Slow Days: Lammas Bread

People who are new to Fasting often pose the questions: “Can I really eat ‘anything I want’ on a Slow Day?” and “What should I eat on Slow Days?” To answer those questions, I have decided to add some blog posts to show some of the foods we eat on what the world calls NFDs [non-fast days] but which, in our house, we call ‘Slow Days.’ This feature will appear sporadically. 

Now for the answers. Can you really eat ANYTHING you want on a Slow Day? Not really. If you eat too many calories every Slow Day, you will not lose weight. There are many questions asked on the FastDiet Forum which attest to that. Once in a while you can splurge, as long as it isn’t everyday. For what to eat on Slow Days, Dr. Mosley recommends a Mediterranean Diet. As for how we eat, an example follows.

One of the most popular topics on which I have blogged is that of Lammas. Maybe it is a love of all things Celtic. Maybe it is a yearning for simpler times. Maybe it is a renewal of interest in growing and producing one’s own food. The festival was called Lughnasagh in Ireland; Lunastain, in Scotland; and became Lammas [Loaf Mass] after the missionaries Christianized it. As a harvest festival, it was observed on the mid-Summer cross-quarter day around August 2 — usually August 1, 2,3. At that time the cereal crops* [wheat, rye, barley, oats] were being harvested. Flour was quickly ground from the grain, baked into loaves to be savored by the entire farm family while giving thanks for a successful harvest and offering prayers for future crops. Bread, therefore, is the recipe of the day. *Note: in the UK, cereal crops are all called ‘corn.’ This is confusing to Americans, to whom ‘corn’ is Zea mays for eating on the cob or for popping. When you follow the links, keep that in mind.

Here is a non-yeasted recipe, making something like a biscuit. This is probably the “real” bread for Lammas, since it is prepared quickly. Buttermilk Bread Charm for Lammas goddessandgreenman.co.uk

3 mugs strong white flour 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp bicarbonate of sodaPlace the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Sieve in the blended salt and soda
500 ml of Buttermilk Pour in the buttermilk. Mix well with a wooden spoon or your hand until the dough feels springy.
Sprouted seeds – these represent regenerationMix in the sprouted seeds. If it feels too sloppy, just add a little more flour.
Turn it onto a board and cover with a fine dusting of flour. Pat it with your hands until you have a round shape. Take a sharp knife and score lightly into eight sections, one for each festival. Take time to focus on the bread you have created. Turn the loaf three times saying “From the fields and through the stones, into fire, Lammas Bread, as the Wheel turns may all be fed. Goddess Bless.”
Place on a greased baking tray and pop it into a moderate oven for 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on it. When the bread is ready, it will change colour and will sound hollow when you tap the bottom.
Cool completely on a wire rack. When it is cool, tie it with Lammas ribbon in your choice of colour – gold, orange, yellow

Sour Dough Fruited Summer Bread: The one I’ll make this year is based on a sourdough, in keeping with all of those who are attempting that during the current lock-down. This bread is easy to make. [Original recipe from Paul Hollywood] With the addition of Summer fruits and whole wheat, it seems fit for a festival.

All the ingredients, ready to mix.
64 g bread flour 64 g white whole wheat flour 125 g active sourdough starter 3.8 g salt 65-88 ml H20 + 2 tsp honeyCombine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the honey to the water. Pour it in a little bit at a time and mix with your hands to make a soft dough. You may not need all the water. If you have extra water, add it to the next step.
½ cup chopped dried apricots ½ cup dried cherriesPut the fruits in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 15 minutes, then drain, reserving the water. Add to the dough.
Coat work surface w/ olive oil + knead the fruit into the dough on the oiled surface for 10-15 mins or until the dough is smooth + elastic and the fruit is well-incorporated.
Put in lightly-oiled bowl + cover w/ film. Rise in warm place 5 hr or overnight in a cool place
Knead dough until smooth, knocking the air out. Shape into an oval. Let rise on a well-floured towel [a couche], up-side down, in a loaf pan for 4-8 hrs or overnight in a cool place.
Bread is rising on a floured towel in a small loaf pan to help it to keep its shape.
Reserved soaking water 2 tsp honeyPut in a small pan and simmer while adding the honey. Cook down until it is syrup-y, not runny.
Put a tray of water on the bottom of the oven. Preheat to 425F Gently tip the risen dough onto parchment paper on a baking tray. With a lame or sharp knife, score the top of the bread: down the center, then 3 on each side at an angle – sort of like a fern or the veins on a leaf. When you open the oven, add more water to the tray at the bottom of the oven to produce steam. Bake 30 mins at 425. Brush loaf with fruit syrup, then reduce oven to 400 F and bake 15 mins more.
The very dark syrup made the crust a rich mahogany color. Serve with comb honey.

Slow Days: Hake with Green Sauce

People who are new to Fasting often pose the questions: “Can I really eat ‘anything I want’ on a Slow Day?” and “What should I eat on Slow Days?” To answer those questions, I have decided to add some blog posts to show some of the foods we eat on what the world calls NFDs [non-fast days] but which, in our house, we call ‘Slow Days.’ This feature will appear sporadically. 

Now for the answers. Can you really eat ANYTHING you want on a Slow Day? Not really. If you eat too many calories every Slow Day, you will not lose weight. There are many questions asked on the FastDiet Forum which attest to that. Once in a while you can splurge, as long as it isn’t everyday. For what to eat on Slow Days, Dr. Mosley recommends a Mediterranean Diet. As for how we eat, an example follows.

In April, disappointed that our trip to France was canceled, we decided that if we couldn’t be in Gascony, we could eat as if we were in Gascony. After scouring our cookbooks, we chose recipes for dinner, and sometime breakfast, that would be typical of where we would have been on a particular date. Thus we “dined out” in the restaurants of our imaginations. One of the earliest meals was named Hake in Green Sauce. There is no sauce. “Green Sauce” is a centuries-old term for vegetables served on or with the protein of the meal. In Spanish, the term is ‘salsa verde,’ which we today think of as a mild-hot condiment in a jar. The recipe, called “Merluza, Salsa Verde,” is found in Anne Willan’s French Regional Cooking.

The ingredients you see pictured are enough for two people.

Hake, new potatoes [our’s were multi-colored], garlic, oil, crushed red pepper, peas and asparagus comprise the ingredients. The potatoes are simmered in boiling water for 15 minutes, then drained. The peas are cooked until just tender, then shocked in cold water and drained. Same for the asparagus. The hake is seasoned, then dredged lightly in flour. Brown the hake in an oil-coated pan until lightly brown on both sides, but not cooked through. Arrange the dish in an oven-safe dish [I used the tart pan you see in the above photo] and sprinkle with the hot pepper flakes and chopped garlic. Put the potatoes around the edges of the fish, then put the vegetables on top. Sprinkle with parsley, salt, and pepper. Pour 1/4 cup water into the dish, cover it, and bake at 375F/190C for 15-20 minutes, when the fish will be tender.

This is really good — I ate the whole thing!

Slow Days: Sourdough Pancakes

People who are new to Fasting often pose the questions: “Can I really eat ‘anything I want’ on a Slow Day?” and “What should I eat on Slow Days?” To answer those questions, I have decided to add some blog posts to show some of the foods we eat on what the world calls NFDs [non-fast days] but which, in our house, we call ‘Slow Days.’ This feature will appear sporadically. 

Now for the answers. Can you really eat ANYTHING you want on a Slow Day? Not really. If you eat too many calories every Slow Day, you will not lose weight. There are many questions asked on the FastDiet Forum which attest to that. Once in a while your can splurge, as long as it isn’t everyday. For what to eat on Slow Days, Dr. Mosley recommends a Mediterranean Diet. As for how we eat, an example follows.

It is almost a joke now that during the Pandemic Lock-Down, people vowed that they would use the time to perfect the art of baking: specifically sourdough bread. It seemed to be the culinary equivalent of reading War and Peace — something to get around to when you had time. Early on, bread flour and yeast were GONE from supermarket shelves. New England’s flour-of-choice, King Arthur brand from Vermont, was not even available on-line. For those who have sourdough starter [don’t be a wimp — start your own starter!], be aware that there are many things to do with it, besides making bread. Recently, we made Sourdough Pancakes [click link for recipe] for Sunday Breakfast. A real treat and easy to do.

HINT: For two people, I cut the recipe in half. The night before, I combine the flours with the sugar, oil, buttermilk [substitute = soured milk], salt, and starter. This is left on the counter overnight to ripen.

The next morning, the batter is stirred. An egg and the baking soda are added in. The mixture needs to sit a few minutes while you heat the griddle, set the table, and make the coffee. By now the batter is foaming in the bowl.

This recipe resulted in 14 pancakes: enough for today’s breakfast, another meal later, and 2 for a snack with peanut butter and jelly.

Lightly butter the griddle and use a 1/4 cup measure to pour 3-4 Tablespoons of batter on the hot surface. Continue until there is no more space on the pan. When the top of each pancake starts to develop ‘eyes’ [little holes], it is time to flip them to the other side.

Served with maple syrup [our own, I’m happy to say] and sausages — what a treat! The breakfast is completed by the berry-yogurt smoothie and mocha cafe au lait which we enjoy every morning. Great start to a great day. A lot easier than making bread.

Slow Days: Bruschetta

People who are new to Fasting often pose the questions: “Can I really eat ‘anything I want’ on a Slow Day?” and “What should I eat on Slow Days?” To answer those questions, I have decided to add some blog posts to show some of the foods we eat on what the world calls NFDs [non-fast days] but which, in our house, we call ‘Slow Days.’ This feature will appear sporadically. 

Now for the answers. Can you really eat ANYTHING you want on a Slow Day? Not really. If you eat too many calories every Slow Day, you will not lose weight. There are many questions asked on the FastDiet Forum which attest to that. Once in a while your can splurge, as long as it isn’t everyday. For what to eat on Slow Days, Dr. Mosley recommends a Mediterranean Diet. As for how we eat, an example follows.

“Bruschetta” … what does that word mean to you? And how do you pronounce it? The cookbook Diary of a Tuscan Chef gave us a recipe for this concoction, which we ate happily for years — a tomato relish on bread. And we called it ‘bruce-SHET-ta.’ Had we turned the cookbook page, we would have had the real story. When olives are being pressed into oil, [a late-Fall, cool-weather activity] one of the workers will toast bread over a fire, rub it with garlic, and drizzle the new oil over it so everyone can have a snack and a taste of the crop. THAT is bruschetta!

Bread, garlic, and olive oil = bruschetta

Of course, as the idea of ‘putting some food on toast’ moved around the world, something was lost in translation, including the pronunciation. When on tour in Italy, I asked the guide, a Roman, how to pronounce this culinary creation. Chuckling, he said that Americans always ask that and for the longest time he had no idea what they meant by ‘bruce-shet-ta.’ The correct way to say it? ‘bruce-KAY-ta’ The aforementioned Tuscan Chef Cesare Casella writes: “Americans seem to think bruschetta is chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil on toast. I don’t know why. For us that is crostini con pomodoro.” He concludes that there seems to be an “American craving for cubed tomatoes.”

On the right you see Cesare Casella’s ‘tomato relish’ on the bread.

When Older Son began baking, he sent us a recipe for his ‘no-knead focaccia’, which is great but makes more bread than Dear Husband and I can eat in a week. So Older Son prompted us to eat it as Bruschetta. I protested that there would be very little protein in that: just bread and tomato relish. Being wise, our son suggested additional toppings: herbed ricotta cheese, slices of chicken or turkey breast. Anchovies would be good.

So here is the evolution of a meal that is perfect in Summer or any warm evening. Perhaps we should call it ‘Crostini’ but we don’t. We’re Americans, you see.