Tag Archives: bread

Panzanella with smoked chicken, capers & basil

6 Feb

Panzanella: a traditional Tuscan bread salad (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

These days, most of us have access to great bread. Here in my hometown of Stellenbosch I can buy a large loaf of freshly baked sour dough bread any day of the week at Schoon de Compagne, and I use it in so many ways.

On the first day, I just eat it on its own, drenched with great quality olive oil or topped with a thick slab of cold Ayrshire butter. On day 2, I eat it toasted as bruschetta with various toppings: slow roasted tomatoes with garlic, marinated peppers, baked aubergines with feta, the list is endless. On day 3, I use it to make croutons or process it to make breadcrumbs for toppings and stuffings. The uses are infinite and the bread just keeps on giving. (For more ideas, check out Saveur’s 40 favourite recipes with stale bread.)

The Italians have great ways of using stale bread. They make fantastic soups, salads, meat dishes and even puddings with it – economical and oh so tasty. One of my favourite Italian inspired ways of using a stale loaf is to make panzanella, a traditional summery Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes. There are many versions of panzanella, but mine contains tomatoes, yellow peppers, capers, basil, red onion and smoked chicken.

And here’s a handy tip: if you want to give your panzanella an authentic Italian look, don’t cut the bread, rather break it into chunks. This way the salad has so much more character. It’s a meal on its own, but don’t be afraid to serve it as one of many dishes on a lazy, extended, weekend lunch with lots of great wine in a shady spot under the trees.

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a main meal, or 6 as a side dish)

For the “croutons”:

  •  about 3 cups of stale torn bread chunks (preferably sour dough or ciabatta)
  • 60 ml olive oil

For the dressing:

  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced/crushed
  • salt and black pepper for seasoning

For the salad:

  • 3 cups toasted croutons (see above)
  • 2 small smoked chicken breasts, sliced or torn into smaller chunks
  • 250 g mixed small tomatoes, sliced in half or in smaller slices
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeds and pith removed, sliced
  • 50 g capers (drained)
  • 1/4 cup of finely sliced red onion (optional)
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves

Method:

  1. For the croutons: In a large pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and then toast the bread chunks until they are golden brown on all sides. Toss often until ready, then remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. For the dressing: mix all ingredients together in a cup, using a fork to whisk. Set aside.
  3. For the salad: in a large mixing bowl, add the croutons, chicken breast chunks, sliced tomatoes, sliced pepper, capers, red onion and basil. Pour half the dressing over the salad, then mix well. Add more dressing according to taste – I like it when the bread absorbs a lot of the dressing, resulting in a softer tangy chew. Transfer the mixed salad to a beautiful salad bowl, and serve immediately.

Note: If your loaf of stale bread has a very hard crust on the outside, cut it off before tearing the bread into chunks.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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Mosbolletjies

29 Mar

Glazing my traditional South African mosbolletjies (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

When I was still at school, my Mother baked for the local “tuisnywerheid” (home industry) for many years. She supplied them with a range of buttermilk rusks, but her absolute hero product was magnificent “mosbolletjies”. The best way to describe mosbolletjies is that it’s a sweet brioche, traditionally made with fermented grape juice (these days we just use normal grape juice) and flavoured with aniseed. The texture is feathery and there is just nothing on earth like a torn piece of mosbolletjie with thickly spread butter and golden syrup.

We were very spoilt to be casually eating freshly baked mosbolletjies almost every single day, when others queued at the “tuisnywerheid” early in the morning to get their hands on a warm loaf. My mother baked huge batches of large loaves, her oven brimming with the beautifully golden rounds of dough.

My Mother have been very ill over the last few weeks, and I wish I could have brough her these mosbolletjies today. Get better soon Ma! I love you very much and we’ll visit you soon!

PS: These mosbolletjies are perfect for Easter.

Ingredients: (recipe adapted from Heilie Pienaar’s “The Ultimate Snowflake Collection”)

  • 1 kg cake flour
  • 10 ml salt
  • 100 g (125 ml) sugar
  • 10 g (1 sachet) instant dry yeast
  • 30 ml whole aniseed
  • 100 g butter
  • 250 ml white grape juice
  • 125 ml lukewarm milk
  • 250 ml lukewarm water
  • 30 ml sugar mixed with 30 ml lukewarm water (sugar syrup for brushing after baking)

Method:

  1.  Sift flour and salt together. Add sugar, yeast and aniseed. Stir well.
  2. Heat butter and grape juice in a saucepan until butter has melted. Do not boil. Add to dry ingredients along with milk and water, then mix to form a soft dough.
  3. Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface, then knead for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is soft and elastic. Place in a large oiled bowl, then cover and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or doubled in size.
  4. Knock down dough on a floured surface, and knead until smooth. Divide into equal pieced and shape into balls (the correct technique is to squeeze balls of dough through a circle made by your thumb and forefinger, using oiled/buttered hands, this way you get nice smooth balls of dough). Pack the balls tightly into 2 loaf tins of about 22cm each. Cover and leave to rise for about 30-45 minutes.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C for 35-40 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks, then brush immediately with syrup.
  6. Leave to cool slightly, then eat warm, or break into pieces and dry out in a cool oven at 70 C overnight.

Credits:

This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius and Tasha Seccombe.

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Wholewheat seed loaf

20 Aug

Wholewheat seed loaf (photograph by Tasha Seccombe)

On a recent trip to the Eastern Cape, we visited my Mother in law in Port Elizabeth. We have not spent much time at her home before, as she usually prefers to visit us in Stellenbosch – that way she can also see most of her other family that live in the Cape.

While making sandwiches in her kitchen, I noticed the most beautiful old bread knife. When I asked where it came from, she told me that it was her Mother’s bread knife that she had bought during the war with coupons that she found in cigarette boxes. The knife had been their household bread knife since before my Mom in law’s birth, which makes it in the region of 70 years old. It was such a beautiful knife – so beautifully preserved although it had been used every day for decades.

At the end of our visit, my Mom in law gave me the knife as a present! She knew how much I loved cooking and baking, and how well I would look after this special knife in our young family. I wanted to feature it in a beautiful picture as soon as I had the chance, so I chose this recipe from Phillippa Cheifitz’s book: “Lazy Days”. As Phillippa puts it, it’s a “real meal of a loaf”, roughly textured and full of seeds and other whole wheat goodness. It reminded me of the wholesome history of the knife, and the unpretentious role it had played in slicing bread for my husband’s family all these years.

I look forward to passing it on to my daughter one day.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (750 ml) whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (250 ml) oats
  • 1/2 (125 ml) cup bran
  • 1 cup (125 ml) mixed seeds (like sesame, poppy, sunflower, pumpkin and/or linseeds)
  • 1 T (15 ml) dried yeast
  • 1 T (15 ml) honey
  • 2 cups (500 ml) warm water
  • 2 t (10 ml) salt
  • 1 T 15 ml) sunflower oil
  • a mix of seeds from sprinkling over the top

Method:

  1. Mix the flour, oats, bran and seeds in a bowl.
  2. Stir the yeast and honey into half a cup of the warm water and leave for about 10 minutes to froth. Add the salt, oil and the frothy yeast to the flour mixture.
  3. Stir in the rest of the warm water, then pour into a 25-30 cm loaf pan, well oiled or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle liberally with mixed seeds and gently press in with your fingertips.
  4. Leave in a warm place until risen to the top, or almost to the top of the tin (it takes about 30 min). Bake at 200 C for an hour, then cool on a wire rack, covered with a tea towel to soften the crust.

Credits:

This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe.

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Mediterranean-style focaccia

20 Jul

Mediterranean-style focaccia topped with red pesto, olives, feta and pine nuts.

Focaccia bread is very similar in style to a regular Italian pizza, but is usually a bit thicker and stuffed or topped with herbs and/or other ingredients. In this recipe, I have taken my favourite pizza dough and rolled it out thickly, then topped it with a red Moroccan style pesto, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, sliced Calamata olives, feta and pine nuts. I serve it hot with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, plus some Deluxe Hummus for dipping.

This is the perfect starter to a Mediterranean feast, or just as a snack on it’s own. Warning: this focaccia is very addictive! Enjoy!

Ingredients for dough: (serves 4-6 as a starter)

  • 2 cups (500 ml) flour
  • 2 t (10 ml) instant yeast
  • 1 t (5 ml) sugar
  • 1/2 t (2,5 ml) salt
  • 3/4 cup (185 ml) lukewarm water
  • 1 T (15 ml) olive oil

Ingredients for toppings: (these are just guidelines, adjust the quantities as you like!)

  • 2 T Medi Deli Casablanca Pesto
  • 2 T Medi Deli Grated Parmesan Style Cheese
  • 10 olives, halfed and stoned
  • some feta chunks
  • 1 T Medi Deli Pine Nuts
  • to serve: extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, Medi Deli  Humus Deluxe

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt together. Add water and olive oil and mix untill a sticky dough forms. Knead untill the dough becomes soft and pliable. Cover and let it rise in a warm area for about 15-30 minutes until doubled in size.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes.
  3. On a well floured surface, roll out into an oval shape. Transfer to a large baking tray lined with baking paper.
  4. Spread with pesto, then use the blunt back end of a knife to poke holes in the surface (or use your fingers).
  5. Sprinkle with parmesan, top with olives, feta and pine nuts.
  6. Bake at 220 C for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked.
  7. Serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil, some salt flakes and freshly ground pepper, and a bit of humus on the side as a dip.
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Franck Dangereux’s oil bread

23 Feb

Freshly baked oil bread with onions and rosemary, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt flakes (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

The smell of freshly baked bread never seems to lose it’s magic. It is probably one of the simplest ways to make people feel warm and happy – by sharing a loaf of bread that just came from your oven.

If I ever have to choose my last meal, it would simply have to be great bread accompanied by the best extra virgin olive oil. I love to drench fresh crusty bread in great olive oil, the fresh green smell of the olive oil enhanced by the warmness of the bread.

In Franck Dangereux’s recipe for “oil bread”, you can have these two elements of bread and great olive oil all wrapped into one – cut into iconic “fingers”.  Franck published this recipe in his book “Feast” while he was still the head chef at Constantia Uitsig’s award-winning La Colombe Restaurant. He is no longer with La Colombe, but has moved on to co-own The Foodbarn – a magnificent restaurant and deli in Noordhoek, Cape Town. Franck is renowned for his excellent baking and his honest approach to simple, quality ingredients.

This recipe is one of my favourites: truly rustic, yet stylish enough for fine dining. The only catch is that you need a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to prepare the dough – it is very sticky and will take a lot of time and effort to mix by hand. But if you have access to a stand mixer, this will become a total favourite in your house: a recipe that is timeless and delicious, every time.

Ingredients:

1 kg flour (I use white bread flour)

20 g salt (about 1 tablespoon)

10 g instant yeast (or 25 g fresh yeast)

750 ml lukewarm water

olive oil

sliced onion and chopped rosemary for topping

Method:

  1. Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer on low-speed, fitted with the dough hook or beater. With the motor running, add the water all at once.
  2. Mix on low-speed for 20 minutes. Put a wet cloth over the dough and leave it to prove at room temperature for 45-60 minutes.
  3. Generously spread oil on 2 baking trays with your hands. With your hands still oily, divide dough in 2 and put each half in a baking tray. Leave it to rest for 20 minutes.
  4. Again with oiled hands, stretch the dough to fit the trays. Top with anything you like: sliced onions, rosemary, garlic, basil, olives, anchovies. Leave to prove at room temperature for a further 45 minutes.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes.

Tip: I always drizzle the bread with olive oil before baking AND after baking – it just brings out the flavour and colour of the bread beautifully.

Credits:

This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe selection, testing and preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photographed by Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Ilse vand der Merwe and Tasha Seccombe

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Bread to die for

1 Feb

Great ciabatta straight from the oven

A friend once asked what I would have for my so-called “last meal”. The answer is simple: great bread, drenched in the finest extra virgin olive oil. Just like that. But it has to be really great bread. And that is not very easy to find.

If you are, like me, an obsessive home cook, you must have tried your hand at baking bread. The thing is: most recipe books contain bread recipes that come out like a basic white farm loaf, or variations of it. I’ve always searched for a great recipe that would deliver a real Italian ciabatta loaf. I prefer mine to be densely heavy, with some holes (not too many), and a very spongy but slightly “moist” texture. It should feel alive when you touch the inside. […]

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