Flatbread

Lockdown lunch – easy flatbreads with mushroom and lentil soup

mushroom soup flatbreads

Lockdown continues with no end in sight in terms of the children going back to school. I’ve grown quite used to having them around but I feel as though I am morphing into a 1950s housewife. All meals are served on the dot at set times and my brain is clogged up with thinking about where the next one will come from and how I can mix up the random ingredients in the cupboard to form some sort of presentable family meal. Putting all my feminist principles to one side, it’s a part that I’m rather enjoying playing. PS. I do not look like a 1950s housewife. No pretty tea dresses here but rather tracksuit bottoms, no makeup and grey roots scrapped back into a rough ponytail.

We’ve now completely run out of bread and plain flour and our supply of out-of-date yeast (begged and borrowed from friends and family) is dwindling away dangerously. Luckily, we have still been able to buy self-raising flour locally so I searched the internet for a bread recipe that would make use of this. I was really delighted with the results of this flatbread recipe – loosely based on one from Jamie Oliver’s website. The dough was very forgiving and soft and it could be shaped easily without the aid of a rolling pin. It’s definitely one that you could get the kids to help with (dress it up as a home economics lesson!). My husband Ben said that they tasted a bit like crumpets which can never be a bad thing in my opinion.

The mushroom and lentil soup comes from the no-nonsense ‘New Complete Vegetarian’ by Rose Eliiot. It is rather reminiscent of healthy vegetarian cafes circa 1990, but with a few embellishments it made a perfectly respectable weekday lunch. It tasted earthy and wholesome and handily made use of store cupboard ingredients and some on-the-turn mushrooms. Weirdly my son ate it happily – despite claiming to hate both mushrooms and lentils (I didn’t tell him what was in it until the end).

The flatbreads were the star of the show though and I really recommend trying them.

Quick flatbreads (with self-raising flour)

Makes 8

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 350g plain yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A slug of rapeseed or olive oil
  • Optional flavourings – I added a little fenugreek and some black mustard seeds

In a large bowl mix together all of the above ingredients with your hands and mix until it all comes together into a smooth dough (use a little more flour if it’s too sticky, I needed a couple of extra sprinkles). Cover the bowl with cling film or a tea towel and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to cook, divide the dough into 8. Roll each portion into a ball and flatten out until it is about 20 cm in diameter. Use a rolling pin if you need to.

Heat a frying pan until very hot – do not add any oil. Cook each flatbread for a 1-2 minutes on either side. They’ll bubble up a bit and go nice a brown in places. You may need to reduce the heat a little if the pan gets too hot – I like it though if they catch a little in places.

Keep warm in a very low oven (around 100oC) on a plate covered with a damp tea towel while you cook the rest (the tea towel will prevent them from drying out).

Mushrooms and lentil soup

Serves 4

  • 200g pack of mushrooms (I used chestnut), chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little butter (approximately 15g)
  • 125g green (or Puy) lentils
  • 850ml water
  • A stock cube (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • To serve, dill or parsley, cream or grated Parmesan

Take a large frying pan and cook the onions, garlic and mushrooms in the olive oil and butter until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the lentils and the water and simmer with a lid on for 45 minutes until soft. Do not add any salt or salted stock cube until the lentils are soft as the salt prevents them from cooking.

If you are using a stock cube add this in once the lentils are soft and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Blend the soup until smooth. This will make a very thick soup. I thinned mine down with a bit more water, or you can use milk if you wish. Check the seasoning and add pepper and a little more salt if necessary.

Serve topped with dill, parsley, a drizzle of cream or olive oil, or perhaps some grated cheese.

 

Yotam Ottolenghi’s puy lentils

puylentilstahini

I celebrated the end of a vegetarian Lent with scampi and chicken bites at Scarborough’s wonderful Clock Café. This is my favourite cafe in the world, it’s fabulously old school with a menu that probably hasn’t changed in 40 years.

The next day I ate battered fish with chips at Whitby’s Quayside restaurant and was very happy.

The week before all that, when I was still being a vegetarian, I finally managed to make an Ottolenghi recipe work. I’m a big fan of red lentil dhal, which is a staple of mine, but this was the first time I’d attempted to cook with puy lentils which I’ve been told are tricky.

It was very tasty (even though I forgot the tiny sliced onion which I’d painstakingly prepared) but this is not surprising considering the amount of butter and oil involved. The cold hardboiled egg garnish really worked well with the hot lentils.

I have one more vegetarian recipe to tell you about next week. Bet you can’t wait.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s puy lentils

Serves 2

  • 200g of puy lentils
  • 30g of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 3 medium tomatoes, skinned and cut into 1cm squares (I used a third of a tin of tinned tomatoes, chopped)
  • 25g of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini paste
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper
  • ½ a small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered

Bring a pan of water to a boil. Add the lentils and cook according to the pack instructions until completely cooked, drain and set aside. Yotam suggested that this would take 15-20 minutes. My packet suggested cooking for 60 minutes but I found they were done after half an hour. If you can squash a lentil easily between your fingers then they are done.

Put the butter and oil in a frying pan and place on a medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, add the garlic and cumin, and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes, 20g of coriander and the cooked lentils and cook for a couple of minutes stirring all the time.

Then add the tahini, lemon juice, 70ml of water, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Turn down the heat to medium and cook for a few minutes more, stirring all the time until hot and thickened. Roughly mash the lentils with a potato masher, so that some are broken up.

If at any time it looks too thick then you can add a little more water.

Serve on a platter with the sliced onion, the rest of the coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and the hard boiled eggs on the side.

Serve with homemade flat bread (or bought naan or pitta if you can’t be bothered).

Lazy fish tacos

fish tacos

It has been far too hot this week for extravagant cooking.

I never lose my appetite in the heat (this only ever happens when I’m really, really poorly) but I do change the way that I eat – grazing lazily on smaller dishes throughout the day rather than wanting big, hot food.

In this summer weather I’ve been craving fresh, simply cooked fish and this recipe is just perfect. It’s basically a posh take on a fish finger sandwich (ever so Nigella).

I’m too lazy to bother with the corn relish or the quick pickled onion in the original recipe (find these on the BBC Food website if you like). I just serve the baked fish inside some sort of bread, with whatever salad bits happen to be in the fridge and some sort of sauce – usually mayonnaise and/or chilli sauce.

Nigella’s fish tacos

Serves 4-6

(I made this with 500g of hake and this served 3 generously. I then roughly halved the quantities of spices below)

  • 750-900g of hake (or haddock)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin (or grind your own from whole with a pestle and mortar – it helps to dry fry in a hot pan for a minute first before grinding)
  • ½ a teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely grated or minced
  • 2 tablespoons of regular olive oil

Preheat your oven to 200C fan.

Skin and remove any pin bones from the fish fillets (or ask your fishmonger to do this for you). Then cut into longish chunks and arrange in a shallow roasting tin.

Mix together the cumin, paprika and salt, and sprinkle over the fish fillets.

Mix the garlic and the oil in a small bowl. Drizzle the fish with the garlicky oil, and roast in the oven for 8–10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fillets. Check to see if the fish is cooked through before taking out of the oven.

Serve the fish wrapped in some sort of flatbread. Tortillas and pittas both work well. Bought ones are just fine but the best (if you can be bothered) are homemade – such as my ‘sort of naan’ flatbreads (recipe here). Then add in some sort of salad and sauce of your choice.

Here’s a photo of the baked fish inside a toasted pitta with broad bean hummus (it’s the season) and my new addiction – Sriracha chilli sauce.

fish tacos 2

I’ve realised that there are a lot of Nigella recipes on this blog. If you fancy trying any of the others here’s a recap.

My favourite Nigella recipes

Chocolate Guinness cake (I made this for the first time in ages this week – I’d forgotten how seriously delicious it is and it went down very well with my Bollywood dancing troupe)
Old-fashioned chocolate cake
New York cheesecake (the best cheesecake ever)
Ricotta hotcakes (I make these almost every weekend for my children as a breakfast treat)
Breakfast bars 
Crunchy cornflake coated chicken
Pea and garlic soup

 

Brisket

brisket

I love beef brisket. Not only is it economical and full of flavour but it’s also very forgiving. You just have to cook it nice and slow for at least 4 hours and it always turns out fine (unlike topside where there’s always a risk that it will be overdone and tough or underdone and the kids won’t eat it).

For years I’ve been cooking brisket in the same old nice (but boring) way.

  • season and sear meat
  • chuck in onion/carrot/garlic/herbs
  • cover with red wine and beef stock
  • cook on low for a whole afternoon

But then along came the lovely John Whaite who changed my outlook on this humble cut of meat. His ‘Anglo-Vietnamese shredded beef brisket’ is brisket with pizzazz. The technique is similar to mine, but with the addition of a few new exciting flavours you get a lighter, sunnier kind of dish – one that you serve with flat breads and spicy coleslaw rather than Yorkshire puddings and potatoes. There is obviously a place for both but it’s good to have another option, especially in the hotter spring/summer months when a traditional roast doesn’t really suit.

John Whaite’s Anglo-Vietnamese shredded beef brisket (from the Telegraph online)

  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5kg unrolled beef brisket (my joint was actually only 850g but I still used the quantities below and it was delicious, my butcher only sells it rolled but I just cut the string and unrolled it)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped into 8 pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and gently crushed
  • The peel from 1 clementine (I used orange peel because that’s all I had)
  • 3 star anise flowers
  • 8 green cardamon pods, bruised
  • 300ml of red wine (I used cheap rioja)
  • 250ml of beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of fish sauce (I used 1 tablespoon because 1 teaspoon seemed like child’s play)
  • A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 140oC fan.

Rub salt and pepper on the entire surface of the meat and sear it in a heavy casserole dish with a lid over a medium-high heat for a minute on each side.

Throw in the other ingredients and bring the liquid in the pan to a boil. Cover with a disc of baking paper, touching the surface of the meat and liquid. Put the lid on and cook in the oven for 4-4 ½ hours, until the meat is tender.

Remove the pan from the oven, but leave it covered with the meat inside for a good 30 minutes.

Remove the beef from the pan and shred, removing any big lumps of fat. Then pass the cooking liquor through a sieve before returning to the pan along with the shredded beef. Scatter with freshly chopped coriander before serving.

I served mine in a tortilla wrap (bought I’m afraid) with an Asian flavoured coleslaw (basically red cabbage, onion and carrot with leftover gyoza dipping sauce chucked over the top).

Lamb flatbreads (Lahmacun)

Lahmacun

Lamb flatbreads (or Turkish pizza as they are sometimes called) are my new obsession. They are aromatic but not too spicy and great if you love pizza but can’t eat diary like my two sisters Gemma and Laura.

So this recipe, my lovely sisters, is for you. PS. That means that you’ve got to try it (said in a bossy older sister voice).

A little lamb mince goes a very long way in this recipe ,which is good because it’s very expensive these days (said in my best old lady’s voice).

Lamb flatbreads

Makes 4 flatbreads, roughly 28 cm square, to feed 2-6 adults (depending on appetite)

Base

  • 350g strong white bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Water to mix (200 – 250ml)
  • A sprinkling of semolina

Topping

  • 300g of lean minced lamb (buy the best quality you can)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 2 tinned plum tomatoes, drained and finely chopped, or use two fresh ones
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh flat leaf parsley
  • ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large onion, grated
  • 4 small green chillies, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • lemon wedges to serve

To prepare the topping simply add all the topping ingredients into a bowl and mush up with your hands until everything is incorporated. I like to leave the mixture for a few hours to allow the flavours to mingle but you don’t have to do this.

For the pizza base put the flour, salt, yeast and olive oil in a mixing bowl and add the water gradually mixing with your fingers. You want to bring the mixture together into a fairly wet dough – you may not need the whole 250ml. If you add too much, and the dough is too sticky to work with just sprinkle on a little more flour.

Tip the dough on to the work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Ideally you should knead for 10 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film, and rest for 2 hours.

When you’re ready to cook the flatbreads first set your oven to its highest temperature (mine goes up to 270oC) and place a flat, square tray into the oven to heat up.

Take your dough and give it a good punch to knock out the air. Transfer to the work surface, knead lightly for a few seconds and divide into four.
Roll the first portion of dough out as thinly as you can without getting holes (this will be somewhere between 25 and 30 cm square).

Take the hot tray out of the oven and sprinkle with semolina. Transfer your rolled out dough to the baking sheet and spread a couple of handfuls of the lamb mixture thinly over the base with your hands as evenly as you can.

Bake the flatbreads for 6-8 minutes until the edges are brown and crispy.

Remove from the oven sprinkle over some sea salt and serve with wedges of lemon to be squeezed over the top just before eating.

Repeat the process with the other 3 portions (this is where you feel a bit like a pizza slave but I assure you it’s worth it).

NOTE: An Iraqi friend of mine made me something similar using ready-made tortillas so this is an option if you don’t have the time or the inclination to make pizza dough from scratch.

You will probably find that you have a handful of topping left over. It’s not really worth scaling down the quantities so you can make it into little meat balls or fry up with some left over rice and an egg which is especially delicious and a winner with my children.

my sisters copy

My sisters.