Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Oh yes, I could live by bread alone.

It's been glorious in London the last few days. Hot, sunny, with slight breezes, everything you could want from summer. It can't last, this is Britain! But while it does I can't help but want simple light summery foods: breads, salads and of course lashing of British strawberries and cream.

On Sunday we spent pretty much the whole time in the garden. The test match finished by lunch and it gave us no more excuses. We left Sniff curled up on the sofa soaking up some vitamin D and finally did all the bits and pieces jobs we'd been meaning to do for ages. I potted up plants, put copper defenses on pots to ward of the pesky, and persistent slugs and snails and made sure everything had a feed. Meanwhile N cleared out the gutters, striped the weeds from the wall and dispatched any and every lurking slimey pest he could find. It was pretty hot and exhausting work, but very satisfying indeed, especially as we too got a nice vitamin D fix, a bit of colour on our skin, and in N's case a heavy dose of high pollen count induced wheezing. Oops.

After all this work I couldn't face cooking, and having had a baking day cupcake with a cup of tea neither of us wanted a particularly heavy meal. So I opted for my most favourite of all meals ever: "bread and stuff". This meal can never let you down, as long as you get one thing straight; the bread has to be good. Get the bread right and you're sorted. I threw together a half batch of my usual focaccia dough knowing it would rest and prove faster than usual due to the heat and humidity. I then went a bit off piste and sliced half a red onion, and soaked it in balsamic vinegar to add to the topping in addition to the rosemary and rock salt. It was a total winner, adding just a bit more depth to the bread.

Red onion and herb focaccia, adapted from "Dough" by Richard Bertinet.
Makes one big slab (I halved this recipe)

500g Strong white flour
20g coarse semolina
15g yeast
10g salt
50g olive oil
320g water.

one red onion, sliced and marinated in balsamic vinegar
fresh rosemary
rock salt.

Place the yeast in a large bowl, followed by the flour, semolina and salt and mix. Then add the olive oil and water and mix well until you have a slightly sticky, but workable dough. Leave to rest for an hour, or until doubled in size. oil a baking tray and place the dough on it, slowly pushing it until it fills the tray. Leave to rest for five minutes, glaze with oil and then leave to prove for an hour. Sprinkle with rock salt and rosemary and then carefully place the onions evenly over the surface, being careful not to depress the air from the dough. Bake at 200C until the top is golden. I did mine for 25mins, but a large loaf will probably need 35mins. Remove from the tray to cool slightly, cut into chunks and serve. Best just dipped into oil and vinegar.

We had it simply with oil and vinegar, a little salt and some salad. Va Bene!

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