This picnic loaf makes for the easiest and most impressive sandwiches at any picnic, even at short notice. The idea is that you take one loaf of bread, take out most of the filling and replace it with layers of your favourite sandwich fillings. I must admit I ‘borrowed’ this recipe from the Co-op magazine but it was so incredible, I had to share it!
1 medium round loaf (400g)
3 sweet peppers – it looks best if you have three different colours eg. red, orange and yellow
1 medium courgette
125g ball mozzarella
2 good handfuls fresh basil
8 (approx) cherry or baby plum tomatoes
1 handful spinach (or similar leaves)
Note: these are just suggested ingredients. Why not try: Parma ham, chorizo, chicken, tuna, avocado, chilli, grated carrot, smoked salmon, cream cheese, sausage, caramelised red onions, mustard, beetroot, bacon, spring onion, pesto…?
Start by preparing your veg. Chop the peppers into quarters, slice the courgettes fairly thinly and cut the tomatoes in half. Roughly chop the basil and slice the mozzarella as thinly as you can without it breaking up too much.
Put the peppers skin-side-up on a baking tray and put under the grill until the skin burns. The tricky bit here is charring as much of the skin as you can without filling the kitchen with smoke. When the skins are sufficiently black, put the peppers in a plastic food bag and allow them to steam for around ten minutes. Meanwhile, grill the courgettes until just cooked and leave to cool.
Take the peppers out of the bag and peel off the skin (you will notice this is a lot easier where the skin is black). Allow to cool.
Slice the top off your loaf and hollow out the middle. Leave around 1-2cm around the edge to retain some structural integrity. I suggest you keep the scooped out bread and make some breadcrumbs (see tip below). Layer all of your filling ingredients neatly in the centre of the loaf and push down firmly as you go to cram in as much tasty stuff as you can. Add a few twists of fresh black pepper in there along the way. Replace the lid as neatly as you can. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour before packing in your picnic hamper – don’t forget to pack a bread knife.
It will last around a day (but expect a certain amount of soggy bread) in the fridge is you want to make it a bit longer in advance.
Take some unloved bread. Break up or slice into small pieces. If not already, leave to go stale. You can hurry this process up a bit by putting the bread in a warm place (for about a day) or a low temperature oven (for around fifteen minutes). Shake and break up the pieces every now and again. When stale, whizz them in a blender. Sprinkle over your pasta bake, use them to coat fishcakes or freeze them for another day.