Nigel Slater’s Recipes for Olive and Rosemary Focaccia and Roasted Eggplant and Candied Lemon Sandwiches | Food
IIt was a week of scorching sunshine, bees on tufts of thyme poking through cracks in the pavement, lunches al fresco, our olive-oily fingers tearing thick sheets of focaccia passing around the table.
The focaccia was enriched with chopped rosemary and green olives. The whole loaf smelled of the deepest summer and we ate it with roasted peppers and marinated anchovies that glistened silver in the sun. I baked this bread the day I made the dough and it rises well, with a nice airy texture, but best (if you have time) is to make the dough the day before and let it rise overnight in the fridge. The slow rise seems to give the finished bread a better flavor.
Herbs are added at the last stage, before the second rise of the dough. Herbs with tough stems will survive the heat of the oven: thyme, rosemary and – if you grow your own – summer savory. Focaccia will make it well to a picnic or survive happily in a lunch box, but also makes an interesting sandwich, sliced horizontally to make two large sheets of bread, then topped with roasted and peeled peppers, basil leaves, arugula and – if you like – thinly sliced salami.
I made a sandwich filling, as the oven was on anyway, of roasted eggplant with garlic and finely chopped candied lemon, the seasoned oil from the roasting pan dipping into the bread. I overdid it a bit, so we ate it as a side the next day. If you have the chance, I recommend leaving the stuffed sandwiches under a weighted cutting board, encouraging the filling to penetrate the holey crumb of the bread and so that the two parts – the bread and its succulent filling – do not be one.
Focaccia with olives and rosemary
If you have a sourdough starter, add a few tablespoons with the olive oil at the start. The bread will keep, wrapped in foil or cling film, for a day, after which you can cut it in half horizontally and toast the cut sides, then place the sliced tomatoes and basil oil on the top. For 4 people
Hot water 400ml
easy to bake dry yeast 2 teaspoons
sea salt 1 teaspoon
caster sugar 1 teaspoon
strong white bread flour 500g
olive oil 6 tbsp, plus a little more
green or lemon-marinated olives 125g, stoned
Rosemary leaves 1 tbsp
sea salt flakes to finish
You will also need a high sided cake tin, approximately 34cm x 24cm
Put the water and yeast in a large mixing bowl and add the salt and sugar. Incorporate the flour by hand or with a wooden spatula. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and lightly mix into the batter. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and refrigerate overnight. (The dough will need a good 8 hours.)
The next day, when the dough has risen slightly (don’t expect it to be as high as if you had risen in a warm place), cut the olives in half and chop the rosemary leaves and toss to the batter with another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Lightly oil the cake tin and pour the batter into the tin. Push the dough to fit the mold with your fist, gently pushing it almost into the corners – it will puff up on the second rise – then wrap the mold in a cloth and place it in a warm place for a good hour, maybe two, until he’s doubled in size.
Set the oven to 220°C/thermostat 8. When the oven is ready, use a floured finger to poke several indentations in the dough, then lightly sprinkle the surface with flakes of fleur de sel and bake for 30 minutes until let them be golden. Remove from the oven, pour the remaining oil on the surface, then unmold with a spatula.
Roasted Eggplant and Candied Lemon Sandwiches
A juicy filling for sandwiches, but also a good side dish for grilled lamb chops. Once cooked and dressed, the eggplants will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for several days. It is essential to check that the aubergines are well cooked before removing them from the heat. Open the flesh with a spoon – it should be completely soft and almost translucent with olive oil. For 4 people
eggplant 3 medium to large (about 800g)
olive oil 4 tablespoons
Garlic 3 cloves
lemon confit 1, small
basil sheets 12
focaccia 1, see previous page
rocket 2 handles
Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, place them cut side up, then incise a deep latticework of grooves into the flesh. Be careful not to cut through the skin.
Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a shallow skillet over medium heat. Add the eggplants cut side up, put the unpeeled garlic cloves around them, then let the eggplants fry for 4-5 minutes until the cut sides start to turn a pale golden color. You may need to do this in two pans or in relays. Turn the aubergines using a spatula then pour 100 ml of water into the pan. (Keep a lid handy to deal with spills.)
Cover with a lid, lower the heat and continue cooking for 10 minutes until the eggplant flesh is tender and silky. Check that it is well cooked by gently removing the flesh with a spoon.
Remove from heat and let cool. Lift the garlic cloves from the pan, scrape their flesh from the skins and put them in a bowl. Mash the cloves into a paste with a spoon or fork. Using a tablespoon, slide the eggplant flesh from its skin into the garlic bowl. Pour in the juices from the pan – there won’t be much – then mash it with a fork.
Remove and discard the flesh from inside the candied lemon, then chop the skin very finely. Add to eggplant. Shred the basil leaves and stir in. Taste for seasoning. You may need a little black pepper.
To garnish the focaccia: using a long sharp bread knife, cut the bread in half vertically to obtain two rectangles then cut each in half horizontally. Remove the top half of each, then cover the bottom half with the mashed eggplant and arugula leaves. Place top halves on top and gently press down. Leave to rest for a good half hour, the time that the juice soaks into the bread, then cut it into slices at the table.
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