See the World Through My Eyes

Food

How to make a Rosemary, Garlic and Tomato Focaccia

michaelngigifocaccia31 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.

michaelngigifocaccia1 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). michaelngigifocaccia2   michaelngigifocaccia3 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. michaelngigifocaccia4   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. michaelngigifocaccia5   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. michaelngigifocaccia6 michaelngigifocaccia7michaelngigifocaccia9michaelngigifocaccia10michaelngigifocaccia11michaelngigifocaccia12   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. michaelngigifocaccia13 michaelngigifocaccia14 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. michaelngigifocaccia23     michaelngigifocaccia20   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.    michaelngigifocaccia22   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. michaelngigifocaccia27 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. michaelngigifocaccia15 michaelngigifocaccia28   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. michaelngigifocaccia32 michaelngigifocaccia33 michaelngigifocaccia34   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

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Lessons from the Broth

I am re-reading this.

A Day in a Dog's Life™

By Michael Ngigi

I’ve always had a long standing interest in culinary arts. Every once in a while I shop for cooking ingredients (mostly stuff I’ve never tasted) and experiment with the aim of discovering a new recipe. I have always been fascinated by how varying tastes in ingredients come together and produce great tasting food. Think about it, how can pepper, salt, honey, chicken and heat come together to form the best roast chicken? I doubt you would eat ground pepper by the spoon with nothing to accompany it, not even water!

Every year, I take a few months off animal products to rejuvenate my taste buds. I’m on my second week this year. During this period, I take time to learn how to prepare tasty vegetarian meals. For those of you who think veggies can never be tasty think again. Take time to visit an oriental restaurant and…

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Lessons from the Broth

By Michael Ngigi

I’ve always had a long standing interest in culinary arts. Every once in a while I shop for cooking ingredients (mostly stuff I’ve never tasted) and experiment with the aim of discovering a new recipe. I have always been fascinated by how varying tastes in ingredients come together and produce great tasting food. Think about it, how can pepper, salt, honey, chicken and heat come together to form the best roast chicken? I doubt you would eat ground pepper by the spoon with nothing to accompany it, not even water!

Every year, I take a few months off animal products to rejuvenate my taste buds. I’m on my second week this year. During this period, I take time to learn how to prepare tasty vegetarian meals. For those of you who think veggies can never be tasty think again. Take time to visit an oriental restaurant and rest assured you’ll change your mind.

Last weekend I invited some of my closest friends over for lunch. We had a great time and ended up watching Tusker’s Project Fame Finale (my first time) together. As they were leaving, they all thanked me for hosting them and most of all they said it was the best vegetarian meal they’d ever tasted. Such a bunch of professional ass kissers! I blushed. As I prepared to sleep, I went over the events of the day and couldn’t help noting that I had actually learnt something important from the vegetable broth I had made.

You see every end-of-year, I find myself analyzing and evaluating how the year has been generally. I like to put it down in terms of milestones and events, both good and bad. Being human, I’m sometimes tempted to regret and complain over everything that didn’t go my way. It seems true that time lost is never recovered.

Pepper
This was the year I lost friends and had to give up others. It’s funny how life has a way of harshly integrating one into its system. It is amazing how much baggage one can carry courtesy of friends. I am the ride-or-die type of friend, but I eventually had to make a choice between hanging on to useless relations, going insane and breaking free. I chose the latter. I learnt that life gets better when you free yourself from these weights called useless friends.

Onion
2010 defined family and friends for me by showing me that there is a very thin line between the two. If you’re like me, you’re  the type that would do anything for family and friends. Unfortunately we all end up with the realization that you can’t save the whole world. Sometimes, you come to terms with the hollow fact that there is no one to save you too. These are the moments that bring tears to our eyes, just like grating onions. I admit at at times I haven’t been there for family and friends (I see no difference between the two), but I did the best I could.

Salt
These are dreams not realized. Of all the resolutions I made  at the beginning of this year, I only achieved half. It almost feels like that girl you didn’t say hi to and are sure to regret it for the rest of your life. Salt is for the affection you never expressed. For all the apologies you never made. The wrongs you’d make right if given another chance. Too bad, these moments are gone for good. Talk about salt in the eyes.

Greens
I made good money this year (just don’t ask me to account for it). As much as the stocks generally performed poorly this year, I got away with a fair share. Good deals colored my year all round. I was also able to take board a plane for the first time headed for a vacation. It’s a great feeling to strike off one item from my bucket list. I also discovered a long hidden hobby, writing. This was one of the biggest highlight of the year.

Two years ago, my dream was to know how to write and speak good english. It was a great feeling to have readers appreciate my articles as soon as I set up my blog. It is true after all that when you desire something for long, it draws nearer to you. I am thankful for these green moments that have nourished me and others through me.

Oil
Friends and family make life bearable. No man is an island. I know I have a cushion to fall back for whatever. Sometimes I wish the whole world had my family as their family. My parents have been an inspiration and a bedrock to me. I love them to death. My brothers and sisters, no words. I’d do anything for them.

I have the silliest friends God can give any human being. They are funny, stupid, intelligent and blunt. These strong people have stood by me all this time. I know they’ll be there tomorrow and the day after. Life goes on smoothly when you have a real family.

Honey
She knows. Sexy. Smart. Beautiful. Mine.

Heat
Time is the heat that bonds all the ingredients of life to taste however we want it.

After observing the process of making vegetable broth, I have come to the conclusion that a good year is made up of a series of events; both good and challenging. What matters is the outcome of the mix. Did you learn from your misfortunes? Did your downfalls make you stronger? How about your successes? Did you pass them on to others? Were you thankful for your blessings? I hope you counted them in the first place. Whatever happened, happened. Tomorrow is another day. Another year and definitely something different to prepare in your ‘kitchen’.

Next time you cook your broth. Sit back. Learn from it.