Cooking the books: Kubdari – (Georgian Stuffed Bread)

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A cold winter’s afternoon, offset by tulips. Spring in the air.

So it’s the day of the great March against Trump, taking place all over the world, and I’m at home. Not, you understand, because I’m an approver of the great Cheeto Nasty, quite the opposite, but life and the need to get ready for the Lewishambles Great Adventure of 2017 rather required my attention first.

So instead of a protest march, a few thoughts, perhaps.

  1. Resistance isn’t a simple thing. A peaceful march, a broken window, a hunger strike – all obvious, all appreciated, all important. But there are other resistances. Kindness in the face of cruelty, a voice which says “no” when others say “yes”, a decision to embrace those you’re told to push away. I don’t shout – I might soon. Today it’s enough to say it – I resist the President of the United States. And I do not accept that a man who disrespects so many could claim to want to represent all.
  2. A refusal to stand and watch the inevitable might be apathy, and it might be cowardice. But it *could* be resistance. All those who stayed away from the inauguration, I choose to believe you were participating in your own little acts of resistance. And that’s a good feeling. comparison-withtime-1024x576
  3. Donald J Trump has said he’ll divest his businesses, but as at 08.30 this morning when I checked the news, reports stated that none of the expected filings we would require to have taken place have in fact done so.

Sigh. It’s enough to make you turn to despair. So instead I opened my Christmas-gift cookbooks – and one in particular. The estimable Sally Butcher’s second book, Persepolis, is a treasure trove of vegetarian recipes perfect for a cold January. And so I set to making one of her rather tasty-looking vegetarian stuffed breads, an unusual recipe based on a rather wet dough and a fruited spinach filling.

I love this book – it’s a wonderful mix of homely persian-style cooking with wonderfully tasty recipes for dips, stews and pilaffs, and no-nonense veggie treat food, including a large selection of gluten-free and vegan recipes. It’s a welcome addition to the shelf and one I’ve already gotten much use out of, trying recipes for wonderfully luxurious Armenian cheesy rice and classic moutabal.

So I was very excited to try a most delectable and useful-looking picnicky-style loaf which I could carry around and nibble, mindful that spring will be here before we know it and I’ve got plans for much walking and exploring!

Full disclosure – I think that the recipe has an error in the measurements, adding 500g of butter and yoghurt to 500g plain flour. The initial half-and-half dough made according to instructions was wet and tacky and unkneadable as it stuck to every surface in god’s creation, and required another cup of strong flour to bind together. The cooking time indicated also proved woefully inadequate, and I opted to nearly double it with a couple of turns to ensure the dough cooked through as much as possible. I also tweaked the filling slightly, subbing in mint and coriander for the dried dill (I dislike the taste) and adding kale to bulk out what might otherwise be a slightly insipid spinach-only mix.

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Interior with shot of undercooked middle…

Despite these shortcomings, this is a delicious, hearty and filling lunch, with a crisp outer shell hiding soft fluffy bread and a filling by turns salty/cheesy, green and tart from the apricots. A very fine lunchbox treat and a truly satisfying portable snack for marches, whatever the protest.

Kubdari 

Adapted from Sally Butcher’s recipe in Persepolis. Makes 6 large snack breads ready to be split and shared with comrades. 

Dough 

500g plain white flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

150g strong white bread flour

250g softened butter

3 eggs

250g plain natural yoghurt

 

Filling

1 x 260g pack baby spinach

150g curly kale

1 bunch spring onions, sliced thinly

100g dried apricots, chopped finely

1 x can chickpeas, drained (the recipe asked for 1.5 but this seemed a touch wasteful)

200g feta-style cheese (you can get cheap “salad cheese” in most supermarkets which I found fine to use)

2 eggs

2 tsp sumac

2 tbsp each chopped fresh coriander and mint

1 tsp ground black pepper

2 tbsp melted butter and 1 x egg yolk, mixed, for glazing

Method

First, make the dough. Sift together the plain flour, baking powder and salt and add the butter. Mix it in, using your hands if you like, rubbing it in thoroughly. When done, add the yoghurt and eggs, bringing together into a wet, sticky mass. Add the bread flour as needed to make a soft yet cohesive dough, one that you can bring together into a ball on your work surface. Wrap in clingfilm and let sit for one hour.

Meanwhile, work together your filling. Wilt the spinach and flash the kale in a hot pan with a few splashes of water, draining both and squeezing out excess water. With a small knife, cut up any large stalks of kale lurking in the bowl, then add to a bowl with the rest of the filling ingredients and mix together well.

Preheat your oven to 200c. Working nice and quickly on a floured surface, take the dough and split into six. Roll each piece of dough into a nice wide circle about the size of a pizza, then pile a sixth of the filling into the centre. Gather the edges like a drawstring bag and pinch and fold together, turning the little filled loaf over and creating a nice little flattish circle. Repeat with the five other pieces of dough.

Place on a well-oiled tray and bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes, then turn over and cook for a further 10 minutes to cook the gathered bottom. When nice and golden, turn the loaves back over and cook through on the top for another 10-15 minutes until a burnished golden.

Remove to a rack to cool and leave until reasonably cool – if you slice these while too hot you will lose filling! Wrap in greaseproof paper and take on your next march.

 

 

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