Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Black grape focaccia

I have previously added blackberries to my sweet focaccia, but black grapes are more traditional. This is excellent with a fresh, mild cheese.

Serves 8
strong white bread flour - 450g
easy bake yeast - 1 sachet (7g, 2 teaspoons)
sea salt - a teaspoon
olive oil - a tablespoon
caster sugar - a tablespoon
warm water - 350ml

for the topping:
sweet, black grapes - 400g
olive oil - 2 tablespoons
caster sugar - 2 tablespoons
a little icing sugar

Put the flour in a large bowl, add the yeast, the sea salt (if you are using coarse salt, crush it finely first) then oil, sugar and warm water. Mix with a wooden spoon then turn the dough out onto a generously floured board. Knead the dough lightly for five minutes or so. You need not be too enthusiastic. A gentle pummelling will suffice.
         Once the dough feels elastic and ‘alive’ then put it into a floured bowl, cover with a clean cloth or clingfilm, then put it somewhere warm to rise. It will take approximately an hour to double in size. Once it has, then punch it down again, knocking some of the air out. Tip it into a suitable baking tin or sheet, about 28cms in diameter. Gently knead half of the grapes into the dough, scattering the remaining ones on top. Set the oven at 220˚C/Gas 7.
         Cover the dough once more and return it to a warm place to rise. Once it has expanded to almost twice its size, then drizzle over the olive oil, scatter with the remaining sugar and bake for 35-40 minutes till well-risen, golden brown and crisp on top. It should feel springy when pressed. Leave to cool slightly before dusting with icing sugar. Cut into thick wedges and eat whilst it is still warm. It will not keep for more than a few hours.

Peaches with lemon verbena

A simpler treatment than for apricots, just fresh verbena leaves and sugar, this does wonders for the fruit. Something to serve alongside cups of green tea in the afternoon. (You can use dried verbena leaves too, but they lack a little of the magic of the fresh herb.)

serves 3
small peaches – 6
water - 250mls
lemon verbena – 10 large leaves
sugar – 3 tablespoons

Put the peaches in a small saucepan with the water, leaves and sugar and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and leave to simmer for seven to ten minutes till the peaches are soft. Leave to cool, then chill thoroughly before serving.

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