Sunday, 20 December 2015

Breakfast at Balthazar, London

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

Don't you just want to dive into this plate of waffles? Well, head to this French brasserie in Covent Garden and you can treat yourself to this indulgent plate of hazelnut waffles with berries and syrup.

Balthazar hopped across the pond from New York City in 2013 to much praise. And those of you who follow me on Instagram might have spotted that I visited the NYC branch at the beginning of this year and enjoyed those very same waffles, as well as Balthazar's delicious bread and pastry basket which is baked in its very own boulangerie next door.

The London edition, from the outside-in, feels like an exact replica of Balthazar in NYC, with its low lighting, high ceilings and buzzing atmosphere. And it did look oh-so pretty with is traditional, festive garlands strewn across the dining hall.

As it was my mother's birthday (yes, it has been a year since we went on the British Pullman for her 60th!), we ordered a bellini and a mimosa, and sitting on red leather seats at our iron-legged table, underneath a giant antique misted mirror, we gazed longingly at the brunch menu,

Food is slightly overpriced for what it is, but I think you have to strategically order - for instance, the Eggs Royale (£15.00) were like any hallandaise-slathered eggs you can get all over London, but the Scrambled Eggs & Cornish Crab (£11.50) with its sourdough bed and pot of creme fraiche was delicious and unusual.

But Balthazar is all down to the atmosphere and the people watching and full to the brim on a busy Saturday morning, there was plenty of that. While identical to NYC, the Balthazar setting instantly transports you to Paris, with white-aproned waiters bustling around the restaurant carrying silver trays lined heavy food from breakfast eggs to moules frites, onion soup and its famed duck shepherd's pie.

Of course, we had to order dessert and we decided to share the Hazelnut Waffles (£8.50), washed down with a cup of coffee. Decadent and delicately flavoured, they were the best part of the brunch. Although my mum probably liked the plate of birthday petits fours which arrived on the linen topped tablecloth, especially for her.

4-6 Russell Street, London, WC2B 5HZ

+44 (0)20 3301 1155

After brunch, walk off those waffles and take a bit of time to soak in the festivities (and the crowds) at Covent Garden.

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

Friday, 18 December 2015

Corn & courgette fritters with halloumi, chorizo and roasted tomatoes

Be warned - there's a lot going on in this dish, multiple hobs and something in the oven. Hopefully, you'll have a slightly less sensitive fire alarm which got set off by the fat from the chorizo, which left me flapping a tea towel in an attempt to shut it up while keeping the fritters warm, griddling the halloumi and taking the tomaotes out of the oven. This led to me overcooking the poached eggs, and a solid yolk is a disaster in my book.

But other than that, this dish is fabulous and the flavours all really work well together, from the sweetly caramalised tomatoes and the rich, spicy chorizo, with the satisfying stodge of the halloumi and fritters. It is just full of fresh ingredients to perk you up on a winter's day.


Recipe - serves two 

Grate a courgette and squeeze out the excess water, season with salt and place over a bowl in a sieve and leave for an hour to get rid of any remaining water. 

While waiting for the courgette to drain, place cherry tomatoes on the vine into an oven-proof dish and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Preheat the over to 150 degrees celsius and let the tomatoes cook slowly for sixty minutes to make them sweet and luscious. 

After an hour pop the courgette into a bowl and stir through a small can of sweetcorn and season (here you could add diced feta, but I thought that was a tad overboard with the halloumi also).

Add around 3-5 tablespoons of flour, or enough to bring the mixture together into a thick consistency.

Put water in a saucepan to boil. Then fry patties of the courgette and corn fritters in a little olive oil over a medium heat for a couple of minutes on either side. Keep them warm in kitchen towel.

In a second pan fry circles of chorizo, and in a griddle pan fry slices of halloumi (I told you there is a lot going on). When everything is almost cooked, start to poach your eggs in the simmering saucepan of water for a couple of minutes until the yolk is runny.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven and plate up.

Serve with strong coffee.


Enjoy x

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Mug of the Month: The Snowman's Porridge

I couldn't resist featuring this winter breakfast set for December's Mug of the Month. This Snowman and the Snowdog's gift set includes porridge oats, a bowl, spoon, mug and what looks like an egg cosy! 

Super cute Christmas gift for any little ones in the family. 

Spotted in Debenhams. 

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Breakfast in Amsterdam

Christmas – a time for joy, peace and goodwill to all men.

Or more likely – bracing yourself for the high-street scrum in the bitter cold, shoving supermarket shoppers out of the way to grab the last pack of prepared pigs in blankets, and mornings spent clutching onto your coffee for dear life while you ask yourself why that fifth glass of mulled wine was a good idea. That is a Londoner's Christmas reality. The peace tends to occur once you return to whichever city your family now resides to enjoy the day with your nearest and dearest. Actually, the peace never occurs.

So with the hustle and bustle which comes with the month of December, a girly European weekend away was exactly what I needed before the madness descended.

The girls and I choose Amsterdam. And of course, it involved a lot of food (and a fair few glasses of wine too, I might add). And when it comes to breakfast, the Dutch really know how to sort out a hangover with pancakes and breads aplenty.

Saturday: De Vier Pilaren Pancake Restaurant, Stadhouderskade 11

This was proof to my two friends that I have a highly-tuned radar when it comes to hunting out breakfast. On our first morning in Amsterdam, we woke up in our cosy Air BnB, hungry and craving culture... but mostly hungry. On our way to the Van Gogh Museum, I spotted a rather Bavarian-looking building by the side of the river some distance away and I insisted we took a detour to investigate. On closer inspection we were honestly jumping up and down to discover it was a cafe/bar dedicated to all things pancakes.

We sat in a wooden booth with lights on the end which reminded me of an old-fashioned train carriage, while slightly creepy-looking wooden figureheads, that seemed as if they belonged at the bow of a ship, looked down at us. All-in-all it was perfectly quaint and we ordered coffees to warm up our hands and watched the world go by.

I chose the "traditional Dutch treat" of proffertjes – little, fluffy, pancake domes made from buckwheat – while my friends chose crepes, one sweet, one savoury.

The crepes arrived and were double the size of our heads. My friend, Becci chose to have hers with lemon curd which sat neatly, in a little pot in the centre, while my other friend Sarah's pizza-pancake arrived with crisp bacon and melted cheese.

I decided on a topping of banana and Nutella for my 10 little doughy proffertjes, which were thick, fluffy and doused with icing sugar. Their texture was lighter than an American-style pancake, and its bite-sized pieces were puffed up into domes. Ten little pieces of heaven – I definitely chose well for my first meal in the 'Dam.

It's also worth noting that my savoury taste buds were rather jealous of Sarah's pizza-pancake, so I ordered the same at a different spot later on for lunch, washed down with my first Heineken.

Sunday: De Bakkerswinkel, Warmoesstraat 69

This is a cutesy café chain in the Netherlands, with three branches in Amsterdam (we visited the one in the Centre).

With exposed brickwork, high ceilings and industrial pipe features, De Bakkerswinkel is a mixture of hipster and kitsch, but I like to think it is 80% the latter – its whimsical menu swayed it for me. Talking of, the choice of food was heavily bread and cake based and a typical, young, Dutch woman soon came over to take our order.

I was very intrigued by the Dutch Breakfast of rusk, dark rye bread, gingerbread, sourdough bread, butter & jam, chocolate sprinkles and cheese. The waitress told me the sweet sprinkles were known as hagelslag and are similar to those put on a cake. You can either have chocolate or what we would call 'hundreds and thousands', which Becci reminded me is often called fairy bread over here. So the Dutch spread their bread with butter and then cover with sprinkles. That's quite a jovial way to start the day, if you ask me.

Well, when in Amsterdam…

The best bit of this breakfast was not the sprinkles, but the rye bread and the gingerbread – both beautifully rich and satisfying in their own way. But I was also super impressed by the selection of preserves, including lemon curd and passionfruit, as well as pineapple and basil. Delicious.

Yet again, my food envy got the better of me. On the cold, damp November morning that it was, I would have appreciated a hot breakfast, or at least the ability to toast the bread like in Clapham's Bread Etc. Sarah's choice of French Toast almost put her into a food coma, but it was perfectly cooked with a portion of the crispiest bacon this side of the USA.

Top three Amsterdam highlights

Supperclub – weird and wonderful, and you eat in a bed. But one of the best 'dinner and a show''-type experiences I've ever been to.

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The delights of the Spuistraat – a street with an abundance of authentic bars and restaurants. We settled down with a couple of bottles of wine and went on for steak, but it is also home to the highly acclaimed Kantjil & De Tijger (which we didn't get around to visiting).

Amsterdam Light Festival – a complete surprise on our river cruise which we only really went on to escape a torrential downpour, but if you're in the 'Dam before 17 January 2016, you'll get to experience this winter festival on the river, where artists' light sculptures line the rivers. Go at the sunset to get the best view of the lights.

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

<3 Amsterdam <3