Tesco’s is open again, taxis are touting for business and, apart from the police officers on every street, life in my little bit of London seems to be calming down. I never thought I’d say this but I was glad to see that supermarket’s familiar blue and red sign lit up. The ability to walk into a shop, late in the evening, without being threatened by a baseball bat is something that I have always taken for granted in London. Only in Baltimore in the US have I ever found shopping a threatening or dispiriting experience; when the goods and the assistant are behind bars, browsing seems a bit de trop. But then we all know what happened to Omar.
Restoration of a sense of calm meant that I came home after dark and then couldn’t face cooking. So I fell back on the contents of the fridge which, thanks to the almost-curfew of Tuesday night, meant some slices of homemade spelt bread, some olive oil and a handful of plum tomatoes. Since I have been writing this I have learnt that my eating and cooking style is almost always far removed from the meat and two veg cliché; I like one main dish, veggie or carnivorous, with either bread or salad/veg to go with it. And good bread makes all the difference to this style of eating; habas con jamon or roasted aubergines are not the same with floppy sliced. So why not make your own?
Ah, you cry, but doesn’t making your own bread requires tons of time, equipment and special ingredients. Not if you make this. Granted, you’ll need spelt flour (but many major supermarkets stock it) and a bit of planning but the bread itself can be cooked in less time than it takes to nick a TV. And it’s a lot better for the digestion. It keeps well for a day or two but not much longer than that; it will be a bit impossible to cut once it dries out, capable of smashing a window or two and your teeth.
Three-minute spelt bread [adapted from Rose Prince’s The New English Table]
For one loaf you will need
Cupboard (or things you may or, in the case of the water, hopefully already have):
¾ tsp sea salt (the recipe states ½ but I bumped it up after my first attempt because I felt it needed more; you might want to play with this amount to suit your taste)
500ml warm water
500g spelt flour
10g fast-action dried yeast
165g mixed seeds (e.g. sunflower, sesame, brown linseed, pumpkin)
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan-assisted/gas 6 and grease a 900g loaf tin.
2. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
3. Add the water, mix into a dough and put into the tin.
4. Bake for one hour. Rose says bake it until it ‘has risen, lifts out of the tin easily and sounds hollow when tapped underneath.’ But, as ever, ovens vary and so do opinions. My loaf was done after about 55 mins and I think it would have been better cooked at a slightly lower temperature because the crust was perfect but it was a little underdone inside. I’m going to try it at 180°C/160°C fan-assisted for the same length of time and see if that improves it.