Sumerian Onion Bread (for gods or royalty)

No peasant fare today.  This bread is for deities or royalty only.

We know the Sumerians, original urban culture of the world, were obsessed with many types of onions, especially leeks.  We also know that temple priests took great care to prepare special food for their resident god or goddess. Most people used flour that was pretty coarse compared to modern ones, but it’s likely that the finest, and most finely ground, sieved, and combed through flour would go into bread made for Enlil or Inanna, presented by priests at four lavish meals per day, every day.


This recipe, which is a modern invention, simulates a bread that was fit for the gods by incorporating all-purpose, wheat, and barley flours together with cooked leeks and green onions.  The technique is similar to how Chinese style scallion pancakes are made, but this bread uses a leavened dough and is cooked in pork fat, as the Sumerians loved to do.

(Makes 6 flatbreads)
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup barley flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tablespoon (or 1 packet) of yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1.5 cups warm water
1 bunch leeks, sliced
2 bunches spring onions or scallions, sliced
4 tbsp. butter
3-6 thinly sliced strips pork belly (or bacon)

Start by making the dough. Add the yeast to the warm water and let activate for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix your flours and salt, then combine into a loose dough. Turn onto a surface coated with flour and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and stretchable.


Let rise, covered, in a warm place for 2-4  hours.

Meanwhile, cook the onions. Melt the butter in a medium pot or saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onions until they just start to loose their bright color, and turn out into a bowl to cool. Leave at room temperature.


When the bread has rested and risen a little, divide it into 6 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten into a disc, rolling and stretching into a very thin oval.


Coat with a tablsepoon or two of the buttery onions, then roll up like a jellyroll. Coil the dough inwards as seen in the picture, tucking the end underneath, then flatten into a disk and roll into the size of a pancake or pita.


The Sumerians were proficient in metallurgy, so they had pots and pans.  Put a cold skillet on medium heat with the pork belly inside. Starting cold will render out more fat to cook the bread in.  Fry the pork on both sides until it’s browned and a little crsipy.

Cook the flatbreads for 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through.


Top with the cooked pork belly and sauce of your choice.  Here I used the remaining scallion mixture with some additional raw spring onion and a glob of Easy Homemade Yogurt to make a simple relish. I threw some hummus on the plate too. Chickpea and eggplant mashes may have been just as popular in the near east 6,000 years ago as they are today. Mustard would be another fine, period appropriate choice.


The final product should have layers of flakiness, crisp outside and puffy soft, buttery interior.






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