14 February 2013

Winter Warmers

To celebrate our successful move into our new house, we decided to round off one of our hill walks with a indulgent Sunday lunch at a village pub. My parents are big on walking; when they were in the early stages of their relationship they were living some miles apart, and each weekend Dad would drive up to Mum's and they'd cover miles of countryside on long walks. As a consequence, I've grown up being driven two hours or so across to Wales on the search for decent walking country.

During the first few weeks after we relocated up North, my Father and I went walking every weekend while my Mother worked on her dissertation. It was still warm in the last throws of summer, and we'd sit on top of a hill, staring at the view as we ate cream cheese and seasonal fig sandwiches, marvelling at our proximity to an abundance of walking locations.

Sunday, however, was our first walk of 2013. We drove up and down precariously steep hills before parking up outside our chosen pub in one of the picturesque estate villages. And.. yuck! We started the walk on a steep hill section that was thick with mud. It was hard going on my ankles, especially as I was only wearing light trail shoes rather than proper walking boots! It was pretty fun though, and we only passed two pairs of walkers aside from us, taking the same route in the opposite direction. About half way through, just as we came up into an open stretch the clouds opened up and blew freezing sleet straight at us. My trousers weren't quite up to the onslaught, and when we reached the pub an hour later I was utterly soaked. Good fortune then, that we were presented with the best roast I've had in a long time.

My parents both chose roast beef, which was so beautifully pink and tender that even I'd of been happy with it. I chose belly pork, which came with crackling, vibrant apple sauce and such delicious gravy that I couldn't stop gushing about it. At a few pounds more than the usual pub roast the price reflected that quality, and it was well worth it. I'm afraid that I have no photos, but it looked as good as it tasted!

I got changed as soon as we got home, and resisted them temptation to curl up by the fire and have an afternoon nap like an old man. A couple of hours after getting back, I decided to make a loaf of bread, using the sour rye flour that I had picked up from a gorgeous independent patisserie.
In Paul Hollywood's How to Bake it was suggested to use two tablespoons of black treacle for added richness. As I leafed through some of our older books, I discovered that this wasn't a new idea at all... "add in the yeast with the molasses" instructs Martha Day in Complete Baking.
Had I read the instructions beforehand, I would have started earlier... the proving time was stated as eight hours! I quickly began calculating how to get it done -initial rise until half past nine, knock back and reshaping, have a quick catnap until half eleven, preheat oven and bake... It was looking set to be a long night! Luckily, being sat by the fire, the dough rose fast enough to be ready to go in the oven by ten, and the whole thing was finished before half past. Technically, a faster rise loses some of the depth of flavour, but with the rich flour and addition of treacle, I wasn't too worried.
And I didn't need to; the rye cob cooked faithfully in the allotted time with a good crust and soft inside. When baking, I always have a tin of water underneath the bread, which creates a steamy atmosphere that really improves the texture of the bread.
I'd like to bake this again on a slow Saturday, and serve with avocado and a poached egg.

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