Tag Archives: flatbread

Nettle Farinata

Nettle farinata.

Farinata (also called socca, torta di ceci or cecina) is a chickpea flour flatbread akin to a pancake or crepe, and it’s been a favourite food of mine for years. I’ve written about Farinata before (and its Indian cousin, Besan Cheela) but I’ve recently been rediscovering farinata through my favourite Springtime forageable: stinging nettles.

For one thing, nettle farinata just looks cool (I was inspired by this picture of nettle focaccia taken by Eat Pictures). But the nettles also add nice texture to the farinata, thanks to their prickly hairs which are no longer stinging since the nettles have been cooked.

Of course, you don’t need to use nettles here – you can use any vegetable you’d like – veggie chef Rachel Demuth does hers with artichokes – and feel free to kick it up with herbs, spices, black pepper, chilli, whatever you feel. This is why I love farinata: it’s so adaptable. It’s also inherently vegan, gluten-free, rich in protein and fiber, and an all around good eat that goes well with so many things. My recipe below is also lower in fat than most other farinata recipes, which tend to include a lot of oil in the batter. When I make this, the only oil I use is for greasing the pan. To me, it’s perfect this way.

You can cook farinata til its crispy and use it as a pizza base, or keep it malleable and use it almost as a vegan omelet Рdelicious with saut̩ed mushrooms! If you really want to green up your farinata, you can blitz some of the nettles (or whatever greenery your using) with the batter.

Wild garlic farinata / socca / chickpea flour flatbread. #vegan #glutenfree

Nettle Farinata

1 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon salt
olive oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
a bunch of nettle leaves, washed

Method

  1. Combine the chickpea flour and salt in a blender with 1 cup of water. Blend until smooth then leave the batter to rest for 2-12 hours.
  2. Heat up the oven’s grill / broiler. Heat an oven-safe non-stick pan on medium high heat. Coat the pan with some olive oil (either using a spray bottle or by drizzling in some oil and wiping it around with a paper towel).
  3. When the pan is good and hot, pour in just enough batter to fill the pan, about the thickness of a crepe – you can go thicker but I find a thinner pancake results in a nicer result. Immediately scatter some onions over the batter, then, using tongs, place the nettle leaves on top of the batter.
  4. When the batter is firm on top and brown underneath, remove the pan from the heat and place under the grill / broiler (if you’d like, you can spray a thin coat of olive oil on top of the farinata before placing under the grill). Cook until it’s starting to brown on top (this shouldn’t take very long so keep an eye on it).
  5. Remove the farinata from the pan and repeat the steps above with the rest of the batter.
  6. Serve immediately. You can slice the farinata with a pizza cutter, but it’s also nice to just tear into it with your hands!

Here’s what it looks like with wild garlic, also nice but not as texturally interesting:

Wild garlic farinata (I still prefer the nettle version).

Turkish Style Flatbreads

Turkish Style Flatbread

My bread mojo has been lacking lately. I feel like I’ve had a long string of loaves that are too flat, flatbread that is too dry, lacklustre sourdough starter and cardboard-esque pizza bases. It has me feeling a little ho-hum about bread, while desperately craving something great.

I decided to try two things: first, a new recipe. I opted for the Turkish flatbread from the River Cottage Bread Handbook. The second thing I tried was following the recipe exactly – no cutting corners, no experimenting with different flours. Instead, I paid attention to what I was doing and put my faith in the recipe. It didn’t let me down.

The dough includes yogurt and olive oil to create a soft pillowy flatbread. The dough wasn’t as wet as what I’m used to, but I resisted the urge to add (very much) extra water and let it do it’s thing. It rose as it should, and it was very easy to roll.

Making flatbread

Making flatbread

I love flatbread because you can roll the dough into whatever size you want – big ol’ flatbreads for sharing with friends, or little mini breads to stack and freeze and keep on hand for whenever you need it. I rolled mine into about 4″ diameter, 3mm thick (do you like how I’m mixing my measurement systems?) and then got on with the baking.

The recipe calls for the rolled-out dough to be baked quickly on a hot skillet, and then finished in the grill. You can imagine my delight as I saw the dough puff and rise on the stovetop.

Making flatbread

What you don’t see, however, is the bread rapidly burning underneath! Lesson learned: these flatbread bake VERY quickly, and it’s a little fraught working with the skillet and then the grill. I ended up making most of the flatbreads on the outdoor BBQ because it’s much cleaner, harder to burn and you can make more than one flatbread at once!

Making flatbread

The resulting flatbreads weren’t so “flat” at all, but they were exactly what I was hoping for. I’ve been eating them with gusto with raw kale salads and beetroot and walnut hummus (another River Cottage recipe). Most importantly, however, I feel relieved to have had a baking success. The mojo is returning. Next up, sourdough?

Turkish Style Flatbread

Turkish Style Flatbreads
 

Ingredients
  • 500g plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 10g powdered dried yeast
  • 20g fine salt
  • 325ml warm water
  • 325ml natural yoghurt, warmed
  • 2 tbsp good olive oil, plus extra for coating

Instructions
  1. Mix the flours, yeast, salt, water and yoghurt in a bowl to form a sticky dough. If it seems really dry, and you’re having trouble working all the flour into the dough, add more water, a little bit at a time. Add the oil, mix it in. Knead until smooth and silky (either by hand or with a machine – I use a mixer with a dough hook and knead for about 5 minutes).
  2. Shape the dough into a round, then place in a clean bowl. Leave to rise, covered with a plastic bag, until doubled in size.
  3. Deflate the dough, then if you have time, leave to rise a second, third, even a fourth time (this improves the dough but is by no means essential).
  4. Tear off pieces the size of small lemons (or smaller, or larger, if you like) one at a time, shape into a round, then using plenty of flour, roll out to a 3-4mm thickness and leave to rest for 5 minutes or so.
  5. To bake on the stove / grill: Heat a large heavy based frying pan over the highest heat and set the grill to maximum. When the pan is super-hot, lay the first bread in it. After a minute or possibly less the bread should be puffy and starting to char on the bottom. Slide the pan under the hot grill, a good 15cm from the heat, and watch your creation balloon magnificently. Remove the bread when it starts to char on the top, brush on some olive oil, then server.
  6. To bake on a BBQ: Make sure the BBQ is good and hot. Lay the rolled out dough directly on the BBQ. You’ll see it start to bubble and puff. When it starts to char, flip it over and cook until it starts to char on the other side, too. Remove, brush on some olive oil and serve.

The Art of Chapattis

Chapatti on the grill

I’ve been making chapatti for a while now, but with only average results. My chapatti are often too dry, without that nice foldable quality you get in restaurant chapatti. They also seem to acquire a shell of “flour”, inherited from the rolling process, making them almost stale by design. But today I had a major chapatti breakthrough that I wanted to share.

These chapatti were a total case of “who you know”: they wouldn’t have come together if it weren’t for input from a few key players.

At the top level there was The Essential Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, whose chapatti recipe I used for the basic ingredient proportions, kneading and cooking techniques. But as all bread bakers know, even the best recipes are hard pressed to convey the subtleties of the cooking process. This is where I’m grateful for the experience of a few baker friends I know.

First, Toddy Peters told me a thing or two about chapatti flour and how to work with it. First of all, not all chapatti flour (aka “atta”) is made equal. There are whiter varieties, and “cheaper versions that are more wholemeal and therefore going to produce a coarser, thicker bread”. I’ve been using straight up Shipton Mill wholemeal flour, the same I usually use for wholemeal bread, which is indeed rather coarse. So today I decided to lighten it up a bit by sifting the wholemeal flour, and adding the same amount of white spelt flour.

Chapatti dough ready for a good rest

Toddy also told me: “when rolling out, I have a small plate or thali of flour and I never flour the rolling surface, and I dip the ball in the plate of flour, but also shake off excess.” Now I see why my chapatti of yore were always so floury – I went waaay overboard on flouring my work surface. Toddy’s tip basically solved that problem.

Once rolled, there was the question of cooking chapatti. Ms. Jaffrey recommends a tava, which I totally don’t have. And further, I don’t really trust my electric hob to do the job. Fortunately, Trevor from Hobbs House Bakery offered a hefty tip at last week’s Foodie Bugle Lectures: Use the grill. For home bakers, the grill is really the only way to get a high enough heat for successful chapatti, pittas and flatbread. And happily, it’s spring and perfect weather for cooking outdoors.

One last thing: I also added a few ajwain seeds to the dough, courtesy of The Botanical Baker, Urvashi Roe, who gave me some during our epic foodie weekend to add to my chickpea pancakes. Don’t know why but I felt compelled to try them in chapatti – loved it!

So here’s how it went down:

  • 60g white spelt flour (Dove’s Farm)
  • 60g wholemeal flour, sifted (Shipton Mill)
  • 90g water (from the tap)
  • small pinch of ajwan seeds (thanks Urvashi)

I started with the 90g water and 90g flour, adding more flour until I had a soft, kneadable dough (so, just beyond the realm of “sticky”). I kneaded the dough for five(ish) minutes then let it rest for an hour or so while I attempted to be productive.

I then divided the dough into 8 little balls (using my hands to pull the dough apart and then shape them into cute little compact balls).

I dipped each dough ball in flour and then rolled them out into a thin round (I had to add a bit of flour as I went to prevent sticking).

I heated up the outdoor gas grill on high. My gas grill has two sides – one open to the flame, the other not (you can sort of see this in the picture up top).

To make the chapatti, I first put the chapatti on the non-flame side and cooked for about a minute on each side, so that little brown spots started to form. Then I moved the chapatti to the flame side for about 30 seconds, where they really began to puff (I got this no flame / flame idea from the Madhur Jaffrey cookbook – though I reckon you’d do just fine with or without the flame, or even in the grill of an electric oven).

The chapatti made for a seriously happy-making lunch of yellow pea dahl and spinach with pickles and chutney.

Very much a happy making lunch: @vegcs yellow pea dal and a big stack of fresh chapatti.

I’m sure I have more to learn about chapatti and I’m open to any ideas or suggestions from you chapatti experts out there. I’ll probably experiment with other flour types and combinations in the future. But today’s effort made me really happy. They were soft, pliable, and extremely tasty! I loved the occasional hit of ajwain seed. And they are happily foldable, so don’t be surprised to find them doubling as tortillas in my breakfast tacos and fajitas.

Related reading: Mark Bittman’s Recipe and Video for Grilled Chapattis in The New York Times.