White Soda Focaccia with Caramelised Red Onion & Cooleeney

A couple of weeks ago I was invited along to lunch at the new Avoca in Monkstown, Co. Dublin. A new venture for the family run Avoca as the full premise is solely dedicated to food. There is a cafe which hosts an exciting seasonal menu, which certainly left me spoilt for choice. There is also a lavish food hall which is impressively stocked with fresh fruit and veg, cheeses, rotisserie Irish chickens, fresh breads and cakes, a craft butcher and many delicious Irish products. It's a food lovers haven, which has many of the best artisan products in the country all under one roof.
In the last number of years I have really come to appreciate the value of well produced, good quality food.  Lucky for us in Ireland there is an abundance of food producers that are truly dedicated to developing products that are held in high esteem world wide. We are blessed in this country to have fabulous land and in turn our animals are served an excellent diet, which results in premium meat and milk. The quality of Irish cheeses, yogurts, butter and meat all goes back to the land and how well that our animals are treated by the farmers.
As well as some well known Irish companies there is now an increasing amount of Irish artisan products appearing in our shops. Indeed these artisan products can be expensive but there is little comparison between them and their supermarket equivalent. It has never been more important than now for us to shop local and buy Irish. International studies have confirmed that 45c of every euro spent with local companies re-circulates back into the local economy. There was a fantastic campaign last year asking us to substitute even one product in our basket for an Irish equivalent. It has really made me think, so now when there is an Irish alternative to something on my list, I generally pick it up. 

White Soda Focaccia with Caramelised Red Onion & Cooleeney

Here is a recipe that is based on a bread I once saw Rachel Allen making in Ballymaloe. It's a recipe for a traditional Irish white soda bread but instead of popping it into a loaf tin it is cooked in an oiled swiss roll tin. The orginal recipe had some Cashel Blue and sliced garlic sprinkled over the dough, which was also delicious. I've topped it with some red onion that I caramelised on the pan with a little olive oil, some creamy Irish Cooleeney, a little grated cheddar, a drizzle of olive oil over the top and the result is a very tasty White Soda Focaccia. This makes the perfect accompaniment to soup but also often when I'm entertaining I will have one cut up into lots of cubes to enjoy with wine, cheese and olives. 

Olive Oil
450g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt
400ml buttermilk
75g (3oz) soft cheese,  such as Cooleeney,  Brie or Camembert
handful grated cheddar
3 tbsp caramelised red onion
Olive oil

1.    Preheat an oven to 200 ̊C/ 430 ̊F/gas mark 7.
2.    Brush a swiss roll tin or baking tray generously with olive oil.
3.   Sieve the plain flour, salt and the bread soda into a big bowl.
      4. Make a well in the centre, pour in most of the buttermilk, and with one hand stiff and your fingers spread out like a claw, start mixing in a full circle once the butter milk has gone in.
  5. Keep mixing like this until you have a soft dough. Do not knead it but work it very gently to bring it together.
  6. Transfer to a floured surface and roll it out to about 35x20cms (14x8inches), and transfer it to the oiled tray.
  7.  Drizzle the top with some more olive oil and sprinkle evenly with the cheese and onions. 
  8.  Put it in the oven and cook for 18-25 minutes, depending on how thick it is. 
  9.  When cooked, it should feel firm in the centre and be gorgeous and golden brown on top.
  10.  Transfer it to a wire rack and cool for a couple of minutes, then cut it into squares and serve.


Sheila Kiely said...

That looks great Nessa and would be a great lunchbox filler.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

How do you do that??!! Take such simple ingredients and turn them into a feast? Beautiful

We do buy local whenever we can. If it is good I will pay the extra knowing the money is going to a neighbor. They in turn will buy our locally raised meat. Slowly we are helping to build back up our small communities. AND our meals taste so much better!

Kristin said...

This looks and sounds gorgeous, Nessa! I like Shelia's idea of serving it for the kids' lunch.

Nessa Robins said...

Thanks Sheila! The kids actually really like this bread and I've sent it in the lunchbox a few times :) It's best eaten on the day it's cooked but is still perfect the next day!
Thanks Donna for your lovely comment! You're a real trouper for promoting local. Pity we live so far apart as I'd love to meet for a cuppa and a chat :)

Nessa Robins said...

Thanks Kristin! It's such an easy bread to make and always looks impressive. It's also a winner as the kids like it! Must include it more often in their lunch boxes.

paulaannryan said...

Looks gorgeous! Like the idea of cubing it and dipping! Yum!

paulaannryan said...

Looks gorgeous! Like the idea of cubing it and dipping! Yum!

Clare said...

That looks fabulous. I haven't ever made any type of bread yet - but I'll put this on my to-do list!

Imen said...

Nessa! This looks and sounds gorgeous!!!! I was just working with some Cooleeney cheeses today as well....really lovely. Must give this recipe a try...I think the little guy would love it too! xx

Magda said...

I try to buy local products as often as I can. I must admit that sign "buy me I'm Irish" is really easy to spot on veggies in supermarkets.
Great idea for focaccia, it looks delicious.

Nessa Robins said...

It's so lovely Paula, dipped into some pesto or hummus.
Well Clare this bread would be a very easy one to start with or maybe just a white soda - http://nessasfamilykitchen.blogspot.com/2011/03/traditional-white-soda-bread_16.html
They really produce some gorgeous cheese, Imen! I'm sure your little man would love this bread.
Thanks Magda! That's very true and makes it quite easy now for shoppers to buy Irish.

Aoife Mc said...

Adopt me. Please! This bread looks amazing.

Nessa Robins said...

Ah Aoife!! You'll have to call down to us for lunch sometime, just don't mention about proposing to Mr. Fionn :)