Filled picnic loaf-Pan Bagnat

I love eating food outdoors – I always think it tastes so much better and with all the fresh air, everyone is always ready for some tasty food. Picnics can be as simple or elaborate as you want them to be. I love a selection of cured meats, crusty bread, olives, dried fruits, and nuts. Other favourites include salads, cold frittata, washed down with some homemade lemonade. One of my favourite picnic recipes is a filled picnic loaf, or, as the French call it Pan Bagnat. This is a crusty loaf hollowed out and filled with lots of griddled vegetables, cheese and herbs. Ideally this bread can be made the evening before to allow the flavours to develop.

(serves 6)

Olive oil
2 red peppers, quartered and deseeded
2 yellow peppers, quartered and deseeded
2 small courgettes, sliced thinly lengthways
1 large aubergiene, sliced thinly lengthways
1 red onion, peeled and sliced into eighths
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A large handful of fresh basil
4 tablespoons of pesto or tapenade
2 buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
A handful of fresh spinach leaves
1 large round crusty loaf
Salt and pepper

In a large bowl mix the vegetables with the garlic, salt, pepper and five tablespoons of olive oil. Using a griddle pan or grill cook the vegetables in batches for four to six minutes or until coloured and tender. Add the basil leaves and set aside for thirty minutes.
Slice one third off the top of the bread to create a lid and bowl effect. Hollow out the bread centre leaving a two cm thick ‘bread wall’. Brush the inside of the loaf with a mix of olive oil and pesto or tapenade.
Layer the vegetables inside the loaf sprinkling each layer with a little salt, pepper and shredded basil leaves, start with the aubergine, then courgettes, slices of mozzarella, onion, red peppers and finally the yellow peppers. Spread any remaining tapenade on top then add a handful of spinach leaves. Replace the bread lid on top of the loaf, cover with clingfilm. Transfer to a baking tray and place another tray on top. Weigh the bread down with some unopened tins. Place in the fridge overnight. Before serving bring the bread back to room temperature and cut into thick wedges.

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