This past weekend my wife and I went to July Coronation. It was a very long court for me to have forgotten my chair, but some very well deserving people were recognized.
After court we went back to Mistress Safiye’s sunshade and got out the brazier, filled it with charcoal, and got to work. It was flatbread day. I’d been planning this one for a while, so I’m very happy with how it turned out.
I did two different versions. One standard flatbread and one desert flatbread.
The first was translated in Medieval cuisine of the Islamic World by Lilia Zaouali (p72). It’s originally from Ibin Razin’s Andalusian cookbook Kitab Fadalat al-khiwan fi tayyibat al-ta’am wa-l-awan (Book of the Excellent Table Composed of the Best Food and the Best Dishes)
Take semolina and moisten it, energetically mixing with a little water and salt. Divide the dough into pieces and knead each piece with clarified butter. Roll it out, first by hand and then with a rolling pin, fold it, add clarified butter, and roll it out again to obtain a very thin layer. For this purpose use a shaubak, which is a piece of carved wood, thick in the center and thin at the extremities. Small lumps of dough can be rolled out three at a time, placing one on top of the other with clarified butter between each layer.
Heat an iron skillet or one of unglazed clay. Take a piece of the rolled out dough and heat it until it has become white and lost all its moisture, at which point remove it from the fire and beat it with the hands in order to separate the layers.
Fairly self explanatory. I picked up some semolina at our local mill, used sea salt (yes, I know they would have used rock salt, but I work with what I had), and ghee (clarified butter).
I put about two cups of semolina in the bowl, added about two teaspoons of salt and enough water to turn it into dough. Mixed in a bit of ghee and kneaded it a bit. I set it aside to rest as I heated my skillet (cast iron in this case). I rolled out three balls, flattened them a bit, then stacked them with some ghee in between. Rolled it out.
Now that the pan was hot enough I put down the flatbread and cooked it till it had nice spots on the bottom, flipped it and did the same. Then I served it up with some hummus.
The top and bottom layers were nice and crispy, great for dipping, and the center layer was a tasty bread like consistency, which when taken with part of the top or bottom added a great texture.
The biggest issue was that my pan was too large for the brazier, so I had to continuously move it to keep the pan evenly heated without smothering my coals.
The second batch I took the same dough and rolled it out like the previous one but this time I was using a different recipe.
A Baghdad cookery Book, Charles Perry pg. 104
Fatayir. It is dough that you make thin, then fry it as cakes in sesame oil in a frying pan. Take it out, dip in syrup and sprinkle sugar on it.
I put some sesame oil in the skillet and added the flatbread and fried it up. Once it was done I removed it, poured some simple syrup over it and dusted it with sugar. It was very tasty, if a little greasy.
I assume that this recipe is intended to be made without the ghee, as that way it wouldn’t be as greasy.
The first flatbread plan worked amazingly. The only change for next time is to use a bigger brazier, and roll them out smaller.
The sweet flatbread however needs a few changes. First it was too greasy. I think that if I roll them out individually without the extra ghee and then fry them crisp one at a time in the oil it will work better. Also my 4 cups sugar to 3 cups water with some lemon juice added at the end syrup needs to be thicker. I think I will go with a 2:1 sugar to water ratio.
Now I wish I had taken pictures. I’m sure all of us in Ottoman Turkish clothing lounging around the sunshade with some fresh made flatbread looked wonderfully periodish.