Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Breakfast at Milk Bar & Bistro, Barcelona

The scent of incense hung in the air and funky blues music droned gently in the background as I walked into Milk Bar & Bistro tucked away on a side street in the centre of Barcelona.

I love original cocktail bars in the evening which turn into boutique breakfast joints by the morning serving a ‘recovery brunch’ until the middle of the afternoon. And this trendy Milk Bar didn’t disappoint.

The bar takes centre stage with an array of brightly colour liquor bottles standing to attention. One wall was decorated with brightly patterned wallpaper, while every other wall surface was covered in quirky frames displaying prints ranging from an antique map of Spain to back and white vintage postcards. While taking in my surroundings, I spotted a faux stag's head on another wall by the bar. This chap was more teddy bear than road kill but added a hipster charm to the venue.

The menu ranges from a ‘sweethearts’ choice of pancakes and French toast, to classics including eggs Benedict and omelettes which come with oven home-style potatoes.

Reasonably priced for such a trendy place in the middle of town, I was stuck between the hamtastic omelette (€9.00) and the huevos rancheros (€7.95), but then I remembered I was in Spain and I could whip up an omelette any old day...

I settled back on the brown sofa which lined the outer walls with brightly colour scatter cushions for comfort and waiting for my fresh orange juice (€3.50). I’ve been told this place gets very busy on the weekends so get there early like I did and you'll get the place almost to yourself, with a couple of early birds dropping in for a strong coffee and a big breakfast.

My huevos rancheros arrived very quickly, and although it wasn’t the prettiest plate of food I’ve eaten (no amount of Instagram filters was going to improve the watery pool of the guacamole), it was very tasty. It had a nice heat of chilli without blasting my head off at that time in the morning, and while I did find the consistency of the guacamole very strange, it tasted good and the eggs were cooked to my liking. And the dish was topped off with a huge dollop of sour cream, and while it was a little early for crisps, the tortilla chips were handy to mop up the breakfasty goodness.

Milk Bar & Bistro,
Gignas 21, Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 680 922

Breakfast at Café Veranda, Hotel Arts, Barcelona

For the rest of the week I was consigned to the Hotel Arts on the seafront in Barcelona for a conference. It was such hard work being forced to stay in a five star hotel with matching five star food and where the beds are made of clouds. But most importantly the breakfast buffet was insane! Everything you could want for breakfast ... And more!

On the first day I had the sweetest, delicious Bircher muesli. The second I choose smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and my last morning I paid a visit to the pancake station. Yes, that's right pancake station. Oh happy days! I made have had enough space to fit in a cheeky churro or two as well. 

Instagram perfection.

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Celebration French toast

This indulgent French toast is a recipe you will want to whip out for a special occasion breakfast or brunch. My celebration French toast is fit for a birthday or anniversary, when you want to show someone you care through a heart-stopping amount of sugar which is oh-so worth it.

I turned 26 the other weekend and this was what I chose to make as a birthday breakfast for my friends.

I suppose it is technically a French toast sandwich - you layer two slices of eggy brioche either side of sweetened cream cheese and fruit. But ideally you could buy an unsliced loaf to cut in doorstep chunks and then make a pocket to fill with the creamy fruity filling. Sadly my M&S didn't have any unsliced loaves, but this sandwich idea works just as well, you just need to be a little more careful to keep it tidy - but a good blueberry compote drizzled over the top hides any imperfections.

Celebration French toast - a portion for one greedy person, or share between two with extra berries

Start with the blueberry compote - place two handfuls of blueberries in a saucepan with a little sugar and a splash of water. Prick some of the blueberries so they release their juice and heat on high. Keep an eye on it, it might spit. And after about five minutes when it has thickened, take off the heat.

Now the French toast - whisk up two eggs with a dollop of double cream and one tsp of ground cinnamon. Pour the mixture onto a plate and lay two slices of slightly stale bread (brioche is best for this sweet recipe) turning every now and again for 5-10 minutes to soak up the maximum amount of egg.

Heat a frying pan on high and melt a good knob of butter. When hot, place the two slices into the pan and turn down the heat slightly. Now, if you make French toast as much as I do, you'll notice brioche burns quicker than normal bread, so keep an eye on it. Once it is golden on one side (after around two minutes), flip and cook the other side.

Quickly mix two tbsp of cream cheese with two tsp of icing sugar in a bowl.

Remove the cooked brioche from the pan onto a plate and spread one slice with the sweetened cream cheese and dot over with raspberries. Sandwich together with the other slice and carefully return to the pan for 30 seconds to heat through.

Plate up and slice in half. Drizzle over the blueberry compote, a scattering of fruit and a dusting of icing sugar.

Serve with a bellini cocktail, and perhaps consider eating salad for the rest of the week.

Enjoy x

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Breakfast at Honey & Co, London

A stone’s throw away from Warren Street tube lies Honey & Co, a little gem which could have just flown in from the Middle East, happily ready to serve traditional dinners, lunch, and of course - breakfast.

With connections to chefs who have worked at Ottolenghi and Nopi, I had high hopes for this little Israeli cafĂ© and I’d heard really good things about its breakfasts.

The dainty cafĂ© is bright and airy, with gorgeous blue and white patterned tiles and the smell of spice and yeast hanging in the air. I took a seat at a tiny table – one of about eight – at opening time one mid-week morning, and while it was quiet with only a few other people ordering takeaway coffee I would imagine it would be rather a tight squeeze with a full house.

While small, it definitely has character; with a gorgeous window display of cakes, cereal and flowers, and inside one wall is adorned with a large bookcase full of jams, chutneys, spice blends and the cafĂ©’s very own cook book.

I waited for my friend and ordered a coffee and studied the Middle Eastern inspired breakfast menu.

My taste buds hadn't quite woken up to chili, olives and tomatoes, so I nibbled on an onion and feta pastry concoction (that I couldn’t pronounce never mind type) from the counter.

Once my friend arrived we ordered. I decided on the burnt potato and feta burekka with tahini and a hard boiled Legbar egg (6.00), while my friend order the sabiche which is aubergine, tahini and an a rather unusual looking egg (6.50).

The burekka was like a slightly spiced Cornish pasty filled with feta and potato and the tahini was a delight – if a little strange for breakfast. But the vibrant hard boiled egg made it just about acceptable for my first meal of the day.

It was really tasty, and very substantial, but my only problem is eating pastry that time in the morning didn’t do me much good and by the time I arrived in the office I needed a nap. I probably should have gone for something lighter and kept the baked goods for a brunch opportunity.

My friend’s aubergine – again not your conventional breakfast choice – was impressive. A sight for sleep-deprived eyes and I was told pleasantly spiced and aromatic.

I thought the prices were reasonable for a sit-in breakfast, but the cakes (around the 4.00 mark), were a little steep.


That said, with the likes of toasted fig, walnut and orange loaf with marmalade (4.5) on the menu as well as dreamy little pots of yogurt, fruit, homemade jam and Ashura cereal (5.5), I will definitely be heading back as they sound delicious, and also perhaps a bit more traditional for first thing in the morning. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Mug of the Month - remember

This year, 2014, marks 100 years since the start of the First World War, where over 16 million people on both sides of the conflict lost their lives and another 20 million wounded, in a mere four years.

Tomorrow is Remembrance Sunday. A date I've always taken seriously. On the eleventh hour on the eleventh day on the eleventh month, 1918 - Armistice Day – the terrible war finally came to an end, only to continue the blood shed 21 years later and in further conflicts after that.

Remember. Think. Try to understand those sacrifices- even though hardly any of us ever truly could. Give money where you can in support, wear your poppy with pride, but most importantly remember. That's why poppies represent my November Mug of the Month.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky.
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.,

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow.

In Flanders fields.

By Lieutenant Colonel John McRae

So if you can't spare a penny or a pound, do spend a minute and your thoughts to remember those who have lost their lives in all conflicts.

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

One for the weekend - spinach and smoked salmon omelette

A quick and easy weekend breakfast treat for you today - a spinach and smoked salmon omelette - which fits the bill for a speedy brunch for two at the weekend.

TIP: Smoked salmon keeps really well in the freezer. I buy the big packs whenever they're on offer and freeze portions in cling film. When making this omelette, take the salmon out of the freezer as you start wilting your spinach and it should be almost defrosted by the time you come to use it, if not 10 seconds in the microwave will do the job.

Spinach and smoked salmon omelette recipe
Makes one - double up and use a big pan for a sharing portion

Wilt a good few handfuls of spinach in a pan on a medium heat with a knob of butter or low fat frying liquid (I like Flora Cuisine) for a couple of minutes. While that wilts down to a fraction of its size whisk four eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper, then pour the mixture on top of the wilted spinach. Leave to cook for two minutes and start to loosen the edge of the omelette using a fish knife or spatula.

After another couple of minutes when the centre of the omelette is starting to set, place slices of smoked salmon down on one half of the omelette. Then lift the other side of the omelette and fold over onto the salmon.

Use the back of your spatula to press down for a few moments to ensure it stays folded. Then leave for another 30 seconds. Gently flip the omelette in order to brown the other side, trying not to loose salmon from the middle as you do so. Then slide carefully onto a plate and top with a dollop of creme fraiche, sour cream or cream cheese.

Mine turned out to be a little messy, with the light pink salmon peaking out of the side of the omelette. But since omelettes aren't any good for mass catering, you're hardly going to be cooking this for guests you want to impress. So for me, this breakfast is almost calling out to be eaten in bed on a damp, soggy autumn Sunday.

Like this? Try my Baked Eggs Royale, which is smoked salmon, spinach and an egg baked in the oven in a bath of cream, just delicious and ever so elegant.

Enjoy x