Category Archives: Breads

Breads, nans, flatbread


Maneesh – Middle Eastern flatbread


So here we are….Maneesh done and dusted and to clinch the deal, it is simple. Always wanted to try this but for me trying a new bread recipe is inevitably daunting. The thing to do is take the plunge and see what happens….never fails to surprise me…either a total failure, a tad stodgy, not like the last loaf I made etc etc, or simply perfect, and this Maneesh was an unqualified success; trust me, follow the recipe, don’t worry about the dough being a little sloppy or sticky, see it rise and blow up, pat it into disks and pop it into the oven.

I have followed Paul Hollywood’s basic recipe with a little tweaking. For example, I found 300ml of water was sufficient, the dough is quite sticky and soft but that is how it is meant to be.  Use olive oil on the work surface or pastry board while kneading, you may need to do this a few times.  Using a rolling pin to roll the dough didn’t work for me as it stuck to the dough so just pat it with your hands and push it outwards with your fingers to form a respectable disk – that’s simple and works; the result is what you see in the picture.

For garnish I have used Zaatar which is a mix of powdered dried herbs and spices used lavishly in the Middle East, Egypt and Lebanon.  There are various recipes for Zaatar but the basic is thyme, sesame seeds, sumak and a little salt; if you can’t lay your hands on sumak, just leave it out or add a tiny bit of citric acid powder.  Here is a link if you wish to buy Zaatar online – it is a delicious and fragrant mix which can be sprinkled on toast, salads, soups and stews.

Another thing I noticed about Maneesh was that when it came out of the oven, smelling heavenly of course, it was quite crusty, however, the top softens somewhat when cool. In this batch we are going to make 3 loaves of Maneesh – I put a couple in the fridge and the next day I warmed these in the oven for 3-4 minutes and it was beautifully crusty again! It is fine to freeze and easy to take to work with a slice of vegan cheese or whatever you fancy.  By the way, I also tried a piece with some damson jam….divine! 

Makes 3 loaves


500 grams strong white flour
2 level teaspoons salt
25 grams/2 level tablespoons caster sugar
10g fast action yeast
1½ tablespoon olive oil plus some for kneading and rolling
300ml lukewarm water 

Topping – mix ingredients and set aside
3 heaped tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons Zaatar
3 tablespoons olive oil (you may need a little more to make a spreadable paste)



  • In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast
  • Add olive oil and two-thirds of the water and mix
  • Add more water and continue to bring the flour together into a ball – this will be quite sticky but that’s fine
  • Oil a pastry board or work surface and knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes (click here for kneading video). You may need to coat the board with more oil if the dough sticks and it will!
  • The dough should now be smooth and soft but could still be a little sticky, no worries
  • Form into a ball, place in a clean bowl and cover with clean teacloth and leave to rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes – it should double, if not give it a little more time


  • Turn it over on the board and flatten it by folding it back on itself a few times – it will be quite springy!
  • Divide into 3 portions and flatten each portion out with the palm of your hands; use your fingers to make an approximate circle and push the dough gently away from you as you do this. Rolling pin didn’t work for me as the dough is very bouncy!
  • Place on 3 oiled trays, cover loosely with cling film and let it rest for 20 minutes
  • Gently brush the Zaatar and sesame seed paste on to the Maneesh – I used a blunt knife
  • Pop into a pre-heated oven at 230C/450F or gas mark 8. My oven only goes up to 220 so that is what I had to settle for and it worked
  • The cooking time will vary from oven to oven, which rack the bread is on in the oven and the temperature. The one on the top shelf in my oven was done in 15 minutes; the other two on the lower shelf took almost 20 minutes so eyeballing is essential
  • Cool on a wire rack if you’re strong….I tore a piece out almost immediately off my first loaf as you can see in the picture if you look real hard!

Now sit back and admire your handiwork….artisan bread you can be rightly proud of!


No-roll buckwheat flatbread


Buckwheat flatbread(3) Above you can see the plain flatbread and another with onions and coriander

The other day I was flicking through my old copy of Crank’s cook book – it reminds of days when veggie restaurants were rare and the only vegetarian food you could get was in an Asian restaurant or for the quirky pure veggie experience at Govinda’s which is still flying the flag in Soho Street.  Cranks closed down in the early 80s with much sadness never to be resurrected in the old, aesthetic, organic format.  But I have digressed….. so ok, I was flicking through the cook book and came across buckwheat flour!  Ah buckwheat flour, now that was a staple in the early days when we embraced a vegetarian lifestyle – it brought back wholesome memories of buckwheat flour in stews and buckwheat flatbread and buckwheat pancakes.  

In those days there wasn’t much available by way of ready meals nor did we have any substitutes except for dried soya protein which I still use frequently.  So I decided to resurrect my buckwheat flatbread or wraps (back then we didn’t know about wraps either – just simple good life people….) but I couldn’t remember the recipe – well of course I couldn’t, it was more than 30 years ago.  I am also sure I didn’t use soya flour but decided to add this to my recipe for nutrition (rich in protein), moisture and take the edge off the rich, nutty, slightly bitter taste of buckwheat and made a relatively lighter flatbread. By this time I was in my cook’s element….. so I bunged in yet another flour I am sure I hadn’t used – potato flour – well you can’t go wrong with potatoes, can you and I am sure they imparted a slight spring to the bread….. hmmm? You don’t have to use soya flour but I tried without and have to say prefer the version with the soya flour.

The next challenge was to bypass the “roll the flatbread” stage….. too messy and takes time and not helpful for those with little time to cook… would a thick batter work?  Try it yourself – it worked beautifully and not a bit stuck on the pan either.  Just make sure you keep the batter thick and spread it to fit the pan with the back of a spatula or blunt knife.  Eat on its own, take to lunch stuffed with hummus, salad, or dip in yogurt with chopped onion, cucumber & tomato with a good pinch of dried mint – see picture above

Buckwheat flatbread

6 small flatbreads (using small 5 inch frying pan)


100 grams buckwheat flour
50 grams soya flour (if you don’t wish to use soya flour, increase the buckwheat to 150 grams)
50 grams potato flour
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder/granules
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon salt
220 ml cold water
Little oil


  1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, add 220 ml of cold water and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon until smooth. You should have a thick batter. Be careful with the water; a runny batter will produce something more like a pancake.
  2. In a small frying pan heat ½ tablespoon of oil (I used my small 5 inch frying pan but you could use a larger one if you wish to save time cooking!)
  3. Drop a heaped tablespoon of batter in the pan and quickly spread it to the edges using a spatula or blunt knife.
  4. Cook on low for 3 minutes on each side (6-7 minutes in total), pressing gently with the spatula. It doesn’t stick and is easy to flip over.


Add small amount of finely chopped onion and fresh parsley or coriander to the batter


Herb fougasse

Herb Fougasse(3)

One thing I have not mastered yet and would give an eye and a tooth for is the perfect artisan loaf!  Now that is surely not a good opening for a fougasse recipe, but hey, it’s the truth.  You can only reach the dizzy heights of a perfect loaf with practice and much disappointment and heartache getting there.  But the joy of getting there, the smell of hot bread wafting through the house and the neighbourhood is definitely worth persevering this almost mystical ritual – at least that is how I feel about it.  The recipe for fougasse as for any other bread varies from baker to baker, house to house and region to region and all will swear by it. It is important to understand the do’s and don’ts of bread making – why do we knead for 10 minutes? Why not 20 minutes? What does kneading do to the flour and the gluten?  What affect will this have on the final loaf? How long should a loaf be left to rise?  What happens if it is left to over-rise?  Arghhhhhhhhh!  This is why we need to really love bread  and the art of baking bread and accept the trials and tribulations of getting there as part of the pleasure for whatever the results, even a “failed” loaf is beautiful to behold, smells great and is delicious dipped in olive oil – the joys of paradise!

Notwithstanding all of the above, we must try and try again! It is the only way to master the art of the artisan baker, and of course  we must read and watch videos and learn from others.  I have often thought of going for bread making classes but never got around to it….maybe one day I will bite the bullet and do just that.

This herb fougasse recipe does not use the starter method, ie  poolish or biga.  Learn more about Poolish or biga by clicking on this useful link.  The starter method takes longer and adds another step or two to the recipe.  The texture of fougasse made with a starter is different to the one we are going to have a go at.  This recipe makes a beautiful fougasse as you can see from the picture but it is slightly denser than fougasse made with the poolish or starter method – we can attempt that in due course, why not?? What’s to lose eh?   Later on we will have a go at one of the mouth-watering variations;  fougasse with olives or fougasse with sun dried tomatoes or even fougasse with caramelised onions to name a few. So let’s get started and shush all fear of baking bread out of the kitchen door…..

As always, I would love to hear from you; and remember, the only way to rise to the heavenly heights of the perfect loaf is to get your hands covered in flour!

Makes 2 medium loaves


1½ cups (300ml) warm water (body temperature, just tepid)
1½ teaspoon quick action dry yeast
4 level cups strong white bread flour (500 grams)
1 level teaspoon dried thyme
1 level teaspoon dried rosemary
1 level teaspoon dried basil
1½ teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Pour water into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on it. Stir to dissolve
  2. Add 1 cup flour, all the dried herbs, salt, sugar and 2 tablespoons olive oil and mix with wooden spoon
  3. Add rest of the flour, 1 cup at a time and mix – best to use your hands now as this will form a sticky dough
  4. Place the dough on a lightly floured large pastry board or silicone mat and knead for 10 minutes (it will be sticky so use a little flour on your hands). By the end of the kneading process the dough should be elastic and smooth and will have lost its stickiness – watch this video if you are unsure about how best to knead. Continue to knead if the dough is still sticky and tacky!
  5. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with clean tea cloth or napkin and let it rise for 1.30 hours in a warm part of the kitchen. The dough will swell up beautifully and be more than double its original size and it should be springy if you poke it with your finger!
  6. Place the dough on a lightly floured pastry board or silicone mat and knock it down! Ouch, that hurts but has to be. Divide in half and pat and stretch each portion with your hands into two ovals – don’t worry too much about the shape. The loaves should be about a quarter of an inch thick.
  7. Place each fougasse on a separate oiled baking tray – about 12×10 inches.
  8. Make one long deep slash with a sharp knife straight through the dough, then some diagonal slashes in the shape of a leaf, also cut deep.
  9. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt and garnish with fresh rosemary if there is some growing in the garden, if not, sprinkle some dried herbs.
  10. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
  11. Place a small tray of water or sprinkle some water on the base of a preheated oven at 220C / 425F / gas mark 8. Now pop the loaves in the oven for 20 minutes (see note below)
  12. Brush liberally with olive oil and try with my spicy carrot soup – enjoy

Note: All ovens are different and temperatures tend to vary. I used my non-fan top oven. If yours is a fan assisted oven you may have to reduce the cooking time. Best practice is to check after 15 minutes by tapping the loaf with your finger – if it sounds hollow it is ready.

Herb Fougasse dough(1)
This picture was taken half way through the rising process – I lost the fully risen picture to rain!  Light was very poor and had to take it out on the patio – see below

Herb Fougasse dough(2) Fully risen in the rain…..