Lilly Higgins: Wholemeal flatbread
Fuss-free flatbread is perfect for barbecue season
The weather these past few weeks has been amazing. We have been spoiled. With the rise in temperature we have become shinier, happier people who eat together outside every evening and sit in the garden watching the sunset.
I was sorting through the kids’ wardrobes the other day, packing away their winter clothes, and they presumed I was bringing it to the charity shop. For them winter is a distant memory and the thought of frost or snow is inconceivable. These long summer days are what childhood memories are made of. It’s all ice creams, picnics and barbecues.
I love being able to marinade meat or vegetables and then throw them on the barbecue. No fussing with sauces or gravies or mashing potatoes, just simple food cooked outside. It’s so sociable. People gather around the barbecue once it starts to smell good. We are hard-wired to do that. The smoke and fire speak to us on a very basic level. We would never all stand around the oven waiting for a chicken to roast, but outside cooking has a different set of rules.
I have been cooking simpler foods but am now itching to do more. So I have made flatbreads to go with the many barbecued kebab variations we have been eating. They are so quick and easy to do. All you need is a heavy, cast-iron frying pan. I use a large Le Creuset that weighs a ton. I don’t use it often but for something like this it’s perfect.
If you are lucky enough to have an outside pizza oven, you can cook these in there, too.
Every culture has a version of flatbread. Grains have been ground down and baked in a paste to make simple bread since the days of ancient Egypt. It’s generally an unleavened bread made with water, salt and flour. There are chapattis, rotis, matzos, lavashes and tortillas, to name but a few. Naan and pita breads are leavened with a little yeast but are quite similar.
They vary in size from one millimetre to a few centimetres thick. One will fold beautifully in four or wrap neatly around a filling, but another will be puffed up with bubbles and used to mop up sauces. You can add many things to the basic mixture of bread and water, such as spices, chilli or oil. I sometimes add nigella seeds or chopped coriander.
This recipe makes a thin, chewy flatbread that is great for folding over grilled meats or for scooping up hummus. I like to do simple marinated lamb skewers and make a nice flavoured yogurt to go with it. Just stir the zest of a lemon, a handful of finely chopped mint and some salt and pepper through 250ml of yoghurt. It’s perfect with lamb and delicious with this bread. I often use marjoram, basil or coriander instead for serving with chicken or beef, and dill is ideal when serving it with fish.
WHOLEMEAL FLATBREAD: MAKES 12
150g wholemeal flour
150g plain white flour
60ml natural yoghurt
Whisk the flours and salt together in a wide mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yoghurt and water. Mix with a wooden spoon or a round-bladed knife until craggy. Tip on to your floured work surface and knead for eight to 10 minutes until smooth, elastic and no longer sticky. You may need to add a little more plain flour, depending on what brand of wholemeal flour you choose. Leave it in a ball on the counter to rest for an hour, with the upturned mixing bowl over it.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll each into an 8in oval or round. Heat a large, dry cast-iron pan on a medium heat; once it is hot, cook each piece of dough until lightly charred in places. It will begin to blister, char and puff up. Use tongs to turn the bread over once bubbles appear on the surface. Each one should take about a minute to cook. Wrap in a tea towel or napkin to keep warm and serve right away.