Recipes | Simit with lemon and thyme-baked feta


Simit with lemon and thyme-baked feta

If you've ever toyed with the idea of buying a wood-fired oven Genevieve Taylor's new book The Ultimate Wood Fired Oven Cookbook should persuade you. (And it didn't even cost a fortune. She built it herself!)

The recipes which go way beyond pizza are brilliant too* but I picked this intriguing Turkish bread which she serves with baked feta cheese which sounds ridiculously good*.

Gen writes: "Simit are delicious bagel-shaped bread rings from Turkey, liberally covered with golden sesame seeds and often served for breakfast with cheese and olive oil. Here I serve them with baked feta cheese as I love the soft, almost mousse-like texture it gets when it’s hot, perfect for spreading on the crusty bread. Eaten with a salad of ripe tomatoes and a few black olives, this makes a perfectly simple lunch."

220–230°C (425–450°F) MAKES 4

For the simit

400g (3 cups) strong white bread flour

1 tsp instant yeast

1 tsp fine salt

300ml (11⁄4 cups) hand-hot water 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for shaping the dough

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

2 tbsp sesame seeds

For the feta

1 x 200g (7oz) block of feta

2 tbsp olive oil

a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves, picked

zest from 1⁄2 a lemon

freshly ground black pepper

You need a fire that has reached a high, steady baking temperature of about 220–230°C (425–450°F), with no live flame, just glowing embers OR if you don't have a wood-fired oven Gen says you can bake the bread in a conventional oven at 220°C or 200°C in a fan oven.

Put the flour, yeast and salt into a mixing bowl and stir together until mixed. Pour in the water and oil and stir together until you have a ragged, loose ball of dough. Cover loosely with a clean tea towel and set aside for 10 minutes for the flour to hydrate.

Lightly oil the worktop and tip the dough on to it, scraping out all the loose bits from the bowl. Spread a little oil on the inside of the bowl and set aside. Use your oiled hands to very lightly knead the dough for 10 seconds, then put back into the bowl and leave to rest for 10 more minutes. Repeat this 10-second knead and 10-minute rest twice more. Cover the bowl and leave to prove on the worktop for an hour. You can also slide it into the fridge and prove it slowly for 4–6 hours if you prefer.

Tip out the dough on to a lightly floured worktop and divide it into eight even pieces. Take two pieces and roll them into long snakes, about 1–1 1⁄2cm (1⁄2–5⁄8in) thick. If the dough snakes are springing back and won’t stay in shape, leave them for a few minutes to relax, then try again.

Twist the two pieces together like a rope, then coil into a circle and pinch the two ends together to join so they look like twisted bagels. Set on a large oiled baking sheet and repeat with the remaining dough so you end up with 4 well-spaced simit. Brush the tops lightly with the pomegranate molasses and sprinkle liberally with the sesame seeds. Set aside to prove again for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, get the block of feta ready for baking by sliding it into a small baking dish. Drizzle over the olive oil, and sprinkle on the thyme and lemon zest. Season with a good grind of black pepper.

Once the dough has finished its second prove, slide the tray into the hot oven. Cook for 15 minutes, then check them, turning the tray around if necessary, so they cook evenly. At the same time, slide in the dish of feta alongside. Leave both to bake for a further 10–15 minutes.

Serve immediately, while the feta is hot and melting.

*the Mexican sweetcorn salad (Esquites) we had at the launch is also ridiculously good

Wood Fired Oven book cover

What to drink: If you served this as Gen suggests with a salad of ripe tomatoes and some olives a glass of dry rosé would go down well or, if you can find one, the crisp Turkish white, Narince.

Recipe extract from The Ultimate Wood Fired Oven Cookbook by Genevieve Taylor published by Quadrille at £15. Photography © Jason Ingram.

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