Last weekend I climbed into a matatu, rode three hours to Mbrara and then rode three more hours to Kasese for my friend Bailey’s wedding.
Bailey is a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer who had been seeing Julius for a little over a year when they decided to get married. They officially got married on Friday afternoon, while I was still on the Mbrara-Kasese road. Through the tea plantations and lush, green hills of Bushenyi district to driving through Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Mbrara-Kasese highway is an exceptionally beautiful drive. For once, riding for three hours in a matatu wasn’t disgustingly uncomfortable. We even saw some buffalo and impala from the road.
The reception was held on Saturday night and we spent much of the morning and afternoon cooking and baking for the party. We cooked cakes, garlic bread, spaghetti sauce, icing (for the cakes – no icing in a can here!), rice, Irish potatoes, beans, and pasta. Long day!
We partied until late at night – enjoying several bottles of wine, dancing, cake, and the gorgeous views of Kasese town and the Rwenzori Mountains.
Saturday’s cooking mood carried over to Monday. I had bookmarked this pita recipe in the Peace Corps Uganda cookbook since I received it. Pita bread has always been something I love. I love its little pocket – not quite a hand pie, not quite a sandwich; I love the taste of pita bread; I love its easiness and portability – just fill and go. Before I joined the Peace Corps, however, I never actually considered that I could make my own pita bread; it was just too easy to buy it at the grocery store and keep in the refrigerator. I never realized how insanely easy it is!
I found these gorgeous carrots and radish at the Mbrara market. We can get carrots at my market, but not radishes. And besides. I think carrots are much cuter with the little tops still on. And that’s what matters in produce. Cuteness.
I’ve included this next picture for the sole purpose of making you jealous at my julienning skills. Be jealous. Now. (You do not, however, have to be jealous of how much spare time I obviously have to actually hand julienne this much veggies.)
The hardest part of making pita bread is cooking it. You have to have patience. I’m a fairly impatient person and for the first couple I didn’t let them cook long enough. They never developed the bubble inside that creates the pocket.
You cook pita bread in an oven, or like me, on the stove top. Within the first 20 – 30 seconds you will begin to see little bubbles appear in the dough and up to a minute later the large bubble will start to form. Don’t flip the pita until you don’t see anymore expansion inside the pita. Then, and only then, can you flip the pita. I ruined many a pita with my impatience. It only takes 2-3 minutes for the pitas too cook, but it’s a long 2-3 minutes when all you’re doing is watching them for signs of inflation!
Pita Bread and Spinach Salad
Pita recipe adapted from the Peace Corps Uganda Cookbook
For the Pita
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoons sugar
3 to 5 cups flour
Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water (you need to make sure the water isn’t too hot, as this will kill the yeast, or too cold, which will not activate the yeast) in a medium size bowl. Add the salt and sugar. Let it sit in a warm place for about five minutes. Add 1 cup of flour and beat vigorously with a whisk for 2 – 3 minutes to help develop the gluten.
Add 3 cups of flour (or more if needed) until a thick dough is formed. Flour your hands and knead the dough. Flour a flat surface and remove the dough from the bowl and continue kneading for about eight minutes, folding and turning the dough so that all parts are kneaded evenly, adding more flour whenever teh dough becomes too sticky to handle.
Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased dish to rise. Cover and set for one hour in a warm place.
After the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and turn out onto a floured surface. Divide the dough into balls approximately the size of pool balls and roll out into thin rounds.
Fry each round on a dry griddle or pan on medium-low heat until puffed up and brown. Flip the pita when a large bubble has filled the center of the pita and the bottom is lightly browned. Fry briefly on the other side only until it browns.
To open, use a fork or a knife to lightly pierce the pita and open the natural cavity inside.
For the Salad
Hard boiled Egg (optional)
Caesar salad dressing (or dressing of your choice)
Wash and rinse the spinach to make sure all grit and dirt is removed. I julienned my veggies, because I like the matchstick shape when stuffing pitas and making veggie sandwiches, but you can cut up the veggies any way you please. The hard boiled egg should be sliced. Once your veggies are ready, spread a layer of dressing on the inside of the pita and begin layering the veggies and egg inside.