Focaccia col formaggio

IMG_20150825_204810I’ve written about focaccia before but not specifically about cheese focaccia which is something altogether different.    We typically think of focaccia as a thick, dimpled yet fluffy bread, dripping in olive oil and crunchy with salt, sometimes garnished with a diverse range of toppings such as olives, onions and/or rosemary.  Cheese focaccia on the other hand is a true flatbread.  There is no yeast and the dough is rolled out as thinly as possible into two large discs which are then sandwiched together to hide a mouthwatering cheese filling: a filling so gooey and tasty that is difficult to achieve without using chunks of the tangy, fresh Crescenza cheese, a speciality of Northern Italy, made from cow’s milk.

For a while now I’ve been trying to reproduce the wonderful examples of this bread that we tasted in Genoa a year ago but I should point out that Genoa is not the original home of this iconic Ligurian snack.  It is Recco, a seaside town further along the coast to the east, and a place where once a year in May the Festa della Focaccia takes place celebrating focaccia in its many different forms.

festa di focaccia

Here in the UK, and in France where I spend some of my time, it is difficult impossible to find Crescenza cheese.  Taleggio or a blend of mozzarella and cheddar make reasonable substitutes, giving the characteristic oozing, melted cheese look and feel to the finished product.  But it’s not quite the same.  So imagine my delight on a recent visit to Lombardy to find Crescenza cheese readily available in supermarkets! We had driven to Italy with the thought that we might bring back some edible goodies so I was well prepared with a coolbox to transport this delicacy back to my kitchen in France, and it was well worth it.

Focaccia col formaggio

500g ‘00’ pasta flour
50ml extra virgin olive oil
250ml water
A pinch of salt
450g Crescenza cheese or alternatives as mentioned above

Heat the oven to 230°C.  Mix all the ingredients together, except for the cheese, and knead the dough to bring it together.  Leave the dough to rest for 20 minutes.

Split the dough into two pieces and roll each piece out as thinly as you can to fit the size of a round pizza base.  Place one half of the dough onto a round pizza baking tray, dot the cheese around it and then top it with the second piece of dough.  Crimp the edges to seal and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes, but keep checking it as you cook as oven temperatures/flour types vary so much.

When browned and bubbling, take out of the oven, cut into slices and eat immediately.



Wine tasting in the Var – Clos Cibonne

IMG_20150806_174749I’ve just returned to Burgundy after a blissful few days in the Var where we stayed on the Med in the town of Le Pradet, five miles to the east of Toulon.  Having recently been introduced to the wines of a local Var estate in the UK by independent merchant, Red Squirrel Wine, I was delighted to find the vineyard just round the corner from our base.

Clos Cibonne is an estate with Cru Classé vineyard sites and a history that dates back over 200 years.  The Cru Classé classification system was established by the Côtes de Provence appellation in 1955 and sought to recognise quality wine estates within its area of production.  Still in place today with no modifications, only eighteen of the original twenty-three estates remain, the other five having ceased wine production.  It should be noted that the term itself refers only to particular vineyard sites within these estates.

IMG_20150806_145057Arriving at Clos Cibonne on a blisteringly hot afternoon, we were relieved to be ushered into the cool tasting room which provided a welcome break from the heat of the day.  Production on this 15-hectare estate is geared towards rosé wines, the blend of each of these being dominated by the Tibouren grape, an ancient Mediterranean variety which has been grown in the region for centuries but is first thought to have been found in Greece.  It performs best in coastal areas, is light in colour and low in tannin making it ideal for rosé.  Clos Cibonne’s Cru Classé ‘Tradition’ range of rosés are matured in old casks making them much more complex and fuller-bodied than the estates ‘Tendance’ and ‘Tentations’ ranges.   Hence they are great food wines, perfect for matching with bouillabaisse, grilled, meaty fish or Asian cuisine.

IMG_20150806_142142We tasted two of the reds from the ‘Tradition’ range:  the 2014 Cuvée Tradition made predominantly from Tibouren with a touch of Grenache, which was soft, light and bursting with red fruit flavours – a perfect summer red and a recommended pairing for roast veal or chanterelles; then the Cuvée Prestige Olivier 2012, a vin de garde made mostly from Syrah with smaller quantities of both Grenache and Tibouren – much fuller-bodied with darker fruit and definitely one to open up again in a few years to accompany a robust winter dish.


Very little white wine is made under the Côtes de Provence classification but we were impressed with Clos Cibonne’s only white, a blend of 90% Rolle (known as Vermentino in Italy) with a soupçon of Ugni Blanc.   The 2014 vintage is refreshing with bags of citrus and some floral hints, medium-bodied and perfect for barbecued seafood.

The setting of Clos Cibonne is beautiful as I hope you can see from the photo that heads this post.   The wine shop is open all year round from Tuesday to Saturday (9:00 to 12:00 & 15:00 to 19:00) and is located at Chemin de la Cibonne, 83220 Le Pradet.


Salsa marò or fava bean ‘pesto’

IMG_20150801_192554Just like last August’s post on a similar subject, I arrived in France, four days ago, with broad beans (fava beans) from the UK.  This time, however, there was a recipe on my agenda that had been there for too long and I had ran out of time to get to it back home.  Here in France the pace allows for more cooking.

Salsa Marò is a recipe from inland Liguria and the beautiful, bright green ‘pesto’ was traditionally used to tart up simple dishes of boiled, inexpensive red meat.  One recipe I came across involved the addition of anchovies which I did try and it certainly gives an added piquancy.   Nuts do not feature here so ‘pesto’ is not perhaps the right nickname for the sauce – it more closely resembles the niçois pistou which is nut-free.

Try the sauce on a toasted piece of crunchy pain de campagne (heaven – you could even top with some soft, fresh cheese for added extravagance), serve it with roasted meats or barbecued oily fish.

Salsa Marò

500g fava beans in pod (approx. 100g after podding, cooking and peeling the skins)
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
6 large mint leaves, finely chopped
20g pecorino, finely grated
Extra virgin olive oil to bind (approx. 75ml)
A pinch of salt

Blend the garlic and cooked, peeled beans in a pestle and mortar or a blender until you have a coarse paste.  Add the mint, cheese and salt and stir them in gently.  Finally add the olive oil gradually, stirring until you reach the consistency of pesto.