Nigel Slater’s flatbread recipes
Readymade flatbread is rarely as good as your own. Here, Nigel shares a recipe that has reignited his passion for pitta. I have been after a really good recipe for flatbread for some time. A recipe that produces a dough that rises just enough, has a good, yeasty backnote and is effortless to work. I found it this week when Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake (Bloomsbury £20) came through the letterbox. Despite the temptation of icing-splattered pains aux raisins, crisp Cypriot almond biscuits and a carrot and almond cheesecake I went straight for the flatbread recipe and it worked like a dream.
Flatbread was around long before the first oven, needing only a single hot surface on which to cook. This was no doubt provided by the embers of a dying fire where the heat was enough to cook the thin slippers of dough. I have previously baked my flatbreads, pitta, call them what you will, in a hot oven and never been entirely happy with them. This time I took Paul’s frying-pan route and the result was everything I wanted it to be.
The usual way to deal with them is to split and stuff after baking, but I prefer mine stuffed first, so the filling is hot and melting, and becomes part of the bread. The figs that I had been keeping for a tart ending up being chopped and mixed with blue cheese as one of the stuffings; the other was a silky textured filling of roast aubergine, olive oil and thyme.
I let my flatbread catch a little as they cooked, blistering on the base of the cast-iron pan. The slight blackening introduced a smoky note that worked nicely with both aubergines and the figs. I imagine that is how they would have looked after their time in the embers of a fire, rather than the palid biscuit colour they so often appear in the shops.
This is also the bread I like to tear into jagged pieces and include in a salad. Because of their juiciness, tomatoes were the main ingredient for yesterday’s flatbread salad. Those, and some chunks of peeled cucumber, a handful of coriander leaves and a scattering of oregano – my version of a Levantine fattoush.
You might prefer to stuff your breads with mozzarella or olive paste, fried mushrooms or any good melting cheese. Or you might just want a well-made bread to scoop up your hummus. The recipe below is the best I have come across, giving a bread that will make even a good shop-bought version seem suddenly wanting.
Based on the recipe in How To Bake by Paul Hollywood.
For the basic dough:
strong, white bread flour 500g
instant yeast 10g
unsalted butter 30g
water about 300mls
Put the flour in a large, warm mixing bowl and add the salt and the dried yeast. Add the butter and most of the water, then mix with your hands to bring the mixture together. Gradually add the remaining water until all the flour is mixed in.
Put the dough on a lightly floured board and knead for 5-10 minutes. When the dough feels smooth and silky, place it back in the mixing bowl, cover it with a warm tea towel and leave it in a warm place to rise for at least an hour until the dough has doubled in size. Tip the dough on to a floured surface, fold repeatedly until all the air is knocked out of it, then tear it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.
Fig and gorgonzola flatbread
My filling – use a good, ripe cheese.
large, ripe figs 3
half the dough above
a little olive oil
Cut the figs into quarters. Make an indentation in the centre of each ball of dough and push a piece of fig and a similarly sized lump of gorgonzola into it. Pinch the dough over the filling to seal it. Continue till all six pieces of dough are filled.
Put a ball of the stuffed dough on a well- floured work surface and flatten with a rolling pin into a disc or oval about 16cm in diameter. Place on a baking sheet and continue with the others.
Put the baking sheet of flatbreads in a warm place for 10-15 minutes. Warm a heavy-based frying pan over a moderate heat. Rub lightly with a little olive oil, place two or three flatbreads into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Once they have darkened here and there, turn them over and cook the other side. A little blistering is good. Remove and eat immediately.
Aubergine and thyme flatbreads
Grill the aubergines instead, if you wish.
a medium-sized aubergine
a few sprigs of thyme
half the dough above (previous page)
Cut the aubergine in half from stalk to tip. Place it in a baking dish, cut-side up, and slash a criss-cross of cuts into the flesh, reaching almost down to the skin. Trickle or brush over a little olive oil then bake at 200C for 25 minutes or until completely soft. Remove from the oven and scrape the flesh out into a mixing bowl. Chop the thyme leaves and stir them, with a little salt and black pepper, into the aubergine.
Make an indentation in the centre of each ball of dough and put a couple of heaped teaspoons of the aubergine mixture into the hollow and pinch the dough over to seal. Carry on with the remaining pieces of dough.
Place a ball of the stuffed dough on a well-floured work surface and flatten with a rolling pin into a disc or oval about 16cm in diameter. Place on a baking sheet and continue with the others.
Put the baking sheet of flatbreads in a warm place 10-15 minutes. Warm a heavy-based frying pan over a moderate heat. Rub very lightly with a little olive oil then place two or three flatbreads into the pan and cook them for 3-4 minutes. Once they have started to darken here and there, turn them over and cook the other side. A little blistering is good. Eat immediately.
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