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