Panzanella

Originally a Tuscan summer peasant dish made with tomatoes, lots of red onion and soaked stale bread.  This is a very loosely based version and uses toasted cubes of sourdough, no capers and the onion is toned down too, making it more child friendly.

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I’ve had some very bad Panzanella salad in the past with mushy wet bread and sludgy ingredients.  Great, if that’s your thing, but I wanted the fresh summer flavours of the original, without the sludge!  I love sourdough bread, especially toasted sourdough bread!  I thought how good cubes of toasted bread would be with all the other vegetables and dressing. Its super easy to make and I really like to take this salad to work with me too.

Ingredients:
1 red pepper – cut into cubes
1 yellow pepper – cut into cubes
Assorted cherry tomatoes – halved
Cucumber – cut in half lengthways, de-seeded and chopped into half-moons fairly thickly
Small bunch of basil leaves
Small sourdough loaf cut into cubes, or any other French crusty loaf, preferably a day old.
¼ cup olive oil

Dressing:
5 Spring onions/scallions, very finely chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbs white wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:
Heat oven to 180°C/350°F.  Evenly coat the bread cubes in the oil and spread out on a sheet pan.  You can either do this with your hands or use an oil sprayer if you have one for an even distribution.  Toast in the oven for around 15-20 minutes until crisp, turning a couple of times.

Mix together the peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes.  Then stack the basil leaves on top of one another, roll them up like a cigar and slice into thin ribbons (chiffonade).  Add the shredded basil to the vegetables, enough dressing to moisten and toss everything together together.

Great for a summer lunch and perfect for a lunchbox.

Poached Eggs on Sourdough Toast with Tomato and Basil Compote

This recipe was inspired by a vist to the Welbeck Estate near Worksop, Nottingham.  I went with my friend Serena to the Christmas Market and we had brunch in the Harley café, next to the art gallery.  I had total food envy, as she ordered these amazing looking poached eggs on toast with a little pot of tomato sauce that was served with it.  I didn’t actually taste the sauce, but decided to recreate something similar at home.  These poached eggs are on hot buttered sourdough toast and served with a quick tomato and basil compote.

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Serves 2

Ingredients:
4 large and very fresh, free range eggs
Sour dough loaf
4 large ripe tomatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
Small bunch of basil
1tbs olive oil
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1tbs ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Cut a cross in the bottom of each tomato and place in a pan of boiling water for a minute or two to loosen the skins.  Plunge into iced water and remove the skins.  Cut them in half and de-seed.

Gently sauté the chopped onion in the oil until soft.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to the pan with salt, pepper, ketchup and the Worcestershire sauce.  Cook for around 5 minutes.  Roll up the basil and finely shred with a sharp knife.  Add this to the tomatoes and keep on a low heat while you poach the eggs.

Poached Eggs – 2 ways

The proper way:
To poach the eggs and have them all ready at the same time.  I make them one at a time, cool them down quickly and then reheat them gently.  In order to do this, have a bowl of iced water ready and put a deep pan of salted water onto the heat until simmering.

Break the egg into a cup and using a long handled spoon, swirl the water and gently place the egg in the middle.  Cook gently until the white has just set around the still runny yolk and carefully remove with a slotted spoon and place in the iced water.  Repeat with the other eggs.

When you have all the eggs ready and waiting in the iced water, you are ready to assemble.

Pop the bread in to toast and gently place all the eggs in the hot water.  They will take around 2 minutes to heat up.

When they are ready, butter the toast and lift out the eggs one by one, blotting any excess water onto a paper towel and place on the toast.  This will ensure everything is ready at the same time. Serve the compote on the side.

You can easily make this recipe ahead by refrigerating the tomato compote and keeping the eggs in cold water and storing in a leak-proof container for up to 3 days in the fridge before re-heating.

The cheat’s way to poach eggs (as shown in the photograph):
Put a pan of water on the heat and bring up to a simmer

Place four squares of cling film on the counter top and brush very lightly with vegetable oil – nothing with a strong taste.  Place your lightly oiled squares over 4 ramekins and carefully break the eggs into each one.

Gather up the cling film, leaving no air in the parcel.  Twist to secure each of the eggs within the plastic and lower into the simmering water, leaving the twisted ends standing proud, so you are able to pull them out again.

Leave for a few minutes, until the whites have just set, leaving runny yolk, and then carefully and very gently take them out again.  Unwrap your perfectly cooked eggs and place on the waiting toast.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

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