Winter Panzanella + chickpea bread

DSC_0286Seasonal eating is something which has always come naturally to me. Like holding on for those first green shoots in spring, savouring the season of sweet strawberries in summer and eating so much squash in autumn that you start dreaming about the stuff, eating all the cruciferous vegetables and citrus fruits in winter time is something I have been doing for as long as I remember. We would buy the first blood-oranges from the market and revel in their intense, sweet juices, and be given pomegranets to de-seed to keep us quiet while my mum would prepare dinner. As the days grow colder and shorter, I’m eating way more hot, creamy and dense foods in the form of soups, stews and curries, but I still crave some freshness in the form of salads at some point in the day. On pondering about how I could make something more exotic than my go-to kale/ grated roots salads, I recalled the amazingness that is panzanella, the traditional summer salad in which chunky croutons are soaked in the juices of ripe tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar and combined with juicy summer salad ingredients. I made a spring version earlier in the year using asparagus, sprouting broccoli and fennel as the key ingredients for this hearty salad. Looking at the contents of my veg box this month, I could only imagine what wonderfulness a winter version would make. Instead of using tomatoes to create an acidic base for the dressing to soak into the bread, I thought about how perfect oranges would be, mixed with the olive oil and punchy balsamic. I had kale, of course, some vibrant pea shoots, red onions, sweet, buttery squash and a perfectly jewel like pomegranate. I knew I had all of the elements to make up an amazing salad, it just needed some key ingredients to turn it into something one could call a meal.

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If you haven’t yet made this chickpea bread, you need to make some asap! I just love the flavour of chickpea (gram) flour on bread, it gives it a nuttiness which works great in this recipe and it’s croutons turn out perfectly crunchy and hold their shape when soaked in the dressing. You can, of course use any bread which you have to hand, but I have started making a loaf of this bread, slicing and freezing it specifically for crouton making. I find it a little too heavy to eat on it’s own, but in salad or on top of soup, it’s perfect. I have chosen to use spelt flour in my recipe, but if you flick over to Pippa’s original recipe, she has a gluten free version.

The soaked bread plus salads plus plenty of dressing make up the bones of this awesome salad, but I chose to add some fresh, salty organic feta just to add even more ‘zing’ to the flavour party. You can obviously omit it all together to keep this dish vegan, or add chickpeas or sprouted pulses for extra protein. Or if you happen to have some nut-based cheese on hand, a few cubes of that would be superb.

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Notes: This recipe makes 2 very generous portions, enough for a main meal or 4 side portions. The added feta/ chickpeas make it a meal in itself, but it is lovely even without these if you are serving this as a side dish. The bread recipe makes 1 large loaf. I cool, slice into thick chunks and freeze it and take a couple of slices out at a time when making this. It’s a good idea to roast the squash at the same time as  baking the bread if you are making this all on the same day.The salad once made will keep for a couple of days, though you may want to add the bread before serving to avoid it going really soggy.

Chickpea bread

(Adapted from The Intolerant Gourmet)

200g gram flour

200g white spelt flour

1 tbsp flax seeds, ground

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarb of soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

350ml water

Preheat the oven to 200 deg C. Combine the flours, ground seeds, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a bowl and slowly add the liquid, stirring until a thick batter has formed. Pour into an oiled loaf tin (or silicon loaf mold) and bake for 40 minutes until the top is golden. Remove from the tin and leave to cool completely before slicing.

Winter Panzanella

1 small squash (butternut, kuri, acorn etc), quartered, de-seeded and cut into 1/3 inch slices

2 handfulls kale (any variety)

1 handful pea shoots/ rocket/ watercress

1 small red onion, finely sliced

1 orange

1 pomegranate

small bunch mint leaves

3-4 thick slices chickpea bread

100g feta/ cooked chickpeas/cashew cheese

Dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

juice of 1 orange

1 clove garlic, finely grated

pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 200 deg C to roast the squash (or prepare the squash for roasting once you have put the bread in to bake). Place the slices on a baking tray drizzled with 1 tbsp olive oil and roast for 30 minutes until they are start to turn golden. Towards the end of the cooking time, take your bread slices and cut them into chunky croutons. Pop them on a tray and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, then add to the oven for 5 minutes or until they have turned crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Next make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl until well combined, then set aside. Strip the leafy part of the kale from the tough stalks (reserve these for juicing!) and chop as finely as you can. Place in a  large bowl and pour over half of the dressing. Massage the kale with your hands until it begins to feel soft. Now add the rest of the greens and set aside.

Remove the skin and pith from the orange by cutting the top and bottom off, standing it on a chopping board and carefully slicing away the skin, removing as much of the white as possible without loosing too much flesh. Cut the orange into thick slices, cut these into quarters and add them to the bowl with the greens. Cut the pomegranate in half and remove the seeds by banging the skin-side with a wooden spoon. Check that you haven’t got any of  the bitter pith involved, then add the seeds to the bowl.

Cut the roasted squash into 1 inch chunks and add to the bowl along with the mint leaves and give everything a good stir. You should have a little dressing resting at the bottom of the bowl but we need more to soak into the chickpea-bread croutons. Add the croutons to the bowl then add another good drizzle of the dressing. Lastly add the feta/ chickpeas/ vegan cheeze and give it one last toss before serving into bowls.

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I’ll be back with one more recipe for you before the holidays, so watch this space for a last-minute, easy-as, best-ever Christmas cake! I hope that you enjoy this salad as much as I have been. Remember you can follow all of my foodie musings over on Instagram too ; )

Warmest wishes,

Jo (+ a rapidly growing bump!) x

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