On 7th August, I went to the first day of the Foodies Festival in Inverleith Park.
If you haven’t been, you should: it was a fantastic day out “celebrating its 10th anniversary in Edinburgh with a three-day showcase of Scotland’s finest culinary talents and regional produce”. (To be clear upfront, my free ticket was provided by Lanyard Media, but I got no instructions from them what to say or what to blog about.)
Edinburgh is full of festivals, but I unashamedly love this one: so much good food and drink to celebrate and share.
One of the free lectures for Friday was on urban beekeeping, by Brian Pool, a third-generation professional beekeeper, who teaches beekeeping at the Secret Herb Garden and is Beekeeper in Residence at Edinburgh Zoo (where they’re having a Bee Festival on 29th August, free to anyone who visits the Zoo that day).
I learned that the British black honey-bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) is more aggressive and more inclined to sting if provoked than the mellower Italian honey-bee (Apis mellifera ligustica) which Brian Pool attributes to the Italian bee expecting to find honey all year round, breeding to huge numbers within the hive and therefore needing to be fed by the beekeeper: whereas British bees (“hardier and have smaller populations going into winter, so they need less food to survive, and they also have fewer mouths to feed during a cold spring snap” says Terry Clare, president of the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders’ Association) are better at saving honey for a rainy day.
I have no idea if this’ll work. It could be very embarrassing.
I got the idea when wondering what to do with a packet of buckwheat flakes almost at the expiry date. I’d made a lovely carrot-and-leek soup earlier in the week and still had a boxful of grated carrot in the fridge. Well, I thought: it should work: and if it doesn’t, what’s to lose?
I make bread using a sourdough starter which I’ve been keeping going for 10 years. The original starter kit came from San Francisco, so I named it Armistead. If you don’t use sourdough, you should substitute a heaping teaspoon of dried yeast for this recipe, made up in a pint of warm liquid. You can add the honey at the yeast-mixing stage
When I bake I use American-style measuring cups, because they allow me to add ingredients by bulk rather than by weight, which is more convenient and also in many ways better for baking.
Two cups of buckwheat flakes
Two cups of grated carrot
Two cups of strong wholemeal flour
Half a cup of ricotta
A tablespoon of honey
A cup of Armistead
Salt to taste
I mixed together the flakes, flour, and Armistead, with a little salt, and some hot water (mix boiling water out of the kettle with cold water out of the tap until it’s just hot enough you can bear to put your hand in it: if it’ll scald you it’ll kill the yeast). I was looking to make a very soft wet dough. Then I kneaded in the ricotta and the grated carrot and added a tablespoon of acacia honey (a very light sweet honey). The dough did not take much kneading at all. When it was a coherent lump in the bowl, I shaped it, oiled it (I use rapeseed oil) and left it to rise.
I will let you know, this evening, if it’s worked. There will be photos.
Update – More photos under cut.