Wednesday, 13 July 2011

wild thing..

you make my heart sing
you make everything
i said wild thing

that's what the troggs sang many years ago..and my heart sang too on sunday when i made gnocchi with 'wild' greens (the weather held out long enough for me to pick the nettles) and when yesterday i was able to make bread from a sourdough starter after 'wild' yeast took up residence in my flour and orange juice starter paste.

i have encouraged stinging nettles to grow in my garden for several years and i have used them many times in warm 'weed' salads, in spinach pies, soups and many other dishes..i have been wanting to use them to make gnocchi and pasta but i just hadn't got around to it until i was inspired by a nettle gnocchi posting by zeb bakes..additional inspiration came from a link to llynlines in the aforementioned posting.

wild things from my garden 
a bit too chunky nettle and sweet potato gnocchi 
first tomato sauce
i enjoyed making the gnocchi but there were two main problems..first, the next time i make them i will use a floury variety of regular potato instead of sweet potato because while the gnocchi were tasty they were a bit on the dense side despite a delicate hand in preparation..i also made them a bit on the too chunky side as you can see in the photograph..the next issue i had was with my first sauce so i made it a second time and added kalamata olives, capers and aged balsamic vinegar to the garlic, chilli and home bottled tomato puree and i garnished the dish with very thin crisp bacon (it was eaten before a photo could be taken) to add some salty piquancy in order to counteract the richness of the dish.. 

years ago when i was living in a small town in the north of greece i made bread a few times..the elderly woman from whom we rented our house noted my interest and told me about a method of making yeast from basil, water and flour..however, according to her it had to be basil blessed by the priest..she brought me a sprig from the church the following sunday after our discussion and i duly made a flour and water paste with the basil pressed into the top and left it in a warm place to do its thing as she had did do its thing and i made bread with the 'mother', each time, keeping a small amount to use for the next loaf..i couldn't help questioning (well, i could, but i didn't want to) the blessed basil and i made a perfectly adequate starter from unblessed basil much to her chagrin..(on her instruction i also made a starter with chick peas which was very pungent) i wanted to bring original 'mother' back with me to australia when i returned a few years later but unfortunately i knew customs would not let her in the country so she had to stay in greece.. 

sourdough loaf with 'mother' discards
the green in middle is an artifact of the photography

since then i have been wanting to experiment again with sourdough bread making but it is only recently after some blog inspiration that i did a bit of research and used this recipe to make a sourdough starter..on day 4 the recipe calls for half of the mixture to be thrown away each day when the starter is fed..i'm not too good with waste so i put each days 'mother' discards in another bowl and hung onto was quite active looking yesterday so i decided to make bread with be on the safe side i added a half packet of yeast as well..i used cold water for a slower rise and i did less kneading than usual..i used to knead my bread a lot on the premise that the more kneading the better..however, i have since read that this over works the gluten and results in a softer loaf..that's ok sometimes but i've been after a chewier loaf with a didn't look very perky when it went into the oven but as you can see from the above photo it rose quite well and the crumb has a nice density and moistness and the crust is chewy with hints of crispness here and there..just how i wanted it..  

apologies for the variation  in text..i was unable to remedy it..jane   



  1. I've found the same result when using sweet potato and pumpkin in gnocchi over regular potatoes. For some reason they just end up heavy :(

  2. I love the idea of only blessed basil working to get the starter going. How wonderful to have spent all that time living in Greece.

  3. Welcome to blogland, Jane! Look forward to reading about you and Hazel!

  4. What a beautiful loaf, Jane! I loved the blessed basil starter story as well.. :)


  5. Thanks for the mention Jane, I've just been catching up with your blog. I love the photos and the story of the blessed basil starter. That's a great loaf! Can't wait to see what you bake next :)