I can make my favourite bread at home! | Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

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Back when I worked as a waitress at the plume of feathers pub in Mitchell, Cornwall, focaccia with olive oil and balsamic vinegar was a popular predinner nibble from the menu. Cutting up and plating the bread was the only real food prep I ever had to do and it was always the best day when I came to cut some bread and got towards the end of the loaf so I could eat the crust (as it wasn’t deemed nice enough for customers). A few times I managed to wangle a proper piece of focaccia from the middle and that’s when it became my favourite bread ever.

I haven’t had much focaccia that comes close to the moist, light and oily deliciousness of the Baker Tom bread that we served at the Plume of Feathers, until a couple of weeks ago when I made my own.

Lockdown has brought a lot more time at home and got me making bread at least once and sometimes twice a week. I recently tried this recipe –https://www.inspiredtaste.net/19313/easy-focaccia-bread-recipe-with-herbs/ for focaccia and it turned out better than I could have hoped.

Here is my version which is essentially the same as the one linked above, with a couple of tweets to the method to make it simpler and some more UK friendly measures.

Ingredients:

120g olive oil

235ml warm water

315g plain flour

2 garlic cloves

Rosemary (dried or fresh)

Black pepper

Sea salt

7g (one packet) of dried yeast

1/4 tsp honey

Start by mincing or finely chopping the garlic and putting it in a container with all of the oil. I use a glass jar with a lid to stop my kitchen smelling too much of raw garlic. This can be done in advance and left to infuse but it’s fine to just before you start the bread too.

In a large bowl, mix the warm water with the honey and yeast. Leave this for a few minutes to awaken the yeast.

Add 125g of flour and 60ml of the oil to the water mixture and mix until all the flour is moistened. Leave to sit for 5 minutes.

Stir in the remaining 190g of flour and the salt until it forms a wet dough. Tip onto a floured surface and knead until smooth with oiled hands. The oil on your hands will stop the dough from sticking too much – don’t be tempted to add lots of extra flour as this will dry out the dough. You can add a bit extra to your surface if it’s sticking but try to trust the process! It should only take a couple of minutes of kneading for the dough to become smooth. Put the dough into a generously oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees celcius (yes – that hot). Use 2tbsp of the garlic oil to grease the bottom of a deep baking tray (I used a roasting tray.

Once the dough has doubled in size, tip the risen dough onto the tray and use your hands to stretch it out until it evenly covers the base of the tray. Use your fingers to make dimples all over the dough so the oil had somewhere to sit.

Pour over the remaining oil and garlic mixture. Add some extra salt, pepper and rosemary or other herbs to the top of the dough.

Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes or until the focaccia is a deep golden brown all over and bouncy to touch. Best served immediately!

In my opinion, this bread is special and delicious enough to really be the star of the show in a meal. When we last had it for lunch we had it with some olives, hummus, roasted tomatoes and camembert and it was such a treat. It would also be great as a fancy version of garlic bread on the side of pasta or simply just dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Bon appetite.

Chicken Cacciatore

Recipes

It was a very strange Easter for everyone this year. Normally the long weekend is the perfect chance to visit my family and catch up with friends in Cornwall but as we are currently in lockdown I had to make do with just the company of Chris, at home in Cardiff. We set up a mini Easter egg hunt for each other in the house, had eggs on toast for breakfast and joined our church for their online Easter Sunday service.

One of my favourite things about going back to Cornwall to see my family is (other than the fantastic company, obviously) the 10/10 roast dinner for Sunday lunch. One of my favourite food memories from my childhood is getting back from church on a Sunday and coming through the door to the smell of the roast lamb cooking in the oven. Mmmmmm.


However, since it was just the two of us this year and making a roast for two people is more effort than we were prepared for, we decided to make my absolute favourite cassarole – a Nigella inspired variation on a Chicken Cacciatore. We don’t have this very often as it uses quite a bit of meat so it is definetely a special occassion meal for me. What better way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus than chicken *and* bacon?!


My mum makes this meal fairly regularly, originally from Nigella’s recipe for it and then from memory with alterations here and there and I make it now too with my own alterations. The basis remains the same – chicken stew with bacon, cooked in a tomato sauce flavoured with white wine and bay leaves. It might sound pretty standard but the flavours are next level.

Serves 6, alongside rice.

Ingredients:

3tbsp olive oil

500g chicken thighs

6 rashers of smoked bacon

1 large white onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 tin of chickpeas

800g chopped tomatoes (2 x 400g tins)

2 red peppers (or 1 courgette)

1 small jar of black olives (180g)

200ml white wine

1 chicken stock cube

5 bay leaves

1tsp sugar

Salt and pepper

Start by chopping the onion and putting it in a large casarole dish with plenty of olive oil. Put on a medium heat and add some chopped chicken thighs – to save getting chicken on a chopping board, we just used some kitchen scissors to chop the chicken up straight into the pan. Cook for a few minutes and then chop in the bacon rashers into lardons and add to the pan. Cook until chicken and bacon both appear cooked (the chicken needs to be sealed but will continue cooking when the liquid is added). Chop the peppers into chunks and add to the pan. (In our case, the supermarket were out of peppers so we ended up using a courgette instead.) Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan. If the ingredients start sticking to the pan, you can add more oil or a splash of water.


Next pour in the wine and contiue to stir so the juices on the bottom of the pan combine with the wine so begin to form the sauce. Crumble in the stock cube and stir thoroughly until dissolved. Drain and since the chickpeas and add to the pan along with the chopped tomatoes, olives, bay leaves and sugar. Cook for a few minutes whilst stirring and then turn onto a low heat and put the lid on.

Leave this to cook for around 20 minutes, stirring every now and again to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Leaving it to cook for a long time is one of the things that makes this dish so good as the delicious flavours infuse and the chopped tomatoes develop into a rich sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Serve on top of a good helping of rice with a cold beer or the rest of the bottle of wine! Bon appetite.