picnics and caramelised onion foccacia


I’m a big fan of picnics. Particularly during the summer months when the warmth of the sun lingers long after her brightness has faded.

On the balmiest of nights, we can often be found on the shores of City Beach with a basket, Esky (the Australian word for cooler or ice box), swimmers and (on the odd occasion) a battered volleyball. Quite Australian indeed.

sunset picnic

In fact, amongst our friends (and many others) this tradition also occurs on most Australia Day holidays, usually accompanied by barbecued meat and the Triple J Hottest 100. We’ll possibly do the same this Monday (for overseas readers, Australia Day falls on the 26 January each year) or alternately, dunk ourselves in a swimming pool whilst sipping a cold beer. I can’t wait.


For those of you planning an Australia Day feast, I’ve included a few recipe links below that are perfect for warm weather snacking, feasting and transporting. There’s also a quick recipe for what I’ve found to be a fail-proof olive oil focaccia.

We eat on its own (the herby, garlicky caramelised onion topping is delicious), with dips (hummus, olive oil, babaghanouj) and sliced lengthways for incredible grilled sandwiches. It’s so, so good.







Olive Oil Focaccia with Caramelised Onion Topping

Adapted from this recipe by Kerrie Sun

Makes one loaf

For the dough:

  • 450g (3 cups) strong bread flour
  • 310ml (1 1/4 cups) warm water
  • 2 tsp (7g/1 sachet) dried yeast
  • 2 tsp golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp extra for kneading + greasing pan
  • 2 tsp flaked sea salt


  • 1 small red (Spanish) onion, finely sliced
  • small bunch rosemary and thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil + extra 1 tbsp to brush
  • flaked sea salt, to sprinkle

Combine the water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 5 minutes or until frothy.

Place the flour and half of the sea salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture alongside 2 tbsp olive oil. Mix the wet yeast mixture into the flour using a fork or wooden spoon, then use your hands to bring the dough together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for 5-10 minutes or until smooth, soft and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl (I used the same mixing bowl, wiped clean) and transfer the dough in. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel, then leave to prove in a warm, draught-free place for 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size*.

Whilst your dough is rising, prepare your caramelised onion topping: in a medium pan, gently heat a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Add in the sliced onion, garlic and picked herbs, stirring gently over low heat until the onion is translucent (do NOT allow the garlic to brown or burn or the mixture will become bitter). Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Brush a 20 x 30 pan with remaining oil, then set aside.

Punch down the dough with your fist. Turn onto a lightly greased surface and knead for another two minutes or until the dough is elastic and has returned to original size. Press out into a rough rectangle and transfer into your prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place to prove for 20 minutes or until doubled in size.

When your dough has finished proving, uncover and use your fingers to press dimples into the surface. Distribute the caramelised onion topping over the surface, pressing some of the herb sprigs into the dough. Sprinkle with a little flaked sea salt.

Transfer into your preheated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden (the foccacia should sound hollow when tapped on the base). Brush with a little more olive oil to soften the crust, then leave to cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Dough can be refrigerated overnight at this point in the process, covered in plastic wrap. You may need to complete second proving in the oven to ensure a good rise (I turned the oven on, preheated it to 100 degrees then turned it off. Leave to cool slightly then transfer your pan of dough onto the centre rack), covered in a moist tea towel. Prove until the dough has doubled in size. 


To all the Australian readers, happy Australia Day weekend. For my overseas friends, stay warm – I hope this post brings you a sliver of sunshine.

47 responses

  1. Wow! How did you do that? I just sat down to explore some recipe ideas for Australia Day and here is your amazing post! Thank you for the abundance of ideas! Hmmm, now which one am I going to try first?

    • Haha, thanks lovely! Did you end up trying any of them? I made very simple stuff for Aussie day myself… a few of these lovely salads, some grilled meat and a pav! Hope that you’ve had an awesome start to the new year xx

  2. The perfect weather and perfect bites, for the long weekend. Love the look of that delcious spread and especially that freshly baked Foccacia. It’s one of the nicest things in life to enjoy some meals al fresco in the summertime!

    • Thanks beautiful – ah, hope that you’ve been managing ok in the heat of this summer! I’m a big fan of bread too… so simple and such an awesome accompaniment to anything picnicky! Hugs xx

  3. Holy cow, this looks good!! I need to make this for us, but we’ll be eating it with soup for awhile. I think picnics are out for awhile, although (knock on wood), this winter hasn’t been anything like last year. I’m hoping that means a warmer April than normal. As in, 75 degrees and sunny on April 18th. We can hope, right? I hope your week goes well for you. xx

    • I’m glad that winter hasn’t been as bad as normal. I just can’t relate, our main problem is being way too hot rather than being too cold (too much sun – is that even a thing over in the US?!). It’s still warm here. Aaron and I are still sleeping on the floor most nights (which Loki just loves, he jumps on top of us and has a whole lot of fun!). Stay warm lovely, praying for a gorgeous and sunny March and April! x

  4. I love picnics – and picnic food! We just talked about it in the car and now you have those pretty pictures and the lovely salads & breads & dips. We must have one indoors (got some scones left), it is snowing outside. N xx

    • Oh man, I can’t even imagine snow!!! It’s been years since I’ve been anywhere cold enough for sleet, never mind snow. Hope that you’ve been staying warm and that you managed to have your indoor picnic! Hugs xx

  5. Happy Australia Day! I love picnics too, and it has been so long since we have gone on one. Thanks for the inspiration! I think I shall try your focaccia tomorrow!

    • Oh David, thank you for the comment my friend! I do hope that you enjoyed the foccacia, I love them… so easy and wonderful for both picnics and every day eating. Sending you hugs xx

    • Thanks Suzanne, I appreciate it! Hope that you’ve been enjoying the start of the new year (weird to think that we are sweating away here whilst you are cold there). Hugs xx

  6. Dear Laura,
    This is beautiful: I love onion focaccia and yours looks divine!
    It’s good to be able to enjoy your wonderful blog once again: I have been missing you and your posts during my cyber-absence!
    And BTW, although belatedly, let me wish you all the very best for 2015: may all that you desire the most come true :-)
    Take care

    • So nice to hear from you Stefano!!!! Hope that you, Francesca and the little lady have been well! I did notice your absence – hope that all has been going smoothly? All the best for the new year to you too. Thanks for the kind words xx

  7. Oooh, reading this at 12.25am on the 26th – the UK has just hit Australlia day! Haha yey! Google tells me you’ve already been there for 8 hours though, so … hmm. Well I guess it’s only fair you got there first, seeing as how you ARE IN Australia. Still a bit miffed, Might need to put on a cork hat – Argh: that was a low blow. Stereotyping. Sorry :P

    I love a good picnic – especially with a proper wicker basket, it just makes everything taste even better, and especially with such a spread as you put on. What a selection!

    I hope you have a wonderful day! x

    • Haha, I do hope that you celebrated Australia Day with me! Albeit several hours behind! I’ve been thinking of you as I read your recipe book (I mean, the one you sent – though I would be even more enthralled if you wrote one) over the weekend. Your package should be in the mail this week, wooop! xx

  8. oh my gawd, Laura! these photos are gorgeous!!! City Beach, picnics, swimming pools and cold beer. Can I transport myself over there? Just even for a few days?? I’m so cold in Wisconsin!!

  9. So, I read the title of your post about picnics, and I had to tell you about my picnic stories or rather experinces, I love picnics too, so does my hubby, infact, his fave thing is to drive up to the mountains, hike a littel and then settle down to a nice picnic lunch. Yeah…sounds idyllic…never is, our picnics are always enhance by hail on one picnic (this one was in the summer time), thunderstorms of epic portions, wind..hurricane strength, cold, snow…and so on. This last one we went on last week, SO cold and windy,,,,sigh. Maybe we need to move to Austraila :)
    Anyway, love picnics and love focaccia! Especially caramelised onion one…I add fig jam and Brie to mine…so good.
    Happy Austraila Day to you, lovely!

    • Wow, your picnics sound… hazardous!!!!! I’ve never had a picnic in bad weather, other than a bit of wind which might blow paper plates away etc. Nothing in comparison to your stories!! Definitely come and visit us here – I would love to be able to take you around. Thanks for the lovely words, hugs xxx

  10. Happy Australia Day! You can bet that today I would have loved to be in hot sunny Perth having a picnic,.. instead of freezing here working at my desk! xx

  11. Hope your Australia Day was awesome! This focaccia must have definitely helped improve the day, even if the weather was a bit iffy!
    I love the caramelised onions on it, so flavoursome!

    Choc Chip Uru

  12. Happy belated Australia Day lovely! Indeed our Aussies Days consist of much the same…sunshine, simple but delicious food, and Triple J. Didn’t quite get the sunshine bit over here in Tassie but we made up for it with the food and the J’s

    • Aw, I cannot wait to visit Tasmania. One day it’ll happen! Your pictures looked beautiful Martine, I was positively swooning at how beautiful Tassie is. Glad that you had a gorgeous Australia Day, hope to see you soon xxx

  13. Ahhhh I love picnics too, and I miss WA! We used to go to City Beach a bit when I was younger, my grandparents lived in Subiaco and my aunty in Scarborough (in fact, I think one of them even taught at city beach high for a while?). What a picnic spread you have got there…I need to have a picnic stat. By the way, I think I forgot to tell you but I made your blackened corn salad on christmas day and it was a hit with the family :) xx

    • Oh yaaaaay! I am so glad Caeli! That’s great to hear (as it’s one of my fave salads, woop woop!). I love City beach. Wish that you were still here – I’d suggest that we hang out on the weekend! Maybe one day x

  14. Pingback: The Last Days of Summer + Pet-friendly Holidays in WA « Laura's Mess

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