We first met Richard when we had a pop-up at the brilliant market on Druid St in South London, which sadly no longer exists. It was a long day, and safe to say we didn’t really know what we were doing when we set up that morning. Richard took us under his wing, keeping us well-fed with some of the best bread we’d ever had, introducing us to all the best producers at the market and, as the day wore on, sharing some rather good wine as customer numbers dwindled.
At Abergavenny Food Festival this year we bumped into him again, publicising his new book with one of the brilliant co-writers Eve Hemingway. And what a book it is – exquisitely beautiful, interesting and best of all, containing all the secrets to the best bread in town. Bread & Butter is a love letter to these two glorious, artisanal products that have graced our tables for centuries. Congratulations to Richard, Grant and Eve on a wonderful book.
What was your first job? And your first job in food?
I’m not proud of my first job. In fact, i’m embarrassed by it. There wasn’t much in the way of work in the village, the biggest employers were the farms and I ended up working at the egg farm. Not a nice free range happy chicken with tons of space kind of place. The horrible kind with cages stacked like boxes in a warehouse. I didn’t see a chicken until the third year I was there, but when I did it didn’t take me long to leave. A repulsive industry. I dreamt of letting them all free on my last day.
What’s your earliest food memory?
I think it’s my Granny’s bread! She used to make a lovely 100% wholemeal loaf. I still remember how it tasted. Very wheaty and a very slight sweetness. I remember the dough proving in a bowl covered with a tea towel next to the aga while sunday lunch was being prepared. I loved their house. There was always something fermenting as my Granddad made wine with anything he could get his hands on. Pea pods (nice dessert wine), Parsnip (good with chicken), Raspberry (just good to drink). They were very lucky to have such a beautiful and abundant garden and orchard. We loved visiting.
What did you have for breakfast?
Eggs! Always eggs!.. On toast.
What is the biggest misconception about bread?
I think it’s that it bloats you, or makes you sluggish. Shit bread makes you feel like that. Gluten is hard to digest and needs to be slowly fermented to break it down and make the bread more nutritious. Super market bread can be made from start to finish in 2 hours! Our bread takes 36 hours to make! Any sourdough is far easier to digest and therefore is more gentle on your stomach. I know clean eaters like to think it’s poison, but sorry guys, you just need to buy better bread!
What’s the most underused ingredient?
Not just saying this to be cool (Gill Meller/Jenny Linford, I’m looking at you), but it’s time! A lot of people are obsessed with doing everything quickly (Jamie Oliver… I still love you), but the flavour you get from cooking particular dishes over a very long time for me is the most amazingly rewarding experience. I’d go as far to say it’s impossible to make a good ragu in under 4 hours. Yes, time… and pickle juice.
Your worst kitchen disaster?
I set fire to an oven while making yorkshire puddings at The Charles Bradlaugh pub in Northampton. On my first Sunday alone. I didn’t know it was an oil fire. I put water on it. It angered it somewhat… It still haunts me.
Why did you set up The Snapery
In short, I love bread. I got an amazingly excited feeling every time I made dough. It dawned on me that a dough with a large wholemeal content smells like a rainy day on a harvested field. I liked that because we were surrounded by wheat where we grew up, and I really loved harvest time. I’m a nostalgic guy, I’m a passionate guy. When you put those to things together it appears to make you want to quit everything to do what you love. In my experience. I have one regret: Not training. Anyone out there who wants to start any business, appropriate training is key.
What does Halen Môn go best with?
Chilli and garlic salt on heavy roast pork is mind blowing!
Describe Wales in 5 words.
Rainy (obvious), Friendly, Historic, Musical, Food.
The best smell in the world?
I’m not just saying this, but it’s bread baking. You just never get bored of it.
What makes the difference between a good plate of food and an amazing one?
You can make good food with skill, but it’s love that makes something amazing.
IMAGERY: Patricia Niven
Bread & Butter by Richard Snapes, Grant Harrington & Eve Hemingway (Quadrille Books, £22)