Simple pleasures

Sheer bliss

Sheermal: saffron and milk flatbreads spiced with cardamon

Bread. So comforting. All types from the soft and pillowy to the crusty, worthy and hard work. The trashy white slice filled with butter and grated cheese, the ciabatta rubbed with garlic, drenched in olive oil and toasted. The baguette, the base of a pizza, the pitta bread to hot to hold plunged into the houmous.
It fills every need and no meal is worse for it being involved somewhere. Sandwiches would be very poor without it.

I can’t imagine a dahl without naan to dip in it and I love to dredge some focaccia through the rich juices left behind from some tomatoes slowly roasted in olive oil. The restaurants of my childhood memories are full of bread rolls and butter too hard to spread. Even rye bread, denser than the ‘contestants’ on ‘Love Island’, has its place, supporting prawns, dill mayonnaise and boiled egg.

I’m always keen to try out new variations on what is always based on the simple premise of flour, yeast, water, salt and time and these ‘sheermal’ are a slightly sweet and soft milk bread. A new addition to the recipe collection. They are great straight from the pan and work well as a breakfast bread with some strong spiced tea but go equally well with a yoghurt dip.

There is saffron in them, even though time and time again I ask myself why? It may be a pretty colour, but is it not, ultimately tasteless and a big waste of everybody’s time?

125ml milk
250g bread flour
1tsp dried yeast
1tsp cardamon seeds
1tbsp sugar
A pinch of salt
185g melted butter
Pinch of saffron
1tbsp orange blossom water
1tsp vanilla paste

Pour the milk into a large bowl and add the yeast, spices and sugar.
Mix in the butter and flour then mix in the milk and salt to make a soft dough.
Rest for two hours. The bread that is, although feel free to lie down too.
Divide the dough into eight balls then roll out into flat circles.
Heat a cast iron pan until really hot then cook each bread for ten seconds on each side until colouring. Pile up and serve warm or leave to cool and serve with cucumber yoghurt dip.

This week

Joan of Arc documentary on BBC4. Was she nuts? Was she guided by God? Was the country fighting itself because humans are greedy, corrupt and power crazed? Who knows, but she was certainly committed to her cause and didn’t let 15th century attitudes (not too dissimilar to 21st century ones, sadly) stop her.
A New Yorker feature on the Faroe Islands dining scene. Fascinating and engaging, but something I’m more than happy to experience vicariously.
The soundtrack to Good Morning Vietnam. Found when I was sorting out my cassettes. For the younger readers, cassettes are terrible things spooling magnetic tape all over the place and when they do function sound awful. However, it brought back good memories and suddenly I was back in ‘Nam again. I wasn’t, but I was transported somewhere.
Meal of the week was slow roasted tomatoes with harissa, oregano and olive oil cooked in a cocotte. Intense.

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