This is a post in collaboration with Jamie Oliver and his Jamie’s Italian restaurants, demonstrating the different types of olive oil and how to use them in cooking. I have also included my recipe for smoked mozzarella and rosemary focaccia.
I have long been a fan of Jamie Oliver: especially his no-fuss cooking style, his exciting recipes that are so easy to replicate at home, using home-grown produces and the terrific work he has done with youngsters and food in education (an area so close to my heart as a teacher and as a lover of cooking). It is fair to say he is very much a food idol of mine!
I must say, that my visits to Jamie’s Italian restaurants are always a treat: a great selection of food, generous portions and cooked excellently (as expected!). It is also great value for money and I am fortunate to have one close to where I live in Surrey: a fairly frequent haunt of mine!
The Buyer’s Guide To Olive Oil
The great infographic from Jamie’s Italian explains the types of olive oil on the market, the differences between them and the uses of each in cooking.
I would add that whatever oil you buy, go for a good quality one: some of the cheaper ones are blended with other oils, giving a somewhat inferior flavour. Granted, the more expensive olive oils are not necessarily the best, as is the case with wine, but it is worth shopping around and experimenting to get the type and the brand you prefer.
Olive oil in baking
I tend to vary between extra-virgin olive oil and light olive oil in breads, but when I make cakes using olive oil, I use a light olive oil, so that the flavour is not over-powering.
Using oil in a cake is nothing new, and it does give a wonderful moistness to the cake. But using olive oil adds an extra layer of flavour, especially in a chocolate and coffee cake, where the flavours of the chocolate and the coffee are complemented by the olive oil. I have a simple recipe for this that I will be posting.
However, I return to my bread roots in this post with a simple rosemary and smoked mozzarella focaccia; a bread that is perfect with dips, a selection of meats, or just to dunk into good quality extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (one of my favourite ways to eat it!).
My approach to focaccia
There are many focaccia recipes out there, but I go for what I think is by far the easiest and, dare I say, the tastiest, giving perfect results every time.
I have posted about focaccia in some of my earlier posts, with some of my other focaccia recipes, and my take on focaccia has:
- a slightly higher water content than most recipes: gives better irregular hole structure
- less yeast: the dough rises slower, giving better flavour
- a different approach to the “kneading”: almost whisking with your hand!
In addition to using less yeast, I use cool tap water to allow the dough to ferment and rise slowly: again, for flavour. However, you can speed things up a bit and use 7g yeast and use warm water: it will still taste much better than any focaccia you can buy!
The dough is very wet, and is not the type of dough you could shape into rolls and the like, but then focaccia dough just needs emptying, almost pouring, into a baking tray and then left for time and then heat to do their thing! You can use a very large baking tray, giving thinner focaccia or smaller trays, as I have done this time, giving more depth: personal choice!!
An easy bread that looks complicated!
Even if you have never made bread before, you really must try this focaccia: it is an example of a stunning bread that is very easy to make. It is even easier in a food mixer with a dough hook, but can still be made quite easily by hand.
You can bake the dough in well oiled sandwich tins – as I did this time – or tip it onto an oiled baking sheet, spreading fairly thinly: it need not come to the edges of the tin.
You can vary the flavour, and I have given other ideas at the bottom of the post.
Recipe: smoked mozzarella focaccia – makes three 7″ focaccia or one large one
- 400g strong plain flour
- 3g easy-blend dried yeast (it is not much but it ensures slow fermentation/rises for the best flavour)
- 150g smoked mozzarella (you can buy it ready smoked but it is fun to smoke your own)
- 50ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzing over
- 5 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly crushed
- 8g fine sea salt
- 340ml cool water
- leaves from a few sprigs of rosemary, chopped and mixed with a small splash of olive oil
- a little coarse sea salt for sprinkling over
(1) Mix the flour, salt, garlic and yeast together in a large mixer bowl. Add the water and 50ml oil. Mix well to give a very wet, lumpy mixture: you will have a very slack, almost runny dough, but please trust me!
(2) Knead the dough using the dough hook attachment for about 15 minutes on medium-high: the dough will become silky-smooth and almost gelatinous in texture. Or do it by hand, which I find more fun: I dip a hand in water, grab a handful of the dough and pull it up out of the bowl before letting it drop back down, repeating this quickly for about 5-10 minutes or so. After a while, the dough will become smoother and silkier, and as you pull up the dough, you will find you take the whole mass with you rather than it breaking up as it does to begin with!
(3) Cover with clingfilm and chill for several hours until well risen and very bubbly: ideally, though, go for an overnight rest in the fridge for an even better flavour.
(4) Pour the dough gently onto a large well-oiled shallow baking tray or three 7″ cake tins (they can be base-lined with greaseproof if you prefer). Gently ease the dough into the edges with oiled fingers, trying not to deflate it. Drizzle over a little olive oil and leave for an hour or so at room temperature until well risen: it will have many tiny bubbles over the surface. Toward the end of the rise pre-heat the oven to 200C(fan). NB: you do not need to cover this dough as it rises.
(5) Scatter the mozzarella over the surface and now with oiled fingers, make dimples all over the surface, going right down to the greaseproof. Sprinkle over the rosemary and sea salt.
(6) Bake for about 30 minutes until a deep golden brown colour. Remove the focaccia from the oven and drizzle over a little more olive oil.
You can leave the focaccia plain, ie) omitting the mozzarella, but the following (or even a mixture of the following) are some of my favourite flavours. Just push the extras deep into the dough before baking.
- chunks of chorizo
- strips of Parma ham
- slowly roasted garlic and/or onion
- salted anchovies
- sun-dried tomatoes (ideally in oil)
- small cubes of Parmesan