Beyond the sambo: Delicious ways with leftover bread

Producing a meal from leftovers will satisfy both your hunger pangs and creative streak

Not just any old leftovers but tomato, basil and bread salad. Photograph: Emma Jervis

Not just any old leftovers but tomato, basil and bread salad. Photograph: Emma Jervis

 

I’ve had many amazing experiences throughout my culinary career, from cooking with great people, to cooking for them. Yet the most unrelenting thrill, for my inner-scrimper, comes from creating a meal from those food items that would otherwise end up in the bin.

I have always found taking something as simple as vegetable tops, or in this case a piece of bread, and creating a nourishing meal with them to be truly rewarding.

There was a time when it was inconceivable to throw out food. Somehow, we now feel unexcited when we think of producing a meal from leftovers, when we should be feeling proud. In many cultures there is one evening a week when the family meal is comprised of leftovers – the Spanish for this is sobras and the French is les restes.

For me, being a mother and running a business always felt more manageable when I had my airing cupboard, fridge and bread bin sorted, and to achieve that it was vital to bring these leftover nights into our home.

It’s easy to feel that leftovers are all neglected foods with a slightly solidified oil on top and therefore eating them becomes a chore. Instead, try taking the ingredient that needs to be used up and focus on it. See it as an experiment in creativity and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

A third of our food is wasted and bread is at the top of that list despite being one of the most useful and versatile things in your kitchen. It’s a delight when freshly baked, comforting as toast when stale, and a carrier of flavours when made into stuffing, croutons and crumbs.

This week I’m giving you a few recipes to minimise your bread waste. The freezer is indispensable. If the heels or crusts are not popular in your house, freeze them to use at a later date in any of the recipes below.

Tomato and bread salad

Simple and perfect. The ripest tomatoes, good bread and beautiful oil will not fail to make this dish an ideal starter.

Ingredients
Serves 4
8 large ripe tomatoes
Sea salt
Black pepper
200g stale bread, roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Basil leaves

Method
1. Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

2. Season generously with black pepper and drizzle generously with the oil and vinegar.

3. Toss in the bread and basil leaves and mix well

Pasta with crisp breadcrumbs, almonds, chilli and broccoli. Photograph: Emma Jervis
Pasta with crisp breadcrumbs, almonds, chilli and broccoli. Photograph: Emma Jervis

Pasta with broccoli, almond breadcrumbs and chilli

Substitute the broccoli for any vegetable that needs using up. Courgettes, green beans and cauliflower are on my favourites for this dish. The better the bread the better the crumbs.

Ingredients
Serves 4
400g spaghetti
300g broccoli, broken into florets
100ml olive oil
125g breadcrumbs
40g ground almonds
Chilli flakes to taste
4 cloves garlic, crushed
125g grated Parmesan

Method
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and in the meantime prepare the topping.

2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the breadcrumbs, almonds and chilli. Cook gently until the crumbs and almonds are nicely toasted, add the garlic and toast for another minute or so until the crumbs are a deep brown and crisp. Season with salt to taste.

3. Cook the pasta according to instructions. Three minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broccoli. When the broccoli is just soft enough to pierce with a knife, take a half a cup of water from the saucepan and drain the contents.

4. Immediately return the pasta and the vegetables to the pot and add the reserved water along with two tablespoons of cheese. Add half of the crumb mixture and mix well.

5. Dish up in a serving bowl and scatter the rest of the crumbs on top along with the remaining cheese.

Chicken migas. Photograph: Emma Jervis
Chicken migas. Photograph: Emma Jervis

Chicken migas

This chicken dish never fails to impress. Good vinegars, plump raisins and good bread is what make this dish special.

Ingredients
Serves 4
1.7 - 2kg whole chicken
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp cider vinegar
200g slightly stale bread, roughly cubed
50ml water
50ml milk
75g of raisins
Olive oil
4 spring onions, into 3cm lengths
75g pinenuts

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Rub the whole chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place it breast side down in a roasting pan and place in the oven for 45 minutes. Turn the chicken breast side up and roast until nicely browned, roughly another 15 minutes. While the chicken is roasting, prepare the migas.

2. Moisten the bread with the water and milk and leave to sit for about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring the raisins to the boil in a small pan with enough water to cover them. Turn off and leave to stand for 30 minutes.

4. Drain excess liquid from the bread. Heat a frying pan, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and cook the bread on a high heat for about 30 seconds. Turn the heat down and cook slowly for about 20 minutes, turning continuously until golden brown and crisp. Remove to a plate.

5. In the same pan heat a little more oil and fry the spring onions for a couple of minutes. Add the pine nuts and brown for another minute or so. Mix in the fried bread (megas).

6. Drain the raisins and add them to the pan. Turn off the heat and keep in a warm place.

7. Remove the chicken from the roasting tray and keep it warm.

8. Put the roasting tray on a medium heat and when the chicken juices start to bubble add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat high and let the sauce bubble away until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the vinegars, stirring well, scraping the pan to dislodge all the tasty bits stuck to it.

9. Taste, and add more vinegar if needed.

10. Carve the chicken. Take a large serving dish and sprinkle the raisin, nuts and spring onion mixture, along with the bread, on the plate. Place the carved chicken on top. Pour the reduction from the pan over the top and serve.

Bread and garlic soup. Photograph: Emma Jervis
Bread and garlic soup. Photograph: Emma Jervis

Roast garlic and bread soup

This recipe is inspired by one in the Gubbeen cook book. I have used bread instead of chorizo. This soup is nourishing and ideal when sprits are low.

Ingredients
Serves 6
6 whole garlic heads, cloves separated but skins on
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 celery sticks, finely diced
Small bunch of thyme
200g of bread, cubed
Half a tsp sweet smoked paprika
1.5 litre chicken stock
Salt and pepper

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Place the garlic cloves in a tray with two tablespoons of the oil. Cover with tinfoil and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes, until nicely soft. At this point the cloves should be golden and soft.

2. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel it and blend it into a puree. Keep the oil from the tray to one side.

3. Heat the remaining oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over a medium heat. Add the onion, celery and thyme with a good pinch of salt and cook slowly for 10-15 minutes. Turn up the heat slightly, stir in the smoked paprika and mix well. Add the roasted garlic puree and the chicken stock.

4. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

5. Before serving, add the bread and drizzle the oil you put aside earlier over the top.

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