There’s been a lot of old bread knocking about our place since my New Year’s resolution to bake a loaf of rye bread a week. Luckily, I find it hard not to put breadcrumbs – briciole in Italian – on everything anyhow. I love that crunch. Pasta – even pizza – with briciole… Salad, roast vegetables, whatever. It’s the very easiest, laziest way to add a new texture to anything. And the better the bread, the better the crumb: good bread is more inclined to dry out. I remember my uncle running a loaf under the tap – it was so hard it could never have been cut with a knife. He crumbled it incrementally for an excellent panzanella. If we need old bread more quickly than it can dry out, we use the oven to speed things up.
Pointed cabbage and breadcrumbs
I feel there is no better way with cabbage than how Trine Hahnemann, the Danish cookery writer, and a great friend, cooked it on a cold evening in Copenhagen: fried with a regular and generous basting of butter. Here you get a soothing dairy hit with butter and cream, but with some body from the tomatoes and the punch of chilli. For this recipe, it is essential that the onions have a long gentle cook so that they aren’t prominent. Adding the odd tablespoon of water is allowed.Advertisement
Serves 4 as a starter or side dish
- red onions 2
- garlic cloves 2
- olive oil
- plum tomatoes 125g, peeled
- dried chilli 1
- breadcrumbs 50g
- pointed cabbage 1, halved
- single cream 100ml
- butter 30g
- lemon 1
- mint 3 sprigs, leaves plucked
Halve and then thinly slice the onions and 1 garlic clove. In a small saucepan, sweat them together with 2 tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Once they have heated up, turn the temperature to low and allow to sweat for 40 minutes, stirring and checking from time to time.
Chop the tomatoes and add them to the onions, turning the heat up to medium and cooking for 10 more minutes.
In a frying pan, heat 4 tbsp of olive oil with the other sliced garlic clove and the crumbled dried chilli. When the garlic is golden and the chilli dark, add the breadcrumbs, stirring while they crisp for 1-2 minutes. When they look good and burnished, remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Salt a little.
In a steamer, cook the cabbage over boiling water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat the cream until just before boiling, add the butter and salt to taste, and turn off the heat. Add a squeeze of lemon – don’t worry if it curdles.
Place the cabbage on a warm plate. Dress in the cream first – underneath as well – and then dress with the tomatoey onions, then torn mint leaves, some lemon zest and finally the breadcrumbs.
There’s nothing traditional about this. Add anchovies if you like.
Serves 4 as a starter
- cucumber ½, small
- pumpkin 500g
- thyme 2 sprigs
- parsley 5 sprigs
- garlic 1 clove
- olive oil
- salted capers 2 tbsp, washed
- red wine vinegar
- radicchio tardivo 1, leaves separated
- baby radicchio 50g, or whatever bitter salad you can find
- baby spinach 50g
- celery heart 1 small, and a few pale leaves
- robust old bread 200g piece, crust removed
- organic buttermilk 150ml
Smash the cucumber several times with a rolling pin and pull it apart into a bowl. Season with salt and set aside.
Heat the oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Peel and cut the pumpkin into smallish pieces. Pound the herbs in a mortar with the garlic clove and a pinch of salt and add a tablespoon of oil. Use a tablespoon of the herb paste to coat the pumpkin pieces before placing on a tray and roasting for 30 minutes, or until just soft.
Mix the remaining herb paste with the capers, 2 tbsp of vinegar and 4 tbsp of olive oil. Clean all the salad leaves. Trim the end of the root of the celery and slice the heart thinly.
Tear the bread into short shards and drizzle with a tablespoon of oil. Place around the pumpkin and return to the oven for 8 minutes, till golden and crisp.
Place the bread and pumpkin in a salad bowl, then pour over the buttermilk. Add the herb dressing, the celery and leaves. Turn everything gently to dress.
Serves 4 as a main with something else
- brown onions 8 medium
- stale bread 75g, cut into 1cm cubes
- whole milk 75ml
- sausages 4 (about 300g total)
- thyme 4 sprigs
- fresh sage 1 sprig
- fresh oregano 1 sprig
- fresh rosemary 1 sprig
- taleggio 120g, diced
Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Cover the bottom of a small baking pan with coarse salt and add the onions, scattering with a little more salt. Bake for 45 minutes, or until tender. To state the obvious, the larger the onions, the longer they take, so use good judgement. Remove and leave till cool enough to handle.
In a bowl, sprinkle the bread with milk. Cut the sausages open, remove the meat and add to the bowl. My sausages are garlicky already; if yours aren’t, add a chopped clove of garlic, too. Pick the leaves from the herbs and add half of them to the bowl with a twist of pepper.
Now cut the tops off the onions with a serrated knife. Use a teaspoon to remove the insides, leaving but a few layers. Chop the onion insides a little and add to the stuffing, before refilling the onions and baking once more for 15 minutes.
Take the pan out of the oven and turn the heat up to 220C/gas mark 7. Toss the remaining herbs in a little oil and use to top the onions, along with the pieces of cheese. Return the pan to the oven and bake until golden – about 10 minutes.
- For the pastry:
- white flour 100g
- rye flour 50g
- salt a small pinch
- golden caster sugar 60g
- butter 75g, cubed, and extra to butter the tin
- egg 1
For the pastry cream:
- coconut cream 400ml
- vanilla pod ½, seeds scraped out, the rest reserved for something else
- salt a small pinch
- egg yolks 3
- golden caster sugar 60g
- plain flour 30g
For the topping:
- rye breadcrumbs 70g
- soft brown sugar 60g
- desiccated coconut 70g
- lemon zest of 1
- softened butter 50g
- egg 1, beaten
Make the pastry by rubbing the flours, salt and sugar into the butter – with your fingers or in a food processor – till it has a breadcrumb-like texture. Add the egg to bring everything together and knead to make a pastry. Wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour, then roll out and use to line a buttered 20cm tart tin. Rest the lined tin again in the fridge.
Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6, then blind bake the tart shell for 20 minutes. I use baking paper and some baking beans to hold the pastry in place.
For the pastry cream, gently heat the coconut cream in a saucepan with the vanilla seeds and salt. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale. Whisk in the flour to the yolk mix then whisk in a ladle of the warm coconut cream. Whisk the yolk mixture into coconut cream in the pan. Return to the heat and cook over a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon all the time. It will thicken almost immediately. Pour straight away into another container, still stirring.
For the topping, mix the breadcrumbs, sugar and coconut together. Grate in the lemon zest and rub in the butter before incorporating the egg bit by bit. You might not need it all.
Pour the pastry cream into the tart shell. Take pieces of the topping mixture, flatten it and place over the top of the cream, to eventually cover it. Do not worry if there appears to be some gaps.
Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180C/gas mark 4 and bake for a further 25 minutes. Remove and allow the tart to completely cool before serving so that the cream has a chance to set.