A week in the life of a loaf

You’ve handmade your beautiful, delicious loaf and although it may seem obvious what to do with it, I’ve written a week’s guide to what to do with your bread to get the most of it and to waste as little as possible (and hopefully nothing at all).

This post was started long before there was any thought of a pandemic that would keep us socially isolating and having to be very frugal with food. I’ve returned to this draft to finish it and ensure it is in keeping with the needs of lockdown cooking.

pane bianco - copyright image Lynn Clark - inksugarspice

Day one – eat a slice with a simple, extra quick curried soup – Veggie

This is a great store cupboard soup (although as I’ve chatted about in other recent posts, it sort of depends on how you stock your cupboards – not everyone keeps the same sort of things).

Finely chop a small red onion and fry off in some oil in a saucepan. Empty a tin of chopped (good quality) tomatoes in and add a tablespoon of curry paste (of your choice/preference such as balti, korma, tandoori etc). Stir until warmed through. Taste and add salt and pepper if required or a little more curry paste. Place in a bowl and add a dollop of Greek yogurt or creme fraiche and a handful of chopped coriander leaves (or parsley if you’re not a coriander fan). Eat with a slice of that bread, with or without butter

Day two – sandwiches or a Ploughman’s

My ideal* Ploughman’s platter: extra thick, ‘door stop’ slices of springy bread slathered in good butter, with: a chunk of mature Cheddar and a wedge of Double Gloucester cheeses; sliverskin pickled onions, a strong apple (something like a Russet or James Greave ideally, but a Granny Smith will do); slices of ham or Prosciutto/Bresaola; mouth-pukeringly-strong salt and vinegar crisps; a dollop of homemade tomato chutney; a few grapes; maybe some olives and some watercress. Oh and a pint of IPA, ideally.

*OK, so a Ploughman’s lunch originally would probably have been a chunk of plain bread, and just the cheese and apple. A Ploughman’s is a great frugal meal, not only is it a British/English poor man’s meal it lends itself to using up whatever you have in the fridge or cupboard. Use whatever cheese you have, what cured meats or hams, make your own chutneys to preserve your fruit and veg etc.

See my posts on preserves: https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/category/preserves-creams/

white sourdough with random slashing - Nine top tips for bread slashing art www.inksugarspice.wordpress.com #recipe #baking #breadart @inksugarspice
White sourdough, with a minimal prove

Day three – ‘more than’ cheese on toast

Toast thick slices of your bread under a grill (ideally a sourdough but work with what you have!). For each slice, weigh out about 45-50g of grated extra strong or mature cheddar and mash together with a cheese triangle or a tablespoon of cream cheese. Chop up two large slices of peppered salami and a teeny drop of English mustard, though you can omit the mustard if you’re not fond. Mix together and spread onto the toasted slice of bread and grill under just browning at the edges. Obviously scale this up for however many slices you’re making.

Day four – bruschetta – Vegan

Toast mid-thick slices of bread on both sides. Chop up a handful of baby plum tomatoes, sprinkle with a little salt. Place them in a sieve and let this drain over a bowl. Once drained, tip the tomatoes into that bowl. Season the tomatoes with pepper and a little balsamic vinegar and mix it all together. Taste to see if the salt level is OK and add a little more if needed. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on the toast and rub a peeled clove of garlic over the bread. Spoon the tomato mix onto the slices of toast and serve.

Image of bruschetta, in this case tomatoes on toasted sourdough

Day five – Melba toast – Vegan/Veggie (depending on what’s in the bread you’ve made)

Sounds very posh, but it isn’t and very easy to make… Cut off about 8mm thick slices of bread. Cut off the crusts (and you can square off the toasts if you prefer). Toast the slices on both sides to a mid brown colour: don’t toast them too dark or they will not be easy to cut further without them shattering. While still warm, I lay a chopping board over the slices and weight it down with a bag or two of rice/sugar to flatten the toasts. When cool, retrieve the toasts and lay them flat, with a sharp serrated knife cut down the toast to create two slices – each of these slices will have a toasted side and an ‘internal’ side. I leave my Melba toasts like this but you can then toast this side too if you prefer. Also, some people don’t flatten the bread, I just think it makes them easier to slice. You can then cut them down into triangles or little rectangles/soldiers.

A lovely alternative to crackers or biscuits with cheese or dips, or as a side to soups or tapas. You can use sourdough for this – it entirely depends whether you mind having honey Melba toasts or not. Frankly I like sourdough Melba toast.

Day six – croutons – Vegan

Slice up 3-4 slices of sourdough into 1 cm cubes. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and test the oil temperature by chucking in a small piece of sourdough – it should start sizzling if it’s hot enough. Tip in all the sourdough pieces and keep them moving as they fry (use two wooden spoons to ‘flip’ the croutons). When the croutons are nicely browned and crisp, take them off the heat and tip them into a bowl lined with a sheet of kitchen paper to catch the excess oil. Remove the kitchen paper and grind a teaspoon each of salt and pepper over them. Now toss the croutons with a teaspoon each of onion granules, garlic granules and sprinkle on a little chopped parsley.

Day seven – breadcrumbs: for savoury dishes such as gratin, escalope, buttermilk coated chicken, making sausages etc – or for sweet treats like treacle tarts (as below)

Other ideas for bread

Romesco sauce – this Spanish sauce is just intense and goes great with tapas, over potatoes or meats

Panzanella – a classic northern Italian ‘salad’ dish

Cinnamon toast – such a breakfast staple – children in particular love it

Birdfood – when all else fails, don’t put it in the bin, at least the birds will eat it. And, despite some publicity saying people shouldn’t feed bread to birds there has been a backlash on this: some birds are in danger of starving where they’ve relied on being fed bread and now that food supply has stopped. Also, unless it’s a) very rubbish bread and b) the only thing they eat it’s better to feed them than not.

Note: if you’ve made your bread yourself, especially bread with inclusions (seeds, nuts cheese, fruit, veggies etc), enriched bread (such as brioche or sticky buns – these are a particularly good option) or a sourdough it’s going to be infinitely better for them than a packaged, sliced loaf with little to nutritional value – that’s one of the reasons why you make your own for yourself isn’t it!?

Break the bread into small pieces, especially when feed smaller birds and when there are chicks. Slightly larger pieces are OK for ducks, geese swans etc. If the bread is very dry, wet it a little. If it’s plain bread ideally add in some other foods too – suet, nuts, seeds, chopped dried fruit etc. even cold scrambled egg, chopped cooked bits of bacon fat, even grated cheese.

Here’s what the RSPB has to say:

All types of bread can be digested by birds, but ideally it should only be just one component in a varied diet. Bread does not contain the necessary protein and fat birds need from their diet, and so it can act as an empty filler. Although bread isn’t harmful to birds, try not to offer it in large quantities, since its nutritional value is relatively low. A bird that is on a diet of predominantly, or only bread, can suffer from serious vitamin deficiencies, or starve.

Food left on the ground overnight can attract rats. Soaked bread is more easily ingested than stale dry bread, and brown bread is better than white. Crumbled bread is suitable in small quantities, but moisten if it is very dry. During the breeding season, make sure bread is crumbled into tiny pieces so that it is safer to eat. Dry chunks of bread will choke baby birds, and a chick on a diet of bread may not develop into a healthy fledgling.

Do leave a comment or a question below 💚

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Sourdough croutons – and what to do with leftover sourdough

CroutonsCroppedNever, never throw away the ends of your sourdough loaf! There’s always something you can do with the almost-stale bits.

Mind you, it never gets a chance to go stale in our house, especially as by using wild yeast and good quality flour, sourdough loaves will keep longer than any other loaf you make yourself (or buy from a bakery).

My other ideas on how to use up those ends of sourdough are:

  • French toast
  • Cinnamon toast
  • Bruschetta
  • Garlic bread slices
  • Made into breadcrumbs for stuffings
  • Made into breadcrumbs for gratin toppings, eg for cauliflower cheese, pasta bakes etc

If all else fails and you really think it’s past it, at least leave it out for the birds in your garden! Just don’t go near that bin with it 🙂

Equipment

  • Sharp knife
  • Slotted spoon
  • Large non-stick frying pan
  • A couple of wooden spatulas
  • Large-ish bowl lined with a sheet of kitchen paper

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 slices (ends) of sourdough
  • Anchovy fillets – 3 or 4
  • Smoked back or streaky bacon or pancetta – two slices, cut into fine strips
  • Shallot, finely diced – 1
  • Garlic cloves, finely diced – 2
  • Sea salt, freshly ground to taste
  • Black pepper, freshly ground to taste
  • Fresh parsley, a small bunch chopped or torn finely to decorate
  • Olive oil or rapeseed oil for frying

Method

  1. Heat a little oil over a low-medium heat and gently fry the shallots and garlic until see-through (do not over cook)
  2. Remove the shallots and garlic with a slotted spoon and set to one side (the reason we cook them separately is so they do not overcook/burn)
  3. Turn up the heat and fry off the bacon until almost crispy – just before the bacon starts to crisp up, finely chop the anchovies and through them in the pan with the bacon
  4. When it’s all nicely browned and caramelised (ie when the Maillard reaction has occurred) remove with the slotted spoon and place with the shallots/garlic
  5. Slice up the sourdough into 1 cm cubes or 1 cm wide strips that are about 3 cm long (I like to do this as it looks a little different than typical croutons)
  6. You may need to now add some more oil to the pan – you need a thin coating covering the base
  7. Turn up the heat to about 3/4 of it’s full setting
  8. Test the oil temperature by chucking in a small piece of sourdough – it should start sizzling
  9. If the oil is hot enough, tip in all the sourdough pieces and keep them moving as they fry
  10. You may find it easier to use two wooden spoons, one in each hand, to sort of ‘flip’ the croutons between them to make sure they cook on all sides evenly
  11. When the croutons are nicely browned and crisp, take them off the heat and tip them into a bowl lined with a sheet of kitchen paper to catch the excess oil
  12. Remove the kitchen paper and grind the salt and pepper over the croutons.
  13. Now toss the croutons with the garlic, shallots, bacon and anchovies
  14. Sprinkle on the chopped parsley

A great accompaniment/topping to any pastas, soups or salads

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Spinach gazpacho with ham ‘crisps’ and butter croutons

I was lucky enough to have been sent a gorgeous hamper of mediterranean ingredients from Lurpak (very chuffed – thanks!) and this is the first dish that I’ve made from the ingredients. A nice light lunch for two or a starter for four.

Spinach gazpacho

Equipment

  • Two baking trays – one must fit inside the other
  • Baking paper or greaseproof paper
  • Blender
  • Small frying pan
  • Bowl

Ingredients – ham ‘crisps’

  • One or two slices of Parma, Serrano or other thinly sliced ham

Method – Parma ham crisps

  1. Turn the oven on to 180C fan / 200C conventional
  2. Line the largest baking tray with a sheet of baking paper and lay the ham slices on it – make sure they are flat and do not touch
  3. Draw a knife gently down the ham to make two to three long slices – you do not have to cut all the way through
  4. Cover with another sheet of baking paper and then weigh down with the smaller baking tray
  5. Put a heavy oven proof pan or dish on top of the baking trays
  6. Pop in the oven for 18-20 mins
  7. Remove all the weights and trays and carefully snap the ham down the lines where you scored it earlier
  8. Set aside to use as a garnish

Ingredients – buttered croutons

  • Two slices of a good quality bread – sourdough or baguette, etc cut into cubes
  • Butter (obviously I used Lurpak here!)
  • Olive oil
  • Rock salt
  • Mix of fresh herbs, chopped – I used parsley, basil and thyme

Method – buttered croutons

  1. Put a large knob of butter (about 20g) in a small frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil
  2. Put over a medium-high heat and heat until just about to bubble
  3. Throw in the cube bread and coat throroughly in the butter and oil
  4. While frying keep moving the bread cubes to stop them from burning on any one side. It’s actually a bit easier if you have two wooden spoons/spatulas – one in each hand – and ‘flick’ the bread cubes into the middle with both at the same time
  5. When nice and brown, remove from the heat and sprinkle over a little rock salt, some freshly cracked black pepper and the chopped herbs

Ingredients – spinach gazpacho

  • One large shallot or two small shallots
  • One large beef tomato or two medium-sized ones (don’t use cherry tomatoes for this)
  • Half a large cucumber
  • One spring onion
  • One garlic clove
  • A quarter of a green pepper
  • Spinach – about 100g
  • Chilli pepper – about a 2cm piece of a medium hot chilli
  • A few ice cubes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh thyme
  • Sherry or cider vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Tabasco or other hot sauce

Method – spinach gazpacho

  1. Boil a kettle and mark a small slit or two on the skin(s) of the tomato(es) with a knife
  2. Put the tomato(es) in a bowl and pour over the boiling water
  3. After a few minutes you will be able to easily peel the skin off the tomato(es). Discard the skin
  4. Pulse the tomato, cucumber, garlic, spinach, spring onion, pepper, chilli, a sprinkle of thyme, a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of vinegar together in a blender until smooth
  5. Taste the gazpacho and add as much salt, pepper and Tabasco to your own taste
  6. Add the ice cubes and pulse briefly
  7. Pour into serving bowls

To serve

  • Place the ham ‘crisps’ on the gazpacho and sprinkle a few of the croutons over the top