James Street South Cookery School: Focaccia with anchovy; Pea and courgette soup
THIS week we had to unfortunately come to the realisation that our summer has probably been and gone with those days of sunshine recently. However, I am always an advocate of shunning the weather patterns and sticking to seasonal dishes that bring the real spirit of summer to mind.
I don't care if I have to barbecue under an umbrella – which we have all done, no doubt – or provide blankets as people enjoy a buffet of salads and couscous, my mantra is to embrace the time of year and enjoy the bumper crop of produce available.
This week's recipes are a couple of family favourites that are fresh and summery and great for group gatherings.
We've had a really exciting week as we celebrated the graduation of the latest batch of apprentices from our Chef Training Programme in association with Belfast Met. We look forward to bringing them into our restaurants as staff and watching their careers blossom.
We have also launched the next Apprentice Scheme for the 2017/18 academic year, as well as a new and innovative Front Of House Apprentice Programme for those with a real desire to provide memorable and professional experiences of hospitality in Northern Ireland.
FOCACCIA WITH ANCHOVY
(Makes 1 loaf)
700g semolina flour
170g OO flour (pasta flour)
16g dried yeast
6 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
150g small tomatoes
A couple of sprigs of rosemary
12 anchovy fillets
Start by adding the flour, salt and yeast to 500ml of water; mix with a dough hook on a gentle speed, adding in another 190ml water. Knead in the mixer until the dough is smooth.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl; cover with cling film and leave to rise/prove for 30 minutes. The mix should double in size.
Grease a large baking tray approximately 6cm deep with a little of the olive oil. Knead the dough before placing it into the baking dish and, using your fingers, flatten into the tray. Leave to the side for another 30 minutes. At this stage you can pre-heat your oven to 200C.
Sprinkle the top of the dough with the rest of the olive oil and sea salt. Halve the tomatoes and place into the dough and press the few sprigs of the rosemary in firmly. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the anchovies on top; put back into the oven for a further 5 minutes until golden. Remove and serve while still warm.
PEA AND COURGETTE SOUP
(Makes enough for 6)
500g courgettes, halved lengthways
1 tblsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ tsp white pepper
1 litre chicken stock, or vegetable stock
300g potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
200g fresh peas
50g fresh basil, torn
90g Parmesan, finely grated
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and gently fry the courgettes, garlic and pepper until soft. Add to a pot with the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add in the potatoes and cook for 15-20 minutes until al dente.
Next add in the peas and the basil. Keep half of the soup in the pot and blend the other half using a stick blender. If you do not intend to use this immediately, add the Parmesan when you are reheating it and serving. Serve with a garnish of crème fraiche and a dash of olive oil. This is a great dish to make in advance and will keep for a couple of days.