We often have these flatbreads on a diet day, as they don’t tempt us to add butter and they are really delicious when freshly cooked. The leftovers are perfect to use as wraps for walking sandwiches or re-toasted, spread with hummus and sprinkled with toasted seeds or leftover chicken or lamb. They freeze perfectly when cooked, and you can also freeze half of the uncooked dough (knock it back after rising, then wrap tightly in cling film before putting into a freezer bag – this stops the dough from rising too much while it is thawing out). The dough can also be used as a pizza base.
These flatbreads started life as a recipe I found on Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage website, (hence the name), but his version doesn’t contain yeast. I’ve tried making them both with and without yeast and the yeast version is infinitely better. It takes no longer to mix if you use superfast yeast and only needs about half an hour’s resting time, so it is very little extra effort. If you are really short of time, by all means skip the yeast, but do try to rest the dough for a few minutes before rolling out.
You can add all sorts of delicious extras – on diet days, I tend to stick to things like caraway, Nigella or cumin seeds, or finely chopped garlic with parsley, rosemary or coriander. If you start going down the road of pumpkin or sunflower seeds, while they will be delicious, don’t forget you are building in extra calories.
Hughie’s flatbreads (with added yeast)
500g plain flour (you can use half wholemeal if you wish, but this is one of the few occasions where I think white is nicer)
1 sachet superfast (sometimes called rapid rise) dried yeast
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
350ml warm water (approx)
Seeds, herbs, chopped garlic etc (optional)
Equipment: a clean tea-towel and a small non-stick frying pan (approx. 15cm across the base)
Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl and give it a good mix so that everything is well combined. This stage is important, as you don’t want a pile of yeast sitting next to a pile of salt, as this could retard or even kill the yeast when the liquid is added. If you are adding seeds or herbs, add those now too. (If you plan to freeze half of the dough and prefer to leave it unflavoured, you can just knead in the flavourings after the dough has risen).
Make a well in the centre and pour in almost all of the water and the tablespoon of oil. Stir well until the dough starts to come together – I find a table knife the best tool for this job. Add the rest of the water if the dough is too dry and not coming together. Tip onto the (clean!) worktop and knead briefly until the dough is smooth – this only takes a minute or so, no need to go mad.
Put a few spots of oil into the bowl you used for mixing and turn the dough over in the oil. This stops the dough from sticking to the bowl and to the cling film when it rises.
Cover with cling film and leave in a draught-free place for about half an hour or so – you will see that it has risen, but it won’t necessarily have doubled in size in that time. You can leave it for longer if you wish, or you can rise it slowly in the fridge while you are at work or doing other things.
Knead the dough gently to knock out the air, then cut it into two (freeze half at this stage if you wish – see note above). Roll each half of the dough into a sausage and cut into five pieces. Put the dough pieces onto your worktop and, using your cupped palm, roll into balls.
Flour the worktop and use a rolling pin to roll out the dough very thinly into rounds a little larger than the base of your frying pan – mine is 15cm. I usually roll them out one at a time, while the previous one is cooking, as it only takes a few seconds.
Heat the pan over a medium heat and place the rolled out bread into the bottom of the pan – you do not need to add oil, the flour will stop the dough from sticking.
After about a minute, lift the edge of the bread with a knife – if it is starting to brown and the dough is puffing up, flip it over and cook for another minute or two on the other side, until the dough has puffed up and both sides are speckled brown. A bit like pancakes, the first one is never the best – see above! Wrap up in the tea towel, stacking them one on top of the other, as you cook them – they will steam and soften, as well as staying warm while you make the rest.