Two things have left the strongest mark on my cooking in 2013: bread and Turkey.
Bread took me by surprise. I didn’t think it was my kind of thing. Too laborious, I thought, and like many, I was wrong. I found in it a rhythm of life that I didn’t even know existed, let alone that I fitted into it. It only goes to show that you never know what you’re going to find and love, even when you think you know yourself pretty well. I look forward to whatever lies ahead.
My rye starter at home
I started making sourdough bread almost by chance. William, the excellent baker behind the Natural Bread Company, was giving some of his rye starter at the East Oxford Farmers’ Market, and I took some. I knew I loved sourdough bread, so I thought why not. I’d give it a go. I never thought it would stick with me, but it did. I found a passion I never knew I had for the feel of the dough in my hands and the meditative repetition in kneading, a fascination with the dough rising in the oven. I found I had an instinctive idea of what I wanted my bread to be like: nutty, crusty, and with a mixture of wholemeal or spelt and white flours. I found a deep connection with the process and the matter in my hands. It just felt right.
2013 has definitely been the year of the bread, but 2014 will be, too. I’ve still got a way to go. I want to improve my shaping, and judging the proofing times to improve the look of my bread. I’m not quite ready to write here, but I will when I am ready.
William’s rye bread at the East Oxford Farmers’ Market
The trip to Turkey and the workshop at Sapanca in photography and Turkish cooking in September have introduced me to this varied and interesting cuisine. I discovered and fell in love with some fantastic ingredients: tomato and pepper pastes, pul and urfa biber (red pepper flakes and smoky Urfa pepper flakes, respectively). I’ve enjoyed exploring it afterwards, too, and cooking from Olga’s brilliant blog Delicious Istanbul.
In my kitchen, vegetable bulgur pilaf adapted from Olga’s recipe at Delicious Istanbul