Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia

Italian Food and Flavours

Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia

The best thing about baking this bread is the aroma of rosemary and garlic which fills the kitchen. I use rosemary straight from my garden and at this time of year only the freshest new growth from the ends of the stems. Rosemary is so versatile and can be added to many dishes such as roast chicken,  roast potatoes and vegetables. I add loads when making a stock and also add it to soups. It’s aromatic and beautiful and I wouldn’t be without this herb. Being blessed as I am with an Italian herb garden full of rosemary, I can pretty much rely on it to flavour my food all year round. At the moment it is a purple flowered bee heaven, but it is the fresh green sprigs I pick for culinary use.

Rosemary was the first herb that I wanted to plant in my Le Marche garden as it never thrived in my English garden. ‘Rosemary for remembrance’ they say and I do have a treasured memory linked to this herb about a lady who lived in my house many years ago. She sadly passed away last year but during our first weeks here, she would pass by, take my hands in her hands and kiss me on my cheek, then lead me around all the trees and plants she had planted twenty or so years before. On one such visit she openly scoffed at my small pot of rosemary I intended to plant somewhere. I needed no understanding of Italian as she led me a few paces down the road to a huge bush she had planted herself. The locals, she told me used to walk down here to pick sprigs to flavour their homemade proscuitto. Although I have indeed planted more rosemary I always use her plant in cooking as it grows in full sun and seems particularly aromatic.

Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia
A rustic but aromatic bread, perfect for tearing and sharing
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Ingredients
  1. 350ml luke warm water
  2. 3 tbsp olive oil
  3. 650 g bread flour or Italian 0 flour
  4. 2tsp salt
  5. 2tsp sugar
  6. 2 7g sachets yeast
For the topping
  1. Extra virgin olive oil
  2. 2/3 garlic cloves
  3. lots of rosemary sprigs
  4. sea salt
Instructions
  1. Add to your bread machine in the above order and select dough function.
  2. Or mix by hand into smooth dough and allow to raise covered for an hour or so.
  3. Knead the dough until smooth, then roll out to fit a large baking tin. It is a very springy dough so needs some pulling and stretching to shape.
  4. Leave to rise for 40 minutes.
  5. With your knuckle make dents all over the surface.
  6. Sprinkle with salt.
  7. Spread a few cloves of mashed garlic all over and then brush on lots of extra virgin olive oil
  8. Finally push the rosemary sprigs into the dough.
  9. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for approx 25 minutes, until lightly golden.
Notes
  1. Slice into strips, triangles or simply tear and share with others. Add halved cherry tomatoes with the sprigs of rosemary if you wish.
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
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Lemon Cheesecake/ Torta al Limone

Italian Food and Flavours

Torta al Limone

Torta al Limone: As the temperatures begin to rise in Le Marche the potted lemon trees can be put outside. Down at the coast lemon trees grow quite happily in the ground but as we are in the hills we need to protect them from frost. Funny thing is…my lemons are not lemons as an Italian gardener friend told me – they are cedri! They are grown principally for their thick and aromatic zests and are used to make candied lemon peel. This then explains why when I have asked for lemons from a market stall I’ve been asked ‘do you want them for zesting or for juice?’ What I know as an ordinary lemon is only used for juice and I must admit the zest of my cedri is beautifully strong in flavour and they don’t give much juice.
I have italianised an old recipe for Torta al Limone cheesecake by using ricotta rather than double cream and I find it much lighter. Here I’ve used a plain biscuit base but you can use crushed amaretto biscotti instead.

This desert would be ideal after an Easter feast and may well make an appearance at the end of our Easter meal this weekend.

Lemon Cheesecake/Torta al Limone
A light and zesty baked cheesecake, easy to make and delicious
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Ingredients
  1. 250 g biscuits (digestives or Italian biscotti di amaretti
  2. 100g butter
  3. 500g ricotta ( include some mascapone if you want a creamier texture)
  4. 170ml cream/or full fat milk
  5. 200g sugar
  6. zest and juice of 2 large lemons ( or zest of cedri and juice from normal lemons)
  7. 3 eggs
Instructions
  1. Crush the biscuits in a large bowl with the end of a rolling pin
  2. Melt the butter and mix in the crushed biscuits
  3. Press the mixture into a cake tin, and let it firm up in the fridge
  4. Beat the ricotta (or ricotta/mascapone mixture) with the sugar
  5. Then beat in the eggs. I use a hand held electric mixer.
  6. Add the cream/milk, lots of lemon or cedri zest and the lemon juice.
  7. I often check the taste at this point to make sure its nice and lemony! can always add more zest and juice.
  8. Pour carefully onto the biscuit base and bake in a low oven (150degrees centigrade) for an hour, until the centre is firmish.
  9. Switch off the oven and leave in for 15 minutes.
  10. Then allow to cool.
Notes
  1. You can top the finished cheesecake with fresh fruit. Strawberries are coming into season here in le Marche or blueberries or fruits of the forest.
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
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Crescia di Pasqua/ Le Marche Cheese Easter Bread

Italian Food and Flavours

Crescia di Pasqua

Crescia di Pasqua. This typical Le Marche Easter bread is actually so rich that it is more like a cake – a huge cheese filled and rather moreish cake that when baking fills the kitchen with a lovely aroma. It is traditionally eaten at Easter, after the period of Lent when Italians long for some rich food. It is packed full of eggs and the local cheese, Pecorino and can be eaten on its own or with local cold meats and salamis. Many locals will have their secret family recipes passed down through the generations and will bake several breads to give as gifts to friends and family. This is a bread that will also be offered up to the local priest to be blessed.

I have to admit that I made the dough in my bread machine and although a little concerned about the excess moisture from the cheese it turned out just fine and saved me a lot of time. Being English I have to make my hot cross buns and my easter chocolate cake as well as the Le Marche Crescia di Pasqua.

Le Marche Crescia di Pasqua
A moist, crumbly, rich cheese bread baked at Easter in Le Marche region of Central Italy
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Ingredients
  1. 6 eggs
  2. 100ml luke warm milk
  3. 650g 00 bread flour
  4. 220g of grated pecorino cheese (or a mix of pecorino/parmesan)
  5. 160g margarine (or lard)
  6. 40g dry yeast
  7. 2 tsp salt
  8. tsp atleast of pepper
Instructions
  1. Place the ingredients in bread machine in the order above and set to dough mode
  2. Knead the dough well on a floured surface
  3. Place in a large, round, deep cake tin and allow to rise in a warm place for atleast an hour.
  4. Bake in a 180 degrees oven for about 50 minutes
Cooking Holidays Italy http://www.italianfoodandflavours.com/
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