Asparagus focaccia

The Yorkshire asparagus season is now if full swing, and our nearest grower, at Sand Hutton, has recruited local workers to keep up with demand. Keeping a lockdown safe distance for the team has been a challenge for farmers Rich and Ronda Morritt but their asparagus is as good today as it’s always been.

There’s another month to go before the season traditionally ends on Midsummer’s Day so make the most of it while you can – English asparagus is far superior to the spindly stuff that’s flown in from abroad, and it’s an incredibly versatile ingredient, working equally well in a soup as in a salad or dipped in a poached egg for breakfast…

We’ve been making this Sand Hutton asparagus focaccia bread for years now, but for this recipe we’ve made it Yorkshire through and through. The flour has come from the wonderful Side Oven Bakery on the Yorkshire Wolds, and the essential dough ingredient, Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil has come from the Wolds too. 

The ham is from award-winning butcher David Lishman at Ilkley, and the tomatoes have been grown under LED lights at the horticultural research centre at Stockbridge near Cawood, made available through Bert’s Barrow drive-thru farm shop. The red onions are from Bert’s too, with only the polenta for dusting, salt and yeast coming from our store cupboard.

The focaccia is fabulous for tearing and sharing, and even though the lockdown prevents us getting together, it’s just as good re-heated the next day. I’ve also tried it with a poached egg on top for a scratch breakfast – now THAT was amazing….

Sand Hutton asparagus and Lishman’s air dried ham focaccia

Serves 6-8

  • 125g air dried ham – we used smoked – rolled and sliced into ribbons
  • 8 asparagus spears cut into 5cm pieces
  • 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered. You can use sun-dried ones if you prefer
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp easy blend yeast
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 3 tbsp Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil
  • 350ml warm water
  • Cornmeal or polenta to dust (optional)

Combine the yeast, flour and salt in a bowl. Add the oil and water and mix to a rough dough – it will be soft and wet. If you have a mixer with a dough hook it will make short work of the kneading; otherwise, turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand, adding a little more flour if need be, but keep it to a minimum. Knead for 10 minutes until smooth.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl dusted with flour, cover and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size – at least an hour, maybe closer to two.

Meanwhile toss the ham, asparagus and red onion in a tablespoon of the oil and seasoning, then set aside. Grease a shallow-edged 22cm x 30cm baking tray (or a couple of smaller ones) and scatter the cornmeal or polenta over the surface – this gives the focaccia a nice, crisp base. Tip the dough straight onto the tray and, without kneading out the air, press out ;lightly with your fingertips until it rough;y fills the tray.

Arrange the asparagus mixture on the top along with the tomatoes, gently pushing the ingredients into the dough. Cover and leave for 30 minutes or up to an hour, until it has risen further and is light and puffy.

Meanwhile heat the oven to 220C/Gas 7. Bake the focaccia for 10 minutes, then lower to 190C/Gas 5 and bake for 15 minutes more, until golden. Trickle with a little of the oil, then turn out on to a rack. Eat while still warm.

Sue Nelson


01904 448439 / 07850327927
Toft Acres, 89 Back Lane South
Wheldrake, York, YO19 6DT

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