Life in the Loire on lock-down. Thursday 19th March. Day five.

I guess we overindulged a little last night. One glass too many of Jean François Merieau’s lovely Cent Visages Malbec has left me feeling a bit thick headed this morning.

But. I have good news. My first attempt at making sourdough bread was a big success and I’m not really sure how that happened.

After my initial drooping of the starter I refed it and started again yesterday morning. I proceeded with caution trying to follow all the advice Louisa had given me the evening before as we traded goods standing among the vines.

I added more flour and water, left it for an hour, added the salt and turned it over a bit, left it for another hour, folded it a bit, left it for another hour, folded it a bit, left it for an hour or so, took it out, shaped it, left it for half an hour, popped it into a floured bowl and then put it in the fridge overnight. This last bit was the bit that worried me. Would it droop overnight and not rise in the oven this morning.

I’m happy to report that it didn’t droop and so into the oven it went. I can’t tell you how excited I was to take it out 40 minutes later. A golden loaf with a lovely crisp crust. The smell of freshly baked bread invading the kitchen and waking up my rather jaded senses.

We enjoyed it for breakfast with some mirabelle jam and black coffee.

Unfortunately, there was not a single bag of flour to be had at the supermarket yesterday so this may in fact be my one and only sourdough loaf. The first and the last.

I’m trying not to look at Twitter too much when I get up in the morning as I’m reading so many sad tales of people loosing their jobs and their livelihoods. Bosses in tears as they let staff go. Families wondering how they will survive financially. I do wonder how long this is going to last and how we are all going to cope with the fall-out of it all.

At least here in France, the Government is putting measures into place to protect jobs and keep people afloat. We don’t know if there will any help for us yet. As business owners we are not entitled to ‘unemployment benefit’ individually but hopefully there will be some assistance for small businesses like ours. There have already been announcments of tax payment delays and assistance from the banks. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Lunch was of course a simple ham sandwich made with my sourdough bread. Tasty and filling. On reflection, my bread needed a little more salt. Something to bear in mind next time.

This afternoon I sadly had to cancel a meeting for next Monday. Our new initiative to provide access to some of the best winemakers in the Loire has gone on hold. We were meeting up to take photos of all the winemakers participating in this new venture, due to take place in July and August this year. With any luck it may still go ahead. I’m not holding my breath.

Cooked a really simple dinner this evening that was really delicious. Prawns cooked with leeks, lemon and white beans. I adapted the recipe slightly from the New York Times.

For the two of us I sweated one leek (both the white and green parts cut in half lenghways and then into pieces) in 45g of unsalted butter (you could cut this down but it really gives the dish a creaminess that you wouldn’t have without it).

Prawns with leeks, lemon and white beans with crusty toasted sourdough

When the leeks were soft and slightly brown at the edges I added a clove of finely chopped garlic, half a teaspoon of chilli powder, the finely grated rind of a lemon, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and just under a teaspoon of sea salt. After a minute or two I added one tin of white beans (cannelini) and a cup of stock (yes the guinea fowl stock continues) then simmered for about 8 minutes until thick and creamy.

I then shelled 250g of cooked prawns and added them to the pot for a couple of minutes to heat through.

I served it with some toasted sourdough rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkling of flat leaf parsley.

Our wine of choice this evening was a glass of rosé petillant from Domaine Patrice Colin. We love this wine. A soft, frothy sparkler made from the Pineau d’Aunis grape and grown in the Vendôme region of the Loire an area that many people aren’t familiar with.

Pineau d’Aunis is an unfamiliar grape for most but it has lovely strawberry fruit and hints of ground white pepper.