I got up early yesterday to make bread and other assorted treats for a very civilised hen party. It was supposed to be a picnic, but the weather was suitably British so it ended up being an indoor affair. Nevertheless, it was a fabulous day in honour of a fabulous lady!
I was inspired to make this Focaccia by the 6am sunshine, and also the tragic, forgotten peaches in my fruit bowl whispering “please don’t let us go to waste”.
Focaccia is an Italian flatbread thought to have originated in Ancient Rome. It’s name comes from the Latin “Panis Focacius” which basically means “bread from the hearth”. In Roman times, variations of this bread would have been on every table, at every meal.
Peach and Rosemary Focaccia
- 500g strong white flour
- 10g fine salt
- 20g fresh yeast
- 300g water
- 100g olive oil
- Fresh rosemary
- 3 peaches
- Sea salt flakes
- Balsamic Vinegar
- In a large bowl, place your flour and make a well in the centre.
- Dissolve the yeast into the water, and start pouring into the flour, a little at a time, mixing as you go.
- When all of the water has been added, add the fine salt and half of the oil.
- Turn out onto a work surface and knead for 5 minutes. This dough will be very sticky but don’t panic! It’s meant to be that way. I find a dough scraper handy, to help scoop the dough off my work top.
- When you’re done kneading, plonk the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and kick back for 2 hours while the magic happens.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, line a baking tray with parchment and tip the dough out onto the tray. Use the dough scraper so that it comes out cleanly, without disturbing the strands of gluten it’s been busy forming.
- Use your hands to shape the dough into a large rectangle, approximately 2 cm thick.
- Cover the dough and leave it for 1 hour to rise.
- When the hour is nearly up, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C/gas mark 7. Wash your rosemary and prepare your peaches in whichever way you think looks nicest.
- Place the peach slices on top of the Focaccia. I’ve put mine on at a slight angle, so that they are poking into the Focaccia, rather than just sitting on the top. Next put on the rosemary, either as little sprigs pointing upwards, or just a scattering of leaves.
- Sprinkle the whole thing with sea salt flakes, drizzle with olive and oil and finish with a good drizzle of thick balsamic vinegar.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning half way through to ensure an even colouring. Your Focaccia is done when it is a nice golden colour.
So this is essentially a flapjack on top of a biscuit with jam in the middle. It’s an amazing, delicious hybrid cake/biscuit! There is quite a lot of sugar in this (because I want it to be nice) but the oats are great for slow release energy to get you over the sugar crash you’ll enjoy after eating three slices in one go.
I’ve used some wholemeal rye flour in the base so that I can pretend that this is a healthy choice (also fruit!), but it works just as well with only the white flour. You can even substitute all of the flour for your favourite gluten free alternative if you are that way inclined. Just be sure to use 250g in total of whichever flour you choose.
For the base:
- 150g plain white flour and 100g wholemeal rye flour
- Or 250g plain white flour/gluten free flour
- 125g butter
- 150g sugar
- 30g cocoa powder
- 1 large, free range egg
For the topping:
- 250g cherry jam
- 50g chocolate chunks
- 200g chopped cherries
- 150g soft brown sugar
- 100g honey
- 175g butter
- 300g oats
- Preheat your oven to gas mark 4/170 degrees C
- Line a square 20cm by 20cm cake tin with grease proof paper.
- Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg, cocoa and flour. You will need to get stuck in and use your hands to bring the mix together into a dough.
- Press the dough into the cake tin, using your hands to pack it down.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- To make the topping, melt the butter, sugar and honey over a low heat. Then mix through the oats and half of the chopped cherries.
- When you take the biscuit out of the oven, spread the jam over it and scatter over the chocolate chunks.
- Then spoon the oat mix over the top of the jam. Decorate with the reserved cherries.
- Return it to the oven and bake for a further 30-40 minutes, until the oats are golden brown.
- Allow to cool completely before attempting to slice, it’s much easier and far less squishy/messy.
I had lunch with some of my all-time favourite people today. The sun shone, the food was a delight and the wine flowed freely. It was glorious. The best thing about having foodie friends is that they always bring delicious gifts. Just look at this spread…
One of my contributions to this team feast was grilled vegetable salad with quinoa. It’s great as a side, but because the quinoa is so full of protein it also works great served warm as a main meal. I’ve done this using a cast iron grill pan, but it would be fantastic cooked on the barbecue.
Grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad
- 1 aubergine
- 1 courgette
- 1 red pepper
- 1 small red onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Handful of fresh basil
- Handful of cherry tomatoes
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- 250g quinoa (I’ve used a mix of red, white and black)
- Slice the aubergine, courgette and pepper. Lay on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- Mince the garlic in a little salt. Place in a mixing bowl with the red onion and some balsamic vinegar. Set aside. The acid in the vinegar will ‘cook’ the onion and garlic and mellow them out a little.
- Heat up a cast iron griddle pan and drizzle with a little olive oil. When the pan is smoking hot, dab the excess moisture from the veg and place in the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side, so that the black lines are vivid. You’ll probably need to do this in batches unless you have a giant griddle.
- Cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions and then drain. Place in the mixing bowl with the onion and garlic.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the quinoa, along with the basil. I just tear mine, but if you like things nice and neat go ahead and chop it up.
- If you are serving this in a big bowl, gently mix through the grilled veg, drizzle with some olive oil and balsamic and season to taste.
- If you are serving this as a main meal, season the quinoa and place some on a plate and then pile some of the veg on top. Drizzle with oil and balsamic, serve with a green salad and some lovely, crusty bread.
My husband is away fighting zombies this weekend, so my best gal pal Stacey came to stay.
We love a girls weekend, but we both have pretty hectic jobs and between work, the men folk and Stinky, we very rarely get the time for them.
I wanted to make a quick but lovely dinner which didn’t require me to spend loads of time prepping, so I made these Goats Cheese and Beetroot flatbreads. Once the dough is made and the onions have been caramelised, I had plenty of time to drink cocktails and have a good old bitch with Stacey without having to worry about the dinner.
For the base…
- 500g strong white flour
- 350g water
- 10g salt
- 15g olive oil
- 7g yeast
- Place the flour in your bowl with the oil and salt to one side and the yeast to the other.
- Pour the water into the middle.
- Mix together to form a dough and knead until elastic.
- Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size. (Approximately 2 hours)
For the Topping…
- 1 large red onion
- 100g balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp sugar
- One goats cheese
- 1 large cooked beetroot
- Handful of fresh thyme
- Place the vinegar and sugar in a pan and simmer gently until the sugar is dissolved and the vinegar has reduced slightly.
- Slice the onion into semi-circles and add to the pan. Cook on a low heat until the onions are soft, dark and sticky.
- Slice the beetroot and goats cheese into discs and set aside.
- When your dough is risen and you are ready to assemble, crank your oven up to its highest setting. Flour a baking tray.
- On a lightly floured work surface, turn out your dough and divide into equal portions. Mine went into three: one each for the grown ups and a mini one for Stinky, plus some dough balls. This quantity of dough will easily feed four adults. Alternatively, make two bases for now, and freeze two for next time. Just shape the dough on a baking sheet and wrap in cling film.
- Shape your dough into long ovals.
- Arrange the beetroot, goats cheese, caramelised onion and thyme on top of the dough.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the dough is turning brown at th edges and the cheese is melted.
- Serve with a simple green salad and a drizzle of olive oil.
Now I know you’re probably thinking: is this a cake recipe? Because it sounds more like a roast chicken. But just trust me ok?
Lemon, Olive Oil and Thyme are such good buddies. They have everything: sweet, sour, savoury and bitter. The use of oil in place of butter in the cake batter is great because it adds moisture to the cake, which in turn increases its shelf life. It also gives the cake a really nice, light texture. I’ve used extra virgin olive oil for a more distinct flavour, but if this sounds a bit far out for you, just use light olive oil or even vegetable oil. I love the fragrant Thyme in this recipe, bringing a rather grown up, more complex flavour to what is essentially just a Lemon Drizzle cake. I only had common garden thyme, but if you’ve got lemon thyme growing in your garden then even better!
Lemon and Olive Oil Cake with Thyme
- 100g ground almonds
- 200g self raising flour
- 200g Olive oil
- 200g caster sugar
- 3 large free range eggs
- Zest of 2 lemons
For the syrup:
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 100g water
- 150g sugar
- Handful of fresh thyme
For the Icing:
Pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 4/ 160 degrees c
Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin
- Place all of your dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir together to combine.
- Add the olive oil, eggs and lemon zest and mix well.
- Pour batter into the prepared baking tin.
- Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden on top and springy. Insert a knife or skewer to check if you’re not sure.
- While the cake is baking, make your syrup. Place the lemon juice, water and caster sugar into a sauce pan. Heat gently and stir to dissolve the sugar and add the fresh thyme (stalks and all).
- Continue heating until the syrup reaches 110 degrees c (it should have reduced a little and gone syrupy….obviously).
- When the cake comes out of the oven, remove from its tin and place on a cooling rack with a tray underneath. Use a tooth pick to pierce several holes in the top of the cake.
- Spoon over approximately 3/4 of your syrup.
- To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and add your reserved syrup a teaspoon at a time, until the icing is smooth. It should be thick enough to drizzle elegantly down the sides of your cake, but not so runny that it decorates your floor. Add some minced thyme leaves for extra flavour.
- When the cake is completely cool, place on your serving plate and pour the icing straight down the middle. You may not need all of it. Decorate your cake with lemon zest, flaked almonds, sprigs of thyme and edible flowers.
- Enjoy in the garden on a sunny afternoon with Earl Grey tea.
Ever have one of those truly shite days, where you’re really busy but everything seems to go wrong and you get so stressed you end up knocking passion fruit cheesecake filling out of the fridge and it explodes and covers the whole kitchen? Well that was my day. It was fairly catastrophic.
On the plus side, it was definitely a day for a comforting bowl of soul food. And for me, that means eggs.
Lovely, yellow eggs. They just look so positive and full of optimism.
This dish inspired by the Levantine dish Shakshuka, which is baked eggs in a spicy tomato sauce. I make mine in a pan on the hob because it’s quicker and I find it easier to get the eggs just how I like them (super runny but no snot). It’s a really great dinner for one hungry person, or breakfast or light lunch for 2. I like to eat this meal with a dollop of yoghurt and some toasted ciabatta.
Eggs with Tomato and Cumin
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- A pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/2 a red pepper, chopped
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 2 free range eggs
- In a frying pan or skillet, sautee the onion in the spices until it starts to soften.
- Add the pepper and cook for a further minute.
- Add the tomatoes and cook u till they start to release their juices.
- Pour over just enough water to cover.
- Simmer for approximately 10 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and thickened and the vegetables are beginning to break down.
- Crack the eggs into the middle of the pan and cover with a lid.
- Simmer for 5-7 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs.
- Serve with crusty bread for dunking.
Yesterday was my day off after a crazy long, 6 day, 60-something hour week. The sun was shining the whole time while I was in my underground kitchen, sweating away. It’s pretty standard for me to wake up to grey skies or pouring rain on my days off. It’s Sod’s law. But amazingly, the sun stuck around! So I spent my whole day outdoors soaking up the glorious June warmth…. As a result, I didn’t think about dinner until the very last minute.
Supper was a thrown together salad of roasted chickpea and sweet potato with Chappatti and wine. If you make the Chappatti dough first, this dinner can be ready in 90 minutes or less, with a nice long break between preparing your salad and cooking the bread. There’s no yeast in this bread, and no long baking times, so it’s a perfect stand by recipe for scatty, last minute people like me! If you don’t have the rye flour, just add in an extra 50g of white flour. You could also use just wholemeal flour for a more nutritional bread, just be prepared for your dough to be a lot stiffer.
- 50g wholemeal rye flour
- 300g strong white flour
- 200g water
- 10g salt
- 10g oil
- Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and bring together to form a ball.
- Knead for approximately 10 minutes (7 if using a mixer) adding extra flour if required.
- Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour or more.
- Divide into small portions, about the size of a ping pong ball. Roll into balls, cover and rest for twenty minutes.
- Roll each ball out on a lightly floured surface as thinly as you can.
- Cook in a preheated, heavy frying pan or cast iron skillet. They take about 1 minute, flipping half way through when bubbles start to appear.
- Keep warm in a clean tea towel.
Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 8 ground peppercorns
- 2 tsp Garam Masala
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Juice of one lemon
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius/gas mark 5
- Peel and dice the sweet potatoes, place in a roasting pan with the chickpeas. Drizzle with oil and coat in the spices. Add a sprinkle of salt.
- Roast for 45 minutes.
- Place the onion, garlic and lemon juice in a bowl. Massage in a spindle of sea salt and ensure the onion is well coated in the lemon juice.
- Mix in the pepper.
- When the sweet potatoes and chickpeas are out of the oven, gently mix it into the rest of the salad.
- Serve on peppery salad leaves, with a drizzle of oil, a sprinkle of almond flakes and some nigella seeds.