There are fateful encounters, when life seems to be a well-planned chess game. Maybe we can decide about our steps, but we cannot avoid getting into contact with certain players. Such an encounter was when I met Niki Szakács, a textile designer. Thanks to her, from now on botanical dyed textiles will appear on the blog, giving a fine texture and atmosphere to the photos.
I met Niki when attending one of her workshops on natural dying, but life step by step led me to realise that I needed to be there.
I heard first about natural plant dyes at an introductory course on herbal medicine in Zánka, in the Healing Herb Centre Gyógynövény-völgy, Zánka. I have an unexplainable attraction to healing herbs- this subject is yet to come on the blog later I guess- but it was something new to me that beside of their many features you can even dye with them.
When we moved to our small village in Northwestern Hungary, I have been looking for any connection to nature not limited to gardening. I love everything which is a footprint of the world surrounding us, which were produced not by machines but hands and were not transported from a country afar. I try to create recipes with ingredients grown locally and seasonally because I strongly believe that they do the best for our soul and body. I found the idea, being surrounded with textiles which colour was given by the surrounded nature, fascinating.
A couple of weeks after the herbal medicine course I mentioned my interest for botanical dying to my friend, Mária, who ‘by accident’ happened to have a book on the subject, written by Ágnes Kemendi. By the time I finished the book wondering what next, I found Textil / szakacsniki on Facebook, who not only creates beautiful things from plant-dyed fabric but as an expert in this field also teaches this forgotten knowledge.
So, a few months later I was not only the owner by a self-made, botanical dyed silk scarf, but also discovered a soul sister in her and we knew that this is the beginning of something…maybe a beautiful friendship. So we agreed to meet in Niki’s studio on an early spring Saturday in order to figure out how we can find common points in our professions, because we were sure about that we can.
The evening before our meeting it popped into my mind that maybe I can bring something for breakfast because we don’t meet in a coffee shop and after all, I am a cook. I had some farmer’s cottage cheese and was thinking to bake some cottage cheese scones but we also needed something sweet. For example rice pudding with home-made sour cherry jam, made from cherries from our orchard. I was just about to finish the dough for scones while the rice pudding was cooking on the stove, when I suddenly realised that I don’t even know whether if she is on a special diet. I quickly sent her a message and the answer arrived immediately.
‘Dear Judit, I eat dairy-free since a long time, and try to eat gluten-free, not because it is so fashionable, but because I feel like it.
‘Well, that’s exactly, what I was afraid of’, I thought, ‘I could have been thinking about it before, since it is my profession….’, I was already typing:
‘Huh, I am glad, I asked. I will not bake cottage cheese scones’, I answered and looked at the dough lying on the pastry board and quickly decided to freeze it. However, in her response she completely contradicted herself and I knew she is my friend!
‘Oh, I love cottage cheese scones, bake them please! This is how strict my diet is, you see…’
‘Ok, I will arrive with freshly baked scones. One more thing… what about rice pudding with sour cherry jam. It is already done, but please feel free to say no. ‘
‘Nooo, it is already too much. Haha! YES, BRING IT PLEASE!’ , then she added, ‘ I love being fed’
I began to smile, because a grateful audience is the greatest happiness to a cook.
‘ And I love feeding. This is my life’
So I put the rice pudding into my white wicker basket, along with the jam, and I filled the air of my kitchen early morning with the scent of baking scones that I piled into cartons and drove to Budapest.
What happens, if a textile designer, specialised in botanical dying meets a cook and food photographer who is searching for traditional recipes?
According to our experience, first of all they eat. And talk. About materials, textiles, ingredients. Food. The world. And the passion for creating art, and finding purpose.
In the meantime, next to the empty jam jar, textiles had been placed into the wicker basket: naturally dyed and woven by her in colours of the awakening nature that surrounds us.
I am convinced that food made with love has a magic power. It opens heart and soul, offers inspiration and comfort and leads us into a world in which all things seem to be possible.
On that day, bewitched by cottage cheese scones and rice pudding Niki and I were daydreaming about possibilities in which plants can show all of their aspects and abilities.
I cannot tell you more now, but if our dream comes true, I am sure it is partly because Niki gave up her strict diet for one day.
This story called for a good scone recipe, this time with potato and a treasure of nature, wild garlic….
More about Niki Szakács:
Szakács Niki is a natural dyer and artist, living and working in Budapest, creating pieces with natural resources sourced sustainably. In her art making, she is amazed by the idea of living colour palettes and how she can curate and frame natural colour in a contemporary light.She uses low-impact sustainable materials and processes and upcycling is a key word in her works. Her main goal is about connecting to another artisans and local companies, who are also working with ethically responsible sources.
Wild garlic potato scones
500 g plain four
400 g potatoes, cooked and crushed while still warm
1 egg, separated
25 g fresh yeast
250 ml milk
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 small bunch of wild garlic
2 tablespoons duck fat
Dissolve yeast and sugar in 100 ml lukewarm milk and let it rise for 5 minutes. Chop wild garlic, Mix flour with salt, add yeasted milk, the rest of milk, egg yolk, and duck fat knead it to a soft and flexible dough, finally add chopped wild garlic. Keep egg white for egg wash. Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl and let it rise covered for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 200 °C. Roll out to a 2 cm thick circle on a lightly floured surface and scratch the top with a knife diagonally. Cut circles with a 4.5 cm cutter and place them on a baking sheet and brush the top with egg white. Let it rise for another 30 minutes. Brush the top again and bake them until risen and brown (approximately 20 minutes)