Sunday 19 August 2018

Easy soda red onion, olive and rosemary focaccia

Serves 10-12

You will need:

A good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, about 50-75ml (2-3fl oz), plus extra for greasing

450g (1lb) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tsp salt

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)

400ml (14fl oz) buttermilk, or sour milk (for dairy-free, see tip, below right)

1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges

12 pitted black or green olives

a few sprigs of rosemary, broken into 12 little pieces

Sea salt flakes, to sprinkle

One 33 x 23cm (13 x 9in) Swiss roll tin


This simple focaccia, full of Provencal flavours, is a great accompaniment to summer salads or autumnal soups. It is a blend of an Irish soda bread and an Italian focaccia, and uses bicarbonate of soda for a quick but still delicious result. Eat while fresh and warm; it can be popped back into the oven to reheat after baking.

1 Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F) Gas mark 8. Brush the inside of the Swiss roll tin generously with olive oil. Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl, then make a well in the centre. Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk or sour milk, whichever you're using, in at once. Using one hand, shaped like a claw, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more buttermilk or sour milk, if necessary. The dough should be soft and sticky.

2 When it all comes together, turn it out on to a floured work surface and turn it over in the flour once, but make sure not to knead it in any way or you will make it tough. Gently roll it out so that it will fit into the tin. Transfer to the prepared tin using both your hands.

3 Make dimples in the dough using the tips of your fingers, to make little wells for the olive oil. Scatter the onion wedges, the olives and the rosemary sprigs over the dough, pressing them all down gently so that they don't fall off the bread when it is baked. Drizzle generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt.

4 Bake for 25-30 minutes. The bread should be golden on the top and underneath. If the bread is a good golden colour but is not fully cooked, reduce the oven temperature to 200°C (400°F) Gas mark 6 and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Drizzle a little more olive oil over the top of the cooked, hot loaf. Turn out and leave to cool slightly on a wire rack before serving. Tip: You can use a plant-based milk such as almond milk or rice milk, but add 1 tablespoon vinegar (such as white wine vinegar) and leave it to stand for 2 minutes before using.

Sunday Independent

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