Friday, 22 May 2009

The unexpected loveliness of a flatbread which is really not a flatbread at all

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Finally, it is time for the flatbreads I have been tantalising you with.

First of all, I should admit that they turn out not really to be flatbreads, as such. Second of all, I happen to think they are the most delicious thing I've eaten since the old queen died, but I have very particular tastes and you might think them perfectly disgusting and want your money back.

What I especially love about cooking is when things go quite wrong, but turn out to be rather wonderful after all, even though they bear no resemblance to what you set out to make. This happened to me this week when I bought some new flour home (pictured above). It is from Dove's Farm, and I love Dove's Farm, it all seems so good and wholesome, although I suddenly realise I know nothing about it and the whole thing could be a clever marketing ploy, secretly owned by a shell company controlled by Dastardly Dick Cheney. Let us hope not.

Anyway, I had not tried this flour before, and when I had a sudden urge for flatbreads, I got it out and set to work. There are many flatbread recipes, but I have found that the easiest is just flour, salt, water and olive oil. It makes quite a hard bread, but I like that. I was not concentrating very well, thinking about twenty-seven other things, when I suddenly realised that with this new flour the dough was not coming together very well. I looked closely at the packet to discover that it was gluten-free, wheat-free, everything-free. This explained the flakiness of the dough - gluten is, as you all know, what gives dough elasticity. Well, I thought, this particular flour will be very good for shortcrust pastry and shortbread and anything else which requires excessive shortness. In the meantime, what would I do about my abortive flatbread? I could not even roll the thing out with a rolling pin, because it just fell apart. But I refused to give up and chuck the whole lot away, because it is a waste, and I hate waste. My mother grew up in the war, and remembers rationing well, and I have inherited her horror of throwing away food, which is why my fridge is always filled, as is hers, of little bowls of leftovers, which I am impelled to craft into some new dish if it kills me.

In the end, I found that if I pressed the dough into little patties with my hands I could persuade them to hold together long enough to get them into a frying pan. I cooked them rather dolefully, anticipating a dry, unsatisfying mess. Imagine then my delight and amazement when I bit into the result and found that instead of a crumbly, unsatisfying thing, the little bread was chewy and even slightly gooey and fabulously moreish. I ate three in a row, hardly able to believe my luck.

So, from this incipient disaster, I have an entire new creation. I should say they are like a cross between a flatbread, a potato cake and a pikelet. I recommend eating them straight from the pan, with lots of butter, as you would a Scotch pancake: a perfect tea time treat.

For about twelve little cakebreads take:

Two cups of Dove's Farm gluten and wheat free plain white flour, a good pinch of Malden salt, a glug of olive oil (I reckon this is about two tablespoons), and half a cup of water. Mix up into a firm dough. You may need to add a little more water if it is too crumbly.

Then, carefully, take little balls of dough, and flatten them out in your hands into small cakes. Get them as thin as you can - there is a moment where they will just break apart, so a little trial and error will happen at first. Then put them in a dry frying pan and cook over a medium heat for two or three minutes each side, until they are golden. Smother in butter and enjoy. They are best hot, but still very good once they have cooled.


  1. Dove's are officially fab. I say this because at FLB (work) we have approved them to our standards and personally I prefer their flour above any other for making bread (in a bread-maker but hey ho). It gives a gorgeous open crumb to the loaf and it's not bleached white which I'm always suspicious of.

    Also - further to the subject, if anyone's interested, I made a Chicken Caesar Salad last night and I toasted the ciabatta pieces around and under the chicken thighs. Tip - toss the bread in in the last 20 minutes of cooking so they absorb all the juices and get golden and toasty (I had to do a bit of rescuing) and then, while chicken is resting, tip the cooking juices over the croutons. Fabulous in the most stunning way.

    Third - do I want to call these stotties as I knew them when at Durham when you make these, although you make them sound lighter and more like thicker naan bread..

  2. Jo - I don't know what a stottie is, but it is a perfectly inspired name. x

  3. I love your blog!

    It's quietly humorous and full of information and thoughts. I bookmark blogs for different purposes and love the more boisterous ones like Whoopee and Waffle for their f*@kwittery approach, yours for the reasons above, et cetera.

    By the way I read your Johnny Thunders book a few years ago, passed on to me by my mum (I was quite intrigued as to how she got hold of it in the first place, she normally sticks to Dickens) and really loved it. My copy's upstairs. I would like to know how much of it is autobiographical! (Perhaps a blog entry? -> said in beseeching tones)

  4. These little breads sound delish. I am a fan of all things carb.

  5. Cardinal - how kind you are, and how lovely to welcome you to the blog.

    Very flattered that your mum included me with her copies of Dickens. Thunders was autobiographical in the sense that I ran around that geographical area at the time and did have a fatal tendency to fall for hopeless boys, but nothing like as extreme as the anti-hero. The characters are always all made up. I will try and do a special post on this just for you in a few days.

    Heavenly - me too. I got awfully sad when everyone started shunning bread. Moderation in all things, I say. Or, a little bit of what you fancy.

  6. :excited:

    That would be wonderful! :-)

  7. Stotties are a northeastern roll, used to make sandwiches. Greggs sell them in that part of the country.

    Have you tried the Staffordshire oatcake Tania? They are like a flatter rounder crumpet and made with oats. Lovely with grated cheese and toasted under the grill. Can also be used to make a kind of wrap with egg and bacon/sausage. I bought some from Neals Yard in London last week and have been enjoying them with different toppings.


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