Whenever I can, I like to pick dishes from the books that are filled with special significance, whether that means they’re mentioned at an important plot point, are helpful in understanding a character, or strengthen aspects of the setting. I try to find a dish that meets one of these criteria, but I think the lavash bread and quince chutney mentioned in the scene fulfill all three. The Middle Eastern bread and chutney reinforce the setting. We’re told that the dish has become one of Shahrzad’s favorites since entering the palace, giving us both a deeper understanding of her likes and dislikes as well as showing that she is gradually growing accustomed to her new home. And finally, the scene takes place at an important banquet, one where the former love of her life and her husband are in the same room and tensions are high:
“The air filled with the aroma of spices and the clamor of conversation. Shahrzad began with some lavash bread and quince chutney, which had quickly become of favorite of hers since she arrived at the palace. As she ate, she chanced another perusal of the room. Tariq was speaking with an older gentleman seated to his left. When he felt her eyes on him, Tariq turned his head, and Shahrzad was forced, yet again, to look away.” 252
So now that we’ve set the love triangle stage, let’s get baking!
Lavash is a flat, Middle Eastern bread made all over the region. It’s got very simple ingredients, and, for a bread, is pretty quick and easy. You can serve this bread with anything that suits your fancy including meat and vegetable dishes or just sauces for a snack. Similarly, you can also top it with anything that sounds tasty. Traditional garnishes include poppy and sesame seeds, but you can also use red onions, any herb you can think of, a little sea salt, minced garlic, or even cinnamon sugar for a sweet finish.
Lavash recipe adapted from Yellow Saffron’s video.
- 1 1/2 cups bread flour (I used whole wheat), 200g
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
Sift your flour over a medium-large bowl. Add salt, water, and olive oil. Knead briefly to combine all the ingredients into a soft, smooth dough (about 2 minutes).
Lightly oil the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.
After thirty minutes, it’s time to fold the dough to develop the gluten. Pull a corner of the dough out from the main ball and fold it into the center. Repeat this eight times, working all the way around the dough. Then flip it over and tuck the edges in so it forms a nice smooth ball shape. There’s no need to be exact about this last step, as the dough shouldn’t be worked too much.
Cover the dough again and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.Repeat the process as before, pulling and tucking corners of the dough eight times. Cover again and leave to rise for the last 30 minutes.
When the 30 minutes are up, preheat the oven to 430F and preheat your baking tray as well.
Split the dough into three pieces. Take out one piece, and leave the rest covered so that they stay moist. With the first piece either stretch or roll it into a very thin rectangle, the thinner the better. Place on a piece of parchment paper and add any toppings you like (parchment paper is oven safe, but it isn’t mean to go much higher than a 420F oven. Make sure you watch the paper to be sure it doesn’t burn…). Slide onto the preheated tray.
Bake for 3-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the dough. The edges will get browned and bubbles will develop.
Remove to a cooling rack (the bread will get crispier as it cools), and repeat the process with the two remaining pieces of bread.
Serve with a fun sauce or with a meal and enjoy!