24 July 2011

Focaccia with Green Olives & Thyme

dairy free egg free nut free vegan

If you're not a bread baker, now's the time to learn. It's quite easily the most satisfying skill to have in the kitchen. 

I normally stud the olives on top, but this version with the olives mixed into the dough is even more appealing.

7g sachet instant yeast
300g strong flour (tipo 00)
75g semolina (or more flour if you don't have it)
1 cup green olives, pitted
250ml lukewarm water
1 tbsp salt 
2 tbsp olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in a quarter of the water and let sit for a few minutes. Gradually mix in the flour and water (as well as salt and oil) until you have a decent dough, then knead for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and elasticky. Let prove in an oiled and covered bowl in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size. 

Stretch onto a tray in a rough rectangle shape,  sprinkle with olives, roll up lengthways into a sausage shape then bring together into a ring (so there's not much of a hole) and join the ends firmly. Take a rolling pin (or you can do this with your hands) and roll the dough back out to a rectangle. Let prove for another 20 minutes while you preheat oven to 220 C. Dig your fingers into the dough to make the indentations, sprinkle with thyme leaves, drizzle more olive oil and sea salt, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

19 July 2011

Minestrone with Chickpeas & Farro

dairy free egg free nut free vegan

Ancient grains and seeds like farro and quinoa have had a renaissance in the last few years. Farro in particular is an Italian grain that was in danger of vanishing from production due to its strong husk that needed complex dehulling and milling machinery. Thankfully, the boom in organic produce and growing interest in wholefoods means we get better access to less processed, more nutritionally sound foods.  Farro is similar to pearl barley, but with a nuttier bite. It does contain gluten, though it is more easily digestible than most wheat grains. If you're gluten intolerant, you could substitute brown rice.

If you don't soak the farro first (overnight preferably), it will still cook in the recommended cooking time, though it will benefit from resting for a few hours to allow it to swell and absorb more liquid.

couple of tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 cup farro, rinsed (otherwise soaked overnight)
6 cups of veg/chicken stock or plain water

Fry onion, garlic, celery and carrots over medium heat until soft and browned slightly, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and cook for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes, bay, stock/water and bring to boil, then add chickpeas and farro, stirring well. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes until farro is tender.