This Italian salad was originally designed to use up stale bread but it works just as well with fresh sourdough. It is best made in the summer when British tomatoes are at their ripest and juiciest. Torn mozzarella is a good addition but this is a meal in itself.
Panzanella (serves 2-4)
200g sourdough, cut into large bite-sized chunks
1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper (or use chargrilled red peppers from a jar)
8 large ripe tomatoes (a mix of colours looks good)
¼ red onion, finely sliced into half moons
3 anchovies, finely chopped
2 tspn capers
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp good olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs of fresh basil
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Toss the chunks of bread with 1 tbsp of oil and cook in the oven for about 10 minutes, turning halfway through. They should be pale gold and crisped on the outside but still springy in the middle.
Put the sliced onion in a bowl, cover with warm water and leave for half an hour to take some of the astringency away. Drain well and set aside.
If you’re using fresh peppers, blacken the skins over a gas flame or using a cook’s blowtorch. Place them in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 20 minutes. Then peel off the skins, de-seed them and cut lengthways into strips. If you’re using jarred peppers, drain well, then cut into strips.
Put the vinegar in a jar with the remaining oil, crushed garlic, chopped anchovies, the capers and a good grind of salt and black pepper and shake well.
Chop the tomatoes into chunks roughly the same size as the croutons. Put them, along with any juices, into a serving bowl with the croutons, peppers and onion and drizzle with most of the dressing. Mix thoroughly and leave for about an hour for the bread to soak up all the juices.
Check the seasoning and texture, adding more dressing if necessary, and garnish with basil leaves. This salad will hold well for a few hours but is best eaten on the day it is made. Don’t refrigerate it or you will spoil the flavour.