We (and I don't mean just myself, but most of us who have the privilege of not having to wonder where our next meal will come from) are very, very spoiled. So spoiled that we sometimes forget that there are villages which can actually eat for one day with what we pay for our fancy bread or gourmet salt. While I am at a restaurant, sitting back with crossed legs and a happy heart looking through the wine list, do I think about those who aren't as lucky as I am? Does it even cross my mind when I make a simple meal at home for my family? Honestly and shamefully, not really. Am I grateful for what I have? Very much so.
I am not writing this to make you (or myself) feel guilty, but rather to remind ourselves that gratitude is a very noble thing to have. I was watching a Dutch program yesterday where three rich ladies were delivering boxes of food to the poor. It was confronting to realize that none of those people probably gave a hoot about using the right kind of fancy vinegar in a dressing or whether or not their meat was organically raised within a ten mile radius. And here I am, with a fridge and pantry full of things I sometimes have the arrogance to forget about.
That's why today's recipes were made with things I had luxuriously neglected and failed to use. Like the bag of carrots I was on the verge of feeding to the goats and the packets of yeast I had hidden away at the back of the cupboard. I wasn't trying to make a point. I was just giving myself a gentle kick in the butt to use up what I had before going out and mindlessly buying more.
The carrots made a lovely side dish. I baked them with thinly sliced red onions, fresh thyme and a tangy, sweet dressing. The bread that was served with dinner, wasn't bought at the fancy bakery. Instead, I did something I hadn't done in a very long time. I baked my own.
Here are the recipes:
Focaccia with Rosemary and Sea Salt
Makes 2 breads
500g all-purpose flour
1 small envelope of yeast (7gr)
1 tsp salt
150ml hot water
150ml cold water
50ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
a few sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
sea salt flakes (I used fleur de sel)
Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the water and oil in a jug and add to the dry ingredients. Stir well with a wooden spoon. I used my Kitchen Aid to make the focaccia, but a little musle will do just fine. If you are also using a standing mixer, add the water slowly, while the motor is running instead. Knead the dough on a cool, well floured surface for 5 minutes (2 if using a standing mixer). Wash your bowl, dry it well and coat the inside with a little olive oil. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to the bowl. Cover the bowl with a cloth and place in a warm, draft-free area. Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour and 30 minutes. After this, punch down the dough and knead it again for about a minute. Divide the dough in half and roll each half to a circle of about 23cm. Place the dough on a baking sheet covered with baking paper, make dents using your fingertips and sprinkle with the rosemary and the sea salt flakes. Cover again and allow to rest for an additional 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C and bake the focaccia in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes. After that, place the baking sheet in the top of the oven and allow to bake for an additional 3-5 minutes. Once the focaccia is out of the oven, drizzle with a little more olive oil. Save the other bread for the following day's meal or cut it into small pieces and serve as an appetizer with some tapenade. Of course, it can also be frozen.
Sweet Carrots with Red Onion, Thyme and Balsamic Vinegar
900g carrots, sliced
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
small bunch of thyme, leaves removed
3 tbsps mild olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp orange juice
sea salt and freshly- ground pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 190C. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, orange juice, salt and pepper. Add the carrots, onions and thyme. Toss well to coat. Transfer to a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, stirring a few times during the cooking time. The carrots go beautifully with grilled fish or chicken.