Like it or not, most of us waste way too much food every week. Lack of planning, frequent trips to the supermarket and deciding what we want to eat rather than looking at what is available and cooking accordingly are just some of the reasons. Of the average 110kg food that each of us in the UK throw away each year (figures from the http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.co.uk) the most often binned items are fresh salad, fruit and veg and bakery items. Perhaps it is just me, but I find this truly shocking. I am convinced that if we had to make our bread ourselves, we certainly wouldn’t be throwing it away so easily. But, delicious as home made bread is, even I wouldn’t advocate only eating bread you made yourself. Maybe instead we could each try to compromise and change our ‘toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch’ mindset and start to see each loaf as representing a whole host of possibilities.
The problem is that if you buy good bread, or make it yourself, it is not full of nasty additives to keep it soft and moist for weeks on end. That means that after a day or so you are left with a loaf that you don’t really fancy. Obviously, you can always blitz it in your food processor to make bread crumbs and stick them in the freezer, (labelled so that they won’t shrivel up with frost bite, that goes without saying). Or the try often overlooked, but always tasty toasted sandwich/ panini. If you don’t have a sandwich toaster, do not run out and get one, just make your sandwich up and smear the tiniest amount of butter or olive oil on the outer sides, then pop it in a frying pan weighted down with a steak press if you have one. If you don’t, improvise. Mozzarella and tomato with pesto is always a good filling. Or you could try slicing your bread up into nibble sized pieces (think large crisp size, big enough to hold some dip) and toss with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, crushed garlic and sea salt. Bake in the oven in single layers on a baking sheet in the oven until they are golden brown, or around 20 minutes, possibly turning them half way through if you remember. I love these in the summer before dinner, with some tomatoes on, but they are also good with just about any dip and at any time. They’ve got to better than shop brought crisps, but that is just my opinion. And don’t forget the good old apple charlotte. Butter a pudding basin, and line it with a few slices of old brown bread, that you have also lightly buttered on each side. Squash them in nicely, so that there is no space for your filling to leak out, then fill with apples that you have cooked with some cinnamon and brown sugar. Or add some plums in as well, whatever you have to hand. Maybe add the fruit in in layers to add a bit of interest when you cut it open? Finish by forming a lid with more lightly buttered bread and press it down well so that you have a proper seal. Bake for around half an hour, or until you have a lovely golden brown colour, then serve with vanilla ice cream.
However, if none of those ideas takes your fancy, have a go at one of these recipes. Make sure you are hungry though, these are not recipes for a light mid week supper. Think dinner after a days hiking in the forrest, or better still Alpine skiing and you’ll get the picture.
German Dumpling Recipe (Knoedel)
This is one of my favourite German foods. Knoedel go with everything, and if you have any leftover you can always slice them up and fry them in a pan until they are golden brown with a slightly crispy outside to be eaten how you see fit. But you won’t go wrong though with some pan fried garlic mushrooms, with a splash of vegetable or chicken stock and a drop of cream.
10 old bread rolls cubed (or bread, baguette, whatever you have) As a rule, I find that a bread roll makes about 2 handfuls of bread cubes, so take it from there.) You can always chuck the cubed bread in the freezer until you have enough for the knoedel.
150 ml warm milk
1 onion, diced
Salt and pepper
Whatever herbs you fancy. Flat leaved parsley is good, but a mix works well too.
Start by softening your onion until it is really translucent.
Soak the bread rolls in the warm milk, then pour over the eggs mixed with the salt and pepper and chopped herbs.
Leave to soak for about half and hour, or until you are ready to make them.
Using wet hands, form fistfuls of the dough into tightly pressed dumplings. If the dough is too wet, use some breadcrumbs or plain flour to thicken slightly.
Most people will tell you to simmer these in water for between 8 to 10 minutes, until they float on the surface of the water. However, my (German) mother in law always steams hers, and I don’t see any reason to mess with that as she always makes a fine dumpling. Cook for about the same amount of time, and keep warm until you are ready to eat them with whatever stew or casserole you fancy.
This recipe is based on one I saw in the Telegraph, and differs from the usual ones because it uses anchovies, one of my all time favourite ingredients, but one you’ll have to forgo if you’re looking for a good meat free Monday recipe!
4 onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
A good few anchovies (optional, to taste)
750g of kale, chard or even spinach.
400g stale bread cubed.
500 ml veg or chicken stock
A couple of handfuls of cheese that will melt. Cheddar or gruyere would be good.
Start by crushing the garlic and leaving to one side.
Soften your onions in oil for around 20 minutes. If you are using anchovies, drop them int he pan as well and help them to break up a bit by bashing the with a wooden spoon. Season with a bit of salt, the add the garlic.
Boil the chopped stalks of the chard or kale (no need if you are using spinach) for around five minutes, then add the shredded leaves for around one minute. Drain and leave to cool. If you are using spinach, just wilt it.
Toss a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, some sea salt and a good splash of the stock through the bread.
Make layers in an oven proof dish, starting with the onions, then the bread, followed by the chard. Finish with a good sprinkling of cheese, and the slowly pour the stock over, waiting for it to be absorbed before adding more. You can decide how wet you want it here, it can either be served more like a soup, in which case you’ll need more stock, or firmer, in which case you’ll need more or less the 500 ml specified. Just make sure you don’t fill it up to the rim if you are looking for something firmer.
Cover and bake for around 40 minutes at 200 deg C, then give it a quick blast without the cover to brown it up nicely before serving.