Why you should never throw away stale bread

25 Nov 2019

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From soups and stews to ‘poor man’s parmesan’ - a crunchy pasta topping – there’s loads to do with a past-it loaf

Acording to Toast ale, which makes beer out of stale bread, we waste almost 900,000 tonnes of the stuff a year, or about 24m slices every day. In terms of calories, that’s enough to pull 26m people out of hunger. Half of this is wasted from our homes.

We love fresh bread, but the life of a loaf doesn’t stop at sandwiches and toast. As bread ages, it transforms into a key ingredient in a thousand dishes, from strata, a type of savoury bread pudding, to pain perdu or eggy bread. Bread made without preservatives (ie, just flour, yeast, water and salt) keeps better than processed bread, and can be used at every stage of its life. Stored in plastic, it will eventually mould due to trapped moisture, so after a few days take it out of the packaging and wrap in paper or cloth, so it can begin to dry out.

When bread is a couple of days old, use it to make a tartine – an open toasted sandwich piled with your favourite toppings. As it becomes tougher, cut it into croutons for panzanella or a Moroccan fattoush, or into dainty crostini. And when it goes super-hard, add it broken up to soups and stews to bulk them out or to thicken a sauce or dip such baba ganoush; or make poor man’s parmesan – a flavourful and textural topping for pasta or vegetables.

Poor man’s ‘parmesan’ pasta topping

When cooked in a little olive oil and a pinch of salt, even breadcrumbs can be delicious, transforming stale bread into a crunchy, flavourful topping for pasta or vegetables.

Very stale bread
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Dried or fresh chopped herbs 
(parsley, thyme, oregano, etc)

Break the bread into 3-5cm pieces, then pulse to a rough crumb. Transfer to a hot dry saucepan, and drizzle with a little oil, season with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of dried or fresh chopped herbs, if available. Cook for three to five minutes, stirring constantly, until the crumbs begin to brown, then leave to cool and store indefinitely in a glass jar.