My wife Bev has to have a salt-reduced diet, and this makes eating out for her much less of an experience than it is for me. Eight times out of ten she has fish, which can be cooked without salt, and even McDonald’s can supply you with chips that are not salted, if you are prepared to wait for a few minutes. What else? Well, steamed vegetables or a green salad with oil and vinegar dressing, then perhaps fruit salad. She eats a more varied diet at home, because I have adapted almost everything to greatly reduce the amount of salt she has. Diets can’t be salt-free, because sodium chloride is in everything organic, and occurs even in rainwater (far out to sea it is small particles of sea salt that act as the nuclei of clouds, which would not otherwise form).
So, on our way to the opera we stop for dinner at a new place, pleasant, upstairs and prepared for people going to the opera, with a special menu. The waiter is not at all fussed about Bev’s request (she dines well tonight), and with her main course he provides four small slices of Turkish bread. ‘These are salt-free — from our kitchen,’ he explains proudly. I have a little taste, and the bread is pleasant.It is certainly not obviously salty. How did the kitchen do it? You don’t need salt to make bread: we are just used to it. Too much salt impedes the action of yeast, but too little produces a bland, taste-less bread. Bev suggests that I ask the waiter how it is done, but he isn’t about at the time, and then it is time for us to go.
But I muse about it later, and go to recipes for Turkish bread to see what I can find out. All have salt, some more than others. I decide to make some when I get home, and the recipe follows. For Bev I usually use an addition of Italian herbs and dried onion or garlic flakes as a substitute, and lemon zest, now that our lemon tree is full of fruit. I like making bread at any time, but the pide is simpler. You don’t need a pizza stone — a big baking tray will do. The result is crisp on the base and chewy.
You’ll need 500 grams of strong flour, 1 tsp of dried yeast, 375 ml of warm water, I tbsp onion or garlic flakes, 1 tbsp dried herbs, an egg yolk, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp sesame seeds. You can replace the garlic and herbs with 1 tsp of salt.
Put the yeast in the warm water before you do anything else, then measure out the flour and add the garlic and herbs. Mix them up, make a well, and add the water and yeast. Stir, and then use your hands to bring the dough together. Knead on a floured surface for 10 to 15 minutes until the dough glossy and elastic. Place the ball of dough into a bowl, spray with oil and cover with plastic. Leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (an hour or so). Now turn on your oven to 230 degrees C, placing a pizza stone or a big baking tray in the centre.
Cut the ball of dough into two, flatten each piece, and place each on a separate sheet of baking paper big enough to handle when the dough has become a 2 by 1 rectangle — 20/40 centimetres, which you will create when the two pieces have rested for 15 minutes. With floury hands push and stretch each piece into that rectangle. Now make grooves in the bread (I used my big sharpening steel). Whisk the egg yolk and the oil and brush the top of each loaf with the mixture, and then sprinkle on the sesame seeds. Don’t worry if it all looks a bit thin — it will rise during cooking.
Take the tray from the oven and place the baking paper and loaf on it; return to oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Now take it out and bake the other. This is one loaf you can eat when it is hot — it will cool quickly because of its shape.
I would reheat any leftovers in the oven (to 100 degrees) because the egg, oil and sesame seed mixture will burn in a toaster.