Being so far from the Middle East where we semi-grew up during this time of year makes us nostalgic for Arabic foods…jareesh, kabsa, mindi, manakeesh, basbousa, kunafa…ok so we’re carb monsters! Unfortunately, some of these things are not quite so easy to find even in London. We particularly miss the huge variety of soft, doughy breads to scoop up hummus with, eat with shish taouk, chopped and baked for fatoush or just on their own.
So we decided to try making some Arabic bread of our own to recreate the experience…and we think it turned out pretty well (if we do say so ourselves)!
This recipe is adapted from Ghillie Bhasan’s The Middle Eastern Kitchen, which is an absolute joy to read (sorry we’re food nerds) although we’re still searching for that perfect jareesh recipe!
Makes about 8 individual breads
1 tsp dried yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
200-300 ml warm (“hand hot”) water
450g wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp za’atar seasoning or ground sumac (these can be easily found in Middle Eastern supermarkets)
2 tsp olive oil
1. Add the yeast to the sugar and 100ml of the warm water in a bowl. Stir and leave for about 10 mins until frothy.
2. Mix the flour, salt and za’atar/sumac into another bowl.
3. Mix in the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, and using your hands knead the dough until soft and pliable. You may need to add more of the warm water if it seems a bit dry.
4. Knead on a floured worktop for about 10 mins until smooth. Add about a tsp of the oil to your hands to make kneading easier if the dough is too sticky.
5. Rub the remaining teaspoon of oil in the mixing bowl, add the dough back to the bowl and move the dough around in the bowl so that the dough is covered in a light film of oil.
6. Leave the bowl in a warm draught-free place until the dough has doubled in size. This may take about 1-2 hours depending the warmth of the room. Alternatively, you can place the bowl in the fridge to rise overnight.
7. Once risen, punch the dough down and knead for about 1 minute so that the crust on the dough disappears.
8. Divide the dough into about 8 balls and press down on each ball until about 0.5 cm thick.
9. Lay each flat bread onto a floured surface and covered with a floured tea towel to rise for about another hour until noticeably bigger.
10. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (fan-assisted)/240 degrees C (non-fan assisted) and place two greased baking sheets in the oven to warm up.
11. When the baking sheets are pretty hot, place the flat dough on the baking sheets with a few drops of water sprinkled on top (to keep them moist) and bake for about 10 minutes until puffed up.
12. Cool on a wire rack and keep in a tin or bag until ready to eat!
I found that the breads become a bit soft the next day which is perfect for dipping into hummus. Alternatively, you can cut the breads up after they have cooled, toss in about 1 teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and bake for a further 10 minutes to make crunchy pita chips!
So what do you think? Feel free to share your questions and comments below! We’d love to hear what you have to say.