Piping-hot baguettes slathered with garlic butter are a guilty pleasure that I blame on a 1980s upbringing. But there’s no denying it’s a damn enjoyable one, and a surprisingly good double-carb option alongside pasta or pizza.
We can go beyond garlic butter, though, and beyond baguettes as the platform too: shop-bought or homemade flatbreads also work well, and are worth ‘pimping’ to accompany meals inspired by the flavours of the Middle East or Indian subcontinent. Below are a few flavour combinations and butter-to-bread ratios to use as a starting point. This is one of those things you should make up as you go, though, depending on the contents of your fridge and store cupboard.
One further note: I don’t subscribe to the make-more-than-you-need-and-store-in-the-freezer-never-to-be-used-again school of thought. Nor do I see the point in trying to beat cold butter that I didn’t take out of the fridge early enough. Instead, I gently melt the required amount of butter, add the ingredients and either spread that directly onto the bread with a pastry brush, or refrigerate it for 5–10 minutes before spreading with a knife or spoon.
- Yield: 3 large, baguette, floury, doughy flatbreads
- 80 g butter
- 50 g sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 mild red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1 heaped tablespoon smoked paprika
- 20 g Parmesan, grated
- 100 g butter
- 2 heaped tablespoons za’atar
- 80 g butter
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 20 g strong Gruyère or Cheddar, finely grated
- Leaves from 6 stems flat-leaf parsley, chopped as finely as dust
- Preheat the oven to 240˚C/Fan 220˚C/Gas 9. If using a baguette, cut it into 6 equal pieces, then cut each of these into 3–4 slices, not quite cutting through to the base.
- Warm the butter very gently in a small heavy-bottomed pan. Before it’s fully melted, remove from the heat and leave to cool for 1 minute. Add your chosen flavouring(s) and stir to incorporate fully.
- Take a piece of kitchen foil the length of a baking tray and lay it flat on top of the tray. If using flatbreads rather than baguettes, you’ll need a large tray and more foil. Put the bread on top of the foil and use a pastry brush or spoon to spread the butter liberally over all the cut surfaces of the bread and the remainder over the top. Fold the sides of the foil to the middle, clasping it together. Bake for 10–15 minutes, opening the parcel for the last 5 minutes so that the bread takes on a little colour. Serve immediately.