I see these grapes every day while running with the dog. They are hanging over a fence saying “steal me”. But I don’t. Even though the farmer on the other side of the fence is letting most of them turn to raisins on the vine. It’s all inspiration though because I have now started thinking about raisin recipes.
Grapes are kind of underused in cooking I think. There’s the Veronique thing with sole and they go very nicely on a cheese board of course. About the same time last year I made a White Grape & Manchego Cheese Tartlet that I sprinkled with fennel seeds and served with an elderflower syrup.
The combination of flavours work really well together. The herb should really be tarragon though, not basil, to follow on with the anise fennel theme but our plant is on its way out so basil was my next choice. It’s an Ottolenghi recipe that I’ve adapted using spelt flour instead of normal and I added the sea salt and herbs. I like the scattering of sea salt on top to contrast with the sweetness of the sugar and fennel seed topping.
Grape & Fennel Seed Focaccia Recipe
Makes a 20 x 30cm focaccia, vegan, wheat-free.
Adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook
For the starter:
- 15g fresh yeast ( or 1 sachet dried)
- 210ml bottled lukewarm water
- 165g spelt flour (I used wholemeal)
Put the yeast and water in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until the yeast dissolves. Add the flour, stirring until you get a porridgy consistency. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours to double in size.
For the dough:
- 165g spelt flour (wholemeal or white)
- 1+1/2 tsp light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil plus extra for brushing
- 1 +1/2 tsp sea salt plus extra to sprinkle
Mix the doubled in size starter (above) with the flour, sugar & olive oil in a bowl. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes then add the salt and knead it into the bread for about 2 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Brush the inside of a bowl with some olive oil put the dough in it and brush the surface with more oil. Cover with a damp cloth again and leave in a warm place for an hour until doubled in size.
Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and gently stretch it with your fingers into a rectangle. Fold one of the short edges of the rectangle into the middle, then fold the other short end over that so you get 3 layers. Brush the inside of a 20 x 30cm baking tin with oil and put the folded dough in it with the seam underneath. flatten it out with your fingers until it nearly fills the tin, cover with cling film and leave to rise for another hour. Go back 3 or 4 times in the hour to press it out with your fingers to reach the edges. By the end it should fill the tin, have lots of finger bumps and be about 2cm thick.
For the topping:
- 150g seedless grapes (I used a mix of red & white)
- about a tbsp raw/brown sugar
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- flaky sea salt
- fresh tarragon leaves (or basil)
Preheat oven to 220C. Halve the grapes lengthways and stud them all over the dough. Mix the sugar and fennel seeds together and sprinkle this all over the top too.
Bake for 10 minutes then lower the heat to 190C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes until slightly browned & cooked through. Remove from the oven and brush with olive oil while still hot and then sprinkle over some sea salt. When ready to serve strew or tear over some fresh tarragon or basil leaves.
This is lovely as a snack, supper or picnic with some mature cheese (like a Manchego or Parmesan) and a glass of wine. Or serve as part of a continental breakfast or brunch instead of croissants and pastries.