When it comes to food preparation in the Summer months, when the children are around, I need it to fit two criteria. Firstly, for me it has to be about making food ahead – more fun all round – and secondly enjoying food that will ‘travel’. I am thinking days out, picnics and trips to the beach. You get my drift. You want something satisfying and relatively mess free. This Pan Bagnat ‘ticks all the boxes’.
I have wanted to make a Pan Bagnat, literally ‘wet bread’ for sometime now. It is a sandwich of sorts that is a speciality of the French region of Nice. Served at lunchtime, a Pain de Campagne, or a boule loaf, usually whole wheat, is used to surround typically a Nicoise salad. My pan Bagnat consists of a homemade Boule-type loaf filled with poached salmon, leeks, garlic, capers and watercress. I wanted to create a substantial lunch.
The method really is quite straightforward. Basically, slice the top of a round loaf, scoop out the majority of the soft crumbs (of course, saving to make breadcrumbs), fill, in a layered manner your desired filling, dress with flavoursome sauce, replace bread lid, wrap in food wrap and leave to rest overnight in the fridge. Bingo – a ready prepared lunch for the next day.
Feel free to try this using a shop-bought Pain de Campagne style loaf if you are short on time. I have taken to baking this kind of loaf in my large ceramic casserole. It tends to mimic the ceramic ‘La Cloche’ bread baking dishes that are available at artisan baking stores and gives you a perfect round loaf every time with spending little, or no, effort on the shaping process. I’m all for short cuts when they work!
Basically, it is an all-in-one meal. Just add lemon, mayonnaise and seasoning. What is not to like?
- 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 8g dried instant yeast
- 8g salt
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 300ml tepid water
- or, a ready-bought Boule or, Pain de Champagne loaf
- 130g unsalted butter (20g + 20g + 90g)
- 350g salmon fillets
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 120g leeks, chopped
- 2 tbsp. capers
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Fresh dill
- Salt and pepper, freshly ground, to taste
- Watercress, a handful
- In a large bowl, or the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, salt, yeast and olive oil. Add nearly all of the water, reserving some in case it is not needed and mix to form a dough. Continue until the dough becomes soft and elastic. Tip the dough into a lightly oiled container, or bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove until doubled in size, or overnight.
- Once proved, preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (fan), or gas mark 7. Place a large lidded ceramic casserole dish inside to preheat with the oven. On a lightly flour-dusted surface, tip the dough and knead for a few minutes. Shape into a boule / round and allow to prove for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the hot casserole from the oven and place the dough round into it. Dust with flour, or semolina if you have it, make a few lame cuts in the top of the dough, place the lid on and return to the oven.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Then remove the casserole lid and bake for a further 15 minutes allow the crust to brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
- Slice a 'lid' horizontally across the bread, about 1/3 of the way down from the top crust. With your hands, remove the majority of the soft bread inside but leaving sufficient around the edges for the bread to retain its structure and to absorb the juices of the filling. (You can use the bread for breadcrumbs).
- Melt 20g of butter and brush it inside the hollow loaf and to the inner lid of the bread. Allow to cool.
- Poach the salmon fillets in a little water until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Strain and set aside to cool.
- Sauté the leeks in 20g of butter. Again, set aside to cool.
- To make the sauce, melt the remaining 90g of butter in a pan and add the garlic, capers, lemon juice and zest, fresh dill and seasoning (to taste).
- To assemble, place half of the salmon in the hollowed out loaf, add half of the leeks. Add a layer of watercress. Repeat, using the remaining salmon and leeks. Pour the sauce over the filled loaf allowing it to soak through all the layers. Add the breaded 'lid' and allow to cool completely.
- Once cooled, wrap the entire loaf in food wrap to keep everything in place and allow to rest overnight in the fridge, allowing all the flavours to infuse.
- Transport ready wrapped, or slice and serve as desired.
- Serve with lemon wedges, mayonnaise and additional seasoning.
Prepare one day in advance.
Source: Inspired and adapted from Mark Price’s ‘The Great British Picnic Guide’.