03 May // Book club bread

I returned home to Auckland last week after eating my way through 12 days in Taiwan, and until I write it up properly you'll be pleased to know I instagrammed up a storm. I ate so much good stuff, including a couple of incredible gua bao and plenty of tapioca laced bubble tea. Since being back it's been all go (when is it not all go?) and on Friday afternoon I got to talk about what I've been up to on Jesse Mulligan's afternoon show, on RNZ. As well as chatting about street food in Taipei, we yarned about my upcoming book (I borderline lost my mind over summer compiling a book of 50 restaurants across NZ, but the first proofs are checked, and it's looking beautiful, and you'll all be able to buy a copy in October!) and about making platters for dinner.

You can listen to the segment here, in which I also shared my recipe for book club bread. This is another of heartbreak pie's greatest hits, and it's been a while since I've made it but since I've found myself in a new book club here in Auckland I thought it was appropriate. As you will hear in the segment, it is so named because it was a staple feature at the book club I weasled my way into years ago in Wellington, which wasn't so much a book club as an excuse to get together mid week and drink wine and eat snacks for dinner. It was so named book club because one of my friend's worked in one of those awful law firms that don't let graduates out at night time without a good excuse, and while drinking wine with your mates was not deemed an appropriate excuse, book club certainly was.

And so, a very simple dough, some caramelised onions, a smattering of blue cheese or feta, and a table full of impressed guests. Whether you need an excuse to drink wine on a weekday, or if you just fancy snacks for dinner or want to jazz up your #plattergram, herewith: book club bread. Books are optional.      

 

Book club bread

Book club bread

(stuffed feta and caramelised onion bread)

2 cups plain flour

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp instant yeast

3/4 cup - 1 cup lukewarm water

2 tblsp oil

Combine flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and add 3/4 cup water and the oil. Mix to form a soft dough, adding more water if required.

Place on a floured bench and knead lightly for 2 minutes.

Place in an oiled bowl and leave to (roughly) double in size (up to an hour - ideally while you caramelise the onions).

For the caramelised onions:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

3 large red onions, sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tbsp brown sugar

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan. Add the onions and garlic, then add a good pinch of salt. Cover and cook until the onions are soft, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook gently, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced to a thick and sticky consistency, with no liquid left in the pan. This can take a good 25-30 minutes.

To assemble:

Knead out the dough for about 5 minutes. Roll it out into a big square on a tray lined with baking paper.

Spread over the onions, leaving about a 2cm border around the edge. Crumble over about 150g of  feta (or blue cheese works well). Fold the dough square carefully into three, lightly pressing down the sides. Rub the top with a little oil, and a few fennel seeds, or some sea salt and a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Bake for 25-30mins at 200C until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush over a little more oil while it's still hot.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature as part of a platter.