To put it simply, I was having major withdrawal symptoms after gorging on focaccia everyday for 5 days and then going cold turkey for 2 weeks. I woke up today just KNOWING that I had to put an end to this deprivation.

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Focaccia served when I was on holiday

Focaccia is one of Italy’s gifts to the flat bread world and it is pronounced foh-cacha.

Usually I avoid making yeast based baked foods but today, I took the bull by the horn like a brave matador and I cowed this Leviathan. At the end of it all, I couldn’t quite believe how easy and relatively fuss free the whole process was and the results were uh-mah-zing!

Right now in my head I have nothing less than 500 hundred varieties that I intend to bake before 2014 runs out.

Here’s the recipe, simple and easy. The fluffy softness of the bread belies the lack of butter in this recipe, yes you heard me right, not an ounce of butter!

I hope the step by step guide will encourage you to make this bejeweled fluffiness.

Ingredients
2 teaspoons rapid-rising dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Cornmeal, for dusting

Toppings:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove (cut in half horizontally and roasted)
1/4 cup slivered sun dried tomato
1 tablespoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dry rosemary
2 tablespoons dry chives

Directions
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, proof the yeast by combining it with the warm water and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve.

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Let stand 3 minutes until foam appears.

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Turn mixer on low and slowly add the flour to the bowl. Dissolve salt in 2 tablespoons of water and add it to the mixture then pour in 1/4 cup olive oil.

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When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium. Stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook.

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Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary. I ended up using 3 3/4 cups; it’s really up to you but be sure not make the dough too dense, do not exceed 4 cups.

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Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold over itself a few times.

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Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn’t form a skin.

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Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and put in a warm place (I used my oven after warning it for a minute) until doubled in size; about 45 minutes.

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Coat a sheet pan with a little olive oil and dust with corn flour. Once the dough is doubled and domed, turn it out onto the counter. Roll and stretch the dough out to an oblong shape about 1/2-inch thick.

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Lay the flattened dough on the pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes.

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Now time to prep the toppings.

To be honest you can pretty much use whatever catches your fancy on this bread but I kept mine simple this time around.

You could roast the garlic ahead of the dough preparation, by simply halving a whole clove of garlic without peeling it. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes in the oven. Alternatively you can peel and the chop garlic and sautรฉe in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil over low heat.
I had some roasted garlic to hand already from a whole roast chicken I made yesterday.

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Preheat oven to 185 degrees C. Uncover the dough and poke with your fingertips giving the dough lovely dimples for the olive oil and garlic topping to nestle in.

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Brush the surface with more olive oil and then add roasted or sautรฉed garlic, sundried tomatoes, chives, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

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Bake on the bottom rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Watch it closely after the 15minute mark to ensure it doesn’t burn.

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It was thrilling to see the final results. The sundried tomatoes and garlic were like rubies and pearls studding the bread.

We had focaccia sandwich for brunch and every single person loved it; the munchkins included! It was worth every single minute!

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After this meal we all took naps! Lol!

FFF Tip of the Day: Don’t be afraid to customize the toppings for this recipe. Just ensure that you keep the flavours balanced.

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On this lazy Saturday morning, after an exhausting week of living in the gloom and doom of a nationwide petrol shortage,……..pause……for any reader who is not Nigerian, I live in wonderful country where issues like petrol scarcity and low electricity supply are just a few of the issues we contend with regularly……I decided that the pate brisee that had been languishing in the back of my fridge should come to good use. I blind baked it a few days ago and just hadn’t had time to do some thing with it.

Remember it was a lazy Saturday morning so there was no question of going out to shop. As I rummaged through my cupboard, fridge and pantry I gathered the following items

10 Eggs
1/2 cup Dried shiitake mushrooms (you can use fresh)
1 small White onion
4 pieces of Cheese (I used a cheese spread that comes in small triangular parcels)
4 tbs Cream
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbs chopped sun dried tomatoes
2 tbs chopped chives (from my herb garden)
2 tbs chopped basil (from my herb garden)
2 tbs butter
1 blind baked pastry crust (please see my Easy as Pie Part 2 post if you’re making your pastry from scratch and to learn about how to blind baked pastry)

The whole thing was easy enough to throw together.

Preheat your oven to 140 degrees centigrade.

Chop the onion and stir fry in a pan with butter until tender. Follow the instructions for rehydrating the mushrooms (usually boiling for a few minutes) drain chop and add to onion; if using fresh just wash, chop and add directly to the pan.

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Chop sun dried tomatoes and add to the happy family being established in your pan. Stir for a minute ensuring that the pan doesn’t burn or over heat. Season with black pepper and salt. Turn off the heat and set aside.

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Break 10 eggs in a medium sized bowl and add about 4 tbs of heavy cream, whisk well. Then add chopped chives and basil to the egg mix and incorporate properly. Now carefully add the happy sautรฉed mushroom, onion and tomato family to the bowl and stir.

Pour the mixture into your pie crust, careful not to overfill it as the egg will rise slightly. Next, scatter the cheese (roughly crumbled) over the surface of the egg mixture in the pie crust. I used my son’s cheese spread which is all I had on hand. On a good day I would use a more civilized soft mild cheese but today was not the day.

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Put in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the egg is just set in the middle. Allow the cool slightly and dig in! ๐Ÿ™‚

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I must say that the first mouthful delivered a burst of flavours! The earthiness of the mushroom paired with the onion and chives beautifully and the tomatoes and the basil were just so happy to connect with each other; the floral herby basil was nice ying to the yang of the sweet intense sun dried tomatoes. And to cap it off the mild soft cheese tied it all together by adding extra creaminess and balance. Let’s just say that I had a savory party in my mouth.

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In case you were wondering, I didn’t have time for my usual fancy shmancy plating. I scoffed the piece very ungainfully. Hey! Hubby is out of town so there was no need for the bells and whistles. Besides, with the little ones swarming around me it would have be a futile exercise ๐Ÿ™‚

FFF Top Tip: when making pate brisee or short crust pastry for savory dishes such as a quiche leave out the sugar or reduce the quantity.

May 26, 2014 Update

Over Easter I made another quiche basically using the same recipe. But for a fun take I made mini tarts too. They were pretty and tasty. In fact they were pretty tasty! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Incredibly it is that time of year again, come this Friday, November would have rolled round and in my opinion that would mark the commencement of the end of the year.

With this period comes global festivities such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and New Year not to mention end of year office parties, awards and other such celebrations. These flurry of activities raises the question of FOOD; GLORIOUS FOOD.

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Usually, in Nigeria, The Christmas holidays conjures images of rice and chicken. And if you’re adventurous you might throw in some turkey. I say, step out of the box, burn it and explore other lush options of culinary wonders.

Instead of regular jollof rice, why not try my Thai style spicy jollof rice or maybe tasty easy one pot Dafaduka, give roast potatoes a rest and tackle the amazingly fragrant rosemary oven roasted yam. So you think that you just cannot dispense with chicken, then why not try some of my chicken piglets? Or give your whole roast chicken a fresh twist by infusing it with lemon and lemon grass. Breakfast shouldn’t be left out of the fun, there are fun crepes, pancakes and the like to explore. How about my marmalade filled French toast and zingy tangerine and blueberry compote to give your taste buds an exiting start. Make fun salads with unexpected ingredients.

Here are some of my holiday picks for the upcoming Holidays.

Marmalade filled French toast and zingy tangerine and blueberry compote.

Zingy start to any day

Zingy start to any day

Ingredients for marmalade filled french toast
4 slices of fresh soft bread
2 eggs
2/3 cups of milk
3 – 4 tablespoons of butter
marmalade

How To:

Combine egg and milk in a bowl and whisk until mixture is homogenous. Set aside.
Cover one slice of bread generously with marmalade and lay the other slice over it and pinch the edges closed. Steep in the milk and egg and milk wash and set aside.

In a pan melt the butter and add the immersed sandwich. Cook on each side until golden brown.

Ingredients for compote
This compote is a blueberry and tangerine compote
1 cup dry blueberries
1 cup tangerine juice
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cups of sugar
2 tangerine wedges (garnish)
Cocoa powder (optional garnish)
Mint (optional garnish)

How to

Soak blueberries in tangerine juice for 15 minutes. (If using fresh blueberries skip this step)
Add soaked blueberries and juice into a pan along with sugar and butter. Bring to a boil and the simmer for 6 – 7 minutes until mixture thickens slightly. Stir often.

Remove membrane from tangerine wedges and scoop out the pulp.
Plate up french toast. Place compote on the plate, scatter the tangerine pulp about the plate and finish off with a dusting of cocoa powder and a sprig of mint.

First stage of satisfactionIf you would prefer a more savoury affair for breakfast then barbecue chicken and veg filled crepe is the meal to try. The best part? It makes for a great brunch for those lazy days where you sleep in and can’t be bothered with an early meal.

Savoury delight for a great start to your day

Savoury delight for a great start to your day

Recipe:
Ingredients for crรจpes with barbecue chicken filling
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter, plus more for cooking crepes
Directions
Put the flour and salt and in a large mixing bowl. Gradually whisk in the milk. Whisk in the eggs, 1 at a time, and then whisk in the sugar, melted butter, and vanilla. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.Heat an 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Melt a small pat of butter in the pat and swirl around so that it lightly coats the surface.

Add 1/3 cup of the batter and move your wrist in a circular pattern to coat the pan with thin even layer of batter. Cook for about 1 minute or until the first side browns lightly, then flip and cook 45 seconds to 1 minute longer. Remove to a plate and repeat with remaining batter.

To make Chicken filling you need
1 ripe tomato
1/2 green pepper
1 tsp of chives
1 tsp basil
2 tbs oil
1 tbs BBQ sauce
1 cooked chicken thigh (see recipe for herbed chicken on my post Tomatoes, chicken and Mince, Oh My!
5 tbs of a cooked tomato sauce
1/2 chopped onion
1 chopped spring onion (garnish)

Heat the pan with oil, add onions and turn down the heat. Add the basil and chives then add tomato sauce, keep the heat low. Take the meat off the chicken bone and shred. Add to the pan along with BBQ sauce. Stir for a minute, add the tomatoes and chopped green pepper. Leave the heat on for another minute and turn it off.

Fill crรจpes and enjoy!

You could serve with a side of yoghurt to give the meal an extra boost.
Savoury crepes and a side of yoghurt

Savoury crepes and a side of yoghurt

Crepes and pancakes are fun and os easy to make. See BN Cuisine with Nkem: Delightful Crepes and Delicious Pancakes for more fun, easy, yummy recipes.
Worth waking up for

Worth waking up for

My Thai Style Spicy Jollof Rice is a pleasant twist to our Nigerian Jollof rice.

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Ingredients for Thai Style Spicy Jollof Rice

3 cups Basmati or Jasmine Rice

3 table spoons olive oil

1 canned chopped tomatoes

4 pieces of dry lemon grass

1 can coconut milk

1 big onion

3 cloves of garlic

2 table spoons of salt

3 table spoons sweet chilli sauce

1 table spoon dark soy sauce

2 table spoons freshly ground black pepper

2 table spoons chilli flakes (optional)

2 spring onions/ shallots (garnish)

The How:

Chop all vegetables and set aside in individual bowls.

In a pot heat olive oil and add onions and garlic. Be careful not to burn then, after about 3 minutes on medium heat, add the canned chopped tomatoes, allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the coconut milk, soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, black pepper, salt lemon grass. Simmer for another 10 mins. Depending on the instructions for cooking the rice you may have to allow the mixture cool first before introducing the raw rice. Cook until rice is tender. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Garnish with chopped spring onions after serving.

Serves 4

birthday lunchFor your chicken roast, freshen it up by adding lemons and lemon grass to the stuffing. For a step by step guide, visit my Facebook page.

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Want a different take on potatoes? Try hassel back potatoes and Marsala chicken or fragrant rosemary roasted yams and chicken

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Salads get a raw deal (lol, pun intended) but they can be delightful accompaniments to meals. With a few unexpected ingredients like Ube or flowers from chives you can really make a salad the focal point on your table.

20130923-181242.jpgTomato canapeSee recipes for these delectable salads on my post “Nigerian flair to the everyday Nigerian fair”

What festive season is complete without dessert? NONE! There are so many simple recipes that are amazing to eat and fuss free to make. My go choices are homemade no churn ice cream and my banana bread varieties. My facebook page has all the recipes you need. The ice cream was inspired by a recipe I saw on Nigella Lawson’s website and I have adapted mine to make so many delicious varieties.

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Homemade icecream and banana breadNeed I say that there is a wealth of options to explore on the gastronomical landscape.

If you would like some help with bringing some interesting variations to your dining table over the holidays, kindly contact me and I’ll be happy to provide a special one-of-a-kind service to you.