Like so many others during the first lockdown, we kept a sourdough starter that became the centre of our diminished universe and a prized member of the household. We didn’t go as far as naming it, though I know lots of people do. We referred to it simply as “the culture”. But, otherwise, no attention was spared: there was a strict feeding schedule, followed by burping and tucking in the special blanket, making sure it wasn’t too warm or too cold and was growing at a good rate.

We had plenty of time for all the kneading and folding, resting, knocking back, shaping, retarded proving, slashing and stone baking, which produced — after just 60 hours — a single, perfect tangy loaf.

Yet as life regained its pace, our baking routine became lax and the once precious, pampered culture was abandoned, malnourished in the fridge, diminishing by the day.

Sourdough for lockdown is like a puppy for Christmas — you shouldn’t commit unless you’re in it for the long haul. When we finally called time on our starter, we were left with thoughts about the actual and metaphorical end of culture and feelings of guilt, failure and slight disgust for the manky tea towel that for a while had been called “Blanky”.

In the current circumstances, we’ve gone for a simpler loaf, which is just as good, if not better. What it lacks in crust, it makes up for in a rich, dense crumb. It can be ready for dinner if you start it in the afternoon and will be good for the next day’s breakfast and lunch. In fact, with cheese, sweet onions, olives and herbs inside it already, it’s almost a meal in itself. It requires some entry-level kneading and proving but comes without any long-term maintenance, cultural dilemmas or emotional entanglement — which, in these complex times, is not nothing.

Use a 7-inch deep round tin

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