No-one likes to waste food, especially a ‘Prudent’ girl… So, if your leftover bread is no longer fresh enough for sandwiches, don’t throw it away – there are plenty of delicious ways with stale bread, both sweet and savoury. And nobody will ever know…
TIPS FOR USING LEFTOVER BREAD
- To make croutons either tear the bread into small irregular shapes, or cut it into 1.5cm squares. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil and either fry until crisp or put in a low oven (150′C) until crunchy and golden.
To make crostini cut bread into thin slices, drizzle with olive oil and grill until golden and crisp (you could add a sprinkling of dried thyme before grilling), then top with things you like.
- To make dried breadcrumbs (which keep for ages in an airtight container) put a single layer of old bread slices on a baking tray and dry out in the oven (1-2 hrs at 120′C) – do not allow to brown. When completely dry, blend to crumbs in a food processor. Or, if you don’t have a processor, put the dried slices in a sealed plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin or a glass bottle.
To make fresh breadcrumbs simply process the bread in a food processor, then freeze in a plastic freezer bag until needed.
- Season fresh breadcrumbs with salt, pepper and things like fresh herbs, chilli flakes, lemon zest, chopped onion, chopped nuts etc. Wet this mixture with a few tablespoons of water, then use as a stuffingfor roast chicken. Or flatten a pork fillet with a rolling pin, pile on the stuffing, roll up and tie with some string, then roast in the oven.
Remove crusts from a slice of bread and gently push into a buttered muffin tray; then bake in the oven at 175′C to form a crispy, golden pastry shell to be filled with all manner of delicious mixtures.
- To use up 1-2day old ciabatta, make panzanella, also known as Tuscan bread salad… Break the bread into bite-size pieces and toss with your favourite vinaigrette dressing. Then mix in diced tomatoes, cucumbers and red peppers. You can even add feta cheese (or canned tuna!), capers, olives and/or anchovies to make a meal. Add basil leaves just before serving.
Pain Perdu (or ‘lost bread’) is what the French call french toast… just beat 4 eggs, add 300ml milk then flavour with a little sugar and a pinch of ground cinnamon. Put in 4 slices of stale bread and leave to soak up the liquid, then fry in a little butter. Eat hot, drizzled with a little honey or maple syrup. Alternatively make a savoury version by omitting the sugar and cinnamon and adding a little creamed horseradish to the egg mixture, then serving with grated cheese.
SAVOURY BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING
The classic pudding loved by all – only this is a savoury version, one that’s perfect for a long leisurely Sunday brunch! I’ve used garlicky mushrooms but you can also mix in leftovers like leftover meats, grated cheese, olives, tomatoes (fresh or sundried), spinach or rocket… the world is your oyster! Serves 6.
- 12 slices white bread, crusts removed
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise or soft butter
- 6 medium mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- 4-5 large eggs
- 1 tbsp Colmans strong English mustard
- 600ml half milk-half cream
- salt and pepper
Butter a baking dish. Cut the bread slices diagonally into triangles and spread lightly with a little mayonnaise. Arrange the bread triangles in the dish by overlapping them. Heat the olive oil and at high heat fry the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley and fry for another minute. Toss this mixture between the triangles of bread. Whisk together the eggs, mustard, milk and cream, then season and whisk again. Pour mixture over bread slices and set aside for at least 30 minutes to let the bread absorb the liquid. Preheat the oven to 180¡C and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately.
Great for using up leftover mash, and if you don’t have fresh fish, use a can of salmon or tuna. Serve with some ready-bought Thai sweet-chilli sauce and a side-salad for a simple lunch or brunch. For 4-6.
- 500 g of fillet of firm white fish
- 350g old potatoes
- little milk and butter
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsps freshly chopped parsley
- 100g bread crumbs
- 4 tbsp sunflower or olive oil for shallow frying
Cook the fish in a non-stick frying pan for 4-5 minutes, cool, then flake with the help of a fork. Boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and mash with a little milk and butter. Season well with salt and pepper and add the parsley. Now add the flaked fish to the mashed potatoes and gently mix. Using your hands, form small patties, and roll in breadcrumbs. Place the well-crumbed fishcakes on a plate and shallow-fry just before serving.
Delicious to serve as bites with an aperitif or to accompany a soup. They can be made a day or two ahead and kept in the fridge or even frozen. You’ll need a small plastic box and a rolling pin. To make 12 rolls you need:
- 1/2 sliced white pan of a day or two old
- 100g butter
- 2-4 garlic cloves, crushed
- handful of chopped parsley, chives or tarragon (or a mixture of these)
Start by making the garlic butter: allow the butter to soften, then simply stir in the crushed garlic and herbs. Set aside. Cut the crusts off the bread and on a flat surface, roll one slice at a time to 2 mm thin. Spread generously with garlic butter and roll up tightly, then press into a small plastic box to keep its shape. Continue with the other slices then refrigerate until needed. Just before serving, remove grill briefly, turning a few times, until they’re crisp on the outside and all gooey and buttery inside.
PASTA WITH PEAS, FETA, MINT AND PANGRITATA
When there’s no money to buy Parmesan to finish off a pasta dish Italians use pangritata to add crunch – yummy garlicky croutons fried in olive oil. For 4.
For the pangritata:
- 200g stale bread, ‘torn’ into small pieces
- 6-8 tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 cloves of garlic. crushed
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- salt and freshly ground pepper
For the pasta:
- 450-500g dried penne
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cups of frozen peas
- (2 tbsp pine kernels)
- 200g feta, cubed
- handful of mint leaves, roughly torn
- handful of basil leaves, roughly torn
First make the pangritata: heat the olive oil in a fryingpan, add the bread croutons and gently fry for 5 minutes, tossing continuously. Add the garlic and thyme and continue to fry till the bread is golden and crisp. Season and allow to cool. Whilst the pasta is cooking in boiling salted water, gently sweat the onion in another saucepan. When the onion is cooked, add the peas and stirfry for 3 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the pine kernels if used. Drain the pasta, and whilst still piping-hot, stir in the vegetable mixture, the cubed feta and torn herbs. Mix well, then immediately before serving, toss in the pangritata.