Bake, wrap and roll
These homemade pitas are highly versatile. Photo: Marina Oliphant
There's something satisfying about making your own staples - pasta, preserves or bread. These pitas are great for a light meal, fit well into school lunches and are easily dressed up for smart finger food. Roll out larger or smaller balls of dough for more substantial, or more elegant, portions.
This is a simple dough, a bit like pizza dough, but the results are quite impressive, producing light and airy pitas. They are at their best when freshly cooked, but also heat up well and are highly versatile.
5g dried yeast (or 1 sachet, or 1 tsp)
10g castor sugar (or 2 tsp)
1 tsp salt
250g plain, unbleached flour
50g fine semolina
½ tbsp olive oil
1. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 65ml of warm water and set aside, covered, for 15 minutes (the mix will expand, so use a medium-size container). Dissolve the salt in 125ml of cold water.
2. Put the flour and semolina in a large bowl and mix. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture, the olive oil and the salted water. Work until a dough is formed.
3. Knead with your hands in the bowl or on a bench (or in a mixer with a dough hook if you have one) for about 10 minutes, dusting with more flour if the mixture is too sticky. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
4. Shape the dough into a ball and place back in the mixing bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and place in a warm area to rise (or over a bowl of hot water to speed the process). The dough is ready when it has doubled in volume - about 40 minutes.
5. Punch down the risen dough and knead for one minute. Divide into pieces about the size of an egg and roll into little balls. Leave to rest for five minutes under a damp tea towel.
6. Once rested, roll the balls into discs on a floured surface to about half-centimetre thickness. Prick the dough with a fork in several places.
7. Heat a frying pan or the flat top of a barbecue. Add a dash of olive oil (add more oil for every second pita) and cook the dough over high heat for a couple of minutes on each side until it bubbles and is lightly browned.
8. Once cooked, stack the pita breads two high on a clean tea towel, then cover with another tea towel and allow to cool a little.
Tip This recipe can be multiplied, and any leftover cooked pita breads can be stored in a plastic bag in the fridge for a day or two (a minute each side in a hot, dry pan refreshes them well) or frozen for later use.
Makes 8-10 medium pitas (15-20 small)
Moorish pork skewers with black olive and orange salsa
These pork skewers crackle with spice and are perfectly complemented by the tangy salsa, cooling quark and fresh herbs. They're ideal for a barbecue and, if you plan to over cater, they'll make tomorrow's dinner fuss-free.
80ml extra virgin olive oil
1kg pork loin, cut in 2cm-3cm dice
6-8 freshly cooked medium pitas
200g quark (a fresh cheese, similar to cottage cheese, but you can substitute Greek yoghurt or fromage frais)
½ bunch picked mint
½ bunch picked coriander
1 fresh bay leaf
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1½ tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1½ tsp smoked paprika
2 pinches saffron, activated in 1½ tbsp boiling water
5 cloves garlic
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp chilli flakes
Zest of ½ an orange, grated on a Microplane
Orange and black olive salsa
1 red capsicum, roasted then finely diced
½ red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 oranges, peeled, segmented and
chopped into pieces
2 red chillies, finely diced
8 black olives, pitted and finely chopped
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
1. For the spice mix, shred the bay leaf and grind with the seeds in a mortar and pestle until pulverised. Add the remaining ingredients (including the saffron and the water from the saffron) and continue to grind until very well crushed.
2. Stir the 80ml of oil through the spice mix and rub onto the pork. Marinate for two hours in the fridge.
3. For the salsa, mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl and season.
4. After marinating, season pork with salt and thread onto eight to 10 metal skewers. Grill or barbecue (or pan-fry) for four to six minutes on high heat. Be careful not to overcook, as the loin will dry out quickly.
5. Serve the pork on a warm pita with a dollop of quark, salsa, mint and coriander.
Drink Fiano, preferably full bodied.
Pita with crab, egg, soft herbs and caperberries
This is a great cutlery-free entree for entertaining outside. You can set up a little assembly line of the toppings and cook or reheat the pitas on the flat top of the barbecue. They're really simple to put together but loaded with sophisticated flavours.
1 white salad onion, finely sliced
1 tsp castor sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
10 freshly made small pitas
About ¼ jar quality mayonnaise
300g cooked Australian crabmeat (available vacuum-packed or in a tub from the fishmonger), drained of any liquid
5 eggs, hard boiled, then sliced in rounds
½ bunch of chives, chopped
Fresh tarragon leaves
10 caperberries (in jars at the supermarket)
1. Place the onion in a small bowl with the sugar, salt and lemon juice. Mix through and set aside for about five minutes to allow the onion to soften.
2. Put the warm pitas on plates or a board and top with a small of dollop of mayonnaise, then the crab flesh, trying not to break it up too much.
3. Finish with the egg, chives, the softened onion, tarragon leaves, caperberries and a good sprinkling of cayenne pepper. Serve.
Drink Crisp, young riesling.
Photos by Marina Oliphant. Styling by Caroline Velik.