What springs to mind when you hear the word culture?
Does it conjure up images of the arts and theatre, dahling?
Or does your mind turn to those things that help to define a shared national identity?
Or do you think, instead, of buttermilk? (in which case your view of culture would appear to be rather more bacterial than regional)
So I’ve been baking for the past 2½ days in Ballymaloe with Rachel Allen.
Well, when I say I, I mean myself and 60 other people, and when I say 2½ days of baking, that consisted of 3 half-day demonstration sessions with Rachel and 2 half-day practical sessions, getting down and dirty in the kitchens of the Ballymaloe Cookery School and loving it.
As a result of my endeavours, I have learned a number of things.
Well, duh! Of course ingredients matter. The quality matters. It affects the nature and quality of the end result. This is always true but most acutely noticeable when the number of ingredients in a recipe amounts to a mere handful.
Take your basic loaf of bread, for instance, which has some flour, some liquid material, some raising agents, and not a lot else. The taste and texture of your bread will have rather a lot to do with the flour you use. Rocket science this ain’t (and I should know, I used to work for rocket scientists!). So, for a 100% wholewheat soda loaf, you would do very well to use a nice, coarsely milled soft wheat flour. For me that means Abbey Stoneground.