Though from the south of Staffordshire, I take no shame from using any and every opportunity of promoting the oatcake indigenous to the north of my home county. Even though its damp flannel texture may look less than appealing on the page, on the plate and in the mouth, the Staffie oatcake beats pretty much any other flatbread going. A south Indian parotta could give it a pretty good run for its money but it’d be a close thing.
And so for me began the day’s farinaceous fun with a multicultural take on huevos rancheros. One of my favourite breakfasts – which sounds much better in its original tongue than translated as ranch-style eggs – this Mexican dish is usually based on a pile of cornmeal flatbreads. As my other half isn’t too keen on these and as I was up early, I decided to knock up a batch of the Tunstall tortillas, too.
Going for half oats, half wheat flour, made up with fifty-fifty milk and water, as this was a spur of the moment culinary frenzy, I leavened the batter with instant yeast, rather than sourdough starter. Smothered in the tomato, onion and chilli sauce I rustled up while the batter was proving and topped with a poached egg, they brought about a tinge of jealousy as I tucked into the more traditional version of the dish on my own plate.
The next leg of the Lammas tour was a disappointment – a bakery that said they would bake a special loaf, hadn’t. Happily, over in Walthamstow, volunteers and friends of the Hornbeam Centre (pictured above) had entered into the spirit of things fully. One of the team had baked a loaf depicting a wheatsheaf and several regular customers of Hornbeam’s community café and local food co-operative market stall had brought along home-baked loaves to share with others.
Onward to Dalston, where the collective EXYZT has built a working windmill and artist Agnes Denes’ wheatfield is being restaged as part of Barbican Art Gallery’s Radical Nature exhibition. Although I’d found someone from the Growing Kitchen project in Shoreditch to teach breadmaking there the previous day for Local Loaves for Lammas, somehow I’d missed that The Dalston Mill also was hosting a bready event on the day that I was visiting.
The brainchild of Alex Bettler, Full Dinner Design invited visitors to a bread making session using flour from the mill itself. The latest in Alex’s ongoing, pain-European discussions around bread, the idea was to create edible crockery and cutlery for a shared evening feast. It was a really enjoyable afternoon, with children and adults, several of whom had just been drawn in from the street by the intrigue of a windmill on their doorstep, rolling up their sleeves to shape plates, beakers and spoons. These were then baked, alongside some more ornamental creations from the kids, in the mill’s two wood-fired ovens.
The afternoon’s drizzle turning to torrential rain only served to push closer our group that had been drawn together by shared activity. Sitting side by side around the long communal table, eating from our handmade trenchers and drinking beer brewed by another of the impromptu bakers was the perfect way to end Lammas.
Do you have any pictures from Lammas this year? If so, please feel free to share them with The Real Bread Campaign group on Flickr. If you have any stories from your event, please drop me a line.
Local Loaves for Lammas from the Real Bread Campaign will rise again on the weekend of 31st July - 1st August 2009