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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Gnocchi

gnocchi

Gnocchi are gorgeous, pillowy-soft little morsels. They’re made with potato and flour so are the carbohydrate part of your dish. You can make them without the egg (then making them vegan) but in my trials I do think they benefit from the addition of the protein for their structure.

For me gnocchi are a great additional to your cooking repertoire, as they are another carbohydrate type for your meal and provide yet another choice in cooking potatoes.

Some say these are pasta. They’re certainly a pasta shape and there are some regional pastas, such as rascatielli from Puglia, that have potato in them but potato in a pasta shape is usually just a proportion in comparison with the flour. In gnocchi the potato is the majority ingredient. Whatever your thinking on this (could this be the next jam or cream on scones first debate!?) they’re certainly an excellent source of carbohydrate and a real change from other methods of cooking potatoes or using pasta in a dish.

During this time of lockdown cooking and being frugal with what you have, it may seem wasteful that you are using additional flour and egg, rather than just cooking baked potatoes. However, it does make the potatoes go much further as not only does it add to the whole ingredients, it also helps the potatoes fluff up a little. Nutritionally, it adds protein and further carbohydrate too. Also consider that baked potatoes are rarely eaten without butter and mash can have butter, milk or cream and/or cheese added to it.

Notes

Enough for four people.

It’s difficult to halve this recipe as it has an entire egg in it, but you can make all the gnocchi and then freeze half:

❄️ Freezing tips – Freeze the gnocchi in one layer on a tray, not bunched up together. when frozen they can then be placed in a bag or tub together. Do not thaw – just use them straight from the freezer (if you thaw them first they will go mushy)

Cooking time: Takes about 1 hour 40 minutes, however there’s only about 30 minutes of activity! 1 hr 10 of this is just the potatoes baking in the oven

Serve with any sauce or ragu that you would make for pasta. Goes particularly well with cheese or rich tomato sauces. Also you can just fry them off in herbed oil as a cicchetto (Italian tapa).

gnocchi making ink sugar spice

Equipment list

  • Baking tray
  • A large bowl
  • Sharp small knife
  • Cutting board
  • A couple of clean tea towels
  • Butter pats, garganelli board or a fork with long tynes (not essential but used to give the ridges)
  • Baking tray
  • Pastry cutter, sharp large knife or a sturdy fork (Don’t use a masher)

To cook – either:

  • Large frying pan (skillet) and olive oil, with a slotted spatula or;
  • Large saucepan with boiling salted water and a sieve/scoop

Ingredients – gnocchi

  • 1 kg of Maris piper or similar potatoes
  • 1 medium egg
  • 200g flour (ideally 00 type but normal plain flour will do, and you can substitute cornflour or other gluten free flour if you prefer)
  • 5 g Salt
  • Extra flour for dusting

Method

  1. Turn your oven on to 180C fan / 200C conventional (this is about gas mark 3)
  2. Finely dice the shallots, garlic and celery and fry gently in a little oil in the casserole dish or sauté pan. Put the lid on and leave at a low heat for about 10 minutes
  3. Put the potatoes on a baking tray and put them in the oven. Pierce the skin once or twice on each potato. It is crucial that you do oil the potatoes – you need to dry them out. Set the timer for one hour
  4. After an hour has elapsed since you put the potatoes in the oven, it is now time to get them out: they should be nice and crispy
  5. Cut each potato in half and allow the steam to escape for a few minutes
  6. Scoop the potato flesh out from each skin into a bowl – you might find it helpful to hold them with a tea towel as they’ll still be hot
  7. Once you’ve got all the flesh, chop the potatoes up with a knife or pastry cutter. You can also use a fork. Stay away from using a potato masher as it’s easy to over use and the starch in the potatoes can get over worked and become very glutinous – this will ruin the gnocchi
  8. Add in the flour and the salt and ‘chop’ it into the dough
  9. Add in the egg now, and cut it in to the dough immediately (or you may get pieces of cooked egg)
  10. Bring it all together now with your hands – it should be firm but yielding. If it’s very sticky work in a little more dough (again ‘cut’ the flour into it, rather than kneading)
  11. Dust some flour on the counter and cut off a handful-sized piece of dough. Roll it out into a sausage about 15 mm or roughly the same thickness as your thumb. Doesn’t need to be exact
  12. Cut discs off the roll that are also around 15mm long with a sharp, small knife
  13. Roll these pieces of dough over the flour (on your board) as you cut them to coat them a little. Repeat with all of the potato dough until you have made gnocchi with all of it
  14. You can now leave them as they are (see note below about placing them apart) or, if you have a garganelli board or a butter pat, you can roll the gnocchi down it to create ridges. You can also roll them down the tunes of a fork. Ridging the gnocchi does take extra time and your gnocchi will be fine plain, the ridges are there to help hold on to the sauce
  15. To ridge a gnocco, place it on the board and place your fingers on top of it, about where your top knuckle is. Drag the gnocco towards you down the board with medium pressure until it reaches your fingertips. It will have rolled along, getting marked with the ridges

When you have made each gnocco place it down on a clean tea towel or a lightly floured board and try not to let the gnocchi touch each other as you continue to use all the dougCooking

I’m going to instruct you in both ways I cook my gnocchi – you can chose to fry/sauté them or boil them.

Frying makes them slightly crispier and you can cook them in advance and keep them warm while you cook the sauce.

Boiling is more typical, it’s quicker and results in fluffy gnocchi but your sauce needs to be ready when your gnocchi are

Frying:

  1. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large frying pan (skillet). Place batches of the gnocchi in the oil, gently and try to make sure they don’t stick together (separate any that are stuck with your spatula)
  2. Toss or flip the gnocchi in the oil until lightly browned and transfer to an oven proof dish. Keep warm in the oven until time to use

Boiling

  1. Bring salted water in your largest saucepan to the boil. You may need to do this in two or three batches so you can get the gnocchi out quick enough before they go mushy
  2. Let the gnocchi roll around in the boiling water for a couple of minutes: they don’t take long. The gnocchi will have sunk to the bottom when you first put them in: when they are ready they pop up to the surface and float (self timing food: what’s not to love!)