Cooler evenings and shorter days mean that it’s time to start using up the last of the summer herbs. The basil, tarragon and dill will soon be finished, and I’m starting to use more of the evergreen herbs, especially thyme and rosemary, as autumn approaches. In the next few weeks I’ll be moving the pots of hardy herbs closer to the back door for easy picking when it’s too dark and/or wet to venture down the garden – even the children loose their enthusiasm for going out and foraging for herbs in the depths of winter! To add to my collection of pots, I’ve planted up an old bucket with herbs for winter. There’s sage, rosemary, thyme and winter savory. Not entirely sure what to do with the winter savory, but I’m willing to give it a go.
Another thing about cooler evenings and shorter days – it’s getting to be soup time again. Even on sunny days, the idea of a bowl of thick, warming autumn soup for tea is getting to be very appealing. Last week it was butternut squash soup flavoured with cumin, coriander and lime juice, this week it will be tomato, chilli and basil. And no matter which flavours are in the soup, the best thing to serve with it is a nice thick slice of crusty, home baked bread –if it’s still warm from the oven, so much the better. Today I made a loaf flavoured with onion and thyme. It would have been better if I’d been just a bit more organised, and had got around to making the soup to go with it too. Still, according to the children the bread was ‘cool’ – I didn’t manage to get an explanation as to just why it was cool, but I think it was something to do with the dough being rolled around the filling in the style of a swiss roll. The dough could be rolled around a whole range of fillings – just pick your favourite (and if you find one that you think is ‘cool’, let me know).
I’m linking this recipe to September’s Herbs on Saturday challenge over at Lavender and Lovage. As always there are lots of interesting herb recipes listed there – the courgette soup with parsley and parmesan is already on my list of soups to make over the next few weeks!
Red Onion & Thyme Loaf
450g strong white bread flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp fast action dried yeast
1 tbsp honey
about 300ml warm water
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
pinch of salt
Stir together the bread flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Dissolve the honey in the water, then add to the flour mixture – not all at once and just enough to get a sticky, soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5-10 minutes, until you have a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise for an hour or so.
While the dough is rising, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onions and stir so that they are coated in warm oil. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir again. Keeping the heat on the low side of medium, cook the onions for 10-15 minutes, until they are softened but not browned. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the thyme leaves and a pinch of salt. Set the onions to one side to cool.
When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured board and stretch or roll it out into a roughly rectangular shape. Spread the cooled onion and thyme mixture over the surface of the dough. Roll the dough into a loaf shape, rolling from one of the long sides. Put the loaf onto an oiled baking sheet, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes or so.
Preheat the oven to 200oC, 400oF, Gas 6. Once the oven is hot enough, bake the bread for 20-25 minutes, until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it. (I put a loaf tin with about 2cm of hot water in it in the bottom of the oven during baking to help get a good crust on the loaf.)
Cool on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy – with or without soup.