The most wasted food in the UK + a simple Italian recipe (Panzanella) to help fix it
When we think of basic sustenance - ancient, holy, simple food - we always think of one thing: bread. For centuries and indeed millennia it has been a staple of diets all over the world. Its various forms and flavours are always a beautiful embodiment of the country it feeds and the people who adore it. This popular food is abundant around the world.
It is an unfortunate truth that where there is abundance there is waste, and so is the case with bread.
This waste is not small, it is very, very (unbelievably) big. In the UK, bread is the most wasted food of all, with about 900,000 tonnes lost each year. That comes to about 24 million slices every day, the equivalent of 44% of all bread produced.
What can we do to reduce this waste? Buy less, freeze excess and use stale bread in creative ways. This brings me to why we’re here. I’m going to share my favourite recipe for wasting less stale bread: Panzanella.
Panzanella is a central-Italian dish, usually associated with Tuscan cooking. The dish - also known as “wet bread” (pan bagnato) in Italian - is essentially just that: bread that has been revived from its stale state with various delicious condiments and fresh produce.
When a few English friends discovered it during a trip to Italy, they returned to London raving about the incredible “bread salad” they had in Rome. This entertaining and subtly oxymoronic label is actually quite accurate.
Like most Mediterranean dishes, its strength is derived from the quality of the ingredients. This fresh and filling recipe is naturally vegan and showcases the classic flavours of Italy. Main or side? Could be either. Lovely with roasted vegetables at a BBQ to replace cous cous or as a fun salad.
Although the recipe is incredibly simple it allows for huge creativity and variation. Don’t feel like you need to keep to the measurements, these are only a guide.
- 4-5 slices stale bread, cut into cubes or crumbled
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, the best quality you can find
- 1 red onion
- 1 medium-sized cucumber, diced
- A handful of chopped basil
- 3 Tbs white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup Extra Virgin olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
Other ingredients you can add based on your fridge content and/or your dietary preferences: Capers, olives, anchovies, eggs, avocados, peppers, beans, mushrooms, artichokes and everything in between.
Prep all the ingredients and place in a large bowl. Make sure to keep the juice from the tomatoes - this helps create the wonderful emulsion that seeps into the bread. Adjust with salt and pepper and a little extra olive oil if it still looks dry.
The stale bread in the pantry awaits you! Looking for more ways to reduce your food waste? Take a look at our ultimate guide to eating more and wasting less.