More an assembly than a recipe but an amazingly epic sandwich nonetheless. It seemed fitting now I have moved into student digs to post an easy, cheap meal using freezer staples but it still delivers bags of flavour and nutrition too. Plus… fish fingers!
1 ciabatta roll
4 fish fingers
2 sliced gherkins
A handful of salad leaves
Tartare sauce or mayonnaise
Heat the grill to medium-high and grill the fish fingers for 12-15 minutes, turning once. Turn off the grill, remove fish fingers and set aside.
Gently warm the ciabatta roll in the residual heat from the oven for a few minutes. Cut open the roll which will be crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside now. Slather with mayo or tartare sauce then line the fish fingers across the bottom ciabatta half.
Top with gherkins and crunchy salad leaves and place the top, sauce slathered ciabatta half on top.
Grilled cheese sandwiches are one of my absolute favourite lunches at the moment. They’re so simple to do, you can put in whatever cheeses and extras and bread you like, they’re gooey and oozy and cheesy and warming.
This is a particular favourite of mine at the moment. Fresh pesto with oozing mozzarella, succulent chicken and salty sweet tomatoes encased in fresh crunchy ciabatta. Yum.
Use small, fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini) or cut slices from a larger ball of fresh mozzarella for ideal results. If you absolutely cannot find fresh mozzarella then you can substitute it for whole milk mozzarella cheese that you grate yourself. Please don’t use the grated, bagged stuff. It is dusted with a powder to keep it from clumping. This also keeps it from melting into that creamy, gooey, stringy mozzarella we love so dearly.
(Makes 6 sandwiches)
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
salt and pepper
6 ciabatta rolls, halved as for sandwiches
6 tablespoons Sun-Dried Tomatoes
6 tablespoons pesto,homemade or shop bought
6 slices fresh mozzarella (about 6oz)
Butterfly the chicken breasts lightly bash them with a rolling to pin to flatten slightly then sprinkle both sides generously with salt and pepper and a little rapeseed oil. Pan fry over a medium heat until just cooked through then remove to a board to rest. You may need to do this in batches. Don’t crowd the pan.
Meanwhile, heat the grill to medium. Place the sun dried tomatoes over one half of each Ciabatta then top with slices of mozzarella. When the grill is up to temperature, lay out all the ciabatta rolls crust side down. Grill the rolls lightly until the cheese begins to melt and bread becomes slightly crispy.
When the cheese is hot all the way through, remove the rolls from the grill then slice the chicken and portion onto the rolls. Spread pesto onto the plain half of each roll then sandwich everything together for a gooey feast.
If desired, slice the sandwich in half on the diagonal. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.
A whole head of garlic is used in this recipe which may sound a little excessive but when roasted, the garlic becomes sweet and sticky and imparts a subtle flavour throughout the loaves.
Ciabatta is typically a lot looser than regular bread dough making it trickier to work with but resist the temptation to add more flour when kneading as the wetter dough is what gives the characteristic airy structure to the finished loaf.
An overnight starter is also made here. The slow fermentation process produces a sour, alcoholic aroma almost like rotting apples. While this does not sound appealing at all, this bitter note adds so much flavour to the bread.
120 ml tepid water
½ tsp Active Dry Yeast
90g strong white bread flour
1 head garlic
325 ml tepid water
1 tsp Active Dry Yeast
Starter (from above)
480g strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
To make the starter:
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the bread flour and whisk to make a wet dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 15 hours. The next day the starter should be soupy with a bubbly surface.
To make the bread:
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Wrap the garlic in foil and bake for about 30 minutes until fragrant. Let cool, then slip garlic cloves out of their skins and roughly chop.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add all of the starter and use a dough whisk or spatula to break it up into the water. It doesn’t have to completely dissolve into the water.
Add the bread flour, salt, sugar, and chopped garlic. Knead the dough with the mixer on medium speed for about 12-15 minutes. At first the dough will be very wet, but eventually it will thicken and clear the sides of the bowl, and turn glossy and smooth. (I have included instructions here for a stand mixer as the dough is very wet and not easily workable by hand but if, like me, you do not own a fancy mixer then you can beat the mix together with a large metal spoon for the same amount of time in a large mixing bowl. This does require some serious elbow grease but achieves the same results… plus a workout!)
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until tripled, about 90 minutes.
With generously floured hands, scoop the dough out of the bowl onto a well floured surface. Divide the dough in two. Working very gently, and re-flouring your hands as necessary, shape dough into oblong loaves and place each on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Let rise uncovered, until doubled, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 240°C.
Bake until golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped, 20-25 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
If you like really crusty bread, as I do, Just before baking fill a deep tray with boiling water and place it at the bottom of your oven. Then put your bread in the oven on the middle shelf. This will create a steamy environment that develops an intensely tasty and chewy, crunchy crust while maintaining a springy, light interior. Mmmmmmmm