Spiced Red Lentil, Orange and Ginger Soup

I first made this recipe (from Maria Elias’ excellent ‘The Modern Vegetarian’) because I was intrigued by the flavours it promised. I will make it again and again because it is superb.

The addition of orange may be unusual, but it makes its present felt in subtle ways. If you are a wine buff you would say it has ‘a long finish with citrus notes’ – a perhaps pretentious way of saying that it has a delicate perfume that stays with you after every spoonful.

The Greek yogurt adds a little tang, and takes the edge off the heat of the spice – which I then add back in by sprinkling each bowl with a little dried chilli, which is entirely optional.

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RECIPE serves 4

250g red lentils

3 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 red chilli, (deseeded if you don’t like heat), finely chopped

2 fat garlic cloves, crushed

50g (or a fat thumb) fresh root ginger, grated

4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

1/4 tsp paprika

a pinch of cayenne pepper

2 tsp vegetarian or vegan bouillon

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 long cinnamon stick

2 large oranges

4 tbsp Greek yogurt

fresh mint leaves, to garnish

a sprinkling of dried chilli flakes, to garnish


METHOD

Put the lentils in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Drain in a fine sieve/colander and rinse with cold water. This step cleans the lentils of any impurities. Set aside.

Finely chop the onion, celery, carrot and chilli. You can roughly chop them then blitz them in a food processor if you have one. These ingredients are there to give you a deep flavour base, not to add any texture.

In a large saucepan, add the chopped onion, celery, carrot and chilli together with the ginger and garlic. Saute over a medium heat for around 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Meanwhile, put the cumin, turmeric, paprika and cayenne pepper into a small bowl, add a little water and mix to make a stiff paste.

Add the spice paste to the sauteed vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, for around 2 minutes until aromatic. Now add the lentils, bouillon, tomato puree, cinnamon stick (left whole) and 750ml just-boiled water.

Finely grate the zest from one orange into the pan, then cut off the top and bottom of each orange and cut away the skin, leaving only the flesh. Cut the flesh into small pieces and add to the pan. Bring to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer for around 30 minutes until the lentils are meltingly soft. You may need to add a little water to keep it loose as it cooks.

When cooked, remove the cinnamon stick from the soup and then blend using a hand blender. You can leave it slightly chunky, or blend until smooth, it is entirely up to you.

Adjust the seasoning to taste, then stir in the Greek yogurt. Serve topped with a few lightly shredded mint leaves and a light sprinkling of dried chilli flakes, alongside rustic bread.

Apple and Blackberry Crumble

When I need a recipe that is fuss-free and easy, yet guaranteed to be delicious, Nigel Slater is who I generally turn to. He’s an ace at puddings. This is mainly, I think, because he uses lots of what makes them lovely. That makes sense, you don’t eat the dessert course if you are on a diet so why take half-measures when you are allowed?

As I put this into the oven, my wife came up behind me and asked if I had followed the recipe exactly. I had indeed. “You used all the butter? And all the sugar?” Again, I had indeed. I don’t see the point in denying the pleasure of eating something as wickedly rich as this, especially when it’s cold and miserable and you just know that this will make you happy. This made all of us happy, so happy that I’m making another later today…

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RECIPE 

450g cooking apples

a little caster sugar

450g blackberries (fresh picked are always best)

100g plain flour

175g fridge-cold unsalted butter

50g rolled oats

100g demerara sugar


METHOD

Heat your oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6.

Peel, core and cut the apples into eighths. Put them into a large pan with a good pinch of caster sugar and a tablespoon of water, then cook over a medium heat for around 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add the blackberries and mix thoroughly, then transfer everything to a suitably-sized pie dish.

Chop the cold butter into small cubes and put into a food processor with the flour. Pulse the processor until the butter and flour resembles breadcrumbs, taking care not to go too far – we are making crumble after all, not dough. Stir in the oats and sugar and scatter the crumble topping over the apple and blackberry mixture.

Bake for around 30 minutes until the jammy interior is bubbling through a crisp, golden topping. It’s wonderful hot, or warm, with ice cream or cream – and definitely not for anyone on a diet.

You can vary this almost infinitely, changing the fruit, and incorporating slivered pistachios or chopped pecans into the crumble, or using granola instead of rolled oats. Whatever you try, I’m sure you’ll love it.

Spiced Yellow Split Pea Soup

‘Tis the season to always have a hearty soup to hand, and this is a BIG soup in every way. It’s filling, warming, comforting and delicious, as you would expect, but this recipe makes 20 portions so you’ll need a very large pot.

I have made it with half the quantity of split peas, adjusting the spice quantities down by a third, but – for some otherworldly reason that defies logic – this is just a better soup in every way when it is made in a larger quantity. Perhaps that is why Paul Merrett, from whose ‘Spice Odyssey’ this recipe came from, specifies it be made this way. Not to worry, this is a soup that disappears very quickly once you’ve made it, and you’ll be asked to make it again.

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RECIPE serves 20

100ml olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

5 fat garlic cloves, crushed

a large knob of ginger, grated

4 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 celery sticks, roughly chopped

1 large carrot, roughly chopped

1 tbsp ground cumin

2 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tsp garam masala

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp cardamom seeds

1.5 kg yellow split peas

1/4 tsp asafoetida

fresh coriander leaves, to serve


METHOD

First, cut away any ugly rough bits of the skin of the ginger, but otherwise leave it unpeeled. Most cooks peel their ginger but I don’t think you need to; many also advise against grating ginger because of its fibrous nature, but I find that I end up with a soft mound of ginger flesh and a handful of fibres which are full of ginger juice, which I always squeeze into the dish. Ginger gives spiced dishes excitement, so I’m always generous in how much I use.

Prepare your other ingredients, and put the cumin, garam masala and ground coriander in a small bowl with just enough water to make a loose paste.

Heat the oil over a medium heat in a very large pan and add the onion. Fry gently until translucent.

Add the ginger and garlic and continue cooking for a minute or so, stirring frequently.

Add the tomatoes, celery and carrot, cook for another minute, stirring.

Now add the spice paste, chilli flakes, fennel and cardamom seeds, turn the heat up and – stirring constantly – cook the spices for a minute or so until they are strongly aromatic.

Now add the split peas and 5 litres (!) of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the age of your split peas.

You may find some grey scum forms on top as it cooks, it’s not harmful but it should be skimmed away using a large shallow spoon. More likely, you will get a more colourful foam, with a white base – no need to skim this, just stir it back in occasionally.

When the split peas are tender but retain their shape, remove from the heat, add the asafoetida and use a stick blender to blitz the soup to your desired consistency. We like it slightly rough, with plenty of whole split peas remaining, but this is entirely a matter of choice. Asafoetida powder is made from the gum of a variety of giant fennel and adds a slightly sulphurous, onion-like depth to a dish. Its effects when cooked are subtle but dramatic, if that makes any kind of sense, and it is perfect for lentil dishes because it marries beautifully with them and also acts as a digestif that helps to combat flatulism!

Now season carefully, remembering that this will take a lot of salt because there is so much of it, and also because split peas take a lot of seasoning anyway.

To serve, add the fresh coriander into the soup so it wilts and releases its essential oils, or if you have a coriander-hater in the house you can bring it to the table in a bowl and allow your guests to add it to their own servings.

Salmon and Leek Pie

My lovely wife insisted that I blog this recipe. When I first told her what we were having for dinner she wasn’t convinced, it only took one mouthful to change her mind. “This is the definitive fish pie”, she declared.

Everybody swooned over it, and reheated the following day it was almost as good. The best thing about it? Just look at the meagre list of ingredients. This is a fish pie that has its simplicity as its strength, and it is incredibly easy to make. 

You can top this with puff pastry if you prefer, but there’s just something about mash…

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RECIPE serves 6

500g salmon fillet

1 pint of milk (I use semi-skimmed, use what you prefer)

55g unsalted butter

40g plain flour

1 large leek, washed, halved and cut into 1cm slices

a small bunch of parsley, chopped

a quantity of dry-mashed potato (see method)

freshly ground black pepper

Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, finely grated

olive oil


METHOD

Heat your oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ gas 6.

Place the salmon, skin-side uppermost, in an ovenproof dish. Pour over the milk, cover with some foil and bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes until the fish is only just cooked and is starting to flake.

Remove the fish from the milk using a slotted spoon and set aside. Remove the skin from the fish, it should easily peel off. Retain the milk for use later. When the fish is cool enough to handle, break it into largish chunks – it will break up further when you assemble the pie.

Meanwhile, prepare your mashed potato: I have not specified an amount of mash here, people like different quantities of mash on a pie like this, so use your own judgement. I prefer to steam potatoes for mash, rather than boil them; it keeps them a little dryer and takes about the same length of time. When you come to mash, allow yourself a little milk to slacken the mash if you need to, but no butter. This needs to be a firm, dry mash so it holds peaks on the top that will char, and will soak up the juice from the pie underneath. When you have made your mash, set it aside for now.

Now make the sauce: melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat, then gradually add the flour whilst whisking constantly. Gently cook the resulting paste until it bubbles and has the first hint of brown, then remove from the heat and begin to add the milk.

Add the milk a little at a time to begin with, whisking all the time. As you add the milk it will be absorbed into the paste, which will become looser the more milk that you add. Return the pan to a gentle heat after adding around a quarter of the milk. When you have added around half of the milk, it has all been absorbed and there are no lumps in it, you can add the rest of the milk all together. Turn the heat up, keep whisking often, and bring the sauce to the boil. As it gets hotter, stir more frequently. Just as it starts to boil, drop the heat to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes, whisking often. Your aim is a smooth, glossy sauce.

After two minutes simmering, take the sauce off the heat and allow to stand whilst you bring everything together.

The leeks need to be steamed for a couple of minutes, just to soften them. This is an easy task that you can fit in while working on the other elements.

To assemble the pie, add the parsley and leeks to the sauce, and stir well. Then add the salmon and stir thoroughly, breaking the larger chunks down. Now carefully check and correct the seasoning.

Transfer everything to a 3-pint ovenproof dish, then add your mash over the top. It is best to work from the edges, working all the way round, then gradually working your way in to the centre using the outer layer of mash as a support – this is why you need dry mash. Fluff the top up into peaks and swirls using a fork, then give the entire surface a generous grinding of black pepper. Now grate a fine layer of Pecorino (preferred) or Parmesan over the top, and drizzle lightly with a little olive oil.

Bake for around 30 minutes until the top is nicely browned and charred in places, and the pie is piping hot.

We particularly enjoyed this alongside steamed tenderstem broccoli, and a very good Chardonnay.

Miso Ramen

Chicken soup has the (deserved) reputation of being a universal pick-me-up when you’re feeling under the weather, but I reckon Miso broth sits right alongside it. In Japan, many start their day with a bowl of Miso broth for the benefits that it is said to bring to digestive and gut health. Because Miso is a fermented paste, it brings beneficial bacteria to the gut – and there is overwhelming evidence to show that when your gut is happy your physical and mental well-being are also positively affected.

It’s also deeply delicious, and very easy and quick to make. The very essence of umami, it is warming and comforting and will accept almost anything that you wish to add to it – within reason of course. The recipe below is to get you started, so don’t feel constrained by the ingredients listed. Feel free to use tofu, shredded chicken, any vegetables you like (or have to hand, waiting to be used up) more of one thing, less of another, with noodles, without noodles, whatever, it’s the broth itself which is the real star here.

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RECIPE serves 4

15g dried wild mushrooms, such as porcini

1.4 litres of just-boiled water

2 tbsp dark soy sauce, plus extra to serve

1 vegetable stock cube

4 tbsp brown miso paste

150g mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, enoki, or just chestnut) thinly sliced

200g medium dried egg noodles

4 large free-range eggs

2 pak choi, roots trimmed, leaves separated and washed

200g tenderstem broccoli

100g fresh beansprouts, rinsed and drained

6 spring onions, trimmed, very thinly sliced

50g roasted cashew nuts, roughly chopped

a fresh red chilli, finely sliced


METHOD

Rinse the dried mushrooms to get rid of any grit, then put into a large, heavy-based saucepan and cover with the water. Add the soy sauce, stock cube and miso paste and stir until the stock cube has dissolved. Add your fresh mushrooms. Set aside for 30 minutes to infuse.

I use dark soy sauce here because it has a deeper, less brash flavour than light soy sauce, and it is less salty. Feel free to use either, noting the difference between the two.

Meanwhile, half-fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the noodles and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until just tender, stirring occasionally to break up the strands. Drain well, then rinse under running water until cold. Set aside.

Half-fill the same pan with water and bring to the boil. Add the eggs to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the water, and cool under running cold water to stop them cooking. Set aside.

Bring the mushroom broth to the boil. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering, add the noodles, pak choi and broccoli and continue to simmer for a further 2-3 minutes. Stir in the beansprouts and spring onions, remove from the heat.

Crack and peel off the egg shells, then cut the eggs in half along the long axis. The yolks should still be soft and runny.

Divide the broth, noodles and vegetables between 4 serving bowls. Top with the eggs. Sprinkle over the cashew nuts and chilli. Season with extra soy sauce.

To make this vegan, leave out the eggs and use wholewheat noodles (adjusting the cooking time for the noodles as necessary).

Rarebit Puffs

I generally steer clear of processed foods, but I have two big weaknesses: pork pies and cheese puffs. If I’m travelling and find myself hungry it is one of these that I reach for from the cooler in the petrol station. I haven’t ever tackled making pork pies (yet) but I do make delicious cheese puffs. Now all I have to do is remember to make some before setting off on a long trip…

These are wonderful as they are, but you can add anything you like. Caramelised red onions, or some ham – or both – are my favourite additions, but these are so simple to make you can experiment to your heart’s content. The next time I make these I intend to try adding some dry, roughly mashed potato – no butter or milk added – to the cheese mixture.

You can also make these as individual slices, just cut the pastry into the appropriate number of smaller oblongs – not forgetting that for eight slices you will need sixteen oblongs. I did this to begin with, but I found that for me there wasn’t quite enough filling in each one to make them truly satisfying.

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RECIPE serves 6

30g unsalted butter

3 garlic cloves, crushed

100g mascarpone

50g Parmesan, finely grated

2 tsp English mustard

1 block of all-butter puff pastry

1 egg, beaten


METHOD

Melt the butter in a pan and gently fry the garlic for a minute or so until it is just golden. Tip the butter and garlic into a mixing bowl and set aside for a little while, until it is cool enough to not melt the mascarpone.

Heat your oven to 220C/ 200C fan/ gas 7.

Mix the mascarpone, Parmesan, mustard and a little salt and pepper into the butter and garlic.

Roll out the pastry until it is about 4mm thick (if you are using a pre-rolled sheet it should already be at this thickness). Cut the rolled out pastry into two equal oblongs. When you cut the pastry, bring the knife directly down rather than pulling it through, to avoid the pastry being dragged and interfering with the way it rises.

Spread the cheese mixture equally over one of the pastry halves, leaving a good inch clear all around the edges. Brush the exposed edges of the pastry with some of the beaten egg, then lay the other half of the pastry carefully over the top and firmly crimp the top and bottom edges of the pastry together. Brush with the remainder of the beaten egg, then finely grate a little more Parmesan over the top. Pierce the top of the pastry case a couple of times with the point of a knife, to allow steam to escape, then bake in the middle of the oven for 10-15 minutes until puffed up and golden.

Leave to cool for a few minutes, then cut into portions and serve alongside a crisp salad.

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Caper Salsa and Feta

Sweet potatoes make perfect autumn food, but I tend to just bake them whole or make crispy roasted wedges with them. I’ve been missing a trick – slicing them very thinly, but not all the way through, gives them a delicious combination of crispy skin and melting flesh. Augmented by the sharp, salty flavours of capers, vinegar and feta, this might just be the best side dish I have discovered this year. 

We have these as an accompaniment to seared tuna steaks or grilled sea bass fillets, alongside a crisp green salad dressed with a little lemon juice.

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RECIPE serves 4

4 tbsp olive oil

4 large sweet potatoes

a small handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

a small handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1 tbsp capers, rinsed

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tsp white wine vinegar

100g feta, roughly crumbled


METHOD

Heat your oven to 230C/ 210C fan/ gas 8.

Cut into the potatoes at 5mm intervals, but only cut about 3/4 of the way through, as the picture shows. An easy way to do this quickly is to lay a couple of wooden spoons alongside your potato and wedge the potato between them, then cut down straight until the handles of the spoons stop you going any further.

Drizzle 2 tbsp of olive oil all over the hasselback sweet potatoes, working it down into the cuts and all over the skins. Bake in the oven for around 40 minutes until the skins are crispy and the flesh is meltingly soft.

Meanwhile, combine the parsley, mint, capers, garlic, chilli flakes and vinegar to make the salsa. Stir well and set aside until the potatoes are ready.

To serve: drizzle the potatoes with the salsa, and scatter the feta over that. Serve immediately.

Dry-Spiced Potato and Cauliflower (Aloo Gobi)

It doesn’t sound exciting, but potatoes and cauliflower pair extremely well with spice. This makes a great side for Bengali curries, or as a delicious lunch all by itself – whatever the weather.

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RECIPE serves 4

450g waxy potatoes

1 cauliflower, broken into small florets

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp black peppercorns

6 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

a small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

a big knob of ginger, finely chopped

1 medium-hot green chilli, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

a handful of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

METHOD

Cut the potatoes into small pieces around 2cm across. Cook in lightly salted water until just tender.

Dry-fry the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and black peppercorns until just aromatic (this takes 60-90 seconds), allow to cool slightly then grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder that is only used for grinding spices.

Heat the oil over a medium hot flame, add the cauliflower florets and fennel seeds. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the florets are starting to brown.

Add the onion, garlic, ginger, salt and green chilli. Stir well, turn the heat down to low, cover and fry gently for around 5 minutes until the onions have softened.

As an aside, most recipes that use ginger specify that you peel it first. I have never found this necessary, I just chop off any dry exposed ends and cut out any rough and ugly protusions. I have also seen it said that you shouldn’t grate ginger, because it is too fibrous. Again, I disagree. I regularly finely grate ginger and I generally end up with just about all of the fibres in the hand I am grating with. Give those a fibres a good squeeze to extract the juice they are holding (you will be surprised!) then discard them – or pop them in a small jelly bag with your peelings and pour hot water over them to make the most enervating ginger tea.

Add the potatoes, the spices that you ground earlier, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Stir gently and cook uncovered over a low heat for a few minutes to heat the potatoes through. Add the coriander leaves, toss together, and serve.

As an alternative, I have also made this with new potatoes. I steam the potatoes for around 15-20 minutes until just tender, then lightly crush them so the skins split. The rest of the method is the same.

Aubergine Parmigiana

I am never sad about the passing of the seasons. As the evenings close in our thoughts turn to richer, warming, comforting food – food like this delectable Italian classic.

I have lot of cook books and magazines, and among them are 61 different recipes for Aubergine Parmigiana. I haven’t read through all of them, but I have read enough of them to realise that the key to a great Parmigiana is simplicity. There’s no room here for chilli flakes, black garlic or other flavour-enhancing staples – the freshest, firmest aubergines and the best tinned tomatoes you can afford are all you need.

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RECIPE serves 4

2 large, firm aubergines (or 3 medium)

olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 fat garlic cloves, crushed

1 heaped tsp dried oregano

3x 400g tins of plum tomatoes (Mutti San Marzano or Cirio are my choices)

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

Parmesan, finely grated as required

1 ball of buffalo mozzarella

1 thick slice of slightly stale wholemeal bread

a bunch of flat-leaf parsley


METHOD

Drizzle olive oil generously in to a large saucepan, coating the base. Heat over a medium flame and gently fry the onions with the oregano until softened and just starting to colour – this will take ten minutes or so. Add the garlic and fry for another minute before adding the tinned tomatoes.

Bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and leave to bubble and reduce for around 30 minutes until thick and unctuous. Remove from the heat. season, add the vinegar and stir, then add the torn basil and stir through. Set aside for now.

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 190C/ 170C fan/gas 5.

Remove the stalks and slice the aubergines along their length into slices about as thick as the end of your little finger. Brush both sides of each slice lightly with a little olive oil and place under a hot grill for ten minutes per side until soft and golden. Using a little oil seals in moisture and ensures that the aubergine doesn’t dry out as it cooks. Depending on the size of your grill you may need to do this in batches.

Roughly tear the bread, and roughly chop the parsley. Put the bread and parsley into a food processor and pulse until the bread is crumbed and the parsley finely chopped.

In a casserole or other large ovenproof dish with a lid, start to layer up the elements. Ladle enough tomato sauce into the bottom of the dish to completely cover the base, then scatter a thin layer of grated Parmesan over it, followed by a layer of grilled aubergine. Repeat: sauce, Parmesan, aubergine, sauce, Parmesan, aubergine. Finish with a layer of sauce, tear the mozzarella ball and dot it over the top, then scatter the breadcrumbs and parsley over that. Finish with a final thin layer of Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. Put the lid on and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the lid from the casserole and put it back in the oven for a further 15 minutes.

When golden and crusty on the top, remove from the oven and leave to ‘rest’, uncovered, for ten minutes before serving. This resting time makes all the difference.

Serve alongside a simple green salad dressed with the juice of a lemon and its finely grated zest.

Cumin Flatbreads

I’m a big fan of flatbreads. Naan, rotis, pitta (or pied) or pizza, they are all so versatile, so easy to make and so filling. Rather than just serving them alongside a curry or as part of Middle Eastern mezze, they can be torn into strips and served under chilli instead of rice, torn into chunks as part of a salad, dipped into soups, used as a kind of spoon to gather up dal or sauce, split open to form a pocket for whatever filling takes your fancy, they can even be used as a plate. The next time you’re bored with the usual rice or potatoes, turn your thoughts to flatbreads.

These can be made with all kinds of spices: chilli flakes, coriander seeds, mustard seeds or cardamom. Cumin is my favourite though; it’s a heady, masculine spice with the aroma of hot desert about it, and bread is it’s perfect partner.

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RECIPE makes 8, but can easily be halved

1 tsp dried yeast

1 tsp sugar

250ml lukewarm water

400g plain flour

1 tbsp cumin seeds

2 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for cooking


METHOD

Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl. Make sure your water is just lukewarm – too hot and it will kill the yeast, then you’ll end up with thin, flat rotis rather than airy, puffed-up bread. Set the bowl aside in a warm place for about 15 minutes until it starts to foam slightly, that’s the yeast feeding on the sugar.

In a dry pan, warm the cumin seeds over a medium heat for a minute or so until aromatic, then tip onto a cold plate to stop them from cooking.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and cumin seeds, and mix well with your hand. Add the oil to the yeast mixture, then make a well in the middle of the flour and pour the yeast mixture into it. Forming your fingers into a kind of claw, drag the liquid through the flour, mixing and picking up dry areas as you go. Within a minute or so it will have formed a cohesive dough that will still be quite sticky. Work the dough in the bowl for a few minutes more and you will find that it starts to become less sticky and will start to form into a ball, pulling dry and sticky bits from the side of the bowl as it comes together.

Now turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and start to knead the dough. The idea is to fully hydrate the flour and develop the gluten that gives the finished bread its structure and strength. You will have to knead the dough for about ten minutes, until it is smooth, elastic and not sticky (or at least not too sticky). I’m not going to deliver a masterclass on how to knead a ball of dough, if you do need some guidance YouTube is full of great video tutorials.

Roll the dough into a tight ball and place in a lightly-oiled bowl, covered, in a warm place for an hour or two until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knock it back and divide into 8 balls.

Heat a ridged griddle pan until it is scorching hot, and roll the dough balls out into rough circles 3 or 4 mm thick. Turn the griddle pan down to a high but not furious heat, brush  one side of the rolled-out dough lightly with olive oil, then place oiled-side down in the griddle pan. Cook for about 1 minute per side, until you see bubbles of air forming on the top side and the bottom surface is golden and darkly-lined from the griddle. Brush the uncooked side lightly with oil, then flip over and cook the other side. Place in a large piece of cooking foil, big enough to fold over and around all of your cooked flatbreads to keep them warm.

Repeat with the other balls of dough, storing them as you go in the foil packet that you have made. This is a job that is much easier when two of you are doing it, you can get a production line going. If you are doing it by yourself, hard-won experience tells me it is better to concentrate solely on cooking them so get all your rolling-out done before you heat the griddle pan, then cook them one after the other keeping a close eye on them – they go from raw, to charred, to burned in remarkably short order.

I generally heat my oven to 100C then turn it off, storing my foil packet of cooked flatbreads in the warm oven until the rest of my cooking is complete and ready to serve.