As the sun begins to shine with a little more regularity and the headline writers type out 'Phew, what a scorcher!' with a little more frequency – we hope – we offer up this tasty Mediterranean-influenced loaf that has some of the flavours of a pizza and an itsy bitsy bit of Iberia if you like a touch of smoky paprika. If, like me, you've not been able to beg, steal or bribe your way into getting your hands on some yeast you'll be delighted to know that this doesn't require any, being more of a batter than a dough, and as such is deliciously moist. It looks glorious as it comes out of the oven and if you can keep your greedy hands off it as it cools, it cuts easily and can be toasted under a grill (not so sure about a toaster mind you, I wouldn't try that) and griddles perfectly. I have to confess that I've even spread it with butter and wolfed it down (a bit more northern than Mediterranean, but delicious nonetheless).
When we made this for our test run I served it with squidgy, just blackening roasted tomatoes with basil, olive oil and sticky, thick balsamic vinegar and it was a delicious supper. Past versions we've topped with soft waves of goat's cheese and fresh green herbs, and griddled courgette slices dressed with good olive oil, sea salt, pepper and lemon zest and juice while the courgettes were still warm, the bread toasted beneath. It's always been very pleasing to eat, both comforting and mildly exotic, and I hope you enjoy it too.
- 300g self-raising flour (or 300g plain flour with 2 tsp baking powder added)
- 250g grated mozzarella (chop it very finely if you have a wet mozzarella – grating the latter is tricky as I found!)
- 3 spring onions, thinly sliced or use plenty of chopped chives
- 12 slices salami, cut into pieces (you can use ham if you like but go for a smoked one if possible; sausages of other stripes might work too)
- 100g pitted mixed olives, halved (use all green or all black if you prefer)
- 75g sun-blush (semi-dried) tomatoes, chopped. Use sun-dried if you prefer but they are stronger so use a little less
- ½ red pepper diced and sautéed until soft
- Handful of fresh marjoram or oregano finely chopped (you can use dried instead, 1 good tsp)
- Handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, plus extra leaves to serve (use dried as above but no need to reserve any to serve)
- 2 tsp fresh thyme (use 1 tsp if using dried)
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 60ml olive oil, don't use your best here, or mix half-and-half with vegetable oil
- 125ml milk
- 1 tsp smoked paprika (optional – use plain sweet paprika if preferred, or other spices if you like; a little cumin perhaps, crushed fennel seeds maybe)
- A good pinch each of salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan. Grease or butter a loaf tin about 20cm x10cm, and line the base and sides with greaseproof paper or baking parchment, making sure that the paper extends a couple of centimetres above the rim of the tin as the loaf will rise.
- Place the self-raising flour in a large bowl. Add the grated mozzarella, spring onions or chives, salami, olives, sun-blush or dried tomato, sautéed diced red pepper, paprika if using, salt pepper and herbs. Season. Stir until the various ingredients are well dispersed through the flour.
- Make a well in centre of flour mixture. Add the beaten egg, oil and milk. Stir well to combine. Pour into the lined loaf tin and stand on a baking tray. Bake for 1hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. It should be well risen and deeply golden.
- Leave the loaf to stand for ten minutes or so, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Once the loaf is cool, or at least just warm, slice with a bread knife and serve.
- For a vegetarian version of the loaf itself you can easily drop the salami and swap in some chopped nuts like hazelnuts or almonds, or grated courgette squeezed to remove as much liquid as you can, perhaps more peppers, you name it. It's very forgiving, as long as you don't add too much extra liquid to the mix.
For the full-on Med experience you can't beat a rosé, any one of the following would be great: The Society's Rosé, Pays d'Oc 2019 , Señorio de Sarria Rosado, Navarra 2019, or the Provençal candidate, Domaine Les Mesclances, Charmes, IGP Méditerranée Rosé 2019. None will overpower but all will marry well with the herbs and the salty meatiness of the salami. For whites that will conjure memories of dipped toes in the Med while you enjoy the loaf might be the peachy, fresh Cirò Greco, Santa Venere 2019 from the toe of Italy, the full-flavoured Corbières Blanc, Château Ollieux Romanis 2018, or perhaps the aromatic and herby Verd Albera, Empordà 2018. For a red, Xinomavro Jeunes Vignes, Thymiopoulos 2018 from Greece would offer up its deeply fruited charms, while the cherry and spice of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Vigna Corvino 2018 will work with the pizza-like flavours in the loaf, while the Frappato Fondo Filara, Nicosia 2018 is wonderful lightly chilled thanks to its bags of bright fruit and will work well too.