Italy again – Foccacia!

Who does not love foccacia!?!? The soft interior, crunchy exterior, the salty bite – the olive oil! It evokes such joy and yet is such a simple recipe with few ingredients! I have taken a basic recipe I found and added some herbs and red onion…My 5 year old helped me make it and all three children, husband and friends devoured it in about 5 minutes! Always happy to see an empty plate – must make double portion next time!

It is, of course, Italian – most wonderful things are… The dough is very similar to that of pizza and relatively wet – which creates the crispness once baked. It is most commonly made with rosemary and sea salt  (recipe found in a Danish magazine) – however I made it with fresh sage and red onion. Delicious! Other great ways to make it is with fresh tomato, with black olives, slices of aubergine…only your imagination can stop you!

Hope you enjoy!

Foccacia with Sage and Red Onion (adapted from above recipe)

350g white flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
20g fresh yeast
210ml lukewarm water
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Sage leaves
Red onion slices
Sea Salt
Black pepper
Olive Oil
 
  • Place the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl and mix in the lukewarm water slowly whilst stirring
  • Add the 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Once the mixture starts to combine, tip unto your work surface and knead for a good 4-5 minutes until the dough becomes smooth
  • Place dough back into the bowl and cover the bowl with a lightly oiled piece of cling film – leave somewhere warm to rise for about 1 hour (or until doubled in size)
  • Lightly oil a shallow round cake tin
  • Knock the dough back on a slightly floured surface and make a relatively fat, large circle shape with it – place this into the oiled cake tin
  • Cover the cake tin with the cling film and leave to rise once again – until doubled in size (does not take more than 20-30 minutes)
  • Now – this is fun – poke holes in the dough with your fingers – cover again once done and let rise for a final 10 minutes
  • Preheat your oven to 200C and slice the red onion and sage leaves thinly while you wait
  • Sprinkle the leaves and onion, salt and pepper onto the dough – finish off by drizzling the olive oil over it
  • Bake in the warm oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
  • Cool for about 5 minutes and serve warm (with a cold glass of white wine!)

Italy. Simplicity. Dry bread, garlic and tomatoes = Bruschetta!

It has been too long – I have missed cooking, taking photographs and sharing with those that care to read it! I promise never to leave a two month gap again….

So, we went to Italy. Not just anywhere in Italy – we went to Tuscany. Not just anywhere in Tuscany – we went to Florence; and Florence is my favourite place in the whole world. Cannot for the life of me explain why, but the place fills me with joy, with promise, with excitement. The rolling hills, the flavours of the food, the people, the architecture, the colours…no where like it. No where.

It was a family trip (I am lucky enough to have a sister-in-law living in Florence) and we made the most of it. The majority of  the holiday was spent eating and laughing….makes me smile to think about it.

Quality time with the children and extended family and a magical place to stay (Lebbiano Residence – have a look) from where we ventured into the Tuscan country side and spent hours in the nature. The children caught tadpoles and frogs, we taught them to row a boat in the lake, trekking in the woods, catching fire flies at night and finding a hidden park that was, and I kid you not, like a fairy tale come true.

This one needs translating – will live by this…..

In The Park You Can

– inhale clean air
– listen to the silence
– stretch out in the sun (lie down)
– dream
– love
– play
– make up
– think
– slow down
– observe
– taste/enjoy
– doze/nap
– forget/lose time
– come home feeling peaceful
 

 and the food….the food….the food!

Best of all – simplicity. With nothing but paper plates and a lot of love and patience we had the best meals I have had in a long time. Eaten outdoors, with family.

Eaten indoors, on little stools – amazing!

 

So simple – the line in front of the restaurant a very telling thing…My daughter who is only 7 and claims to not like meat – well – a Bistecca Fiorentina at Mario’s….and she is converted!

If you are ever in Florence go there!!! Da Mario – behind San Lorenzo – close to Zaza (another good restaurant).

I want to leave you with a recipe – one of the simplest I know – and probably one of the tastiest too! Bruschetta. Dry bread, olive oil, tomatoes and garlic – fresh garlic – by the clove. Nothing more, nothing less.

Bruschetta

Loaf of dry bread
Fresh, ripe tomatoes cut into small pieces
Extra virgin olive oil
Red onion (can be omitted)
Basil (can be omitted)
Sprinkle of salt
Garlic – cannot be omitted – peeled cloves, sliced in halves
 
  • Slice the bread – it is fine if it is horrible and dry (just not mouldy…)
  • Place under a grill – or on a hot BBQ (perfect for summer – if we ever get one!) until dark brown and crisp
  • Place bread on plate
  • Rub sliced, peeled garlic straight into the bread
  • Throw a large spoonful of tomatoes on top of it (precut in a bowl – if red onion is wanted add it to the tomatoes in small pieces)
  • Drizzle with olive oil
  • Sprinkle with salt and a few basil leave
  • ENJOY!

If you are in need of relaxing, of a break or simply of re-falling in love with life, with your children, with your partner, with food – go to Florence! Stay at Lebbiano Residence, eat at Mario’s, go for walks, see the sites….it is a little bit of magic for the soul.

If you cannot afford to go – make bruschetta at home, put on some Italian music and pretend…! Not quite the same but hey – better than nothing!