I have a new favourite sourdough book. I spent Saturday with an amazing group of bakers, food writers and Martin Fjeld, half of the Norwegian baking duo Ille Brød and authors of their book “Sourdough” (originally Surdeig).

The baking duo describe themselves as “two guys baking organic sourdough bread at home and in a micro bakery”. I am not sure that Martin could be much more laid back if he was lying down except when it comes to bread and sustainability when he springs to life bubbling with enthusiasm.

Absolutely in her element, the day was gregariously hosted by Vanessa at The Sourdough School where Martin spent much of the day demonstrating and talking about his approach to baking, and his sustainable approach to baking and life generally.

The relaxed day meant that many could chip-in with their own expertise making for a very varied discussion. As you probably know I am a keen advocate of both organic and Heritage flours stocking both Lammas Fayre and Gilchesters. I almost fell over when my new friend, Andrew from Gilchesters told us that nitrogen based fertiliser was first put onto soil in 1945 when the munitions factories making nitro-glycerine had no market for their products! He also talked about the differences in the structure of heritage and modern cereals. Cereals hold a canopy of moisture under their top-most leaf. This is important since modern varieties are bred to be shorter such that the seed develops very near the top-most leaf and so near the moisture-rich, fungus-loving environment. Unlike the modern varieties, old varieties have a long stem separating the seed head from the top-leaf, thereby keeping the seed away from the damp and potentially fungus-laded air and so avoiding the need for fungicides, making them better suited to organic production.

It was an excellent day of discussion and sharing of knowledge and a lunch of incredible long, slow fermented bread made with heritage grains accompanied by local wine and cheese as well as Vanessa’s Kimchi. I will see if I can persuade her to share the recipe with us (… although I would love a vegetarian version of it).

Martin’s book (with Casper Lugg), Sourdough, is my new favourite. Out on 23rd March, it focuses on local and heritage grains. It is beautifully photographed and written so that the instructions are clear and simple to follow. Recipes cover a range of cereals including Emmer and Khorosan (Kamut) with a generous helping of technique from autolyse to sourdough management.

We have a copy to give away, so, to be one of the first to have a copy of what is likely to be a classic, send us a photo of a loaf you have made via Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #illebrod and we’ll send the book to the one we like best to be announced on Facebook 23 March.

synergy between the farmer and baker

I’m really delighted to note that Martin used a selection of British flours during the demonstration, Wholemeal from Gilchesters, Roman Spelt from Lammas Fayre and Strong White from Stoates. As a half-Norwegian with a passion for heritage flour, I really hope you like this book as much as I do. You can pre-order a copy of Sourdough by Casper Andre Lugg and Martin Fjeld published 23 March 2017 by Modern Books. We will send the book out as soon as it is released.

Main article photos are from Vanessa Kimbell and Sourdough by Casper Andre Lugg and Martin Fjeld published with the kind permission of Modern Books.

featured products

Sourdough | £20.00

A new favourite. We stock only a select range of bread books and this one deserves a place. A wide range of interesting sourdough recipes suitable for beginners and improvers.

Gilchesters Wholemeal Flour | £2.70

Gilchester Organic 100% Wholemeal flour from heritage wheat, milled finely for excellent rising properties, crumb and flavour.

Lammas Fayre Roman Spelt | £4.55

Lammas Fayre's wholesome wholemeal spelt flour is milled from a blend of heritage spelt wheat varieties grown organically in Buckinghamshire and Gloucestershire. Spelt (Triticum spelta) is the parent of modern bread wheat (T. aestivum).

Stoates Strong White Flour | £2.50

Make fantastic bread in your oven every time with a La Cloche. Ensure perfect golden, crackly crust and moist, evenly baked bread with this amazing product, based on 1000s of years of bread baking traditions.

Do you have a sourdough question for Vanessa? Send it to us and the best ones will appear in our next postbag edition and receive a dough whisk.

Suggestion Box

Are we missing something? An usual flour, a particular tin, or a special piece of equipment you’d like to see on our shelves? Let us know and if we decide to stock it, you will receive the very first one of the item you suggest.