READ has long been a major part of our food history and has an important cultural significance as well as a nutritional one.
From sour dough to dark rye and flat chapatis bread, it’s a large part of many diets around the world.
The oldest records of bread-making are from the Stone Age when man began to make flour by crushing grains from wild grasses between two stones. The flour produced was then mixed with water to make a dough and cooked over an open fire.
I imagine that it did not make the nicest of breads, by modern standards, but it was the start, and began the joyous history of bread making.
It is lovely to know that the word companion means “with bread” in Latin; com meaning “with” and panis “bread”.
And then there is the added bonus immense satisfaction in seeing your hard work turn into a golden loaf in the oven.
If you want a crisp crust on your yeast bread turn your oven up to 250 before putting your bread in and then turn it down to the temperature mentioned in the recipe as soon as it is placed inside.
You can also lightly sprinkle your precooked loafs with water to add an extra crunch to them.
I have included a recipe using quick yeast as it is far easier to access than fresh yeast for most people and it stores for much longer.
Stale bread need not go to waste as there are many uses for it and also it freezes very well.
Croutons are convenient to have on hand to sprinkle into soup or on a salad, they store well in a sealed jar and you can flavour them with herbs or different oil.
Bread crumbs can be used for stuffing or a sweet and sticky treacle tart.
Here they are used as a crunchy topping to add texture to a rich pasta dish.
In America they are similarly used as topping for macaroni and cheese.
Panzanella is a salad that combines very ripe tomatoes with stale bread, the bread soaks up all the juices to soften to touch, when combined with the saltines of anchovy and capers it makes a great summer lunch or light evening meal.
You can add some chopped olives or a soft white cheese to bulk it up if you wish.
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND
400g of strong flour
50g of coarse wholemeal flour
A bunch of thyme removed from the stalk and finely chopped
1 ½ tsp of sea salt
1 tsp of cracked black pepper
1 tsp of sugar
10g of fast yeast
300 mls of warm water
10g of poppy seeds
10g of sunflower seeds
Put the flours, thyme, salt, pepper and yeast into a mixer and use the dough hook to gently mix them together.
Add your warm water and continue to mix on a slow speed for a minute, then turn your mixer up to medium speed and mix the dough for a further five minutes.
Add the seeds in the last minute.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and leave it to prove in a warm place for just under an hour.
After it has risen knead it lightly, form into a loaf, and put it into your lightly oiled 2 lb bread tin.
Let it prove for another half an hour, in the tin before baking it for 25 minutes on 210 degrees.
Again it should sound hollow when you tap it on its base.
A knob of butter
3 bananas sliced
1 tbs of maple syrup
3 eggs, lightly beaten
300 mls of milk
2 tsp of honey
1/2 tsp of vanilla essence
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
6 slices of stale bread, cut in half
A dash of sunflower oil
A handful of various nuts, chopped and roasted
2 tbs of natural yogurt
Melt the butter in a pan and when it is hot fry the banana for thirty seconds.
Add the maple syrup and make sure the banana pieces are coated in both and place a lid on the pan and set aside.
Break the eggs into a shallow bowl and add the milk, honey, vanilla and cinnamon and use a fork to beat the mixture.
Lay the bread in the mixture, turning it over and letting it soak up all of the liquid.
Heat your oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Place the soaked bread into the pan.
After about a minute turn them over and cook the other side. They should turn golden when they are ready.
Serve three halves of bread with a scoop of the warm banana, a sprinkling of toasted nuts and half a tablespoon of yogurt per serving.
QUICK MID-WEEK MEALS
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
2 roasted red peppers, sliced
8 ripe tomatoes, diced
200g of stale chunky bread, broken into pieces
4 tbsp cider vinegar
A handful of capers
2 anchovies, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
6 tbs of olive oil
A handful of basil leaves, roughly torn
Put the onion slices in a bowl of cold water with a pinch of salt, and leave to soak for a half an hour.
Place the tomatoes into a colander placed over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and allow the juice to drain into the bowl.
Press down on them after a half an hour and get all of the juice out.
Toss the bread in the vinegar and capers. Drain the onion and add to the bowl, along with the capers, pepper and tomato flesh.
Stir the chopped anchovies and crushed garlic into the tomato juice and whisk in the olive oil. Taste and season.
Toss the salad in the juice making sure the bread gets coated. Serve with the basil leaves and sprinkle black pepper.
Penne pasta for four
A dash of olive oil
4 shallots, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
250g of smoked streaky bacon, without the fatty layer
50 mls of brandy
A handful of thyme, removed from the stalk and chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
150mls of cream
2 leeks, thinly sliced
A bunch of parsley chopped
25g of breadcrumbs, toasted
Put the pasta on to boil in lightly salted water and drain when cooked.
Sauté the shallots in the heated oil and fry until translucent.
Add the garlic and stir fry until it is beginning to change colour then add the bacon. Fry until that is also cooked.
Scoop the contents of the pan into a liquidiser with the brandy, thyme, cream and lemon zest and blitz into a sauce. Taste and season.
In the meantime fry the rest of the pieces of bacon with the leeks.
Toss the pasta in the sauce and toss the bacon, leeks and parsley through.
Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and black pepper over the dish and serve.
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