For those who know me, I am one of those women who’d sooner choose a cookbook over a handbag or a pair of shoes (that’s why my brother is the fashionista in the family). I find no greater pleasure than a new cookbook and I would be hard-pressed to choose anything else when given the opportunity (unless I was starving, or dying, that is). Recently I purchased a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook ‘Plenty’. The man is a genius! Not only does he own a chain of successful restaurants, but he does things with vegetables that could almost be illegal in some countries, they’re so good. Ottolenghi, is not a vegetarian, but he has established himself as one of the most brilliant talents in the world of vegetarian cooking. His approach to vegetables is exciting and innovative and I could not wait to dip into this fabulous book. Ten years ago, I myself, was a vegan and then a vegetarian and more often than not, the food I love to prepare the most is vegetarian. My virgin Ottolenghi debut, is this sumptuous and delicious dish, and I was not disappointed! Ottolenghi suggests omitting the flatbreads if you are short on time and replacing them with rice or couscous, I say DON’T! The flatbreads are the perfect accompaniment to the luscious, earthy depth of the mushroom and barley stew and they are so very easy to prepare! I cannot believe I have existed the last 32 years on this planet without homemade flatbread – what the hell was I thinking?!
Yoghurt flatbreads with barley and mushrooms
Serves 6 as a starter or 3 as a main dish
70g pearl barley
20g dried porcini mushrooms ( I couldn’t find dried porcini mushrooms and so I used dried shiitake mushrooms – frankly, the porcini would have been the best option)
180ml lukewarm water
400g mixed mushrooms sliced ( be bold!)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 thyme sprigs
1 clove garlic, crushed
125ml white wine
2 tbsp chopped parsley, plus extra to garnish (or use fresh coriander like I did)
1/2 tbsp finely chopped, preserved lemon skin ( I didn’t have any on hand and so opted to leave this out)
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp Greek yoghurt
salt and black pepper
140g wholemeal flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
14og Greek yoghurt
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
4 tbsp clarified butter (or a mixture of melted butter and vegetable oil)
Start by making the flatbreads. Combine all the ingredients, apart from the butter, in a bowl and use your hands to mix them together to a dry dough; add more flour if needed. Knead the dough for a minute or so, until it is smooth and uniform. Wrap it in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour. (How simple is that!)
Meanwhile, make the mushroom ragout. Rinse the barley with cold water, then place in a medium-sized saucepan and cover with fresh water. Simmer for 30-35 minutes, or until tender but still with a bite.
Place the porcini in a bowl and pour over the lukewarm water, set aside. Put the fresh mushrooms in a hot heavy-based pan with the oil, half the butter and the thyme, and saute for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the mushrooms have softened, add the garlic and wine and allow to bubble away for 5 minutes.
Next, add the porcini and their soaking liquid, you may have to strain the liquid to get rid of any grit left in the bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Finally, stir in the remaining butter with the parsley, preserved lemon, lemon juice and cooked barley. You will now have a flavoursome mushroom stew with a thick sauce. Add more water if needed and taste for seasoning. Set aside; reheat before serving.
When ready to make the flatbreads, divide your dough into six pieces (I must be honest, I thought Ottolenghi was on crack cocaine when I read this as there was not much dough – but with practice you could definitely produce 6 flatbreads with this amount). Roll into balls, then flatten them with a rolling-pin into round discs about 2mm thick. I found flouring the rolling-pin and the work surface helped tremendously. Heat some clarified butter in a non-stick pan and fry the flatbreads for about 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Add more butter as you need it and keep the flatbreads warm as they are cooked.
To serve, fold each warm flatbread in half or into quarters and top with the warm ragout, a spoonful of yoghurt and a sprinkle of parsley or coriander. Delight in your inner hippie.