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pumpkin wat

I first had injera at an Ethiopian restaurant in Coffs Harbour, lovely spongy sourdough crepes that are the perfect soaker-upper for spicy stews and curries.  But a little internet research discovered they are made with “teff”, or Ethiopian gluten free flour made from a little grain the size of a poppy seed, and being as how I live near a little country town with an African population you can count on your fingers, the idea of trying to make them disappeared for a while.

Then on a run-out-of-eggs day with mushrooms and cream in the fridge and the idea of mushroom crepes that wouldn’t let go, I decided to have a go at making eggless crepes with sourdough culture, and they turned out pretty much exactly as I remembered injera.

So these very inauthentic teff-less injera have become somewhat of a staple in our house, preferred to chapati for going with curry, preferred to flatbread for going with tagines, preferred to crepes for going with creamy garlic mushrooms.  And all the better because, if you have sourdough starter, they are practically instant.

The pumpkin stew is slightly more authentic but not much. It’s a surprisingly sweet spicy stew that makes a meal that is mostly pumpkin and still desirable, even this close to the end of a long haul pumpkin season.

The Pumpkin Stew:

Makes four serves.  It looks like a lot of ingredients, but like most spice mixes, they are just a sprinkle of this and a dash of that, and everyone no doubt has their own version so if you don’t have an ingredient, you are probably just making a different version.

Pu a heavy pan or pot with a lid on a medium-low heat.   Add a large onion finely diced, then, in more or less this order, stirring as you go and keeping it all moving enough so the seeds pop but don’t burn:

  • ½ teaspoon  cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds (not the pods, just the seeds)
  • Small thumb of ginger, grated (or a scant teaspoon powder)
  • Small thumb of turmeric, grated (or a scant teaspoon powder)
  • Chili – more or less depending on how hot your chilis and how hot your taste.  I use a teaspoon of dried bishops crown chilis.
  • 3 scant teaspoons paprika
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch cloves
  • grinding of black pepper and some salt
  • 4 heaped cups of pumpkin, chopped into 3 cm pieces
  • a jar of tomato passata
  • a bit of water, depending on how thick your passata is, just enough to give a nice stew consistency.

Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for about half an hour till the pumpkin is very soft but not disintegrating. Taste and add salt to taste. Sprinkle with fresh coriander.

Meanwhile, make the injera.


My inauthentic injera are just fed sourdough starter, cooked as crepes.  So you need to start ahead by feeding your sourdough starter and keeping it in a warm spot for four or five hours, or overnight, till it is bubbly.  Add a little water if you need to to get a thin crepe batter.

Wipe a large, flat pan with oil and put it on a medium slow heat.

Add a ladle of batter and use the back of the ladle to spread it thin.  Put a lid on the pan and cook slowly till the batter is set but not browning.  You generally only cook injera on one side so it should be set all the way through.  You may need to flip it onto a plate.  They should end up soft and spongy and tender.

Serve under or alongside the pumpkin stew, or any kind of curry or stew really, and break off bits to scoop with.


pumpkin sourdough scrolls

The macadamias are just getting cured enough to start using now, and the pumpkin stack on the verandah shows no signs of going down. This recipe makes 10.  That many is easy to make and they are at their best fresh.  And they are a bit too good.  If you make more everyone will just eat them, and unless you have a big household you really can’t call 20 in a day Witches Kitchen healthy.  Can you now.

The Recipe:

The pumpkin brioche:

It starts with a cup of fed, frothy sourdough starter, so I start the night before by feeding the sourdough culture with a cup of 50/50 by volume bakers flour and water. Then I leave a cup of the fed starter in a mixing bowl with a clean cloth over the top on the kitchen bench overnight.

To the frothy starter, blend together and add:

  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • a dessertspoon of soft butter
  • a dessertspoon of brown sugar
  • a scant teaspoon salt

(I like roast pumpkin better for puree because it is a little bit drier and more intense, but it isn’t worth putting the oven on for just that.  I put a tray in with the dinner the night before, but you could also use steamed pumpkin).

Then add enough baker’s flour to make a sticky dough – around 2 cups but it will vary depending on the pumpkin and the size of your egg and how generous you are with the butter.  Let that sit for half an hour or so, then scrape it out onto a floured benchtop, sprinkle flour on top, and knead briefly.  You will find that half an hour makes a big difference – the dough will still be soft but more springy than sticky and you should be able to knead it into a smooth ball.

Oil a large bowl with melted butter or a nice, mild flavoured oil like macadamia oil.  Swirl the dough ball around in it to coat, cover the bowl with a clean cloth, and leave out on the benchtop to prove. If the day is warm this should take around 6 hours but sourdough has its own temperament.

The macadamia filling:

Blend together

  • ½ cup macadamias
  • 1 egg
  • 1 dessertspoon butter
  • 1 desserspoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

My stick blender will handle macadamias, but you could also just use a mortar and pestle.  You want it the texture of crunchy peanut butter.


On a well floured benchtop, knead the pumpkin dough briefly then roll it out into a rectangle 1 cm thick , 40 cm long and about 25 cm wide.

Spread thinly with the filling leaving 2 cm at the end for sealing the scrolls.

Starting from the short side, roll up the 40 cm to form a log. Wet the end and press to stick.

Cut into 2.5 cm thick slices, and arrange the slices in an oiled baking tin so they are just touching.

Leave to prove for another couple of hours till the scrolls are about double in height.

Bake in a moderate oven for around half an hour till they are just browning and sound a bit hollow when tapped.


oat bread

We’ve been away for a week visiting our daughter and grandson. Such fun being a grandma!

And I took my sourdough culture with me, and fed it and experimented a bit with Ethiopian flatbread (ingera) (more on that in another post), but for the first time in many years now, we bought bread.

And it struck me that, for several years now through busy times and camping holidays and all the inevitable ordinary routine-breakers of life, baking our own bread has made the cut – something worth doing even when time is the most precious commodity going and a zillion other things are barking for attention. Which is a bit intriguing. Bread baking has the image of being something only hardcore homesteaders do routinely. Yet, while the housework is undone and the pile of washing grows, while my poor garden is sometimes sadly neglected and any resolution to do daily yoga has no hope, the bread gets baked.

Maybe I’m lucky to have a really reliable and resilient sourdough culture, but for me it’s a happy nexus of two things: baking sourdough is a whole heap cheaper and easier than any other option, and baking sourdough gives me bread that is  so much tastier and feels so much healthier than any other option.

I have a nice little routine going. Two or three nights a week I take the sourdough culture out of the fridge and feed it. It takes just a minute or so to mix one and a half cups of baker’s flour with one and a half cups of water, mix in the sourdough culture, put half back in the fridge for next time and leave half in a bowl on the kitchen bench, covered with a clean tea towel, for the night.

I use unbleached white baker’s flour for this, because my experience has been that if I feed the sourdough bugs a nice high gluten flour at this point, I can add almost anything else I like and it works. In the morning I have a frothy bowl full of active starter, and I can get creative.

Sometimes I add a porridge of cooked grains – barley, millet, quinoa, oat groats. Sometimes I add dried fruit and nuts. Sometimes I add raw rolled oats, bran and ground linseeds (flax seeds). Sometimes I add rye flour, caraway seeds and a bit of cocoa powder. Sometimes I add grated pumpkin and pepitas. Sometimes I add olives and thyme. Sometimes I add a beaten egg and some yoghurt.

Always a good teaspoon of salt and enough more baker’s flour to make a kneadable dough. Sometimes it turns out memorably wonderful and becomes a favourite. Sometimes not so much. But always it seems to turn out edible.

There’s a feel to kneading bread, and it’s hard to describe. I knead only for a couple of minutes, never the ten minutes in some of the old recipes. Just until the dough is smooth and elastic and has lost its stickiness. I have learned to regard the kneading as my regular “Nana arms” avoidance exercise. If I don’t even have time to do that, I’ve learned I can get away with a very sticky dough and a single rise to make a ciabatta type bread.

Normally though, I leave the dough on the kitchen bench in an oiled bowl covered with the tea towel again, and rush off into my day. By the time I arrive home the dough has always doubled in size. This is the only weak spot in the routine. I need to pick the days when I will be home before about 6 pm, because the bread needs to be “punched down”, or very briefly kneaded again, then put into it’s baking tin with it’s top slashed to allow rising, and left to rise again for an hour or so before baking. And I turn into a pumpkin around 8 pm.

But if I get the dough doing it’s second rise by 6 pm, and I can keep it a bit warm, by 7 pm it is ready to bake. Sometimes I bake flatbreads, rolling it out rather than putting it in a tin after the punching down. Sometimes I put a tray of boiling water in the bottom of the oven to create a bit of steam. Sometimes I bake in the mellow oven of the slow combustion stove. Sometimes I put the loaf in a cold George Foreman electric oven. If it has sweetener or dried fruit in it I need to take care to keep the temperature low enough not to burn it. Usually it takes around 40 minutes for a smallish loaf to bake until the crust is golden and it sounds hollow.  If I know I won’t be home in time, I just put a fairly wet dough in a rough loaf shape on a tray in the morning and bake a ciabatta style loaf in the evening after a single rise. And none of the bread we ate while away came close to even that last resort option.

We got home last night, and first thing was to feed the starter.


fig and rosemary schiacciata

I’m still on a fig roll.  Figs are in season in the southern hemisphere, and our trees all have a decent crop this year.  I made a baked fig rice pudding for a barbeque last night, but it was only ok.  I think maybe rice pudding really needs no eggs and to be served in a bowl rather than sliced.

This fig and rosemary schiacciata (or focaccia? I’m not sure of the difference) though was recipe-writing worthy.   It starts with a sourdough and a rosemary infused honey oil, for which you need almost no time for making but at least 10 hours or so for proving. So this is a magnificent weekend brunch that fits with a lazy Sunday morning, but you need to remember to start it the night before.

Step 1:

The Rosemary Oil

  • Roughly chop a good handful of fresh rosemary.  Put it in a small pot and just cover with olive oil.  Add a good teaspoon of honey and a pinch of salt.
  • Heat the oil till it just starts to bubble, then turn it off and let the pot sit, so that the rosemary infuses the warm oil

The Sourdough

  • Take the sourdough starter out of the fridge.
  • Mix 1  cup of unbleached bakers flour, 1  cup of water, and 1 cup of starter.
  • Put half of it back in the fridge.  You should be left with 1 cup of fed starter, to put in a bowl covered with a clean cloth on the kitchen bench for a few hours  (depending on how lively your starter is and how warm your kitchen) to froth up and get breeding.

Stage 2:

  • Mix in 1 cup of baker’s flour, a little dollop of olive oil (perhaps a tablespoonful), and half a teaspoon of salt. It will be more like a sticky batter than a dough.  Let that sit for half an hour or so and miraculously it will lose a lot of the stickiness.
  • Flour the benchtop well, and tip the mix out onto it.  Sprinkle flour on top.  Knead it briefly,  kneading in just enough more flour to get a ball of soft, springy dough.  To get the open, chewy crumb you want to keep the dough as “hydrated” (as in, wet) as you can. Put a good dollop of  olive oil in a large bowl, swirl the dough ball around in it to coat, cover the bowl with a clean cloth, and leave out on the benchtop for another few hours (or overnight) to prove. It should double in size.

Stage 3:

  • Turn your oven on to heat up to medium hot.
  • Oil a shallow baking pan.  Mine is an oblong pan 30 cm long.  Tip the dough out onto a floured bench, knock it down, and pat and stretch it into a shape that fits the pan, then transfer it in.
  • Slice half a dozen large figs into 1.5 cm slices and arrange over the top.
  • Strain the rosemary honey oil and sprinkle it over the top of the figs and the crust.
  • Bake for around 40 minutes until the crust is browning and the figs are caramelised.

For a spectacular taste sensation, slice off warm chunks and spread with goat’s cheese.


sourdough crackers

This post is a bit late isn’t it.  The party season is over and we’re now into lazy and carefree.  Oh well.  Parties will come round again.

Someone asked me not long ago if I make sourdough crackers.  They are so easy they are scarcely a recipe at all. Just sourdough starter, wholemeal flour, oil, salt, and perhaps some sesame or poppy seeds.

Ok, I’ll try to be a bit more specific. Because it is really worth making your own, and avoiding all those nasty transfats, as well as the ridiculous amount of packaging.

The Recipe:

Like my Seedy Sourdough Crispbread, it starts just like regular sourdough, except I make a smaller batch of starter:

Step 1:

  • Take the sourdough starter out of the fridge.
  • Mix 1  cup of unbleached bakers flour, 1  cup of water, and 1 cup of starter.  (I use my tank water, which has no chlorine or additives in it).
  • Put half of it back in the fridge.  You should be left with 1 cup of fed starter, to put in a bowl covered with a clean cloth on the kitchen bench for about 8 hours (overnight or for the day). It should end up frothy, like the picture.

Stage 2:

  • Mix in 1 cup of wholemeal flour, a little dollop of olive oil (perhaps a tablespoonful), and half a teaspoon of salt.
  • You can add sesame seeds or poppy seeds too if you like.  With this batch, I mistook mustard seeds for poppy seeds, and surprisingly, the crackers are ok.  Though I think I’ll go back to poppy seeds next time.
  • Flour the benchtop well,  tip the mix out onto it, and knead in enough more flour to get a ball of soft, springy dough. Put a good dollop of  olive oil in a large bowl, swirl the dough ball around in it to coat, cover the bowl with a clean cloth, and leave out on the benchtop for another 8 hours or so to prove. It should double in size, but with crackers there is a lot of leniency.

Stage 3:

  • Lightly oil three biscuit trays.
  • Tip the dough out on the benchtop,  knead very briefly, and divide up into three balls – two large and one small.
  • Flour the bench well and, with a floured rolling pin, roll the first ball out to very thin – 5 mm or so – basically as thin as you can get it.  Carefully transfer to the oiled biscuit tray and trim to fit.  Prick all over with a fork and cut into triangles.
  • Do the same with the second ball. Add the trimmings to the third (smaller) ball, knead again and do the same with it.
  • Leave on the benchtop, covered with a clean tea towel, for a couple of hours.

Stage 4:

  • The crackers will have puffed up slightly.  Bake in a slow oven for about 40 minutes, till they are firm and just colouring. Don’t take them too far – they will crispen up more as they cool.  Cool on a cake rack and store in an airtight jar.


Teo is eleven months old and everything gets the test: bite it, bang it, throw it.   First time I made these I made just a little batch thinking little baby, couple a day…

Two problems with this idea.  One is that, although he loves them,  most of Teo’s get thrown to the ducks or lost under the couch or used as a drumstick on the stereo speakers.  He has ultimate confidence in the infinite supply-line of grandma.  Two is that adults keep raiding the rusk jar.  I’m not admitting anything, but they do go rather well dipped in guacamole.

The Recipe:

Start the night before with feeding your sourdough starter:

To feed the starter, I take mine out of the fridge the night before, and mix

  • 1 cup of unbleached bakers flour,
  • 1 cup of water, and
  • 1 cup of starter.

Put half of it back in the jar in the fridge.  I am left with a bit over a cup of fed starter, to put in a bowl covered with a clean cloth on the kitchen bench for the night. By morning it should be frothy and alive looking.

In the morning:


  • The  fed sourdough starter
  • Enough wholemeal plain flour to make a bread dough (about a cup)
  • big pinch of salt

Mix to make a soft dough and knead very briefly, just enough to make a smooth ball. It’s hard to give exact instructions to this but it’s actually very easy to recognise a good dough by feel.  I add the flour slowly, stirring it in with a spatula, then as soon as I have something dough-like, I scrape it out onto a floured benchtop, sprinkle some flour on top and knead, adding just enough more flour to get rid of the stickiness.

Put a glug of oil in a bowl and swish the dough ball round in it to coat. I like using macadamia oil for this.  It has a mild sweet nutty flavour and good monounsaturated fats, and you don’t use a lot of it so it’s not too expensive. Leave  the dough sitting, covered with a clean tea towel, for five or six hours to rise.  How long will depend on how vigorous your starter is and how warm the day is but after a few hours, the dough will be doubled in size and springy.

Shape and bake

Flour your bench-top, tip the dough out and knead it again, just for a couple of minutes to knock it down.

Oil three or four biscuit trays.  Break off walnut sized pieces of dough and roll them between your hands into little logs.  They will expand a bit so make them a bit thinner than baby hand sized. Lay them on the trays and cover with the tea towel again and allow to prove for an hour or so.

Put them in a cold oven set to a moderately slow temperature – about 170ºC or 340°F or gas mark 3, or put them down low in an oven you have on for something else.  My oven is antique and slow at the best of times, but the idea is to cook them for an hour or so at a low temperature till they are just getting a bit of straw colour but not browned, and crisp through without being crunchy. Slow baking is the key.

If they are dry and crisp all the way through, they should store in a jar for several weeks.

I think.


Can’t say we’ve tried it.


banana sourdough bread

I make this the first time on holiday at the beach.  I had my sourdough starter with me (doesn’t everyone take their sourdough starter to the beach? Yes, he comes on holiday, mostly for pancakes but you never know). I’m not totally obsessed though – I had flour with me but none of my usual at-home stock of multigrains or spices or nuts. So it was overripe bananas, sourdough starter, flour and a little salt and that’s all.  And it was spectacularly good.

So of course, when I got home I had to try to go one better.  In the weeks since, I’ve tried adding kibble and adding nuts and adding cinnamon and nothing has come near that beach perfect banana-y but not overly sweet crusty and chewy bread, toasted with butter and nothing else.  Simple and divine. Overcomplication is the enemy of some recipes.

The Recipe:

It starts with a standard fed sourdough starter.  My usual method is to feed a cup and a half of starter with a mug of baker’s flour mixed with a mug of water.  A cup and a half of it put back in a container with a loosely fitting lid in the fridge, and the rest (about a cup and a half full) left in a bowl covered with a tea towel on the bench overnight or for a few hours.

With clean hands, into the starter, squoosh 4 big over-ripe bananas.  You want them well squooshed in but not blended.

Add a teaspoon of salt and enough baker’s flour to make a smooth, soft dough.  Knead briefly. Like all sourdoughs, there’s not much kneading involved, just lots of letting it take its own sweet time.

The dough is softer and moister than I am used to with my normal wholemeal or multigrain breads but it is still smooth and elastic like a good bread dough.

Put some mild flavoured  oil (I use macadamia oil) in a bowl, roll the dough round in it, then leave to sit  covered with a cloth, for the day or overnight.  It will more than double in size and be soft and spongy.  In warm weather at the beach it proved beautifully overnight but like all sourdough, it has its own temperament and in the cooler weather this week it took about 12 hours.

Flour the benchtop, knock the dough down and knead very briefly, then put it into an oiled tin.  It’s a bit soft to bake freeform – it does cook nicely but it’s a wide flat loaf and I liked it better with a bit of height to the loaf.  Slash the top of the loaf and let it prove again for one and a half to two hours – again it depends on the weather and the temperament of your starter.  It will double in size again.

Bake in a medium oven for around 40 to 50 minutes, till the top is nicely browned and it sounds hollow when tapped.  Take it out of the tin and put it back in the oven for 5 minutes to get a bit of crustiness to the bottom.

We ate it warm straight out of the oven, or toasted in thick slabs for breakfast.  But it would probably go really well as a sandwich too, I’m imagining it with chocolate nut spread or honey and peanut butter.



nut and see sourdough

My 11 Grain Sourdough is still my daily bread. I make a small loaf a couple of times a week.  It tastes wonderful, and it’s super healthy with lots of low GI complex whole grains.  But most weeks I do something else as well just for variety.  Sourdough Pita and Seedy Sourdough Crispbread are very regular, Sourdough Naan Bread fairly common.  And this latest one has been a regular regular lately, and will likely stay regular till the macadamia season is over.   Macas, besides tasting wonderful, are really good for heart health,   – there’s some very good science that just a handful of nuts a day makes a huge difference. But mostly, it’s just because it’s so decadently delicious!

The Recipe:

The recipe makes a small loaf, which is all I usually make at once.  You only need very thin slices – it’s so rich – so it goes a long way.

First the starter, taken out of the fridge before I go to bed and fed with a mug of baker’s flour mixed with a mug of water.  A cup and a half of it put back in a container with a loosely fitting lid in the fridge.  The rest (about a cup and a half full) left in a bowl covered with a tea towel on the bench overnight.

In the morning I add a couple of handfuls of roughly chopped macadamia kernels, and a handful each of whole pepitas, sunflower seeds, black sesame seeds, and crushed linseeds, and a couple of spoonfuls of poppy seeds.

Stir this lot in, along with a teaspoon of sea salt, and enough unbleached baker’s flour (high gluten flour) to make a smooth dough.

Put a slurp of oil in a bowl, roll the dough round in it, then leave to sit on the kitchen bench, covered with a cloth, for the day.  I can get macadamia oil in bulk from my local wholefoods store, so that’s the oil I use for this.

By the afternoon, the dough has doubled in size. I lightly flour the bench top and give it a very quick knead, put it into an oiled bread tin, and slash the top.

About an hour and a half to two hours later in this warm weather it is ready to bake.  It goes in a cold oven set to medium hot, and takes around an hour to bake so it sounds hollow when knocked and has a nice brown crust on top.

It’s good fresh or toasted, with sweet or savory topping – but I have to say my favourite is toasted till the macas have just a bit of colour, and spread with local honey.



avocado lime and coriander dip

My glut crop at the moment is coriander.  In a few weeks time it will all go to seed.  Babies planted now will hardly leaf up before running to seed.  So now’s the time to make the most of it.  If you click “coriander” in the list in the right margin, you’ll find that I seem to have quite a few recipes with it.  It’s one of those flavours you either love or hat.  In one of those serendipities so common with food, avocado, limes and coriander are all in season together.

The dip is really simple – just avocado blended with lots of coriander leaf (more than you would think) and lime juice and salt to taste (not too much of either).

The chips though are a really good invention.  They don’t have much oil in them, and you can use monounsaturated olive oil and avoid the horrible transfats in bought chips.

Baked Sourdough Corn Chips

Mix equal amounts of sourdough starter with dry polenta.

Let it sit for half an hour or more for the polenta to fully soak.  Then add:

  • A good pinch of salt
  • A handful of grated parmesan
  • A few spoonfuls of olive oil
  • Enough bakers’ flour to make a soft dough (it won’t need much).

Knead briefly, then cover with a clean cloth and let it sit for a few hours for the sourdough to develop.

Flour the benchtop and a rolling pin and roll the dough out very thin.  Place on an oiled biscuit tray and trim to fit, then score into triangles.

Bake for about 20 minutes in a medium hot oven till the chips are just golden.  Watch carefully at the end because they burn fast.

They will keep for a while in an airtight jar.