Tomato and cannelloni bean stew
Finely chop a couple of garlic cloves and an onion and cook in two teaspoons of groundnut oil until soft. Stir in a teaspoon of smoked paprika and cook for a further two minutes. Add a tin of tomatoes and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down slightly and simmer rapidly for ten minutes, until the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is quite thick. Stir in a tin of drained cannelloni beans and heat through. Season with salt and black pepper and crumble over any cheese that you have to hand (feta, goat’s cheese and parmesan all work well). Add a sprinkling of parsley and basil if you have it. Serve with plenty of warm bread.
Make use of leftover bread
Particularly in the UAE, bread tends to go stale very quickly. One way of combatting this is to have a loaf sliced for you at the bakery, freeze it and defrost or toast as necessary. Alternatively, bread that has seen better days can be used up in a salad.
Panzanella is the classic example here: cut the bread into cubes, dip briefly in cold water and squeeze out the excess liquid. Tip into a bowl and add diced tomatoes, 1/2 sliced red onion, a handful of basil leaves and a splash each of white vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
Pain perdu (lost bread) is a great dessert for rejuvenating an old loaf: cut a few slices of bread into 3cm thick pieces and place in a shallow dish. Whisk together 4 eggs and 100g caster sugar until pale, then add 200ml of milk. Pour this over the bread and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a pan and when it begins to foam, add the slices of bread. Cook for two minutes on each side or until they are a rich golden brown colour.
Or simply remove the crusts and blitz bread to crumbs in a blender. Keep in the freezer until needed and use to make homemade stuffing, as a topping for vegetable gratins, mix with lemon zest and parsley and scatter over warm asparagus before baking or toast in a pan with chopped garlic and add to a salad.