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Crumbs of comfort - recipes

Fresh breadcrumbs, whether toasted or left soft, are incomparably better than the bought version and a wonderful way to use up leftover and stale bread. They’re perfect for meatloaves, rissoles, meatballs and stuffings as well as coating food for frying. You can either cut off the crusts before processing or not. If the crust is especially crisp, it may not process well.

Pack crumbs in ziplock bags, label and freeze until required.

Spicy cheese and bacon croquettes. Picture: Etienne RothbartTuna and courgette pasta with pangrattato. Picture: Etienne Rothbart, Independent NewspapersMeatloaf with crumbed topping. Picture: Etienne Rothbart, Independent NewspapersPork schnitzel with apple salad. Picture: Etienne Rothbart, Independent NewspapersGrilled pesto tomatoes with Parmesan crumbs. Picture: Etienne Rothbart, Independent Newspapers

To dry the crumbs simply put some fresh breadcrumbs on a baking tray and bake at 180°C for 15-20 minutes until dried and golden.

If the bread you are turning into crumbs has a large crust, it is better to process the soft middle part separately because the crust will take longer to process.

For coarser crumbs, slightly dry the bread in the oven, then grate using the grater attachment instead of the chopping blade.

Two slices of regular bread will make about 250ml of fresh crumbs.

The only bought breadcrumbs worth using are Japanese Panko breadcrumbs

What sets panko apart from regular bread crumbs is the processing.

The bread is processed in such a way that the resulting crumbs looks like flakes rather than crumbs. The flakiness means a much broader surface area than regular breadcrumbs.

If you coat food in panko before frying, you will end up with a crisp, light fried coating. Oil does not soak into crumbs as readily as it does into regular breadcrumbs, so you are left with a lighter, less-greasy coating.

You will find them in Chinese or Asian food shops as well as some delicatessens.

GRILLED PESTO TOMATOES WITH PARMESAN CRUMBS

Serves 4-6

5 ripened tomatoes

60ml ready-made pesto

2 discs of feta, crumbled

salt and pepper

30ml olive oil

375ml ciabatta breadcrumbs

60ml chopped parsley

125ml grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Use a small, sharp knife to cut the top and base from each tomato. Cut tomatoes in half crossways and place on a baking tray. Top each tomato with pesto and crumbled feta. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and fry the breadcrumbs until golden, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly and add the parsley and Parmesan. Top the tomatoes with the parmesan crumble. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden. Serve immediately.

SPICY CHEESE AND BACON CROQUETTES

Makes 16-18

3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

½ packet of streaky bacon, cooked until crisp, chopped

4 spring onions, finely chopped

60ml chopped coriander

5ml paprika

1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1 egg

80ml flour

125ml grated mature cheddar

80g mature cheddar, cut into 1 cm cubes

Crumbs

250ml flour

2 eggs, slightly whisked

375ml brown breadcrumbs

vegetable oil, for frying

Place the peeled potatoes in a saucepan of boiling, salted water and cook for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain and return to the pan over low heat. Toss for 1 minute or until excess liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and using a potato masher, mash until smooth. For extra-smooth mash, use a stick blender. Season with salt and pepper. Place mashed potato in a bowl with bacon, spring onions, coriander, paprika, chilli, egg, flour and grated cheese. Mix to combine. Shape heaped tablespoons of mixture into balls, push a cube of cheese into centre of each ball and shape mixture around cheese to enclose. Place flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Roll croquettes in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg mixture and coat in breadcrumbs. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and refrigerate for an hour.

Pour enough oil in a medium, deep frying pan. Heat over medium-high heat. Cook croquettes, in batches, turning for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.

MEATLOAF WITH CRUMBED TOPPING

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

10ml chopped garlic

500g beef mince

250ml fresh breadcrumbs

1 egg, beaten

30ml tomato sauce

15ml Worcestershire sauce

5ml Dijon mustard

60ml dried cranberries

Topping

15ml olive oil

375ml breadcrumbs

180ml grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil and gently fry the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until soft. Remove from the heat and cool. Combine with the mince, breadcrumbs, egg, tomato and Worcestershire sauce, mustard, cranberries and season well. Press the mixture into a lined 24x13cm loaf pan, pressing down firmly. Press the crumb mixture on the mince. Bake at 180°C doe 40-45 minutes until the mince is cooked and the topping golden brown.

TOPPING: Heat the oil and fry the breadcrumbs until golden brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and Parmesan cheese.

PORK SCHNITZEL WITH APPLE SALAD

Serves 4

4 lean pork steaks

60ml seasoned flour

2 eggs beaten

about 250ml Panko or fresh white breadcrumbs

30g butter

Salad

60ml mayonnaise

15ml apple cider vinegar

10ml wholegrain mustard

1 green apples, cored and thinly sliced

1-2 stalks of celery, finely sliced

Lemon wedges for serving

Using a meat mallet or a rolling pin, pound the steaks until they are about 5mm thick. Dust them with flour then dip in the beaten egg and finally coat well with the breadcrumbs. Place on a tray and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Melt the butter and oil in a pan and when sizzling add the meat to the pan and cook over a medium heat for about2-3 minutes a side. Drain on paper towel.

Serve topped with the salad accompanied with a wedge of lemon.

SALAD: Combine the mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard and mix well. Add the apples and celery and toss to coat.

TUNA AND COURGETTE PASTA WITH PANGRATTATO

6 anchovy fillets, drained and chopped

375ml fresh breadcrumbs

80ml chopped parsley

400g short pasta

5ml chopped garlic

250g punnet of courgettes, grated

175g tin of tuna in brine, drained and flaked

5ml grated lemon rind

45ml lemon juice

125ml grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil and add the garlic, anchovies and breadcrumbs and fry until the crumbs are golden. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.

Set aside.

Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and reserve about 125ml of the cooking liquid.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a deep frying pan and add the garlic and courgettes. Fry for about 5 minutes. Stir in the tuna, lemon rind and juice, Parmesan cheese and pasta. Toss well to coat adding some of the cooking liquid if the mixture is too dry. Divide the pasta into serving plates and sprinkle generously with the crumb mixture. - The Star

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