When a recipe comes with a legendary story about how it was invented hundreds of years ago for the visit of a king, it's always worth investigating. Pane Frattau is a traditional Sardinian dish that on the face of it, looks so simple, how could it possibly be special enough to serve royalty?
It's made with Pane Carasau, an ultra thin, crisp flat bread that shepherd's would take up the mountains as they looked after their flock for weeks at a time. It's kind of a cross between a pizza and lasagne. Each sheet of Pane Carasau is soaked for about 30 seconds in hot broth or stock to soften. They are placed flat on the serving plate, a rich tomato sauce is slathered across the top with a generous grating of salty pecorino. Repeat the process to create another layer before plonking a poached egg on top, a twist of black pepper, a final grating of pecorino and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
The simplicity of this dish and the quality of the ingredients are what really shone through. Eating it at home, Alice and I wondered about adding in olives or perhaps a touch of Nduja paste, but we both agreed that would be wrong, it was magnificent just as it was. My only addition to the classic, which did work really well, was to drizzle a little homemade basil oil over the top.
This dish is just heavenly for lunch on a sunny day or as a light supper and is so simple to make.
Ingredients for 4 portions
For the Pane
16 x Sheets of Pane Carasau (1 box is plenty with enough spare for a couple more portions)
750ml Hot Vegetable Stock or Chicken Stock
For the Tomato Sauce
800g Tomato Passata
1 x White Onion, finely diced
4 x Cloves Garlic, finely diced
250ml Vegetable Stock or Chicken Stock
2tbsps Rapeseed Oil
For the Basil Oil
½ Bunch Fresh Basil, leaves picked
A pinch of Sea Salt
5-6tbsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the Toppings
A generous grating of Pecorino Romano
4 Fresh Eggs
1. Start by making the tomato sauce. In a couple of tablespoons of rapeseed oil, gentle fry the onions for around 10 minutes. Then add in the garlic and continue to cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes.
2. Mix 16g of stock powder with 1 litre of boiling water.
3. To the onions and garlic, add in the tomato passata and 250ml of the stock, simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, stirring regularly.
4. Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to the boil, ready to poach your eggs. The secret to a good poached egg lies solely in the freshness of your egg. That's why we love Rupert's Fancy Fouls, his eggs come in to us so fresh, it's a joy to poach them. Contrast that with supermarket eggs that often 2 to 3 weeks old by the time you get them.
5. To make the basil oil, finely chop up the basil leaves and using a mini food processor, blitz with the salt and olive oil until you end up with a smooth, bright green oil.
6. Once the sauce is done, your ready to assemble. You may have a heat up the remaining 750ml of stock so it's hot.
7. Start poaching the eggs in the simmering water (around 2½ minutes for a nice soft poach) and using a metal roasting tray, soak the sheets of Pane Carasau in the hot stock for around 30 seconds, until they become soft and pliable.
8. Place two sheets of the bread into your serving plate and generously slather the tomato sauce all over plus a good grating of pecorino. Repeat the process to create a second layer.
9. Drizzle some basil oil over and place the poached egg in top with a good twist of black pepper. Give everything a final grating of pecorino and finish with a final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
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