I’ve been putting my bees to bed for the winter. Beekeeping always seems to be portrayed as some nostalgic art more at home in a bonnet drama, with permanently blue skies and a bearded monk strolling around a beautifully calm apiary and tons of lovely honey. My experience isn’t quite like that. I’m hoping this is normal. Bees are strange, complex and moody creatures. They can be really placid, especially when the sun is shining and the flowers are going full tilt, at other times, if a storm is brewing, if there is oil seed rape about, or if it is getting cold like now, the same passive hive can turn nasty. Sometimes they do it for no reason that I can spot, so I am always careful when handling them. Smoke has a calming influence on them and I tend to go overboard if I feel that they are going to play up: I smoke the hives, smoke the air and smoke myself liberally. If they are grumpy they have been known to fly at me and sting me through my leather gauntlets 40 or 50 times. Not nice. Apart from the pain, I really like keeping them and trying to figure out what information the hive is giving me. “Go away” is one of them, but it can be that they are about to swarm, have no queen or are on the edge of starvation, a regular feature of recent summers. Instrumental in over 30% of our food, bees are essential to us and so getting to know them is worth the effort and I even got a little honey this year.

This recipe is very interesting because its texture and flavour is different from traditional flatbreads. It uses baking powder to rise and the gluten is not well developed resulting in a tender almost cake-like crumb. I’ve used aniseed as it is one of the spices used by Tibetan monks in the incense while chanting. It is this connection that inspired me to make the bread.

Balep Korkun, from central Tibet, is also known as Monastery Bread. It’s very easy to make and contains only a few ingredients. If you do not have aniseed you can substitute with fennel seeds. The bread can be ready to bake in around 20 minutes so you can have fresh aromatic bread to put on the table in no time. I’ve used Gilchester’s White flour as it is a flavoursome British stoneground flour with a very sweet wheat aroma packing in lots of flavour combining well with the aroma of the toasted aniseeds. The baking powder from BakeryBits is always fresh due to the volume sold and comes in small sachets for freshness. The texture is quite close and would be good to serve with a soup or a stew. I baked it on a Sassafras Round Baking Stone because the heat helps the reaction with the dough increasing the Maillard reaction resulting in a good colour and toasted flavour. Be careful that the stone does not become over-heated as the bread may get too dark before it has finished baking. For a sweet treat brush with melted butter and sprinkle with a little granulated sugar or warmed honey serve with warm honeyed milk.

Vanessa Kimbell runs the Sourdough School, Northampton


Recipe: Balep Korkun Tibetan
Flatbread (Monastery Bread)


Set the oven to 220°C/425F/Gas mark 7 and place the baking stone in the centre of the oven to heat through.

If using a mixer fitted with a paddle add all the ingredients except the water and aniseed. Start mixing and add the water slowly, you are looking for a soft pliable dough - you may not need all the water. Work the dough until elastic and smooth which should take 3-4 minutes.

Otherwise, mix by hand adding the water and kneading over about 6 minutes until the dough is soft and pliable.

Divide into 4 pieces and roll each one into a ball, cover with a damp tea-towel or cling film and rest for 15 minutes.

Roll the balls into discs 1cm thick, sprinkle with the aniseed and press them into discs by lightly pass the rolling pin over the seeds on each bread.

Place each bread one at a time onto the hot baking stone seed-side down and bake for 10 minutes then turn the bread over and bake for a further 10 minutes.

The bread should be a nice colour when baked and sound hollow when tapped on the underside when it is baked.

Brush with milk and honey glaze if you wish.

These can be eaten on their own or better with a mild, fruity curry.

500g Gilchesters Strong
White Flour

20g Baking Powder
10g Super-Fine Himalayan
sea salt

25g Pelia Olive oil
250g Water at room
Anise Seeds
Honey and milk to glaze

Mixing Bowl
Rolling pin
Sassafras SuperStone


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Gilchesters Unbleached White Flour | £2.90

Gilchester Organic Strong White Flour is suitable for bread making and all home baking, this flour loves sourdough or overnight bread sponges (long fermentation), rises well and produces a classic rustic colour.

Sassafras Baking Stone | £22.08

A large round pizza stone (15" or 45cm diameter and 1cm thick) with its own removable rack, made from the same Superstone as all of our Sassafras products, this stone is excellent for pizzas, breads and biscuits.

Baking Powder | £1.00

Organic baking powder, made in Germany for a high-performance alternative to the non-organic supermarket varieties.

Pelia Olive Oil | £7.88

Pelia Extra-Virgin olive oil is a very fresh and grassy olive oil with a very delicate flavour and a smooth aftertaste that doesn’t burn the throat.

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