Fattoush: A delicious way to reuse old bread

Bake stale pita bread until crisp and golden before adding it to this simple but tasty Lebanese salad

Over the past two years, I’ve baked more bread than ever before. Various lockdowns and nowhere to go, along with less trips to the shops, meant that there was time and reason to bake more bread. I used it as an opportunity to really get into the rhythm of baking sourdough daily, something I’d wanted to do for years.

I had been a weekend sourdough baker, but for more than a year I was churning out two loaves or more a day. One for us and one for family or friends. Before going to bed each night, I’d feed the starter and shape the following day’s dough; next morning, I’d bake it straight from the fridge.

Now life has caught up and it’s busier all of a sudden. Baking has taken a back seat and I’ve discovered that with buying bread comes waste, with crusts of bread, and the last few slices in a pan going unclaimed. It all mounts up. With home-baked bread everyone wants a bit. The house is filled with an amazing smell, the anticipation mounts. You need to leave it to cool for at least an hour before cutting it. My kids would eat the crusts of my home-baked bread; it’s amazing toasted, and so much work has gone into it.

I’m trying to honour the shop-bought bread by saving crusts in a bag in the freezer for breadcrumbs to coat fish or chicken and make stuffing. I regularly make croutons by tearing or cutting up some stale bread then drizzling it with olive oil. It can take plenty of seasoning so I tumble the bread in dried herbs, salt and pepper then bake it in a hot oven till crunchy and toasted.

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Fattoush is another delicious way to reuse day-old bread, in this case pita bread. If you regularly have one or two for lunch, you’ll know that the remainder will go stale quite quickly. Cut them into squares (I use sharp kitchen scissors for this), and fry in a little olive oil or bake in the oven till crisp and golden.

Fattoush is a Lebanese salad of mixed chopped vegetables, herbs and lettuce. This salad is one of the few instances when I shred lettuce with a knife. The texture is so pleasing. Everything must be cut small, so set aside a little time, sharpen your chopping knife and line up your vegetables.

I love cucumber, peppers and tomatoes in this and radishes are also fantastic. The dressing is the star of the show here. It has to have sharp lemon juice and pomegranate molasses. If you don’t have the molasses, use a little extra lemon juice and some syrupy aged balsamic vinegar. Both sumac and pomegranate molasses are now widely available. This dressing will sit happily in the fridge for weeks, so double or triple the recipe if you like as it’s good on so many salads.