Dissecting Los Angeles

Cities fascinate me – from being a very small child the bustle, noise and culture clash of a big city has been intoxicating, and it’s a buzz that is as addictive now as it’s ever been. I’ve never more happy than when I’m exploring a city – and Los Angeles is a world city I just can’t get enough of, so it was with great interest that I noticed a book by – former book critic of the LA Times – the great: David Ulin.

His book, Sidewalking Coming to terms with Los Angeles is a series of essays about how walking the famously pedestrian resistant LA has given him a new understanding of it’s history, it’s culture and it’s exciting developing history.

Now I will say straight out, if you’re expecting a guide book, you’re going to be disappointed, this is not a guide; it’s a dissection of how cities work, live and breathe using LA as the model: and how you can only learn the rhythms of a city on foot: an idea I’m all in favor of as a regular pedestrian explorer. If you love cities, Los Angeles, urban development issues and how histories are woven into the fabric of our built environment this will be a compelling read.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy you can purchase it from amazon here: Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles

Making a baker out of me

I love bread, it’s always been a comfort food and a daily essential for me. But despite being fairly confident in the kitchen – whether cooking or baking – I’ve never been confident about baking my own bread.

I think this has partly stemmed from the disappointment I’d feel if I put the time in to bake, and then didn’t get a result that was edible, and a lack of confidence in the technicalities – so many books and guides online jump straight into the deep end of kneading, proving and so on without explaining what they are, how you do them, or what they actually do.

So after collecting bread recipes and putting them in my forever ever pile of things I’d like to try for months I resolved to throw caution and flour into the wind and bake myself some bread. My long term ambition is to produce all the bread we eat myself, I’d like bread to be an event, rather than an (all to ready) snack – so I thought I’d try the simplest recipe first and work my way up, so I’m sharing with you today my no knead dutch oven loaf.


No Knead Bread

This bread just couldn’t be simpler: four ingredients mixed together with spoon which are then left, covered, for eighteen to twenty four hours in a warm place (I put mine in a microwave) to the yeast to do it’s thing.

Once your eighteen to twenty hours is up, it’s risen and you’re ready to bake pre-heat your oven and importantly your pot to four hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit, scoop up the dough into well floured hands and work it into a roughly smoothed ball on a well floured surface before adding to your pot with some additional flour on the base if you’re concerned it might stick.

Bake it for thirty minutes with the dutch oven’s lid on and an additional fifteen to twenty with the lid off to allow the crust to become golden.

Once baked the bread should come out of your pot without any trouble, but if you want to check you can rap your knuckles on the bottom of the loaf, if it sounds hollow, it’s done – if not return it for another five minutes – I’ve never found it takes any longer than 45 minutes, but ovens do vary – and importantly always be sure to let the loaf cool completely before you’re tempted to slice it.

I’ve tried this with white and wholemeal flour, both tasted lovely – the only differences I could see and taste were that the wholemeal flour gave a denser loaf, while the white flour rose slightly more and as a result had an airier texture.

Ingredients: 

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cups water room temperature

Photo Credit: Neil A. Evans © 2018
Photo Location: At Home, Bankside, London, England.

Hope

So the world changed while I was taking a sabbatical from writing; populism with undertones of proto-fascism has swept across the western world; fed by foreign actors and fake news – fueled by an ever increasing disparity between rich and poor, the informed and uninformed, and the feeling that there is an unassailable rift between generations.

Trump, Brexit, the GOP, Theresa, Mogg, UKIP, Putin, Farage, Banks, Assange… I have only one thing to say about them – Damn them all. 

I don’t intend to spend any time writing about them – my view is, that the damage has been done, I can’t begin to articulate the level of stress – I know I don’t need to – if you’re reading this I know you’ll understand the lost nights, the illnesses, the depression, the black cloud that’s hung over society like a funeral pall: rehashing the failures of these politicians doesn’t help: all we can do is move forward.

What matters now are new beginnings and allowing my generation to change the world for good: fixing our political system, healing our environment and making our society a fairer, kinder place.

So I intend to write about change, personal change, societal change, environmental change. I intend to write about hope.

Photo Credit: Neil A. Evans © 2018
Photo Location: Romney Marsh, Dungeness, Kent, England.
50°55’01.2″N 0°58’37.8″E