Foraging on my doorstep 3: Dulse and beer bread – with my salt beef

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe that included the most obvious bounty on my doorstep – seaweed, in this case, dulse. I have coupled this with my first attempt at preparing salt beef, using a fine quality brisket of Aberdeen Angus. This unique combination produced a sandwich of some distinction, well worth the effort to collect the dulse and time to brine the beef.

In the process

As mentioned before, I am not a hardcore forager because in some respects, I don’t believe in tokenistic use of foraged ingredients. Seaweeds, if not appropriately processed, carefully considered and balanced to be an integral part of a dish can fall into this category. Dulse, however, I have discovered, does have significant merit as a distinctive ingredient that brings novel and intriguing flavour dimensions to a dish.

I am slightly limited in my experimental explorations with seaweeds as I currently don’t have a dehydrator, a tool that would give me more flexibility in using seaweed as an ingredient. Given that we are on the cusp of renovating the house and in the process of packing stuff away to facilitate the incredible mess that will ensue, buying more kitchen gadgets, normally something I would be looking for an excuse to do, is not on the cards.

Help with kelp

Dulse harvest

Dulse harvest 2

It is not the best time of year to be collecting dulse – end of summer / early autumn is optimal, but where there is kelp, it can usually be found at anytime of the year. I began thinking about recipe ideas, as possible contributions to Fiona Bird’s next book – based around culinary explorations with seaweed. The least I could do was come up with some ideas for Fi, Champion of Hebridean seaweed. See also my review of Fiona’s fabulous last book ‘The Forager’s Kitchen‘.

On a sunny but very windy day, we combed our local beach for living kelp that had been cast ashore (as opposed to the masses of dead plants, detached and usually devoid of dulse).  The holdfasts (‘root’) of living kelp plants still grip hard to the boulder substrate on which they are growing and are often thrown high up this beach during storms, well above the kelp zone, therefore making them easy to find.

So why, you may ask am I looking for kelp but intend to forage for dulse?  Dulse (Palmaria palmata) is a red seaweed that is epiphytic on several species of seaweed, notably the most abundant kelp found along the west coast of the Uists, Laminaria hyperborea. The stipes (‘stems’) of this important algae are often festooned with dulse, which has a ribbon-like appearance at this time of year, having been ripped and shredded by the force of stormy seas. These kelp plants live for up to 15 years and dulse tends to found associated with older specimens. Dulse also grows on rocks and mussels in the intertidal zone.

The kelp Laminaria hyperborea, tangle, to give it one of its common names,  is an incredibility important species, notably for these islands. The most apparent benefit of beach cast tangle (as well a few other seaweed species) is that it is traditionally collected from beaches after winter storms and utilised by crofters as a natural fertiliser for crops.

However, it is the unseen benefits provided by these kelp forests that extensively fringe the west coast here that make them so important.  Kelp (actually an umbrella name for a number of ‘forest-forming’ macroalgae) has been described as an ‘ecosystem engineer’, a wonderful term that perhaps, rather simplistically, may be described as any organism  that creates or significantly modifies habitats.  North American beavers and termites are often cited as the more obvious examples.

Kelp forests are extremely dynamic and productive with high biodiversity, acting as a habitat and refuge for many organisms and are important for nutrient cycling and energy capture.  Of key importance to this low-lying island chain may be the capacity of kelp forests to offer a degree of protection to coastal zones from flooding and erosion by acting as a buffer, reducing the velocity of approaching waves during storms.  A recent paper that gives an excellent synthesis of the functions of kelp can be found here. 

My life is currently awash with kelp – not just in my spare time used foraging for dulse,  at work I am currently managing a research project focusing on kelp.  A world of weed indeed!

As you can see, the dogs thought harvesting dulse this was a great game and quickly cottoned on to what we were trying to do.  They excitedly began seeking out kelp stipes. Unfortunately, when found they then proceeded to chew off and eat the dulse, or run around with the entire stipes hanging out of their mouths, nonchalantly chewing them while running amok.

Dulse and beer bread

I was aware that the flavour of dulse is complemented by ale and, in wishing to continue pushing the envelope with my recent bread making exploits (more on these another time), decided to pair the two flavours in a loaf.  I have been making a lot of ale rolls recently and was intrigued to experience how the dulse may alter the flavour and texture of my basic ale roll recipe.

The flavour was malty, full and distinctive. The dulse gave a new dimension and depth of flavour, soft texture, even bake and a pleasant smell that was incomparable with any loaf I have made before.  The colour was interesting, slightly tinged with yellow and the keeping qualities of the loaf appeared to be very good, although I admit, it didn’t perhaps last long enough to really test that out…

As mentioned, there are benefits to drying the dulse before use but without a dehydrator, I decided to try using it fresh. After checking the dulse for inhabiting species and removing them, I rinsed it thoroughly under the cold tap for a few minutes.  I then placed it in a bowl of warm water for half an hour, before drying it with a kitchen towel and then blitzing it quite coarsely in a food processor. I have no idea what the standard practice for fresh dulse is, but presumed this would remove creatures, salt and soften it a bit. It seemed to work.

Dulse

The recipe provides 2 large loaves and economically uses 1 500 ml bottle of ale. Alternatively, make 1/2 the volume and drink the spare 200ml of ale! Modify according to your preferred method of bread prep. and room temperature.

Ingredients

600g strong white bread flour

200g strong wholemeal bread flour

200g strong malted bread flour

40g fresh dulse, finely chopped

500 ml ale

100 ml water (approx.)

20g instant yeast

20g salt

60g butter

a little olive oil

some semolina for dusting

Oven: 205 C (fan)

Dulse bread

Method

  • Put everything in a bowl and mix until it comes together and tip onto the surface.  Be careful not to add all the water at once in case the dough is too sticky – especially due to the added moisture in the dulse.  Adjust water amount accordingly.
  • Put a little olive oil on the surface and tip out the dough.  Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky but becomes soft and elastic.
  • Put in a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and allow to rise until doubled in size.  This may take up to several hours for a big batch like this, depending on room temperature.
  • Tip dough out and fold inwards to knock the air out and cut in 2 before shaping your loaves into your preferred shapes.
  • Place each on a baking tray dusted with a mixture of semolina and flour.
  • Cover with a plastic bag and leave to prove for at least an hour, or until the loaves have again doubled in size.
  • Dust the loaves with a mixture of semolina and flour and slash, if desired, before placing on the oven for 30 minutes.

Dulde bread 3

dulse bread 2

Salt beef: another briny recipe

Although I have always been aware of the existence of salt beef and its origination in Ashkenazi cuisine,  I must admit, I don’t recollect eating it, most probably because it is generally hard to acquire in Scotland and secondly, I have not thought to specifically seek it out. I had a good quality marbled piece of Aberdeen Angus beef and was contemplating what to do with it that would make it special when I came across a number of salt beef recipes online.

Salt beef, it transpires, is remarkably simple to make, so difficult acquisition is irrelevant if you are prepared to make it.  Admittedly, it does require considerable patience during brining.  At this stage, I found myself opening the fridge and staring longingly at the briny brisket, counting the days when it would be ready to cook and consume.

Traditionally, saltpetre would have been added.  This does give the beef its characteristic pink tinge. Although we do have some (for something to do with violin making, not cooking!), I prefer to keep the product more natural, so have omitted it.

Since the beef will languish in the brine for an entire week, it is perhaps not wise to try to undertake this without the benefit of a large fridge. Fortunately, I have one.

This recipe is an amalgamation of several I found online.  I modified the contents of the brine and subsequent cooking ingredients to my own tastes.

Salt beef brine recipe


275g soft light brown sugar

350g coarse sea salt

2 tsp black peppercorns

1 tsp juniper berries

3 cloves

3 bay leaves

a few sprigs of thyme

a sprig of rosemary

salt beef 1

Method

  • Put all the ingredients for the brine into a large saucepan with  2.5 litres of water, bring to the boil, stirring to help the sugar and salt dissolve.
  • Once it comes to the boil,  simmer for two minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool completely.
  • Pierce the brisket all over with a skewer and place in a large sterilised, non reactive container (plastic is best) that will hopefully fit in your fridge.
  • Pour over the brine to immerse the beef, weight it down if you can, or turn in the brine regularly.
  • Leave to brine for 1 week.

For the beef 

2 kg (minimum) beef brisket

1 large carrot, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 celery stick, roughly chopped

1 leek, roughly chopped

1 bouquet garni of seasonal herbs

1 head of garlic, halved

Method

  • Take the beef out of the brine and rinse it.
  •  Place a pan with the vegetables, bouquet garni and garlic, adding enough cold water to cover.
  • Bring the water to simmering point, then leave to poach very gently for about 3 hours, or until the meat is completely tender.

salt beef 2

Serve hot or cold.  We preferred it cold, as luxurious lunchtime sandwiches with the dulse and beer bread, some wholegrain mustard and accompanied by small onions I grew last summer, preserved in a sweet and gentle pickle.  There is no doubt about what I will be making with the next brisket I acquire – an outstanding way to celebrate one of the best cheap beef cuts, making it feel very extravagant.

salt beef sandwich

The vile weather continues here, so time for a break. London calling.  Here’s hoping when I return spring will be vaguely apparent (though I did hear an optimistic skylark singing this morning in the short sunshine interlude between the continual low pressure weather systems).

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The Bread Delusion

Yes, I know, yet another dire pun.  I can’t help myself. In justification, bread is God. I have always enjoyed making my own bread by hand, and have done so for a long time – always freestyle with approximations of ‘the bakers percentage’ (flour – 100%, everything else a proportion of this – water 60%, yeast 1% (dried), salt and fat 2% each).  I also have a bread maker that I use to make ‘the daily bread’ loaves, mainly as a time saver.  I simply do not have time to hand make each loaf we eat.

I am very grateful to own my breadmaker.  A Panasonic SD-255, the only reliable breadmaker I have ever owned. It produces pretty good consistent quality bread with minimal effort – and has a timer so you can wake up to the smell of fresh bread in the morning.  Making your own bread, by whatever means is always going to taste better than a mass-produced shop bought loaf (I don’t have the luxury of a local artisan baker here) and also has the bonus of being much cheaper – especially if you buy flour in bulk.  So, it must be at least 4 years since I bought a loaf of bread.

Last week, a component of my grossly overworked breadmaker broke, inevitable after years of hard labour.  Given the recent spate of electrical goods losses we have experienced, the last thing I wanted was to have to purchase a new breadmaker.  Fortunately the broken part was a mechanical component and following disassembly by the technically capable Man Named Sous, and a lot of web searching, we found a replacement for the broken part at a cost of just £10 – a massive +£100 saving on a new breadmaker.  Problem solved?  No, not really.

The repaired breadmaker

The repaired breadmaker

Having no breadmaker for about 10 days made me realise how complacent I had become about bread making over the last few years. Without realising it, I had lost a lot of my bread making Mojo over that time and I’d become, let’s face it, a bit slack. I felt ashamed.

It also magnified the fact that there are significant issues with bread making in our house.  It’s reasonably cold at the moment, with frosty clear mornings resulting from clear skies overnight. Our house patiently awaits renovation.  Current insulation levels are a joke and amount to a thin layer of polystyrene flapping about between the plasterboard and the stone walls.  Yes, the croft house walls are thick (60cm), but this is a windy place.

When the ‘breeze’ does pick up here to its usual autumn / winter 40 – 80 mph gales, the house has proven to be hellishly draughty.  Wind whistles through the electrical sockets and our rug at the top of the stairs levitates above the draughty floorboards (I am not exaggerating!).  Oh, and another small issue is that we have no central heating. Yet. We do have a stove, but controlling the draw by the wind can be difficult in a gale, exacerbating the problem of keeping the place warm (not least because the chimney cowl was blown off in a storm).

The open plan lounge/kitchen has usually fallen to about 14C by mid afternoon.  By mid evening, the stove stoked to the max, we are lucky if we can reach the toastiness of 18C. I don’t function well at these temperatures any more than the yeast in our bread does.

Of course, I had been taking the easy option, making dough for pizza, foccacia and pittas in the breadmaker. Chuck the ingredients in, 45 minutes later, voila, take out your dough, or leave to prove in the bread maker for a bit longer.  No worries, the little heated element within keeps the dough at an optimal temperature, yeast loves it.

In facing the quandary of how I would be able to get a temperature warm enough to make the yeast reactive as well as find the time to hand make a loaf, I made a fateful error and bought a sliced loaf from the supermarket.  That was a very bad idea for obvious reasons: the dry cardboard flavour and texture and too many additives. At least it shocked me into bread making mode.

After perusing some dough-related books and the web, I was ready to take on the challenge again – even in the cold. Time for kill or cure.

I opted to make a basic recipe using malted grain.  I lit the stove and looked at strategies to get the yeast to do its work.  This meant hovering the bowl and baking trays over the stove to encourage yeast action. It sort of worked, but took way longer than I anticipated – only really possible at the weekend for me.

Malted Grain Bread

Instead of my usual freestyling loaf, I needed a bit more input to get it right.  I read the instructions to produce a basic loaf outlined in the River Cottage Handbook No.3 – Bread.  I chose malted grain because I found our local independent Bayhead Shop selling it. The mix is usually mainly white flour mixed with a proportion of wholemeal flour, malt powder and malted grains.

Ingredients

1kg malted grain flour

10g dried yeast

20g fine salt

600ml warm water

1 tblsp melted butter

handful of rye flour for coating

Method

  • Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Sometimes I warm up the flour to make the yeast react more quickly. Add the butter then the warm water.
  • Adjust the amount of water or flour at the end to get a relatively sticky dough, turn it out onto the work surface.
  • Knead for 10 minutes, in your chosen style.  Whatever your kneading style, make sure the dough gets smooth and silky.
  • Shape it into a round and rub with oil.  Place in a bowl and cover with a plastic bag to ferment. It should about double in size.  This make take as little as 45 minutes in a cosy house, for me, it took 3 hours!
  • Tip out the dough onto a surface again and deflate using your fingertips.  Don’t batter it about too much when knocking it back.
  • You can leave it again to rise.  The handbook suggests up to another 4 times to improve texture and flavour.  That would have taken me until the next week, so I did this once.
  • Divide up the dough and shape as desired.  I made 2 big loaves, you could make several small, or rolls.
  • Coat the loaves with a little rye flour to improve the look and texture of the exterior.
  • At this point, turn up the oven high, I tried 250C.  Leave your shaped loaves to prove while the oven heats.
  • When the loaves have risen significantly (almost double), they are ready for the oven. Slash the tops about 1 cm deep, if desired.
  • Put an oven tray with boiling water from the kettle into the bottom of the oven just before you put in your loaves.  This enhances the crust texture and give a good rise in the oven.
  • After 10 minutes, turn the oven down – the temperature will depend on the colour at this stage.  If pale, turn down to 200C, if browning quickly, 170C.

I left my 2 big loaves in for 50 minutes.  Tap the bottom when you take them out – they should sound hollow.

All in all, I was pleased with the result. Although it was a bit epic, I aim to hand make one loaf a week from now on to keep my hand in.  And these loaves did taste better than those produced in the breadmaker, so worth the extra toil.

Welcome back, my real friend

Malted grain loaves – Welcome back, my real friends

Garlic: A year in the life

Allium sativum – pleased to pleat you…Planting finished, the remaining bulbs were pleated.

I don’t remember a time in my life when garlic was not part of my diet. One of the best cooking aromas must be the pungent scent of garlic gently frying in good quality olive oil. I am very fortunate that my mum cooked with olive oil when I was a child, a time when most mums were still only sticking it in their children’s ears. Similarly, garlic was a culinary delight in our everyday meals and I didn’t give it a second thought until I noticed the lack of it when I had tea (as we called it then) at friend’s houses.

Garlic is my number one favourite ingredient and is one of the big four, one or more of which I invariably use every day (chilli, olive oil, lemons being the other three). From the outset, I have been determined to grow garlic successfully here on North Uist. If you fling it in the ground and hope for the best, you will get results of sorts, but random gardening, as I have found out to my cost with many veggies is a bit foolhardy if you live here. In fact, typical Uist climatic conditions (wind, rain – and persistence of both) mean the weather can be merciless even if you do your green-fingered best.

So, I have been on a strategic programme of growing trials to optimise my garlic growing success. It has taken 4 years of experimenting, but I tentatively consider that I may at last be on the cusp of success. I have tried soft neck versus hardneck, autumn versus spring planting, numerous varieties: Albigensian Wight, Bella Italiano, Solent Wight, Early Purple Wight to name but a few. Comparisons were made in yield and bulb size as well as storage time. I concluded that softneck garlic produces higher yields, produce bigger bulbs and more bulbs that are subject to lower losses in the ground than hardneck varieties. Importantly, the softnecks store for significantly longer, in my experience.

Autumn planting is the only way. I have tried 2 early spring plantings (same varieties and harvest year as the autumn planting). One was a dismal failure, the other less so, but still with a yield well below autumn plantings, regardless of variety. I suspect that our relatively mild winters mean that by the time it gets to planting in early spring, the bulbs do not get the period of cold they require to flourish. The star variety is without a doubt Provence Wight, for size and storage. This is now the only variety I grow. Garlic may not grow as large here as it does further south in the UK, but the cloves are intensely flavoured, which is all that really matters if you are a garlic lover.

Class of 2011 – Garlic crop harvested on 17 July last year

All butchery out of the way (for now) at last (1 deer, 2 geese, then 2 rabbits), I am hoping to get my culinary life back. Hope springs eternal that weather windows will occasionally fall at weekends so I can get on with some outdoor stuff in the garden too. And so it was with fair weather I spent the best part of Sunday getting my favourite Allium into the ground.

If you like to eat garlic, but do not want to read about the minutiae of growing it, skip to my Roast garlic soup with home made pitta bread recipe.

Preparing the bed

I practice a fairly standard organic rotation.  I do not grow entirely organically, but pretty near it.  I have given up using 100% organic seed.  I am not intending to go for Soil Association accreditation and I was finding it restrictive in terms of varieties (and especially ones that work here), and a bit costly. The soil was depleted after a beetroot crop over the summer (pimple-sized beetroots, embarrassingly small).  Hence, the first job was to call one of my neighbours, a local crofter who keeps pigs among other things, to arrange to collect some well-rotted pig manure. Half an hour or so of shovelling and our trailer was full enough to replenish 2-3 raised beds.

After digging a trench in sections along the garlic bed, the manure was dumped at a depth of about 15 cm and the soil raked back over so the garlic can happily dangle their roots into the nutrients as they grow.  This was an easy job in these raised beds.

Adding well-rotted pig manure to add nutrients and texture before planting

I have worked hard to get a fine tilth, sieving and removing stones, essential if root veg, especially carrots are part of your rotation (although I would not manure a bed that carrots are going into).  The soil is very light and free draining and I incorporate a lot of my own compost too for soil conditioning. I also top dress with seaweed over the winter to minimise erosion and  to add more nutrients and minerals.  Some machair soil was also added to lighten the structure and bring the soil to a neutral pH.  Finally, I weed regularly and never stand on the soil surface to avoid compressing it.

Preparing and planting garlic

The 2011 crop was grown from 7 bulbs bought from a commercial grower.  I was a bit disappointed by the number of cloves per bulb, which fell short of that promised in the catalogue (20-25 cloves per bulb.  I got 15 on average).  Some were also very small and this seems to be correlated with small clove development/size.  Nonetheless, with no signs of disease, I got 75 healthy bulbs from the crop, about three-quarters were larger than those you can buy in the supermarkets.

This year, I am using part of the crop from last summer’s harvest – my next trial, I suppose. I prepared them by selecting the biggest bulbs from my stored garlic, then selecting the biggest and healthiest cloves from these bulbs.  Any that were slightly soft or damaged were kept for cooking, but there were very few.  By this time, the light was fading, so being up against it and in trying to be ‘efficient’ I managed to somehow slash the side of my hand with the scalpel while separating the cloves. There was an interlude to deal with the ensuing minor bloodbath and melodrama.  More haste less speed, as the saying goes!

Preparing for the soil

I wanted to fill the entire bed with the crop and it took me 14 bulbs to do this, a total of 144 cloves.  I always compress the soil slightly with a plank of wood which also acts as a planting guide. Some compression helps the garlic stay put in the wind while the roots get established, since they are planted with the tops just under the surface. Each was spaced about 10 cm apart along the row, each row about 20 cm apart.

Garlic cloves in situ in neat rows of compressed soil.

Despite the race against the light on a short winter day, I got the planting finished, although admittedly it was quite dark and I had to finish the job with the help of the workshop lights.

Imagine my consternation when I got up the next morning to admire my work in daylight to find the night crawlers had been in.  There were cat paw prints across the bed, which I can cope with, but there were also about 35 very neat little holes which garlic cloves no longer occupied.  I don’t think it was the cat, but I should have perhaps asked my neighbour to check her cat’s breath…  I had my suspicions about the culprit, especially since most cloves were missing at the end near the dry stone wall.

I have known blackbirds to inquisitively pull at the papery tops of the cloves after the first day of planting but I usually see their tracks and the cloves are rejected and left nearby on the surface. No cloves to be seen, or dead blackbirds lying about having choked on the chunky cloves. Being rather trusting, and indeed sticking my head in the sand, I decided to leave it another night to see if the novelty would wear off for the critter (or it might have a garlic overdose).  Hardly.  Next morning, same again, 15 cloves missing.

I couldn’t sustain losses at this rate and after re-planting 50 cloves – another 4 bulbs, and having a suspicion this was the work of a rodent,  I went for belt and braces, covering the crop with environmesh and setting up a tunnel along the wall with 2 rat traps in it.  Both measures would protect any birds/cats from the traps and would attract rodents to my bait in the tunnel – prime chorizo – 100% irresistable in my experience.  And so it was, my garlic survived intact last night and I found a mouse in one of the traps. These traps are only supposed to spring with the weight of a rat but this was one big mouse (I wonder why?), so it got chorizo, but then its luck ran out.  It is always disappointing to have to take this action, but I want to eat my veg, not supplement the diet of an already burgeoning local rodent population.

Roasted Garlic Soup

Before pleating the remaining intact garlic bulbs, I thought it would be a good idea to use up all the small bulbs and loose cloves in one of my favourite soups, roast garlic.  Roasting the garlic and adding it to the soup makes it wonderfully sweet.  Topping it with dry fried chorizo or cheesy croutons complements the dish with saltiness to balance the sweetness of the roasted garlic. Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic used.  It is quite a different animal when roasted in the oven.

Ingredients

2 large garlic bulbs, left whole

bay leaf

olive oil

onion, chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

3 large potatoes, diced

sprig of rosemary

1 litre chicken stock or vegetable boullion

500 ml milk

salt and pepper

chorizo, enough for garnish, sliced and dry-fried

parsley

Set the oven to 180oC

Method

Cut the tops off the 2 garlic bulbs to reveal a bit of white flesh in each clove. This will make the soft garlic easy to squeeze out after roasting.  Place them in a foil parcel with a bay leaf and a drizzle of olive oil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.  Leave aside to cool.

Peel and chop the onion, carrots and potatoes and sweat in a pan on a low heat with a small amount of olive oil for 10-15 minutes.  Add the garlic by taking the cooled bulbs and squeezing each at the base.  The garlic will be soft and should squeeze out like toothpaste.  The aroma is wonderful.

Add the stock and rosemary, season and simmer for about 1 hour.  Let it cool slightly, add the milk, remove the rosemary then blitz in a blender or puree using a hand-held blender. If it too thick (although I like it thick, as in the photo), add a spot more milk or water.  Pass through a sieve or chinois and heat through.

Garnish with parsley and chorizo or cheesy croutons. Serves four.

Home made pitta breads

I served this soup with pitta breads on this occasion. This simple bread regularly features in this house because it is so versatile and easy to make – especially if you have a bread maker. There’s nothing wrong with using a bread maker for dough like pitta or foccacia.  It can be a huge time saver. If you have not made them before, give them a try.  They are astonishingly straightforward to make and are incomparable with the rubbery, slightly stale, vinegary tasting pitta breads you buy in supermarkets.

I am not sure where I got this recipe, I have been using it for so long.

Ingredients

500g strong white flour

2 tsp yeast (easyblend)

25g butter,

1 1/2 tsp salt

310 ml water

Set the oven to 220oC

Method

If you have a breadmaker, fling everything in and set to dough only program. This takes 45 minutes on my Panasonic SD-255 machine – the only breadmaker I would recommend, having had many others that sat on the shelf due to poor performance. I usually let the dough rest for another half hour once the program stops to ensure light and puffy pittas.

Alternatively, you can mix by hand, incorporating all the ingredients then kneading on an oiled surface for 10 minutes.  Allow it to prove for about an hour, covered with cling film in a warm place.

Place the dough on a heavily floured surface and break off golf ball sized pieces of dough with floured hands and roll them into tongue-shaped pittas with a floured rolling pin, to about 3mm thick.  It doesn’t matter if they are a bit misshapen – that’s called rustic, or more current still, artisan. Flour a couple of baking sheets and put the bread in the oven for 8-10 minutes.  I usually turn them half way.  Most will puff up, some won’t but keep an eye on them in case they get too thin and crispy as they puff.

This recipe usually makes 12. I do them in 2 batches of 6, 3 on each baking sheet.  I keep the first batch warm under a tea towel however, we usually start eating them straight away if there is some moutabal or hummous to hand and they are best eaten fresh and still warm from the oven.

They will keep overnight wrapped in a tea towel but need to be re-warmed and get a bit chewy if they are allowed to cool.