It seems almost every culture has some version of flatbread. It's a very ancient and basic way of preparing grains and bean flours. I suppose with the exception of good old gruel, it was one of the first culinary advances of the relatively new agricultural age of humankind. Only about 10 thousand years ago did we begin domesticating in earnest. It makes sense of course. All you need is a grinding stone, a very HOT stone, water, and two hands. Easy.
If you are not familiar with chickpea flour, this recipe is a great introduction. Chickpea flour, also called Besan or gram flour in India, is popular in North Africa, the Middle East, Southern Europe, and the Indian subcontinent. I love to pair it's sweet slightly nutty flavor with cumin, coriander/cilantro, mint, turmeric, and smoked paprika, but try other herbs and spices...fresh basil, dill, maybe a dash of cayenne? This recipe is a snap once you get the hang of it and I adore it any time of day. Try it for breakfast with eggs, for lunch with roasted peppers and feta, or with a vegetarian dinner of lentils, yogurt, chutney, and cucumbers. It's also a super snack. I think you get my drift.
Chickpea flour can be found at specialty grocers, Asian or Indian markets and stored in a cool pantry. You will need a good nonstick pan. I use a non-toxic brand called Scanpan, it's an investment but they have held up for 10 years with proper care despite heavy use. Go for stainless steel handles so your pans can go from range to oven.
Your aim is a batter that is about the consistency of heavy cream. It should be thin enough to spread easily in a hot, oiled pan. *Note: Add the water slowly to the flour mixture, whisking to create a very smooth paste first. Then proceed to add the remaining water. This will help you avoid lumps.
You may be tempted to hold back on the olive oil but I say live dangerously and deliciously! Use enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the pan before pouring each flatbread and the result will be wonderfully crispy edges and a few stray tidbits which nobody will fault you for sampling before these babies hit the table. Chef's privilege.
Herbed Chickpea Flatbread served with tamarind chutney and yogurt.
Herbed Chickpea Flatbread
- 1 C chickpea flour
- 1 Tbsp fresh mint and cilantro combined, chopped
- 1/2 Tsp cumin
- 1/2 Tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 C + 2 Tbsp water
- extra virgin olive oil for the pan
Mix all dry ingredients and begin whisking in the water to form a smooth paste with no lumps. Drizzle in the rest of the water until the batter is mixed thoroughly. Let the batter rest 5 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the water. The resulting mixture should be about the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, thin with a little more water. If the batter is to heavy it will not spread thinly in the pan.
Heat a non-stick skillet or well seasoned crepe pan over medium high heat. Before pouring each flatbread, quickly coat the hot pan with olive oil. Now pour the batter in the center of the pan while tilting the pan to all sides spreading the batter to the edges evenly. The pan should have enough olive oil and be hot enough that the batter sizzles a little when poured. Your oil may smoke a little so adjust the pan slightly up and down as needed throughout the cooking process.
Cook the flatbread 4 to 5 minutes on the first side. The top surface should be cracked and slightly bubbly with golden, crispy edges. The underside should be unevenly browned. Gently loosen the flatbread from the pan with a large spatula and flip. Cook the second side one or two minutes until it is also browned and remove it from the pan. Quickly coat the pan with olive oil again and repeat the process until you have used all of the batter.
Enjoy the flatbread right off the skillet or cool individually for use that day. Stack the cooled flatbread and cover tightly for storage in the fridge up to a week.
Yield: 2, 12 inch flatbreads