STUFFED MEDITERRANEAN LOAF – Makes a great centerpiece at a picnic or a garden lunch, or just as a treat at home…

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INGREDIENTS

1 large loaf (around 1 kg), well done is better, as it needs to be hard on the outside

tomato paste/puree/concentrate (if you want it hot, mix in a little chilli powder)

sunflower oil or olive oil (not extra virgin)

1 medium courgette, sliced lengthways

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 large red onion, cut into rings

12 or more mushrooms, sliced

a handful of baby fresh spinach leaves (or a combo of rocket and basil leaves)

slices of violife cheese of your choice

6 to 8 sundried tomatoes, halved

12 black olives, pitted

thin slithers of fresh garlic

1 ‘beefsteak’ tomato, sliced

toothpicks, for closing the ‘side door’ of the bread

DIRECTIONS

Fry sliced courgettes in a griddle pan, and set aside. Then fry onion rings and red pepper slices together in the griddle pan until the onions are golden, and set aside

Griddle-fry mushrooms separately, and once they are cooked, add a spoonful of Teriyaki sauce to ‘beef them up’, set aside.

Prepare your bread by cutting the side off it, as if you were cutting a thick first slice, then put to one side. Remove the inside dough to create a cave-like cavity.

Using a silicone pastry brush, brush tomato paste around the inside ‘walls’ of the caved loaf – be sure to cover all the area. Then, brush some on the inside slice you have removed (this will be your side lid).

Wash the brush, place some oil into a small bowl, and brush the entire inside of the loaf with oil – be sure to cover all the tomatoed surface.

To stuff the loaf, start off by laying around three slices of pre-cooked courgette, then a layer of tomatoes, and another layer of courgette.

Add a handful of precooked onion rings and bell peppers, making sure to spread them over as much surface as you can.

On top of this, add a good handful of mushrooms. Press the mixture down very carefully to make space for cheese slices which you place on top.

Add the olives, then the sundried tomatoes, and squeeze in the spinach.

Finally, close the door of this magic loaf with toothpicks. Then, using a very sharp serrated knife, cut the loaf in half, and then in quarters. Pour yourself a long, thirst-quenching drink, sit back, and indulge.

Recipe by Miriam Sorrell