For a long time it’s been more than just a daily staple. Josh Barrie meets a man who’s teaching us how to enjoy our daily bread.
Whether dipping a piece of herby ciabatta into tomato soup, or spreading a generous dollop of pate upon a thick slice of baguette, bread is wonderful.
It’s the entry to a fine dinner, a soft companion to a weekend picnic. To some it’s even the embodiment of Christ himself. Quite a feat.
This week marks National Bread Week, where authentic, proper bread – stuff even the French would eat – is celebrated.
Currently there's no place for medium, ready sliced loaves, mass produced and lacking in nutritional value and flavour. They don’t fit with the artisan theme so many of us now enjoy.
But as culinary adventure grips the country, moving past lasagne and shepherd’s pie, plenty of us still lag behind in bread making know-how.
As Stephen Harrington, 57, says, it’s because a lot of us are "scared," deeming it unchartered territory where yeast must be tamed and ‘proving’ understood. We’ve all seen Sue Perkins fret over Great British Bake Off contestants struggling with their dough.
For those decidedly ignoring the apparent wheat intolerance epidemic sweeping the country, Stephen’s Beckenham business, Harrington’s Kitchen, offers guidance to those who’ve yet to command baking prowess.
Now two years old, his school is gaining momentum and he’s planning expansion – both in kitchen size and in what he delivers.
red onion fougassee
Now, as well as bread, Italian partner Roberta Levent, 51, teaches pasta, two former MasterChef stars will be educating would-be cooks in knife skills and pastry, and acclaimed spice guru Asma Khan is preparing to impart her knowledge.
Stephen told News Shopper: "At the moment we offer classes of eight, but we hope to enlarge the space and could fit 12. We’re doing okay but we want to move forward – there are always improvements.
"People have heard of us and we’re becoming quite well known. So many people are keen to learn about bread, from beginners to top chefs.
"People have reservations about bread, they think it’s complicated."
Stephen started life in the City, but has always had a love for food. His time away in France and Japan further inspired his craving to work full-time in the industry.
"Bread is something everyone can do – I teach in a home kitchen, so people can use what they learn here," he added.
"As we grow we’re excited about the future. I’m looking forward to developing things."
Through various links, including being part of a documentary looking at how people from the financial world are moving into food, Stephen has the likes of 2012 MasterChef finalist Andrew Kajima and 1997 winner Julie Friend on board.
Stephen explained: "We’re all on the same page – bread is still the central focus but we want to have more to offer. We want to do something different.
"So many people share a passion for food."
Tomato and oregano focaccia
Find out more about Harrington’s Kitchen here.