What a lucky sod I am. Let me count the ways.
After the recent extended period of cold snappiness, today was a beautiful, crisp, sunny day and I had the health to enjoy it. I also had running water so that I could shower and not sully the day with smelliness. Not to mention being able to make my morning coffee, so that I didn’t have to subject anyone to excessive early morning grumpiness (at least not any more than usual).
And time. I had time to contemplate the creation of some olive oily, potato-y bread. And time to contemplate what had been going on elsewhere in the universe this week.
A week where my brother’s bedroom ceiling fell in when pipes froze and burst in his attic. Where a friend was seen on national news toting buckets of water as the water supply to her housing estate has been gone more or less since Christmas. And, yes, Haiti (I’ve been taking English Mum’s lead on that and giving a bit for Shelterbox).
Relative to all of that, there’s really not a lot that’s topsy turvy about life Spud-side. In fact, the topsy turviest thing today may possibly have been this potato upside down bread. Potatoes, then onions, garlic and olive oil, then some soda bread dough, inverted once baked, so that the potatoes come out on top (as is only right and proper). It’s kind of like a deep-dish potato pizza or a potato-topped focaccia, while not being exactly the same as either. I guess I could have started with the dough on the bottom to begin with, and the results wouldn’t have been wildly different, but it was an upside down kind of day.
Potato Upside Down Bread: A Soda Bread Focaccia
The inspiration for this comes from that baking course I did last year with Rachel Allen. I loved the idea of her cheat’s focaccia, made with white soda bread dough, rolled flatter than normal and topped with lots of olive oil, salt and whatever else you feel like using – a simple savoury bread that can be in the oven in minutes.
For this bread, you have some white soda bread dough, with added parmesan and thyme, layered on top of potatoes, onions, garlic and olive oil. Use a nice, fruity olive oil if you’ve got it (I used the last of my Hartleys stash). You bake the bread, then invert the pan when you’re done. The potatoes may stick to the pan and need some persuasion to break free but, not to worry, it’ll still taste good. Needless to remark, if you have a non-stick pan, this would be a good time to use it.
For the dough:
- 200g plain flour
- 0.5 tsp baking soda
- 0.5 tsp salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 0.25 tsp dried thyme
- 25g grated parmesan
- 125-150ml buttermilk
For the filling:
- 200g potato (one medium-sized specimen)
- 75g onion, finely sliced
- 2 large cloves garlic, cut into fine slivers
- 3 tblsp olive oil, divided, plus more for brushing the pan
- 1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
- salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
You’ll also need:
- Heavy pan that can be used both on the stovetop and in the oven – non-stick if possible (I used a 24cm round cast iron pan). You’ll also need a plate that is wider than the pan onto which you can invert the bread once it’s baked.
- Preheat your oven to 200C
- Scrub your potato and, leaving the skin on, slice thinly (use a mandoline if you have it).
- Brush the base of your pan with olive oil (about a tsp should do) and arrange the potato slices in a single layer in a circular or spiral pattern, overlapping the slices as you go.
- To prepare the dough, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and a couple of twists of black pepper.
- Add the thyme and parmesan and stir to mix.
- Pour in most of the buttermilk and, using one hand, mix together gently to form a soft dough. Add a little more buttermilk if the flour has not been completely incorporated, using just enough so that the dough binds together – it should not be too wet or sticky.
- On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a circle the same size as your pan.
- Now, place the pan with the potatoes on a medium heat and bring them to a sizzle.
- Remove from the heat, scatter with the sliced onion, slivered garlic, 2 tblsp of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and a couple of twists of black pepper.
- Top with the dough, pressing it down into the onion layer and pricking all over with a fork. Brush with another tblsp of olive oil.
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until nicely browned and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a plate. You may want to try loosening the bottom of the bread before doing so, especially if the pan is not non-stick. Even if the potato layer doesn’t come away cleanly, just remove whatever is left in the pan and reunite it with the rest of the bread.
- Cut into wedges and enjoy along with some green salad and a glass of vino if you are so inclined.
- You could certainly add a few sliced olives and perhaps some capers on top of the onion layer.
- One cake of potato bread, would serve 3-4 as a lunch, along with some green salad.