A dear friend of mine gave me some tomatoes the other day. They weren’t from her garden or anything, they were wrapped in clingfilm and came from the bottom of her fridge. I mostly think she was trying to get rid of me and thought that I might be distracted by some tomatoes in clingfilm – similar to a 4 year-old and lego or a new Xbox game.
The reason she gave them to me was that she was doing a bit of a spring-clean and didn’t otherwise know what to do with five random tomatoes at the bottom of the vegetable compartment. Obviously I took them, mostly because I didn’t want to her to get any ideas and start throwing them at me – and I really didn’t want to look like I’d just been wooping it up at some Spanish fruit festival thing.
So, I promptly forgot the tomatoes under the passenger seat of my car (and only remembered they were there when the inside of my jeep started to smell like horribly neglected tomato ass), but I had started to think about the whole idea of leftovers, and how they always seem to exist no matter how prudently you try and use up everything in your cupboards. For example, in my fridge right now are at least five different packets/bottle/tubs of olives in various stages of usedness, about four jars of hot English mustard and two separate of now mostly unusable hardened blocks of parmesan.
This might also be because I apparently have the memory of a bat and keep buying things I already have lots of.
So, in an attempt to be prudent and try and use up some of the bread I’d bought for last week’s pasta, I started tooling around in the kitchen with the idea of making a panzanella or Italian bread salad. After about five minutes of this I remembered I don’t really like panzanella that much, and decided to make my own thing, especially when (dum dum daa) I discovered a previously forgotten pack of dukka lurking at the back of my cupboard behind a plastic bottle of powdered custard.
Dukka is a spice blend found pretty much all over North Africa and the Middle East (but usually attributed to Egypt) that’s basically sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, crushed hazelnuts, pepper and salt – all toasted separately until fragrant and then combined as a condiment – usually to dip bread into. Depending on where you are other things will be added – sometimes pepper, thyme, chilli or whatever happens to be lying around – but the essence of it is always the same. And let me tell you, it’s absolutely freaking delicious. If you look in the spice sections of most supermarkets these days you’ll find a stock of it – and I highly recommend having some of it lying around… just because.
The basis of this salad ended up being avocado pieces coated in dukka – which is a quite incredible combination that I didn’t nearly expect to work as well as it did.
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
a heel of country bread (preferably stale)
1 tbsp of honey
1 tbsp of olive oil
sesame seeds to finish
What to do:
Thinly slice the two peppers and the carrot (and I mean as thin as your knife can get them) and then chuck it all in a Tupperware. Add the tablespoon of olive oil and the tablespoon of honey, put the lid on and give a good shake to make sure that it all gets combined. Set aside.
Cut the avocado in half, remove the stone and the skin. Slice it up into even, centimeter-thick slices and lay out on a board. Grind some pepper over it, and sprinkle a fairly generous amount of dukka over the avo, making sure that every slice is nicely coated.
Cut up the bread into rough chunks, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and, in a nice hot pan, toast it until golden brown and crisp.
While that’s going, get a smallish pot good and hot, and add the peppers and carrots, pouring over whatever oil/honey has stayed behind. They should sizzle up nicely and soften in about 2 minutes or so – just make sure you keep stirring them.
Once the bread is toasted and the peppers and carrots softened up, make a bed of the bread chunks on a serving plate, then lay the dukka-coated avo slices over that, then top with the softened carrots and peppers. Sprinkle a few sesame seeds over the whole thing and serve it out.
This is a fairly rich affair and so I’d serve a smallish portion of this as a starter.