Like any good product, well made bread is all about the ingredients

This is Real Bread Week, an annual, international celebration of properly produced bread and the people who make it.

Sunday, 1st March 2020, 12:00 pm

The main aims of the campaign are to encourage people to buy bread from local, independent bakeries and to bake it at home.

Like any good product, well made bread is all about the ingredients.

Bread, in its essence is flour, mixed with water, salt and yeast and given time to ferment and prove. It was made this way until 1961 when the Chorleywood Process was introduced by the British Baking Industries Research Association, based in Chorleywood in Hertfordshire. Instead of using high protein flour and yeast to slowly make bread, they added emulsifiers and enzymes to low protein flour, along with fast working machinery, to speed up the process. The time of making, kneading, proving and baking bread was cut down to three and a half hours, where originally it could be up to 24 hours. The quality of the bread deteriorated as a result. There has been a backlash in recent times with a consumer demand for real, properly made bread. If I eat white pan loaf I’ll suffer with cramps shortly after. If I bake my own bread or go to a good bakery, this doesn’t happen.

Ursa Minor Bakehouse in Ballycastle make bread the way our ancestors would have. They make a sourdough starter by fermenting organic grains with water over a long period of time. No commercial yeast is used – just this slow method. You end up with a deliciously crispy loaf on the outside and a complex, yeasty interior. This bread is as far removed from a pan loaf as you’ll find. They run classes in sourdough making – check out their website for details of upcoming events

If you’ve got time there’s nothing more rewarding than making a sourdough loaf but my first recipe is for a bread you can rustle up in minutes. Roti is a traditional Indian flat bread that would have been cooked on a flat griddle. It’s perfect to serve with a curry to lap up all the excess sauce. I’ve added a recipe for lamb koftas or meatballs made with minced lamb. We don’t eat enough lamb in this country and this recipe is a quick and simple one that’ll be ready in half an hour.

One of my favourite breads is brioche. This light, buttery French bread is lovely with sweet or savoury. Classically it’s served toasted with a good terrine or pate. My other recipe this week uses it in a sweet dish. Forced new season rhubarb is readily available at the moment. I’ve used it to top a brioche base. The luscious pink rhubarb sitting atop a golden baked dough is a thing of beauty. Substitute apples or pears if you wish.