Giuseppe dell’Anno’s Focaccia Genovese

This from Giuseppe’s Italian Bakes: Over 60 Classic Cakes, Desserts and Savoury Bakes. Giuseppe was fab on Great British Bake Off so I hoped to make far more than the one recipe I managed from this book. Maybe I’ll revisit it again at some time …

The recipe is spread out across multiple pages in the book so to save on space in my recipe folder I (loosely) write out the recipe below. The result was delicious but much thinner and crispier than you will be used to if you buy commercially available focaccia. I’m trying to get to the bottom of this – do I use the wrong size pan? Are commercial focaccia just a pale imitation of the real thing?

I made a half portion.

Dissolve 1/4 tbsp honey in 180g of tepid water in a jug. Put 300g flour and 2 tsp yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and, with the mixer on a low speed very slowly pour in the honey/water mix. Once all the water is added add 1 tbsp olive oil and mix until the dough comes together. Sprinkle over 1tsp of salt and continue mixing for 10-15 minutes until you have a very smooth dough.

Flour the bench, tip the dough from the bowl onto the bench and cover with the bowl for 15 minutes.

Flatten the dough into a rectangle about 30×15 cm and envelope fold. Oil a 25x40cm tin (shallow is fine) and then push the dough into the tin. It will not, at this stage, cover the base. Cover and allow to prove for 50 minutes.

Now spread it further … you should now be able to cover the surface of the tin. Smooth the top with your hands, sprinkle with 1tsp of salt. Prove for 40 minutes.

In a glass jar, shake together 30g olive oil and 50g water to form an emulsion.

Lightly dust the focaccia with flour then dimple using half the length of your fingers (that is – deep dimples, not little finger tip ones). Pour over the emulsion – spread over with your hands – and leave to prove for another 50 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 240C (dell’Anno doesn’t specify if this is fan or not … so I went 220C fan) – he does specify a lower shelf, so it may well be a good option to use a pastry bake/pizza option if you have one. Bake for 15 minutes.

When done, place on rack to cool and brush with a little extra olive oil while still hot for extra shine.

Best eaten immediately.

I do like his con cipolle option – he cuts onions into slices 3-4 mm thick, mixes with a little olive oil and microwaves for 1-2 minutes before spreading on focaccia (at the emulsion stage).

Delicious indeed, but not thick and fluffy!

Book Review: The Vinegar Cupboard

I guess in some ways this sounds like a somewhat weird book. Is it about making vinegar? Is it about all the tricksy things you can do with vinegar about the house? No … The Vinegar Cupboard is all about different vinegars and uses for them in cooking.

It is a beautiful book to look at and has won its author, Angela Clutton, multiple awards and certainly opened my eyes to just how many different types of vinegar there are. I really wanted to have a crack at Clutton’s soda bread recipe (because – bread) – where a mix of milk and vinegar (cider, in this case) acts as a substitute for buttermilk. (And, if you’re not aware, this mix works perfectly well in all sorts of baking if you find buttermilk is not available). However, the library wanting the book back and some super hot weather has stymied me on that front.

But … never fear as quite a few months ago I had a go at the whole roasted onions. It’s a simple recipe – you take onions, top and tail them (so they are stable) but leave the skin on. Make crosses in the tops of the onions, then, into a pan. Stuff the tops with some fresh time, drizzle over olive oil and balsamic vinegar, season and then carefully add some vermouth or cider to the pan (but this time not over the onions). Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes. Then, baste with the pan juices, dot butter on the onions and bake for a further 45 uncovered.

We didn’t nail this first time around – the cooking times were a bit short (maybe we had massive onions) so the centres of our onions were a bit firm. Also – one onion per person is a LOT (maybe those massive onions again!) so I think that it might be a good idea that once they’re cooked, you remove the skins, break the onions down and serve as a side dish rather than a whole entity.

This book is full of interesting recipes and don’t worry about sourcing the more esoteric vinegars, as Clutton provides alternatives.

Book Review: Levant – New Middle Eastern Flavours

A gem of a book, written by the impossibly glamorous Rawia Bishara who is famed for Tanoreen, a middle eastern restaurant in Brooklyn, NY.

The book is absolutely beautifully photographed – it’s one of those where every single page you find yourself thinking “oh, that looks delicious”, “oh, I could make that for x, y, z occasion”, “oh, we should have that for dinner next week”. You get the idea. And then you see a photo of Rawia cooking, perfectly made up, bejewelled and wearing glittery clothing and you think … “yeah, but not like that!”

We made two recipes from the book and both were delicious and, in the case of the beans, her suggested ‘cheat’ worked perfectly well.

First up we made the “autumn fattoush” – although as we weren’t making it in autumn, we found radicchio tricky to come by (or was that just my lack of commitment) and substituted witlof instead, figuring it would have the same leafy texture and bitter flavour profile. Of course, it did mean that our finished dish wasn’t quite as colourful as that in the book but it was still delicious. And, of course, with this kind of salad, the bulk of the effort is in making the pita chips. She suggests cooking them in the oven but the Ottolenghi option of pan frying them will also work well.

Later in the piece, we tried the coriander green beans with toasted almonds. Another very simple dish although the recipe does suggest deep frying the green beans, with the option for roasting them. We went the roasting route and Andy felt we took the beans a bit far (I thought they were fine). As we now have an air fryer, it would be interesting to cook the beans in that and see how they turn out. It would be essential to use fresh green beans for this – yes, I know that topping & tailing them is more work than grabbing a bag of frozen, but you really want the crunch that you only properly get with a fresh bean.

Some recipes in the book do have a very hefty list of ingredients (although, quite often, if you have a well-stocked spice drawer you’ll be fine) but there is something for everyone in this book – from quick, simple side-dishes to more elaborate, heavily spiced mains. Not every recipe is illustrated, so you will have to use your imagination now and then, but you should definitely not let that put you off.