It’s possible that this will be the first and only recipe I’ll ever share with you, but it’s a goodie and has been a lifesaver over the years. I’m a reluctant cook and love to have a few cheeky tricks up my sleeve. When I say I’m a reluctant cook, preparing a meal for guests generally involves either not inviting them in the first place and appearing to be deeply antisocial or inviting them followed by a tiny meltdown, a sense of impending doom and dirtying virtually the entire contents of my kitchen cupboards.
The end result is a kitchen which looks like it’s been hit by a tornado. I also look like I was in the kitchen when the tornado swept through, frazzled, ruffled, food stained and crazy eyed. If I’m lucky, there will be a passable meal for our guests at the end of the kitchen chaos. …See why this could be the one and only recipe?
Despite constant gentle reminders from my culinary superior husband to ‘tidy up as you go along’ and that ‘prior planning and preparation prevents p*ss poor performance’ and that I should ‘cook with love’ I still get my oven mitts in a twist almost every time.
When we lived in Lagos, the selection and variety of restaurants was limited, so dinner parties were a
popular form of entertainment regular form of torture. To make hosting a dinner party more challenging, Lagos was a particularly tricky place to find all the ingredients to complete a recipe. This added to the torturous drama of producing a fabulous dinner. At one point we expats gals got together and shared our most ‘Lagos Friendly’ recipes, ones that were tasty and that you could reliably get all the ingredients for (or at least enough of the ingredients to make a decent go of it).
Action Barbie’s* Failsafe Focaccia is one of those recipes, it is in fact one of the most impressive tried and tested recipes I’ve ever got my mitts on. It is dead simple to make, it smells and tastes divine and so far I’ve been able to source the ingredients wherever in the world we’ve been living. Win, win, WIN.
So, here’s how to make it…
Flour 2 cups
Water 1 cup lukewarm
Yeast 7gm sachet
Salt A pinch
Olive Oil A healthy drizzle
Rock Salt A sprinkle
Rosemary 2-5 sprigs
The yeast was the trickiest ingredient to secure in Lagos. If you spotted it in the supermarket, you would buy every single sachet on the shelf (because I guarantee you, if you didn’t somebody else would swoop in and scoop up the lot before closing time).
- Mix the flour, water, salt and yeast together.
- Knead the dough. I’ll be honest here – there are times I’ve spent 20 minutes diligently kneading and others when I’ve been racing the clock and quickly slapped it about a bit for 30 seconds. The result wasn’t noticeably different to the untrained eye.
- Cover your carefully kneaded/slapped about dough ball with a tea towel for around 1 hour to let the yeast do its clever business. Your ball of dough should double in size.
- Uncover your expanded dough ball and use the wrong end of a wooden spoon to prod dimples across the surface. These dimples are great for capturing the grains of rock salt that you are going to sprinkle on top and also form tiny olive oil lakes when you drizzle it liberally across the dough’s surface.
- Lastly pop a few of sprigs of Rosemary on top before you pop it in the oven.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes at 220C/430F.
As the bread is baking, the rosemary will work its magic and as your dinner guests arrive, they will almost certainly start drooling and be instantly impressed at the aroma wafting from your kitchen and the great effort that they will believe you to have gone to. Be a good host and poor them a large glass of something and you are well on your way to masking the fact that you are chaos in the kitchen.
When the oven pings, slide your focaccia onto a pretty wooden board, slice it and serve immediately with a dip of your choice (I normally stick to the classic and unscrewupable olive oil and balsamic vinegar).
Et voila, Action Barbie Failsafe Focaccia. Enjoy and let me know if you try it and like it.
*Action Barbie, you know who you are. Thank you for sharing this recipe all those years ago. Pickle is a bread snob. He loves it and calls it ‘Special Bread’. Sweetpea doesn’t like it, which means all the more for the rest of us. I also know that our friend with the rhyming name still makes this in Dubai. It is also the ONLY recipe my mother has EVER asked me for. xx