Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sourdough - A Class With Virtuous Bread (and some Pea & Ham Soup)

Sourdough bread is something I had been meaning to have a go at making for some time.... and another thing I had never got rough to doing.

It involves nurturing and feeding your own live yeast in order to make bread. Sounds rather daunting, but in reality it's not such a big deal.

Victoria and I took a day class last weekend with Rosie of Virtuous Bread in Norfolk. It was a relaxed day of fun and sticky doughs and stinky yeast starters ! Bit bonkers I suppose since I've been eating very little bread of late, but I booked the course some time ago and there is nothing to stop me making bread (even if I rarely eat it at the moment).

We made the 100% rye loaves above, a wholemeal and white loaf and the rye crackerbreads below.

Of all, the rye cracker breads were my favourite. The wholemeal and white loaf was a bit too sour for my palate. Then again, I'd never even tried sourdough before attending the class and I think it is a bit of an acquired taste.

The starter that Rosie (above) uses is a gloop of fermented rye flour and water. I believe it dates back to 1857 ! She is having it lab tested at the moment to try and trace back more details of time and place it first began. The results will be interesting....

Victoria, weighing out 50g balls of rye dough to make large crackers

A small amount of the starter is used and needs fed prior to baking with more flour and water and is then left for about 12 hours to get bubbly and gassy. I've actually been doing some considerable playing with mine over the past week... feeding twice daily with wholemeal flour, water and a teaspoon of lemon juice. The lemon is because we are in a very hard water area, so the lemon reduces the ph and helps get my starter more active.

I've found that by feeding it with double the amount of wholemeal flour and water, letting it mature then discarding all but 1/4 of a cup and feeding again just prior to use, makes for a less sour taste.

I've been eating a lot of soup at the moment as an evening meal. A pot tends to go a long way as my husband is not that fussed on soup - so it can be the same soup for 5 days in a row if I make a big batch. This is rarely a problem with a good pea and ham soup as it's so delicious I never get bored with it !

I make this in an electric pressure cooker as it's so quick and minimal fuss. You can obviously make it in a pot on the hob - or even in a slow cooker if you want to - and just adjust the cooking times.


1 smoked ham hock
1 large onion (peeled and quartered)
2 or 3 bay leaves
2 sticks of celery
5 vegetable stock cubes
500g dried, split green peas

Rinse the dried green peas thoroughly and then soak overnight in some cold water.

Put the smoked ham hock in a pressure cooker with the bay leaves, celery and onion. Cover with water and bring to pressure for approx 35mins. Alternatively, simmer in a pot with a tight fitting lid (or put in a slow cooker) until the meat is soft and falling apart.

Remove the ham hock from the water (now ham stock). Strip off and discard the skin and fat. Separate off the meat and set aside.

Put the soaked peas into the pressure cooker with the vegetable stock cubes and ham stock with onions and celery. Top up with water until you have a total of approx 3 litres.

Bring back to pressure for approx 15 mins (or cook until the peas are literally mush). Blitz with a hand blender and serve with some of the shredded ham hock meat on top. I additionally had one of the rye crackers we made at class alongside this. Very filling and yummy !

Sarah-Jane Nash, October 2011 -


  1. Your breads look fabulous!!! The wholemeal looks amazing...but any of them would pair perfectly with soup~

  2. That's some good looking bread! It sounds like you had a fun day. Your soup looks delicious and the bread had to be great with it.

  3. Everything looks delicious, but I have to say the crackers look amazing! Those would be the ones I'd reach for!

  4. Those crackers looks good and crispy Sarah....Looks like you had fun :) Always fun to be with the girls :P and make bread.

  5. Hi, I've just heard there's a new way to make a pizza with a sourdough crust. You know, that's the part on the bottom. I love the sourdough taste and think it's a great idea but I've looked through half of Kentucky for a Pizza Hut that makes one or even knows how.
    Has anyone out there found one? Let me know?

  6. Not something I've done - but I imagine you can use regular sourdough dough. I need to get my starter out the fridge one of these days and wake it up. Must be 8 weeks since I last made sourdough. Time is scare atm.

  7. Rach86 - CONFIRMED. I'll shove some photos on the blog for you in a new post...


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