and soup look yummy. I have a hankering to make sourdough bread too, so I look forward to hearing more about yours.

    • Good nourishing comfort food indeed. The tea loaf tasted great _after_ the soup, it might have been a little sweet to have with it, but perhaps…

  5. Sounds like my kind of day in the kitchen! Do let us know how the sour bread goes; I’m usually very successful with fresh yeast loaves which I make most of the time, but I haven’t achieved a loaf I am really proud of with sour dough, although I do intend trying again. Good luck with yours. Christina

    • It was a satisfying day. My experience with normal yeast loaves has also been good; this sourdough will be interesting – put me through my paces!

  6. We have a lot of dark here too and I love it. It is odd to find the night reflecting back at you isn’t it. I had a couple of duff attempts at sourdough before cracking it. The secret seemed to be a lot of tiny bouts of handling it rather than my usual technique of simply leaving it for a long time. It is delicious. There is no other bread like it!

  7. mmm that all looks delicious and perfect food for the recent weather. We went for a walk in the snow the other night and the strange light was incredible. It was a really beautiful experience. We tried sourdough once but the bread came out looking like a stone. Would have been a very effective weapon;) Need to try again really especially since I have a yeast allergy and can only eat sourdough bread.

    • I’m suspecting my first efforts at sourdough may not be beautiful, but time will tell! I do love the glow of snow at night, though I am ready for it to melt now! Unfortunately it seems determined to keep coming down for a few more days.

    • A very tasty cake – we shared the last piece yesterday evening 🙂 The recipe is online if you search for “River Cottage pumpkin raisin tea loaf”.
      My sourdough starter has been fermenting beautifully, fingers crossed it should be ready to bake with by the weekend…

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