A Trip to the Middle East, Part II

Alongside my Swooning Imam I like to serve this olive bread, Eliopitta, hailing from around Greece, Turkey, and Armenia, another recipe taken from Veggiestan by Sally Butcher, as I believe it has the perfect density for mopping up all the heady sauce from the aubergine dish.

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The joy of the bread is neatly summed up by the author herself: ‘a jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou, was Khayyam’s recipe for bucolic bliss – reckon this was the loaf he was talking about.’ And it’s true, there is something just right about this bread; its weight, its saltiness (a gift from the olives), and its luxury (provided by the rosemary). This is a loaf to break with loved ones. I would probably add more wine, and turn Khayyam’s ‘bucolic bliss’ into my own bacchic bliss. But that is just me.

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INGREDIENTS (makes 2, smallish, loaves)

500g strong white flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsps salt
7g dried yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
300ml tepid water
100g pitted, sliced olives
1 tbsp chopped rosemary

RECIPE

Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt into a large mixing bowl

Sprinkle the yeast over the flour, then add the oil and water

Mix with a wooden spoon, at first, then with your hands – once it comes together, knead for 10 minutes

Return to the bowl and cover (with clingfilm or a damp tea towel), leaving it to double in size (around 30 minutes)

Punch the dough down, knead again, and add the olives and rosemary

Again, return to the bowl, cover and leave to double in size

Split the dough in half and shape into rounds, placing the two future loaves on a floured board

Cover them, and leave to rise for a final 30 minutes

Meanwhile, heat the oven to gas 9 / 240 C, and grease a large baking tray and place in the oven to heat up

Just before you are ready to put the bread in the oven, place a baking tin of water in the bottom of the oven, so as to keep the bread soft (NB skip this step if you are using an electric oven)

Slide the loaves from board to preheated tray, at bake for 10 minutes, before turning the heat down to gas 5 / 190 C, and cooking for a further 20-25 minutes

The bread should be golden, hollow-sounding, and tempting

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MY EXPERIENCE

A bit of a boring one, I’m afraid. Monday night Middle Eastern was spent with my boy, just relaxing. The night ended as all our romantic dates do…

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…with a banana, doused in nutella, sprinkled with nuts and seeds. The perfect end to any night.

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