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.


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.


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.

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

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

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.


Serves 2

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

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.

Poached Eggs3