The heat wave in the South of England has been a wonder for the garden, after a late start this year. It hasn’t impacted on gaming too much though.
The garden took a back seat to exam preparation this year, although it wasn’t quite as neglected as 2021. The combination of a wet cold spring and baby-induced lack of time left me months behind, although my parents helped me catch up in July. This time I got the raised beds planted earlier and although some of the first wave got eaten, I replanted and the whole thing is starting to burst into life. Using compost from the garden wasn’t a perfect solution as there were numerous weed seeds, but after some intense weeding things were back on track. We did leave one weed in place though; a healthy tomato plant popped up and has been thriving outside.
On the fruit side, the cordon has burst into life and some of the apple trees are already bearing fruit. We’ve had over two kilos of raspberries, not including the fruit my neighbours collected while we were in the states, and plenty of strawberries. We’re starting to get gooseberries and blackcurrants too. Fruit plants are definitely one of the most cost effective category to grow as fresh fruit can be obscenely expensive. Tesco has currently listed 250g of raspberries at £3 on their website, so our small raspberry corner has probably yielded over £30 worth so far for an initial outlay of £3 (for a single cane). They’re super easy to grow and maintain too. Strawberries are easy to handle as well, and once established can grow a bit too vigorously and take over entire beds.
A Little Bit of Baking
I haven’t been baking a lot recently at least in part due to covid-induced tiredness, but what I have been baking has been mostly minimal effort. I made a few wholemeal loaves using Ken Forkish’s methods from Flour Water Salt Yeast, but I wanted to try a recipe my mum had been extolling the virtues of (from The Café Sucre Farine – I must register my dislike for the name which I find quite silly, although memorable). I have been aware of the concept of no-knead bread but was always a little skeptical. Much is said about the importance of kneading in developing gluten structure and elasticity, but this recipe for bread rolls involved mixing the ingredients and…waiting. No turns? No folds? No kneading at all? It’s bizarre.
The results? They’re pretty damn good. I expect they would be improved by a proper kneading step but as far as a minimal effort way of getting bread on the table, it works perfectly. The main criticism I have is the use of notoriously inaccurate cup measures, although that is common to much of American baking (although not Ken Forkish). How do I know my cup is exactly the same as yours? Is my flour density the same? Do you level or compact your cup? Is it heaped? When it comes to baking, I’m an engineer. I want precise measurements, hence I can share my equivalent measurements for this recipe.
Four cups equated to 600g of strong white bread flour, and two cups of water comes out at 470ml. These were pretty good proportions, although I did a little bit of hand mixing by wetting my hands and using the pincer method, again from Ken Forkish. Flour Water Salt Yeast is worth getting if you’re into making bread at all, and might just get you obsessed with the stuff. Then covered the bowl, left it overnight and shaped the rolls in the morning. I assumed the dough would be harder to work with, but it’s soft, pliable and easy to handle with plenty of flour. If you’ve never baked bread before, this would be the perfect gateway recipe.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius fan (220 conventional, but who doesn’t have a fan oven these days?) and let the rolls proof for 20 minutes, then bake them on a lined tray (I’m a big fan of silicone baking mats) for 15 minutes, then turn the tray for the last 5 minutes. I’ve made this recipe twice to date, and I much prefered the aesthetics of egg washed rolls with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. The second batch looked rather anaemic in comparison.
Considering how simple the recipe is (flour, water, salt, yeast) the flavour is really pleasant. They’re great spread with butter, and I’ve served them with scrambled egg for breakfast. As long as you remember to mix the dough the night before (or early on the morning of) it’s a guaranteed winner.
I’ve spent so much time talking about baking that I’ve almost left out the most important thing. Cooking in games, or game, to be specific. In the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BOTW), cooking is quite a useful mechanic to get the most out of foraged food items and combine them to offer stat buffs. Going into an icy area? Just cook up some apples and chillies to make some spicy stewed fruit which can stave off frostbite for a while. Need to climb a massive cliff but don’t have enough stamina? Cook up some stamella mushrooms for the necessary boost.
The more I play BOTW, the more reasons I find to play it. Wandering around the world semi-aimlessly can be hugely rewarding, even more so than games like Skyrim and Fallout. And something I never thought I’d get on board with, the weapon durability system where they break after a certain number of hits, doesn’t bother me massively. It’s all about finding items and padding out your inventory with whatever you can get your hands on, and using it to maximum effect. I love scoring a critical hit by throwing a weapon (on the brink of shattering) at an enemy face.
It is fast climbing up the list of my favourite games (apt given all the time I’ve spent climbing in game), and the fact that you can have an epic experience like this on a handheld console still amazes me. I have often thought that the Witcher 3 might be the best game of all time, though that is now being challenged by a much more upbeat contender.