Ingredient of the week: the breadcrumb

The humble breadcrumb. It might seem insignificant, an unfair inclusion on this list – battling it out against the likes of purple sprouting broccoli, cranberries and the heavyweights like beetroot. But the breadcrumb deserves its place as it is indeed a hero in the kitchen.

It elevates a risotto or pasta dish to new heights when fried in olive oil with fresh herbs and lemon zest – and maybe an anchovy or two and then scattered over the top of your dinner.

Sprinkled over a macaroni cheese it provides a welcome crunch. It not only bulks out a stuffing or meatballs but gives them lightness and an improved texture - and even flavour, if you use a sourdough bread. Crispy coatings for your frying cry out for a crumb over plain old flour.

The classic queen of puddings is made from a simple set of ingredients and breadcrumbs are at the heart of these. If, like most of us, you do find yourself with a stale loaf – let it go really stale, blitz it in your food processor and freeze it in bags for use at a later date.

And where would we be without the breadcrumb in its greatest incarnation and chicken’s perfect partner – simple bread sauce.