Mediterranean Stuffed Loaf

stuffedloaf1I have been a bit rubbish at posting recently because, although I have still been cooking like crazy, having a full time job hasn’t given me much time to sit down and write. This weekend though I found myself with a bit of time on my hands and I thought I would make a proper lazy Sunday recipe and tell you all about it.

stuffedloaf3Bread is one of those things that most people don’t even attempt to make at home. People think it is too specialist, takes too long and involves too many annoying little stages.  Well bread does take a very long time to make but it is not really specialist or fiddly. In fact, if you stick to a basic recipe it is pretty difficult to go wrong.

stuffedloaf2This recipe is a bit of a twist on a classic loaf. Stuffing a loaf like this means that it can become an entire meal rather than just a side dish. This bread is perfect thing for taking on a picnic or serving as a centre piece at a buffet or BBQ. This recipe is for quite a small loaf so double up the quantities if you are feeding more people. For the filling you can use pretty much anything, I chose these flavours to bring a bit of mediterranean sunshine to these gloomy November days but anything you have got in the fridge will probably work. Just avoid things that are quite wet because they will stop the dough from cooking.

Mediterranean Stuffed Loaf (3 portions) 
For the Bread:

  • 150g of strong white bread flour
  • 100ml of tepid water
  • 1/2 a sachet of fast action yeast
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of salt

For the Filling:

  • Half a courgette
  • Half a pepper
  • Half a small aubergine
  • Some fresh basil leaves or a table spoon of pesto
  • A table spoon of good quality tomato sauce
  • 3 slices of parma or serrano ham
  • Half a ball of mozzarella

How to Make it:

  • Start by making a basic bread dough. Add the yeast and sugar to the tepid water. Now I don’t go in for making doughs directly on the work surface, it just seems to make an enormous amount of mess, so measure the flour into a large mixing bowl, along with the salt. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the water, yeast and sugar mixture. Using a fork, whisk the mixture in the well, incorporating more and more flour as you go along. Once it is too stiff to mix with a fork, go in with your hands and incorporate every last bit of flour.
  • Now pour the dough out onto a lightly oiled or floured surface and begin kneading. I find that it is useful to listen to music when you are kneading dough because it gives you a rhythm and it reminds you how long you have been doing it for. Most dough needs to be kneaded for far longer than you would expect. This one requires between 10 and 15 minutes, or two or three songs worth, of kneading.
  • Once the dough is smooth, soft and springy, flour the inside of your mixing bowl and return the dough to it. Cover the bowl with cling film or a towel and leave it in a warm place for  30 minutes to rise.
  • Now get on with your filling. Chop all the vegetables nice and small, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over plenty of salt. Roast at 180 degrees for roughly 30 minutes.
  • Return to your dough once it has roughly doubled in size. Scoop it out onto the work surface and knock it back (move it around a bit to push some of the air out). Now its time to fill and roll it. I kind of messed this up on mine as you can see by the fact that the filling oozed out in a number of places. This doesn’t really matter (it still tastes amazing!) but to avoid it in future, I would roll out the dough to more of a square shape. Then along one side, about a centimetre from the edge, lay out the parma ham. Spread the pesto (if using) and tomato sauce on top of the ham and top with the vegetables, torn pieces of mozzarella and anything else you are using. The toppings should only cover about a third of the dough. Now starting with the side where the filling is, roll the dough up so that the filling is in the centre and there is a good layer of dough around the outside.
  • Bring the two ends together to make a circle of bread, place on an oiled baking tray, cover and leave to prove for another half an hour. Dust the bread with flour or semolina and bake in a preheated oven at 180, for 30 minutes. To get a really crisp crust, place a tray of boiling water in the bottom of the oven, this will let off steam during the cooking.
  • Serve nice and warm, straight from the oven, while the cheese is still gooey.

Washing up Rating: ** I Used… a measuring jug, a teaspoon, a mixing bowl, a fork, a knife, a chopping board and a baking tray.

Cost Rating: *** I Used… 1/10 of a bag of flour costing £1.50, 1/16 of a box of yeast costing 85p, 1/2 a pepper costing 60p, 1/2 a courgette costing 21p, 1/3 of an aubergine costing 80p, 1/2 a ball of mozzarella costing £1, 1/2 a packet of serrano ham costing £2 and some leftover pesto and tomato sauce (rough cost 50p). Total Cost per portion: 96p