We make brown bread and cakes in this house, and they generally turn out well. We have a bread maker for yeast loaves – they’re good but not brilliant. Occasionally we’ll try yeast bread without the maker and it’s never great – I think our house isn’t warm enough. But also, I think when it comes to yeast and sourdough breads, some people just have a gift for it.
Patrick O’Reilly at Cornrue bakery in Westport has the vocation – his bread won the Gold Medal in the 2019 Blas na hÉireann food awards. It’s divine, and our kids are addicted to it. Patrick’s bread comes in big, strong loaves and as you cut it sometimes bits fall off and there are edges left that are too small to cut. What to do?
The obvious, if you are roasting a chicken, is to grind the bread in a processor and make stuffing with onions, butter and sage – and sausage meat if you like. If you’re not cooking meat, stuff some mushrooms with the breadcrumbs, melted butter, garlic and herbs and bake in a hot oven.
Homemade fishfingers are a great idea – just coat a strong white fish like hake, brushed with beaten egg, in a crumb and parsley mix. Or make an easy pasta meal with spaghetti, chilli and garlic, and bring it to another level by frying up a big handful of good-quality bread crumbs in olive oil with parsley until crispy, then sprinkling on top.
Migas de Chorizo
Across the Iberian Peninsula, the Spanish and Portuguese use up their stale bread for ‘Migas’, literally translated as ‘crumbs’, a traditional breakfast dish.
There are dozens of regional specialities combining yesterday’s bread with various ingredients, often sausage or meat, sometimes sardines or vegetables. You need to use a robust, rustic bread for this dish – Cornrue’s is ideal. I make this for a quick tasty brunch and often serve with a poached egg on top. Olé!