These delicious things are stuck between realms. They’re not flat breads as we know them – they’re something else. Once you’ve shaped the dough, you bake it over a hot fire. It doesn’t take long, particularly if you cover the flat breads with an old saucepan or a fire cloche. As soon as they come off the grill you split the surface of the bread and quench their middles with tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil. They’re incredible eaten fresh like this, but if tomatoes aren’t in season, they’re equally good drenched in a garlic and parsley butter.
Prep time: 30 minutes + 1-2 hours proving
Cook time: 25-30 minutes
Photography: Andrew Montgomery
2 big, ripe slicing tomatoes, such as marmande or ox hearts
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
a handful of basil, leaves picked and torn
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dough
250g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon quick yeast
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
First, make the dough. Place the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl and add 150ml of water and the extra-virgin olive oil. Mix thoroughly until it forms a dough. Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until soft and smooth. Shape the dough into a rough round, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave it to rise in a warm place for 1–2 hours, or until roughly doubled in size. (You can make the dough the day before and put it in the fridge.) Turn out the risen dough on to a lightly floured surface, then cut it into 2 equal pieces. Form each piece into a neat round and leave them to rest for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, halve the tomatoes and trim out the denser green area where the stalk joined the fruit. Slice the tomatoes, then cut across the slices to finely dice the flesh. Warm a large pan over the fire and add the extra-virgin olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and as it starts to spit and bubble, add the chopped tomatoes and plenty of salt and pepper. All you’re doing here is warming the tomatoes to release their complex flavour, so after a minute or so, take them off the heat and stir in the basil and red wine vinegar.
When you’re ready to cook the breads, shape the dough pieces into 3–4cm rounds. You can do this by hand or with a rolling pin. Leave the dough to rise for 10 minutes, then lay them on the grill over a relatively hot fire. Cover with an upturned saucepan or a fire cloche, which will trap the rising heat and help them to cook evenly. After a couple of minutes, lift the cloche and flip the breads. Pop the cloche down again and cook the other side for a similar length of time. Make sure the bread’s cooked through before you take it off the heat. Each one should feel light and crisp and hollow when you tap it. If you’re unsure, you can always cut into it to double check. Place the breads on a board and make an incision across the surface. Spoon the warm tomatoes into each bread and the remainder over the surface, then sprinkle with flaky salt.
A beautiful book dedicated to cooking outdoors, whatever the weather, Gill Meller’s book Outside is the perfect companion for food cooked over fire, in tune with nature and the seasons. Outside: Recipes for a Wilder Way of Eating by Gill Meller (Quadrille, £30) Photography: Andrew Montgomery