Well bread: Mark Hix gets creative with leftover bread

If you use your loaf you can create delicious and thrifty meals with your leftover crusts and crumbs

Saturday 11 September 2010 00:00 BST

We are all so used to buying and eating bread that we tend to take it for granted; if it gets a bit old, we just throw it away or take it down to the park and feed it to the ducks. But since I've been making my own sourdough, I have to admit that I've become averse to the idea of throwing any of it away.

I find myself cutting the remnants into croutons and storing them in the freezer in bags or, if by chance one of my loaves doesn't quite work out and goes a bit flat, I simply cut it into slices and freeze it – it's ideal for making little cheese nibbles or anchovy toasts. Sourdough breadcrumbs are also delicious for crumbing or toasting with seasoning and then scattering over salads or pasta as a pangritata.

Tomato and savoury soup with Parmesan-baked sourdough

Serves 4

This tasty and substantial soup makes good use of a late-summer glut of tomatoes if you happen to be a tomato grower; or alternatively, you could even pop in some green tomatoes that haven't quite managed to ripen up. Make sure to break the bread up into nice big uneven chunks and if it's a little too fresh, just leave it out to dry a little before you bake it.

4tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled, halved and cut into rough 1cm chunks
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
tbsp savoury or thyme leaves
tbsp tomato purée
1ltr vegetable stock
10 firm red or green tomatoes, or a mixture
A couple of thick slices of sourdough bread, broken into rough chunks
2-3tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
2tbsp chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a couple of tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and gently cook the onions and garlic for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the savoury, tomato purée and stock, season and simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, score the tops of the tomatoes with a sharp knife, plunge into boiling water for about 10-12 seconds, then transfer into a bowl of cold water. Remove the skins, halve them and squeeze out the seeds. Cut them in half, then each half into 4 or 6 chunks and add to the soup and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Preheat a grill to maximum, toss the pieces of sourdough in the rest of the olive oil and lay on a tray. Scatter with the cheese and toast until lightly coloured, turning them as they are cooking.

To serve, add the chives to the soup and serve with the croutons on top.

Marrow with chorizo

Serves 4

Marrow always needs a little help in terms of adding flavour – and some chopped-up cooking chorizo and breadcrumbs really do the trick. If you can't buy cooking chorizo, you can get away with slicing chorizo, but use a bit less as it will be saltier.

1 small marrow
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A couple of good knobs of butter
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
120g cooking chorizo
120g fresh white breadcrumbs

Top and tail the marrow if necessary, then cut into four lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Cut in to 1cm-thick slices, then lay on a tray and scatter with a little salt and leave for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a pan and gently cook the onion and chorizo for 4-5 minutes, breaking it up with the back of the spoon as it's cooking, until it resembles mincemeat. Remove from the heat then stir in the breadcrumbs. If the chorizo hasn't broken down, you can give it a quick blend with the breadcrumbs in a food processor.

Preheat a grill to the maximum setting. Drain any liquid from the marrow slices and pat dry with kitchen paper; then heat the oil in a large, heavy, reliable or non-stick frying pan. Season the marrow with pepper only; then fry on a fairly high heat for 4-5 minutes, turning the pieces as they are cooking, until they are tender. You will probably need to do this in a couple of batches, depending on the size of your pan.

Once cooked, toss the marrow in two-thirds of the breadcrumb mixture and transfer to an ovenproof dish; scatter the rest of the crumbs on top. Place the dish under the grill for a few minutes until nicely coloured.

Fried chicken wings

Serves 4-6 as snacks

I saw these little wing joints in my local supermarket in Charmouth and bought up all four packets and popped them in my freezer to make snacks and nibbles to take on fishing trips. I've since seen them in Waitrose and snapped them up, too. They are basically the wing joint attached to the breast, which makes them look like a mini drumstick.

12 chicken wing joints
500ml chicken stock
A few sprigs of thyme
tsp paprika
1tsp ground cumin
Vegetable or corn oil (for deep frying)
For the crumb mixture
2-3tbsp flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten
50-60g fresh white breadcrumbs
1tsp Spanish pimenton
2tsp ground cumin

For the sauce

2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
tbsp olive oil
1tsp Spanish pimenton
2-3tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
tbsp chopped coriander

Chop the knuckle off the chicken wing and push the meat down the bone a little. Put the wings in a saucepan with the stock, thyme, paprika and cumin. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, then leave in the liquid to cool. Don't throw away the stock; you can use it for a soup base later.

Meanwhile, make the sauce: gently cook the shallots and pimenton for a minute in the olive oil, add a tablespoon of water and continue simmering until the liquid has evaporated, then remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Once cool, mix in the mayonnaise and chopped coriander and season to taste.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer.

Have 3 bowls ready, one with the seasoned flour, one with the beaten egg and the third with the breadcrumbs mixed with the cumin and pimenton.

Drain off the chicken wings and dry off with some kitchen paper.

Pass them through the flour, making sure you shake off any excess, then through the egg and finally through the crumbs.

To serve, deep-fry the chicken pieces for about 3-4 minutes until golden, then drain on some kitchen paper and serve with the sauce.

Stuffed pilchards with capers and lemon

Serves 4

This makes a lovely starter, main or a light lunch dish. The crumbs soak up the oils from the fish as it's cooking and bring out all of the aromas of the herbs. You can use pilchards, sardines, mackerel or even herrings for this; just get your fishmonger to butterfly your fish, or you could do it yourself if you are a dab hand with a knife, ensuring you remove as many of the larger bones as possible. You can use green herbs like chives, parsley, chervil and small amounts of thyme and tarragon which won't overwhelm the flavours.

8 pilchards or sardines, butterflied
A little olive or corn oil for frying
A little flour for dusting
2-3tbsp capers, rinsed
The juice of 1 lemon
100g butter or olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the stuffing

2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A couple of knobs of butter
50g fresh white or sourdough breadcrumbs
2-3tbsp chopped green herbs (see above)

To make the stuffing, melt the butter in a saucepan and gently cook the shallots and garlic for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat then stir in the breadcrumbs and herbs; season. Lay the pilchards on a board, skin side down and spoon as much stuffing down the centre as you can; fold them over and flatten slightly.

Heat some oil in a non-stick or reliable frying pan, season and lightly flour the pilchards and fry them on a medium heat for 2-4 minutes on each side (you may need to cook these in a few batches). Once cooked, melt the butter in another pan until it begins to foam, then add the capers and lemon juice. Serve on warmed plates with the caper butter spooned over.

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