Monday 16 July 2012

Hello Herman.

I've been nursing a Herman the German (friendship cake) for quite a while now, and am still enjoying the task I've set myself of keep one/cook one without repeating recipes, and split and share occasionally with willing cake enthusiasts. I have my own favourites among the many I've cooked, but though I've found loads of people talking about them on the internet, I haven't seen very many British recipes with grams, or very many recipes that use a whole portion of Herman rather than a half or a cup or something. So. Here I am, with a blog that has had nothing to do with food historically, starting a tradition of Herman blogging, in the hope that the recipes may find other struggling Herman devourers looking for some inspiration.

And so, to begin, a brief introduction to those who may never have met Herman. Herman is a sourdough batter that you keep in your kitchen at room temperature, uncovered except for a teatowel, made up of milk, sugar and flour in equal volumes, that bubbles with fermentation and requires regular stirring, feeding and splitting. The usual cycle is over ten days, and looks something like the document to the left (complete with splatters, which came on my copy courtesy of Herman's previous owners, Dave and Adrienne).

The tone is a bit.. patronising... but the theory is sound. So I don't end up with four Hermans at the end of each cycle, and so two to get rid of, I've just been adding half measures on both feeding days and only splitting into two come day 9.

The first cake I made was a ginger cake, and since then I have also made: chocolate cherry cake, carrot and coconut cake, coffee cake, double chocolate cake, banana cake, lemon drizzle cake and, I think, a few others that have slipped from memory. The possibilities are endless. And delicious.

So, the other day I made a Cherry Bakewell Herman, adapted fairly straightforwardly from a recipe at BBC Good Food. It was ace. Here it is:

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Whit agitation.

I learnt the word whit when I was writing a poem and researching other words to describe dust particles hitting our atmosphere to make shooting stars. You've probably guessed by now that this is another Shake the Dust post. You'd be right. But it feels like dust shaking is all I ever talk about so I thought I'd mix it up a bit... and I've failed.

Last weekend was the epic Thursday-Sunday national finals and Shake the Dust weekend at the Southbank Centre, and boy was it a busy one! With workshops, evening events, travelling, meetings, eatings, rehearsals, letting-off-steams and all sorts of other bits and pieces to do with nine groups of eight 13-16 year-olds it was a hectic few days - made only more hectic by the fact that I did a reading at Ledbury Festival on Friday with five of the other Eric Gregory winners, travelling there and back in one day.

Needless to say, I'm knackered. But a good sort of knackered, full of enthusiasm for poetry and the 'new' generation (though who's to say when one generation begins and another ends) and current generation of performers and writers. One of the highlights was seeing Kate Tempest and Saul Williams on Thursday evening, performing their hearts out (albeit for a little too long, perhaps, though that's not their fault but a misjudgement in programming); another was the look on the faces of our Slamming Saints at their arrival in London and first sight of the big city. The main highlight though, of course, was seeing our two teams doing the best performance of their poems they've ever done, on the main stage at Queen Elizabeth Hall at Southbank. Wow. My heart bursts with pride for all of them - they really did themselves and the North East proud!

So now, I have sleep to catch up on (still) and ponderings to ponder about the performance of poetry vs. performance poetry. Perhaps I'll get back to you with some conclusions about that one later on. In the meantime, sleep tight! Don't let the bed bugs bite!