As we face another season stuck (mostly) inside, I’m determined to find soul-soothing recipes to get us through. And it’s official: there is little that can’t be brightened by a breadcrumb.
I recently rummaged through our cupboard staples for inspiration, browsing the abandoned spices sat alongside the heroes: tinned tomatoes and emergency sachets of miso soup. Then the realisation hit me, as though Cupid had sent a carb-kissed arrow right at me. It had to be bread.
I once read about the discovery of an ancient piece of bread (15,000 years old kinda-ancient), which was found back in 2013 by Amaia Arranz-Otaegui. They said it might possibly be the oldest bread-based remnants left hiding in this world. How they recognised the charred crumb as something delicious, I’m not sure. But it appears that our ancestors saw the value of baking much earlier than we thought. Clever old crew.
When I think of breadcrumbs, my parents meet me in my mind. They’re dipping chicken into eggs and flour, frying nuggets and gifting them into my tiny, greedy hands. Then the tang of ketchup hits and I’m flung right into the bite of my first ever Milanese sandwich, complete with fresh tomato, pesto, and mozzarella.
Another mental bite and my mouth fills with molten-centred croquettes in Barcelona, my heart all gooey for my Spanish-tongued family feasting around me. It’s home, fluffy potato housed in the crunchiest coating.
There’s the first Katsu I make in lockdown, hangry and frantically stirring a cauldron of curry sauce for two. The sweet potato and aubergine are fried crisp, still warm in my memory. His eyes are there, lighting up as the mayhem becomes a mouthful. I feel mine lighting up too, watching his.
Breadcrumbs are a lazy person’s dream come true. There’s no faffing with Masterchef-esque garnishes, no drizzling of truffle oil or micro herbage to be seen. Simply prep and hide these sandwich bags of gold in the freezer, then pinch a handful to pour over mushroomy mac and cheese, roasted veggies and almost every other food group in between.
You can add breadcrumbs to anything - using just one hand! You can keep your eyes closed (if the sadness is sitting extra close). It’s manageable. You just shove your loafy goodness into a food processor and save the results for future you. Like finding sand in a coat pocket, a souvenir from a sunnier life left behind. But tastier. Much, much tastier.