Pan Bagnat – Picnic Loaf

Fresh and delicious, totally portable and perfect for a summer picnic

Picnic loaf uncut

1 large pain de campagne or any other round crusty loaf. like a sourdough boule
4-5 peppers – I used red and yellow ones
2 courgettes/zucchini, sliced into strips lengthways
1-2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
400g Taleggio cheese (2 packs), Mozzarella or goats cheese – Brie also works well.
2tbs Basil pesto
3tbs Mayonnaise
Small bunch of fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper if desired
Meat option – sliced salami, ham, thinly sliced sausage, bresaola, wafer thin smoked chicken, pulled pork – anything you like, but nothing that might make it tough to cut through – like thickly sliced, air dried cuts. Eat those on the side.

This is absolutely not the traditional recipe for a Pan Bagnat, a traditional speciality from Provence, where olive oil is used and never mayonnaise. This version does use the traditional pain de champagne bread, but the filling can be anything you like really, rather than sticking with tradition. I have used Taleggio cheese this time, which is quite pungent as I had some in the fridge, but most recipes call for mozzarella. Goats cheese, Brie or thinly sliced Swiss cheese works well in this too.

This can be made well in advance of your picnic, I made this the night before so the flavours have time to mingle and develop in time for your outdoor feast. You just need to remember to take a serrated bread knife and a board with you to cut it. You can slice it before you go and re-wrap if you want to travel light.

Start by roasting the peppers until the skins turn black, I do this over the gas flame and then put them in a bowl, cover with plastic and leave to steam. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, rub off the skins and cut the ‘cheeks’ into thick slices, removing the stem and seeds. You can cheat and buy ready roasted peppers in a jar, but I really do prefer to roast my own.

While the peppers are cooling, heat a griddle pan and grill the courgette slices without oil until you have char marks on both sides. Set aside to cool.

When the vegetables are cooked and cooled, cut the top off the loaf and set to one side. Hollow out all the bread (save for breadcrumbs, croutons etc). Don’t make the walls too thin, or they will be soggy.

Mix the pesto with the mayonnaise and using a spoon, coat the inside the hollowed out shell and the underside of the bread lid.

It’s now time to layer up the vegetables, cheese, basil and a little more pesto mayonnaise.

I always like to start with a base of red peppers, cutting them if needed to fit in the base of the loaf and scattering over some torn up basil leaves.

Then add layers of courgettes, cheese, more red and yellow peppers, sliced tomatoes with a little drizzle of balsamic and more torn up basil leaves where needed. Make sure everything is pushed down and the layers compressed. I like to season with a little black pepper too. If you like a little salt on the tomatoes, then go ahead, but as the Taleggio is quite salty, I don’t bother.

Repeat until everything is used up and squashed down.

Tightly wrap the whole loaf in plastic and weigh it down with a plate and some heavy tins on top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

Serve with hungry friends and Pimms, sangria, cold white wine or a non-alcoholic fruit punch.

Picnic loaf slice

You can also do individual versions of these in ciabatta rolls. This way, everyone can have a personalised one.

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