Anela Malik talks all things sourdough and supporting local businesses for my July edition.
Welcome back to The Sunday Roast! It’s been almost six months since I started quasi-quarantining and working from home. The state of the world still has me so concerned, and I hope everyone is staying as safe as possible.
This month: I went back to the source of my inspiration to reach out to last month’s subject, Roaming Rooster, and asked Anela Malik (or FeedtheMalik, as you may know her) to speak with me! We talked about supporting Black-owned businesses in the DMV area, all about the master list of those businesses that she created and continually updates and our mutual love of sourdough. I’ve used Anela’s list to find new restaurants to try, including my most recent favorite: Agua 301 (seriously, their queso is to die for.) Remember to check out all recipes and past month’s feature at my website. Also, my subscriber count is at 81, and I want to hear from every one of you.
Some background: In a monthly newsletter, I combine a DC local’s story behind their favorite recipe(s), or ones that whip up some nostalgia, with photos and prose of my attempt at replication. These recipes vary in difficulty, but they are always ones close to the heart. This newsletter is sent on the third Sunday of each month as the name suggests.
A fun note: Make sure to mark this email as NOT spam, move it to your inbox or add my sending address to your address book to avoid the newsletter regularly ending up in the abyss. Sometimes Mailchimp email campaigns go straight to spam.
If you follow the D.C. food scene at all, then you know FeedtheMalik. Anela, the face of the blog, is many Washingtonians’ go-to foodie for restaurant recommendations, especially after she compiled a directory of Black-owned restaurants in the DMV that were serving takeout or delivery due to Covid-19.
Anela says she started the blog while she was abroad as a way to document herself trying new things, but then she decided to continue to operate it once returning to the States. The driving purpose behind the blog, according to her, is to push herself to try new places that may not be on a local listicle, and to treat the whole experience like an adventure, even though she lives in D.C., which she says one of her followers pointed out. You can trust that her blog will distinguish the truly tasty from just the trendy (tasty>trendy as she says), while also broadening your horizons by trying new cuisines and eateries.
She says that the spotlight she signs on Black-owned establishments was a natural move, but also a conscious decision to help readers find those spots. Her identity as a Black and Asian woman paired with her mixed-ethnicity family has meant that food has always had very few limits. There’s nothing that Anela won’t eat, really. On top of that desire and willingness to try new things, Anela says she struggled to find thorough recommendations for minority-owned restaurants in the area, even in local papers’ roundups, so she filled that gap herself since there are so many to try.
She then created her directory, which has caused an uptick in customers for the businesses listed. One of the restaurant owners even said they saw about 40% of traffic on their site come from the directory, and others were able to rehire staff. The list originally started as a resource for Anela, but it’s grown into a wildly gratifying resource that took on a life of its own. She encourages people to take the list and learn new favorite places on there and make it a habit to frequent them in a change to their lifestyle that is valuable. She’s even been trying a new place every week with her husband. One of her favorites so far is Habisha, an Ethiopian market that features a $18 vegetable platter that was a feast for the eyes.
Her latest project? Matching those Black-owned businesses with services they need for free, such as PR or marketing. Anela says she’s matched at least 15-20 businesses so far with services that are typically more expensive because of the level of professionalism — quite a feat for someone who says she’s an amateur in this arena. She says she also included a downloadable PDF on her site all about food photography, which several people have downloaded.
Discover her website.
And her Instagram.
The story behind her recipe.
Washingtonians always argue over what is the best bagel place in the area: Bethesda Bagels, Bullfrog Bagels, Call Your Mother, Bagels Etc. and more. But Anela doesn’t have a favorite, and that’s because she knows how to make her own bagels for her morning cravings. Very rarely does she follow anyone else’s recipes when baking for her site, but her bagel recipe, while it may look like other, is her’s and her’s alone after some experimentation. She says she chose this recipe because it’s her favorite of all time after making 50 versions of sourdough bagels before settling on this one.
This recipe specifically, according to Anela, is like every other sourdough baker’s recipe and she argues most sourdough baking is the same.
She says all sourdough bagel recipes will have a high protein flour, a small amount of salt and a high percentage of a starter, or a sponge made before starting the dough. Her recipe is unique, though, because she prefers using honey as a sweetener instead of sugar since it adds depth. It’s her own version of all the basic things in a sourdough bagel, but no added malt since she doesn’t like that strong of a flavor and no sponge since it is too complicated of a step.
For her, nothing she bakes today is being made for the first time since it is always an amalgamation of technique and experience,
but there is always a satisfaction in making a recipe you always thought looked too hard but isn’t that bad. The recipe is simply: you make the dough, let it rise, shape it, boil it and bake it! I can speak from first hand experience that, despite it taking a long time due to letting the dough rise, this recipe is not hard at all and very rewarding with delicious New York style bagels as the end product.
The recipe is simple with an added seasoning for flavor, but it can be adjusted to leave plain, or have a different flavor in it, such as chocolate chips.
Anela recommends a dry ingredient to not mess with the hydration of the dough, but I did ask for her advice on how to add berries I had picked at Butler’s Orchard. Following her advice, I added a little bit more water and dehydrated and chopped the berries, then folded them in. That definitely kept the bagel’s texture moist enough while also having a strong enough berry flavor from the blueberries and black raspberries.
Baking is always an exact science, and Anela definitely recommends exactly measuring out each ingredient for this bagel recipe.
Now that she’s made it so much, she can eyeball the ingredients. When it comes to cooking, she doesn’t follow recipes to such a T since she typically does what feels right, and it ends up working. Baking is more her style, especially sourdough. She taught herself sourdough baking when her husband was working in Kuwait for a year and she needed to fill up the time to prevent boredom.
She grew her starter and started experimenting by asking her digital community for recipes. She also set off on meticulously following her dusty, flour-stained cookbook, but now she’s super familiar with sourdough baking. Though she doesn’t consider herself a traditional sourdough baker creating the perfect oven spring in bread. She experiments instead with matcha cookies and other unique flavors to satisfy her cravings.
When Covid-19 hit the U.S. and most people started quarantining in March,
sourdough baking got so popular that followers started messaging Anela and commenting on her posts requesting that she upload her recipes to her website. She says those photos used to not get a lot of love on Instagram, but now people have more time to work with starters and can’t get enough of those recipes, so she moved them to her site.
She originally did not set out to putting recipes on her site, and resisted the urge to for a long time since recipe development takes up a lot of energy and she doesn’t measure when cooking typically, only when baking.
She shared photos of her cooking on her Instagram stories, which led to a flood of followers requesting she post the recipe. After a few months, she gave in and put in the time to make recipes people can replicate at home. She rarely follows others recipes, but she does try to post ones that support local businesses, like her recent roasted chicken using Uncle Dell’s mambo sauce. Anela frequently interviews local small businesses, preferably miniority-owned, and then uses their product in a recipe.
Boiling the bagels for 30 seconds on each side is super important.