We have Dr Atkins to thank for the beating that bread has taken over the years. However, there are some advantages to the dough that warrant its popularity—it’s easily available, popular among all age groups, and all you have to do is make a sandwich and you have a full meal when you’re not in the mood to cook.
It’s a no-brainer that white bread is the devil with a high glycaemic index (GI) of 77, compared with a much lower GI of 48 for multigrain bread. Jyoti Arora, team leader, nutrition and dietetics, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon, says, “Those with renal failure and high blood pressure must avoid white bread since it also contains high levels of sodium.”
One Ingredient, 4 Ways: Parragon, 162 pages, Rs395.
She also says you should not be fooled by the brown bread versions available in the market. “Brown bread is made by the addition of a caramel colouring agent to white flour; instead look for labels such as multigrain, soya, wholewheat or daliya bread,” she says, adding that while the calories for all types of bread are similar, the fibre in multigrain and wholegrain varieties is more beneficial (compared with zero-fibre white bread).
These days there are many reasons to indulge in a slice or two. Bread has diversified into versions that are fortified with vitamins and minerals, contain fibre and have a very low GI, so there’s no reason to stick only to the traditional white version.
“Instead of packaged breads, buy loaves from your local bakery where they’re fresher and could be fortified with calcium and iron with additives such as olives, beneficial herbs such as thyme and even protein- packed versions with pulses and soy,” Arora adds.
Meanwhile, a meal with bread need not just be about sandwiches...you can add it to soup, salads and desserts. Here are four recipes from the recent book One Ingredient, 4 Ways (published by Parragon) that celebrate this tasty slice.
Reuben sandwich. Photographs courtesy Parragon.
Total calories: 1,206 kcal
Per serving: 601 kcal
2 tbsp margarine, softened
4 slices of white or brown bread
2 tbsp Thousand Island dressing
115-175g cooked salt beef, sliced
200g bottled sauerkraut, drained
115g Gruyere cheese, grated
Vegetable oil, for frying
Pickled gherkins, to serve
Method: Spread the margarine on one side of each slice of bread and lay margarine-side down. Spread the other sides with one tablespoon of the dressing. Divide the salt beef between two slices, tucking in the sides to fit. Divide the sauerkraut and make an even layer on top of the salt beef, before covering with grated cheese. Top with the remaining slices of bead, margarine-side facing up, and press firmly to compress the layers. Heat the oil in a non-stick griddle pan over a medium-high heat and carefully slide the sandwiches into the pan. Using a fish slice, press down on the tops of the sandwiches. Cook for three minutes or until the undersides are crisp and golden. Carefully turn the sandwiches, press down again and cook for a further two minutes or until the sandwiches are golden, the cheese is melted and the salt beef is hot. Remove from the heat and transfer the sandwiches to the cutting board. Cut in half and serve with pickled gherkins.
Make it healthier: Try wholewheat bread instead of white or brown , a touch of butter instead of margarine (but best to avoid both fats), hung curd instead of Thousand Island dressing.
Total calories: 800 kcal
Per serving: 400 kcal
Total calories: 651 kcal
Per serving: 162.75 kcal
250g stale bread
4 large, vine-ripened tomatoes
4 red, yellow and/or orange peppers
1 large red onion, finely chopped
8 canned anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
2 tbsp capers in brine, rinsed and patted dry
About 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
About 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil leaves, to garnish
Method: Cut the bread into 2.5cm or 1-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Quarter the tomatoes, reserve the juices. Using a teaspoon, scoop out the cores and seeds and discard, then finely chop the flesh. Add the bread cubes.
Drizzle 5 tablespoons of the olive oil over the mixture and toss until well coated. Pour in the reserved tomato juice and toss again. Leave to marinate for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the peppers in half and remove the cores and seeds. Place on a grill rackunder a preheated hot grilland grill for 10 minutes or until the skins are charredand flesh softened.
Place in a plastic bag, seal and leave to cool for 20 minutes. Remove the skins, then finely chop. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, then cut each half into 3 strips lengthways. Using a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Dice the cucumber.
Add the onion, peppers, cucumber, anchovy fillets and capers to the bread and toss together. Sprinkle with the red wine and balsamic vinegars and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil or vinegar if necessary. Sprinkle the fresh basil leaves over the salad and serve at once.
Make it healthier: Wholewheat bread is a better option than white. You can even cut down the oil from 5 to 2-3 teaspoons.
Total calories: 310 kcal
Per serving: 77.5 kcal
Total calories: 488 kcal
Per serving: 122 kcal
1 red pepper, cored, deseeded
1kg ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
2 tbsp very finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
100g stale white bread, crumbled
3 tbsp red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
3Ktbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
200g ice cubes (optional)
Salt and pepper
Method: Set aside a handful of the red pepper slices, a handful of the tomatoes and half the chopped onion in the refrigerator. Put the rest of the red pepper and tomato in a food processor with the garlic, cucumber and the remaining onion, and purée until smooth. Add the bread, vinegar and oil and whiz again.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick, add the ice, then place the soup in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
When ready to serve, check the vinegar and seasoning and ladle into bowls. Scatter over the reserved red pepper, tomatoes and onions, then drizzle over with a swirl of olive oil. Serve.
Make it healthier: You don’t need to change much in this recipe as the per-serving calorie count is just 122. Just use stale or toasted wholewheat bread instead of white bread.
BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING
Bread and butter pudding
Total calories: 3,121 kcal
Per serving: 520 kcal
85g butter, softened
6 thick slices of white bread
55g mixed dried fruit (sultanas, currants and raisins)
25g candied peel
3 large eggs
150ml double cream
55g caster sugar
Whole nutmeg, for grating
1 tbsp demerara sugar
Cream to serve
Method: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Use a little of the butter to grease a 20x25cm or 8x10-inch baking dish andbutter the slices of bread.Cut the bread into quartersand arrange half overlappingin the dish.
Scatter half the dried fruit and the candied peel over the bread, cover with remaining bread slices and the remaining fruit and peel.
In a mixing jug, whisk the eggs well and mix in the milk, cream and sugar. Pour over the putting and leave to stand for 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the egg mixture. Tuck in most of the fruit so that it does not burn in the oven. Grate the nutmeg over the top of the pudding, according to taste, and sprinkle over the demerara sugar.
Place the pudding on a baking tray and bake at the top of the oven for 30-40 minutes until just set and golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm with a little pouring cream.
Make it healthier: Rather than using mixed dried fruits, you can use fresh fruit, walnuts or almonds. Reduce the butter to 50g from 85g, cut dry fruits down to 30g and double cream to just 100ml.
Total calories: 1,200 kcal
Per serving: 300 kcal
Recipes excerpted with permission from ‘One Ingredient, 4 Ways’ (Parragon).
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