Experiments in bread. Ginger, Hazlenut and Vanilla Savoury

Bread, glorious bread! I have a fine breadmaker, and I like to put different things into it to see what it will taste like. It turns out, quite a lot of it tastes excellent, and my overnight concoction was no exception.

I have seen recipes for ginger and hazlenut sweet breads, but in general I don’t add sugar to my loaves – so I can eat more without getting diabetes! As for vanilla, I have some essence that is nearly out of date, so thought it might be a nice addition. 

1 tsp of yeast

500gms brown flour

80gms hazlenuts, crushed / chopped (I used a blender)

70gms fresh ginger root, grated

3 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp salt

10-20gms extra virgen olive oil (I never measure it, just tip it in. Roughly the same amount as a nob of butter, which is so not helpful as a measurement. How about the end of your thumb’s worth? Ah, just tip it in and experiment, the bread seems to be fine with it!)

400gms water (I’ve started putting in more water than the recipes have suggested and it makes great bread)

Set breadmaker to wholewheat, large (I’ve a Panasonic 252, but they all seem to work in a similar way)

+++++

On the look out for

The main things I was worried about is one, whether the ginger might inhibit the rising action of the yeast, and two if I was putting in too much – the amount I put in would be a lot in a normal cooked dish. However, the bread rose nicely; it is quite compact, but still light enough. And the quantity was also fine.

Texture

It was plenty moist, and altough quite compact, surprisingly light. The nuts gave a bit more resistence to the teeth than plain flour, but a crunch in a softer way, unlike with whole grains. The bread holds together well – better than if you add nuts by themselves, so I am assuming that there was quite a lot of fibre in the ginger root that has helped this. For an idea of how well it holds together, I was happily cutting slices that were maybe only 7mm wide. As for the ginger, you can’t detect the texture at all. 

So, for texture, I would say it is good, but being as compact as it is, it’s quite filling, thin slices are best.

Flavour

Ah, the all important! When I came downstairs this morning, the kitchen was filled with the smells, the ginger was really powerful, and in fact, it smelt worryingly strong. I needn’t have worried.

The first thing about this is that you can really taste the hazlenuts. Normally, when adding hazlenuts to bread, I have found that you lose the flavour entirely, but in this case, it comes though very nicely. 

Secondly, if you smell the bread, it has a lovely, strong and very pleasant smell of ginger. However, and despite the quantity I put in, the flavour is really quite subtle. You can definitely taste it, but will hardly notice it if you are not looking for it. You can smell it in your nose as you eat it but flavourwise, it more manifests itself in only a very slight ginger bite on the tongue, really delicious. 

The vanilla on the other hand, I can really almost not taste, the hint is so low as to be almost nonexistent. However, that does not negate adding it, as I feel that the vanilla maybe smoothing the sharper gradients of the ginger.

All in all, a good experiment. Now, what to eat this bread with? I think this would be delicious with something not too strong, you want the nut flavours to come though. So, maybe pate, or sliced pork would be good. Funnily enough, I can imagine this being very tasty with a bed of rocket leaves and olive oil on top of it; a sandwich where the filling is in the bread itself.
Enjoy!

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Junker. Not a boat, but a sinking feeling.

Who is Jean-Claude Junker? You don’t know? Don’t worry, most people in Europe don’t know… that he’s the President of the European Commission! Yes, JCJ is the most senior and powerful Eurocrat, the man in charge of the whole EU, and yet practically no one knows who he is.

Well, no one did. But that is changing, because, while here in Britain Brexit is being blamed on David Cameron, in Europe the blame is increasingly being laid at the door of this faceless Britain hater, whose intransigence made the Remain campaign so difficult and whose pronouncements were so extreme, they were widely disseminated by those urging Leave.

There are many people to blame for Brexit, but one of the main ones is a man who failed his own country (Luxemberg), whose stated mission is to make the EU less accountable and who has never hidden his hatred for the UK and her people.

As such, I think it is time for this man to get a wider audience, let people know who he is. And how to do that? Through jokes of course. Below is my contribution, feel free to spread widely!

The first ditty, to the tune of “There was an old man called Michael Finnegan”:

There was an old man called Jean-Claude Junker
Who hated Britain from his EU bunker
And even if Brexit’s Britain’s second Dunkirk
Everyone now knows that Junker’s a wunker

(click for my beautiful rendition of it!)

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Jean-Claude Junker
Jean-Claude Junker who?
I am president of the European Commission, how can you not know who I am, I’m important, I’m important, I’m important!

Why did Jean-Claude Junker cross the road?
Because everyone in Europe blames him for Brexit

What’s the difference between Jean-Claude Junker and Nigel Farage?
One is an unaccountable Eurocrate, supping from the EU gravy train who is responsible for Britain leaving the EU, while the other is only Nigel Farage.

An Englishman, an Irishman and Jean-Claude Junker walk into a bar.
The Englishman walks out. The Irishman turns to Junker and says “I think you might be the butt of this particular joke”.

Jean-Claude Junker, a man who hates Britain so much, he even let Nigel Farage win.

Junker has only got one ball
The other’s in Angela Merkel
He’s tedious, and rather pompous,
And Brexit will be his downfall.


(click for my beautiful rendition of it!)

Beer Day Britain at the old Ram Brewery!

Barry the lovely doorman

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Through the door

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Through the door to the left

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Round the corner

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Round the next corner

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Looking back

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Beer Day Britain party!

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The (Grade 2 listed) stable block

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Nice logo

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What a smart … loo

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Safety equipment. A ladder covering a ladder

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Barrier to (weed) entry

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Not posh, but definitely fun

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Because we’ve got beer

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You think tack room. We think bar

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Definitely bar

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Ok, maybe tack room

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Beer, beer, beer

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A yard guards the stable stalls

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There’s another loo through there

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But it’s still a set of stable stalls. With a pool table.
As you do

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Who puts carpet on the side of a bar?!

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Bar into courtyard. I can’t see any weeds – honesty no weeds, none…

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Warm up

Cheers to the beer!!!

Party?
Party!

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John and Lucinda – the only people who matter!

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The Best Secret in Wandsworth

The Old Ram Brewery stands, like a fortress, a unidirectional, four lane highway as it’s moat, in the middle of the Wandsworth one way system. Glittering spires are even now being erected by giant cranes, standing like great war machines to defend a very different vision of the future.

This is Britain’s Oldest Brewery, for 500 years the very heart of Wandsworth – and from the ashes of this great legacy, this space will soon be the borough’s heart again. A new heart, and a different heart; the commercial hub and new age accommodation for a new and different generation of residents.

But what of that legacy of brewing? Behind those orange hoardings, a tiny fire has been kept alight through the passion of one man. Little more than a labour of love, John Hatch cannot sell what he brews, and yet somehow he has managed to finance this piece of our heritage out of donations and his own willpower.

Yet this has been a blessing in disguise. John has been perfecting his amber nectar now for ten years, and with no commercial pressure on him, he has experimented, he has failed, and he has ultimately succeeded in producing some of the finest ales that might ever pass you lips! I had my 40th birthday party there, and I tried, I really tried, but no hangover was achieved – in fact his ale was more of a tonic, I felt cleansed and healtier and more spritely than I had in weeks. And certainly more than I deserved.

And yet, hidden behind these hoardings, this nano brewery – because that is what it is, John only has capacity for 140 pints a week – is a secret gem. The beer never leaves the site; in fact, it is made in the next door room to where he has his small bar.

I first heard about this place after being invited to a brewery tour several years ago, back before the site was torn down in preparation for all that is coming. A joyful man in his ubiquitous white lab coat led us around regaling us with improbable stories from another age, about ram smuggling, autonomous vehicles (horse drawn drays that occasionally returned to the stable sans driver who’d toppled off after indulging in too much of his own product) and a definitively pugnacious Chairman. Improbable, but true, as the site was a centre of eccentricity even to the day it shut in 2006.

And even now, John is still brewing. And even now, it is still one of the most fabulous secrets in Wandsworth, because, with no advertising, no one knows how to sample his most splendid of brews unless they have an “in”, someone to introduce them to the mailing list for invitations to John’s legendary parties. Because, there in this strangest of places, John hosts one of the finest, friendliest, and exclusive comedy clubs in the country.

The bar room, where the comedy happens, is tiny. It only takes about 40 people, and yet some of the top acts in the country come down to play it. And the audience is always wonderful. Such a small venue makes for a very cosy comedy night where everyone colludes in having a great time, all lubricated by beer that we know won’t hurt us. And even though entrance to the comedy is by invitation through the mailing list only, the nights are sold out, often more than a month in advance.

And the good news is this. If you want an invitation to this most excellent of comedy nights, the mailing list is currently open! Just send an email to BeerComedy@gmail.com

After all, if this description of the night is appealing to you, it is self selective and you are the type of lovely audience that would enjoy and enhance the evening. Because excellent ale, cracking comedy and an involved audience is the optimum equation for an ideal evening.

And with only 12 months left before it is all change again (the site is being developed and the brewery likely to be moved), we are into the countdown period to the end of one unique venue for both beer, comedy and conraderie…

I want to speak better!

We all want to speak better, from the expert who still has more to learn to the novice who fears the very idea speaking in public. And we all have our reasons why. What are yours?

I want to give an excellent speech;
I want to have a confident stage presence;
I want to be able to face anything that comes my way;

I want to impress my colleagues / boss / employees;
I want to sell more;
I want a pay rise;

I want to be able to give feedback in a way that motivates rather than criticises;
I want to be able to disarm and resolve conflict;

I want to be able to talk to the media;
I want to be able to deal with tricky questions;
I want to be able to think on my feet;

I just want to be better in all my communications!

There are many other reasons why we might want to be better speakers, and the best news is that it really is all learnable.

When I coach a speaker, I look at content, delivery and stage craft. While every speaker is different, the areas that best help a speaker is never a case of just working on weaknesses, it is also always one of working on, and towards, strengths – not least because no one can do you like you can do you, and that is always a strength!

So, if you are ready to be better as a speaker in any of the above ways, either in general or towards a specific speech, a great first step is talk to me. Your aims will be my aims, and together we will get you to achieve your potential – and often that potential is substantially beyond what my clients initially thought even possible.

Feedback I have had recently:

“Al was hugely helpful in helping me shape my talk, and inspired it to be fun and engaging. He was proactive, patient, and generous with his time and insights” – client

“After hearing your client’s speech, I’m ready to put another $100 million into the fund” – an investor

“If I hear any more compliments about your client’s speech, I’m going back to my hotel room” – another speaker

AlJCowie@gmail.com

LLaugh Comedy at the Wandsworth Fringe, & Free Beer!

Click Here to Get Your Tickets – 20 May 2016

LLaugh Comedy Presents

Milo McCabe & John Robertson, 2 Top EdFringe Comedy Previews – & Free Beer!

My two picks for the 2016 Fosters Comedy Awards are:

  • “The Unflappable Troy Hawke” with Milo McCabe (‘Undeniably Funny’ Chortle ****)
  • And the eponymously named “John Robertson: Looking Sharp”(‘A magnificent comedy beast’ Kate Copstick, The Scotsman ****)

– Two Phenomenal Comedy Shows

– One Night Only (20 May 2016)

– Free Beer

– And only 40 tickets*!

 

This is normally a secret gig, put on for aficionados of great comedy and locally brewed (in the next door room!) real ale.

 

Because the room is so unique, wonderful and intimate (the show takes place in a Grade 2 Listed, Victorian stable block), I get to invite the best acts in the country down to perform.

And the beer, which is not for sale here or anywhere else, is served up by John Hatch who is continuing the legacy of brewing in Britain’s oldest Brewery (more than 500 years!).

It is a real privilege to have Milo and John come and perform their shows here and will be a wonderful evening of splendid comedy – if you like your comedy, this is the most secret and best fun gig in London. And if you like your beer, prepare to have your taste buds thrilled!

 

* But get your tickets fast, the room only takes about 40 audience, and this is the first time we have openly advertised to new audience since last year’s Wandsworth Fringe!

Click For Tickets

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Show information:
The Unflappable Troy Hawke.

Having been locked away in a house with his mother for the first thirty five years of his life, 1930’s throwback Troy Hawke takes his first steps into society and attempts to make sense of it armed only with an encyclopedia and a bible.

Milo McCabe’s character Troy Hawke has been described as a ‘wonderfully realised character’ (New Current) with ‘perfectly worded jokes’ (Broadway Baby)
Alongside TV appearances on ‘Blue Go Mad in Ibiza’ (ITV2), ‘Live at the Electric (BBC3) and ‘Benidorm’ (ITV1, aired in 2016), Milo McCabe is an established character comedian with several successful Edinburgh runs under his belt.

In 2014 his show ‘Troy Hawke’ at the Gilded Balloon garnered a 5 star review  and 3 4 star reviews. He has been nominated for ‘Best Show’ at The Amused Moose Laughter awards in both 2013 and 2011 and in 2012 was listed as one of GQ magazine’s ‘Top 10 shows of the fringe’

‘Riotous’ ***** (Scotsgay)
‘Near on perfection’ ***** (NewCurrent.co.uk).
‘Undeniably funny’ **** (Chortle.co.uk).
‘Perfectly worded jokes’ **** (BroadwayBaby.com).
‘Masterclass in character comedy’ **** (EdfestMag.com).
‘Beautifully written and performed’ **** (List)

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John Robertson: Looking Sharp

John Robertson is a free-wheeling, insult-dealing clown with weird hair and a nice suit – and he’s got some opinions on everyone in the front row. And the back row. And you, especially you. You know what you did.

There’s no plot. Trust me, he just turns up and happens. Sit near the back. (Don’t sit near the back. Also, he loves you and he’s very sorry. He’s not sorry. God, this is going to be fun.)

★★★★ “this is astute, amoral comedy for the morbidly-inclined” – The Age
★★★★★ “Strides onstage giving precisely zero f*cks” – The Skinny
★★★★ “a splendid comedy beast” – The Scotsman
★★★★ “a triumph” – Herald Sun

“NOT TO BE MISSED” – The Guardian

Dates:

  • May 2016
  • 20

7.15 – 11pm

Where:

Ram Brewery

Ram Street, Wandsworth
SW18 1TJ

For R of the W S's, take Oil of Cajuput: Al Cowie's musings on the world