Picnics and I have a complicated relationship. I love them, I really do. Going to a beautiful spot and unpacking a simple but delicious meal, to eat in the fresh air, looking at a beautiful view…what could be better?
However, and this is a big but… I spent most of my twenties in beautiful parts of the Italian countryside, making picnics for sixteen people, every day for many weeks at a time.
After about nine years of that, even though ten years have since passed, I am still totally saladed out. I've done the tomato in every possible computation. I've produced cannellini beans in a hundred different disguises. I've arranged prosciutto and salami in attractive presentations on just about every hilltop between
Now when I make picnics for my family they get sandwiches.
So with Johanna's latest WTSIM theme being picnic fare I had to think long and hard what to make. Mini quiches were my first option. I love anything with pastry and don't often make it, so they are a treat and their small size means you get more pastry per portion, which is even better. Except I forgot to buy cream, and cream for the filling is a must in my quiches.
One good thing about my Italian culinary past is that it never included baking. I was catering for the five thousand from the side of a Mercedes minibus. At the most I had a gas camping stove in the colder months. Sometimes I could cook something up quickly in a hotel kitchen before heading off to my picnic spot at a picturesque abandoned farmhouse on a hill, but never ever did I even think about making bread. Who needs to anyway in Italy, where even the smallest town has a bakery wafting enticing smells of fresh bread into the morning air, where school kids stop off first thing for a slice of rosemary topped focaccia to get them through the rigors of the school bus ride.
With the deadline tomorrow I had to think quickly and decided to go for the simplest thing I could. I was making white bread anyway, to get a head start on the week. I diverted half the dough, divided it up into about six balls and flattened them into disks pressing my thumb down hard in about seven places on each. Once they'd risen again, I sprinkled them with sea salt, a generous brushing of olive oil and several rosemary leaves each and baked them for 15 minutes.
They made the perfect fake focaccia and are ideal as rolls to fill for the picnic-fatigued. I can guarantee that any filling, however plain, tastes a hundred times better with the rosemary and salt zing on top, cheese being a particularly good combination. They are just normal white bread inside, so are less oily than real focaccia. Next time we plan a picnic I'm going to make these the night before and add a bit of class to my sandwiches. You never know, I might even get around to making a salad to go with them one of these days and serve them on a red checked tablecloth!