The final episode of Neven's Food Trails: The Basque Country airs on RTÉ One at 7pm. Why not celebrate the series with Neven Maguire's beautiful Crozier blue sheep's cheese, red onion, and rosemary focaccia ahead of tonight's episode?

Ingredients

This is a slight variation of a bread that we like to serve before the starters arrive in the restaurant. Sheep’s cheese also makes a fantastic topping, as it’s wonderfully creamy yet has a mild flavour. This is best warm, but it also reheats well or is fine when cold. This focaccia keeps relatively well because of its high oil content. It can be reheated on a baking sheet in a preheated oven (180°C/350°F/gas mark 4) for 6–8 minutes, until warmed through. It also freezes well.

Serving Size: This recipe makes one 27.5cm x 18cm (11 x 7in) flat loaf.

  • 450g (1lb) strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp fast action dried yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp sea salt 
  • 225ml (8fl oz) tepid water 
  • 7 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra
  • 1 large red onion, halved and cut into slices (keeping them attached at the root)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp soft light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp basil pesto 
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped
  • 225g (8oz) piece Crozier blue sheep’s cheese, cut into chunks

Method

  1. Mix together the flour, yeast and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the tepid water and 5 tablespoons of the olive oil. Mix well to achieve a soft dough. 
  2. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until doubled in size. 
  3. Turn the dough back out onto a clean surface and knock it back, then knead for another 2–3 minutes and roll out to a large rectangle about 1cm (1/2in) thick. Place in an oiled, lined baking tin that is 27.5cm (11in) x 18cm (7in) and at least 4cm (1 1/2in) deep. Cover with oiled clingfilm. Leave to rise again for 30 minutes, until it looks soft and pillowy. 
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F/gas mark 7). Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small pan over a low heat and toss in the red onion, vinegar and sugar. Gently cook for 12–15 minutes, until the onion is completely softened and caramelised.
  5. Prick the risen dough all over with a fork. Spread over the pesto, then arrange the red onions on top. Stick the rosemary into the dough and arrange the chunks of Crozier blue in rows, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes, until risen, cooked through and golden brown. Leave in the tin for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil to keep the crust softened. 

To Serve: Transfer the focaccia to a breadboard and cut into chunks. Arrange in a breadbasket to serve.