Panzanella is the traditional Italian tomato and bread salad. It is a peasant dish born of necessity to use up stale bread. Although there are numerous variations of the recipe, they all conform to using the country-style dry Tuscan bread. Don’t waste your time using fresh bread as it will disintegrate. Other optional ingredients include roasted peppers, olives and anchovies.

In this version, I have used a selection of wild mushrooms with basil. The dish makes a tasty starter and for a parev or vegan option just omit the mozzarella.

METHOD

1
Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F or Gas Mark 6.

2
Drizzle the bread with 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Place in the oven for 8 minutes or until golden. Remove and set aside.

3
Heat the remaining oil in the pan and sauté the garlic and onion for 5 minutes or until soft. Remove and set aside.

4
Then sauté the mushrooms until golden. Cook until nearly all the juices have been absorbed. Add the cooked onion, garlic and lemon juice and season. Remove and set aside.

5
Tear the mozzarella into pieces and add the tomatoes.

6
Combine all the ingredients and serve.

To serve the stylish way: Garnish with sprigs of coriander, shredded spring onions and a dusting of black pepper.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

200g Italian bread eg ciabatta – cut into cubes

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2 cloves garlic – peeled and finely chopped

1 red onion – peeled and finely chopped

650g mixed mushrooms – sliced

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2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

100g heirloom / baby plum tomatoes- cut in half

125g buffalo mozzarella

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4 tablespoons fresh basil – roughly chopped

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Serves 4 – Preparation time: 15 minutes – Cooking time 20 minutes