Friday feeling: tomato and onion focaccia

A savoury treat with an Italian heritage and an English heart

“Little pigeon footprints” is how Matt at Bread Ahead describes the characteristic dimples peppering the surface of focaccia. It’s an odd comparison, perhaps, but it does serve as a reminder that this archetypal Italian bread is, in his hands, indisputably British-born. Baked here in Borough Market, Bread Ahead’s tomato and onion focaccia boasts heritage flour made from English wheat and tomatoes and onions from Turnips, “so very local,” Matt chuckles. The olive oil isn’t British—no hope of that—“but we try to use English ingredients whenever we can, so as to reduce our carbon footprint.”

There was no eureka moment with this focaccia, with its sweet, purple threads of caramelised onion curving around ripe tomatoes, scattered with herbs de Provence. “It just evolved. We follow the customer’s lead really.” The resulting bread, with its umami vegetables oozing into the olive oil-rich dough is proof, were it needed, of that Borough Market customer’s impeccable sense of flavour.

Moist with oil
“I’d recommend some nice hummus or fresh pesto from the Market to dip in, and munch away,” says Matt—and who are we to disagree with him? Borough Olives has the dips; Bread Ahead the warm focaccia, crisp with salt and moist with peppery olive oil. It’s a snack for the sunshine: to be devoured in a warm patch of rays with eyes shut, dreaming of Puglia—before the sound of traffic and the sight of the pigeons (none of which have been anywhere near your bread) reminds you that you’re in London, and the office calls.