Tag Archives: Italian

Focaccia

The last time I had focaccia was when Rich and I were in Italy, last year, and it was made by an Italian Mama outside a trulli on a Puglian hillside. The first thing that struck me about it was how wet her dough was; it was basically like a cake batter! It was cooked in a traditional pizza oven and was amazing. The sort of bread that you can’t (and don’t) want to stop eating.Suffice it to say, I didn’t really fancy making it.
Then, when I was watching the BBC’s “Great British Bake-Off” one of their technical challenges was to make focaccia. For anyone that has not seen the TV genius that is GBBO, this is when the contestants are given the outline of a recipe and they need to use their knowledge to fill in the gaps. It was amazing how many people didn’t add all of the water as they thought it was already wet enough. But to me, even those that did use all of the water didn’t have a wet enough dough. After watching it on the telly I decided that I should make focaccia and see what all of the fuss was about – so here is my recipe!

This is a bread waiting to go into the hot oven

Recipe: Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Dried Active Yeast
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil – Extra Virgin please…
  • 400ml Hand-Hot Water
  • 1 tsp Sugar (or honey)
  • 500g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • Addition Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt (as always I use Maldons)

Instructions

  1. With the yeast that I use you need to bring it back to life by warming it up and giving it some food. Therefore in a bowl add the water, sugar and yeast. Give it a stir and then leave it in a warm place to “wake-up” for about 15 minutes. Once there are bubbles over the surface you are ready for the next bit.
  2. Weigh out the flour and then mix in the salt in a large bowl. Give the yeast mixture a stir and add to the flour with the olive oil; mix everything thoroughly.
  3. Then you need to kind-of kneed the dough/batter which is easiest to do in the bowl using the sides to draw the mixture in.
  4. After about 10 minutes of this you will notice that the batter has changed consistency and feels silkiey – although it will never form one of those satisfying balls that normal bread turns into.
  5. Leave the mix in the bowl covered in a tea-towel or oiled cling film in a warm place for about an hour until it has doubled in size.
  6. Knock the dough back and kneed for about five minutes on a thoroughly oiled surface – make sure that your hands are also oiled.
  7. Shape the mix into a well oiled roasting tin. I used my large shallow one which is about 12 inches by 20.
  8. Leave in a warm place to prove for about another hour.
  9. After this time poke at the dough with your fingers to make the characteristic dimples, drizzle with yet more oil and sprinkle with salt.
  10. Put it into an oven at GM 7 for about 20 minutes, until it is golden brown.
  11. Serve with a tomato salad and east as soon as possible

Quick notes

Use a really good olive oil for this and you won’t be disappointed the flavour really comes through.

Variations

Add a sprinkling of chilli or herbs

Preparation time: 3 hour(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Number of servings (yield): 8

Culinary tradition: Italian

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Sun Dried Tomatoes

This is a great way to use up the glut of tomatoes that are inevitable at the end of the growing season. I believe that if you cover them in oil in an air tight container they will keep for several weeks but to be honest mine have never lasted long enough to test this!

Tomatoes - Ready for the drying in the oven

Recipe: Sun Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat a low oven about gas mark 2, 150 C or 300 F.
  2. Slice the tomatoes in half if they are cherries or quarters if they are larger.
  3. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and scatter garlic cloves halved.
  4. Put the tin in the oven for about an hour until the tomatoes have decreases in size and lost the majority of their water.
  5. When you are ready to eat them, season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh Italian bread such as focaccia.

Quick notes

I haven’t put any quantities in as it really depends on the amount of tomatoes that you have and the size of your tin.

Variations

You can add herbs to this such as thyme or oregano.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Culinary tradition: Italian

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Tomato Pasta Sauce

In my garden I always grow tomatoes. One of the reasons that I grow them is because they are relatively easy but also because so often you find the supermarket ones kept in the fridge. It seems crazy to me to buy a tomato that has been in the fridge as putting them in the there fundamentally changes their texture. They get that nasty cotton wool like texture which completely ruins my enjoyment.

Anyway, one of the issues with growing tomatoes is what to do when they all become ripe. I always sew too many, it doesn’t matter how much I try to stop myself I simply can’t resist growing at least two varieties; this year Gardeners Delight an easy cherry and Sungold a golden cherry both suitable for ripening in the English sunshine or lack there of. Obviously you can make a tomato salad but this sauce makes something more substantial and can easily be made in 20 minutes.

Sungold & Gardeners Delight Tomatoes

Recipe: Tomato Pasta Sauce

Summary: Simple fresh pasta sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 Tin of Anchovies
  • 400g Fresh Tomatoes
  • Dried Pasta – 60g per Person
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Pinch of Chilli Flakes (optional)
  • Handful of Basil Leaves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. In a shallow pan (I use my big sautéing pan which is a bit like a flat bottom wok) on a gentle heat melt the anchovies.
  2. Add the tomatoes, roughly chopped. Cook for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes break down. There will be a lot of juice that comes out of the tomatoes which will reduced and create an intensely tomatoey sauce.
  3. In a pan of boiling, well salted water add the pasta shape of your choice – for me it really depends on my mood and what I have in the cupboard.
  4. Add the garlic and chilli to the tomatoes, reduce the heat and cook until the pasta is ready. If your sauce becomes a bit dry add a little of the pasta water to loosen it.
  5. Just before you are going to serve add the torn basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I am currently using a peppery one from Puglia in the south of Italy.

Spaghetti with a Tomato Pasta Sauce

Quick notes

This tomato sauce is the starting point for so many of the traditional sauces. In fact by adding the chilli it goes from a simple pomadoro to arribatta.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Culinary tradition: Italian

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Courgette Pasta Recipe

This is one of the many recipes that I have devised to use up the massive glut of courgettes that you get in the summer time (if you grow them yourself or even if you have a veg box).

The inspiration came from the classic Italian pasta dish of broccoli and anchovies but I have added some dill to give it an additional dimension. In my mind there is no need to have any cheese with this dish but of course you can add it if you wish. At the weekend I will cook the onions for longer but during the week I don’t have over 30 minutes to wait for the onions to soften. To speed it up, I will cook them on a slightly higher heat and accept that they won’t have dissolved into a sweet puree and move on.

Romanesco and Gold Rush Varieties - Grown from Seed

Recipe: Courgette Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Tin of Anchovies
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 3 Courgettes – Thinly Sliced
  • 1 Clove of Garlic – Finely Chopped
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Dill – Roughly Chopped
  • Dried Pasta – I like Orecchiette but any shape will do

Instructions

  1. Add the anchovies, with their oil, into a pan on a gentle heat.
  2. Soften the onions in the melting anchovies with a lid on for about 15 minutes.
  3. Add the sliced courgette and garlic, stir thoroughly and replace the lid. Cook for a further 15 minutes on a low heat.
  4. Put the pasta into plenty of rapidly boiling salted water; this should take about 10 minutes.
  5. Keep stirring the courgettes, after the pasta has been cooking for 5 minutes add a ladle of the pasta water to the courgette mixture. The pasta water helps to stop the courgettes drying out and also brings the flavours of the sauce together.
  6. When the pasta is cooked, strain it and drizzle with extra virgin oil in its colander. Make sure that you put colander over the cooking pan to catch any of the starchy oil.
  7. Tip the pasta into courgette mix, add the dill. If it’s a bit dry, add some of the starchy oil in the cooking pan and some additional olive oil.

Quick notes

You can speed this dish up by putting the heat up and stirring constantly. It won’t be as subtle as if you have cooked it slowly, but it will be lovely all the same. I use a mix of varieties of courgettes as that is what I grow. I do believe that they do have more flavour than the shop bought ones but they do work as well.

Variations

I sometimes add some other greens, like broccoli or kale, into this. It also works well if you add a little bit of chilli at the beginning, not to make it spicy but to give it a subtle kick.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 – 60 minute(s)

Diet type: Pescatarian

Number of servings (yield): 2

Culinary tradition: Italian

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Pumpkin Pasta

One of the main reasons that I started growing pumpkins in my garden was to be able to make this pasta dish – plus the fact that they are delicious, very low in calories and expensive in the This dish tastes like it has cream in it but the only fat is milk (I use semi-skimmed) and a little butter to cook the onions.

All of the ingredients needed for the pasta sauce

Recipe: Pumpkin Pasta

Summary: Quick and easy sage and pumpkin pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 Medium Onion Sliced
  • 25g Butter
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic – Finely Chopped
  • 6 Sage Leaves
  • 1 Medium Pumpkin – Chopped into 1 inch chucks (I used Red Kuri as it’s one of the varieties in my garden)
  • 1 Cup of Milk
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Spaghetti or Linguine to serve

Instructions

  1. Cook the onion in the butter on a medium to low heat for about 10 minutes until it is softened
  2. Add the sage and the garlic and cook for about 1 minute
  3. Add the pumpkin, stir and then add the milk and bring to the boil
  4. Simmer for about 15 minutes stirring to stop the sauce catching on the bottom of the pan. The sauce will break up into a slightly lumpy puree. Season to taste and mix in freshly cooked (buttered if you wish) pasta and serve.
  5. You can add some cheese but due to the milk it’s already quite creamy. Don’t be tempted to add a drizzle of olive oil as this dish is a northern Italian – if you do want additional fat, add butter.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Number of servings (yield): 2

Culinary tradition: Italian

The finished dish

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Tomato Salad

Recipe: Classic Tomato Salad

Summary: This salad goes with most things and is great for bbqs; I haven’t put any quantities down as it depends on how many tomatoes you have.


Ingredients

  • Vine Ripened Tomatoes
  • 1 Medium Red Onion
  • Basil
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper

Instructions

  1. Slice the tomatoes and onions
  2. Layer the salad in a shallow bowl by placing the tomatoes, onions, torn basil leaves in turn; season each layer as you go
  3. Once you have used all of the ingredients drizzle generously with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar

Quick notes

To make the salad look its best, use the “best” tomato slices for the top; these are the biggest ones from the middle section

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time:

Diet type: Vegetarian / Vegan

Diet tags: Low calorie

Culinary tradition: Italian

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