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Rosemary and anchovy flatbread

Going flat-out for flatbread …

Rosemary and anchovy flatbread

We’re both fans of fast, healthy and delicious Mediterranean-influenced food here at North/South Food. Miss South is definitely more confident and experienced when it comes to baking than I am, but a recent recipe I came across persuaded me to pander to my basest kneads and enjoy my daily bread.

I’m currently designing a cookbook for the wonderful Parlour Café on West Port in Dundee, run by Gillian Veal. Over the last few years her delicious and unfussy cooking styles have added some sunshine to the local food scene, and her recipes have become firm favourites with many Dundonians. So it’s perhaps only natural that Gillian’s sharing some of her favourites recipes with the wider world.*

One of the pleasures (or should that be perils) of receiving the manuscript for a cookbook is trying to resist the urge to try out all the recipes: in this case as soon as I saw the recipe for rosemary and anchovy flatbread I was powerless to resist the temptation to snip sprigs of rosemary and crack open a tin of anchovies. Rosemary oil and salty fish on warm bread? Instant win!

Having made these a couple of times now I’m a major fan. Incidentally they’re so moreable I challenge you to make them last more than one sitting. Perfect with some home-made smoky hummus or an edamame bean dip.

So without further ado let me share this recipe, in Gillian’s own words, alongside my photos. Enjoy!

Gillian’s Rosemary and Anchovy Flat-Bread
Makes 8 – 10 flat-breads

● 250 grams wholemeal flour
● 250 grams of plain white flour
● 250 ml warm water
● 1⁄2 a teaspoon of dried yeast
● 80mls olive oil
● 12 anchovy fillets
● 1 sprig of rosemary ● sea salt and pepper to season

“Mix both flours in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and gradually pour into the flour while mixing with the other hand. Pour in 60ml of the olive oil as well, and keep mixing until the ball of dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it becomes smooth and elastic – you will feel the dough changing and it will bounce back when you stick a finger into it (5 minutes should do it). Cover the bowl with cling-film and set aside somewhere warm for about one and a half hours.

Meanwhile prepare the topping. Tear the leaves off the sprig of rosemary, chop them roughly and bash them up in a mortar and pestle with the anchovies and a glug or two of olive oil until you have a rough paste.

When the dough has about doubled in size, punch it down, gather into a ball and divide into 8 – 10 pieces depending on how many people you’re feeding and how big you want your breads to be. Heat up the oven to 220C, and put in two lightly floured baking trays. Roll the dough pieces out into rough circles, about half a centimetre thick, and evenly spread with the anchovy and rosemary paste. Push it into the dough with your fingers and make sure they’re well covered.

Get the hot baking trays out of the oven, and place the waiting flat breads on them. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and put back in the oven for around 6 minutes until they are golden and starting to puff up”

 

*If, as I suspect, this recipe whets your appetite then I urge you to buy the book when it’s published later this autumn by Kitchen Press. Wonderful recipes and delightful illustrations make this a perfect kitchen companion. We’ll have full details on here closer to the time…

Gilak, or Persian Perfection!

This week saw my dear friend E’s birthday and to celebrate this event, she suggested dinner at Gilak on the Holloway Road. Named for the cuisine of a northern region of Iran, with its own distinct language and culture, this is a relative new neighbourhood restaurant close to home for her and she was keen to try it out for size. It ended up being such a great night out in general, it was hard to tell which one of us was having the birthday treat…

Situated very close to Archway tube, this low key restaurant is spacious and friendly. We had booked and checked that despite what Guy Dimond says in Time Out that they are still BYO. We were late for our booking and came clutching champagne but were welcomed calmly and politely and soon seated with a glass of fizz and the impressive menu.

Only one of our party had eaten there before and even if it meant sheer gluttony, we were determined to try as much of the menu as we could, so we each ordered a starter dish which could be shared. E espied the Persian gherkins and olives on the menu before even me, so I went for boorani-e-esenfenaj or steamed spinach in yoghurt dip instead. M went for the dairy free option of kale kebab which is a dip made from smoked aubergine, walnuts, sour pomegranate and garlic with flatbreads on the side. A reprised her previous order of the Gilak Special which is a meze style dish of boiled broad beans, walnuts and smoked fish, eaten with flatbread.

Gilak special

The champagne was starting to go to our hungry heads so we were delighted when the cold starters arrived promptly and were put in the middle of the table to share as wanted, although since I am generally unenamoured of both walnuts and smoked fish I avoided the Gilak Special, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it, especially with the slightly anise infused gherkins and lime soaked olives on the side.

The flatbreads were paper thin and so soft and chewy you could have eaten them on their own, but they were delicious dipped in the slightly sour spinach dip. However, used to scoop up the aubergine dip, they were transformed into something truly spectacular. This rich silky smoky dip could convert even the most ardent aubergine hater into a total obsessive. It was bursting with a multitude of flavours and texture that I could have eaten twice of much of as I did, even though I usually ambivalent aubergine and have made my feelings about walnuts clear. If I’d had more champagne at that point, I’d have blamed the bubbles and licked the plate clean…

Dip heaven...

Having thoroughly enjoyed our starters, we had a moment or two for breathing space, opened some more fizz and grew more excited as we saw plates of fluffy rice and amazing grilled meats go past. We were not disappointed when our turn came.

Kababs

E had gone for a traditional grilled meat kebab or chellow kabab momtaz of both chicken and lamb which wasn’t the most attractive looking dish, but was generously portioned and full of beautifully cooked meats packed full of flavour. M and I had also gone for meat based dishes, with M choosing khorest alou mo samma or chicken in tomato sauce with dried plums. This was deliciously deep flavoured with the sweetness of plums complimenting the umami-ness of the tomato beautifully. The bone in chicken was tender enough to serve with a fork and spoon and it seemed to go down very well, especially with the beautiful rice on the side to soak up the juices.

Chicken with dried plums

I had chosen a stewed lamb dish or koresht gheimah. This is cubed lamb in a tomato sauce with yellow split peas, dried limes and chips. I have to admit the mention of chips in this otherwise very grown up sounding dish is what made me choose it to see if it would be as weird as I thought! And I was not disappointed! A rich thick stew of pulses, lamb and whole dried limes, it came sprinkled with teeny tiny Mini Chip style chips that added a lovely satisfying crunch to each mouthful! Everything worked really well with the limes adding a pleasing pucker to the dish almost like a grown up sweet and sour. I loved it!

Chip-tastic!

A had gone for one of the meat free options on the menu with the mirza ghasemi which is an aubergine based stew with eggs and tomatoes. Not entirely vegetarian, it comes with smoked fish and pickled garlic on the side, but these would be easily avoided if you wanted to go flesh-free. A little bit like the aubergine starter, this wasn’t the most appealing looking dish, but it tasted truly amazing. Tomatoes being a fellow nightshade make natural bedfellows for aubergine and the eggs add the pleasing dairy-esque richness that makes moussaka so delicious, but without being as rich or overwhelming as that dish can be.

Aubergine delight!

Despite the hearty portions, we managed to clear our plates well thanks to the fresh feel of the dishes and good atmosphere. Enjoying ourselves immensely, E and I managed to find enough space to order a plate of zolbia bamyeh or Persian flour and egg rose water pastries drenched in syrup. The others went for a pot of Persian tea, infused with clove and cinnamon and very similar to chai. The pastries were nice, but the least exciting part of the meal since they were simply sweet and syrupy rather than particularly flavoured with rose water or saffron. I didn’t feel they added much, but didn’t regret ordering them either.

Sweet as syrup

Our entire bill, excluding tip, for this veritable feast came to just over £60 (I can’t remember and how many pence) and worked out at around £15 per head. Obviously this is a bit lower because the price of any alcohol isn’t included, but we all felt that for the quality and amount of food, it is an absolute bargain. The efficient and unobtrusive service deserved a good tip and we were pleased to see we could leave what we saw fit. This was generous as we felt very welcome and were well tended to.

Gilak seems to bill itself as a good neighbourhood restaurant, hoping to make people more aware of Persian cuisine, but I’d say it’s in fact just a great restaurant, well worth a visit. If you’re lucky enough to have it in your neighbourhood, then I have serious aubergine envy. I’ll be back here like a shot. I’ve even got my next meal planned out from the menu (even though it might involve two main courses!) With food like this available there, this south London girl will be Archway bound again as soon as possible!