Scenes from an autumnal romp around Dartmoor National Park, starting at Postbridge, heading south and making a loop via Drizzlecombe to view its spectacular stone rows, with a wild camp in the middle on the River Plyn. It was a clear cold night but I had lots of layers, hearty food, hot tea, a good sleeping bag, and a warm pooch to keep things warm and cozy.
Food Blogger Connect brings together bloggers of all ages, backgrounds and blogging levels to a conference that is all about enabling bloggers to be better at their craft. Conference speakers include food photographers, book publishers, pro bloggers, professional writers, advertising experts and other people to give talks and lead workshops on the various dimensions of blogging. This year I was grateful to have been such a speaker at FBC 2015 London, where I ran two workshops on “Awesome Analytics”, how to use data (i.e. FACTS) to grow your readership and achieve your blogger goals.
Indeed, one of the highlights of this workshop – and FBC in general – was learning about all the diferent goals people have in starting their food blog. Naturally many of you out there want to monetise your blog, be it through sponsored posts, paid advertising or other means. But many bloggers (myself included) had other goals in mind. Things I heard include:
- Become a YouTube superstar
- Grow awareness of supperclubs, food tours and other foodie activities
- Sell eBooks
- Build a community (this was a big one!)
The diversity of goals were unified by a general desire to achieve them and use hard data to pave the way – awesome! So awesome that I was inspired to start an Awesome Analytics Facebook Group, open to anyone with a website who wants to share tips and exchange ideas on web analytics. For example, what are the most important metrics for you to measure if you want to grow a community? How do outbound links work? What constitutes “good” stats? This is the place to discuss that!
Beyond the workshops, I had great fun taking part in other aspects of the conference. I especially enjoyed the talk on Self Publishing by Bloomsbury’s team from Writers’ and Artists’. There were also some terrific panel discussions – Ms Marmite Lover, Urvashi Roe and Helen Best-Shaw in particular had some really useful insights into monetisation and how to navigate the gnarly world of paid recipe development, sponsored posts and PRs.
There were also some great food vendors on hand who kept us fed and hydrated throughout the weekend. Big thanks to Massis Tea (above) for delivering their delicious ginger & honey iced tea to my talk. Seriously this stuff was inspiring – shaken in a cocktail shaker and garnished with rose petals and dried orange. I will definitely be copying this move at home.
I also especially enjoyed my samplers from Bol Foods (wholesome beetroot and broccoli goodness!), The Athenian (souvlaki wrap!), Duke of Delhi Chocolate (chocolate + bombay mix = genius), and the Bicycle Bar from Quirky Bars (I needed those bloody maries on Sunday morning).
Of course, the best thing about a conference like Food Blogger Connect is that it creates a venue for catching up with old friends and making new ones. A major victory was finally meeting Jacqueline Meldrum (Tinned Tomatoes), one of UK’s top vegetarian bloggers who I’ve been reading for years. But moreover, Jac is a colleague of mine on the Froothie team, along with Elizabeth Atia (Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary), Katherine Hackworthy (Veggie Desserts) and Kate Ford (The Veg Space), all of whom who were also at FBC (the only person missing was Choclette of Tin and Thyme – next time!).
I already admired these awesome ladies from afar but meeting them confirms that their awesome factor is off the charts, and indeed exceeded my expectations. This can only bode well for our work projects! Writing this now I wonder why we didn’t all get a photo together? Like I said, next time. For now, here’s one from my talk with a nice cameo of Jac, camera always on the ready to seize the moment. She really IS a social media superstar.
Speaking of people I only previously knew virtually, I also met Jenny Chandler, author of Pulse and my guru for all things beans and legumes. Plus Kevin Chambers-Patson (selfie King and author of The Crafty Larder), Michelle Francis (the talent behind London from Scratch food tours), Manjiri Kulkarni (aka Travels for Taste…watch out for her F-bombs), Elinor Hill (aka Beach Hut Cook whose Instagram life I aspire to), Jude Macgee (whose A Trifle Rushed writings beckon me to Brittany) and Heidi Roberts (fellow American, fellow dog lover and fellow food blogger).
It was also great to discover new food bloggers, previously off my radar, especially more fellow Americans, Lisa Niblock (United Cakedom) and Candida (Oh My Kitchen Counter), who I met in The Athenian ‘queue’ (never underestimate the social bonding powers of souvlaki). Also Jo Brigdale (wielder of baguettes and author of Jo’s Kitchen), Megan Melling (bringing Portuguese food into the limelight in Mel’s Vittles) and Jen Price (author of Jen’s Food and another person who balances a life in science AND food).
And I must give a shoutout to the friends I already know in person and don’t see often enough: Helen Best-Shaw (Fuss Free Flavours), Urvashi Roe (Botanical Baker), Sarah Trivuncic (Maison Cupcake) and Kavey Favelle (Kavey Eats).
My mission for my next food blogger conference: take more pictures of my friends, old and new! And also, to be even more awesome than I am now – with my analytics, with my cooking, with everything! Until then, here’s a few related links, because links are awesome!
I’m a massive fan of Rick Bayless’s tortilla soup but when I’m in a rush, this does me just fine. The key is good stock and dried pasilla chile which gives tortilla soup its unique (and totally perfect) flavour. The best thing about this soup is the garnish potential!
You’ll need a high-speed blender for this – I use an Optimum 9200 from Froothie. If you don’t have one, you can blend everything in a conventional blender and then heat on the oven in a pot (let it simmer for at least 10 minutes to let the flavours blend).
Easy Blender Tortilla Soup
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 3 tomatoes, quartered
- 1 dried pasilla chile (I get mine from Cool Chile Co)
- ⅓ bunch cilantro (coriander)
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- ½ avocado, pitted and peeled
- ½ lime, peeled
- Tortilla chips
- Black beans
- Heat a frying pan and dry-fry the pasilla chilli for a few minutes so that it puffs up and changes colour. Remove the stem and seeds.
- Put the chilli, broth, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, pepper, avocado and lime into a high speed blender (I use an Optimum 9200). Blend on high for about 5 minutes or until hot and steamy.
- Serve with lime, cilantro and avocado garnish.
Blenders and Juicers
I am an ambassador for Froothie and happily endorse their blenders and juicers with a proudly raised glass of cold pressed juice (blended with avocado). I use their Optimum 9200 power blender and Optimum 600 slow juicer for all of my juicing and blending needs. I have also used their Optimum 9400 (pictured above) which is basically a better (and much more economical) Vitamix.
Read my review of the Optimum 9400 power blender.
Of course, my book Smarter Fitter Smoothies is the best book on smoothies in the world. To be honest, I don’t really read other books on smoothies – most of them are full of fruit-laden overly sweet recipes that don’t appeal to me. And I like to invent my own!
On the juicing end of the spectrum, I do like Jason Vale’s books. With titles like “7lbs in 7 Days” it’s obvious the kind of market he’s going for here, but his books and juicing programs ARE inspiring and effective, at least in my experience. I try do his 7-Day Juice Feast once per season. (Read more about why I juice feast.)
Fruit, veg, blend-ins and garnishes.
- Naturya‘s range of superfood powders. I am a particularly huge fan of their Acai, Wheatgrass powder, Hemp Protein Powder and their new Organic Greens Blend.
- Myprotein stocks bulk protein powder, including vegan protein powders, plus spirulina, almond butter and coconut oil.
- Pulsin – I am a big fan of their range of vegan protein powders, especially their pea protein which reversed my previous opinion that pea protein was irrevocably nasty. They also do an excellent Organic Whey Protein Powder.
- Riverford organic box scheme sells excellent produce delivered to your door and even has a whole range of juicing ingredients making it even more economical to buy organic fruit and vegetables for your juices.
- Rude Health Puffed Oats, one of my favourite smoothie garnishes, along with their Spelt Flakes. Basically it turns your smoothie into a bowl of cereal, comfort food that you can feel good about.
See also my list of 16 Great Garnishes for Smoothies.
I’ve just returned from a 3.5 week cycling holiday through France and Spain, a journey of just over 1000 miles from Cherbourg to Santander (with a few stops and diversions along the way). I was a little nervous going into it. Would my legs poop out? What if my bike breaks? Are the hills going to wreck me? I didn’t let these questions stop me from going; all would be unravelled throughout the trip. The real question is: how do you even take a cycling holiday in the first place?
I could probably answer that question in 3 steps:
- Pack your bags.
- Get to your starting point.
At a base level, that’s really all it takes. You don’t need a rigid plan, in fact, it’s pointless having a strict itinerary on a bike trip. And that’s part of the beauty of it. A cycling holiday is total freedom, especially when you go self supported, carrying your own bags, tent, food and so on. France and Spain offer a few added bonuses for the bicycle tourist:
- The roads: Both France and Spain are very bicycle friendly and drivers tend to give cyclists a lot of room.
- The food: You get to fuel yourself in style, sampling regional gourmet delights along the way.
- The views: From the Loire to the Lot to the Basque coast, every day will wow you with vistas and valleys that you’d probably miss (or wouldn’t pass at all) if you were in a car.
- The villages: There are lots of them, many breathtaking in their own right, and offer numerous benefits: history, culture, architecture, picnic lunches, and baguettes.
- The bike trails: France is loaded with “green cycle ways” (Voies Vertes de France), long-distance bike paths, some paved, offering traffic-free bicycle bliss to those who choose to ride them. Spain also has over 1,800 kilometres of greenways all over the country and is a haven for mountain biking.
OK, I realise those three steps above will involve numerous substeps. So here are a few more top tips on how to have a cycling holiday in France and Spain.
Packing for Your Bike Trip
The nice thing about a bike trip is that you want to keep things as light as possible, so you’re forced to keep your packing minimal. If you’ve never done anything like this before, then you might have to invest in some technical bits (panniers, camp stove, etc). But if you’re an avid camper like me, then chances are you’ve already got a lot of the stuff you need. See my Bicycle Touring Packing List for a full gear list.
My attitude with most trips is: just get to your destination and everything else will sort itself out. So, too, with a bike trip. For this purpose, I can’t recommend Brittany Ferries enough. Flying would be a pain (you’d have to pack the bike, reassemble the bike, deal with getting out of a busy city, and so on). This is not an issue with a ferry as you just walk your bike onto the ship and away you go. Brittany Ferries has ports all along the France and Spain coast, which means you have the option of sailing into one port, and sailing out of another if you don’t want to do a circular trip. I sailed into Cherbourg and back from Santander.
Brittany Ferries also has their own Cycling in France and Spain Guide which offers itineraries around the various ports. In fact, I used part of their route to plan the first leg of my trip from Cherbourg down towards Mont St. Michel.
A ferry is not only easy, it’s actually really fun. I adore the journey from Santander to Portsmouth, a 24 hour trip during which I can collect my thoughts, write last minute post cards, and have a Vouvre (or three) to celebrate my achievement.
There is a fantastic book called France en Velo that details a 1000 mile bike ride from St. Malo to Nice, detailing everything along the way including campsites, cash machines, market days and more. It’s incredibly useful, even if you only do part of it, as I did. The only thing I wish is that they made an ebook edition because it’s a slightly hefty tome to haul around with you.
For the remainder of my journey, I got a little help from the tourists offices along the way, but for the most part I used a map and made things up as I went along, sticking to minor roads as much as possible. Which brings me to my next point…
Maps For Your Journey
In an effort keep things light I relied on my iPhone for maps rather than paper maps. I used a combination of two apps for the job: Google Maps and ViewRanger. I’ve already written about ViewRanger and it is by far my preferred mapping tool. You can download France’s excellent IGN maps directly to your mobile phone and track your location using GPS. The downside: it’s expensive. The app costs £7.99 and then you pay for “credits”; each map you download costs a certain amount of credits. When you’re cycling across France, this can up (if I’d used these maps my whole trip I probably would have spent about £50 or so – a small price to pay for good navigation perhaps, but it still felt it an annoyinglin large sum).
Google Maps are free and you can download maps to use offline when you don’t have cellular data coverage. The problem is that they just aren’t as reliable as ViewRanger’s. A minor road might actually be a dirt track (this happened twice). Also, no elevation information, and the scale seems to only show itself when you zoom in or out of a map.
Other Useful Gadgets
- QuadLock mobile phone mount that attaches to your handlebars (expensive but so worth it)
- USB charger for your iPhone
- iPad Mini with keyboard case – for books, writing emails, etc
- Spot Gen 3 – A personal locator beacon that shows people where you are at any given point in time. Really good for safety and peace of mind for your loved ones back home.
Where to Sleep
You have a couple of options here: camping and hotel / b&b accommodation. I opted to camp because it’s cheaper and there’s little risk of winding up somewhere and not finding a place to put your tent (I went to one campsite in Spain that was booked solid for cars but said “We always have room for cyclists.”). The B&B route would require a bit more forward planning as you’d probably want to book places ahead. However you’d save considerably on pack weight as you wouldn’t have to carry a tent or sleeping bag.
As for camping, France is LOADED with campsites, and they are generally pretty cheap (especially if you go the municipal campsite route). Campsites in Spain are not quite so numerous but you’ll be fine. It’s worth popping into a Tourist Information as you go and getting information about campsites along your route so that you can plan accordingly (I got superb help from the guy at the San Sebastian tourist office). It’s not very fun when it’s nearing the end of the day, you’re losing steam, and you have no idea when the next campsite is going to pop up. So always know where the campsites are. In a pinch, you could wild camp, though this isn’t technically legal, and you run into issues like water and your desperate desire to take a shower.
Bring Packing Tape and a few Bin Bags
Just in case you wind up taking a shortcut by bus, which requires you to pack your bike up for storage. (I had to do this on the ALSA bus from Bilbao to Santander.)
Internet and Mobile Phone Service
I am very grateful to Mardi Michels from eat. live. travel. write. who hooked me up with a Lebara sim card which gave me mobile and data coverage throughout France. This was incredibly useful and I used it copiously for downloading maps, uploading photos, checking in and so on. It was definitely nice NOT to have to rely on finding a cafe or bar with wifi for my interweb needs. That said, there seem to be plenty of places with wifi – most campsites will have free wifi and you’ll see wifi stickers on the front of many cafes in bars in the larger towns. I can’t remember an instance where I couldn’t get online and as a result was totally screwed. Let’s face it, we don’t need the internet as much as we think we do, and really, this is supposed to be about disconnecting
What to Eat
This is the most fun question of them all! So fun that I’ve written a separate post about it: What to Eat on a Bicycle Tour.
Any questions? Any top tips I’ve missed? Feel free to ask away in the comments. I’m happy to provide whatever information I can to get you on your way!
I’ve recently completed a 1000mile bike tour through France and Spain and wanted to share a little bit about the food I ate along the way. I tried to eat well, choosing foods that would energise my journey rather than drag me down. This is pretty easy to do in France and Spain, where there are fresh local delights to experience along the way, especially at the various markets, green grocers and artisan shops in the towns and villages. I was spoilt for choice, really.
Every day I anticipated what I would find in each village I came too. If I was lucky, I’d hit a village on market day, where it was always difficult to restrain myself from buying EVERYTHING. Highlights included: fresh tomatoes, cantaloupe, stone fruit (especially greengages) and haricot vert (aka green beans).
Bike-Friendly Fruit & Veg
Bike-friendly food is compact and difficult to bruise. Courgettes, carrots and onions were a daily purchase, interspersed with aubergine, broccoli (not compact but I love it) and green beans. When it comes to fruit, apricots and plums were less prone to being smushed than nectarines and peaches. Tomatoes, bananas and avocados are also fairly delicate but I always bought them anyway because they’re so good!
Almond Butter on All Things
When you’re riding a bicycle for 50+ miles a day in hilly conditions, you need lots of calories, and almond butter was my ultimate calorie delivery device. This was a late morning and often afternoon snack ritual, especially when I felt my energy dragging. Almond butter plus banana seemed to have a magical effect of totally recharging me.
And when the almond butter runs out…
Nuts! Especially if your cycling in the Dordogne along the Route de la noix, noix meaning walnuts!
Sauteed Seasonal Veg
Sauteed veg was a regular dinner at the campsite, which I’d mix up with herbs and spices (old film canisters make excellent travel vessels for spices). Just add chickpeas and / or some kind of grain (pasta, quinoa, bulgar wheat) to make the meal complete. (For the record, I use an MSR Pocket Rocket for my cooking needs, and yes you CAN get fuel for it in France and Spain).
This is in the sautéed vegetable arena but it’s worth a mention on its own because it’s just so awesome and totally doable on a camp stove. Add chickpeas for more protein.
I came to prefer this for breakfast because it saved on fuel and was also less hot and stodgy for the hot summer weather. I especially loved it with plums and flat peaches. See my recipe for Bircher Muesli for how it’s done.
Quinoa and Bulgar Wheat
As I already mentioned, I liked to augment my sautéed veg with grains. Quinoa and bulgar wheat are my preferred choice because they are quick to cook and really good for you. You can even save a step by buying pre-cooked quinoa packets which I found at many of the larger super markets.
My one exception to my almost total veganism throughout the trip. The tinned tuna available in France and Spain is in a whole class of its own, and the branding is irresistible (I’m a sucker I know). A favourite lunch was sliced tomato with avocado and tinned tuna. Perfect in its simplicity.
I was so glad I took a few minutes to toast up some mixed seeds to take with me (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax). They’re a quick way to add crunch, flavour and slow-burning calories to just about any meal. You could up the ante with dukkah if you want to get super fancy. My go-to recipe is Ottolenghi’s dukkah.
I made a batch of these raw vegetable crisps in my dehydrator before I left. Sweet potato and beetroot are my favourites. These didn’t last long.
I also made a batch of granola before I left. A tasty eat-from-the-bag snack and also a great garnish for porridge (yep, double oats – it’s gonna be a long ride!). Recipe via Bon Appetit.
Jars of Delicious Things
All along the way you will come across specialty produce in jars and cans, everything from beans to peppers to mushrooms to meat and fish. Obviously when you’re travelling with bicycle panniers there are certain space and weight limitations, but it’s worth picking up a jar or two of tasty looking things as you go and giving stuff a try! After all, this isn’t just about cranking through the miles – it’s about experiencing the terroir as you go!
I should also add that on the bike I also carried with me the bare essentials for bringing everything together: olive oil, salt and pepper, a few garlic cloves, and old film canisters filled with spices (herbs de provence saw the most use). Plus the rest of my camp kitchen kit you can find in my Bike Tour Packing List.
Any other top food tips for bicycle tourists and minimalist campers? (Not that travelling with avocado and baguettes is actually minimal.) What would you add to your bike tour pantry?
If you’ve ever camped in France and Spain then you know that Camping Gaz is ubiquitous in most supermarkets, gas stations and general stores. However, if you’re coming from the US or Great Britain, then it’s very possible that you have a camping stove that takes a screw-on gas canister (often sold under the Primus brand), as I do with my MSR Pocket Rocket.
On my recent bicycle trip, I couldn’t find this type of gas anywhere. I searched online and it’s a topic of frequent discussion with some claiming they are easy to find and others saying they are impossible and you should buy a compatible stove or an adapter.
I solved the mystery myself when I was last in France. You CAN buy threaded / screw-on camp stove canisters. Where? Short answer: Decathlon.
Mystery solved! With thanks to Kate for taking me to Decathlon, where I found other treasures including a kickstand and a fashionable waist pouch for my wallet and phone (which is actually a chalk bag for climbers).
I recently returned from a 4-week bike tour through France and Spain, carrying all of my own kit and camping along the way. Some people have commented that they can’t believe I travel so light, while others have said “how the heck do you fit all that on a bike?” You can fit a surprising amount of stuff on a bike. Of course, the heavier the bike, the harder the journey. Here is a list of what I took with me.
- Bicycle with a rack (mine is a Jamis Nova)
- Panniers (I use Ortlieb – they really are the best, waterproof, durable, simple but perfect design)
- Frame bag
- 2 Waterbottles
- Headlight / Tail light
- Bike computer for recording mileage / speed (mine is a Cateye Enduro 8)
- Bike lock
- iPhone mount (I used a Quad Lock and can’t recommend it enough)
- Bungee cords
- Fuzzy dice (or some other trinket on your bike deliver mojo and lift your spirits – I had a little pendent from my sister, and collected stickers from the places I visited along the way)
- Air pump
- Patch Kit with Tire Levers
- Spare Inner Tubes
- Chain Lube
- Bicycle Multi-Tool
- Tent (Mine is an MSR Hubba HP 1-person tent)
- Sleeping bag
- Air Mattress (I use a Therm-a-Rest ProLite)
Camp Cooking Gear
- Backpacking Stove (I adore my MSR Pocket Rocket)
- Fuel for stove (bring extra in case you have a hard time finding the fuel you need en route)
- Lighters for the camp stove
- Cooking pots (I have Snowpeak’s Multicompact Titanium Cookset which I love.)
- Cup (Nérac cups are great! And versatile!)
- Utensils: Folding knife, spoon, fork (or Spork!), wine bottle opener
- Coffee making stuff (I use the Hario V60 plastic 1-cup coffee dripper, in which case, don’t forget filters, too!)
- Washing up liquid and quick dry towel (REI’s are handy)
- Tea Towels (Good as napkins, or mini picnic blankets, or to dry dishes, or anything! You will always find uses for them!)
- Water “tank” (Handy at the campsite. I just used a 2L plastic bottle which you can crumple and uncrumple as needed – top tip from Mike! But Platypus also makes nice collapsible water holders.)
- T-Shirts (I went for a merino wool t-shirt and tank top over cycling jerseys which are more versatile for off-the-bike shenanigans)
- Cycling Shorts (at least 2 pairs)
- Underwear (Icebreaker Merino Wool Underwear, it’s expensive but so good! I recommend at least 3 pairs.)
- For the ladies – Sports bras (2)
- Socks (Smartwool Merino Socks for me)
- Cycling gloves
- Clippy Cycling Shoes
- Merino Wool Long Sleeve Short (for cooler days)
- Waterproof Jacket
- Waterproof Over-Shoes
Camp / Town / Beach Clothes
- Pair of shorts
- Flannel shirt
- Walking shoes
- Bathing Suit
- Insect Repellent
- Lip Balm
- Quick Dry Towel
- Soap / Shampoo
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
- Toilet Paper (You will want this!)
- Wet wipes
- Skin Cream / Moisturiser
- Nail Clippers
- Vitamins / Medication / etc
- Ear Plugs
- First Aid Kit
- Anti-Chaffing Balm (You will want this.)
- Driver’s License / Passport
- ATM Card
- Credit Cards
- Travel tickets
Gadgets & Travel Goodies
- Phone (which also serves as camera)
- iPad + Case
- Phone / iPad Charger
- Universal plug adapter
- USB Battery Pack (For charging on the go. I use an EasyAcc Classic 10000mAh Power Bank which gives me about 2-3 iPhone charges.)
- Personal Locater Beacon (I use a Spot Gen 3)
- Spare batteries for electronics, headlamp, bike lights, etc
- Guidebook (France en Velo was my friend)
I obviously topped this up as I travelled – French markets are the best! But these are the staples I tried to always have on hand.
- Stuff sack to keep all the food in
- Salt and Pepper
- Individual spices (stored in film canisters)
- Porridge oats
- Quinoa and/or bulgur wheat
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Coffee & tea
Things I wish I had brought:
- Clothing line for drying stuff
- A few bin bags and packing tape for packing my bike for the ALSA bus in Spain
- Picnic blanket
- Air pillow (maybe?)
- Camp chair (ThermaRest’s chair kits are pretty cool)
This is stuff I didn’t bring but I could see being useful, especially in cooler climates.
- Cycling Long-Tights
- Waterproof Trousers
- Fall/Winter Full-Finger Gloves
- Skull Cap
- Trousers for wearing off the bike
- More bike repair stuff, that I probably wouldn’t know how to use (bicycletouringpro.com has an epic list)
This is by far the most popular bread recipe that I make, with a crispy beautiful crust on the outside and a soft moist crumb on the inside. It is also one of the easiest breads you can make. As the title suggests, no kneading is required. Just a little time, a few ingredients and a cast iron pot. Start this bread the night before you want to eat it.
No Knead Bread with Seeded Crust
- 470 grams strong white bread flour*
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- 10g fine sea salt
- 350 ml water (warm or cold, just not boiling hot)
- A bit of oil for coating a bowl
- mixed seeds (I use poppy and sesame)
- mixing bowl
- paper towels
- spoon (or your hands)
- cast iron pot with a lid
- Mix together the flour, yeast, salt and water in a mixing bowl using your hands or a spoon (it should look like a shaggy dough ball). Cover with cling film (or a plate) and let it rest for 12-24 hours. After 12-24 hours, the dough will have risen and filled the bowl.
- Flour a work surface and “pour” the dough out of the bowl onto the floured surface – I use a spatula to scrape the dough off the sides of the bowl.
- Gently stretch out the dough into a flat squarish shape. Fold the dough into thirds as you would a letter, then fold it again into thirds in the other direction. This should give you a little folded up parcel with a seam – rest the dough with the SEAM SIDE DOWN on the work surface for about 15 minutes.
- While the dough rests, clean and dry your bowl.
- Oil the inside of the boil and spread it around with a paper towel. Put your seeds in the bowl and tip the bowl around so that the seeds cover the inside of the bowl.
- Place the dough into the bowl with the SEAM SIDE DOWN.
- Let the dough rest for about an hour or so.
- About half an hour before you’re going to make the loaf, put your cast iron pot and lid into the oven and turn the oven up as high as it goes (mine maxes out at 220 C). Let the oven heat up for about 30 minutes so that it’s good and hot (and the pot too).
- When the oven is ready, remove the cast iron pot from the oven. Remove the lid.
- Take your bowl with the dough in it and rotate it around to loosen the dough from the seeds. Now be brave and quickly flip the dough out of the pot into the hot cast iron pan (ideally it will land with all of the seeds facing upwards but don’t despair if it catches on the side of the pot and looks a mess – this bread is very forgiving).
- Put the lid back on the pot (be careful, it’s hot!) then put the pot into the oven.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the lid, turn the oven down to 200 C, and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the top is nicely golden brown.
- Remove from the oven, remove the bread from the pot, and let it cool (ideally for at least 40 minutes) before slicing. (Or rip into it straight away – it’s all good!)
* You can also use wholemeal flour here, or a mixture of white and wholemeal, but the rise might not be dramatic.
I’m currently in the midst of a big long bike ride across France (see hashtags #franceenvelo and #tothemoon). Eight days and 450 miles into it, I feel like my legs deserve a rest. So it was convenient that I had just landed in Dordogne, one of my favourite regions in France for its woodland, enchanted lakes and overall quiet feel. Dordogne is also home to Manzac Ferme, one of the best campsites I know of. I’ve been wanting to write about Manzac for a while now, years in fact, because I’ve been coming here since 2012, when I first discovered it en route to Gascony, that first road trip across France that’s totally changed my life for the better. Manzac was part of that journey.
The two things that first attracted me to Manzac Ferme was that it’s adults only (which sounds a little risqué but really it just means no kids) and dog-friendly. It’s also small – just 10 pitches, 5 for caravans, 5 for campers. Each pitch has its own private little nook, with a couple tent pitches situated right on the river. It also has free campsite-wide wifi, super clean facilities, and nice hot continuous showers (no push button hell).
Manzac is also a top spot for walking – there are plenty of walks that leave right from the campsite taking you to some magical places in the Dordogne, including this little spot on the lake that is home to my ultimate dream house.
But what totally makes it for me are the people – George and Margaret run the place and they are the nicest people ever (I came two years ago over my birthday and they had my over for a glass of rosé to celebrate – bliss! – and this year they’ve been sharing some of their garden lettuce with me – little gems, my favourite!). Their son, Laurence (aka @lozula), was also here on my first visit and I’m so glad I got to meet him – he is a hugely talented photographer with a popular travel blog Finding the Universe. So, naturally we had a lot of common ground to connect on, and he’s even let me guest post on his blog from time to time.
Coming here on bike is a little goofy. Manzac is really a place you should come and hunker down in for a week or two (indeed some guests come and stay for months!). A car is also handy to get you to the rest of the Dordogne and some of the villages like nearby Nontron and Piegut-Pluviers, both of which have stellar markets. But at the same time, for a cyclist, Manzac is such a welcome respite from the usual municipal campsites I’ve been pitching in for the last week, and George and Margaret are getting to feel like old friends now so it’s nice finding a bit of familiarity on this road trip that’s been otherwise totally full of the new and unexpected. Plus, no kids and free wifi to your tent (and a power lead, if you need it) – pure bliss in my world.
00 33 (0)5 53 56 31 34.
Manzac, 24300 AUGIGNAC, France