Now unfortunately what I mean by stale bread has nothing to do with anything that came in plastic. That deserved a place in the rubbish while it was still somewhat euphemistically referred to as fresh. No, what I am talking about here is bread that you need to take a knife to. If you find yourself with a good quality loaf of bread that has past its prime state of freshness, fear not! The fun is just about to begin. You now have several choices in which to create kitchen alchemy. Read on
Ok, you can buy breadcrumbs at the supermarket, but if you have not tried the home made stuff, you are cheating yourself. Breadcrumbs are extremely versatile in the kitchen to coat slices of veal, chicken and fish before pan frying and you have the added advantage of including herbs, garlic and seasoning before you whizz them up, adding extra flavour. It is a pretty simple affair, just remove the crust, cut the loaf into small pieces and whizz in the food processor until finely crumbed. Add some basil, parsley or garlic to the bread for an extra flourish of flavour. It is also a tradition in Southern Italy to used breadcrumbs instead of cheese to top some pasta dishes, harking back to times when money and food were scarce. It only lives on because it is actually quite delicious. Just toast the fresh bread crumbs in the oven for a few minutes before scattering onto pasta.
Bread and butter pudding
This delicious pudding is reason enough to let your bread go stale. It is kitchen thriftiness defined. Cut your bread into slices, butter both sides and lay out in a baking tray. Cover with vanilla scented custard, then scatter with raisins. A faithful rendition has been noded here.
This wonderful Italian mouthful of flavour has traveled around the world, and with good reason. Unfortunately it has been also been butchered on its journey and some very bizarre ingredients have found their way into this dish. Try this (almost) original version
Cut the tomatoes into rough dice. Rip the basil into small pieces and combine with the tomatoes in a mixing bowl. Add the oil and vinegar, then season liberally. Stir well and set aside to let the flavours get to know one another.
Slice the bread into nice thick wedges. Grill over an open flame until nicely browned, or if real fire is unobtainable, cook under a griller (broiler). Place the slices on a serving platter and top liberally with the tomato mix. Serve forth and watch the smiles.
Pappa al pomodoro
This Italian soup gives new meaning to the word leftovers. How can a mixture of stale bread, tomatoes, herbs and oil taste so good. Well the secret once again lies with the quality of ingredients. Choose the best raw materials and you will be duly rewarded.
- 2 cups stale bread, cut into small cubes
- 500 gm (1 lb) very ripe tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 10 basil leaves
- 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)
Cut the tomatoes into small dice. Mince the garlic and heat 1 Tbs of the oil in a heavy based pan. Fry the garlic for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes. Stir for another minute, then add the bread and 500 ml (2 cups) of water. Add the basil, seasonings and almost all the remaining oil (save a bit), then remove from the heat.
When at room temperature, ladle into deep bowls and top with the remaining oil and pass the cheese if using (not so traditional, but tasty). Serve with a crisp white wine, maybe pinot grigo and some fresh bread!
For an alternative and equally yummy version, try heyoka's recipe.
Literally green sauce in Italian. They really have it goin' on when it comes to stale bread. This is a delightfully piquant sauce that is traditionally served with bolito misto, an Italian feast consisting of simmered mixed meats and vegetables, all washed down with the flavorsome broth. It also marries well to any grilled red meat dish and some fully flavoured fish cuts, such as tuna.
- 1 cup stale bread, cut into cubes and soaked in a little water
- ½ bunch basil
- ½ bunch parsley
- 2 Tbs capers, rinsed
- 6 cornichons, chopped
- 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
- 125 ml (1 cup) olive oil
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Put all the ingredients, except the oil, salt and pepper into a food processor and roughly chop. With the machine running add the oil in a steady stream. Turn out into a bowl and add the salt and pepper to taste. Purists will insist that salsa verde must be made in a mortar and pestle, but hey, we have lives too.
So there you are, leave some bread out to become stale now.