Tuesday, 16 June 2009


I made this salad for Archie, Amy, Jeremy on Friday, to eat with a roast chicken cooked with thyme, lemon and garlic; it was the summeriest of suppers. It’s the second time I’ve made Panzanella – the first was properly, in Tuscany last summer, with stale, Italian bread, and local, fruity, sludge-green olive oil - the way it’s supposed to be. But it tasted just as good even though we were in Shepherds Bush. Probably because I had lost my mind momentarily in Waitrose and spent £18 on a bottle of delicious Colonna olive oil.

A small loaf of white, crusty, country bread – best if it’s a day or two old
Dijon mustard
Maldon salt
Black pepper
Three cloves garlic
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 red onion
A shocking amount (a couple of coffee-cups) of really good, expensive olive oil, or half the amount of very expensive stuff and half the supermarket’s extra virgin, if you like
8 of the ripest tomatoes (the ones that really smell tomatoey)
A whole cucumber
A jar of (importantly) pitted black olives, drained
A large bunch each of fresh basil, mint and flat-leaf parsley

If your bread is fresh, not stale, rip it into bite-size pieces and bake dry on a roasting tray in the oven for 10 minutes or so. Don’t let it colour, just completely dry it out. Allow to cool thouroughly. If it’s suitable stale, just tear it into pieces and set aside.

Drop a teaspoon of the mustard into a large, pretty salad bowl and slosh over the vinegar and whisk together. Chop the onion and garlic and finely as humanly possible and tip into the bowl. Stir to combine, press down gently with your hands and leave to rest for 20 or 30 minutes – this will temper the onionness of the onions and soften them, too. Next, slosh in the olive oil, and stir to combine. Season well with salt and pepper. Using a small, sharp knife, cut out the tough, stalk root of the tomatoes and chop into chunks of about 2cm. Peel the cucumber, slice in half length-ways and using a teaspoon, scoop out all the seeds (and immediately eat them). Then chop the cucummber into similar sized chunks as the toms. Add the tomatoes, cucumber and bread to the bowl, and gently toss, using your hands, so everything is properly dressed. You can leave it sitting there for 20 mins or so. Just before serving, add the olives and herbs and toss again.

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