Warm focaccia, drowned in grassy extra virgin olive oil and topped with an array of beautiful Italian antipasti, this is the stuff of lazy lunches, everything on the table and all your family and friends gathered around dipping in.
I love the very subtle nutty flavour that comes through with spelt flour and it works really well in bread and pasta recipes. It has become popular of late for it’s lower gluten content, which makes it easier on digestion. This also means that it requires almost no kneading, so it is very easy to work with.
For the focaccia, sieve the flour into a large bowl and stir in the salt (if it is in flakes crush it between your fingers so it fine) and yeast, ensuring everything is well mixed together. Make a well in the centre and add in the warm water, olive oil and maple syrup all at once and bring together with a wooden spoon to form a wet and sticky dough. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Once the dough has risen a little, cover one hand with a little olive oil to prevent sticking, then pull the edges of the dough away from the side of the bowl, pick it up completely and firmly slap it back down into the bowl. Pick up the side of the dough and fold it over on itself, turning the bowl a quarter turn at a time. Repeat this process for 2 minutes, using a little more oil to prevent sticking if necessary. Cover the bowl again and leave for about an hour or until almost double in size.
Generously oil a baking sheet, pull the dough out of the bowl onto the tray and press it into a rough oblong shape. Leave to prove for a final 45 mins to an hour, until almost doubled in size again.
Preheat the oven to 220C, 200C fan. When the dough has risen again, use your fingertips to firmly dimple the dough, adding a little sprig of rosemary to each dimple and dotting the halved tomatoes around the surface. Lightly drizzle over a little olive oil and sprinkle over some sea salt, then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. To check it is cooked, turn the focaccia on its side and tip the bottom, it should sound hollow.
Leave to cool for long enough that it doesn’t burn your hand when tearing into it, serve warm with your favourite selection of antipasti from the list above, or indeed anything else that takes your fancy.
Yield: 6 Servings
For the focaccia
500g white spelt flour
2 tsp sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 7g sachet of fast action yeast
1 tsp maple syrup
400ml warm water
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
8 – 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
Sun dried tomatoes
Roast red peppers
Parma or Serrano ham
Small bunch of basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil