Lorena at Food Revolution runs a monthly event called Frugal Food. The idea is to create a meal for two (not including dessert or drinks) for a given amount (seven dollars or less this month), and featuring a specified ingredient of her choice. This month's ingredient is mozzarella. This event appeals to me because it reminds me of an old British TV programme called "Ready, Steady, Cook", in which two teams vie to produce the best meal using mystery ingredients provided by a pair of audience members. These ingredients must cost five pounds (about ten dollars) or less. Each team comprises a chef and the person(s) who selected the ingredients. They have twenty minutes to come up with a finished meal. It's a hell of a challenge, especially when someone selects hopelessly mismatched or inappropriate ingredients, yet it's often astonishing how impressive the finished meals turn out to be.
There is no twenty minute time limit on this challenge which is just as well since I'm not the speediest person ever to blunder around a kitchen and also because the recipe I selected takes about half an hour to prepare plus a further half hour to finish cooking. I pinched one of Ann's Christmas favourites - sausage bread - and paired it with a simple salad to make a complete and tasty meal which features healthy greens, carbs (the bread), meat, cheese (the essential ingredient), a bit of veg (onion and green pepper) and a whole pile of mouth-watering savoury goodness. Whenever Ann has made this for the family at Christmas it usually only takes about half an hour for two whole loaves of the stuff to disappear.
This sausage bread is made in the form of a ring-shaped loaf, and the quantities I give below are enough to make one loaf, which is sufficient for four generous portions (we froze half of the loaf). I have therefore halved the cost of the ingredients below in order to ensure they come to less than seven dollars and, happily, they do. The cost breakdown for these halved amounts was as follows:
0.80 Bread dough
0.70 Sausage meat
0.25 Green Pepper
1.25 Shredded Mozzarella
1.00 Salad ingredients
Bargain! I could have added some tomatoes and stuff to the salad, I suppose, or maybe had some green beans on the side, but it isn't really necessary. The sausage bread is surprisingly filling and very flavourful so it really doesn't need much to go with it beyond a light, fresh salad. Anyway, to business:
1 "piece" of frozen bread dough. Round our way this comes in packs of three and I guess a "piece" is about 12 ounces of dough
1.5 lbs sausage meat (a mix of hot and regular is good)
6 oz shredded mozzarella
Half a large white onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Salt, black pepper, dried sage, dried oregano to taste. (I recommend you go easy on the salt and use maybe half a tsp each of the herbs.)
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
2 beaten eggs: one for the filling, one for brushing the finished loaf
A little grated parmesan for topping
Mixed green salad (enough for 4). Add mushrooms, tomatoes, whatever you see fit. I just added a few sliced crimini mushrooms.
Heat some olive oil in a large skillet, fry the onions and green pepper for about five minutes or until the onion is softened. Add the sausage meat, break it up, mix it around. Add the herbs, chilli flakes and seasoning. Do be careful not to use too much salt: this tends to be quite naturally salty. When the meat is just cooked through tip the whole lot into a colander and drain well. You don't want the mixture to be soggy or your loaf will be a sad and gloopy thing. Put the mixture into a large bowl and add one beaten egg and the mozzarella. Mix well.
Now comes the fun part. Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 18" by 8". This takes some application with flour and rolling pin. Be brutal. It will want to spring back into its original lumpy shape. Do not permit this. Accept no nonsense. Take a large spoon and lay the sausage mixture evenly along the centre of the dough. Put it right up to one of the short edges but leave maybe half an inch free at the other edge. Now gather up the long edges in the centre, enclosing the meat cosily, pinch firmly together and fold the pinch over; pinch again to seal. Keep doing this out to both edges until you have neatly encased the whole length of filling. Roll the thing so that the pinched seam is on (what will become) the inside, then form it into a ring. Feed one end into the other (the 'full' end going into the one you left a bit of a gap in) and firmly pinch together so that the join is sealed right round, then carefully transfer it to a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Let it rise for about 40 mins (not essential, really- Ann says nobody in her family ever bothers). Brush with beaten egg, grate parmesan over the top then bake at 350 degrees until golden brown (about 30 minutes). Serve in slices, piping hot so that the mozzarella is lovely and runny.