One loaf of bread, four meals

Use one prin­ci­pal in­gre­di­ent, eat for days. Here are four de­li­cious meals made with the most hum­ble house­hold sta­ple: a loaf of bread

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - by Rachel Roddy

Good bread ages well. Of course it gets firmer and tougher, but th­ese are ex­actly the qual­i­ties that make it so good for cooking with. A big loaf, prepped on a Sun­day, pro­vides a head­start on four ex­cel­lent meals for four peo­ple.

To pre­pare the bread

You need an 800g–1kg loaf of day-old, good-qual­ity bread. To make the crumbs for the pasta with bread­crumbs, cut away the crusts and put them on a bak­ing tray in a oven pre­heated to 160C/325F/gas mark 3 for 10 min­utes or un­til they are crisp and dry. Smash coarsely with a rolling pin. Cut the rest of the bread into three pieces: two weigh­ing about 250g each for the gnoc­chi and soup, and a smaller piece, about 150g, for the pud­ding.

1 The clas­sic pasta

Spaghetti with an­chovy crumbs

An­chovy crumbs are sim­ply bread­crumbs fried un­til golden and crisp in a mix­ture of but­ter and olive oil into which you have melted an­chovy fil­lets. It’s a per­fect ex­am­ple of the umami flavour. I like an­chovy crumbs on salad, sprout­ing broc­coli, fish and – best of all – tossed with spaghetti.

4 tbsp ex­tra vir­gin olive oil

A gen­er­ous knob of but­ter

8 an­chovies in oil, drained; or 4 salt-packed an­chovies, cleaned and boned

A big hand­ful of bread­crumbs

400g spaghetti or lin­guine Black pep­per

A hand­ful of finely chopped pars­ley (op­tional)

1 Bring a large pan of wa­ter to a fast boil over a high heat. Salt the wa­ter, stir, then add the pasta and cook, stir­ring from time to time, un­til al dente.

2 Warm the oil and but­ter in a fry­ing pan or skil­let over a medium-low heat. Af­ter a minute, add the an­chovies and nudge them gen­tly around the pan un­til they dis­in­te­grate and dis­solve into the oil. Add the bread­crumbs, raise the heat a lit­tle and fry un­til the crumbs have ab­sorbed all the an­chovy-in­fused fat and are golden and crisp. Re­move from the heat and keep warm.

3 Drain the pasta and tip into a bowl. Sprin­kle over the bread­crumbs and pars­ley if you are us­ing it, grind over a lit­tle black pep­per, toss and serve im­me­di­ately with a glass of cold, white wine with enough acid­ity to hold its own against the an­chovies.

2 Knock­out gnoc­chi

Gnoc­chi di pane – bread dumplings with but­ter, sage and parme­san

Gnoc­chi is the Ital­ian name for dumplings and they can be made of pota­toes, ri­cotta, semolina, po­lenta, veg­eta­bles and – as I re­cently dis­cov­ered – bread. The idea might sound rather plain and sim­ple, and it is – but de­li­ciously so, es­pe­cially when the gnoc­chi are dressed up with plenty of sage and but­ter sauce and freshly grated parme­san. You could also serve

Gnoc­chi can be made with pota­toes, ri­cotta, semolina, po­lenta, veg­eta­bles and – as I re­cently dis­cov­ered – bread

th­ese gnoc­chi with sim­ple, smooth tomato and basil sauce.

250g stale bread, with­out crusts

150ml whole milk

2 eggs

100g plain flour (plus a lit­tle ex­tra)

40g freshly grated parme­san

Salt, pep­per and nut­meg, to taste

To serve

75g but­ter

6 whole fresh sage leaves

Parme­san

1 Tear the bread, put it in a bowl, cover with milk and leave it to sit for 10 min­utes or so. Us­ing your fin­gers, crum­ble the milky bread and then squeeze away the ex­cess milk.

2 Mix to­gether, us­ing your hands, the bread, eggs, flour, parme­san, a pinch of salt, a grind of pep­per and a good grat­ing of nut­meg. The mix­ture should be sticky; how­ever, if it is feel­ing un­man­age­able, add a lit­tle more flour.

3 With floury hands, mould the mix­ture into small wal­nut-size balls and put on a lightly floured board. Us­ing the back of a fork, gen­tly flat­ten each ball, leav­ing a light fork imprint.

4 In a small pan, melt the but­ter over a low heat, add the sage leaves, raise the heat to medium and al­low them to siz­zle un­til they change colour, which usu­ally takes about a minute. Re­move the pan from the heat and keep warm.

5 You are go­ing to poach the gnoc­chi rather than boil them. Bring a deep pan of wa­ter to the boil, add salt, then re­duce the heat slightly so the wa­ter is still boil­ing but not ag­gres­sively. Drop the gnoc­chi into the wa­ter. Once they bob to the sur­face they are ready.

6 Lift out with a slot­ted spoon on to a warm serv­ing dish, pour over the sage but­ter and top with more grated parme­san.

3 A sat­is­fy­ing soup

Tomato and bread soup (Pappa al po­modoro)

Made with good, flavour­some toma­toes, de­cent ex­tra vir­gin olive oil, good old bread and fresh basil, pappa

al po­modoro, or bread and tomato soup, is de­li­cious, and for many Ital­ians a quin­tes­sen­tial sum­mer dish. As with English bread sauce, pappa (which lit­er­ally trans­lated means “mush”) is spe­cial for the way the bread sops up the liq­uid and the starch mol­e­cules ex­pand and change char­ac­ter, form­ing a soft creamy mass. The dish orig­i­nates in Tus­cany and Tus­cans will tell you it can only be made with un­salted Tus­can bread (it is par­tic­u­larly good). I make it of­ten with two- or three-day-old sour­dough and I think it works well. It can be eaten hot, warm or cold.

100ml ex­tra vir­gin olive oil, plus more for serv­ing

1 cel­ery stalk, diced

1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped

1kg ripe toma­toes, peeled and roughly chopped

A pinch of salt A pinch of red pep­per flakes

250g stale bread, with­out crusts

2 gar­lic cloves, very finely chopped

A hand­ful of basil, roughly torn

1 Warm half the oil in a heavy-based pan, add the onion and cel­ery and fry gen­tly un­til soft and translu­cent. Add the toma­toes to the pan. Add a pinch of salt and an­other of red pep­per flakes and then sim­mer for 20 min­utes.

2 If the bread is still soft enough, tear it into pieces with your fin­gers; if it is hard, dampen with wa­ter, squeeze and then use your fin­gers to tear/crum­ble it into small­ish pieces. Add the bread to the tomato mix, along with the gar­lic and basil. Leave over a low heat for an­other 5 min­utes, adding some wa­ter if the mix­ture seems too stiff. Re­move from the heat. Al­low to sit for 10 min­utes and then serve with more olive oil poured over the top.

4 A de­lec­ta­ble dessert

Queen of pud­dings

A bot­tom of set custard thick­ened with bread­crumbs and scented with lemon, topped with a layer of rasp­berry jam and fin­ished with a meringue hat.

150g bread with­out crusts Zest of an un­waxed lemon (or two if you re­ally like lemon)

2 tsp caster sugar

550ml whole milk

40g but­ter

5 eggs

3–5 tbsp rasp­berry jam

125g caster sugar, plus ex­tra for sprin­kling

1 Crum­ble the bread with your fin­gers and place the crumbs, lemon zest and 2 tsp of caster sugar in a bowl. Rub to­gether with your fin­ger­tips so the lemon zest re­ally flavours the crumbs.

2 Warm the milk and but­ter over a low heat un­til the but­ter melts and the milk is hot but not boil­ing. Pour the milk over the crumbs and leave to steep for 10 min­utes. Once 10 min­utes are up, beat in the egg yolks.

3 But­ter an oven dish (about 10cm deep, 25cm di­am­e­ter) and pour in the custard. Bake at 160C/325F/gas mark 6 for 20–30 min­utes (depend­ing on the depth of the dish) or un­til the custard is set on top, but runny un­der­neath. Take the custard out of the oven and let it sit for 5 min­utes.

4 Mean­while, warm the jam along with a ta­ble­spoon of wa­ter un­til runny then pour and spread over the sur­face of the custard.

5 Beat the egg whites un­til stiff and then fold in the sugar with a metal spoon. Cover the pud­ding with meringue and then bake for an­other 20 min­utes or so or un­til the meringue is firm and the peaks golden and crisp.

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