By Kate Foster
These days, entertaining at home is a far more relaxed affair that it used to be. Gone are the days of elaborate dinner parties with starchy table settings and multiple courses. Instead, we’re seeing a welcome return to informal dining with friends around the kitchen table.
Despite this more laid-back approach to entertaining, what we put upon the table remains important. Great-quality ingredients and simple accompaniments, put together with care and love, are what make these occasions special, which means it’s an ideal opportunity to let bread take centre stage. Whether you bake your own or buy it in fresh, bread can add comfort and interaction to the dinner table – and it doesn’t have to be relegated to the bread basket, either. Here are some of our favourite ways to give bread a starring role:
Make like the French and keep accompaniments simple, with the focus on a main sharing dish for the table. Rather than preparing a number of sides, try matching breads with the main course for some hands-on dining and delicious combinations. Not only will your guests thank you for it, you’ll have less to prepare… and wash up!
Try serving beef daube (stew to most people) with hunks of crusty Calabrese loaf for mopping up the juices, or wedges of something like our multigrain loaf with richly spiced chilli, along with grated mature Cheddar, chunky guacamole and sour cream.
It would have horrified Fanny Craddock, but we think that sandwiches are perfectly entitled to their place on the lunch table, even when you have company. The trick is to make sure that what you are serving up is really special, so bring in the big guns: flavoursome breads, the best ingredients you can lay your hands on, and plenty of imagination.
Try serving up classic, bulging-at-the-seams Reuben sandwiches for the perfect laid-back Saturday lunch. Layer thick slices of salt beef with slices of Swiss cheese, good-quality sauerkraut (drained carefully) and a good splodge of Thousand Island Dressing on rye bread – like our Light Rye & Caraway loaf, toasted and buttered. Pickles and French’s mustard is optional, but plenty of paper napkins are mandatory.
Toast is universally loved, so it stands to reason that it can be a welcome addition to the dinner table. Beyond this, it’s an elegant starter when transformed into a cheese-topped crouton on a bed of beautifully dressed salad leaves, or the crunchy base for a mound of dressed crab, topped with chunks of mango, coriander leaves and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Try lightly toasting some olive bread like our Green Olive and Wheatberry Sourdough, add a smear of good olive oil and top with bresaola. Pile it up with rocket leaves and crumbly shards of Parmesan and drizzle with a simple balsamic dressing.
Photo by Tom Gildon