I like to think that I cook well and that the food I create for friends and family is enjoyed and remembered. I spend time planning menus, challenging my skills and creating meals that are unusual and a talking point. Why is it then, that my most talked about and asked for recipe is made from stale bread and vinegar?
A couple of years ago I watched Yotam Ottolenghi travel around the Mediterranean, sharing stories and recipes. In one episode, he visited the grandmothers of Crete who showed him how to make Dakos, a traditional Cretan dish using stale, rusk like bread. Yotam gave his inevitable Middle Eastern twist to it. It looked so good that after the episode, I rushed straight into the kitchen to give it a go and thus, a Sunday night staple was borne. The perfect way to use stale bread from the week’s baking.
Delicious Crisp Morsels
I decided to make two huge trays of Dakos for a party we hosted as it could be made ahead of time and quietly bake in the oven whilst the champagne corks were popping. To say it was a hit was an understatement. People were asking me for the recipe, wanting to know what the secret ingredient was, checking to see if I had more in the oven. Once the trays were empty, my brother led the charge to scrape off the last delicious morsels of crisp baked bread from the base of the dishes, doling them out to the masses who were hovering like a bunch of seagulls. For days afterwards, people messaged me to ask about the dish. The perfect combination of bread, oil, vinegar and tomato won the Dakos and I many fans that evening.
Over time, I have altered the recipe to suit what I have in the cupboard but at its heart, it remains baked stale bread. It may not look like much on the plate but I guarantee that this dead simple Dakos recipe will become one of the most popular dishes in your repertoire. It’s the perfect comfort food with a combination of baked bread that is both squishy underneath from the oil but also crisp on top where it’s been exposed to the heat. Combined with the tang of the vinegar, the earthy chickpeas and the creamy feta, it is a winning combination. Whilst I make this in a smaller quantity using the leftover sourdough, I have provided a recipe that uses a shop loaf that you can buy and allow to go stale. Buy bread that is sturdy and robust, to ensure it doesn’t melt into the tomatoes and marinade. You can nip down the shop this morning and make it tonight.
(adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi)
- 1 x 200 – 250g tin of chickpeas, drained
- 150ml olive oil
- 2 tspn cumin, ground
- 1 tspn cinnamon, ground
- 1 tspn sweet paprika, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon tumeric, ground
- 1 tspn salt
- 1 – 1.5kg large tomatoes
- 1 x large red onion, chopped finely
- 4 x cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 medium loaf ciabatta or sourdough, stale
- 200g feta cheese
- 200 ml olive oil (for marinade)
- 100 ml red wine or cider vinegar (marinade)
- salt and pepper to season
- Break bread into medium chunks (about the size of a matchbox) and set aside to allow to go stale over a number of hours or overnight.
- Drain and rinse chickpeas (save acquafaba liquid for another recipe).
- Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add cumin, cinnamon, paprika, tumeric and 1 teaspoon of salt to the pan and add chickpeas. Toss to coat the chickpeas in the spices, stirring and gently pressing some of the chickpeas to crush them slightly. Cook for 5 – 10 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.
- Grate one-third (1/3) or the tomatoes into a bowl and discard the skins (I have also done this in the food processor).
- Chop the remaining tomatoes into a small 1cm dice and add to grated tomato.
- Add chopped onion, crushed garlic, 3 tablespoons (the rest) of oil and seasoning and set aside.
- Mix marinade of 200 ml olive oil and 100 ml vinegar in a jug with seasoning and set aside.
- Spread the stale bread chunks out in a baking dish (approx 30 – 40cm) so they fit snugly but are not overcrowded.
- Drizzle half the marinade over the bread, spoon over half the spiced chickpeas and then the chopped tomato and onion mix.
- Spoon on the rest of the spiced chickpeas, the rest of the marinade and then top with chunks of feta, tucked down into bread and tomato mix.
- Bake in an oven pre-heated to 185c for 30 minutes until feta starts to brown.
- Remove from oven and serve hot or warm as a side or, as a main with a side salad.
Makes 1 large tray
Serves 6 – 9 as a meal, more as a side
Will you give this dish a go? Were you at my party squawking like a seagull over the last morsels? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.