10 Oct // spring salads and tasty bread

I realised with utter despair the other day that my trusty ipod classic (a full to the brim 30gb) has outlasted my relationship. I thought ipods only had about a two year lifespan, but it would have been four years this month. I know this not because anniversaries are something we celebrated, but because my dear friend Kennedee had a baby at the same time I got my first boyfriend! After some drunk yabbering last night I was abruptly told to stop counting, and fair enough too. But speaking of dear friends and babies, one former had one latter on Wednesday; congratulations Eleanor!

On the food front, with the warm weather I have been embracing salads and eating asparagus at every opportunity. I've been grating beetroot, slicing red cabbage, slivering silverbeet and mixing them all up with lentils, chickpeas or anything that takes my fancy. Saturday afternoon saw a couple of friends and I have a wee picnic in the sun on my lounge floor. Roasted asparagus with olive oil and cracked pepper and salt, roasted eggplant with feta, homemade hummus, and the salad below was shaved nashi pear and thinly sliced fennel, dressed with olive oil and finely grated parmesan. It was really good.

I've also embraced making bread. I never realised quite how easy and enjoyable it is. There's something about leaving the dough to rise, and getting really amongst the dough, kneading it out. The recipe I've been thrashing is from the latest Dish magazine. The title is a bit of a mouthful, but it's so simple and so delicious.

Caramelized Red Onion, Black Olive and Herb Bread

(from Dish #32)

Onions:

  • 2 tblsp olive oil
  • a knob of butter
  • 3 large red onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tblsp brown sugar
  • 3 tblsp balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives

Dough:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp instant dried yeast (I used active yeast at it was absolutely fine)
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • 1 tblsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 3/4-1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 tblsp olive oil

To assemble:

  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Cumin seeds

I found the best way to approach this was make the dough, then caramelize the onions during the dough's resting time.

Dough:

Combine the flour, salt, yeast, fennel and rosemary in a bowl, and make a well in the centre. Add the 3/4 cup of water and the olive oil and mix to form a soft dough, adding the extra water if needed. Tip onto a lightly floured bench and knead lightly for two minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to double in bulk.

Onions:

Heat the olive oil and butter in a saute pan. Add the onions and garlic with a good pinch of salt, cover and cook until soft, stirring occasionally. Stir in the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook gently, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the onions are thick and sticky, with no liquid left in the pan. This can take a good 25-30 minutes to caramelize properly. Stir in the olives and cool.

To assemble:

Preheat oven to 200*C.

Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured bench to a 30cm x 30cm square, then transfer to a lined flat baking tray. Spread the onions evenly over the dough, leaving a 1cm border around the edge.

Brush the border with cold water then fold the dough over twice to make a rectangle. Brush generously with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and cumin seeds.

Bake for 25mins until golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Lightly brush again with olive oil when it comes out of the oven. Serve warm, or at room temperature. Dish says it's best eaten on the day of making, but I doubt you'll have any leftovers.

You can really get creative with the herbs, I've used variations in the bread itself and with what you sprinkle on top. I've also made it with white onions instead of red, and without olives. Get practicing for summer barbecues, an afternoon snack with drinks, or alongside some salads for an easy lunch. Enjoy! And stay tuned - coming up this week - chocolate cake, amongst other things.