Focaccia

Focaccia is one of the most famous Italian food. Here in the UK it can be found in many more or less artisanal bakeries and even in supermarkets. It is seldom good generally far too high and dense. Focaccia is  one of the most satisfying baked goodies to make at home: it is relatively easy and highly rewarding in terms of taste and texture.

This is one of the best focaccia recipes I have tasted in a long time. Its secret lies in the generous amount of oil and white wine in the dough. It is these ingredients that give this focaccia a full flavour, even if there is also a biga at work here. The inspiration came from Carol Field’s Focaccia book (via another splendid book: Recipes from Paradise, by Fred Plotkin), but I have consequently developed my own version, which I prefer. I have dramatically reduced the yeast and increased the time for the biga, from 1 hour to 12-14 hrs. I have also introduced 10% wholemeal flour, which I think gives the focaccia a more interesting crumb. Carol Field’s recipe uses white flour only and it is done and dusted over few hours (and it is very good, see notes), my version is over two days and I think it is even better. Continue reading

Pomodorini scattarisciati – crackling cherry tomatoes (Puglia)

It is now summer, or at least this is what the calendar says; it has been raining for days here in London and the sky is grey, an elegant pearly shade of grey, but grey nonetheless. Not fun. To raise my endorphins, I decided to make this Apulian tomato sauce, pomodorini scattarisciati, literally crackling tomatoes (in the local dialect) — vibrant, intensely tomatoey and uplifting.

The cherry tomatoes are fried in a rather indecent amount of oil, on high heat,  uncovered until they start bursting. Continue reading

Pizza rustica alla napoletana – a Neapolitan Easter “pizza”

All over the world the word “pizza” usually refers to a slab of hot bread dough topped with savoury bits and pieces. However, in Italian cookery, and particularly in Southern Italian cookery, “Pizza” also means “pie”: one can talk of a “pizza di ricotta”, for instance, a sweet ricotta pie or of a “pizza di scarola”, a savoury pie with an escarole filling. One of the best of these pizza-pies is “pizza rustica”, Continue reading

Caponata di zucca (Sicilian sour-sweet butternut squash caponata)

Sicilian caponata di melanzane is very famous, however it is not the only one. In fact, on a trip to Sicily and after reading the seminal “Profumi di Sicilia” by Giuseppe Coria,  I learnt that “caponata” is only a generic term used to describe a dish made of assorted cooked vegetables finished off with a sour sweet condiment, either sugar or honey and vinegar. Continue reading