Recipe: Delicious Ligurian focaccia and panzanella
- Credit: Kerstin Rodgers
Tentatively we may just be entering some kind of summer, when we can finally put away our umbrellas and turn off the heating. Bindweed and brambles are covering the garden, having rejoiced in the relentless meteorological seesaw of rain and sun. A few of my home-grown tomatoes have begun to ripen.
I recently attended a cooking class at Eataly in Liverpool Street. This is a vast emporium celebrating Italy's food and wine, with ingredients that are difficult to find elsewhere, as well as a selection of restaurants, cafés, dessert counters and coffee bars (nobody makes coffee like the Italians. The French are surprisingly bad at coffee, overpriced and bitter). A visit here will have to suffice for my foreign holidays this year.
We learnt to make a different kind of focaccia, the authentic one, according to people from Genoa. This Ligurian focaccia has a brine mixture of water, salt and olive oil poured over the top just before baking. It has characteristic holes, made with the pads of your first three fingers, and is thin, crunchy and salty. Like baguette it's best eaten on the same day, after that it becomes very chewy, but I have a solution for your day-old focaccia, should there be any left!
Some say Ligurian focaccia, which spans from La Spezia to San Remo including Genoa, is the original focaccia. It's another destination on my travel bucket list post Covid. It's best to make this in the evening, and let it rise slowly overnight.
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- Large baking tray 40 x 30 cm
- 400 ml tepid water
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 10 g honey or sugar
- 400 g bread flour (I used 00 flour)
- 25 ml olive oil
- 3 tbsp maldon's sea salt
For the brine
- 50 ml water
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 25 ml olive oil
1) In a bowl or jug (I use a Pyrex jug) mix the water, yeast and sugar/honey. Leave to froth.
2) In another bowl or food mixer, add the flour, salt and olive oil.
3) Mix the two together for five minutes.
4) Cover the bowl and leave overnight to rise.
5) The next morning, grease a baking tray with olive oil and pour the risen dough into it. Gently pull out the corners of the dough to spread it to the edges of the tray. Go back a couple of times and continue to pull. Eventually it will settle into the shape of the tray.
6) Preheat the oven to 235Cº
7) Using the finger pads of your first three fingers, make deep dips or holes all over the surface of the foccaccia.
8) Make the brine by mixing the water and salt together until the salt is dissolved. Stir in the olive oil and mix well. Pour all over the surface of the focaccia and it will sink into the holes.
9) Bake for 15 minutes until the top is golden. Remove from the oven. Turn out onto a cooling grid to retain the crunchiness. Brush bottom and top with more olive oil and scatter Maldon's salt on top.
10) Serve immediately. It's good for that day. The following days it becomes even chewier so I use it for the next recipe, a panzanella salad.
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At a thrifty cook who keeps an efficient pantry, I love recipes that use up stale ingredients. This is a great summer salad, rather like a pre-blended gazpacho. Buy the best tomatoes you can. This salad can be made the night before.
- 1 red onion, finely sliced in half moons, soaked in oil or water then drained if you want them to have less sting
- 500 g ripe tomatoes, chopped ( I keep the seeds. I like the seeds)
- 1/2 clove garlic, grated or minced
- 1 tbsp heaped, of capers, chopped
- pinch caster sugar
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
- 75 ml olive oil
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 300 g large section of focaccia or other italian bread, torn into chunks
- bunch fresh basil leaves
1) Prep the onions, tomatoes, garlic, capers, and place into a bowl.
2) Add the vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper.
3) Add the bread, mixing thoroughly, so that the bread soaks up the juices.
4) Just before serving, add the basil leaves.
Kerstin blogs at msmarmitelover.com
You can follow her on Twitter and instagram at msmarmitelover