Wednesday, 13 March 2013

'Mpille - Puglian Olive and Chilli Bread

Olive and Chilli bread

The return of these Siberian conditions has made me dream longingly of warm breezes, turquoise waters, the feeling of sun on bare skin so I find myself turning again to the quintessentially Mediterranean cuisine of Puglia. I've written before (here if you're interested) about the fantastic vegetables that form the basis of Puglian gastronomy and these take centre stage once more in this recipe.

'Mpille' can only be found in the Salento area of Puglia which is as far south as you can go down the heel of Italy's boot and not even in all places there. Originally from the small village of Sannicola where GL's mum grew up, you can also find them in Lecce, the beautiful Baroque provincial capital but there they go under the name of 'Pizzi' and don't include courgettes. If you are lucky enough to find a good bakery that makes their own, try and arrive when the mpille are just coming out of the oven - the smell of the baking bread mixed with the lightly cooked vegetables is simply mouthwatering and it's virtually impossible not to eat them straightaway, warm, crunchy on the outside, soft inside and bursting with Mediterranean flavours.

I have to describe them as bread rolls, the dough being mixed with lightly sauteed olives, onions, tomatoes, courgettes and chilli but this is woefully inadequate. You really just have to try them. Hopefully they'll bring a little Mediterranean warmth to brighten up these chilly days.

As you can see from the logo, the March One Ingredient challenge is Chilli so my post is on its way over to this month's host Laura  from How to Cook Good Food co-hosted with Nazima at Franglais Kitchen. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's ideas for this challenge.

I'm also sending it to Javelin Warrior's wonderful weekly challenge which encourages everyone to cook from scratch, Made with Love Mondays.



For the dough
450g strong white bread flour, plus more for kneading
7g (1 sachet) easy blend yeast
1 teaspoon salt
approximately 200-300 ml warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

Vegetable mixture
about 10 cherry tomatoes
1 large onion
1 courgette
olive oil
a handful of black pitted olives
1-2 teaspoons of chilli flakes, depending on taste

Preheat oven to 240°C or as hot as it will go.

Start by preparing the vegetables. Wash, dry and finely chop the tomatoes, onion and courgette and cook them gently in a tablespoon or so of olive oil for about 15-20 mins until nicely softened. Add the olives, roughly chopped and as much chilli as you want. Season to taste. Remember that you'll need more salt and chilli than you expect because it's all going to be distributed throughout the bread dough. Leave to cool.

Put the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and pour in about 200 ml of the water, half the cooked vegetable mixture and the olive oil, mixing with your hands. You can add more water if you need to but the vegetables do add a lot of liquid and actually the mpille puff up more with a slightly drier dough. Start kneading by pushing the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, the fold it back and turn slightly. Keep doing this for about 10 minutes, it should feel smooth and springy when it's ready.

Form the dough into a ball and rub a little olive oil over the surface, so that it is lightly greased. Put it into a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for about 3 hours. After that time, knock back the dough and knead in the rest of the vegetable mixture. Leave to rise again for another hour. 

Divide the dough into about 12 pieces and form into balls - the dough will probably be quite sticky so dust each ball with flour before shaping roughly - remember these are meant to be rustic so no need for perfect spheres! Place on 2 baking trays lined with parchment, leaving enough space between them. 

Put into the hot oven and cook for about 35-40 mins. Leave them to cool slightly on a wire rack before devouring.



  1. I absolutely love your bread. How can it taste anything but delicious. There is no-one that would be able to resist a good crusty outside filled with goodies on the inside such as the chilli, olives and vegetables. A savoury bread that could be a meal in itself. I must try this out and thank you for entering One Ingredient!
    Also well done on your recipe being featured in the Guardian :))

    1. Thank you so much Laura - what lovely comments! I think you deserve the congratulations though for being the winning recipe in the Guardian a few weeks ago!

  2. This sounds so wonderful, Katherine. I've never had bread stuffed with any kind of vegetable before (I don't think garlic bread counts) and I'm so intrigued. What a great idea and so glad you shared!

    1. You need to try this then - the vegetable mix keeps the inside super moist as well as giving it great flavour! Delicious!

  3. Delicious bread Katharine - pass me over some Parmigiano-Reggiano and that would be lunch sorted. Great list of ingredients!

    1. Mmm yes, perfect with a hunk of parmigiano! When we were on holiday in Puglia, we'd buy a big bag of these in the morning, freshly baked, grab some fruit and that was our quick but oh-so delicious picnic!

  4. Oh, oh, oh - want, longing and more want. I've bookmarked this for the summer when hopefully we shall have a glut of courgettes - it didn't quite happen last year.

    1. Thank you! Great idea to save these for summer when all the vegetables have more flavour anyway - fingers crossed for a good courgette (and other) harvest!