As it’s one of those rainy summer Saturdays, my plans have had to be slightly altered and instead of my trip down to the community garden I have been catching up on a few jobs at home. One of them was to do my weekly bread making; I was looking forward to having a few slices for my lunch with some lovely cheese I bought yesterday. I was getting hungry and the bread still had to bake and cool for half an hour so what to eat?
Last night I experimented a bit for my dinner. I grilled a herring and to accompany it I cooked leek and cabbage tossed in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. I steamed some sliced potatoes with sliced carrots ;all the vegetables were from the garden. When they were cooked I tossed them in butter and olive oil, salt & pepper, a few capers and a dash of lime pickle sprinkled with chopped coriander leaves. I had some of this potato left over so I heated it up with a little olive oil in a skillet and added a few slices of apple until the potato had crispy edges and the apple was soft. I grilled a sausage, slicing it down the middle finishing it off by crisping it up with the potatoes.
Last Night I had reduced down some beefsteak tomatoes with garlic, salt & pepper so I put a few teaspoons of this on the bottom of the dish and placed the sausage and potato on top. I have to say this was tasty. I can’t show you a picture as I scoffed the lot sharpish as I was hungry but I can tell you it looked very pretty. The tomatoes were red and orange, the potato had golden edges speckled through with orange carrot and green coriander. I have been watching Celebrity Masterchef the last couple of weeks and I think it’s starting to affect me!!!
The weather is lovely at the moment and we have a lot of salad produce coming from the garden so what better way to enjoy it for lunch than making a delicious salad filling for a pitta? I make my own bread once a week so instead of making a large loaf I used one-third of the dough to make a few pittas.
When I first experimented with making these. I was thrilled to discover that the dough spontaneously separates in the middle when cooked in the skillet.
I use for making the dough, one-third each of strong bread flour, spelt flour and kamut flour with salt, sugar yeast and water accordingly. For my loaf I use 8 ozs of each flour with 2 teaspoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 teaspoons of quick yeast and 426 ml. of tepid water. Mix all the ingredients together and mix into a soft dough, kneading for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put in a bowl brushed generously with olive oil and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size then knead again and leave for a further 45 minutes.
To make the pittas, tear a piece the size of a tennis ball from the dough and roll it out on a floured board into the required shape, an oblong or circle, about 3 mm thick. Heat a skillet to very hot and place the pittas on it to cook making sure they don’t burn. These generally take about 3 mins on a medium to high heat each side. You can also grill them. Turn over and cook on the other side when the dough will bubble up and separate.
These can be stored in the fridge in a polythene bag until needed and re-heated under the grill. Great fun.
Pittas are great toasted and used for all those dips like:- humous, tsaziki, skordalia, ect.
Tsestos displayed in The Nest artisan bakery in Larnaka
Tsestos displayed in The Nest artisan bakery in Larnaka
On my last day in Cyprus I visited The Nest artisan bakery run by Kyriakos and Maia. Maia turned up at the Strawberry Fair I attended at the Cornaro Institute on my first day in Cyprus and also for the talk I did on my last day. After the talk I went back to the bakery with her and was delighted by the whole ambience of the place.
It has only been open since January and you might not find it easily as it is an ordinary house from the outside. Just a few turnings down from St Lazarus Church in the centre. Kyriakos is the master baker and Maia organising and sourcing all sorts of interesting arts and crafts by local producers and craftsmen for the shop and cafe. Kyriakos is a creator of his own style of baking as well as the traditional favourites. At this special Easter time he has been working flat out along with Maia to get all the goodies cooked and out there. They are all delicious. I was very lucky as it was the end of the day I was the happy recipient of the leftover goodies, flaouna, kourlourka, tahinopitta and halloumi bread. They sell at the local market on Fridays so if you are in the vicinity of St Lazarus Church why not try some or pop along to 12 Apolloneio Kiteos and enjoy a coffee or tea and relax with something tasty. Look out for the distinctive sign.
I have been baking my own bread now for a couple of years using the same recipe I took off the back of the and quick yeast packet. I vary the flour types to get different textures and taste. In my search for different ingredients I found Kamut flour on my supermarket shelf one day , this is an ancient type of wheat grown by the pharaohs in Egypt. As well as having a high mineral content I found out later that it’s better for your gut. It has a lovely flavour and I generally mix it half and half with organic strong white bread flour. Sometimes I throw a few sesame seeds on top with some poppy seeds and after seeing my aunt Eugenia make bread, I even chuck a few onion seeds on top. But I still felt I could improve it.
When my aunt was showing Androula and me all her wheat recipes of course she showed us how she makes bread. She always uses her own starter made from scratch instead of fresh yeast and I hadn’t heard of this before. Wild yeasts are floating in the air all around us and given the right conditions anything will ferment even chocolate apparently…now there’s a thought. So if you mix some flour with water and beat some air into it and leave it covered in a warm place it will start to froth and bubble given 24hrs. Keep adding water and flour to keep a batter like consistency and after a week you will have your starter. This will give you a sourdough loaf.
I haven’t tried this yet but I needed to make some more bread and thought I would give it a go but of course it was going to take a week and I needed the bread now. So I compromised.
I recently bought Hugh Fearnley -Whittingstall‘s Everyday cook book as he has some jolly nice ideas and lo and behold there was a good size section on bread, with that all important information on making your own starter. When using your own starter the bread is much more easily digestible as the yeast has had time to break down the flour really well. He also had a cheaty version for quickness using dried yeast but leaving it overnight to ferment with half the flour and the warm water, then proceeding as per usual. So I thought this would serve my purposes beautifully this week while I wait for my starter to get started. This has worked a treat and tastes like real bread should taste as the longer proving improves the flavour. I can’t wait to see how it will taste using my starter.