How to make a Sourdough Starter

There was never a better time to get started on your sourdough adventures. As we are forced into taking it slow by a tiny micro-organism, we can cultivate our own community of beneficial micro-organisms to bake delicious breads and ponder upon what might have been in a world more mindful of how we ate and lived.

Most of you have probably been following my sourdough journey for the last couple of years. But this is the second round. I made my first sourdough starter in 2010. I was way ahead of the trend and it was a lonely journey that ended as might be expected. After a year of maintaining it, it was laid to rest in a final batch of pancakes. That’s what happens when you forget to name your starter and think of it as a pet. Do give this a thought and think of an appropriate name for this new pet that you are going to soon have.

Sourdough is dough that has been allowed to ferment or go sour. Wild yeast are floating all around us. They are on everything, fruits, grains, and vegetables, on every surface except highly processed foods. Given suitable conditions they start growing and dividing, a process we know as fermentation. To make your own starter from scratch all you need to do is harness this process in a medium of your choice – a mix of flour and water.

A good starter is the foundation of good bread. Other than to bake bread it can replace commercial yeast in any recipe. My starter Frothy is almost 4 years old. Over this time she has developed into a lively dependable starter that gives me consistently great bread.

Here is my method updated to include all that I have learned through maintaining it for over three years. You do not need a kitchen scale to get your starter going but invest in one if you want to replace yeast in your other bakes with sourdough.

Making your own sourdough starter from scratch

You will need the following:

500-750ml capacity wide mouth glass jar with lid
whole wheat flour (atta)
filtered water
a tsp of gud (jaggery), preferably organic (optional)
a cup, to measure flour
a spoon to mix Continue reading “How to make a Sourdough Starter”

DIY Natural Laundry Cleaner

DIY Natural Laundry Cleaner

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I took my first step a long time ago. But the thing with taking such a step is that you may very well decide to walk the distance. I’m now coming a full circle. After decades of discarding indigenous methods as old-school I’m gradually returning to them in an effort to reduce my environmental footprint.

We were quick to adopt the convenience of industrial cleaners – soaps and detergents, shampoos and kitchen cleaners. The herbal cleaners fell by the side as we were convinced about the superior cleaning abilities of chemicals. All of these were marketed subtly to us as progress. We progressed to using the blue Vim detergent bar instead of that crude yellow cube of 555 (panch-sau-pachpan, remember?) which, by the way, continues to be manufactured and sold. You have to marvel at the incredible dichotomy that is our country. We then took the next logical step to foaming detergent powders. And then we got ourselves washing machines. Some of us with fancier machines now needed special low-foaming detergents which are more expensive. Machines that require these low-foaming detergents cost more; those who can afford to buy expensive machines might as well pay more for the detergent. Because they can. The burden of reducing the environmental footprint ought squarely to be on those of us who (can afford to) consume more.

Herbal ingredients on sale at the Street Market, Golf Course, NOIDA

Continue reading “DIY Natural Laundry Cleaner”

Waste Matters – A Guide to Home Composting

It’s time to shed light on one of the 3 Rs I mentioned in the About section of this blog all those years ago. We have only one planet to live on and it is drowning in our waste. I carried this guilt around with me for a long time before I finally took the matter in my hands almost four years ago. I now convert all my kitchen and garden waste into nutritive compost which I get to use in my rooftop kitchen garden.

This post is about how little effort it takes to compost at home.

At the outset let me tell you that it is an additional chore. It’s not difficult but it does require changing how you deal with your waste and also 10 minutes of your time everyday, plus a little additional every few weeks. The kind of effort it will need depends on the amount of space you have. The more the space constraint the more you have to take care to make sure the waste is at an optimum moisture content to decompose quickly without the nuisance of stink or flies.

If you have a large backyard or kitchen garden then it is almost no work. As long as I can remember my father has maintained a compost pit as part of his kitchen garden where he simply dumps all the garden waste including fallen leaves. My mum brings out the wet waste from the kitchen soon after she has prepped for a meal and it joins the browns from the garden in the same dump. Once a year, usually around autumn just before Delhi’s main planting season, my father will turn the pit out, mix everything and have a pile of compost. Now he has a square one with brick walls on four sides that rise a foot above the ground. Its unlined bottom is a foot below the garden level. They live in a small house on a 600 square yard plot in which there is more garden than there is house. If you have the space you could make two smaller pits and use them alternately.

But if, like me, you live on a smaller plot of land with a house that occupies most of the ground, then the tiered system is more suited to you. It necessitates slightly more work than the almost-do-nothing approach above. Continue reading “Waste Matters – A Guide to Home Composting”