Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Can you feel my excitement already? November's nearly over. It's December tomorrow and that means one thing and one thing only. Christmas. And more importantly it means I don't have to stop pretending I'm not excited about it any more. (that's two things isn't it?) I've been getting overly and prematurely excited for weeks (the lists are made, the puddings done, obviously, and the craft gifts being dealt with!) but I've had to keep it under wraps for fear of getting things thrown at me. But now it's open season. And what better way to celebrate than with a Christmas blogpost. Puddings to be precise. I actually made mine about two weeks ago. They're maturing away nicely in the press. I didn't want to inflict the Christmas theme on anyone before now so I held off on the blog-post. I know how appreciative you'll all be for this!

I've spent years trying to recreate my Granny's perfect plum pudding. The recipe for which got lost somewhere along the way in the great move of 2000. A lot of good stuff got lost in that move. And seeing as she's no longer around I can't very well go asking her for it. So year after year I toil away trying to recreate it and it's never very successful. This year I fear will be no different. I used a recipe from the Irish Times which you can find here. It's got all the stuff you'd expect. However, it's missing one vital ingredient. It hasn't got any suet. I only remembered after I'd made it that Granny's definitely had suet. I know this because I remember how ten year old me was particularly grossed out by the concept and practicalities of cooking with suet. I loved being grossed out by things as a ten year old and so remember this vividly.

Anyway, here's a few photos of the process. I made one big and a few mini puddings. I also made a few mini christmas cakes. No one in my family really goes for the cake at christmas and there's always tons left over so this year I just made a small offering. They too are maturing away in the press. I'm very excited about these as I think I may have found Granny's christmas cake recipe. Although I couldn't swear to it. What's more I'm really excited about decorating them. I've bought far too many cake decorations for them already and it's turning into a bit of a habit. I think I may have a problem.

The mincemeat gets made tomorrow.

I need to get out more.

from this... this...

...via a slightly less attractive this...

etc... get the idea...

and....ready to be steamed

the finished product (not quite actually, it'll get another couple hours cooking on the day!)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Curry Club

I really am very far behind on my blog posting. I've just been very busy...things are getting on top of me..I'm sure you've all been there. Anyway, you'll all remember a few weeks ago when Dublin turned into one giant pond for the day? The day where God was really upset and cried all day long? He just wouldn't quit. He must have been watching a particularly weepy movie that day. Anyway, for some reason, beyond me, I thought that was the perfect day to go for a little stroll around our fair city to do some book shopping. Book shopping? In the middle of the worst deluge our town has ever seen? I have strange ideas sometimes. Off I went, tootling about town thinking how clever I was, not letting the rain ruin my day. In to Eason's I went. I thought it had been raining before I went in. I laughed in the face of rain. 'I've an umbrella you know, you won't best me', I said. But when I came out I found out what real rain was. Real manly rain. 'Where's your umbrella now?' it roared. Clearly my umbrella had died in fright at just one look at this rain. I felt just a little sheepish and to honest quite stupid. Why had I left my lovely dry house? And why on earth had I gone book shopping? Books. Made of paper. Paper that melts when it even looks at that kind of rain. Anyway, with the books bought and paid for and then swiftly shoved up my jumper I walked/waded home. Luckily the books survived with only minor damage and I just about made it too.

The reason I was so desperate to make such an idiotic life choice on this particular day is I REALLY wanted curry.  Dal to be precise. Those of you avid readers out there will remember this from a particularly exciting earlier post. My previous attempt wasn't up to much scrutiny so I needed a recipe. A real one. I would have to buy a curry book. 

I bought this one!

With curry book in hand the next obvious step was to invite the fabulous Rory over for another bake date. We set a date and a menu and we two intrepid spice explorers cooked up a delicious dinner of tarka dal, lamb and spinach curry, pilau rice and chapati. It was a huge success. It tasted great and even looked vaguely like the real thing. 

This is a great beginners curry book. Very simple recipes and all the old favourites are in there. I always think it's better to start with dishes you're familiar with when experimenting with a new cuisine, so at least you've some idea what it should taste and look like and then when you know where you're at with the spices and flavours you can start getting a bit more adventurous. It seemed that most of the curries in the book were started by making a paste with spices and tomoatoes and then when this paste has been cooking down for about 30 mins you can start the curry proper. It went something like this:

Curry paste


20g fresh ginger
3 tomatoes quartered
6 cloves garlic
6 tbsp vegetable oil
2 black cardamon pods (I used green)
4 cloves
5cm cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 onion chopped finely
2 tbsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli

  1. blend the tomatoes, ginger and garlic until smooth
  2. heat the oil in a large pan and cook the whole spices for 15 seconds, then add the onion and cook until the onion is golden
  3. add the tomato paste, the ground spices and salt, cook over a moderate flame for 15-20 mins until it becomes a paste and droplets of oil start to release on the base of the pan
  4. reduce the heat and cook for another 5-7 minutes (This was where my patience was lacking. It's definitely worth holding your nerve here)
  5. it's now ready to use as the base of your curry 

Spinach and lamb curry


portion of curry paste as above
500g lamb
10g fresh ginger julienne
2 green chillies
1 tsp garam masala
oil for frying 


For the lamb and spinach curry you simply add the lamb (about 500g) to the paste and cook over a moderate flame for 5 mins, until the paste has been absorbes by the lamb. Then pour enough water to cover the meat, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for an hour. You may need to reduce the sauce at the end if there is too much liquid. The liquid should come about 1/4 way up the lamb by the end. Fry off the ginger and fresh chilli in a frying pan, wilt the spinach on top and add to the lamb. Add the garam masala and cook for another 5 minutes.  Check the seasoning and serve.

And now the Tarka Dal......

Not as complicated as one would think. There's two stages to this. First you cook the dal.


150g chana dal (you can also use 100g chana and 50g masur dal or as I was assured, red lentils)
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 cloves garlic grated
10g fresh ginger grated
fresh coriander to serve 

  1. wash the dal well
  2. place in 1 litre of water and bring to the boil, scim off any scum that forms
  3. add the turmeric, garlic, ginger and salt and simmer for 40 mins, stirring occassionaly 

Stage two - the tarka (which means a few ingredients fried up and added to the main, in this case dal, ingredient at the end) - start making after dal has been cooking for 30 mins


3tbsp oil
1 rounded tbsp butter
3 dried red chillies
1 round tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion chopped finely
2 small tomatoes chopped
1/2 tsp garam masala

  1. heat the oil and butter and fry the dried chillies and cumin seeds until they start to brown
  2. add the onion and fry until browned
  3. add the tomatoes, garam masala and salt and saute for around ten minutes, until the oil starts to release (again this is a patience moment. this releasing of oil seems to be key in good curry making!)
  4. pour some of the cooked lentils into the pan to incorporate all the spice, then add the contents of the pan into the pot of cooked lentils
  5. cook the dal for another ten minutes, squishing some of the lentils against the side of the pot to achieve the texture you want (I think I would blend some of the lentils seperately to make the texture slightly thicker the next time, but I think that's a personal thing)
  6. taste, adjust seasoning and sprinkle with fresh coriander to serve 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Single's Supper Club Menu

Finally have a menu for the next Supper Club on the 25th November. It has me excited, so I hope the guests will like it too. I also hope I can find quinces. Any ideas anyone? If anyone would like to come please let me know. Remember though this is a special one off singles supper club for the gay men of Dublin in association with Singledom Town,  so you have to be a man who quite likes other men to attend. Them's the rules.

 aperitif by the fire *
winter warming drink
apple chips


potted crab with pickled cucumber 

mushroom and pesto lasagne
bean salad 


apple and quince tart with custard



donation of 20 euro per person 
please let me know if there's any allergies etc and I'll see if I can whip up an alternative 

*As my fire has been smoking out my living room of late the fire element is tbc!

Ms Marmite Lover's Underground Market

Ms Marmite Lover's lovely house

This weekend I had the privilege of being invited to my lovely friend Georgina and her lovely, now husband, Rich's wedding party. I was thrilled to be invited, not only because it meant I got to go to London for the weekend and celebrate George and Rich's wedding with them, I also got to catch up with a load of college friends I haven't seen in a million years and as if that wasn't enough, it also meant I had the perfect excuse to be in town on the Saturday afternoon with nothing to do, except nurse the teeny weeniest of hangovers from the night before (for teeny weeny read mind numbingly disabling). 

The reason I was so thrilled to have an afternoon off in London on this particular day was that it happened to coincide with the fabulous Ms Marmite Lover's Underground Farmer's Market in her house. For those of you who are a little confused by this concept, it is exactly what it sounds like. Ms Marmite Lover, a pioneer of the supper club movement in the UK, has started opening up her house to stall holders from across the land and their hungry customers, squishing stalls into the most unlikeliest of spaces. Cocktails in the bedroom, knitting circles in the bed, hot food in the garden, jam in the hall, crafts and take home treats in the living room and let's please not forget the oh so awesome complete complaints management service lady in the hallway who will tailor make a complaint for you for any occasion and find just the right words you didn't even know you needed to express your woes. Genius idea and an incredibly charming lady. 

What I loved most about the event, apart from the food of course, (my favourite being the authentic tacos and the incredibly fresh Greenwich Smoked Salmon which I was assured had been swimming in the sea not three days before and boy did it taste that way), was the incredible attitude of all the people involved, stall holders and punters alike. I've rarely been in a place with a more positive community spirit. When my friend Flora commented to one of the stallholders that it was a shame the garden wasn't a bit bigger so they could get more customers through and hence make a bit more money, he replied with a big smile on his face,  'it's not about the money' and it wasn't. (That said that I parted with more money at this market that I have at any other I've ever attended. I usually tend to be more of a market browser than a buyer, for two reasons, 1. I can never make a decision about what I want and 2. I can never afford what I want. But here, I was so elated with all the positivity, I was throwing the money about like nobody's business. Also could have had something to do with that hangover. I digress.) What was so wonderful about his simple answer was that it was true. This day wasn't about making money, of course people were hoping you'd buy, but everyone was so keen to interact with each other no matter who you were or what your reasons were for being there. The stall holders were as interested to hear what we had to say as we were to listen to them. It was community building in every sense of the word. 

Here's a few photos to give you a taste. Sorry about the quality. Ryanair does not facilitate bringing both good camera and wedding party dress. It had to be one or the other. Style's always got to win right?

she wasn't so sure about the pheasants
Kedgeree anyone? No?
Taco's on the other hand....
The busy garden
Arancini man
Fish smoking on the bonfire
A bit of atmosphere
More atmosphere
Cooking demos in the kitchen...
...they got pretty crowded
Cocktails in the bedroom
Jam in the hall
A table of loveliness
The sense of positivity and community at this market was palpable. But we so often associate community with location, where we live, where we work, so why was I feeling so much a part of this community that I had no experience of, never encountered in real life before?  I was confused. I suppose that's where blogging and the internet comes in. It's corny but true. The internet is shrinking the world. I lived in London for nine years and I think had I managed to stumble upon this event in any of those nine years I would have felt like I was intruding upon someone else's world (that says more about my nervousness than the welcoming nature of the event by the way), but since I've started blogging, I've started following people, started online conversations with a few more, and without realising it or even courting it, have become involved in a community. This kind of interaction is new to me and still a little strange but it was so wonderful to see it come together in the real world and see the amazing, inspiring, life affirming things that can be achieved through online communication. So often the internet is used as a way of avoiding real life communication but this market was the result of using those internet communications and connections in the most positive of ways, enabling real life interaction with people whom you may not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. It was a brilliant thing to be a part of so thanks to Ms Marmite Lover and all those who were involved in running and organising the event. You should all be very proud.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Singles Supper Club


The Arbutus Club is turning into a matchmaker service for one night only on the 25th November. Will my food succeed in inspiring love around the table? Stay tuned to find out. 

I'll be inviting 8 of the handsomest, most interesting, single gay men Dublin has to offer for a fantastic three course dinner at the club. An evening of good food and sparkling company. Who knows, sparks may fly!

This night is brought to you in association with Singledom Town. Check out his blog. It's really excellent. 
Keep up to date with all the plans on the supper club site here.

What an experiment this is going to be.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The English Market - My Mecca

When I die, I want to have my ashes scattered at the English Market in Cork. Admittedly this may cause some problems for the stallholders and the place may get shut down....actually I haven't thought this through at all. Scrap that first sentence. But you get the sentiment right? 

I had the day off yesterday and instead of hanging around in boring old Dublin with nothing to do I took a trip down to Cork to visit my cousin who was there for one night only. She's very popular and in great demand and often in places for one night only so you have to catch her while you can. So off the bus I got at a very convenient lunch time and I was met by my lovely cousin who took us immediately in the direction of the market and the awesome Farmgate Cafe for lunch. It's rather telling that in my last few trips to Cork my very first port of call before anything else has been the Farmgate. I'm clearly very good at timing my arrivals around mealtimes and there really is no better option than this wonderful cafe. So it was there that we went yesterday.

My love affair with the English Market started at a very young age. My childhood was filled with frequent visits to the rebel city to visit the Cork cousins and the place truly was a home from home. On special occasions we would be taken to the Farmgate where I fell in love. With chocolate cake. Their chocolate fudge cake is, and always will be for me, the best there is. No doubt it's tied up with all sorts of food memories, not least of all when I was about 11 and allowed into the kitchen in the Farmgate restaurant in Midleton to help with the actual baking of said chocolate cake (a favour pulled in by my lovely aunt). I even got paid ten pounds for my days work. I couldn't believe they would actually let me in the kitchen never mind pay me to 'help' them make my favourite food in my favourite place. Madness, but that's what happened. I remember the day I got a whole cake for my birthday. I nearly died with excitement and then, having survived that, was almost pushed over the edge after devouring it all, but luckily I live to tell the tale. I also fell in love with their pickled cucumber and their salads, another one of those tastes that brings back such happy memories for me. Not to mention the shepherds pie, oh dear this list could go on forever. You get the idea. 

So the Farmgate was why I started going to the market. Back in the day I wasn't much into food shopping so the rest of the market probably passed me by a little and my memory is too bad to really be able to say how it was back in the day. But these days, I practically giggle with excitement every time I walk in. After our lunch yesterday we went for a little wander around. There's so much to explore. What I really, really love about it though is that it embodies everything a good market should be. It's steeped in history and it's function hasn't changed since it's foundation in the late 19th century. It is there to provide honest, good quality, fairly priced food to the people of the city. It provides a relatively affordable alternative to supermarket shopping and it fosters a sense of community. The fact that it does all this smack bang in the middle of the city centre makes is all the more special. It would have been so easy for the English Market to have allowed the foodie craze to get the better of it's community ideals. Yes it has all the fantastic foodie stalls like the cheese and the olives, and the speciality chocolates and macaroons, but it also has the iced bun concession and the cobblers and menders and the fantastic shop that sold every kitchen and baking accessory you could desire. Add to these with the butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers and it truly is a market that has it all. It doesn't leave anyone out. And that's why I love it. 

I'm a huge fan of market shopping but have been really struggling recently with the price that is usually charged at foodie markets whereby it seems that we are being sold a lifestyle and not just the food. I was so pleasantly surprised yesterday when we started to buy a few things to see that it was so reasonably priced. To be honest we thought we were being undercharged it was so good. We had decided to have a night in and wanted to pick up a few treats so we headed for the cheese shop. I couldn't believe it  when we came away with two hunks of cheese for just over 3 euro. We then got a sizeable bag of olives for 2 euro and looking around the veg stalls and butchers counters it did seem better value than I was expecting and something that could be used on a more regular basis than the prices of Dublin markets allow us to here. Maybe things are just cheaper generally in Cork, but I felt less like I was being ripped off in ages and it really encouraged me to spend more. Maybe this is a policy that should be adopted amongst our Dublin marketeers. The fact is if you feel like you're getting a bargain or a good deal you're likely to do more shopping. Sounds like good business to me.

loads of local produce on offer

specialty breads

doesn't it look so pretty?

anyone got a recipe for pig's heads?

yum and fancy....

....and across the way, old school
but still yum-can't go wrong with an iced bun

kitchen treasure trove

Paddy Joes Alterations - community businesses running alongside foodie heaven - genius

Perhaps in years to come the English Market will lose the more old fashioned stalls and it will change into something that is entirely more upmarket rather than the wonderful mix that it is right now, but for the moment it's about as perfect a market as you're going to get in Ireland or dare I say anywhere, and I only wish it were in Dublin.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Cheffactor Competition

I can't remember the last time I entered a competition. Actually that's an outright lie. I do remember the last time I entered a competition because I won and it was a momentous occasion. I was about eight and I created a masterpiece of colouring in which won me a very snazzy red walkman. It was in a cheezy Americanesque style diner that I believe was called Wolfman Jack's in Rathmines. Anyone else remember that place? I loved it and all it's kitsch 50's Americana. And I loved it even more because it gave me my only winning experience to date. Sad but true. So now the time has come to throw my hat in the ring once more and see what happens. It's kind of a cooking competition (I say kind of because the winner is decided on votes of a picture not their cooking skills) and the prize is awesome. A three month cookery course in Ballymaloe House, all expenses paid. Food mecca for many, lifelong dream for me. So,  it comes down to this. I need your help. And your friend's help, and their friend's help...etc....I need to get as many people as possible to like my photo on the Cully and Sully website as possible to be in with a chance. Apologies for the shameless marketing campaign and the incessant nagging and reminding which will no doubt be coming your way over the next four weeks (voting closes on the 17th Nov), I'll try and keep it to a targeted minimum. But remember folks, vote often. 

Here's my entry for the competition. You can vote here. Please and thanks so much.

The dish is a Tuscan bean soup with some delicious sourdough bread to mop it all up. It's really really tasty. I'll include the recipe below for any of you who would like to make it. It's from a delicious cookbook from Kate Caldesi called the Italian Cookery Course, and it's just that, a lesson in Italian cooking. It's a really brilliant book and is full of lots of tips on how to butcher meat, bread making, pasta making and sauce making. If it's Italian it's in there. You Londoners out there might be familiar with Cafe Caldesi in Marylebone. It was one of those special places we liked to go to in college for coffee and dream of the day we could afford to sit down to eat. Some days we'd treat ourselves to a desert but that was as far as it ever went.  They did the best hot chocolate I ever had and we would go and crowd around a mug watching all the well to dos enjoying their delicious lunches, breathing in the stunning aromas as they wafted past. If you're in the area, drop in, you won't regret it. Anyway, the book is great, go buy it.

What a makeshift tripod eh?
For the entry you had to post a picture with your dish, you and the words Cully and Sully in it. See above for cheesy arrangement of said picture. You've no idea how difficult this was to put together with no spare pair of hands and no tripod. Thank god for timer buttons on cameras is all I'll say. And thank god my camera didn't fall off my oh so stable tripod and smash all over the floor. So the picture's not perfect but it's the best I could do given the circumstances!

Please please please go check out the link and vote for my picture. I'll bake you lots of cookies if you do!

Here's the recipe:

Firstly you need to make the base of the soup. It's called a soffrito and is the base for endless Italian soups, stews and sauces. 


150g carrot
150g celery
150g onion
150ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves (optional)
bay (the herbs you use are up to you, you don't have to use them all)

  1. Finely chop all the vegetables.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan. Add the garlic if using and fry for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and fry for 15-20 mins, stirring occasionally.
  4. That's it. It can be frozen in portions to use in soups and stews or used straight away.

The holy trinity - onion, celery + carrot

Bean Soup

1 quantity of soffrito (I used about a third of the above recipe above and it was enough for two people)
700ml of stock (the recipe called for 700ml of stock to serve 4 people, I used that much for 2 servings but I think I enjoy a slightly thinner bean soup than most!)
400g of tinned beans (cannelini or haricot) drained (the recipe called for 800g to serve 4 people)
  1. Warm up the soffrito in a saucepan.
  2. Add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes.
  3. Add the beans and cook until warmed through.
  4. Serve with bread.

I told you it was simple. The trick is to get a really good soffrito. You need to use really fresh vegetables, a good amount of oil (I didn't quite use 150ml because it seemed like a lot but I did use more than I usually would) and you need to give it a good length of time to soften slowly and for the flavours to develop. I dislike celery greatly but I have to admit that it is what makes recipes like this. It gives an extra depth of flavour that would ruin the dish if left out. And thankfully it doesn't taste like celery in the finished dish. 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Baking Bread for Blog Action Day 2011

Today is the foodie blog action day and I want to share with you my love for bread-making in general and sourdough bread in particular as my contribution to the international food discussion. Baking bread is one of my new found joys. I've been making soda breads for years but have recently been trying my hand at yeast breads and even more exciting, sourdough bread with my own home grown starter. I love the whole process involved in preparing a loaf - the patience that's required, the little idiosyncrasies that each different loaf seems to possess and of course the smell of freshly baked bread. Is there anything better than that first crusty slice, still warm from the oven,  lathered in real butter oozing, from the warmth? If there is I'm not sure what it is. So anyway, here's my blog on sourdough bread. I've been putting it off for a while as it's a complicated one but  the results that come from it are so fantastic I think it's worth the effort.

If you have no interest in bread making you may want to skip this. Be warned, it's going to get technical. If however you're teetering on the edge and you quite like the idea of that fresh baked loaf coming out of the oven, or you want to be able to truly impress your friends by saying 'What, this? This perfectly formed loaf of deliciousness? Oh I just whipped that up this morning' (well, maybe not in those self important words, but that's what you'll be thinking), if you're on the brink of being a bread baker then read on. Once you go sour, you'll never look back!

Ok, so first off. This is not for the faint hearted...or the impatient. 1st step. You've got to make your sourdough starter. This takes about ten days. But once it's made you have it and you can keep feeding and using it as long as it stays alive. Which it will do if you keep feeding it. Confused yet? Read on.

The starter - what it's all about

For the starter you need 100g of strong bread flour (half and half wholemeal and white - he wholemeal helps the yeast get going) and warm water. That's it. If you like you can also use a piece of fruit on the first day to help get the yeast going. Add a small piece of ripe rhubarb, apple, or I used a strawberry, to the mix. Discard once the starter starts bubbling.

First off mix the 100g of flour with enough warm water in a large bowl until you have a paint like consistency. Mix it well trying to incorporate some air into it. Cover with cling film and leave in a warmish place for the fermentation to start. This will vary depending on the conditions but you should see signs of yeast bubbles by the next day.

For the next 7-10 days you need to feed your starter. So it goes like this. 

Day one: make the starter as above
Day two: add 100g more flour and enough water to achieve paint like consistency - cover with cling, keep in a draught free place
Day three: discard half of the mix and replace with 100g flour and enough water to achieve paint like consistency - cover with cling, keep in a draught free place
Day four-ten: as above
After ten days your starter should be starting to smell fruity. This is when you know it's ready to use.

I keep mine in the fridge and feed it with a little flour and water every 5 days or so (discarding some and replenishing it). I then replenish it after I use it for baking with a good big feed. It seems to last really well in this way. I must confess to having neglected it for anything up to three weeks, but once I start feeding it and paying it a bit of attention again it seems to come back to life fine. I change the container every so often to avoid any spoiling. 

Hugh Fernely Whittingstall, who's fantastic recipe this is, recommends keeping it as a stiff dough in the fridge if you are not going to be using it on a regular basis. Achieve this by adding more flour but not water. My starter is kept in a fairly thick liquid form and it seems to be working fine that way so far. He also says it's suitable for freezing if you are not going to use it for a long while, and it will reactivate on thawing. 

Now you have your starter you can make bread. But be warned, you need patience for this bit too.

Just add water

There are three stages to this process:
  1. making the sponge
  2. making the dough
  3. prooving the dough
  4. sorry, four stages - baking the bread!
To make the sponge you need to take about 100ml of your starter and mix it with 250g of strong flour. (You can use any flour really, as long as it's strong. I've been trying Spelt lately and I'm sure as hell going to be trying this Kamut wheat flour! But white or wholemeal is fine, or indeed a mix which I also quite like.) Add 275 ml of warm water, not hot, warm. Mix, cover with cling film and leave in a draught free place. I like to do this stage before bed, then in the morning it's ready to make the dough but regardless when you do it it needs several hours to get going. It's ready when it's good and bubbly. You can replenish your leftover starter with more flour and water to be used again next time. ( Bad blogger. I haven't taken a photo of this, but use your imagination. It looks like floury, sloppy mess.)

The next stage is the dough. I make this first thing in the morning when the sponge has had all night to get excited. Flour the surface that you are going to use to knead your dough. Also have a jug of warm water nearby in case you need it, your hands will be messy in a minute. To your sponge add 300g of your flour of choice, a tablespoon of olive oil and 10g salt. Mix together with your hands. The consistency should be a bit wet. If the dough is too tight add a little water to loosen it. If you're experimenting with different flours this may alter the consistency of your dough, also your starter may be slightly different in consistency from time to time so this might change things too. Use your instinct and trust it!
Knead the dough on the floured surface for ten minutes until it is smooth. Again you have to use your instincts here. Practice will tell you when it's ready. If it's tight and breaking when you're kneading it it might need some more water.  Try and develop your own kneading technique. This is a good start -  hold the dough lightly with the heel of one hand and use the other to stretch it out away from you, then fold it back in on itself, rotate it and repeat. It's tiring but keep going. You'll have great arms if you make enough loaves.
When it's done, knead it into a ball and transfer it to and oiled, shallow dish and cover with oiled cling film. Leave to proove for several hours until it has double in size. (To knead it into a ball you need to fold the edge of the dough into the middle, give it a turn, fold the edge into the middle, turn it, fold it etc until you have a tight ball shape. Me being a bad blogger, I have not taken a picture of this being done. I will rectify this upon baking my next loaf and post it to help explain!)

When it's doubled in size, sometime in the evening if you're following my time plan, you now have to shape it and give it the final prooving. To do this you first need to knock it back. Essentially this means knocking all the air out of it. You can do this by punching it with your knuckles. Then turn it out onto your floured surface again and shape it. Do this by giving it a light kneading and forming into a ball as above. Dust your shallow bowl with flour and place your dough upside down in the dish. Cover with oiled cling and leave to proove.

Poor thing's had all the air knocked out of it.
That's it, upside down and ready for it's last proove!

At least an hour and a half later, or again when it's doubled in size it's ready to bake
Preheat the oven to it's hottest temperature. Place a deep baking tray filled with water on the bottom of the over to create some steam. Preheat your baking tray for the bread. When the oven's ready, flour the hot tray and turn the bread out onto it. It'll now be right side up. Make some incisions on the top of the loaf, either with a knife or scissors. Don't be shy, you want the bread to open up here so you can go quite deep. Bake for 15 minutes in the hot oven then reduce the heat to gas mark 6/200C and bake for another 25-30 minutes. When it's done the loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool for at least 20 minutes before diving in.

Ready to go in the oven

Try and wait for it to cool down before diving in with the knife!

So that's it. It gives a really lovely tangy loaf and I love that you don't have to mess around with powdered or fresh yeast. Although you have to be organised, I have to say I love the whole process and the fact that it takes days makes it all the more exciting when it finally comes out of the oven. It keeps very well too and makes delicious toast.