Saturday, June 22, 2013

Beginner's luck

The March issue of New Zealand Lifestyle Block had a focaccia bread recipe which sounded easy enough for me. I've made bread in a breadmaker before but am a newbie with making it from scratch. I was enthused enough to buy some yeast and put it in the pantry. With a memory like mine it was a surprise to discover the yeast again last week (best by date already expired) and thought I'd better try the recipe!

I didn't have a lot of 'High Grade' flour so decided to halve the quantities but those calculations must have used up all my brain cells as I was busy kneading the dough before I realised that I hadn't added the oil. No wonder it was hard adding all the flour. I drizzled the oil over the dough as I kneaded and kept my fingers crossed that it would work. The dough seemed to rise fine over the next 1½ hours, then got punched down and split into 5 rolls. Another wee rising time, then into the oven - mine only has fanbake so I dropped the temperature to about 180°C and baked them for 20 minutes.

Here's the results...

Fresh out of the oven

Looks like bread!!
I was thrilled with the results and keen to make it again. Fancy bread is one of the things I miss here so if I can perfect making these then I have a good party trick. The full recipe (1 large loaf or 10 rolls) is below...

1 tsp honey or sugar
2 cups lukewarm water
4 tsp dried yeast
5 cups of flour (wholemeal, white or mixed) - I used Pams high grade flour
1 tsp salt (can be left out or reduced if you want)
¼ cup olive oil (I used extra light but may try ordinary next time)

1.       Combine honey/sugar with the warm water and sprinkle the yeast on top

2.       Leave 5-10 minutes until the yeast froths

3.       Mix 3 cups of flour (sifted) with the salt in a large bowl

4.       Add the yeast mixture and the olive oil and beat well for about 3 minutes, then gradually add the remaining sifted flour

5.       Knead the dough on a floured board for about 10 minutes until it is silky, springy and elastic

6.       Lightly oil the bowl and leave the dough in it, covered with a cloth dampened with warm water, in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about 1½ hours)

7.       Knock it back using your fist and roughly shape it into rounds, loaves or rolls

8.       You can use the tips of your fingers to dimple the top of the focaccia (make identations). Drizzle with olive oil, turning the pan carefully to allow the olive oil to soak into the identations

9.       Sprinkle sea salt and the herbs and toppings of your choice, eg chopped rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, sun-dried tomatoes, olives

10.   Place it on an oiled oven tray or round cake pan, cover with the re-dampened cloth, and leave for 30 minutes in your warm place to rise again

11.   Preheat the oven to 200°C and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of the loaf) until crisp and lightly brown

12.   Remove from the oven and serve warm
I cooked mine on fanbake at 180°C for 20 minutes

Tips for making great focaccia
·         Use a round cake pan

·         Allow dough to rise in the tin it will be baked in (which keeps air in the dough) – prob doesn’t apply if making rolls

·         Pour a 3-6mm layer of olive oil in the base of the pan (this gives flavour, moistness and crunch) – I drizzled a bit of oil in the tray but nothing like 3mm

·         Topping ideas: Mozzarella cheese, garlic, tomato and fresh basil

·         Finely chopped thyme, sage, rosemary and oregano can be brushed on top or included in the loaf – or you could add seeds: cardamom, sesame, caraway

Garlic and parsley focaccia bread – a great way to freshen up a day-old focaccia loaf
I focaccia loaf
100g butter, at room temperature
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
4 Tbsp of either curled or Italian flat parsley, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

1.       Preheat oven to 180°C

2.       Cut the focaccia bread into 2cm thick slices and place on an oven tray

3.       Beat together the other ingredients in a bowl until well combined

4.       Liberally coat one side of the bread with the butter mixture

5.       Bake for about 10-15 minutes until golden

6.       Devour as soon as cool enough to handle!

Recipe courtesy of New Zealand Lifestyle Block magazine, March 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Close up part 2

Have you looked closely at the 'coloured' stuff on tree trunks? I didn't take much notice until earlier this year when a friend, and expert in such matters, started talking about them. Out came the books and Google search engine and I dipped my toes into the wonderful world of lichens, mosses and liverworts. Another knowledgeable soul, Clive, has photographed a wide range of these, and more, on his fab website - click on a topic at the top left, then explore the photos by clicking on a family underneath the Photographs heading, then on one of the photos to expand the genus. Clive is also a NatureWatcher - see his observations at

Here's what I found yesterday - am guessing at identifications!
?Flat foliose lichen with spore cups at the bottom of photo

?Fruticose lichen with spore cups

Zoom out of above

Lichen mixture; foliose lichen on right

?Orange crustose lichen on rimu trunk
There are still a number of fungi around...
A wee community of pale blue/green gill fungi

Close up of above - there is a jelly-stemmed helmet fungi in my
identification book which looks similar

Punga with yellow/orange fungi growing in a patch

Close up of above ?slime mould??

A tiny pink gill fungi growing on a huge rimu trunk

A small white gill fungus with thin transparent stem - the top was
the size of one of those coloured dressmaking pins
And finally from the very small to somewhat larger. This magnificent miro is on the boundary track and the centipede was on a fallen fruit that had rotted out.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Close up and personal

My last blog had only been up a few hours when I received the sad news that my lovely Mum-in-law had passed away. I'm very grateful that I had been able to spend time with her earlier in the month and am comforted by so many treasured memories. The Rakiura Weather Gods put on a stunning display of rainbows that day, stretching across the village with deep, intense colours sparkling in the sunshine and reminding me that I was not alone. Ten days later, the New Plymouth Weather Gods did their part too with the funeral being held on a beautiful sunny day with Mt Taranaki standing clear and proud with his new coat of snow. It was harder leaving family and friends this time and I very much appreciate their support and love whilst I was there.

My Mum-in-law loved hearing about the rats I caught and which birds had been singing the loudest. Today I spent an hour in the ngahere, just looking and listening - great for the soul and quite a revelation to see the tiny things that aren't apparent when walking quickly. Firstly, there's the berries...

Miro berries and leaves on the forest floor
and this wee seedling that is growing on a large tree stump - I've christened it 'Optimism'...

Kingdom Fungi pop up in all sorts of places - can you see the white ones on this trunk?

Here it is up close
More fungi in the next blog! I'll finish off with two of the rats that were caught on Thursday - the bigger one is a Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), the smaller a Ship rat (Rattus rattus) and the gumboot is a women's size 5! It's a shame I had already thrown away the small Polynesian rat or kiore (Rattus exulans) as it would have been great to photograph all 3 together.