A recent inventory of my kitchen cupboards revealed five opened bags of flour (yes, five?!) and a packet of dried yeast that was four months beyond its sell-by date. I’d recently filed away a Jamie Oliver recipe for Focaccia, the Italian bread which, if my language skills serve me correctly, is pronounced, rather trickily, Fockatcha . Jamie’s recipe called for cherry tomatoes, rosemary and garlic, while a similarly filed recipe suggested mozzarella and pesto. Why stop there, I thought, and while the cyclist in my life was burning off calories on the hills of the French Riviera, I got creative with lunch:
You will need:
500g / 1lb 2oz strong white bread flour*
7g / 1/3 oz sachet of dried yeast
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
* I only had cake flour so my texture was lighter and spongier. Still good, though.
Then a mix of any of whichever Mediterranean ingredients you prefer, such as:
Olive oil / flavoured olive oil
To make the dough:
- Pour the flour into a large bowl and mix in the salt.
- Dissolve the yeast in 325 ml / 12 fl oz tepid water.
- Add water and oil to the flour, and mix to a dough. Just get your hands dirty and remember not to answer the phone if it rings. Pull and knead and stretch your dough for a good ten minutes. (I suggest music or an interesting radio programme during this period).
- Replace in your bowl and cover with a little more oil (I forgot this bit). Throw over a tea-towel and leave in a warm spot for an hour.
- Wash your hands.
- After your hour’s up, stretch the dough out onto a baking dish until it’s about 20cm x 30cm / 8 in x 12 in. Cover again with the tea-towel and leave for another 30-40 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 180C / 350F / gas mark 4.
- Once the dough’s risen, press small holes all over it. More than I did in the accompanying photo – on eating, the mouthfuls that don’t have a surprise package in them seem a bit dull. At this point, Jamie puts his cherry tomatoes in the holes so they cook for longer.
- Bake in the oven for about fifteen minutes, then remove and add your chosen ingredients. Mine happened to be chopped-up sun-dried tomatoes, goat’s cheese and black olives.
- Smear the bread with a little olive oil – now’s the time to use that flavoured stuff someone once bought you and you’re always forgetting – and bake for another five to ten minutes.
A bit of a fiddle, perhaps, but Focaccia really is delicious, even if it does sound like something you couldn’t politely offer your grannie.
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