A year in bread #23: shawarma and pita!

There’s been a fair bit of middle eastern food this week. On Wednesday, we went to eat at Honey & Co, a new-ish middle eastern cafe/restaurant on Warren Street. We could only get a table at 6.30pm, which actually turned out to be a blessing as I think we’re both just shattered at the moment.

Inside, it’s cosy, with the most beautiful blue and white tiles on the floor (I have tile envy). The whole meal was beautiful: crispy falafal, aubergine with a runny-lovely poached egg, and chicken cooked in pomegranate molasses, on a bed of wheat, pistachios, barberries and other yummy things. But the reason we (well, I) really wanted to go in the first place was the description of the cheesecake in the Guardian review we had read. I was quite worried when they brought the dessert menu that it wouldn’t be on there – I would have been at risk of a teenage-style strop…. But there was no need to panic.

The crunchiest pastry (something like that little vermicelli stuff), topped with a huge dollop of not-to-sweet tangy cheese, drizzled with honey. Mmmmmmmmmm – heaven for a cheesecake lover. The boy ordered the white chocolate and olive oil pud – I think it might be some kind of emulsion / mousse thing? – not sure, but it just tasted like pure white chocolate, which was probably heaven for the boy too. Though I do regret going half-and-half on the puds, I wish I could have scoffed the rest of the cheesecake myself.

We’ve also been trying out some more Lebanese recipes from the AMAZING Lebanese Kitchen. We’ve cooked more from it than we do from most books…. koftas, vegetarian moussaka, chocolate mousse…. and now chicken shawarma and pita bread. The recipes are simple to follow, and the flavours seem authentic (but also deliverable in my kitchen!).

I’ve tried a few recipes for pita / flatbreads before, and I’ve never successfully got them to bubble up in the oven to give that pocket effect, that you can either fill, or that just gives lovely layers of bread when wrapped around tasty stuff. These ones worked like a dream. I just flung them in a hot oven on a pizza stone, and after 2-3 minutes they were mottled brown, had puffed right up, but were still soft enough to wrap.

Pita (makes 6) – recipe adapted slightly from the Lebanese Kitchen

450g strong bread flour, plus more for rolling
7g fast action yeast
200ml tepid water, with 1 tablespoon of honey dissolved in it
100ml milk
1 teaspoon of salt

Mix the yeast into the tepid water, and stir well. Leave to bubble for 5 minutes or so, then add the milk.

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, then pour in the yeasty liquid. Combine, then knead by hand until pliable and stretchy (I cheated, as always, in the stand mixer with the dough hook attachment). You might need to add a touch extra water if it’s not coming together.

Cover the bowl with clingfilm, and leave somewhere warm to rise for an hour or so. (Mine rose very little, which surprised me and worried me a bit, but it didn’t seem to matter!).

Pre-heat the oven to its highest setting, leaving a pizza stone in while it heats.

Divide the dough into 6 balls – about the size of a tennis ball. Roll the first one out on a lightly floured surface, to about a 30cm round.

Sprinkle the first rolled-out dough round with water, then fling it on the pizza stone as quickly as possible. Close the oven door quickly, and get on with rolling out the next ball.

Check the oven after 2-3 minutes. The Pita should be puffed up, with the top about 4-6 inches higher than the bottom layer. Take it out before it cooks hard – you want it to be soft and pliable. Wrap the cooked pita in a clean, damp teatowel while you cook the next one.

We stuffed the flatbreads with hummus, salad and chicken shawarma (also from the Lebanese Kitchen).

Shawarma

Chicken breast strips are marinaded with olive oil. the juice of a lemon, Lebanese seven spice mix, chilli flakes and salt, then fried off till crispy and caramelised on the outside, and still moist in the middle.

Ace. And dead easy.

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