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Chilli, basil & olive overnight focaccia

20 November 2023

This no-knead focaccia could not be easier: mix (using instant dried yeast), put in the fridge, and the dough does the work overnight! While the method is simple, the bread is amazing – it still manages to achieve that bubbly, fluffy structure that you want in your focaccia. You can swap chilli, basil and olive for whatever’s on hand – parsley, oregano and chopped sundried tomatoes for instance.

Hands-on time 10 mins
Total time 3 hours (+ overnight proving)
Makes 1 large rectangular loaf

450g high grade flour
1 sachet (8g) instant dried yeast
10g sea salt
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
2 teaspoons dried basil
50g pitted kalamata olives, drained and finely chopped
100ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
coarse sea salt, to sprinkle

To make the focaccia dough, place the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl, ensuring the salt is not touching the yeast. Pour in 410ml cold water and using your hands, mix to form a relatively wet dough (no kneading is required). Add the chilli flakes, basil, olives and 50ml of the olive oil, and mix through until just combined and evenly incorporated. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight (for a minimum of 12 hours and up to 24 hours).

Shape the focaccia. Generously oil a large rectangular baking tin (about 33cm x 23cm) with olive oil. Remove the dough from the fridge and bring the edges into the centre to deflate the dough. Tip the dough into the baking tin, folded side underneath, and using your hands, press out the corners of the dough, gently stretching to cover most of the base of the tin. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for about 2½ hours, until bubbly, wobbly and doubled in size. While the dough is proving, mix the remaining 50ml olive oil and the garlic in a small bowl. Set aside to infuse for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan-forced (or 220°C conventional).

To bake the focaccia, drizzle the garlic oil (including all the garlic) evenly over the dough. Use your fingers to press dimples all over the dough, reaching the bottom of the tin so that the oil pools in them (the dough will bounce back a little so you are left with dimples rather than holes). Sprinkle generously with coarse salt.

Bake for 25–30 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. Drizzle with extra olive oil, and carefully remove from the tin, using a spatula if needed.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

136 beetrootblushlasagne 1

Beetroot blush lasagne

This is no ordinary vegetarian lasagne. Roasted beetroot is blitzed through béchamel and layered with pockets of pumpkin, spinach, sage and feta. It can be made in advance and heated as the occasion beckons.

Hands-on time 40 mins
Total time 2 hours
Serves 8 as a main

Beetroot béchamel
1kg beetroot, peeled and chopped into 2cm chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
100g butter
100g plain flour
1 litre milk
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¾ teaspoon cracked black pepper

750g peeled pumpkin flesh (from ½ crown pumpkin), chopped into 2cm chunks
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons finely chopped sage
5 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200g spinach leaves, shredded
200g feta, crumbled
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Additional ingredients
375g fresh or instant dried lasagne sheets
2 large handfuls grated tasty cheese

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced (or 200°C conventional). Line 2 large oven trays with baking paper.

First roast the beetroot and pumpkin. In a bowl, toss the beetroot with 3 tablespoons olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Tip out onto one oven tray. In a clean bowl, toss the pumpkin with the ground cumin, 1 tablespoon of the sage, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Tip onto the other tray. Roast the beetroot for about 50 minutes, until cooked through (a knife should easily pierce through the flesh). Roast the pumpkin for 30 minutes or until tender. Remove the roasted beetroot and pumpkin from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 160°C fan-forced (or 180°C conventional).

For the beetroot béchamel, melt the butter in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat until starting to bubble and foam. Add the flour and whisk for a minute or two, until it forms a thick smooth paste.

Remove from the heat and gradually pour in the milk, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth.

Return to medium heat and slowly bring to the boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent the sauce catching on the bottom of the pan, until nicely thickened. Remove from the heat and add the roasted beetroot, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Using a stick blender (or similar), blitz until completely smooth.

For the filling, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the spinach and cook for a couple of minutes, until it is just starting to wilt. Transfer to a large bowl and toss together with the roast pumpkin, remaining sage, feta and pepper.

To construct the lasagne, lightly grease a deep ovenproof dish or baking tin (about 33cm x 23cm) with butter. Spread a very thin layer of beetroot béchamel over the base of the dish. Arrange a single layer of lasagne sheets over the béchamel, then spread with half the filling. Add another layer of lasagne sheets and spread with half the béchamel and a handful of grated tasty cheese. Repeat so that you have 4 layers of lasagne sheets, with a top layer of béchamel sprinkled with tasty cheese.

Bake for 40–45 minutes, until golden brown and the lasagne sheets are cooked through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Serve warm, with your favourite side salad.

178 blacksesamerosecardamomcakehoneymascarponeicing

Black sesame, rose & cardamom cake with honey
mascarpone icing

If there is a quintessentially me cake, this is it. This cake has fed hungry hospital nurses, been cut by a married couple, and even featured as the base for one of my showstoppers on The Great Kiwi Bake Off. I love how visually striking the grey tones of the crumb are against the whipped cloud-like mascarpone. The combination of black sesame, rose, cardamom and black pepper is an unusual one, and it’s sure to become a favourite.

Hands-on time 20 mins
Total time 1 hour 30 mins
Serves 12

Cake batter
100g butter, softened to room temperature
200g caster sugar
2 eggs
125ml canola oil
2 tablespoons rose water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
75g black tahini
125ml coconut cream
150g plain flour
110g ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

To decorate
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
200g mascarpone
1½ tablespoons honey, plus extra to drizzle
2 teaspoons rose water

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan-forced (or 180°C conventional). Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with baking paper.

To make the cake, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl, using an electric hand or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, for 3 minutes or until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat for 1 minute, until well combined. Pour in the oil, rose water and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute, until smooth. Add the black tahini and coconut cream and beat for an additional minute, until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, cardamom, salt and pepper. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet until smooth and just combined. There should be no remaining specks of flour left in the cake batter. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 45–50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To decorate, toast the sesame seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat for a few minutes, until starting to brown and pop. Transfer to a small bowl to cool. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mascarpone, honey and rose water until smooth. Pipe or spread the honey mascarpone evenly over the top of the cooled cake, then sprinkle with the toasted seeds and drizzle with extra honey.

Serve on the day of baking, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Recipes extracted from Good Vibes by Alby Hailes, photography by Aaron McClean, HarperCollins NZ, RRP$55.

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