What’s a St Patrick’s Day pizza? (Hint: it involves potatoes)
Lilly Higgins: This is like a pizza bianca, with its white topping and lack of tomato
Potato and blue cheese focaccia
This is as Irish as possible for the week that’s in it. Buttery onion and blue cheese sauce spread over a soda bread base, topped with thin slices of potato, thyme leaves and even more blue cheese.
The salty cheese, sweet onions and layers of carbohydrates make this a real treat – perfect food to fuel a St Patrick’s Day parade or warm you up once you’ve come indoors.
To give this comfort food some balance I like to serve it with a salad. Thinly sliced raw fennel and apple are perfect with a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. A filling slice of this is equally good with tomato soup. It reheats well too.
This is a sort of pizza bianca with its white topping and lack of tomato sauce. The deep soda bread base makes me inclined to call it a focaccia despite its lack of yeast. I chose to cook the onions in this way based on the Palestinian dish musakhan, where onions are cooked for a long time with sumac and olive oil then spread on bread. It’s so good.
Rosemary can be used in place of thyme and you could add a different cheese if you’re not a fan of blue cheese. Ballinrostig Homestead in Cork makes a delicious cream cheese with nettles and garlic. Or you could use a soft Irish goat’s cheese.
POTATO AND BLUE CHEESE FOCACCIA: SERVES 6
2 onions, finely diced
1tbs apple cider vinegar
2tbs natural yogurt
1tsp bread soda
500g plain flour
150g blue cheese (Crozier Blue, Cashel Blue or Bellingham)
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Brush a heavy-based Swiss roll tin or baking tray generously with olive oil.
Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the onions and cover with a lid or piece of foil. Leave to sweat for 10 minutes on a low heat, stir every few minutes. They should be soft, sweet and a light golden colour. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
Wash the potatoes and slice them as thinly as possible. Use a mandolin or food processor if necessary. No need to peel them. Place the potato slices into a bowl of cold water to rinse off as much starch as possible.
Meanwhile make the dough. Stir the vinegar and yogurt into the milk. Leave this to sit for 10 minutes if possible. You could of course use 380ml buttermilk instead. Sieve the flour, salt and bread soda into a wide mixing bowl. Pour the sour milk into the centre. Rotate your hand in a claw shape around the bowl, gently drawing the dry and wet ingredients together. Work quickly but lightly. Tip the just mixed dough onto a floured work surface and fold together once or twice to ensure it is all combined. Pull the dough into a rough rectangle shape and place onto the well oiled tray. Dip your finger tips in flour then gently press the dough into the shape of the tin till it fits perfectly.
Crumble 100g of the blue cheese into the warm onions. Add 1 tsp thyme and stir well with a wooden spoon. The cheese should melt into the onions. Spread this onto the dough leaving a border around the edge.
Drain the potatoes and pat them dry on a tea towel. Layer the potatoes over the onion mix. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil and place in the oven. Reduce the heat to 200C and leave to bake for 30-35 minutes. Crumble the remaining blue cheese over the top and scatter with 1 tsp. thyme leaves before serving warm with a salad.