Fig, Chèvre and Honey Focaccia with Rosemary
by eat in my kitchen
I’m back in Berlin, back in my kitchen, and I’m enjoying every bit of the calm silence around me. My life here is a stark contrast to the Mediterranean craziness that I inhale from the moment I arrive until I jump back on my plane, taking me back up north. Living in Malta feels like living in a beehive, and although there are ‘only’ 420,000 people on the islands, it feels far more loud and lively than Berlin and its 3.5 million people. I love and hate this buzz at the same time, it excites me, it pushes me, and it entertains me constantly. There’s no other place in the world where I laugh as much as on our Mediterranean archipelago. But it also exhausts me. It’s hard to find a moment just for myself, the tranquil atmosphere that I need so much to get ready for my next adventure. Berlin satisfies this craving perfectly, but here, I miss my Maltese people and the sea – I guess you can’t have everything in life.
Our kitchen in berlin faces a very quiet backyard. I leave the windows open to hear the birds sing, and then it’s often just me, alone with my thoughts and ideas, picturing ingredients and remembering old classics or coming up with new recipes. I get the cooker or oven started and my meditation begins. I have celebrated this ritual every day since we got back, I just cook in silence. Seeing that the weather hasn’t shown the slightest hint of summer, I concentrated on rather hearty pleasures. I made cheese spaetzle (Southern German egg noodles with lots of melted cheese and golden onions), pasta with sautéed radicchio, chicken liver, and mustard butter, and we had our obligatory Sunday pizza night. I tried out a new cake recipe with the sweetest greengage plums, which was great, and I experimented with some dip variations. It was all very relaxing, calming, and it put my mind at ease.
I also pulled one glorious – and much appreciated – dish out of my oven that combined all the luscious enjoyments of summer: a spongy, oily focaccia topped with ripe figs, soft chèvre, honey, and rosemary. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a snack – I could even eat it at teatime with a cup of flowery Darjeeling tea.
Fig, Chèvre and Honey Focaccia with Rosemary
Makes a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″ focaccia
For the dough
plain flour 500g / 3 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons
fast-acting yeast 1 (7g / 1/4 ounce) envelope
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
granulated sugar 1 heaping teaspoon
water, lukewarm, 260ml / 1 cup and 2 tablespoons
olive oil 120ml / 1/2 cup, plus 1-2 tablespoons to oil the baking sheet
For the topping
honey 2 tablespoons
ripe figs, cut in half, 6
soft chèvre, torn into pieces, 150g / 5 ounces
fresh rosemary needles, a small handful
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar (optional)
For the dough, combine the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the lukewarm water and half the olive oil (60ml / 1/4 cup) and knead on medium-high speed for a few minutes until well combined. I mix it on ‘4’ on my KitchenAid. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Transfer the dough to a table or countertop and continue kneading and punching it down with your hands for about 4 minutes or until you have a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Place the dough back in the mixer bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C / 100°F warm oven (conventional setting), for about 60 minutes or until doubled in size.
Oil a 25 x 32cm / 10 x 12 1/2″ baking sheet.
When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for 1 minute. Using your hands, stretch and spread the dough on the oiled baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes or until puffy.
Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F (convection setting). Heat the honey in a saucepan over low heat for about 1 minute or until liquid.
Using the round bottom of a wooden spoon or your finger, punch around 6 x 7 holes into the surface of the dough. Pour the remaining olive oil over the dough and into the holes. Spread the figs (cut side up) over the focaccia and push them gently into the dough. Sprinkle with the chèvre, rosemary, and a little flaky sea salt, and drizzle with the warm honey. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and light brown. Sprinkle with crushed pepper and enjoy warm or cold.