Thursday, November 16, 2017

Griddled Flatbreads and Spicy Carrot Pickle

I’m always on the lookout for vegetarian recipe inspiration, and Middle Eastern food is an excellent source. The latest book from Greg and Lucy Malouf is New Feast: Modern Middle Eastern Vegetarian, and I received a review copy. In the introduction, it’s explained that the climate and terrain of the Middle East is suited to growing a variety of vegetables and less so to raising animals for meat at a large scale. So, we easily find many vegetable, grain, and legume dishes with plenty of herbs and spices. As the authors set out to create this vegetarian cookbook, they wanted to excite people who are trying to eat more plant-based foods and offer some new ideas to those already on that path. The chapters include Breakfast, Breads, Butters and Preserves, Dips and Spreads, Pickles and Relishes, Soups, Stuffed Vegetables, Fritters, Savory Pastries, Raw Vegetable Salads, Cooked Vegetable Salads, Hot Vegetable Dishes, Grains, Rice, Legumes, Pasta and Couscous, Ices, Desserts, Sweet Pastries, and Cakes and Cookies. And, there’s a Menu Ideas list for how to group dishes for different occasions. One of my favorite menus is the Middle-of-the-week working lunch menu: Semolina Bread with Aniseed and Sesame; Artichoke and Lemon Labneh; Baked Tomatoes with Saffron, Bulgur, and Barberries; Shankleesh Salad with Parsley and Pomegranate; and Lemon Posset with Fennel Shortbread Thins. Some other recipes I’d like to try include the Middle Eastern Granola with Pomegratate, Sour Cherries, and Pistachios that’s made even prettier with dried rose petals and the Honey-Roasted Carrots with Dates Dandelions and Moroccan Dressing. But, I got completely distracted by the Breads chapter. The soft, pillowy-looking Sesame Joujou Breads were a strong contender, and then I saw the Griddled Flatbreads and all the suggested options for toppings. To go with the flatbreads, the Spicy Carrot Pickle looked like a fun pairing, and as warned in the head note, it is addictive. 

I started on the flatbread dough first since it needed to proof. Flour and baking powder were sifted before the yeast was added. Warm milk along with olive oil, yogurt, an egg, and salt were added next. Everything was combined in a stand mixer and then kneaded with the dough hook on low speed for several minutes to create a very smooth dough. It was placed in a bowl, covered, and left to rise for an hour. Meanwhile, I moved on to the carrot pickle. Carrots were cut into matchsticks and set aside. For a spice paste, cumin seeds and dried chiles were ground to a powder. Salt, minced garlic, and grated fresh ginger were added along with turmeric. In a saucepan, oil was heated and cumin and mustard seeds were fried until they popped. Curry leaves were called for, but I failed to procure them and left them out. The spice paste was added to the oil followed by apple juice and apple cider vinegar. The carrot matchsticks were stirred into the mixture. The heat was lowered to allow the carrots to barely simmer for about 15 minutes. Moving back to the flatbreads, the dough was divided into six pieces, and each piece was rolled just before cooking. The breads were cooked in a dry pan over high heat for a couple of minutes per side. After removing each bread from the pan, it was brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs and spices. I used a mixture of sumac, za’atar, and fresh oregano on some breads and crushed fennel seeds and Aleppo pepper on others. 

The carrot pickle was nicely spicy. I tore off pieces of bread and spooned carrot matchsticks onto each bite. I kept thinking how delicious the carrot pickle would be on a sandwich. And, the breads bubbled just as they should while cooking and came out of the pan crisp on the edges and deliciously chewy in the middle. Eating vegetarian is an easy sell with flavors like these.   

Griddled Flatbreads 
Excerpted with permission from New Feast: Modern Middle Eastern Vegetarian by Greg and Lucy Malouf, published by Hardie Grant Books.

This is a wonderful all-purpose dough that suits both griddled and naan-style baked flatbreads, which are the most popular accompaniment for Middle Eastern meals. Use the basic recipe to make a batch of dough and fry them plain, or choose the filling that you fancy from below. The quantities of dough and fillings are sufficient for six large-ish flatbreads or eight smaller ones. 

MAKES 6–8 
450 g (1 lb) strong (bread) flour, plus extra for dusting 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 teaspoons dried active yeast (7.5 g / 1/4 oz sachet) 
2 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar 
150 ml (5 fl oz) hand-hot milk 
30 ml (1 fl oz) vegetable oil 
150 g (5 oz) natural yoghurt, lightly beaten 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
clarified butter, for brushing 

Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl of a stand-mixer. Add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the opposite side (salt can kill the yeast). Dissolve the sugar in the hand-hot milk then add it to the bowl, along with the oil, yoghurt and egg. Mix briefly to form a ball. Knead with the dough hook on a slow–medium speed for 10 minutes. You may need to scrape it up from the bottom of the bowl every now and then. Once the gluten has developed and the dough is smooth and satiny, shape it into a ball with lightly oiled hands and transfer to a large bowl. Cover with a tea towel and set aside in a draught-free spot for an hour, or until doubled in size. 

Punch down the dough and knead by hand for a few minutes. Divide into 6 or 8 equal balls. At this point you can fry the breads as they are, or fill them with one of the stuffings, as outlined below. Keeping the rest covered, roll out one ball of dough onto a floured work surface, to a 30 cm (12 in) round for large breads or 23 cm (9 in) for smaller ones. 

Heat a large, heavy-based frying pan over a very high heat. Fry the bread in the dry pan until large bubbles start to appear on the surface – it should only take 1–2 minutes. Flip over and fry for a further minute, or until lightly golden. Brush with clarified butter while still warm and serve. Repeat with the rest of the dough. 

Spicy Carrot Pickle 

This much-loved pickle seems to go with just about everything. We think you’ll find it’s addictive; we’ve been known to finish a jar in one sitting. 

1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) carrots 
2 teaspoons cumin seeds 
2 teaspoons mustard seeds 
6 fresh curry leaves (or dried will do at a pinch) 
100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) apple juice 
200 ml (7 fl oz) cider vinegar 

Spice paste 
2 teaspoons cumin seeds 
3–4 small dried red chillies (depending on their heat) 
1 teaspoon sea salt 
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 
50 g (1 3/4 oz) fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped 
1 teaspoon turmeric 
75 g (2 1/2 oz) soft brown sugar 
3 tablespoons vegetable oil 

Cut the carrots into roughly 6 cm (2 1/2 in) lengths, then cut into matchsticks. Set aside. To make the spice paste, combine the cumin seeds and dried chillies in a mortar and grind to a fine powder. Add the salt, garlic and ginger to the mortar and continue to grind to a fairly smooth paste. Add the turmeric and sugar and mix in well. 

Heat the oil in a wide casserole pan – a cast iron Le Creuset is ideal. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and fry for 10 seconds or until they just start to pop. Add the curry leaves and fry for 1–2 minutes, until they turn translucent. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the apple juice and vinegar and bring to a vigorous simmer. Add the carrots and stir well, so that they are all coated with the spicy liquid. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 15–20 minutes, stirring every few minutes to ensure they cook evenly. By the end of the cooking time the carrots should be soft, but still retain some texture and the liquid should have reduced by about one-third. 

Leave to cool slightly then transfer to sterilized jars and store for up to 3 months. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within 5 days.

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  1. I must make this flatbread! Looks so GOOD!

  2. Sounds like an amazing cookbook Lisa, the flatbreads and spicy carrot looks delicious!!

  3. love this type of recipe, so unusual, but I know just by reading your description I would love it from first nibble!

  4. while i do love a fluffy loaf of sandwich bread, sometimes flatbread just hits the spot. love the carrot bit too!!

  5. I'm a sucker for any kind of bread, but really like flatbreads -- you can do so much with them. This looks great. Sounds like an excellent cookbook, too. Thanks!


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