Sunday, May 17, 2009

European Weekend

The cooking continued today for Andrew, Maria and little baby Edward (who is so cute!), and today the menu would consist of Spanakopita, which was requested, a normal gluten full bread and the flourless chocolate cakes with some different bases.

Andrew is very lucky because after cutting gluten out completely for a good couple of weeks, he slowly reintroduced it back into his diet and found that it wasn't what was upsetting him, but rather the culprit was spicy food. I wanted to celebrate by baking a gluten filled bread...focaccia.

I had attempted this for Easter but wasn't to impressed with that first attempt. It was not soft enough and was quite dense which I think was due to the short time I let the dough rise. This bread should be rising for at least 3 hours I would say, to get a good texture, which was good for me as I made the dough before going to beach training and then to the grocery store to buy ingredients for the other dishes. So by the time I actually made the bread it had risen for over 4hrs.

I decided to top it with a garlic and rosemary oil. I love having a thriving rosemary bush outside my house as it is perfect with so many things. I used my newish mortar and pestle which my Yiayia gave me as an early birthday present by mistake, which is large and marble. It ground the garlic, sea salt, rosemary and EVOO up so well, and after letting it sit for around 20 mins, the flavours really infused into the oil.

I didn't hold back pouring it into the groves I had made with my fingers, making little puddles of flavour, then 25 mins later it was done and the smells wafted all through the house. It was soft and after cutting it up I was so happy I was quite busy in the morning.

The bread tasted so good, light, fluffy and soft, and the best bit was dipping it straight out of the oven into the cold infused oil that was leftover.....what a treat! Of course I wanted to share it with my family while it was warm and since my Dad hadn't eaten lunch I decided to make him a nice focaccia sandwich, although he requested the toppings: bastouma; haloumi; proscuitto. I added some fresh tomato also to balance the flavours and add some sweetness to it.....I think he enjoyed it.

Ok next up was the spanakopita. I went out to the garden again to grab some fresh mint and parsley. This was pretty much a chuck it all in mixture. Rough measurements too. I threw in the ricotta, crumbled in the feta, chopped the shallots, herbs and the cooked and very well strained spinach and seasoning. I know spanakopita usually uses filo pastry but I improvised with what was in my freezer and used puff. It still turned out beautiful and golden and still gives that crunch like filo does........what can you do when you have no cash and Franklins EFTPOS machine's are down...

The layers were then piled, two on the bottom and two on the top, neatly folded over to achieve a nice clean lid, then into the oven it went. A good 50 minutes later it was golden and when I pulled up a little segment it was steaming and the aromas were heavenly. I think the single ingredient which makes this dish is the shallots. They are necessary in giving a nice bite to the mixture to break down its heavy dairy content.

As I said earlier I also remade the flourless chocolate cakes, but this time experimented with different bases. The almond was very nice but other nuts work much better with the richness of the chocolate like hazelnuts or walnuts. The almonds are a bit blander than the other nuts, as they are less oil and the flavours not as strong, so I added a little brown sugar to the mixture this time. Now it was up to Andrew and Maria to tell me which combination they liked best.

So I took the food over and while I played with Edward, they had dinner and loved it. I now understand how little time parents have to prepare food and eat as they always have to have their focus on the baby, so if my meal gives them a break for even half an hour, I am happy : )

Garlic & Rosemary Focaccia

*Makes two loaves

750g pleain flour ('00' if you have it
2 teaspoons of salt
1 2/3 cups of luke warm water
4 tsps dry yeast.
2 tablespoons EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

Infused Oil

1 cup EVOO
4 garlic cloves
2 lge stalks rosemary
1 tsp sea salt

1. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl then make a well.
2. Mix the yeast with the water and let stand for half an hour until it froths up a lot.
3. Pour the oil and the yeast mixture into the well and then mix to form the dough. Knead for 5-10 minutes or until the dough becomes elastic and springs back.
4. Cover the dough with baking paper and a blanket or tea towel and let it rise in a nice warm place for 4 hours (A nice sunn spot in the house is ideal)
5. Whilst dough is rising, combine garlic, sea salt, rosemary and a little EVOO in a mortar and pestle until a nice smooth mixture. Slowly add the rest of the oil until well combined. Let it sit until doughis ready to infuse.
6. Once dough has doubled in size, preheat oven to 200 degrees.
7. Seperate it in two and roll out each dough into a rectangular shape. Place them onto greased baking trays.
8. Using your fingers, make pits in the dough. Pour oil gnerously onto each dough, making sure you fill the pits and spread it all over. YOU WILL NOT USE IT some for dipping once it is finished.
9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until bread has risen and is soft. You do not want it to get brown in colour, just a light shade as this is a very light and soft bread, not one with a thick crust.
10. Cut it diagonally and serve with infused oil and sea salt to dip.



500g ricotta
1 cup feta (crumbled into small pieces)
2 eggs
touch of nutmeg
1 bunch shallots, chopped
2 bunches spinach
handful of chopped parsley and mint
pepper to taste
4-5 sheets puff pastry


1. Steam spinach until wilted and drain ALL water out of it. (This is very important)
2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
3. Drain ricotta then combine with rest of ingredients until mixed well.
3. Lightly grease a baking dish and then line with well thawed puff pastry. One layer on the bottom and along sides, leading some overhand on the top. Try to be neat.
4. Spoon filling in and then fold over the edges. Top with two sheets of pastry to close the pie and then score the lid with portions.
5. Bake for 50 mins or until top is a golden brown.


Ivy said...

Everything sounds delicious Trish and Spanakopita is lovely with puff pastry. I am happy to hear that your friend's problems are over.

Sophie said...

MMMM....everything sounds so delicious! perfect, even!