three hundred and sixteen

Yoghurt Flatbreads with Anna Mansfield

Words by Maggie Scardifeld

Images by Andrew Butler

When I was first introduced to Anna Mansfield, she was making wine underneath her friend's house. She’d never done it before, but why not? I knew instantly she was someone I wanted to get to know.

The keen cook and public relations account director says things like, “I only own cast-iron pans,” without a hint of pretension. She was wearing Tevas way before they became a thing, and messed around making cheese, way before I ever dreamt of moving to Tasmania for a sea change.

When we arrive at her Potts Point apartment on a Saturday afternoon, she’s cracked a bottle of French wine (a 2018 L’Anglore Tavel rosé, no less) and laid out a cheeseboard with dried nectarines and the first of the season’s cherries. “It’s very dangerous living around the corner from Penny’s Cheese Shop,” she says. “At the moment I spend all my money on cheese and art.”

At the moment I spend all my money on cheese and art.

In January Mansfield moved in. The Art Deco apartment had the trifecta, she says: wooden floorboards, crisp white walls and picture rails. The bath, rooftop, and eyefuls of bougainvillea, jacaranda and Sydney-city skyline from every room, on the other hand, were a bonus. “Not looking out onto another building is super rare when you live in a city like Sydney. I fell in love with it immediately.”

Mansfield’s work, the public relations firm PEPR, is just around the corner. She’s been there for almost nine years, looking after clients such as publisher Phaidon, hotel group Hilton, the Atlantis hotel in Dubai and cruise lines Cunard and Holland America Line. “I travel so much for my job, often to amazing hotels and destinations, but I always look forward to coming home.”

One glance at the bookshelf and it’s not hard to see how important food is to Mansfield. Market totes, Tara Burke ceramics, and a jar of her own preserved lemons vie for space with food memoirs and cookbooks from the likes of The River Cafe in London, Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, Estela in New York, and of course plenty of Phaidon titles. “My mum always had loads of cookbooks around, and aesthetically, I always thought they looked beautiful,” she says. “I tend to read them, way more than I cook from them though. I love Diana Henry’s How To Eat A Peach – she writes so beautifully. And I could read anything by Nigel Slater, at any hour.”

Linen tablecloths and napkins by IN BED

Table dressed using an IN BED linen tablecloth in blue & white stripe and an IN BED linen napkin in khaki.

Good food and good hospitality were an integral part of growing up for Mansfield. “I remember being taken to Tetsuya’s for my 16th birthday, and being encouraged to try the wine,” she laughs. “My parents just loved my willingness to try everything.” One of her first jobs, too, was at Fratelli Fresh, under the guidance of Barry and Jamie McDonald. “Back then they were selling 12 different types of potatoes and the most beautiful heirloom varieties of everything. I’d just talk to people about awesome produce all day long. It was the best.”

Mansfield’s mum has brought over Kangaroo paw and tall branches of rosemary from her garden – both which now take pride of place in the kitchen. “I have people around a lot now,” she says. "Wanting to cook for people and show friendship and affection in that way, is a really nice way to live. But I think I need to get a bigger dining table.”

Wanting to cook for people and show friendship and affection in that way, is a really nice way to live. But I think I need to get a bigger dining table.

THE RECIPE

“I always thought of flatbreads as an accompaniment, like something you’d have with a curry or stew,” says Mansfield. “But then I realised how delicious they could be as a standalone dish with different toppings.”

On our visit, Mansfield tops her flatbreads with both ricotta, jammy braised peppers and tinned anchovies; and ’nduja, braised runner beans, quick-pickled radishes and a herb salad, dressed with Chardonnay vinegar (this one is her favourite). “I’m quite an intuitive cook now,” she says. “Perhaps that wouldn’t be the case If I didn’t have that upbringing talking about food, reading about food, and thinking about food all the time. But this recipe is super easy and really just relies on whatever you have going on in the fridge or cupboard.”

You can use a rolling pin for the dough, but unsurprisingly, Mansfield likes to get her hands dirty. “It’s much nicer to use your hands,” she tells us. “And while some people might like to blot the flatbreads on kitchen-towel after they’re fried, I say the more olive oil the better!”

Yoghurt flatbreads with assorted toppings

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

The dough
2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
2 big pinches of sea salt (Mansfield prefers Maldon)
1 cup full-fat yoghurt (Mansfield uses Meredith Dairy Natural Goat Milk yoghurt, "because it’s what’s in the fridge.")
Olive oil, for frying

Suggested toppings
Ricotta, braised peppers, tinned anchovies
’Nduja, braised runner beans, quick-pickled radishes, herb salad
Labne, roasted broccoli, fermented chilli
Summer tomatoes, labne, za’atar
Tinned sardines, soft boiled egg, radish and herb salad

Method:

Whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt together.

Mix yoghurt through with a fork, until combined.

Turn it out onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Knead it until smooth (approx. 8-10 minutes).

Divide dough into four even pieces with a knife. Form each piece into its own little ball.

Cover dough and let it rest for 10-15 minutes (it won’t change dramatically).

Once rested, push each piece of dough out with your hands until it’s a rough circle, approximately half a centimetre thick. We’re going for rustic here!

In a medium-sized skillet, add a generous glug of olive oil, over medium-high heat.

Fry flatbreads individually for approx. 2 minutes, or until golden, flipping once and adding more oil in between each flatbread as required. Salt each one with flaky sea salt as they come out of the pan.

Divide the flatbreads on plates and load with assorted toppings, as desired. Serve immediately so the dough stays hot and crisp.

*TIP The dough will keep in the freezer for 2-3 months, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. A ball of dough will defrost in 5-10 minutes.

@annamansfield