Summer holiday series: 3. Summer spaghetti with zucchini and cherry tomatoes

Having polished off the Red Capsicum-Tomato dip and walnut bread very quickly, we got to work on the main and dessert. This recipe for summer spaghetti is one I made up as I went. My partner and his mum physically put this together so I won’t take credit for it. My contributions were the the roasting of the vegetables and calling out the ingredients off the top of my head while beating egg whites for dessert. It was a lot of fun working together in the lovely kitchen and the end result was yummy!

While one would typically grate/shave parmesan over spaghetti, we thought we’d use the local cheeses Cabecou and Rocamadour instead.They are little, round, lovely sheep and goat’s milk cheeses. Easy to digest and very very tasty – better still, we bought it straight from the “Fermier” or farmer at the local market. You can have it on your sandwich, in an omlette, over pasta or just on its own. I’ll have to go on a hunt for some in England – Maybe Ocado will have it !

I’ll stop my banter now and give you the recipe. Hope you try it and if you like it, do let me know at canwehavesomerasam@gmail.com 🙂

Summer spaghetti…

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Easy foccaia two ways: Pear and blue cheese or caramelised onion and goat’s cheese

I’m afraid this one isn’t vegan friendly. Every imaginable kind of dairy-fat is included in this recipe. The end product however, is delicious and it disappears within minutes of making it to the kitchen table.

The original recipe was given to me by a girl I shared my office with. She printed an extra copy and rather than throw it away, she recycled it to me. I tried the bread recipe soon after and it was excellent so it was safely filed into my cooking book. The original recipe calls for blue cheese, pine-nuts and onion but I’ve made some modifications here to suit my taste (I’m a blue cheese wuss though my partner likes it). The dough for this bread is really soft and elastic and a lot of fun to work with. Don’t worry if the shape of the bread isn’t great or some of the filling oozes out as the end result is always fantastic.

Easy foccacia: Onion and Goat’s cheese or Pear and blue cheese

Ingredients (Yields approximately 16 slices, each  1.5 cm thick):

2 cups strong flour (super-fine flour that is usually used to bake bread)

1 teaspoon of dry active yeast (5-7 gms or half a sachet)

3 teaspoons of  honey

2 tablespoons of olive oil

40 gms of unsalted butter, softened

50-70 gms of strong blue cheese (Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola. If you are a blue-cheese wussy like me, Bleu d’Auvergne might be more up your alley)

50-70 gms of soft goat’s cheese (like chevre)

2 tablespoons toasted pinenuts

2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, skinned and chopped

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 large pear, halved and thinly sliced (see pictures 8 & 9)

2 teaspoons of sugar

Method:

1. In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon of honey in warm water. Add 1/3 cup or 50gms of flour, yeast and mix well. Allow to froth for 15-30 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, add the remaining flour. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture in once it has frothed. Mix with your hands until the dough comes together.

3. Flip the contents of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. The test for this is if you pinch a bit of dough between your thumb and pointing finger and pull, the dough should spring back to where it came from.

4.Wash, dry and  oil the bowl you used originally and place the dough back in it. Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and allow to rise until it doubles in size (picture 1). If it is winter or a cold day, turn the oven onto 50ºC while you are kneading the dough. Then turn the oven off and place the kneaded, covered dough in the oven to rise. Works like a charm every time.

5. In the time that the dough is rising, prepare the filling and topping.

6a. Sauté the onions in a teaspoon of oil. As the onions collapse and get all shiny, add the 2 teaspoons of sugar and mix in (picture 4). Optionally, add a teaspoon of caraway seeds that give the onions a sweet smell as well as taste. If you don’t know what they are or dislike them, best to stay away.

6b. Melt the remaining 2 teaspoons of honey in a small bowl and toss the pear slices in to lightly coat them with honey.

7. For the filling – take two small bowls and divide the softened butter between them. In one, add the toasted, chopped hazelnuts and blue cheese and in the other, add the goats cheese and pinenuts. Mix each lot until it looks uniform.

8. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and roll it into a smooth ball (picture 5). Divide the ball into two smaller balls and roll them until they are smooth.

9. Using a rolling pin, flatten each ball and try and coax it into a somewhat rectangular shape (picture 6). You can see how I haven’t been super successful with mine but as I said, it will work in the end.

10. Add your filling on one half of the flattened dough, 2cms from the remaining edges. This is to give you enough dough to fold over the filling.

11. Folding :

a. Bring the half of the dough that doesn’t have any filling over the half that does have the filling.

b. Imagine that you are closing the cover of a book over it. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly aligned.

c. Now that the book is closed, fold the ragged edges in towards the centre  and press down with your hands.

d. This is to seal the filling in and make the bread more rectangular. It will mean that the edges are slightly thicker than the centre but that’s OK.

e. Finally, flip the bread onto it’s tidier side where you cannot see any of the not-so-pretty folding.

f. With a sharp knife, make angular slashes on top of the dough to let out any steam that might build up during the baking process.

g. The end product will look like picture7.

h. Repeat  steps 10 and 11 for the other filling and the other half of the dough.

12. Preheat your oven to 200ºC. Place the foccacias on a flat baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 8-10 minutes until slightly golden brown (picture 8).

13. Add the toppings – either the caramelised onion or honeyed pears and bake for a further 5 minutes until you see the edges go golden brown (picture 9).

14. Cut the bread into this slices and serve while they are warm and just out of the oven.

15. The two “loaves” give us enough for dinner and lunch the next day as we eat it as a main rather than a side.

16. The goat’s cheese one was my favourite!

Tips:

1. The hazelnut and blue cheese wasn’t the greatest combination. Hazelnuts were too crunchy for the dish. I would stick to the softer pinenuts for both variations.

2. The pears weren’t naturally very sweet and didn’t do a very good job of cutting through the salty blue cheese despite the extra honey. Do taste your pears before you add them to this dish.

Easy foccacia: Onion and Goat’s cheese or Pear and blue cheese
Kneaded dough has risen 2. Roasted hazelnuts 3. Blue cheese, hazelnuts and melted butter + Goat’s cheese, pinenuts and melted butter
4. Sauté red onions until caramelised 5. Turn the risen dough into a ball and divide into two 6. Roll the dough out and spread the filling on one half of
the dough 7. Fold the dough around the filling, flip the bread and make gashes on the top to let out steam 8. Top the half-baked bread with either
onions or pear and bake again to completion 9. Foccacia, ready to share.

Quick dinner series: With olive bread and soft goat’s cheese

I think I have confessed before that I am a slow cook. Cooking relaxes me and is my unwind at the end of the working day and so I take my own sweet time at it. However, we all have those days when we just can’t be bothered and I’m no exception. I still like to pretend I’ve put some effort into my dinner and try and jazz up our dinners even if they are simple. Here I present one such pretence with olive bread and goat’s cheese. They were dinners on 2 consecutive days. Easy and tasty!

Please note: I love avocado (much to my partner’s dismay) and will throw it on everything I can but please don’t feel obliged to.

a. Toasted bread spread with goat’s cheese, topped with mushrooms sautéed with thyme and finished off with fresh tomatoes and avocado
b. Toasted bread spread with goat’s cheese, topped with a salad of tomatoes, olives, croutons, avocado, olive oil and lemon juice and served with fresh rocket.

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