It wasn’t until I started making fresh bread on a regular basis that I started giving much thought to what to do with stale, leftover bread. Bread bought from a supermarket doesn’t tend to go stale that quickly. And my initial forays into bread-baking were focused solely on the joy of fresh, warm, yeasty bread, not dry, day-old bread. However, over time I have started to appreciate the body of recipes out there that call for stale bread. Bread puddings, covered in raisins and soaked in a custardy cream before be baked; fruit charlottes, with fruit, and bread providing the support; and savoury dishes such as the Italian panzanella. With half a loaf of bread sat in my kitchen going dry and crispy, I thought it was time to make a panzanella. Unfortunately, this is predominately a summer dish, based around tomatoes and summer vegetables, with a summery vinaigrette dressing. Fortunately for me, there are winter versions out there, which can be served warm too and this one was just the ticket. Warm, crusty croutons that give slightly in the centre, warm, herby, roasted pumpkin, tangy, sour onions and crisp, crunchy sprouts make for a wonderful palette of winter colours, and a nice combination of tastes. Good and filling and heats up nicely the next day too.
The original recipe for this called for a ridiculous number of bowls, producing an unholy amount of washing up so I tried to reduce this down, only using one large bowl, one large and one small saucepan, and one baking sheet. If you can get this down further do let me know!
1 tablespoon butter
3 sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons parmesan
Half a loaf of bread, crust removed, chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried sage
150g pumpkin, peeled, seeded, chopped into 2-inch chunks
1 red onion
2 tablespoons vinegar, original recipe called for sherry vinegar but I used cider vinegar
150g brussels sprouts, peeled and halved
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2.In a large saucepan melt a tablespoon of butter. Add a pinch of salt, the thyme leaves, the parmesan and some pepper. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat the bread thoroughly in butter and cheese. Arrange the bread on one half of a large baking sheet, in one layer.
3. In the same empty, but slightly dirty saucepan pour 1 tablespoon olive oil, another pinch of salt, and the teaspoon of sage. Add the cubed pumpkin and toss to coat. Arrange the pumpkin on the other half of the baking sheet, and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the bread is brown on the outside and slightly soft in the centre still when poked with a skewer, and the pumpkin is cooked through.
4. Meanwhile slice the red onion into thin strips. Put them into the large saucepan, along with a tablespoon of vinegar and another pinch of salt. Toss to coat and leave to gently pickle for 15 minutes or so.
5. Peel and halve the sprouts and boil in the small saucepan for 2 minutes, or until piping hot and just losing their crunchy edge. Drain and place in the large mixing bowl.
6. Remove the bread cubes and pumpkin from the oven and add to the mixing bowl. Whisk a tablespoon of oil into the onion/vinegar mixture and then drizzle this over everything in the mixing bowl. Toss, and serve immediately.
Serves 3 for a medium-sized main meal.