Rosemary is a fairly easy-going herb. All it wants is a sunny spot, some well drained soil and not too much wet during the coldest of the winter months. It doesn’t even mind whether it’s in a pot or in the ground. And in return you get year round evergreen foliage, early flowers that are a great source of nectar for bumblebees and, of course, the lovely aromatic leaves to use in the kitchen.
You can toss whole sprigs of rosemary with roasting potatoes to add extra flavour, use it to make a bouquet garni for adding to soups and stews, or even sprinkle the chopped leaves over a fruit salad. But, for me, there is nothing better than a slice of warm focaccia flavoured with fresh rosemary, it’s just so good. Rosemary focaccia goes well with soups, or with a plate of tomatoes that have been roasted with salt, pepper and olive oil.
This is one of my favourite bread recipes, it’s easy and works every time. You can use it to make a plain focaccia, or add a whole range of flavours – olives, red onion and goat’s cheese, pesto … but the one I make most often is rosemary focaccia.
500g strong white bread flour
2 tsp fine sea salt, plus extra to sprinkle on the top
2 tsp dried yeast
425ml warm water
2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the semolina, salt and yeast and stir everything together until well mixed. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix, then pour in the water and stir to combine. You might need a little more (or less) water, what you’re aiming for is a moist but manageable dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes. Then, using 1 tbsp of the chopped rosemary, start to sprinkle the leaves over the dough as you continue kneading. Keep going for a few more minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy, and the rosemary is evenly distributed through the bread. Put the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover the top of the bowl with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour or so. When the dough is roughly doubled in size, tip it out of the bowl and shape into a circle about 3cm thick. Using your fingers, gently press the top of the dough to make ‘dimples’ all over. Top with the rest of the rosemary, a good grinding of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
Leave to one side while the oven heats to 200oC. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the bread is a lovely golden brown on top, and makes a satisfyingly hollow sound when the bottom is tapped. Allow to cool for a few minutes, before enjoying some delicious home made bread!