Flatbreads go back a long way. A long, long way. Probably from the moment our ancestors first learned to grind grains. They are unleavened (made without yeast, and this example uses no other raising agents either, such as baking powder. This easy flatbread recipe is very quick – from bag of dry flour to plate in ten to fifteen minutes. Use the flatbreads hot, with savoury or sweet dishes.
Start with the small amount suggested here, which will give you 4 small flatbreads, or 2 large (or one enormous!) until you get the hang of it. The dough can be made in advance and kept in the refrigerator, but it’s so quick you probably won’t need to.
8oz/225g/one and a half cups plain/general purpose flour (not self raising); you can use wholemeal flour if you prefer.
A pinch or two of salt, preferably a good one such as sea salt.
Enough cold water to bring the flour together into a dough – start with about a third of the volume of the flour.
A little oil for frying
You will also need a large, heavy frying pan and something to turn the breads with.
Mix the dry ingredients, and add the water carefully until you have a slightly sticky, soft dough. You can do this with a spoon, and then knead with your fingers, or do it by machine, for 2-3 minutes. Then turn onto a floured board, and knead for a minute or two longer on a dusting of flour, until it’s easy to handle and not sticky. Add more dusting flour as necessary. Leave the dough to rest for about five minutes, longer if you like, covered with a damp cloth.
When ready to cook, separate the dough into the number of pieces you like (see above) and either flatten into patties by hand, or with a rolling pin – make them as thin as you can.
Heat the pan – start with a medium heat, and adjust up or down as necessary. Either add a little oil to the pan, or rub a little onto each piece of dough. Fry the breads, in batches if necessary; don’t crowd the pan– you want the breads to puff up a little and get golden-brown patches here and there, but it is vital that the flatbreads cook through, so don’t get it too hot. Once the undersides are done, flip over and continue to cook on the other side – total time 2-3 minutes a side, depending on thickness of flatbreads and the level of heat.
When I was a kid on camping expeditions, we used to call these flatbreads “dampers”, but dampers are more properly an Australian type of soda bread. Whatever we called them, we would also take the dough, form it into spirals round clean, green sticks, and roast them over our campfires, turning frequently – we called these “twists”.