Tuesday, 30 September 2014

One for the weekend – The Hairy Biker’s lazybones buns (Luilakbollen)

I have a bit of an obsession with The Hairy Bikers. I watch Si and Dave on the BBC all the time, and on my last blog, I chattered about their tour of Britain relentlessly. I also have all their cookbooks, bar one (apparently my housemate didn’t want to get me their diet book for my birthday in case she offended me!) I just want to meet them so I can have a massive Northern sandwich-hug.

Anyway, back to breakfast - I was flicking through their Big Book of Baking one wet and soggy Sunday morning looking for a breakfast bun recipe when I came across Luilakbollen, also known as lazybones buns.

According to the Bikers, Luilak is a Dutch festival the day before Whit Sunday.

“Young people start to crowd the streets at four in the morning, whistling, banging on doors and ringing bells to make as much noise as they can. Any young person who fails to get up is a ‘lazybones’. As well as making lots of noise, the revellers stuff themselves with goodies, including these very tasty buns, which are a bit like our hot cross buns.”

While I’ve missed both Whitson and Easter by months, I still decided to give these hot cross bun imposters a whirl.

Surprisingly until now, I haven't ever baked bread before. But in dedication to another one of my favourite TV food programmes – The Great British Bake Off – I decided to get over my fear of yeast and get kneading.

Ingredients lined up and ready to go

I treated my yeast like a child, I was so scared I would kill it off

Lazybones buns ready for the oven

After the kneading, knocking back, two proves and 20 minutes in the oven, I was pretty terrified I'd messed them up. But I broke the warm crusts to a light smell of cinnamon and a light-as-a-feather bread. To be honest, I was quite proud of my first attempt at baking bread, and I think so was my housemate.

They aren’t as spiced as hot cross buns, and still warm out of the oven I served them with butter and honey which appealed to my sweet tooth.

Oozing with honey, they really did make a delicious mid-morning treat enjoyed under a woolen blanket while the rain battered on the windows.

Enjoy these lazybones buns under a blanket with a cup of tea

Find the recipe here. Enjoy x

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Breakfast at Brew, Wimbledon Village

Another great little antipodean cafe in London, Brew is located in Wimbledon Village, a hop skip and a jump from The Common where people take long strolls on Sundays between breakfast and a roast, wearing hunter wellies and walking dogs of all shapes and sizes. 

Brew's decor feels clean, with white walls and wooden tables, while strange antlers, vases of flowers, a selection of books and colourful rugs on the wall create a homely atmosphere.

It is busiest is at 11am on a Sunday, so be prepared to wait a little while for a table. But the front of the cafe has tables open to the elements, and if you ask nicely you can borrow warm blankets and furs to keep you cozy. 

As I walked in, families were enjoying a relaxed weekend get-together. A large vase of flowers adorned the table surrounded by a scattering of weekend newspapers and supplements. This gave Brew a lovely chilled vibe, even though it was busy, no one was rushed to finish their Sunday brunch.

Inside Brew, Wimbledon Village

A busy Sunday morning in Wimbledon Village

Scattered magazines and a homely bunch of flowers

We started with an oreo milkshake served in a milk bottle and a chai latte while we perused the extensive menu

So kitsch 

I decided on the Turkish Eggs - poached eggs, hung yoghurt and hot chilli butter with toasted pide (8.90), while my friend had Eggs Florentine (8.90).

Turkish eggs at Brew, Wimbledon

Brew's eggs Florentine

It was the first time I had come across Turkish Eggs - or Çılbır - and I was very excited to have found yet another great breakfast recipe. The thick hung natural yoghurt offset the spice from the chilli butter. It was a goey dish of creamy goodness with two poached eggs delicately sat on top - very satisfying to dunk pieces of oiled Turkish pide bread into. 

Brunch time at Brew

A weekend breakfast feast

21 High Street
Wimbledon, London
SW19 5DX

020 8947 4034

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

One for the weekend: Huevos Rancheros (Mexican Eggs)

This brunch of Mexican Eggs makes a spicy start to a lazy weekend, and also earns bonus points for blasting away the cobwebs and curing a hangover in an instant.

There are many variations of this recipe which is basically a Mexican version of baked eggs, which is one of my all-time favourite breakfasts. I spent a couple of weeks thinking about how I could experiment with spice and tomatoes to live up my usual recipe for Eggs En Croute.

Huevos Rancheros- Spanish for ranch eggs -pair perfectly with a refreshing homemade guacamole and a couple of cheesy quesadillas for mopping up the spicy sauce. This brunch recipe takes a little time so definitely try when you have a free weekend morning with nowhere to go (you can even make the spicy tomato sauce the night before if you like, just keep in the fridge and reheat).

Huevos Rancheros (Mexican Eggs) recipe

This recipe makes enough for one greedy person, but it is easy to double or quadruple the ingredients if need be.

Fry off half a finely chopped onion in a little olive oil, add a finely diced garlic clove, salt and pepper and then some chilli paste, or half a fresh red chilli. Keep stirring and once translucent add a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Taste and add half a tsp of sugar if too acidic.

While the tomatoes are simmering, whip up some guacamole by mashing together one ripe avocado with half the juice of one lime, and a couple of slices of fresh chilli. Add salt, pepper and some fresh coriander to taste. And you're done - just muster up the strength not to eat it there and then stood in the kitchen - it really is deliciously vibrant and so so so much tastier than the shop bought gloop you buy chilled in a plastic tub.

Vibrant Guacamole, the perfect partner to Mexican Eggs

Transfer the tomato sauce to a wide oven-proof dish, make two small wells and crack  in two eggs (tip- crack them one at a time into a ramekin first, this gives you more control over the egg and you are able to fish out any shell if need be.)

Place the oven-proof dish into a Bain-Marie and pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 150 degrees until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

While the eggs are in the oven, make up your cheesy quesadillas. You can play around with lots of flavours and include chilli and onion, but I like to keep mine plain because there's so much going on in the rest of the dish. Take one tortilla and cover half with grated cheese, fold in half and lightly oil the outside, fry in a griddle or frying pan until the outside lightly browns and cheese has melted. Cut into two or three slices.

By then your eggs should be ready, so take out of the oven and place on a heat proof tray or mat. Sprinkle any slices of leftover chilli, a grind of chilli salt and a few coriander leaves. Take to the table with the quesadillas and guacamole.

A breakfast feast 

Enjoy dipping the cheesy quesidillas in the dish of spicy tomato eggs and add a dollop of guacamole when your mouth needs to cool off.

¡Ay, caramba!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

A praise to jam - goodbye summer

Are there many delights better than jam? Sweet, sticky, ruby red jam spread over hot buttery croissants. Dark damson slathered over melting butter on toast. Or even a spot of rhubarb or blackcurrant baked into the depths of a sponge pudding.

I love jam, and there are always jars lined up in the fridge in various flavours, ready to be seized at a moments noticed for a speedy breakfast, or a sneaky midnight treat. But none of that watery, cheap nonsense, jam always has to be the best quality you can afford, or even better - homemade.

And as summer is finally drawing to a close, jam is the best way to conserve some of those brilliant flavours to brighten up a dreary winter’s day. And right the hedgerows are ripe with blackberries and the trees are heavy with apples - so get out there and go foraging for nature’s freebies.

Get them before the birds do!

Apple crumble anyone?

I have never made fruit jam before. I've made chili jam, which ended up with an unfortunate 'streaming eyes' moment when I rubbed my eyes hours later. But at least it tasted good! That was years ago, so I feel the need to experiment with molten sugar and fruit very soon.

But I have recently received a lovely jar of jam as a favour from the wedding of my beautiful friend Hollie to her very dapper husband Reid. Her mum made jars of strawberry jam to put on the table, which was a very personal touch to a very beautiful wedding.

Once home, depressed the festivities were over, I tucked into the jar to spread over a warm croissant for breakfast. The jam tasted like a summers day, sweet with lovely chunks of fruit - a very tasty jar of sunshine. Thank you very much Alison - you've got me in the mood to get preserving!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Breakfast at The Delaunay

Towards the end of the Strand, a couple of doors down from the Waldorf Astoria, and on the edge of Covent Garden and theatre land, sits the epitome of elegance, The Delaunay.

Sister to The Wolseley, it calls itself a grand European Café Restaurant. And it is indeed rather grand.

Arriving at The Delaunay a few minutes early for a breakfast meeting, I was shown to a seat while my table was being prepared. From this view, I took in the classic European surroundings; black and white marble flooring, oak paneling, dark green leather seats, all harked to a Viennese Café – especially the table of assorted pastries, the crowning glory being pretzels.

The Delaunay Grand Cafe

Viennoiserie anyone?

Meanwhile, silver trays glinted as perfectly dressed waiting staff rushed hot plates of food to tables where suited business men and women were starting their day. It is the kind of place where I question if my ever so slightly scruffy journalist day-wear was quite appropriate, but I didn't receive one strange glance. 

Classy surrounds and glittering service to match, there was no surly service or snobby attitudes here, with the staff being the right balance of attentive, even during the peak of the mid-week breakfast rush.

Silver pots of tea and coffee arrived, with a delicate tea strainer which had a self-contained rocking caddy to catch the drips, that confused me for a good couple of minutes – similar to this one, if you’re also confused by that awful description.

Silver tea set at The Delaunay

A Viennese Breakfast? Delaunay special

The Viennese Breakfast (£11.50) first caught my eye, offering smoked ham, salami, caraway infused Gouda, boiled egg and a pretzel. When I first tasted a pretzel, from a street vendor in New York, the disappointment was only upstaged by the awful tang of sea salt on my lips. But I gave it another go in Munich, and learnt that they are so much better in their country of origin. Austria, being the country next door, rather than thousands of miles away, I was tempted to give them another go. But in the end I went for a more traditional breakfast.

I ordered the eggs benedict (£7.50), while my host ordered the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon (£14.95). We also both ordered fresh orange juice.

Eggs Benedict at The Delaunay

I went for the small eggs benedict (one instead of two I presume, since the large was double the price). The egg was perfectly poached, while the hollandaise was creamy and not too sweet. Underneath the golden sauce, slices of ham perched on top of a soft English muffin – it was just as it should be.

Beautiful smoked salmon basket for scrambled eggs at The Delaunay

It happens too often, and when it does it’s upsetting, but yet again, I had serious food envy. The plate placed on the opposite side of the table for my colleague was magnificent. The smoked salmon was crafted into a delicate nest for the buttery eggs to snuggle into. It was very beautifully presented and I very nearly dived in.

The Delaunay reminded me that sometimes all you want is excellent, yet simple food, presented with style and a smile in a classy setting. And that is exactly what this gem provides.

55 Aldwych, London, WC2, WC2B 4BB
020 7499 8558

The takeaway counter at The Delaunay

TIP: It also has a takeaway counter next door, where you can “start the day with Viennoiserie, hot bacon sandwiches & homemade granola or bircher muesli for breakfast.”

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Mug of the Month - Emma Bridgewater's Year in the Country

Summer is nearly over, and there's a distinct chill in the air after a couple of sweltering hot months. So for those brave enough to wrap up in their jumpers, put on their wellies and make the most of the outdoors by camping this September, this is the mug you will want to take with you to warm you up on a brisk late summer morning.

Emma Bridgewater's a Year in the Country range has this gorgeously painted mug by Matthew Rice, showing a family camping adventure, making it my Mug of the Month for September.

Camping - don't forget the children!

Emma Bridgewater's Year in the Country 1/2 pint mug

It comes gorgeously presented in this little conservatory gift box with more lovely designs - I couldn't throw it away!

The end of summer is near - Year in the Country

I'm such a fan of Emma Bridgewater's designs, and this collaboration with Matthew is so fitting. Take a look at this metal tray, isn't it lovely?

Year in the Country - tea in the garden

Playful paintings by Matthew Rice

See the entire Year in the Country range on the Emma Bridgewater website here.