Stuffed Stick Breads with Homemade Basil Pesto

Justin Bonello_Stick Bread

This is something I remember making when I was a Cub (believe it or not, I was once one). The way we did it back then was first to make a fire with just three matches – no wonder I only ever got a badge for perfect attendance!

Making Stick Breads is a fun, interactive thing to do when you’re having a braai, and everyone can – and should – get involved, especially when you have a bunch of children around (which has nothing to do with age).

Get hold of as many long sticks as you have friends but make sure you don’t use any kind of wood that oozes resin – it’s going to taste nasty and might make you sick. So unless you want to poison your friends don’t use pine or the like.

Justin Bonello Recipe Bread sticks and home made basil pesto Make a basic bread dough. When the dough is ready, knock it back down before tearing off monkey fist sized pieces. Flatten the dough and then shape it into long cord-like snake shapes with your fingers. No rolling pins here! Now grease the end of your stick with sunflower oil. Next, create a spiral of dough around the piece of wood by making a loop of dough around the top of the stick and pinching the dough together, then spiral the dough around the rest of the stick and pinch the last bit together.

Let the kids cook them over medium coals on the fire until nice and crispy and brown, then slide/twist them off the sticks. Now for the interesting part. Take a clear plastic bag and fill it with your filling of choice (anything from whipped cream infused with chocolate shavings to tzatziki). Cut a corner off the plastic bag (slightly smaller than the hole left by the stick) and pipe the filling into the hole in the bread until it oozes out the other end. What you’ve created is similar to those jam doughnuts you used to gobble up as a kid. Eat the filled bread stick immediately.

There are a million different fillings you could make – for example, my friend Bianca likes marmalade (I think she smokes her socks), but there are no rules. Try savoury mince, or cream cheese and jam . . . you get the idea. To make your lives easier, below are some of my favourite fillings. I like to add some basil pesto or a salsa verde to cream cheese, give it a rough swirl, then pipe it in. Go ahead … be a child in the bush kitchen and remind yourself what it’s like to be 6 or 7 years old by making a fire with three matches and cooking stick breads.


You’ll need

  • 2 man-size handfuls of fresh basil leaves
  • a good handful of pine nuts – these are expensive but you can substitute with chopped walnuts
  • 2 or 3 fat cloves of garlic (do not under any circumstances be tempted to use that ready  chopped stuff you get in supermarkets – it’s mostly turnip)
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese (or any other similarly strong-flavoured cheese like Gruyère. Use the best quality you can afford, it will make all the difference to the taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mung the basil and the nuts in your trusty mortar and pestle, then add the garlic and mung some more. Once these things have got to know each other, add the olive oil in a steady stream, and keep pounding. Unless you’re extremely dexterous, you’re going to need to enlist the help of a friend for this part. The cheese goes in second last, then the seasoning. Don’t worry too much about it being perfectly smooth; you’re not making baby food.

Use this as your basic recipe but try using other herbs instead of basil – like coriander or parsley – and rocket, spinach, roasted peppers, sundried tomatoes or olives. You get the idea.

 SALSA VERDE…or Green Sauce

You’ll need

  • a few peeled cloves of garlic
  • a couple of handfuls of Italian flat leaf parsley
  • a handful of fresh oregano leaves
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves
  • wild fennel leaves
  • good extra virgin olive oil

Put the whole lot into the blender and blitz until smooth. Adjust the quantities of the ingredients you use according to personal taste and make plenty because you’re going to want to slather it all over everything. Use it on fish, meat, over pastas, scrambled eggs, frittatas, as a dip, or mix it with cream cheese for your stick bread filling.

Bon Appetite.. bush style!

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