Tag Archives: Italian food

Focaccia

4 Mar

It’s been a funny day. What started with deep-sea fog hanging over the village and loosing me my dog whilst out on a walk, ended with glorious sunshine and a heat normally associated with April or May. With the outbreak of spring weather I was inspired to get cooking. Today’s recipe selection was fairly eclectic including a fruity chilli courtesy of Thommi Miers, Madeira cake and homemade bread, but most importantly focaccia. This recipe will give you less of the cake-style focaccia you buy in the supermarket and more of a doughy bread studded with rosemary and steeped in fruity extra virgin olive oil.

To make your basic dough follow this recipe, feel free to embellish your focaccia with any topping or additions you like. Sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, olives and pine nuts are all fantastic individually or combined. My focaccia is your starting point with just rosemary sprigs pushed deep into the dough and a sprinkle of sea salt.

You will need:

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • Half pint of tepid water
  • 1.5 sachets of dried yeast
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • Half tbsp salt
  • Extra virgin olive oilFor the top
  • Rosemary sprigs
  • Sea salt

Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas mark 4.

Grease a 20cm square brownie tin or a baking sheet if you prefer a round focaccia.

Place all your dry ingredients together in a large bowl, you can make your dough by hand or using a mixer with a dough hook. Slowly add your warm water to the centre gradually bringing your dry ingredients together. Keep combining until you have a sticky dough mixture. This is where some elbow grease is required. Take your dough out of the bowl and on to a lightly floured surface. (Don’t introduce too much extra flour though) keep pushing, turning and kneading the dough until it becomes springy, smooth and elastic. If you use a mixer this will be pretty easy but don’t get smug at some point you will need to get your hands dirty! Shape the dough into round ball and place in bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to prove. This will take about an hour.

Once your dough has puffed up nicely get your baking tray or tin ready, grease lightly with oil then place your dough on top. Push and spread your dough out across the tray, stretching it out. When you are happy with the shape pour several glugs of oil onto the top of the dough. Push the oil into the bread with your fingers and then stud the top of the focaccia with your chosen topping or rosemary sprigs.

Bake in the centre of your preheated oven for about 30 mins keep an eye on the top so it doesn’t burn. Don’t worry if your focaccia looks a bit knobbly that’s part of the charm. I add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt at the end to boost the finished flavour.

Cacciatora comfort

24 Feb

This needs a little forethought but it’s actually pretty simple. It’s a slow cook well worth waiting for, cacciatora transforms the humble chicken thigh into a rich, hearty meal packed with deep flavours that will satisfy the coldest soul this February. This Jamie recipe from Jamie’s Italy works brilliantly with cannellini or butter bean mash, and is an excellent supper party staple.

You will need

  • 2kg Chicken pieces ( thighs and legs work well)
  • 8 Bay leaves
  • A couple of sprigs of Rosemary
  • 3 cloves of garlic ( crush one, slice two)
  • Half a bottle of Chianti
  • Some flour
  • Olive oil
  • 6 Anchovy fillets
  • A handful of green or black stoned olives
  • 2 tins of plum tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper

Season the chicken with salt  and pepper place in a large bowl cover with the red wine . Add the bay leaves, rosemary and crushed garlic. Cover and leave to marinate at least overnight (This marinating is the key to your end result having a rich intense flavour, so if time is short do this the night before so it ready to cook the next evening.) The next day you chicken will be deep purple in colour this is what we want.

Preheat your oven to 180c ( gas mark 4). Drain your marinated chicken keeping the liquid. Dry the chicken with kitchen paper then dust each piece with some seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pan. Fry each pice so the outside begins to brown and crisp up. Remove the chicken pieces and put to one side.

Now cook your sliced garlic in the same pan. As soon as it starts to turn colour put in the anchovies, tomatoes and olives. Stir to break up the tomatoes and then slide the chicken pieces back into the sauce.

Once bubbling nicely cover with a well fitting lid and then leave to bake in your warm oven for about one and a half hours. You may find a layer of oil on the top after cooking. Skim this off before serving. The cannellini bean mash couldn’t be simpler. Drain and rinse a tin of cannelini beans. In a small saucepan heat some olive oil with a bruised clove of garlic. Pour this flavoured oil over your beans and mash roughly. This recipe will feed a hungry six just make sure you supply copious amounts of Chianti to make this a true Italian experience.

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