The Culinary Corner – Picnic Loaf

Picnic Loaf image 1

This recipe is surprisingly easy for something that looks so impressive when you produce it at a party or picnic. It looks like a plain loaf of bread until you cut it open to reveal colourful layers of roast vegetables inside. It’s best made and eaten on the same day. After this, the bread can become soggy. I have char grilled the vegetables in this recipe, but if you don’t have a grill pan you can skip that step and just roast them instead.

1 cob loaf (round yeast loaf)
3 red or yellow peppers (deseeded and quartered)
1 red onion (cut into wedges)
1 courgette (cut in half and then into strips lengthwise)
1 aubergine (cut in half and then into strips lengthwise)
4 cloves garlic (in their skins)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 ball of mozzarella (sliced into rounds)
8 – 10 fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons pesto

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Cut a circle out of the top of the loaf to form a lid. Take your time with this as you’ll want the lid to sit back on nicely for presentation purposes. Scoop and tear out the bread inside, being careful not to break through the crust. You want to be left with a hollowed-out loaf with a fully intact crust about half an inch thick. Discard the scooped-out bread or make into breadcrumbs which can be stored in the freezer.

Place all the vegetables and the garlic in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper, pour over the oil and vinegar and toss well to coat the veg.

Char grill the vegetables (except the garlic) in batches on a hot grill pan. You don’t need to cook them through, just enough to get some grill marks. Transfer the charred veg and the garlic cloves into two large roasting trays – you need two so they are not over-packed. Roast in the preheated oven until they are tender (about 20 mins). Allow the vegetables to cool completely.

Smear the pesto all over the inside of the hollowed-out loaf and inside its lid with the back of a spoon. Place the roast vegetables inside in layers. About half way up, put in a layer of the sliced mozzarella, a layer of fresh basil leaves and the roast garlic (skin removed and chopped). Top with more layers of the veg until the loaf is packed full to the brim. Replace the lid and press it down. Wrap the loaf very tightly in cling film to hold the whole thing together. Leave in the fridge for about an hour for everything to firm up a little. Use a really sharp bread knife to cut into wedges.

By Gemma Byrne
Photo by Fiona Brennan