Sunday, 3 May 2020

Baking bread when the shops have no yeast

The global panic buying cleared shops shelves of many of the basics we all use and whilst things are slowly returning to normality some items such as yeast are still in short supply.

But yeast is all around us and it's very easy to cultivate for your home baking needs.

There are many different methods but the simplest is to just mix flour and water in a 3:2 ratio by volume to a pit each day, and soon you'll have a bubbling mass known as a sourdough starter because of the aroma it gives off.

By the second or third day you should begin to see little bubbles forming in your mixture this is carbon dioxide that the yeast emits as the mixture ferments.

After five days of feeding my starter which I named Grow Dough Baggins we made a simple sourdough loaf.

Take 115g from the starter and add to a mixing bowl, replace this by feeding your starter with more flour and water in same ratio as before.

Feed your starter each time you use it and if you're not baking every day you can store it in a fridge where it will only need feeding once a week.

Add 389g of 00 grade bread flour to the mix along with 10g of salt.

Combine with 225ml of room temperature water and 25ml of oil, olive is traditional but we used rapeseed as we prefer the flavour.

Once the dough is formed lightly flour a suitable surface and knead the dough before returning to the bowl and covering to prove.

The time to rise will vary depending on environmental conditions but as the starter is not as rapid as commercially produced dry yeast it will take at least four hours.

Once its doubled in size again flour a suitable surface and gently knock it back and pla e into a baking tin, cover and prove again for another hour or two.

Pre heat an oven to 200°C (400°F) and bake for 35 to 40 minutes before removing and allowing to cool on a wire rack.

You can see a video of this on my YouTube here;

As always take care


Thursday, 30 April 2020

Operation Nimrod

The British Army Special Air Service (SAS) regiment that had been formed during WW2 is an elite secretive unit whose existence was barely known before the events of Operation Nimrod where their excellence at Close Quarter Battle (CQB) for hostage rescue earned them global esteem.

On 30th April 1980 six gunmen rushed into the Iranian Embassy at Princes Gate in London's borough of South Kensington, capturing twenty six people demanding the release of Arab prisoners from prisons in the Khuzestan region of Iran.

Police cordoned off the area and began negotiations, meanwhile B squadron of 22 SAS was instructed to make preparations in order to free the hostages should the negotiations fail.

After six days on 5th May gunshots were heard from within the embassy as the Iranian chief press officer Abbas Lavasani was executed and his body was thrown into the street where press from around the world had gathered.

Operational control was officially handed to the SAS to conduct an assault of the embassy codenamed Operation Nimrod which was put into effect at 19:23 that evening.

The assault was completed in seventeen minutes during which the gunmen had killed one more hostage whilst wounding two others. Four gunmen were killed outright as they attempted to repel the assault and two tried to hide amongst the hostages as they were being evacuated.

One of these that was holding a hand grenade was recognised and killed as he was making his way down the stairs and the final gunman was identified and arrested as soon as he exited the building.

The only SAS casualty was a Staff Sergeant who suffered burns to his legs when he was engulfed in flames as a consequence of the flash bang grenades setting the building on fire as he abseiled down to one of the balconies, who even though injured continued the assault and later made a full recovery.

This incident made the SAS famous due to events being captured live in front of the worlds media and exemplified their regimental motto "Who Dares Wins" on their winged dagger insignia seen here on the cap of the units founder David Stirling.

The events of Operation Nimrod have inspired many film and TV adaptations most recently the film 6 Days which was inspired by the book Go! Go! Go! by former team leader Rusty "No Gloves" Firmin pictured during the assault at the embassy.

Take care

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Scrim scarf a.k.a. snipers veil

The scrim scarf or snipers veil was issued to the British Army from 1942 to provide personal concealment by breaking up the silhouette of the soldier and his equipment without overly impeding their vision.

There are many different sizes but usually it measures 1.2m (4ft) square with hems on two opposing edges

Made from green cotton open weave netting occasionally overprinted with brown swirls today you can buy many different disruptive patterned prints and various solid colours.

When not being used for concealment it was usually rolled up and worn as a convenient neck scarf.

Just like the shemagh which has become more popular in recent years due to the Iraq and Afghanistan deployments it has multiple uses. These range from trapping small game and fish, improvised slings, to simple load carrying etc etc.

The open weave construction allows it to dry rapidly when hung up near a campfire or in even a gentle breeze.

Whilst disrupting the soldiers outline it also reduces glare from optics that can reveal their position and was often cut into strips for rifle wrapping.

A great lightweight item particularly if you're wild or stealth camping and wish to remain unobserved.

Take care


Sunday, 12 April 2020

Giant Dutch Oven Giant Hot Cross Bun

I had planned to bake a giant hot cross bun for Easter in my dutch oven over an open campfire whilst camping but in the current situation that is not sensible so I've tried to simulate it in the garden using a fire bowl from a hanging BBQ 


250g flour (212g for the mix and 38g for the cross paste)
25ml rape seed oil
3.5g yeast
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice 9nutmeg, ginger,fennel,cloves,caraway, corriander)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
25g brown sugar
75g raisins and sultanas
13g mixed citrus peel
65ml milk
65ml hot water
38g plain sugar for glaze solution


Combine dry ingredients and fruit in a ziploc bag and shake to mix
Heat water and add to milk and rapeseed oil then pour into ziploc bag and knead for at least ten minutes

Set aside to prove for at least 45 minutes in a warm dutch oven
Mix flour and water into a paste then pipe over proved bun in cross pattern
Bake for at least 30 minutes and when done add warm water to remaining sugar to glaze leave dutch oven away from fire and place a couple of coals on the lid to set the glaze whilst you make a cup of tea!

Serves two normal people, great with a cup of tea

As ever I'd love to hear what you guys thought so please leave a comment, happy Easter!

You can watch a video of me doing this on my YouTube channel here:

Take care

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Disinfecting with household bleach

Bleach is a cheap and widely available product usually sold as a liquid 5% concentrate solution for a range of household uses from general cleaning and sanitisation to purifying water in an emergency.

When diluting with water for disinfecting objects and surfaces it should be mixed in small batches for daily use as it deteriorates over time.

Clean items or areas to be disinfected before applying the appropriate solution which should be prepared in a well ventilated area.

For clarity I will list the volumes in standard measurements as well as the ratio because in an emergency you might not have a measuring jug available but with a simple cup and bucket can achieve the correct mixture.

High level:

Ratio 1: 10 household bleach to water, called "strong" chlorine water by CDC

  • 50ml bleach, 450ml of water
For sanitising known contaminated areas such as blood and other bodily fluid spills and critical medical instruments and areas leave to soak for ten minutes, and to prepare larger quantities of 1: 100 solution.

Sometimes it may be sold in different concentrations so this graphic helpfully shows the most common and the different ratios you need to get the same solution.  

Intermediate level:

Ratio 1: 100 household bleach to water, called "mild" chlorine water by CDC

  • 5ml bleach, 495ml of water
Use to sanitise PPE, clothing and hard surfaces, after ten minutes wipe away any residue with clean water and a cloth if necessary.

At this level it can be used to sanitise hands if you are then able to rinse with clean water afterwards as it is still caustic, or to prepare quantities of 1: 500 solution for food hygiene. 

Low level:

Ratio 1: 500 household bleach to water

  • 5ml bleach, 2495ml of water
To ensure surfaces and utensils are safe to prepare food as normal household cleaning and for washing fruit and vegetables that are to be eaten raw.

Bleach is toxic and can chemically burn so take care to wear appropriate PPE when handling it and never mix with ammonia or acids as this will produce harmful gases, many people have accidentally poisoned themselves pouring bleach into toilets after using acidic cleaners releasing chlorine gas into confined spaces such as a toilet is not a good idea!

Whilst it is not recommended in an emergency you can even add unscented bleach to water that you have collected to sterilise it for drinking rather than boiling it, at the ratio 1:25000 4ml bleach to 100l of water stir and leave it for at least 30 minutes before drinking.

Take care


Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Coronavirus face masks

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has caused panic buying worldwide and there is some misleading information

The US Surgeon General tweeted that face masks were ineffective but at the same time insisted that healthcare providers should have them, so do they work or don't they?

Obviously any protection is better than none but the level of protection varies dramatically depending on what mask you have

Surgical masks

These are designed to capture what people breathe out so they will limit the chance of the wearer from infecting others with what they expel but as they're so loose fitting and don't impede droplets they are next to useless as a means of personal protection

A scarf or bandanna would be similar the main benefit is these simple cloth face coverings keep your hands away from your face

Particulate respirators

These have several grades in Europe P1, P2 and P3 that corresponds to their ability to filter particles and liquids out of the air

America uses a slightly different system of 9599, and 100 prefaced with a letter to signify its resistance to oil N for not resistant, R for partially resistant and P for proof for strongly resistant

Some have one way exhale valves for easier breathing and the lettering isn't really important for the transmission of viruses but I will use P for comparison between the two systems as that is the highest rating 

P1 are standard dust masks able to block 80% of airborne particles only suitable for short term exposure in non hazardous environments such as doing some DIY at home

P2 are occupational standard filters that block 94% of particles, the US P95 offers slightly more protection blocking 95% and the P99 is a further step up at respectively 99%

P3 is the highest level of filter you can purchase blocking 99.95% and is equivalent to the US P100 with its ability to filter 99.97%

Both are considered to be effectively 100% for particles and droplets down to 0.3 of a micron

Mostly made as single use disposable masks that surround the nose and mouth but there are reusable versions where you simply replace the filters but retain the mask although this will require you to sterilise them safely

An N95 / P2 rated respirator is the recommended PPE (personal protective equipment) for blocking the SARS-CoV-2 virus but the higher the number the better it is obviously

There are some that include eye protection known as full face that prevent the virus being absorbed through contact with the eyes

So read the specification and know what you're buying, they do work so long as they're correctly fitted but your best defence is to isolate yourself as much as possible

Take care

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Endemic Epidemic Pandemic 101

Endemic, epidemic and pandemic are terms used to describe various infections in a population.


An infection is said to be endemic in a population when the infection rate is constantly maintained at a baseline level in a geographic area year after year.

So we can say chickenpox is endemic in the UK as it's a common infection every year with relatively stable infection rates.


If there is a sudden increase in the infection rate of a disease in a given population it is deemed to be an epidemic, for example tuberculosis was considered to be almost eradicated in the UK by the 1980's but recent migration by some individuals with the condition has seen a spike in cases that we would call an epidemic.


When a disease is not localised to a specific area but has spread around the world it is known as a pandemic so an infection will suddenly appear in a new area, these can be serious as people are exposed to something their immune system has not encountered before.

These three terms can be used in conjunction depending on how common an illness is, how widely spread and if there has been any sudden rise in the number of infections.

The covid 19 virus that originated in China is new so obviously the large rise in the number of people infected makes it an epidemic, But now that it is being transmitted to people with no connection to China and is spreading globally we can say it is a pandemic epidemic.

The information released by the CCDC (Chinese Centre for Disease Control) suggests that most people that are infected only have mild symptoms and that complications and fatality is more common in the elderly.

This and the high transmission rate means covid 19 may become a regular seasonal infection as most people will contract it and survive to infect others, as we do with other common corona viruses, albeit a much more deadly one for the elderly and those with certain preconditions.

This would make it endemic and this is what the Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch said recently here

So as with all of these viruses the WHO (World Health Organisation) advice is the same, maintain good hygiene practices and avoid contact with potentially infected people.

Be prepared to self isolate and for the economic downturn that this is going to cause, China still has not returned to full production and this will affect the worlds economies and our interconnected global supply chains.

Take care

Baking bread when the shops have no yeast

The global panic buying cleared shops shelves of many of the basics we all use and whilst things are slowly returning to norm...