By Lauren Bravo
Ahh, picnics; the sun in the sky, the grass between your toes, a sandwich in your hands… and half the fillings in your lap. To avoid the shower of ham and pickle down your summer finest, you might want to think about the bread you use for your picnics, and we suggest the muffuletta.
Dating back to 1906, the iconic Italian picnic loaf was invented at the Central Grocery in New Orleans, by Sicilian farmers who specifically needed an efficient way to eat lunch while sat on a crate or barrel.
Perfectly portable, a traditional muffuletta is a whole, round loaf of bread, stuffed with layers of salami, olive salad, cheese and ham, cut into wedges and eaten like a magnificent sandwich.
But of course, there are more combinations of fillings to stuff a loaf of bread with than there are sunny days on which to eat it (in the UK at least). We love it with roasted peppers, tapenade and lots of mozzarella, or with leftover chicken, salad and chutney.
You’ll need a round loaf like our trusty, crusty Calabrese, with the top sliced off and most of the soft middle scooped out (save the insides to make croutons, panzanella or bread sauce for your next Sunday roast). Stuff it with tightly-packed layers of filling, replace the bread lid, wrap it in clingfilm and weigh it down with something heavy while it chills overnight. This “pressing” is the magic part that turns it from a tower of separate fillings into one delicious package of flavours that won’t fall apart when you tuck in.
Jamie’s put his spin on the picnic loaf too, with this ring of bread filled with Parma ham, cheese, egg and basil – ideal if you struggle to choose between a sandwich and a pie.
Another idea for an no-filling-needed sandwich experience is the famous focaccia, topped with moist vegetables like courgette or onion, as well as cheese, olives, herbs and any other delicious additions you can think of. Take the whole loaf with you and slice it up to pass round at your picnic, making fuss-free outdoor eating a piece of cake.