Nuts and Bolts

Yesterday was an interesting day at the coal face of catering, getting into the nuts and bolts as they say!  It illustrated the many hats we have to wear, something I am sure very familiar with anyone involved with a small business.

As ever during the morning I was very practically orientated in a hands on capacity, cooking for our lunch deliveries and service.  This week our sour dough spelt bread has proved troublesome and we have not been able to get a good enough rise on day two of its life.  To explain on day one we make a “sponge” containing Spelt Flour and a portion of our “live” sour dough starter.  Over night this starts to ferment and develop the distinctive flavours allowing us to add further flour and salt the next day.  At this point we knead and then the crucial rising/proving is supposed to take place.  It seems that the product is more temperature dependant than when using commercial yeast so the proving position is a balance between ambient room temperature or shall we place it in a slightly pre-warmed oven?  Anyway yesterday we managed to get this right and both myself and Melanie who has been spending some time in the kitchen this week seeing how things happen were mightily relieved.

After lunch (over the VAT return – not good for the digestion) I did some re-fresher hygiene training with three of our staff.  These smaller group sessions are always enjoyable as you can have a focused discussion and relate best practice to our own systems and procedures.  We looked at the implications of a recent report which revealed that 8 out of 10 supermarket bought chickens contain the bacterium campylobacter.  When our staff appreciate that this bacteria is the most common form of food poisoning in this country causing 300,000 recorded cases of illness and 80 deaths a year it certainly sharpens their attention for the rest of the session.  We also looked at how everybody can access the results of Environmental Food Officers reports on their visits to food premises through the Scores on the Doors web site:  It can be surprising to see which establishments score well out of 5 and which don’t!

I squeezed in some blackberry picking and got some early crab apples wanting to have a go at a Fruit Leather a recipe spotted in the Times but also featured in the River Cottages excellent new book The Hedgerow by John Wright (  Adam and I had a go at this later but the final part drying for 12-16 hours was left overnight as work in progress.  Note to self – must let Fran who will be cooking pastries in the morning what the strange sheet of fruit puree in the oven is all about!

Speak to you soon.   Peter