We’re on to the second week of Market Stars, and with it comes a sudden drop of temperature in London.
In need of comfort and without further ado, it’s Bread Week, and this week’s offering comes from Oval Market and the wonderful Aston’s Bakery.
I picked up their sourdough white tin loaf for a couple of quid on Saturday afternoon and promptly forgot about it until Monday evening, when I figured I needed something with vitamins and vigour.
So, at that point I grilled it in oil and thyme and tossed it into a vibrant festive Wintry Salad with cavolo nero, pomegranate seeds, basil, parsley and a quick pickled concoction of red onions with red wine vinegar and pomegranate molasses. Bread is an excellent base to soak up and showcase colours and tangy flavours, so the cheerful splash of the seeds and the zing of the onions kept this fresh and bright.
Above all, it looks great and would make a decent festive starter.
Bread is one of the most ancient ways of adding sustenance to meals, and just last week scientists discovered 70,000-year-old charred remains of something very similar to flatbread north of Baghdad. And - whilst this challenge is often going to feature seasonal produce - it seemed important to me to knock off a versatile staple that lets other flavours shine and adds cheap, tasty ballast to wintry dishes.
To Tuscany next, for a thrifty Pappa al Pomodoro. This soup is satisfying. It’s inexpensive, it’s flavourful, and unlike a lot of my favourite soups, it’s actually filling. The bread mushes into a pap and soaks up the flavours of tomato, garlic and basil stalks, whilst also giving the soup a luxuriously giving texture.
This would obviously be lovely with fresh cherry tomatoes, perhaps roasted before being tossed in with the bread, but I didn’t have any to hand. Draining the tinned tomatoes and cooking the tomatoes in the shallots for a while brings out a depth of flavour – then you add the reserved liquid with the water later. Many recipes call for the bread to be chucked in stale. I wanted a deep garlicky undertone to mine, so toasted the bread and rubbed the toast with garlic before chopping the garlic and adding it in with the bread. There’s a how-to video on my Instagram.
There’s something about this time of year - the shivers under gloves, the twinkling street lights, the constant smell of cinnamon - that always makes me nostalgic, so this week I went back to two recipes from my childhood.
The first, Grown-Up Cinnamon Toast, harks back to a time when I really couldn’t stand rainy walks. My family are a big hiking family, so it didn’t quite suit my parents to find themselves facing a screaming, bawling girl howling at a Yorkshire slope like she was too scary to be cast in The Exorcist. Luckily for me, my father found an answer that wasn’t an actual anti-demonic ritual, and that answer was cinnamon toast.
With the promise of my father's cinnamon toast by a cottage fireside after a bath, I could just about haul myself begrudgingly into my walking shoes and up the gravel path to the dreaded climb. I’d probably still whinge and be a pain in the hillside, but for cinnamon toast, I’d do it.
I discovered last week that I was out of cinnamon. So this is a much more grown-up, chic and totally unintentional cinnamon toast that features very little cinnamon, but tastes like Christmas in a slice.
The cloves give it an adult warmth that I probably wouldn’t have gone for as a child, but now? Absolutely delicious. The vanilla adds a little dessert-like hug and the sophisticated sprinkle of sea salt on top turns this into the classiest of mid-afternoon delicacies.
The next recipe comes from my extremely talented mother. You’ve heard of French toast, and all of its Bottomless Brunch forms, but you might not have heard of Pamperdy. I did a quick Google before writing this, and the only pamperdy recipe I can find is for a sweet French toast, but that’s not my pamperdy. My pamperdy is something that my extremely talented mother used to make when I was ill, and it’s comforting and tasty and like a breakfast-version of a ham and cheese toastie with an awful lot of creamy folded eggs.
Pamperdy is the medieval English form of pain perdu, which is a way to use up stale “lost bread” – which becomes in our vernacular, French toast. But the pamperdy that I had as a child is savoury, more egg than bread, with a lot of chopped ham and a lot of parsley. It’s got a hearty amount of butter and the flavour combination feels quite retro, but my God is it comforting.
To round this week off, it wouldn’t be Bread Week without a bread-and-butter pudding. But this one has a little something-something to make it a wintry classic, with a custard infused with nutmeg and cardamom, a spiced apple compote under the bread and butter, and shards of tart apple between the slices. A sprinkle of brown sugar to caramelise the top of the pudding and this is a cold-night-winner. If you’re feeling fancy, a blowtorch to the sugar wouldn’t go amiss.
We ate this with double cream in front of the new adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front and, for that film, a pudding is necessary.