What to do with leftover bread

Author: Lisa Featherby
Photography: John Paul Urizar

Wondering what to do with that leftover loaf? Here are some ideas for making the most of your daily bread.

Good fresh bread needs no recipe to transform it into a delicious meal, but once it's been in the bread-bin a day or two, a little more ingenuity may be needed to get the most out of it. There's not a bread-eating culture in the world that hasn't produced brilliant uses for bakery leftovers, whether it's Italy's panzanella or bruschetta, British bread-and-butter pudding or Spain's gazpacho. Here are a few of our favourite ways to make that special loaf go the extra mile.

Pappa al pomodoro
Serves 6
Heat 125ml olive oil in a frying pan over low-medium heat, then sauté 2 finely chopped white onions and 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves until very soft (10 minutes). Add 1kg coarsely chopped, very ripe Roma tomatoes, 400gm canned tomato polpa (available from select supermarkets and delicatessens, or substitute canned crushed tomatoes), 250gm halved mixed cherry tomatoes and 80ml chicken stock, season to taste, then simmer over medium heat until tomatoes begin to break down (20-25 minutes). Turn off the heat, add 400gm diced day-old sourdough bread and a handful of torn basil, and serve topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Clubhouse sandwich
Makes 2 sandwiches
Grill 4 chicken thigh fillets and 130gm smokehouse-style bacon both brushed in a little oil in a char-grill pan until cooked through and charred (6-8 minutes). Slice chicken crossways and set aside. Toast 6 thin slices of sourdough bread in the bacon fat in the pan, turning occasionally, until golden and toasted. Combine 60gm mayonnaise with 4 finely chopped cornichons and 3 tbsp thinly sliced basil, add chicken, season to taste, then spoon onto 2 slices of toast. Season to taste, top with bacon and another slice of toast, then finish with thinly sliced Roma tomato and lettuce, and sandwich with remaining toast.

Parmesan-crumbed chicken, fennel salad and anchovies
Serves 4 as a light meal
Process 300gm day-old sourdough bread to coarse crumbs in a food processor. If bread isn't dry enough to process well, bake in oven at 150C (8-10 minutes). Add 50gm finely grated parmesan, stir to combine and season to taste. Slice 3 chicken breasts (200gm each) diagonally into 8 thin pieces. Place crumbs and 2 lightly beaten eggs in separate bowls, then coat chicken slices first in egg, then in crumbs, shake off excess and set aside. Heat 50gm butter and 2 tbsp olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and fry half the chicken, turning occasionally, until golden and cooked through (3-4 minutes). Set aside on paper towels. Wipe out pan, add the same quantities of butter and olive oil to pan and repeat with remaining chicken. Combine 2 baby fennel bulbs thinly shaved on a mandolin with 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and juice of 1 lemon in a bowl, season to taste and serve scattered with extra parmesan and anchovy fillets to taste with the parmesan-crumbed chicken.

Fig and bread salad
Serves 4 as a light meal, or 6 as a side
Combine ½ loaf day-old sourdough bread (375gm), torn into bite-size pieces with 8 quartered figs, 1 torn buffalo mozzarella, 8 coarsely torn thin slices prosciutto, 2 thinly sliced golden shallots, rinsed (optional), and 2 cups basil leaves, larger ones torn, in a bowl. Whisk 60ml chardonnay vinegar and 125ml extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl, pour over salad, season to taste, toss to combine and serve.

Hot Tips
+ Bread freezes well, of course, but if you're pressed for freezer-space, consider whizzing it into breadcrumbs and freezing it sealed in bags ready for use in toppings, puddings and crusts.
+ For most of the recipes here we've used a country-style white sourdough loaf, but most types of bread will work. Good texture in the crumb is half the battle, so sliced-white is usually less than ideal.

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