Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Heart shaped breakfast bowls

While I like most of my plates and crockery to be simple and classic, in the morning I'm open to a bit of whimsical nonsense.  

I love hearts - as you may have spotted from my favourite Emma Bridgewater mug and bowl set which often appears on this blog. And when I received these gorgeous minty heart bowls as a gift a couple of months back, they definitely fitted in with my love of breakfast.

This set of minty nesting bowls (also available in sunset colours) are £15 from Oliver Bonas.

At first I thought they were oddly large ramekins, but I soon realised they are just perfect for serving breakfast cereal, yogurt and fruit in individual bowls. Perhaps served next to a side of heart shaped raspberry buttermilk pancakes?

Breakfast in bed anyone?

These Oliver Bonas minty heart bowls are perfect for breakfast

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Mug of the Month: Lebanese coffee cups

It's been over six weeks since I flew back from Beirut, and I'm seriously missing the food. So I thought I would try and cheer up my post-holiday blues by dedicating my Mug of the Month to Lebanese coffee.

Yes, they're coffee cups, not mugs. But Mug of the Month is more about the sentiment of what you drink in the morning, so let's just roll with it, shall we?

Lebanese coffee is drunk in these tiny decorative espresso cups first thing in the morning - before breakfast - with Lebanese biscuits, which is a pretty good way to start your day if you ask me.

The coffee which was kindly made for me is made in a special coffee pan straight on the stove with a little water, sugar and on occasion cardamom - which, for me, is what makes this coffee taste so good. What is poured into the delicate little cups is a dark caramel-looking liquid which looks almost like molten hot chocolate.

Sadly I can't drink too much of this aromatic drink as the caffeine will keep me up all night, but a small espresso-sized sip out of these delightful Lebanese coffee cups is just too good to resist.

Want to learn a little more about breakfast in Lebanon? Read my Breakfast in Beirut blog post here, featuring traditional breakfast of ful medames and falafel, as well as dreamy knafeh - the indulgent breakfast treat.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Breakfast rice pudding

There's nothing more I enjoy doing on a weekend morning than taking a couple of food magazines and a steaming mug of tea back into bed for a lazy inspirational hour under my duvet.

But as a self-confessed foodie and magazine journalist the mags began to take over my little London flat. I used to look at the hundreds of food magazines stacked high in the living room and littering my bedroom floor wondering how I would actually make it to my bed. So a year ago I decided to put a stop to the madness and have a clear out. While it pained me to throw out my back issues of Delicious, Olive and Jamie Magazine, I felt so much better when I was one step closer to a minimalist lifestyle (ha!).

But before I tossed piles of magazines into the recycling, I spent a weekend flicking through and tearing out recipes that caught my eye and pasting them into a scrapbook for future use. I do this every couple of months, and it was on a recent cull that I spotted this new breakfast recipe in Jamie Magazine - breakfast rice pudding. Of course I had to give it a go...

After a quick Google you can see breakfast rice pudding on a multitude of health food blogs. Many praise it because there is no added fat and brown rice is considered a wholegrain - extra health points if you use almond milk like I did!

Jamie Oliver's make-ahead breakfast rice pudding - serves six

  • 250g mixed rice (brown, wild, red)
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 600ml almond milk
  • 1 banana roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp manuka honey
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 pears

  1. Cook the rice according to packet instructions, adding the cardomom pods and cinnamon stick to the water as it cooks. Allow the rice to cool completely, then remove and discard the cardomom and cinnamon.
  2. Pop half the rice in a food processor along with the almond milk, banana and honey, then blitz everything until smooth.
  3. Transfer to a large dish, stir in the remaining cook rice and orange zest, and grate in the pears.
  4. Mix together and cover. Chill in the fridge. 

Similarly to when you're trying to get the right consistency with porridge or overnight oats, I think my first attempt at breakfast rice pudding came out a little too thin, but it still worked well as a breakfast dish topped with fruit, seeds and nuts.

My verdict? It definitely still has the taste and texture of rice which takes a little getting used to, and I'm not completely sure I'm convinced. Maybe next time I'll food process the entire batch so it doesn't feel quite like rice.

Like overnight oats, you can jazz up the flavour combinations any way you like. The only downside is that it is no where near as simple to make - overnight oats you stir all the ingredients in a bowl and bung in the fridge, breakfast rice you have to cook the rice and then pop into a food processor - a lot of effort during the week. That said, this recipe is a really good way to use up any leftover rice from dinner, and anyone who manages to make exactly the right amount of rice every time they cook a curry is a magician or a liar.

I fancy trying out mango and coconut flavours and give Thai sticky rice pudding a go next time - my traveller friends tell me this is often eaten for breakfast in Thailand.

Enjoy x

Friday, 3 July 2015

Breakfast in Beirut

Earlier this summer, I had the chance to visit Beirut. Being my first trip to the Middle East, I was desperate to taste my way around Lebanon, and of course investigate the breakfasts.

I love Lebanese food, so I knew I was in for a treat and my Middle Eastern adventure was full of the strong flavours of tabbouleh, olives and baklavas. That said, I had absolutely no clue what Lebanese people ate first thing in the morning, and I was quite surprised at how different breakfast is in Beirut - much more flavoursome than our full English.

In this post, I'm going to run through three Lebanese breakfasts I was lucky enough to try.

1. Ful medames and falafel: the traditional Lebanese breakfast

Egyptian in its heritage, ful is a Middle Eastern dish of cooked fava beans and chickpeas, served with vegetable oil, garlic, onion and lemon. It is considered a staple working man’s breakfast – you’re bacon and eggs if you will – and is eaten in the morning with tea across many Middle Eastern countries.

Traditionally served with flatbreads, pickled vegetables, mint and raw onion which is soaked in ice water to take the edge off. It takes the Western palate by surprise first thing in the morning. The soupy consistency of the bitter beans offset by the sharpness of lemon and undertones of garlic was unexpected, but the more I ate the more accustomed to the unusual flavours I became. I also love how nearly every Lebanese meal comes with a mezze of dishes which you share with your companions, proving how social, friendly and welcoming the culture is.

The Beirut street-side cafe we visited called Makhlouf also happened to be famous for its falafel, which was by far the best falafel I have ever tasted, but I have been told ful doesn't always come with these deep fried chickpea balls - which is a huge shame if you ask me.

2. Za'atar man'ouche: Lebanese breakfast pizza

Za'atar man'ouche is more of a grab-and-go breakfast which perfectly showcases the best of Lebanese bakeries with its warm blistered flatbread, gently charred and deliciously chewy.

This amazing bread is then coated in mixture of olive oil and za'atar – a Middle Eastern spice blend of sesame seeds and sumac and depending on the recipe often includes thyme, cumin or coriander. The spice blend is warm, comforting and powerful and the Lebanese describe it using an Arabic word which doesn't directly translate, but I was told za'atar helps to motivate your taste buds in the morning if you're a person who struggles to eat first thing. I happily came back to the UK with a mason jar full to the brim.

This is eaten either at home or picked up from one of the many bakeries around Beirut on the way to work, like us Westerners might grab a croissant. A handful of Lebanese still take their own dough and za'atar blends to the bakery and for a small charge use their industrial ovens.

It is then torn off into bite sized chunks and eaten with fresh garnishes of tomato, cucumber, mint and olives - yes olives for breakfast, finally a country where I can happily eat them morning, noon and night!

Alongside my za'atar man'ouche I also tried man'ouché b jibné which is the same tasty bread covered with cheese. You can also eat it with ground meat but then you are venturing into lunch or dinner territory, with these pizzas called laham bi ajeen, which incidentally I did try one evening. Laham bi ajeen is the thinnest crusted pizza loaded with strong lamb meat and spicy red peppers.  

3. Knafeh: the indulgent breakfast treat

Knafeh is a breakfast I liken to a stack of pancakes covered in maple syrup eaten on a special weekend morning – so in other words I think of knafeh as a treat that if eaten every day would probably eventually lead to a heart attack.

Knafeh is baked on a large round platter and looks like a golden cake and when cut up into portions its gooey centre is revealed. But it is not cream or custard as you might think, but cheese. To make the savoury/sweet conundrum even more confusing, the knafeh is covered in orange blossom syrup and then placed between a sesame seed bun.

I was on my way up to the mountain village of Harissa to visit Our Lady of Lebanon, so my knafeh was wrapped up and I curiously ate it on the Téléphérique cable car which took me up the mountain, as I soaked up the beautiful sights of Beirut and neighbouring Jounieh.

As expected the knafeh was rich, indulgent and savoury with a hit of sweetness from the sticky syrup. It was very heavy, and afterwards left me with the same feeling after devouring a stack of pancakes - an urge to either have a recovery snooze or burn off the calories with a long run.

I discovered a fantastic Lebanese-American blog recently called Rose Water & Orange Blossoms and it has a recipe for knafeh I might have to try one day.

A few more non-breakfast food photos

Beautiful Beirut - I can't wait to return...

Deserted beach: carrots with lemon and a dish of nuts always accompanies drinks

Fresh from the bakery: Fatyer sabanekh a miniature spinach filled pastry

Miniature za'atar man'ouche cooked traditionally at a wedding reception
I wish I could shop here every day - so fresh

The view from Harrisa

One night we indulged in baklavas from Sea Sweet and fruits called kirini 

A selection of Arabic ice creams which is a mixture of the creamiest ice cream and sorbet - make sure you try the rose and pistachio. 

In my tabbouleh-happy-place

Keep reading for more Lebanese inspired breakfasts, including a porridge as well as a lamb mince dish which is stirred through scrambled eggs.