Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Things to do with Left Over Bread (Besides Feeding it to the Ducks).

In France we often have lots of left over bread because real French bread has no additives. I am loath to throw it away, but it can be past its best by the evening of the day we bought it.  You can keep sliced bread in the freezer and it will make passable toast, but pain, baguettes, boules, etc do not freeze well, so I am making a collection of recipes which will use up the left over bread lurking in the kitchen. It salves my conscience as I have heard too many stories about rationing (in England) and the Depression (in the USA) to throw it away lightly. I am going to post these recipes as a mini series starting with recipes for breadcrumbs.

Things to do with Breadcrumbs

Gratin topping
Use enough breadcrumbs to completely cover your dish.  Dot with butter and sprinkle  with grated cheese.  Bake in the oven until the topping is golden and crusty. You can use this for anything from macaroni cheese to a casserole.  My favourite is ratatouille.  Covering it with a cheesy breadcrumb topping makes it into a good vegetarian meal.

Panna gritatta
Yum. These are just fried breadcrumbs which can be used to top simple pasta dishes. They give the dish texture. Jamie Oliver makes this by whizzing up bread crumbs, garlic and oil in a food processer then frying it gently in a dry pan. I’m wary of making my food processer smell of garlic, so I whiz up the bread crumbs and then heat the oil in a frying pan with a sliced clove of garlic. I fry the breadcrumbs in the seasoned oil and remove the garlic before serving to avoid overpowering everything. This is good on simple pasta dishes.  I use it on spaghetti with butter and parsley or on spaghetti with anchovies and garlic melted in a frying pan with a little oil.

Stuffed Tomatoes
Somewhere at home I have my late mother-in-law’s recipe for Tomatoes Farcie.  I think it goes like this:
Use one large tomato per person.
Slice each tomato in half horizontally and scoop out the seeds.
Turn upside down and drain on kitchen paper.
Mix breadcrumbs with melted butter and crushed garlic, then add some parsley, finely chopped and salt and pepper to taste.
Stuff each tomato generously so that the stuffing is rounded at the top.
Put in the oven until the stuffing is golden and crispy.
These are lovely served with lamb chops or as a starter on a bed of dark green leaves such as lambs lettuce or rocket. (N.B. You could use this stuffing in courgettes, marrows or peppers.  If you use peppers, you will need to blanch them first and serve them with a tomato sauce. Otherwise they will be quite dry.)

 Brown Tom

This is a recipe for when tomatoes are plentiful.  It consists of brown bread crumbs layered with tomatoes and baked in the oven. It could be a main lunch or supper dish.
You will need:
1 lb sliced tomatoes
1 onion (finely chopped)
Brown bread crumbs (about 4 slices)
Some bacon bits, finely cut up (optional)
Salt and pepper
A little caster sugar
Butter an ovenproof dish.
Mix the breadcrumbs, bacon, onion and herbs together.
Make layers of the breadcrumb mixture, then the sliced tomatoes, seasoning them with salt, pepper and a tiny bit of sugar.
Continue until the ingredients are used up and finishing with the breadcrumb layer.
Dot with butter and bake at 200C/400F for 30 to 35 minutes until brown and bubbling.


Hubby never quite makes enough of this as we are all very greedy and there will be an undignified jostle to scrape out the last remaining crumbs from the serving dish.  There are no specific measurements here. This is one to just estimate what is enough of everything.  Soften  some chopped onions in a generous amount of oil and a little knob of butter.   (about 10 minutes)  Add a few chopped sage leaves or a little fresh thyme and some lemon zest to the pan and cook for another minute. Stir all of this into enough breadcrumbs to fill a buttered dish together with a beaten egg to bind the dish together.  Bake at 350 F / 180 C for about 30 minutes or until crusty on the top. We always have this as an accompaniment to a roast, but I think it would be good with poached eggs as well.

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