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Vegan sourdough pancakes

These pancakes are lovely - they're quite filling, and very easy to cook. The flavour and texture are excellent: the sourdough starter gives some depth of flavour that might otherwise come from eggs, and the almond helps to balance it. They are not thin crepe-style pancakes, more like American or Dutch style.

You can prepare the batter the night before (and leave it in the fridge), or you can just let it stand for at least 30 minutes. The original recipe suggested that you can leave the batter out overnight to "develop the flavour", but we do NOT recommend that - our sourdough starter is quite active, and so if you leave the batter at room temperature for that long it over-proves and tastes very sour. Instead, pop it in the fridge overnight - that's perfect! Or just make it 30--60 minutes before you need it.

This recipe is based on the pancake recipe from healthienut. It's a good thing to do with sourdough discard, but you can also use fresh starter.

The recipe also uses ground flax or chia seed. You can probably buy it as pre-ground "meal", but I don't have that. Instead, I grind up some chia seeds in a pestle and mortar, and the salt goes in with it (because salt crystals can help to grind things up).

Makes 6 small or 3 large pancakes, good for a hearty brunch for two.

  • 60g sourdough starter
  • 150g cup non-dairy milk
  • 60g cup plain flour or whole wheat flour, or whatever flour you wish to use (I used a mix of plain and wholemeal bread flour, since I didn't have ordinary wholemeal. Plain flour also works fine on its own.)
  • 30g cup almond flour
  • 1 tbsp chia OR flax seed meal
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp melted coconut oil, or any flavourless oil, or margarine

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sourdough starter, milk, and flours until smooth. Cover with a towel and let sit at room temperature for 30 min-1 hour, or cover with clingfilm (or similar) and leave in the fridge overnight.

When you're ready (maybe 15 minutes before time to eat), combine the flax/chia seed meal and water in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 min. (You might also pre-heat the pan now, see below.) Then add flax egg to the bowl with the starter along with the rest of the ingredients (sugar, baking powder, salt). Stir until a smooth and slightly thick batter forms.

Heat a large skillet or frying-pan over medium heat. Add a dollop of oil /marge to prevent sticking - not too much. Pour a ladleful of batter on to the skillet (about 50ml?). Spread to a circle with the back of the spoon if needed. Cook until the edges start to become matte (about 1.5 minutes). Flip and cook for an additional minute or until golden brown on each side.

Top with preferred toppings, such as berry compote, fresh fruit, and/or maple syrup. Top tip: blueberries and coconut cream!

| Recipes |

Dutch alcohol-free beer - 2021 update

After some in-depth field research, I'm ready to report that the Netherlands alcohol-free beer scene has boomed in the last couple of years. We've now tasted 24 of them! And 7 of them are great.

Van de Streek's "Playground IPA" has been around for a while now and is in all the supermarkets, cafes, etc - and, I have to be blunt, it's still the absolute best low-alcohol IPA we've tasted, even though we've now tried over 100 from around Europe.

But there is a whole carnival of others, and some of them are right up there in the top. There's a good representative for each of the classic beer styles, plus some funky quirky ones too. You should definitely check out:

  • Brouwerij 't IJ "Vrijwit" - finally, a delightful Belgian-style wheat beer! Frothy head, a complex full flavour, well-balanced and satifsying. This rises easily to the top spot of wheat beers, and handily it's also available in lots of shops. By the way, the brewery is "'t IJ", named after a river - you can pronounce it "utt eye" if you like.

Other Dutch breweries have attempted the low-alc wheat beer: Grolsch and Brand's are OK, Lowlander's tastes like a bitter lemon not a weizen. (Also, FYI, don't go anywhere near the Hoegaarden 0.0 - it's awful, despite my hopes for it. It's not Dutch... but the warning is needed.) If you want a wheat beer, go straight for the Vrijwit!

  • Lowlander "0.3% IPA" -- A stunning low-alc IPA - complex, foamy and refreshing, with a bitter hoppy tang combining with rounded mango and orange flavours. Stunning, and more "different" than Playground IPA.

  • Braxx "Rebel IPA" -- Very interesting malty IPA, almost a brown-ale flavour plus hoppy twang.

And if you want more... van de Streek's other alcohol-free beers: Fun House is a good NEIPA, Non-Bock a tasty bock, the grapefruit IPA good and fruity.

Other IPAs: there are good ones from Jopen, van Breugem ("Klein Zoentje"), Uiltje ("Superb Owl"), Waterland and Brand. The "Brand" is a great choice if you need genuine-zero in an IPA.

As ever - the big spreadsheet lists these and hundreds of others (or here's a PDF of it) from around Europe (124 at time of writing).

| food |

Sourdough vegan English muffins

Foodgeek has some of the best sourdough bread recipes I've found. It's his precise measurements and careful explanations that really enabled us to actually bake good sourdough. You should watch some of his videos.

One of his recipes is for sourdough English muffins. These are great for breakfast, and they're also really handy when you don't have access to an oven, because they're cooked in a pan.

Here I've veganised his recipe. I'm simply switching cow milk for oat milk, but I find you need to reduce the amount of milk (else they become really sticky to work with). I'm also including some tips which for me made it easier to handle everything.

Ingredients

  • 290 g plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 15 g sugar
  • 6 g table salt
  • 175 g oat milk
  • 100 g sourdough starter, well fed and risen to its peak For dusting
  • 40 g cornmeal

Instructions

Make the dough: Add the flour, sugar and salt to a bowl. Mix it well with your hands. Then add the milk and the sourdough starter. Mix it until it comes together. Once it gets too stiff dump it out on the kitchen counter and knead it until all the flour has been absorbed into the dough. Then cover the dough and leave to ferment for 8 hours. If it’s very warm you may want to shorten that time.

Next, when the fermentation is done, shape the muffins. I do it differently from him, partly because I don't have a cookie cutter, but also I found it really handy to use a little square of baking paper for each individual muffin. Here's a picture showing how I do it:

My English muffins kit

Use a roasting tin, or anything that you can keep the un-cooked muffins in - it should have high sides, so that when you drape a towel over the top it won't touch the muffins. Cut/rip 10 little squares of baking paper, about 4 inches (10 cm) square. Put them in the roasting tin(s), and dust them with semolina.

For the next step, it will help to have a dish of water available, and occasionally dip the palms of your hands in this bowl - this stops the sticky dough from sticking to you.

Dump the dough out onto the counter or a big chopping board, flatten it a bit, and use 1 or 2 dough scrapers to chop it into 10 equal-sized pieces. (If you don't have scrapers you can do it by hand.) Now, for each piece, with slightly wet hands you can roll and shape it into a flat burger shape, then place it on a piece of baking paper.

Sprinkle the dough with more corn flour. Cover the whole lot loosely with a dish towel and let the muffins rise for an hour.

Cook the muffins:

Put a pan on to medium high heat and let it come up to temperature. Put as many muffins as you can so that they don’t touch each other. You do NOT need to remove the baking paper! You can place them in the pan with the baking paper face up. This makes the whole job easier.

Put a lid over the top of the pan so that the muffins can steam themselves. Cook for about 7-10 minutes until the muffins are golden brown. Then take off the lid, peel off the baking papers, and flip the muffins over and cook them 7-10 minutes on the other side.

Put the muffins on a wire rack and let them cool.

My English muffins, cooling on a wire rack

For a whole lot more detail and a nice video, see Foodgeek's sourdough English muffins recipe.

| Recipes |

New data challenge: "Few-shot Bioacoustic Event Detection" at DCASE 2021

We're pleased to announce a new data challenge: "Few-shot Bioacoustic Event Detection", a new task within the "DCASE 2021" data challenge event.

We challenge YOU to create a system to detect the calls of birds, hyenas, meerkats and more.

This is a "few shot" task, meaning we only ever have a small number of examples of the sound to be detected. This is a great challenge for machine-learning students and researchers: it is not yet solved, and it is great practical utility for scientists and conservationists monitoring animals in the wild.

We are able to launch this task thanks to a great collaboration of people who contributed data from their own projects. These newly-curated datasets are contributed from projects recorded in Germany, USA, Kenya and Poland.

The training and validation datasets are available now to download. You can use them to develop new recognition systems. In June, the test sets will be made available, and participants will submit the results from their systems for official scoring.

Much more information on the Few-shot Bioacoustic Event Detection DCASE 2021 page.

| Science |

Please comment: On the suitability of w3c Media Fragments for biodiversity multimedia

Within TDWG Audubon Core, we are considering what is a good standard to label information in sub-regions of sound recordings, images, etc. For example, I can draw a rectangular box in an image or a spectrogram, and give it a species label. This happens a lot! How can we exchange these "boxes" between software and databases reliably?

The question is: should we use the w3c’s "Media Fragments" syntax? In particular, I’m looking at section 4.2 about selecting temporal and spatial sub-regions.

Temporal region examples:

    t=10,20   # => results in the time interval [10,20)
    t=,20     # => results in the time interval [0,20)
    t=10      # => results in the time interval [10,end)

Spatial region examples:

    xywh=160,120,320,240        # => results in a 320x240 box at x=160 and y=120
    xywh=pixel:160,120,320,240  # => results in a 320x240 box at x=160 and y=120
    xywh=percent:25,25,50,50    # => results in a 50%x50% box at x=25% and y=25%

My perspective:

The definitions for the content of the values are good, and we should directly follow their example. (For time, the values are Normal Play Time (npt) RFC 2326 which can be purely in seconds or in hh:mm:ss.*, and other formats such as ISO 8601 datetime can be used as "advanced" use. For space, values are in pixels or percentages, with pixels as the default, and x=y=0 the top-left of the image.)

The structure of the selectors, however, I think could lead to problems for annotating biodiversity multimedia:

  • Comma-separated formats for fields are likely to lead to errors when used in CSV data.
  • There are existing use-cases which refer to single points in time/space rather than regions. (This could however be handled as regions of zero extent: t=10,10 or xywh=160,120,0,0.)
  • The format "t=10" for a time interval [10,end) risks user error since it could be interpreted as, or used as, a representation of temporal points. (In retrospect it would have been better to define the format as "t=10,")
  • We wish to provide for a frequency axis, with similar region-selection characteristics as the temporal and spatial. (See freqLow and freqHigh recently added to Audubon Core.)
  • We would like to allow for 3D spatial extents (xyzwhd?).

So, as one possibility: we could use the w3c’s approach to defining the values, by explicitly referring across to their use of RFC 2326 etc; but instead of simply recommending to use Media Fragments, we do NOT recommend the t or xywh selectors but instead recommend separate fields for timeStart, timeEnd, freqLow, freqHigh, and so forth.

I should say that my background is with audio data, and so for selecting image regions there may be existing good practice/recommendations that I haven't spotted.

My blog doesn't have a "comments" function, but I'd like to read your comments! You can reach me using twitter or email dstowell (attt) tilburguniversity.edu

| Science |

Coconut mung dhal

A storecupboard dhal with hints of southern India, inspired loosely by more authentic sources such as this one.

Serves 2, takes about 70 minutes but with a big gap in the middle where you can get on with other things.

  • 100g mung dhal
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli seeds
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 handful methi (fenugreek leaves), or a handful of spinach, kale or other green leaf
  • 1.5 handfuls dessicated coconut

For the tarka:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or some veg oil)
  • 1/4 an onion
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
  • 2--4 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 red chilli (optional)

Take a large frying pan, warmed to medium hot, and toast (dry-fry) the mung dhal in it for about 5 minutes until they smell toasty and turn slightly pink/orange in colour. Keep shuffling them so they don't burn. Then pour them into a sieve (make sure you don't melt it if it's plastic), and rinse and soak them in cold water briefly.

Take a deeper pan with a lid, and warm it up medium hot, with the cinnamon stick in the dry pan. When that's had a minute or so, add the mung beans as well as about 400 ml of water. It needs plenty of water. Also add the turmeric, chilli seeds, asafoetida and salt. Bring this to the boil and then simmer it for about 45 minutes, part-covered with the lid. Make sure it doesn't boil over, but that aside you don't need to worry about it too much.

After 45 minutes the mung dhal should be soft and swollen and the chalky texture should be just about gone. Turn off the heat, and stir in the methi and 1 handful of the dessicated coconut. You can leave this to sit for a while, to absorb -- you can just do the rest whenever you're ready to eat.

When you're almost ready to eat:

If you have a hand blender, use that to blend about a quarter of the mixture in the pan. This gives some thickness without mushing everything. You can also use a potato masher or suchlike. Then, put the dhal back on a very low heat -- do not allow it to boil.

Make the tarka: in a frying pan (perhaps the one you started with!), get the oil nice and hot. Finely slice the onion and the chilli, and put them in to fry until caramelised and a bit crispy. Also add the other tarka ingredients after a couple of minutes.

Serve the dhal in bowls, with the fried tarka sprinkled over the top. Eat with bread (e.g. roti/chapati) or as part of a larger meal.

| Recipes |

Herby-chickeny jackfruit fritters

We had gorgeous jackfruit fritters in a London pub. Somehow, they got them extremely chickeny tasting. Impressive! I had to try and replicate the effect.

So what we're doing here is lovely juicy jackfruit fritters, making sure there's not too much stodgy dough getting in the way. It's flavoured with …

| Recipes |

New terms for sound recordings in Audubon Core

Ever since the immersive experience of the fantastic Biodiversity_Next conference 2019, I've been getting to grips with biodiversity data frameworks such as GBIF and TDWG. So I'm very pleased to tell you that I've been contributing to the Audubon Core standard, which is an open standard of vocabularies to be …

| Science |

RSEC journal special issue: Ecoacoustics and Biodiversity Monitoring

I'm extremely pleased to announce this publication, edited by Jérôme Sueur and myself: Ecoacoustics and Biodiversity Monitoring - a special issue in the journal "Remote Sensing in Ecology & Conservation".

It features 2 reviews and 6 original research articles, from research studies around the globe.

You can also read a brief introduction …

| Science |

The plan has been wrong for at least a couple of months. Shut the damn pubs.

I just want to put some of this down for posterity - i.e. to remind myself in future, of what was obvious at the time.

  • "Shut the damn pubs," I've been thinking to myself for weeks. Saying it to friends too. Back in August, I think, the scientific advisors Chris …

| Politics |

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