I’ve been quietly pondering for at least 5 minutes, wondering what to call this recipe and the best I can muster is, ‘Rubbish Flatbreads’.
Not because they are ‘rubbish’, quite the contrary, they are delicious and usually disappear off the plate as fast as I can cook them!
I often rustle them up with ingredients from what many people would throw into the bin; I happily use the leftovers from an earlier meal and this is how they’ve earned their trashy title.
If you’ve never made it before, bread can seem like the most terrifying of all things to cook. It uses yeast, yeast is live and if it all goes horribly wrong it could explode and line the walls of the kitchen! Eeek!
Actually, it’s nowhere near as scary and it certainly won’t explode, I promise you. But it might do a long slow rise and catch you out…like it did me…
I should know better, I teach people how to make bread for goodness sake, but I’m hopeless at keeping an eye on the time, as I don’t wear a watch.
Anyway, I made up a batch of dough and left it for an hour or so to do its first rise. It looked as if it had doubled in size, so I knocked it back (just squashed it down to get the air out) and went to put it into its final destination, in this case a 2lb loaf tin.
But the phone went and I had to go out. Not knowing what time I’d be back, I stuffed the dough into an airtight container and put it in the fridge to finish off and cook later (the cold won’t kill the yeast, it has done its job and risen the dough – panic time is over).
Unfortunately, I hadn’t allowed for the fact that it would continue to rise in it’s chilly container and when I came home, the inside of the fridge looked like a scene from a horror film, as my tomato and olive dough had pushed the blooming lid up and burst out of the box, splurging all over the rest of the contents – that taught me.
Anyway, before I get to the nitty gritty, here are a few more interesting facts about bread!
- Otto Frederick Rohwedder invented the first slice-and-wrap bread machine in 1928. He sold his pre-sliced, wrapped bread in a bakery at Battle Creek, Michigan. By 1933 80% of all bread sold in the US was sliced and wrapped the phrase ‘the best thing since sliced bread’ was coined.
- Sliced bread was introduced into the UK in the mid 1930’s.
- Bread is bought by 99% of British households.
- The equivalent of over 12 million loaves are sold each day in the UK.
Source: The Flour Advisory Bureau
Anyway, let’s get down to the business of Rubbish Flatbreads.
If you have leftover cooked pasta of any kind (spaghetti, penne, tagletelli etc) or cooked rice (basmatti, risotto etc) you are half way there!
This dough can be done by hand, but is preferably made up in a simple food mixer using a dough hook, as you want to process the rice and pasta quite well, blending it with the flour and other ingredients. And for those who say, ‘I don’t have the time to make fresh bread!’, taking the machine option also gives you the perfect opportunity to get another job done while you’re preparing to serve up amazing food that doesn’t have an additive or preservative in sight.
If your leftover pasta or rice is covered in a sauce, give it a rinse. If you’ve got rice that has peas and sweetcorn or similar bits in it, don’t take them out, they’ll add a great splash of texture and colour to the mix.
The only difficulty we’re going to have here is quantities, because it’s going to be dependent upon how much ‘leftover’ ingredients you are starting with, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ll go with it being about 1 cup (see chart at the end for expanded weight conversions).
1 cup of cooked, cooled and well-chopped pasta or rice (including peas/corn/etc)
5 cups of plain, all purpose flour
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons oil
1½ teaspoons fast-action dried yeast (other types are fine, just follow instructions)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
Electric mixer (optional), mixing bowl, rolling pin, large shallow frying pan, large plate and a couple of tea towels.
1) Put the warm water into the mixing bowl and before you put the yeast in, plunge your fingers in to check the water is just warm! Too hot and it’ll kill the yeast, too cold and it won’t do much at all! If you put your fingers in and cannot really feel anything, go with it!
2) Add the oil, yeast, salt and your chosen sweetener. If you are using a mixer, give it a slow mix for a minute, just to get things moving around.
3) Your leftover ingredients should ideally be at room temperature and if you are using pasta, chop it well before you add it to the bowl, along with the flour.
4) Set your speed to slow and leave it to pull together and then do something else for 5 minutes; fill the dishwasher, ring your mother, make a cuppa, put the washing out…etc.
5) Just keep an eye on it in the early moments to be sure the mixture isn’t too wet or too dry and adjust it accordingly, adding more warm water or flour. Only add a little at a time until you get a nice clean ball of dough that comes away from the sides of the mixing bowl. NB: The reason this sounds a bit vague is because you are adding varying amounts of additional liquid to this recipe via your cooked foods, so it’s not an exact measurement or science, but have patience, be confident and you’ll soon get to grips with it.
6) Either knead it by hand for a few minutes or let the machine do the job. To do by hand, lightly flour a clean work surface and your hands. With one hand, secure the dough and with the base of the palm of your other hand, push and stretch the dough away from you. Then pull it back onto itself and give the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Do this slowly and steadily for a couple of minutes and you’re done.
7) Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere warm for an hour (on a shelf in the sunshine, on top of the work surface by the dishwasher or washing machine if it’s doing a load, or in the airing cupboard etc).
8) Once it’s doubled in size, bring back to a lightly floured work surface, flour up your hands again and your rolling pin (or use a bottle if you don’t have one) then break off a ball of dough a bit bigger than a golf ball, but not quite a tennis ball. Flatten it out roughly with your palm then roll it out as thin as you can, turning it over and around a few times to make it even. Roll it out to the size of your largest frying pan.
9) Put a medium heat under that big old frying pan and place your rolled out flatbread in the middle of it, then give it a bit of a shake so it doesn’t stick. The flour on the bread should act as a layer between it and the pan, so as long as you keep it on the move every now and again, you’ll be fine. Cook for about a minute or two, until you see bubbles in the dough and check the underside is light brown, then flip it over and do the same on that side too. Turn your delicious flatbread onto a plate and place a clean tea towel over it while you are doing the rest. Funnily enough, it takes about the same amount of time to roll one out as it does to cook one, so you’ll have your hands full for a while. Or, do as I do and enlist the help of whomever you are feeding! One rolls, one cooks, you both chat and enjoy the preparation together.
10) Serve your heated plate of yummies to the table and in the centre of each flatbread, put in a line of whatever filling rings your bell! I adore tuna and sweetcorn, or grated cheese and salad with a lavish spoonful of mayonnaise, but to be honest, if you have any leftover meat from a roast, or a splodge of heated bolognaise, you could put that with some salad, chillies, lettuce or perhaps my personal favourite, sprouting beans! These all offer savoury options but it also works amazingly well if you go sweet – try a chopped up banana with a spoonful of toasted almonds and a dollop of ice cream in the middle, wrapped up and drizzled with honey or maple syrup; heaven!
1 cup = 125g (flour, cooked rice or pasta) or 250ml.
Use the wraps to hold a beef or vegetable chilli mix, roll them up, put them in an oven dish, sprinkle with cheese and serve as an enchilada!
Simply rip and dip in lemon drizzled hummus and serve with olives and feta cheese.
Using a plain dough mix, (i.e no peas or veggies), serve warm, filled with a line of jam, a drizzle of cream and a sprinkling of icing sugar.
Sprinkle a handful of sprouting beans, or pine nuts, or sesame/pumpkin seeds in the dough mix for a splash of colour and great healthy taste.
Flatbreads are the simplest of things to make and great fun if you do them with children. There’s no fat involved for cooking so it’s quite safe for a responsible or supervised youngster to do. They are filling and so tasty and you can make them with so many different twists.
By the way, if you do do them with sweetcorn and peas in a rice dough, when you roll the bread out, you’ll splat the peas and corn and it looks even more fabulous!
I’m going to shoot this as a mini-movie, so you can watch every step soon, but it really is as simple as it sounds – give it a go soon and let me know how you get on and what you ate them with too.
On a final note, from the recipe above you should be able to get about 20 flatbreads the size of a dinner plate and if you leave them to cool, then roll them up together and store in an airtight container, they will keep fresh for a good few days and are brilliant for holding together a substantial lunchbox treat!
Unfortunately, they never get past the first 10 minutes in my house – they eat the lot…
PS: Click here for the horrible history on a baker’s dozen!