All in a Day's Walk

A month-long slow food walking performance

Mumpets and miracles

Mumpet - cooking

It’s the sabbath, and so (going with the environmentalism-as-religion theme that seems to be emerging) I rest.

But a friend is visiting and I want to be hospitable – a strange conundrum for an environmentalist at the best of times when the desire to produce generously large quantities of food for guests is set against the idea of preventing waste and avoiding excess. Inexplicably, I’m still struggling to understand how to feed myself properly and palatably let alone anyone else. Inexplicably because, while I’m picking up delicious vegetables from the farm shop, they alone don’t seem to be giving me enough energy or texture or flavour – especially in the absence of herbs and spices, salt, pepper and anything else that is not strictly local. Yesterday, Woolhope baker and miller Gail Sayce gave me some of her rye sourdough leaven. I refreshed it when I got home (100 ml of water at room temperature, 100 g of rye flour) and will again today, but it won’t be ready to use to bake leavened bread until tomorrow.

I settle on a menu of  root stew with rye/spelt flatbreads followed by an improvised attempt at fatless beetroot cake (fatless because I’m allergic to dairy and while oilseed rape is grown on the farm, it is pressed and processed elsewhere; beetroot because it’s sweet and pretty).

My friend arrives when I’m midway through making (up) the beetroot cake, beating in eggs to the mixture. Already, my tastebuds are grateful for the slightest flavour, colour, texture, calories: the sweetness of raw carrot, the richness of egg yolk. I say I’m reminded of one of my favourite lines in a book  (Judy Budnitz (2000) If I Told You Once) ever and I get it off the shelf to read, realising it has more resonance to my current situation than I’d realised:

‘My family had lived in the same village for as long as anyone could remember. It was a place that lay buried in snow for nine months out of the year followed by three months of mud. It was the most desolate spot on earth and my family did not even realise it, because for generations they never ventured more than 40 km from the place. They were stubborn people.

It was a place where someone had forgotten to add the colour: low grey clouds, crooked houses of weather-beaten wood, coils of smoke rising up from cookstoves and rubbish heaps. All the wives of the village cut from the same dull cloth to make clothes for their familites. We ate grey bread. The men made a fermented liquor so colourless it was invisible, nothing but a raging headache stoppered in a jar.

People were simpler then. They kept their desires within reach. They had few possessions: a goat, a half-dozen chickens, a brass teapot, a cat so ugly it could kill mice merely by looking at them.

That was enough. After days cutting wood in the black forest with ice clogging their nostrils, the smell of a goat was a welcome thing.

In a place like that, the colour of an egg yolk was something of a miracle’

We go out for a walk anyway, but I ride Merlin. Cantering up the track back home, I realise this is the fastest I will travel this month. And suddenly the speed of a horse is a miracle too.

We return and eat more woodburner beetroot cake, agreeing that the texture is a cross between a muffin and a crumpet. We have, my friend triumphantly proclaims, invented  m u m p e t s.

Mumpets

Ingredients
1 medium beetroot (Merrivale Farm, Aconbury (via Caplor Farm shop): 7.5 miles)
2 large eggs (Caplor Farm: 0.01 miles)
2-3 tablespoons honey (Dockhill Well, Brockhampton: 0.79 miles)
dash of cider/perry (Dragon Orchard, Putley: 6.53 miles)
spelt flour to create correct cake mixture type consistency (grain from Doves Farm, Hungerford 73.6 miles yikes, but milled at Yare Farm, 1.9 miles)

Mumpet - ingredients
Equipment
Wood burner
Cast iron lidded cooking pot or Dutch oven, lined with baking parchment

Mumpet - prepare your dish

Method
1. Peel and grate the beetroot (save the peelings for your eats-anything horse or compost bin)
2. Add eggs and honey and a dash (to taste) of cider; mix well
3. Add enough spelt flour to create a correct cake-mixture type consistency; mix well again
4. Marvel at the beautiful colour
5. Pour into lined pot, add lid and place on top of woodburner at medium-high heat
6. Leave there for at least 20-30 mins or until you smell cooking/slight burning – DO NOT LIFT THE LID BEFORE THEN or all the heat escapes.
7. Your mumpet is ready when the base is not-quite-burned and the top is no longer sticky.
8. Marvel again at your stove-top ingenuity…

Mumpet - mixture 2

Mumpet - mixture

Mumpet - in dish

Mumpet - finished!

2 Comments»

  Mumpet nostalgia | All in a Day's Walk wrote @

[…] of you (if anyone’s reading this) may remember the infamous mumpets, the improvised fat-less, sugar-less stove-top beetroot cake of the last performance. I have since […]

  Oats (on cheating and eating) | All in a Day's Walk wrote @

[…] variety and calories to survive on, I haven’t allowed myself flour. So, no sourdough, no mumpets and really, no complex carbohydrates. A recipe for […]


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