Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Flatbreads with Pecorino, Olive Oil, Honey and Thyme

Among the many amazing things we ate (and, of course, cooked!) on honeymoon, one of the most revelatory was a simple starter at our second hotel, the Villa Cicolina near Montepulciano. 

This heaven on earth had incredible food at every hour of the day and offered its guests a four course meal every night, consisting of a starter, a pasta, a meat course and a pudding. Needless to say, we took full advantage and, needless to say, it was always delicious. Also needless to say, I am no longer as thin as I was on my wedding day. There may or may not be a correlation between those facts.

One of the simplest starters was just a selection of three types of pecorino - fresh, two weeks old and mature - drizzled with local honey and scattered with walnuts. Even though I professed not to like honey, my new husband is vehemently anti-nut, and we both thought we were iffy about pecorino, we both realized that it tasted absolutely incredible. We scoffed it all, practically licked the plate and, following a day trip to the hill-town of Pienza (a Unesco heritage site and home to tourists, cheese and wine), came back to this country with a sturdy bundle of three types of pecorino in our hand luggage.

Back home, away from the sunshine, we did enjoy most of the pecorino simply served with honey, nuts and salad - and it was still delicious. But unexpectedly busy schedules post-wedding meant that we haven't yet managed to finish it, and it's started to get pretty dry and hard. No longer quite so tempting on its own, but it does deserve some kind of special treatment. It's honeymoon cheese, after all! A dairy declaration of love! Curds and wahey, we're married! Ugh, I know, that's terrible. I'm sorry.

Anyway, Smitten Kitchen posted this recipe the other day and it immediately rung a pecorino-shaped bell in my head. Grating the cheese and using it to adorn an olive oil flatbread, partnered with honey and thyme, seems like the perfect fate for our special cheese, and her description and photos looked really tempting.

Trying to avoid being massively greedy, I made a smaller version than she suggests. Unusually among American recipes, Smitten Kitchen does translate her amounts into metric, but they come out as very specific quantities (like 79 or 118 ml, impossible to measure) so I just rounded everything to sensible numbers and roughly quartered it all. Obviously we could have eaten the full amount - my other half is not called Greedy Gusto for nothing - but this made a perfect snack for two without leaving us groaning and overstuffed. Not that that has ever happened to us, you understand. Ahem.

Now I have to admit that this split opinions in the Dine at Mine household. I absolutely loved it - loved it, loved it. Greedy Gusto? He wasn't so sure. He liked it, and ate all his portion, but when asked about the vital "should I make this again" test, he said not. But that said, it is so incredibly quick and easy that I say make it, try it, and see what you think. If it tastes even an iota as good as our honeymoon, it'll be worth it. 


Flatbreads with Pecorino, Olive Oil, Honey and Thyme
Adapted very little from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 2 - I quartered Smitten Kitchen's recipe, and ended up with a good amount for a couple of people to snack on before dinner. Her recipe has the full amounts if you're feeling greedier or more hospitable.

- 55g flour (she says "all purpose", I used plain)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- a few grinds of salt
- 30ml water
- 20 ml olive oil
- 20g grated pecorino (or she uses Mahon cheese)
- a big teaspoonful of honey
- some fresh thyme leaves
- some sea salt to scatter on top

Preheat the oven to 220C and put a heavy baking tray in to get hot.

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, then make a well in the middle and pour in the water and oil. Stir together with a wooden spoon until it's a dough, then knead it for a minute or so.

Roll out on a sheet of parchment paper until it's quite thin and big, then slide onto the hot baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until golden. Scatter the cheese on top and return to the oven for another 3 or 4 minutes, then take out, drizzle with honey, thyme leaves and some sea salt, cut up and eat. Wish you'd made the full amount.

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