I feel a deep satisfaction when working with dough. It always amazes me that so few, simple ingredients can come together to feed the hungry, the self indulgent and the just plain heady bread-lovers, like myself. I could, quite easily, munch my way through a loaf of freshly baked French Baghuette, soft Rye Sourdough, delicately chewy Ciabatta or a simply good hot dog roll. I hope it’s clear that I am not a bread snob, but the one thing that I am quite picky about is the butter that I slather on. Whether it’s cold or at room temperature, it has got to well salted and fresh from a neighbouring farm.
Nigella Seeds, known as Kalonji to some and black cumin in the West, are found growing in the Indian and Egyptian regions. Used to perfume dishes with it’s sweet onion-esque properties, the Nigella is used on naan, cauliflower curry, lentil mash, spicy vegeatble soups and a host of other Indo-inspired dishes. My gran sprinkles some into her yellow potato curry and the earthy sweetness that is infused is truly comforting.
I do love the queen of gastro-eroticism, Nigella Lawson, who’s book “How to be a Domestic Goddess” is not just a great source of inspiration, but an enjoyable read as well. Being a food writer first and a chef second makes Nigella one of my favourites because she uses her words as lavishly as she uses the double cream.
These Nigellan Flatsbeads are both decadent and humble at the same time. The yoghurt gives the dough an additively smooth, elastic texture and the bread a sweet, soothing undertone. They really are deliciously with some Hickory Ham and Emmental or avo and relish or my favourite, with a heavy-handed slick of good butter.
FOR THE BREAD:
· 500g strong white bread flour
· 7g (1 sachet) easy-blend yeast or 15g fresh yeast
· 2 teaspoons salt
· 2 tablespoons yoghurt
· 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing
· Approximately 300ml warm water
FOR THE GLAZE:
· 1 large egg
· 1 teaspoon water
· 1 teaspoon yoghurt
· 1 tablespoon nigella seeds
· 2 baking sheets
1. Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and make a well. Dollop the yoghurt and oil into a measuring jug and add warm water to come up to the 350ml mark. Give a quick beat with a fork to combine, then pour this liquid into the dry ingredients, and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon, adding more liquid as needed, to form a firm but soft dough.
2. Turn out onto a floured surface (or set your mixer and dough hook to work) and start kneading. Add more flour as needed until you’ve got a smooth, supple and elastic dough. Form the dough into a ball, grease a bowl and turn the dough in it so it is lightly oiled all over. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise for about an hour or so, until doubled in size.
3. Punch the dough down, then leave to rest for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220ºC/gas mark 7. Tear the dough into 3, and then halve each piece. Form each of these 6 little pieces into an egg-shape and, one by one, roll them out to make a flat, elongated, if irregular oval. Place on baking sheets about 3cm apart, cover with tea towels and leave to prove for 20 minutes, until puffy.
4. Using the blunt side of an ordinary kitchen knife, draw diagonal parallel lines across the loaves about 2 centimetres apart. Do the same now the other direction, so you’ve got a loose criss-cross.
5. Beat the egg with the water and yoghurt and, using a pastry brush, paint this over the breads. Sprinkle on the nigella seeds and bake in the hot oven for 8-10 minutes, by which time the loaves will be golden, puffed up in places and cooked through.
6. Remove them from the oven and drape immediately and for a few minutes with a tea towel so that these small, flat, breads don’t dry up and get too crusty.
Serves: Makes 6