Sometimes dinner dictates the bread. Pasta: Ciabatta. Sandwich: Sourdough. But sometimes the bread dictates the dinner--enter flatbread love. I was covered in flour, smelling of garlic, ginger and onions, rolling pin working--it was pure kitchen heaven. I could have made a meal of this bread on its own. Easily. But then I got busy making an entree decision, finally settling on a red and brown lentil curried stew with a cucumber salad to accompany. (We all know that the cucumber was not a problem because I have the mutant cucumber plant in my garden--ten paces out the back door with scissors in hand and salad was done!).
You simply must try this. It's a fast meal. . . sort of. (I will admit to using my pressure cooker to crank out the lentil stew in fifteen minutes in what might have taken over forty-five minutes sans the pressure cooker.) It bears repeating: my pressure cooker rocks.
As I said--I was covered in flour, the counters were covered in flour--but the aroma from the "tikkar" ingredients just overwhelmed my senses and made me very happy even if it was a hundred and ten outside--we were having a bread with dinner!
The flatbread cooking on my two-sided grill. Every kitchen should have one of these. I got mine at Wal Mart and use it all the time.
I mentioned that I recently spent the day at a favorite used book store. Well, amongst the stack I scored that afternoon was this little jewel of a book called: Flatbreads & Flavors: A Baker's Atlas by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Worth every penny I paid for it (ten whole dollars). This book is a journey as much as it is a cookbook. I love a good story. Jeffrey and Jennifer met and then decided they'd travel together to taste the food the world has to offer and as a result, we lucky souls have these writings to share in their experiences both taste-wise and people-wise. Their fascination was with the flatbreads. (Mine would be, too.) The search for cuisines of cultures turned up this plethora of flatbread eating. Who knew? Nearly every single culture around the world has its own flatbread. Sort of like its own family jewel. So the flatbread takes center stage as the title of the book suggests. What's not to love? However, the stories that accompany the flatbread recipes are as engaging as the recipes themselves. I am reading this cookbook from cover-to-cover--it's that good. So maybe you bought this fifteen years ago when it was first published and maybe I'm late to the show. (People have told me I have an old soul--tending to the "old" things vs. new.) That's okay. Some of my best cookbooks are the ones that were not published in this decade. . . or the one prior. Regardless, I hope you hung on to your copy. Since bringing this book home, I've wondered over and over again why anyone would remove something as lovely as this from their collection. It won't be leaving my house any time soon. The book is divided up into chapters that focus on regions of the world. The recipe for Tikkar flatbread was from the chapter entitled: India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. How exotic! How interesting! I could hardly wait to get the ingredients going for this.
As Jeffrey and Naomi point out in their introduction to this flatbread or "tikkar"--this bread's origins are from the western part of India. I make no claim to being an expert on Indian breads--(this is my disclaimer in case someone has a comment on the matter). I just wanted to make this particular bread is all. This bread is litearlly a flat one--no puffing occurs in the cooking process as is sometimes found in other Indian flatbreads. I made a few modifications to the recipe shared in the book and will give you my adaptation.
I cannot sing the praises of this flavorful flatbread loud enough. This is a very robust bread. The browing takes place after brushing both sides with a bit of canola oil and Earth Balance margerine (my choice). I thought I'd try that combination vs. the ghee (pure clarified butter) called for in the recipe. Still, I was in love with the end result. It gives the bread a nice golden hue. In their recipe, they use chopped jalapenos and coriander leaves. In my recipe, I used a small poblano pepper from my garden and dried coriander powder and wondered what flavors I might have missed out on had I had the "coriander leaves" on hand. I was pleased with my coriander powder result. Their recipe called for corn flour--well, I only had cornmeal on hand and this sufficed nicely. I also finished my bread off with a sprinkling of "Turkish" seasoning I recently purchased at Penzey's. Personally, I think this took the bread over the top. Amazing.
As far as the dough goes, it needs only to "rest" about a half hour. Other than that, the prep and mixing part goes quickly. This flatbread would be a wonderful main stage item for any stew or soup you have a hankering for. (Soups and stews are always welcome here!) As I said, we went the curried lentil route--a very fast meal and will give you the ingredients for it here as well (this is like a three-fer post today!)--but if you do not have a pressure cooker, plan for at least an hour for the stew/soup to work its magic before its ready. Then, for the cucumber salad--so easy, recipe is below. I hope you give at least the flatbread a go--you will love it, I promise!
Savory Wheat & Cornmeal Flatbread or "Tikkar"
1 small onion minced
1 small poblano pepper minced
2 tablepsoons fresh ginger minced
4 garlic cloves minced
1 small tomato diced
2 cups whole wheat flour (you may need another 1/4-1/2 cup depending upon the moisture in your kitchen)
1 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon ground coriander
dash of Turkish seasonings (for topping the bread as it cooks)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Earth Balance Margerine (melted for about 20 seconds in mircrowave, then mixed with olive oil to brush on bread as it cooks)
Place dry ingredients in a bowl and sift together really well. Add the chopped veggies, garlic and ginger, mix again. Add water and mix to incorporate. Remove dough from bowl and place on a well-floured counter and knead for about five minutes. The dough should not be sticking to your hands--if it is, then add more flour. I found that if I added about a tablespoon of whole wheat flour at a time, this was sufficient for getting my wet dough to the "tacky" stage. You just have to work with it. Shape into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare either two cast iron ten inch skillets or a flat grill top--spray lightly with cooking spray to prevent from sticking. Remove dough from bowl, place on well-floured counter again. Roll out into a log then divide the dough into eight equal pieces--each piece should be about the size of a baseball. Take and flatten each piece a bit with your hand and set aside under some plastic while you begin working with each piece individually. Take a piece of dough and flatten out to about 7 inches across and 1/4 " thick. Remove and place on warmed grill--keeping the heat at medium. Cook on one side for about 7 minutes. Turn flatbread over. Brush with some of the olive oil and Earth Balance mixture, cook on the other side now about five or six more minutes. Turn flatbread over again--brush other side with oil mixture, then sprinkle with Turkish seasonings or seasonings of your choice. Remove from grill or cast iron pan, place on plate and cover with a towel to keep warm until ready to serve.
Curried Red and Brown Lentil Stew
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup red lentils
1 onion chopped
1 carrot chopped
6 cloves garlic minced
3 celery stalks sliced
2 bay leaves
1 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes (use kitchen scissors to chop up the tomatoes in the can, then add to stew)
6 cups veggie stock
1 teaspoon garam marsala
1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
pinch of saffron (about ten threads)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
First, rinse your lentils and check for any stones or whatnot. Set aside. In a soup pot, saute veggies in about 2 tablespoons of canola oil for about five minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Put lid on pot and allow to simmer over medium-to-low heat for about 45 minutes. Check in about thirty minutes for doneness of the lentils. The red lentils will cook faster and provide this lovely mushy, gravy texture. Yum! The brown lentils may take a bit longer--just taste test as you go. Serve with some chopped fresh tomato and fresh parsley.
For Pressure Cooker: Place all ingredients in cooker, bring to high pressure, then turn down heat to maintain pressure for fifteen minutes (this is usually at medium on my stove). Turn off heat. Allow pressure to come down on its own for about ten minutes, then release remaining pressure. Remove bay leaves before serving.
1/2 large cucumber seeded and diced
1/4 cup vegan sour cream
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese
1/4 cup vegan mayo
2 scallions minced (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons fresh chives minced
1 teaspoon dried dill
S & P to taste
Place all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir until everything is combined and nicely coated with the cheese-ey part. Taste to make any flavor adjustments.