How to make a Rosemary, Garlic and Tomato Focaccia
Have you ever had those days when you’re on a break from work, weather’s gloomy and there’s basically no plan for the day? Well, last week I woke up to one of those days. I’m used to a long work day and so naturally, a free 12 hours with nothing much to do will always throw me off balance. So this time instead of dismantling and trying to put back my old car (as is my norm) I decided I was going to do something different. I decided to make a Focaccia (pronounced fokacha). I called my boy Brayo who also happened to be on a break and invited him over to document the whole process. Well, I have to be honest I had to lie that I was calling him over for whiskey. We set up our lights and cameras and we set about making the ultimate brunch, focaccia. As we filmed and got creative on a modest 3 year old bottle of Knights, I couldn’t help learning life’s lessons from the cooking process. Apart from enjoying the woody taste of this bronze award winning liquid, here are the lessons I learnt.
1. It takes the simplest and easiest-to-find ingredients to make the ultimate focaccia
500 grams white wheat flour, 100 grams brown wheat flour, Salt, Cooking oil (preferably Olive oil), Black pepper, Chillies, Garlic, Tomatoes and Rosemary.
The same applies to any relationship in life. Be it with your family, friends or spouse. At some point we’ve all been guilty of complicating our roles and expectations when relating to the people we love and care for. We never stop to realise that sometimes all these people need is our presence and concern. A person who truly loves you will tell you that most of the time they just want you to be there and just to listen. That is far more valuable than material gifts which may never fully satisfy the needs of a person. Your parents don’t need you to build them a fancy house to show them that you care. Sometimes all they want is a visit from you. Your girlfriend or wife loves the finer things in life but if she were to choose between that and good company she would go for the latter. So slow down and go back to basics. Reach out to the ones you care about and you will have the best quality of life.
2. The flour is most likely clean, but sieve it anyway. It helps the final product cook evenly and turn out surprisingly soft.
Sieve the white wheat flour in a mixing bowl and add the brown wheat flour (without sieving). Whatever your situation, always check and recheck before sending your work or opinion out there. After 10 years as a creative, I can tell you that sending out work before checking and rechecking is career suicide. This also applies to all other situations in life. Never do or say anything unless you are sure that it fits the intended purpose. Have you ever sent out an email to someone that you later wish you hadn’t? You end up feeling dumb and miserable and sometimes there’s nothing left to salvage. When your chances are clear just step back and recheck. It could be the difference between a life of misery and that of happiness.
3. Add yeast to the mixture. You do want soft, puffed up and nice textured bread don’t you?
A table spoon of yeast will do. It goes without saying that goals in life start as an idea. An idea is dead if it lacks motivation. Motivation is the yeast of future success in life. It is the promise of a bird that is not yet in hand. Motivation keeps an idea alive and natures it into fruition. Motivation may come from anywhere but it will always be procrastination if it does not come from within you. That is why most of us have a history of starting things that we never finish. In the words of the legend Bob Marley, Lively up yourself – motivate yourself.
4. Mix the brown and white flour with the yeast, create small ‘well’ with your fingers and add water to fuse consistently.
The water should be warm and for even better results, add some olive oil to it and stir before pouring into the mixture. In this day and age we often find ourselves pursuing so many things that in the end our lives become one huge rat race. There’s too much to be done and so little time and resources. In the middle of this confusion we end up losing ourselves. If you ask me, I think we lack the very ingredient that is meant to keep our lives from coming apart; spiritual nourishment. You can always tell when you are spiritually malnourished. It is when excitement and calm are the things you long for. You become successful yet still unhappy. You love your family and friends but still it is not enough. If you want everything and still be able to enjoy your life, you cannot ignore your spiritual self.
5. Knead the mixture.
Do this gently for about 10 minutes until the dough’s density is consistent. Add water or flour to ‘tune’ the mixture to a soft dough. Test the dough by hanging it horizontally from one end. It should drop slowly. Finally dust your table surface and knead the dough into a sphere. Challenges in life are important because they serve a purpose. Out of these challenges we become stronger and wiser in our approach to similar challenges in future. We need pressure in our lives because we are created to constantly seek a better life for ourselves. It is in this pressure that we learn to appreciate and to take care of the little we have.
6. Place the dough in a clean bowl and seal with clear wrap (it’s easier) and proof for 30 minutes.
I didn’t have clear wrap so I improvised by taking brown food wrapping paper and tying it using my shoe lace. So if you lack clear wrap, just be creative. Allow the dough to rest in the sealed bowl for half an hour. This allows it to rise due to fermentation by the yeast. Looking back at my life, I regret the many times I have had an excuse for not being able to perform a task. I remember at one point I said that all I lacked to execute a business plan was capital and so I shelved the idea. Another time I said it was too involving when all I needed was to make do with the little I had. Many times I had knowingly ignored the conviction to improvise where I lacked the right resources. Instead I complained and gave excuses. Improvisation coupled with patience (proofing) would have seen me be at a better place than I am right now.
7. As the dough is allowed to rise, prepare the vegetables and oil the baking pan.
Chop tomatoes into large dices and crush a couple of garlic cloves. You can also finely chop some chilli if you savour spicy hot flavours. After this pour some olive oil into your baking pan and season with salt and black pepper. So you have put in the work and you are patiently waiting for the results. In the meantime, get off your ass and do something! At the least, prepare for success. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius as you prepare for the final step of your cooking. By this time, your dough has risen. Take the dough and place it on your oiled baking pan and spread it evenly by gently massaging it with your hands. You might want to oil your hands prior to this. 8. Top with garlic and tomato and season with salt, black pepper and rosemary. For our focaccio, I used my fingers to press in the toppings (garlic first) into the dough. I later sprinkled it with salt , blackpepper and rosemary. Lastly, I splashed olive oil on top of this already sweet smelling dough. 9. Throw the dough into the oven for 30 minutes at 200 degrees.
Make sure you keep checking on it so it doesn’t burn. Turn the oven off when the focaccia attains a rich golden brown colour. Books have been written on how to live a productive life and how to achieve goals. There’s always someone somewhere who knows the steps to financial success or the 10 habits of successful people. And while it is recommended to take in good advise, it is also important to know that you are different. You are allowed to tweak your plan. At the end of the day, no one else can beat you at being yourself. Therefore not all rules apply to everyone. So always cook while you check your results until you are satisfied.
10. Finally, I present to you rosemary, garlic and tomato focaccia!
Drip some honey on the now sweet smelling focaccia to give it that tasty explosion. This goes well with wine or whiskey. Sometimes all you just need to do is sit back and enjoy what you have worked for as you think of what you can conquer next. Something out your comfort zone. In this case, who says a man can’t cook complicated things? Any way the whole reason for making this focaccia was to do some food photography for our design portfolios. Food Photography by Asaph Brian Change and myself. Check out my photography portfolio on www.michaelngigi.com