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kofte style vegan balls with wholemeal flatbread

November 23, 2012

Serves 4
Prep time: 2 hrs including proving time


There is a simple truth that has been exploited by pretty much every significant food culture that has ever existed: almost anything tastes better when it is shaped like balls.

I am glad that as vegans we can enjoy balls for dinner.  This is possibly my favourite way: wrapped in a homemade, still-warm flatbread with romaine, red onion, minty soy yoghurt dressing, and pomegranate seeds (because at the moment I am tarting up virtually everything I eat with pomegranate seeds).

Handheld food: ahh.  So very now.  I often fantasise about starting up a street food business.  There is no street food scene where I live, sadly.  But hey – I think in my more optimistic moments – why let that stop me?  I could be the spark that starts that fire.  I could call my stall ‘Vegan Balls’.  Great!

Then I remember how many vegans live round my way.  And that is the end of that particular train of thought.

The balls themselves are a Middle Eastern take on the classic Veganomicon beanball, with kofte spices and chopped pistachios*.  The breads are adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s flatbread recipe, from River Cottage Veg Every Day, a book I love and that I truly believe has made veg*nism a realistic prospect for many more ‘mainstream’ households, who may never have considered it in the past**.  The breadmaking technique is as quick and simple a recipe for a yeasted flatbread as you’ll find anywhere.

I recently bought a big round cast iron griddle which is perfect for this kind of thing.  But any cast iron frying pan will do the job.  This recipe will yield six monster-sized flatties, but you could make eight more moderate sized ones if moderation is your thing.

*I haven’t read Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Eats World yet.  I hope she hasn’t done koftes.  Otherwise it will look as though I have ripped her off.

** I have seen some online quibbling about Hugh F-W’s somewhat dilettante approach to veg*nism.  It seems to me that such hair-splitting debates do very little to promote the image of cruelty-free living – unlike Hugh F-W’s book.  I mean, have you seen the recipes?  The photography?  Damn, that man makes vegan food look good!


For the flatbreads (makes six large ones):
Wholemeal bread flour, 250g
Strong white bread flour, 250g
Instant dried yeast, 1.5 tsp
Salt, 1 tsp
Olive oil, 2 tbsp
Sugar, 1 tsp
Warm water, 350ml

For the koftes (makes 20 balls):
Black eyed beans, one 400g tin, drained and rinsed
Vital wheat gluten, 40g
Wholemeal breadcrumbs, 30g
Pistachios, 30g, roughly chopped (or you could use whole pine nuts)
Garlic, one clove, crushed
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Tomato puree, 2 tbsp
Olive oil, 3 tbsp
Soy sauce, 2 tbsp
Cumin, 0.5 tsp
Coriander, 0.5 tsp
Smoked paprika 0.5 tsp
Chilli flakes, 0.5 tsp
Fresh coriander or parsley, 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

For the dressing:
Plain soy yoghurt, 125ml
Garlic, one clove, crushed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Dried mint, 1 tsp
Fresh mint, 1 tsp, chopped (you don’t need to use both fresh and dried, but they each add a slightly different type of minty flavour and they taste amazing together)
Salt and pepper to taste

To serve:
Lettuce, red onion, pomegranate seeds, other crunchy salad of your choice

Preheat the oven to 175 C / 350 F.

First, make your dough.  Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and, when it starts to foam, add 1 tbsp of the olive oil and the two flours.  Mix it until the dough starts to come together and then add the salt.  Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes – it is supposed to be a fairly soft, sticky dough, so try not to use too much extra flour on your hands unless it is so sticky you can’t handle it.  It will get a bit less sticky as you continue to knead.

Shape the dough into a ball, drizzle the remaining tbsp of oil over it, and put it in a large bowl with a tea towel over the top.  Leave it in a warmish place for 1-2 hrs to rise.

Meanwhile, get on with your kofte balls.  Mash the beans in a largish bowl with a fork until there are no whole ones left.  Add the rest of the ingredients apart from 1 tbsp of the olive oil.  Get in there with your hands and knead it for a minute or two, then shape into 20 or so small balls.

Heat the remaining tbsp of oil in an ovenproof cast iron frying pan on the hob.  When the oil is hot add the balls and fry over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, turning regularly.  When the balls are nicely crispy and browned all over, put the pan in the oven (if you need the frying pan for the flatbreads, transfer the balls to a preheated baking tray instead).  They will take a further 25-30 minutes to cook through – check them after 15 minutes, and if they are browning too much too soon, move them to a lower shelf.

Make the yoghurt dressing: mix all the ingredients together, tasting to check seasoning.  Prep your salady add-ins.

Finish the flatbreads: knock the risen dough down and divide into six.  Heat your frying pan or griddle on the hob, without oil, until it is smoking hot.  Dredge each piece of dough in flour and roll out into a rusticy round-ish sort of shape.  Let them rest for five minutes and then slap one on the pan.  After four or five minutes it should be bubbly on top and slightly risen, and the underside should have brown and blackish spots.  Flip it over and cook for a further one or two minutes, then remove to a plate.  Cover with a tea towel while you cook the remaining flatbreads.

To serve, fill a flatbread with a handful of lettuce and other salad bits, four or five balls, and a drizzle of dressing.  Roll up and eat immediately.

  1. Elyse permalink

    that looks AMAZING!

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