March 2018 – Week 1 of our new course

What better way than making flat bread to start off a new course which encourages integration and employment opportunity in the UK? Such a universal bread, prominent in cuisine of so many of the worlds nations seemed a fitting bread to choose for week one of the Just Bread course.

Twelve women refugees and asylum seekers eagerly participated in the various stages of baking this bread, together as a team lead by the course’s head baker, Jean.

For this course, the women come from all over the world: Eritrea, Kenya, Iraq, Iran, Georgia, Sri Lanka. Each woman had her own experiences with flat bread and the making of it, and each with their own twist. Some have distinct memories of their mothers spinning flat breads half a metre in diameter and throwing them on a fire, others preferred theirs to be cooked a little longer as would be done in their country, and a few liked to eat theirs with olive oil sprinkled on top. It was wonderful to be able to speak about these differences and similarities over a huge mound of dough that we were all working on together to creat the sourdough flat bread recipe of the e5 bakehouse who are so kindly hosting the course.

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The discussion of the flat bread of different countries was extended over lunch, which became a brainstorming lead by Jean about what the women would like to learn on the course. There was quite eager approval of a session on pizza and another on cake baking, but perhaps the most eagerly anticipated week will be when we explore the recipes of the women’s own countries and see how we can give those recipes a the sourdough twist signature to the e5 bakehouse. It was great to see how engaged the women were in learning about sourdough and the traditional baking methods of the UK and Europe. It’s amazing to see how global integration can be reflected in something as simple as a loaf of bread.

After lunch, the afternoon centred on creating the actual shape of the flat bread and baking them in the huge baking oven at the e5 roasthouse in Poplar, where this weeks course was taken. The oven proved to be a huge talking point as once again the women were actively chatting about the ovens that they use in their native countries. They all worked so quickly and efficiently together that Jean actually had to call for a coffee and cake break because he couldn’t keep up with their speed – it seems like we already have some baking experts in the making!

All the women seemed to leave to go home in high spirits, saying how happy they were to be there amongst other women, baking and talking and making new friends. It was wonderful to see the genesis of such friendships and heartfelt positivity. Week two seems like it will be as equally fantastic!

Written by Anna our latest Just Bread volunteer kindly supporting our work each week.