Mrs Hennessy welcomed me to her home and prepared a most delicious meal. She is a person of great warmth and intelligence and a wonderful mother to three children. Her eldest daughter is studying medicine in Dublin and her elder son is away at boarding school in Ireland. Ronan who turned 16 yesterday lives at home and i fell in love with their dog Phebo.
Mrs Hennessy also made Foccacia for us using a recipe by Rachel Allen. I love Rachel’s books and her creative and informal style of cooking. Mrs Hennessy also introduced me to a new book Kitchen Hero by a young and dynamic Irish Chef Donal Skehan and I am looking forward to trying out his recipes which I will post on my website.
This is a fantastic foccacia recipe using the same dough as Irish soda bread without any yeast making it very straightforward to prepare. It is very interesting to see such a traditional Irish recipe paired with local ingredients of smoked sausage and freshly preserved olives.
For this recipe you will need :
450 g plain flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
400 ml buttermilk or if not available use Maltese yoghurt
And for Mrs Hennessy’s special topping which she created to make it appealing for both Irish and Mediterranean cuisines, you will need:
Local Smoked Sausage, chopped into squares
Local Black Olives
Tomato, chopped into squares
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 230C/gas 8. Brush a baking tray generously with olive oil.
Sieve the plain flour and the bread soda into a large bowl, add the salt and 50g of grated cheese and mix with your hands.
Make a well in the centre and pour in most of the buttermilk. With your hand stiff and your fingers spread out like a claw, start mixing the flour into the buttermilk or yoghurt using a circular motion. Add the remaining buttermilk and keep mixing like this until you have soft dough. Do not knead it but work it very gently to bring it together.
Transfer to a floured surface and roll out to about 35x20cm. Sit on the oiled baking tray and brush the top with some more olive oil.
Make dimples all over with your fingertips, on the top of the dough.
Push a small piece of sausage, rosemary, olive and tomato into each dimple.
Then drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, Parmesan and dried oregano.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes at 200 C until the bread is nice and golden on the top and bottom.
When the focaccia is cooked but still hot, drizzle just a little more olive oil over the top and allow to cool slightly before serving.