Video: How to make saj bread

Afife Harris, from Lebanon, shows how to make saj bread, a Lebanese mountain bread.

 

Afife Harris came to Dunedin more than 20 years ago with her husband Bill, who teaches at the University of Otago. In those days it was difficult to find the things she needed to make Lebanese food, but now ingredients such as burgul, sumac and olive oil are readily available. She teaches cooking classes at Logan Park High School and has a stall at the Otago Farmers Market.

This thin flatbread is made all over the Levant, especially in villages where it is cooked on an outside fireplace on a special domed pan. Afife's mother used to make it every three weeks as it kept very well. It is often used to scoop up food instead of a fork or spoon and can also be filled with meat, vegetables, lentils, salad and other things and rolled up.

Afife uses a Chinese wok turned upside down over a gas burner to cook the bread, but she sometimes makes the dough in the breadmaker.

 


Afife Harris with saj bread cooking on her upturned Chinese wok (right). Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Afife Harris with saj bread cooking on her upturned Chinese wok (right). Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Saj (mountain) bread

 

Ingredients

2 cups flour
1-1½ cups water
1 tsp yeast
pinch salt

Method

Mix the flour, yeast, salt and water together to a soft, floppy dough and knead well until smooth. Allow to rise in a warm place for maybe an hour until doubled in size.

Or make in a breadmaker on the dough setting.

When ready to cook the bread, put an upturned wok over a gas flame to heat, or use a large frying pan.

Shape the soft dough into a log and cut off pieces about 6-8cm long. Roll each into a ball and push with the fingers into a flat pancake. Roll out to a large, thin disc 20cm-30cm in diameter.

Traditionally the disc is placed over a cushion and stretched thinner, or thrown between the hands until thin. Place over the hot wok and leave for 2-3 minutes. Lift the edges slightly and if it is ready to turn over the bread will lift off easily. Turn the bread over and cook on the other side for a minute or two. The bread should still be pale with a few light brown patches. It may puff up.

Pile the cooked bread on a teatowel. Wrap to keep warm.

 


Tip

• You can sprinkle cheese, minced meat, zata'ar (thyme, sesame and sumac) or other toppings on the bread, like a pizza, as it is cooking. Saj bread with haloumi cheese fresh from a baker is a favourite breakfast for people on the way to work in Lebanon.


Thanks to Centre City New World.