Everyone should have homemade pangrattato in their store cupboard. It ticks so many culinary boxes:
- easy to make
- easy to store
- virtually free
- absolutely delicious
- improves a plethora of dishes
- reduces food waste
- you can’t buy it in the shops
It’s remarkably satisfying, so why wouldn’t you!?!
What is it?
A literal translation from Italian would be ‘grated bread’ – basically, pangrattato is toasted breadcrumbs.
I use it as a garnish to add a little flavoured texture and make dishes more interesting – risotto, spaghetti, baked cheeses, lasagne, creamed leeks, gratins, Mac n’ Cheese! It’s gold dust in my eyes.
I’m sold, so how do I make it?
Tear up any bread that you have leftover (that’s not mouldy obviously) and pop it into a food processor with a clove of garlic and a few fresh herbs if you have them. Give it a blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs and then drizzle in a little olive oil with the motor still running. It only needs enough oil to very lightly coat the crumbs.
Tip the crumbs into a dry frying pan and toast them over a medium heat, stirring and moving them around constantly until they become golden in colour – you’ll hear the sound change as the crumb becomes crispy. Tip it out onto a tray so that it can cool evenly and then store it in a glass jar, ready for sprinkling when the moment takes you.
You can experiment with flavours if you like – try adding different combinations of herbs such as rosemary, sage or thyme, perhaps an anchovy fillet and a little of its flavourful oil or some unwaxed lemon zest. Dried chillies will give it a deeper flavour and a bit of a kick.
Now, I appreciate that many people will discard the crusts from their sliced loaf as a matter of routine. @toastale actually make good use of this bread to make beer from packet sandwich manufacturing! If you chuck your crusts and any leftover bread into a freezer bag now and again, you’ll be able to defrost it all at the same time and cook up a big batch of pangrattato every few months.
Not an ounce of my precious sourdough goes to waste!
Sourdough is all about time. As time has passed since my last post about sourdough, I’ve patiently and diligently continued on my quest to make fantastic sourdough. I’ll reiterate that regular practice, keen observation and confident intuition are what truly makes great bread.
Dave is all grown up, well, fourteen months old at the time of writing, and I’m feeling far more proficient in my yeast husbandry. Interestingly, this craft feels quite like parenting in the sense of becoming more and more unconsciously competent as time goes by; I’ve almost stopped thinking about the details and just get on with it.
Lots of great questions have been coming my way recently so I think it’s the perfect time to take stock and get my latest methodology down for posterity.
For my best sourdough loaf, I currently do the following (based on my equipment and environment):
- Make sure the starter is on top form and recently fed and watered – if it’s been chilling out in the fridge to slow down the fermentation process then give it a 50/50 organic flour and water feeding, a good mix to aerate it and at least a day at room temperature. You’ll know that it’s good to go if a spoonful of the starter floats in water.
- Before going to bed, mix 80g of the starter with 80g of organic white bread flour and 80g water. This is your sponge. Cover it with a cloth or a shower cap (it’s your yeast-farming duty to liberate them from hotel rooms at every opportunity).
- The following morning, start the autolyse process by mixing 50g organic white rye flour and 450g organic white bread flour into your sponge with 300ml tepid water. Leave it (covered with a shower cap) for an hour or so. This will allow the flour to fully absorb the water, start the fermentation process, and ultimately make it much easier to knead.
- Add 15g salt dissolved in a splash of water and knead your dough for 10 minutes until it’s beautifully smooth and elastic. There’s some real technique to be developed in kneading and shaping your dough, especially when it’s wet, but it isn’t hard to get the hang of it and if you’re like me, you’ll eventually find it more therapeutic than stressful.
- We now venture into bulk fermentation. Leave your dough covered for an hour and then lovingly ‘stretch and fold’ with wet hands a few times to incorporate a touch more water and increase hydration à la ‘eau de bassinage’. This technique will help to develop the gluten further and improve the crumb. Repeat this each hour and then after four hours, shape the dough. To help it keep its shape, you want to stretch the gluten to wrap around itself tightly. I do this by drawing the dough towards myself (google/youtube it).
- Pop your dough into a well dusted banneton (wicker bread proving basket). I use rice flour for this as it’s anhydrous and prevents the dough sticking. Sprinkle some semolina over the top and cover it with your trusty shower cap.
- Put your dough to bed in the top of your fridge and leave it until the following morning. This is the retarded method – it will slow the fermentation down, leading to a more digestible loaf.
- Pop a large cast iron pot into your oven and turn it up as high as it will go. After 30 minutes everything should be stinking hot.
- Take your dough from the fridge and carefully turn it out onto a piece of greaseproof paper.
- Score your dough with a lame or a razor blade in confident, even strokes. This will not only make your bread look good, but it will also help it expand in the oven.
- Being both quick and unbelievably careful in the process, remove your cast iron pot from the oven and lower your dough into it, give it a tiny spritz of water, pop the lid back on and then slip it back into the oven.
- After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to about 210° and bake it for a further 50 minutes.
- Remove your bread and leave it to cool on a wire rack.
I’ve recently started doubling up on my ingredients to make two loaves at the same time – especially worthwhile given that sourdough bread keeps in perfect condition for such a long time.
Good luck, godspeed and look out for future updates on my preferred method here and on instagram @foodfitforfelix
A quick recipe post for an Instagram follower. I hope you like this one @emmaloulalala – it’s great with a winter cheeseboard.
- 1 large cucumber
- 2 shallots, finely sliced
- 100ml cider vinegar
- 75g muscovado sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ tsp ground clove
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp kalonji (nigella) seeds
Sterilise a glass jar by washing it thoroughly and popping it into a hot oven for 10 minutes.
Slice the cucumber in half along its length and scrape out the seeds with a spoon, then finely slice. Place the cucumber in a colander and sprinkle with salt to draw out some of the moisture.
Mix the other ingredients together in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Take the mixture off the heat and add the cucumber.
Fill your jar, pop the lid on and allow it to cool down. Store your pickle in the fridge.
Beautifully simple, reassuringly rustic and moreish to boot. Here’s my recipe for open-baked mussels that my children can’t get enough of. It’s a reasonably cheap dish that’s definitely crowd-pleasing comfort food, and yet I believe it to be equally worthy of any dinner party.
- 1kg mussels
- Hunk of sourdough (to make breadcrumbs)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Bunch of parsley
- 1 tomato, deseeded and diced (concasse)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 70g ham, chopped
- 2 banana shallots, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 125ml white wine (or water)
- Clean and sort through your mussels, removing beards and discarding any open (dead) ones.
- Pop the mussels in a pot with a sprinkling of shallot, parsley stalks and the white wine (or water). Cover with a lid and steam the mussels for 4 minutes.
- Discard any mussels that didn’t open during cooking.
- Remove half of each mussel shell and lay the full halves out on a baking sheet.
- Blitz the sourdough bread in a food processor to make a crumb. mix in the rest of the finely diced shallot, crushed garlic, chopped parsley leaves, ham, lemon zest and diced tomato. Add a good glug of olive oil and spoon the mix over the mussels.
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until golden brown.
- Serve with french fries and mayonnaise for a glorious experience.
A dear old friend of mine posed an interesting and somewhat non-trivial question recently: “What do I cook on a 5-week camping road trip around Scandinavia with the (3) kids?”
My initial response was “Holy crap… you lucky bitch!”
Top tips, ideas and advice hey – this is actually quite a task as although we’ve had many, many trips of this nature, they’ve never been anything like that long, and I can completely appreciate the intrinsic motherly anxiety around appropriate nutrition for the smalls.
So here goes – the following are my thoughts on this remarkably exciting adventure into the northern wilds.
- The biggest considerations are space and refrigeration. Even with a larger than average vehicle, space is at a premium when camping due to all the other paraphernalia you’ll have stowed. Think through how you can minimise – there’s always prepping options such as decanting into resealable bags (think salt – do you really need that full glass grinder?).
- Refrigeration limitations will restrict what you have available and what you can store safely. To overcome this, maximise your store cupboard repertoire, but balance this by combining freshly bought fruit, veg and meat whenever you have the opportunity to do so.
- KISS. The classic design principle of Keep It Simple Stupid; plan for simple dishes and then jazz them up with delicious little flourishes like herbs, cheeses, spices, flavoured oils and vinegars.
- When I was very small, we’d drive to the south of France in an Austin Allegro and stop at the side of the road on the way – my inimitable mother would bust out a gas burner (the type that screw onto the top of a little gas bottle) and combine the following tin cans in a pot: baked beans, pre-boiled new potatoes, hacked-up corned beef. The classic ‘corned beef hash’. After it had warmed through sufficiently we’d eat it in bowls with brown sauce, and although this sounds truly awful and desperately unappetising to a well-developed palate of the modern day, I still have remarkably clear and fond memories of it (the taste; not how it looked!). I’ve actually recreated this dish at home using the best ingredients I can find and putting much love, care and attention into every individual element. It tastes incredible, but still doesn’t look any better..
- Your store cupboard will treat you well. Stock it with due care and attention to ensure that there’s always options available to satisfy your families’ appetites should circumstances not pan out as you expected – I can guarantee that this will happen at least once during your trip through the wilderness – probably at the most irritatingly unhelpful time.
- What kind of things would you want to maintain in your store cupboard as an absolute minimum?
- Salt & pepper (good stuff – you may as well)
- Balsamic glaze – transformative in bringing sweetness and depth as a dressing or during cooking.
- Olive oil – a staple of life in my eyes. Flavoured oils can transform dishes.
- Seasonings – spices and dried herbs that can lift even a boiled potato and transform it into something sublime.
- A splash of vinegar: red wine, white wine, cider – pack a little bottle of your favourite for balancing dishes and making salad dressings.
- Cans/tins – olives, corn, tomatoes, fish, olives, pate, whatever floats your boat. They’re safe, easy to stow and economical. There’s a whole gourmet market out there that’s so worth exploring. I have a thing for cooked mackerel in tomato sauce, but that’s a whole other post.
- Aka equipment. I’m a bit of a purist and love improvising and re-purposing things to save space and weight, but there are a few things that will be terribly handy:
- Tongs – size really does matter if you’re cooking with fire.
- Foil – so handy as a makeshift lid or for wrapping and storing.
- Colander – useful but not essential for washing and rinsing as much as draining.
- Speed peeler – I don’t leave home without one.
- Grater – microplane are my go-to.
- Serious oven-glove. No explanation required.
- Board – nothing like a nice hunk of wood but plastics are lighter.
- Quality sharp knife (small and large but ultimately whatever you’re comfortable with). With younglings around it can be preferable to pack one with a sheath.
- Wet-wipes – the saviour of all parents and essential ‘washing up’ kit in the middle of nowhere.
- Frying pan – big enough to get everything in together, but small enough to fit on your camping stove!
- Decent pot or perhaps a dutch oven if you have one – they’re amazing if you’re cooking with fire at all and it’s remarkable what you can achieve (even bread!).
- Classic dishes
- Anything is possible if you have the key basic equipment to hand and a little imagination. I love the challenge of thinking through how to juggle everything in order to get the desired meal onto a plate but don’t constrain yourself by conforming to comfortable home standards – the bonnet is a table, a spoon is a knife, your oven-glove is a cushion and a pot stand. I could go on.
- We always kick-off our trip with a slow-cooked chilli or stew of some
description – if you’ve got a long journey to your first stop you can make this ahead and then freeze it so that it defrosts as you go. Bring it back up to temperature in a pot and you have a hearty ‘home-cooked’ meal to set you up.
- Pasta will serve you well in your store-cupboard. A good quality pesto, grated Parmesan cheese, a few wild rocket leaves and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Heavenly. Work with what you have to hand though though – all of these elements can be switched out with alternatives based on what’s available.
- Greek salad (or any salad for that point) combines some great simple ingredients into a delicious balanced meal. Think about gorgeous salad dressings (mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil with some salt and pepper and shake it up in whatever bottle you have to hand).
- Looking for something a bit different? try combining watermelon with Feta cheese (or anything salty and crumbly), fresh coriander, basil or mint leaves and some hot chilli peppers for mum and dad.
- Beans or various types will provide you with wonderful nutrition. Easy to jazz up too.
- Jacket potatoes are a quality camping companion – just wrap them in foil and pop them in the embers of a fire. Note that you can wrap lots of things in foil and chuck them in a fire… (stuffed aubergines anyone?!).
- Rustic soups are an easy way of filling you up with 100% goodness from a plethora of different ingredients that you might have to hand.
- Ever thought of making pancakes outdoors? It’s just a simple combo of eggs, milk and flour – you can even mix it in a bottle again!
- French Toast (pain perdu / eggy bread) – sweet or savoury – a great use of stale or even fresh bread. A few eggs and a touch of butter or oil in the frying pan and you’re away.
- Corned beef hash (as per above) with fried eggs if you’ve got a second pan :o)
- Finally our family tradition: our less than obvious favourite is Spanish Padron Peppers blistered in a hot pan with olive oil for a few seconds and scattered with flaky sea salt. We simply don’t go camping without them.
- Don’t ..
- Risk it.. You’re camping – there’s nothing worse than food poisoning… oh yes there is, food poisoning when you’re camping. Err on the side of caution if you’re dealing with food that requires refrigeration and/or ever in doubt. Respect your ingredients, but as much as I’m one for championing the food wastage campaigns, you are on holiday after all.
- Beat yourself up.. You’re camping – take the rough with the smooth and remember that everything is an adventure. Sure, you’ll have some crappy meals, but you’ll also have some phenomenal ones, and I would put money on them being the most simple, basic and unexpected ones that your children will remember.
- Apologise.. You’re camping – it’s a team sport and you’ve all gotta play.
I’m sure I’ve missed things but you have to draw the line somewhere. I’ll update this post from time to time as I think of other things and I’d welcome anyone’s thoughts, stories, experiences and recipes.
Bon Voyage, or more appropriately, lycklig resa!