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!
Today is a good day. I’m rarely happier than when I’m off on a foodie expedition, ice-axe in hand. There’s things I’ve eaten, read about, seen on TV and the like, but the mountain is never really conquered until you’ve truly ‘been there’. Tick.
Okonomiyaki [o-konomi-yaki] is a Japanese savoury pancake. I’ve eaten plenty, but discovering how easy and satisfying it is to make them in your own kitchen is positively joyous.
Here’s the low-down:
Make a pancake batter, fill it with delicious savoury ingredients, cook it slowly and top it with equally delicious and visually attractive garnishes.
The name derives from ‘okonomi’ which means ‘whatever you like’ and ‘yaki’ meaning ‘grill’. As you may be aware, I’m a big fan of using up leftovers and reducing food waste so this is right up there in the list of go-to/back-pocket dishes.
Although it has regional variations across Japan, generally speaking it’s filled with shredded cabbage, but I’ve used gem lettuce in my version as it’s what I had to hand. It’s your dish – mix it up to your liking, but you’ll have to trust me with the mayonnaise zigzag.. I think it really is essential and brings an additional dimension.
Ingredients: (serves 1)
- 1 large egg
- 50ml stock, cooled
- 4 tbsp plain flour
- 1 handful lettuce (or cabbage), shredded
- 1 spring onion, finely sliced
- 2 tsp black sesame seeds or Furikake*
- 1 tsp rapeseed of vegetable oil
- mayonnaise (from a squeezy bottle)
- oyster sauce
- Sriracha chilli sauce
- Beat the egg, stock and flour together with a pinch of salt.
- Mix in the lettuce and some of the spring onion (or ‘whatever you like’).
- Fry in the oil over a low heat for about 5 minutes on each side until until golden and a little crispy.
- Top with the obligatory crisscross of sauces and top with the remaining spring onion and your choice of condiments.
*Furikake is a Japanese seasoning made from mixed sesame seeds, Shiso leaves and nori seaweed.
I’ll admit that I didn’t think this one would turn out anything like as well as it did. Thankfully it was well worth the gamble.
Spare aubergine that I bought for no other reason other than it looked shiny – tick.
Block of puff pastry in the freezer – always.
This is a spin on a beautiful Spanish Aubergine Stew we adore devouring with tapas and a bottle of Rioja.
- Puff Pastry
- 1 small Aubergine (Eggplant)
- ½ Courgette (Zucchini), sliced
- 1 Onion, sliced
- 2 Celery sticks, diced
- 2 Garlic cloves, crushed
- 300ml Passata
- Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 Egg, beaten
Cut the aubergine into 2cm cubes, fry it off in plenty of olive oil and set it aside.
In the same pan, soften the onion, celery, garlic and courgette. Add the fried aubergine, passata and a scattering of oregano. Season and cook it down until nicely thickened – it mustn’t be too wet as the pastry won’t be very happy with you.
Roll the pastry out to about 5mm thick, cut to the desired size and score borders. Pile on the filling, top with grated gruyere cheese, and brush the edges with beaten egg.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for about 15 minutes.
Serve with rocket salad and perhaps that glass of Rioja.
Dinner knocked up from what was leftover: a corner of cheese, a frond of dill, dried linguine, half a courgette (zucchini) and a dash of cream…
Making meals from the remnants of other meals is essentially what I do most days, unless of course I’ve pre-planned a specific meal and bought exactly what I need in advance.
I truly believe that being able to peer into your fridge and cupboards and put a meal together from whatever you find, is the cornerstone of food education that we’re now lacking, especially here in the United Kingdom. It’s the classic Masterchef ‘Mystery Box’ challenge although I wouldn’t say my food was that refined. It ties into food waste, healthy eating and balanced diets. It enables us to reduce food bills and make wonderful meals that are nutritious and tasty, and it encourages people to experiment in the kitchen and make more of what we have.
Personally, there aren’t many things that I find as satisfying as producing a great meal for my family from what many people would deem ‘nothing’.
I recall gloomy days at university when my housemates and I would repeatedly wander into the kitchen and peer into the cupboards looking for something to eat, eventually accepting defeat and inevitably going to the pub. There’s little I’d want to change in my life, but I can tell you that I really wish I’d acquired the skills to enable me to ‘rustle something up’: the cupboards were never truly empty – nobody’s cupboards really ever are. To make it worse, I was already a pretty confident cook back then…
It isn’t something that’s difficult, but there’s no doubt that this particular skill comes from experience, and herein lies the problem; people just don’t cook enough anymore.
It’s super-important for younglings to be taught food education and cooking skills in school, but it’s equally important they’re taught the right skills… I’m fairly certain I haven’t made a Swiss Roll since 1993.
I had the pleasure of setting the first of this months Jamie Oliver Food Revolution challenges. A very proud moment for me, which was only outshone by the terrific level of engagement by fellow Ambassadors around the world. The concept was simple: go and create something delicious from whatever leftovers you find in your fridge.
Give it a go – but then go and tell someone about it!
Here’s what you can do with some leftover chicken, a packet of noodles and some frozen vegetables. Plenty more to follow.