Today’s post on whole wheat flatbread is inspired by the ‘green lady’. I see her almost every Saturday at our local food market. She’s often brushing away truant grains of soil dusting the table under bunches of beetroot; their darkly glistening, purple-veined leaves nudging fat cucumbers jostling for space with fire engine-red peppadews, jars of fresh horseradish, chilli oil and trays of speckled quail eggs. A ready smile rounds off her robust Russian accent as she greets us and extols the freshness of her 100 percent organic vegetables and eggs. I love digging through the big boxes beside her table for spinach and Tuscan kale, crisp and shiny with health, and also for coriander, dill, parsley, rosemary and thyme, herbaceous and passionately aromatic, tied in neat little bunches. A Rolodex of recipes goes off in my brain and as always, there’s no getting away without buying some. Like invisible, secret spells, these little leaves add lift and nuance to any dish.
With such freshly-harvested vegetables, it’s always better to do as little to them as possible and maybe even eat the leafy ones the same day. A flatbread, makes a big allowance for creativity. So without sweating too much, a quick whole wheat flatbread topped with barely-cooked spinach, lots of garlic and sweet cherry tomatoes all doused liberally with extra-virgin olive oil, appealed to me as an excellent, vegetarian Saturday lunch for my family.
This recipe is very forgiving and very versatile. I make it all the time and yet it remains exciting because all I do is use a new topping when the old one gets boring. It also helps use whatever vegetables my fridge has on that day. Although the flatbread is leavened with yeast, it only takes about an hour to rise. So you can even do it when all you have is an hour before mealtime.
- 75 g all purpose flour
- 75 g whole wheat flour
- 2 ¼ tsp instant dry yeast
- 1 tbsp chopped thyme, rosemary or chives
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil plus a little more for oiling and drizzling
- 125 ml lukewarm water
- Freshly ground pepper
- 200 g spinach, coarsely chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves sliced
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 150 g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 100 g mozzarella, gruyere or any soft cheese (optional)
- Freshly ground pepper
- Dissolve the yeast in the barely warm water, cover and set aside to foam for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the flours with the salt, pepper and chopped herbs.
- Once the yeast is frothy, pour in 1 ½ tbsp olive oil. Make a well in the flour, add the yeast mixture and bring together the flour to make rough dough. Put this on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes (add extra water/flour if the dough is too dry/wet) till you get a smooth ball of dough.
- Lightly oil a bowl with olive oil, put in the dough, cover with clingfilm and rest in a warm place for 1 hour till the dough doubles in volume.
- Meanwhile make the topping. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a pan and throw in the spinach. Cook for no more than 3-4 minutes till the excess water evaporates but the spinach is still crisp and green.
- Preheat the oven to 230℃, line a baking sheet with lightly oiled foil.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 10 x 8 inch rectangle with a thickness of ½ an inch.
- Transfer the flatbread on to the baking sheet, scatter with spinach, sliced onions and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes till the bread is crisp and lightly golden.
- Switch off the oven, remove the flatbread, scatter chunks of cheese on top and return to the oven for 5 minutes till the cheese is molten. Slice and serve warm.
- Cooking time does include time needed for the dough to rise.