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Melbourne Eating: 5 great places that you should to go to for breakfast / brunch

There are many things to love about Melbourne, but one big plus point is the density of independent restaurants and cafés. People are passionate abut what they do, produce is high quality and flavourful, coffee is locally roasted, if not in the cafe or restaurant, at one nearby.  I didn’t meet one jobsworth nor did I at any point get a coffee that was as hot as the centre of the sun (hello London, you could work on that, although you are getting a lot better).

So, what was I to do? It was simple. If I was waking at 3am, I would need to embrace jet lag and have lots of breakfasts. One breakfast when WIDE AWAKE and jet lagged at 7am, and another at noon for lunch. I wanted to get under the skin of the Melbourne breakfast, and I did. Here is my list of the best places for breakfast (or brunch) from my trip, based on the three areas that I stayed in on my last visit.

Enjoy and if you have any that I have missed that you think are essentials (I am sure there are more than a few), please leave details for other readers in the comments below (and for me, as I will be returning soon). Thanks![Read more]

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Duck Confit Hash for Sunday Breakfast [Recipe]

Confit duck hash for Sunday breakfast

Confit duck hash for Sunday breakfast

Two favourite things, no three. Lazy Sunday mornings with a big pot of coffee, the Sunday paper and an indulgent breakfast, trips to Paris and the duck confit that I bring home. Every time I go to Paris, I visit G Detou and buy several things, two of which are a tin of duck confit from Les Landes and a tin of pork sausages, confit in goose fat.

Lets start with the duck confit. An essential cupboard staple, I save mine for evenings where I am tired and in need of comfort. I open the tin, prise out a leg, and crisp it in the oven until the duck, tender under its canopy of bronze crisp skin is ready to be devoured. The skin too of course, it is the very best bit. Perfect with buttered greens and crisp potatoes, on Friday I had it with an intensely gratifying mash, where potatoes tenderly mixed with slow cooked leeks and some truffle mustard (from Maille, available on tap at the Maille shop in London, and it is very, very good). That leaves one leg for Sunday morning breakfast / brunch, and lots of fat to cook it all in. I cook the second leg at the same time as the first and keep it, patiently, trying not to feast on the skin, because the skin is an important part of my Duck Confit Hash. [Read more]

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Food Memories & a Recipe for Black Sticky Rice with Banana & Coconut Cream

Black Sticky Rice with Banana, Coconut & Flaxseed

Black Sticky Rice with Banana, Coconut & Flaxseed

My life is peppered with food memories, I suspect most of our lives are. From crisp potatoes, boiled, peeled and then deep fried before being eaten with a sprinkle of salt, that I used to love when I was a child.

Marietta biscuits with butter, two biscuits pressed together so that the butter would squirt out of the holes like hair. Homemade fudge, buttery rich. I always tried to make it but could never work it out (I didn’t know about thermometers then). Stewed rhubarb and stewed apples, big bowls full, supplied by fruit from the orchard nearby.

Everything good or significant that I have eaten, I can remember. For my confirmation lunch, I remember the vegetable soup, and my shock as I watched my grandfather add white pepper to it. My first slice of pizza in Rome when I was 19, with potatoes and taleggio, I remember how bright it was outside the big window as I sat down and ate it. I remember how delicious it was, every last bite. I remember my first proper ice cream, and my childhood ice cream treat sliced and served with wafers.

I gather these memories all the time. They are scattered all over the world now and I fantasise about jetting back to Beijing for peking duck and egg yolk dim sum, to Hong Kong for delicate, gorgeous xiao long bao, to Bangkok for crisp divine chicken wings and to Seville for some jamon iberico.

Lots are restaurant based and one recent one that resurfaced was a black rice breakfast dish from Nopi (Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurant). I craved it, and even more so as I worked on my Thai coconut sticky rice and mango dish. I couldn’t get it out of my head. So, off I went to Chinatown, and purchased a bag of black sticky rice for £2. I was set.

This is another terrific breakfast dish, like porridge but with more texture, reams of flavour, creamy and flaxseed provides a lovely texture contrast, as well as being absurdly good for you.

I can’t stop eating it. It felt only right to share.

Enjoy!

Recipe: Black Sticky Rice with Banana, Coconut &  Flaxseed
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Recipe: Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango

This dessert was one of the best things that I ate in Thailand. Not the most complex by any means, or in any way challenging. For comfort, straight forward deliciousness and a dish that makes you feel brighter about life as you leave an empty plate behind, look no further.

I ate it many times in Thailand. I couldn’t resist it. However, I usually had to order it holding my nose with a lemon sucking face while trying not not barf, for it was almost always served from stalls that sold its vicious smelly neighbour durian.

DURIAN. Does anything smell more foul? Yes, rotten meat, cadavers and sewers but durian smells of all three. It is like a demon that has digested them and is burping it for your displeasure.

Walking down the streets of Bangkok admiring beautiful colours, delicious smelling street food, watching passing monks gilded in orange robes, I would suddenly feel squeamish and sure enough shortly after I would see a durian stand. Spiky green fruit, bloated and proud. If they were a cartoon character they would have an ill fitting suit with buttons popping from their shirts.

Now, I know you will say – BUT THE TASTE! And yes, I hear the taste is amazing, but I have a fierce sense of smell and even the mango sitting nearby has a lingering taste of durian. So I could not do it. Next time, I will force myself. With a clothes peg on my nose and a doggy bag.

I have gone off track. Back to sublime mango. Cheerful, bright and sweet. Coconut sticky rice is sold as a dessert in Thailand but for me, it makes a sublime breakfast. This really is best if you can soak the sticky rice overnight but don’t worry if not, it is still worth making it. Get a rich ripe mango dripping with syrupy sticky sweetness. Alphonso mangoes are in season, and are in the shops in Tooting now, that is what I am using.

Enjoy!

Note on the recipe: all ingredients are available in Thai shops, Chinatown in London (specifically New Loon Moon which also sells fresh young coconuts and every Thai ingredient I have ever needed for Thai cooking incl recent recipes). I also spied Thai sticky rice and palm sugar in my local Waitrose. It is best to make this when you are going to eat it as the rice is best just after it is cooked. It can soak up the coconut milk and get soggy over time too.

RECIPE: Thai Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango
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Japan: The Anatomy of a Kyoto Breakfast

Japanese breakfast at Touzan in Kyoto

Japanese breakfast at Touzan in Kyoto

When I first came to Japan 6 years ago, I remember nervously spying the hotel buffet, wondering how on earth I could eat fish and miso soup for breakfast. Even rice at breakfast time seemed alien. Now I am thinking, maybe this should become my breakfast routine? It is so delicious, healthy and flavourful and leaves you full of chutzpah to get on with your day.

My first three days in Kyoto were marked by wonderful breakfasts (among other things). The Hyatt Regency, where I stayed, has a wonderful restaurant Touzan, that serves a gorgeous local breakfast, very much Japanese, but with local flavours. I was hooked. When I first dipped that semi dried barracuda into the seasoned egg, I sighed, then smiled. It was dreamy.

Japanese breakfast at Touzan, Kyoto

Japanese breakfast at Touzan, Kyoto

Japanese breakfasts, when you first have them, are overwhelming, in content and size. An enormous tray of food arrives with lots of fish, some fresh, some preserved, some tiny, a bowl of rice, pickles, tofu, tea, more fish, more pickles and lots of tea.

Japanese food is fiercely seasonal and also tied to its geography, so while there are common themes, there are variations wherever you go. The Touzan breakfast is one of the best breakfasts that I have had to date and it is all about Kyoto.

THE TOUZAN JAPANESE BREAKFAST

Home made soy milk – so rich, fresh and creamy

Fresh tofu – Kyoto is renowned for the quality of its tofu, as it has very soft water (see also: green tea and sake) with seasoning including small fry fish and sansho pepper, detailed below.

Fresh tofu at Touzan, Kyoto

Fresh tofu at Touzan, Kyoto

Fresh semi dried barracuda with a seasoned egg – this was caught near Kyoto, and is dried for two hours which reduces the water content in such a way that the fish dries a little but stays quite fresh, and the fish becomes a little sweeter. Dipped in the seasoned egg, which was rich and gorgeous (I could swim in it), this was the highlight of the meal along with the tofu.

Fresh semi dried barracuda with seasoned egg

Fresh semi dried barracuda with seasoned egg

Kyoto pickles – Kyoto is famous for its pickles, and deservedly so. Aubergine (which in this case was pickled with shiso which changed the colour), cucumber, radish and gobo (burdock?). Really beautifully done and provides a lovely piquancy while cleansing the palate in between intense bites of the other dishes.

Small fry, sansho, pickles

Small fry, sansho, pickles

Small fry, rice and sansho pepper – I think baby sardines, they translate roughly as small fry. Either way, tiny delicious fish used to garnish your rice and your tofu, peppered, literally, with sansho.

Nishin, aubergine, beans

Nishin, aubergine, beans

Nishin (herring) and aubergine – the herring is slightly sweet due to the way it has been marinated and cooked. Herring is intrinsic to Kyoto food and is also served with soba, among other things.

Miso Soup with a beautifully soft and fragrant sesame tofu & yuzu. A bowl of rice. Lots of tea.

Gorgeous. I miss it already.

Touzan is a restaurant at the Hyatt Regency in Kyoto, where I stayed as a guest.

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Recipe: Chef Baka’s Banana Fritter Recipe (from Palm Island)

Chef Baka's Banana Fritters

Chef Baka’s Banana Fritters

Every morning on Palm Island, I would ask what the local breakfast was, and almost always order it. I love Caribbean breakfasts.

On my first morning, the local breakfast was banana fritters. Well, yes please. The bananas here are fantastic, rich and sweet, almost like they have been soaked in a rich banana syrup. I made banana fritters in school at Home Economics and was quite taken with them. These, however, were different.

My school banana fritters were slices of banana, fried in batter. Just that and for a 13 year old Irish cailín a revelation. These Caribbean banana fritters are more of an intense banana American pancake with some gentle spicing. Fluffy, light and like a morning banana tickle. Except that sounds quite rude. It isn’t!

Like banana bread, they are made with bananas just on the right side of brown – speckled skin with some yellow bits – mashed until soft (do you remember banana sandwiches?! I used to love them) and then added to the fritter mixture. Perfect for bananas that have gone too far to eat. Frugal & a wee bit healthy too.

I loved those banana fritters and I ordered them regularly, so I asked Chef Baka for the recipe. He went one better and showed me how to make them. He does weekly cooking demos on Palm Island so he did this one for me.

Cooking Banana Fritters with Chef Baka

Cooking Banana Fritters with Chef Baka

So, here it is. Enjoy! Do let me know how you like it.

Note on the recipe: the recipe is in American cups which I have converted to mls / g. I have included both. Our bananas are not as sweet as the ones here, so it may be wise to add the sugar if not completely ripe, or a drizzle of maple syrup.

Enjoy!

RECIPE: Chef Baka’s Banana Fritters

Ingredients

3 big ripe bananas, mashed
1 & 2/3 cups / 250g flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg (more if you like it – I do!)
1 tsp Cinnamon
2/3 cup / 160ml milk
1 egg
2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
Oil or butter (for frying)

Method

Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar in a bowl.
Beat egg well, then combine mashed banana and milk.
Add dry ingredients and stir with a fork until the batter is smooth.
Heat a frying pan to medium-hot and add enough oil to coat the flat area.
Scoop a tablespoon of the batter onto the pan when the oil is heated to medium hot.
Fry on one side until small bubbles start to come through the batter, you will know then that that side is done.
Flip over and flatten the batter slightly.
Fry for a couple of minutes until medium brown.
Place cooked fritters on a few layers of paper towels to absorb excess oil. Best served warm but cooled is good, too.

Further info on Palm Island, and on Tropical Sky’s package to Palm Island.

rhubarb-rose-porridge
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Recipe: Rhubarb, Rose and Pistachio Porridge

Rhubarb, Rose and Pistachio Porridge

Rhubarb, Rose and Pistachio Porridge

I had the weirdest day yesterday. In the middle of Balham, in broad daylight, a random stranger kicked me up the arse.

I KNOW.

I was shocked too.

He kicked me hard too. Very aggressive and actually quite scary, he thought I had hit my shopping trolley off his car, started roaring at me. I explained that I hadn’t, that I had merely hit the kerb. He roared “HANG ON! WHERE ARE YOU FROM?!” and was suddenly further incensed.

At this point it was obvious that he was out of control and I said that I would call the police if he didn’t stop. So he went for me.

I am so thankful that someone intervened. It is all in the hands of the police now but WHAT A WEIRD DAY.

I am tired and sore and in need of nourishment. I am also startled. If it weren’t so in line with a Fr Ted episode (kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse), it might not be quite so bizarre. As awful as it was, the constant reminder of Fr Ted brings a chuckle. How can it not?

So I made this.

January is joyless in many regards. Grey, moody and lacking lustre. But Nature comes to our rescue via some clever Yorkshire Victorian farmers, who decided that they would force rhubarb. Force rhubarb to do what? Well grow in the dark under large terracotta forcing urns  to be harvested by candle light. The lack of light forces the terracotta to grow long, lean and bright pink. Sweeter than normal rhubarb and so very tender. It is divine.

Rhubarb loves rose, rose loves pistachio, pistachio loves rhubarb too. The three together, and in my porridge mean everything is right with the world again.

Notes on the recipe: if you are planning this, soak the porridge in the milk overnight, it makes a difference. I prefer rose extract to rose water as it is punchier, if using rose water, use a tablespoon and adjust to taste. I use a lot of milk as I find these steel cut oats just drink it and I like my porridge to be soft and a little runny. I subscribe to the school that more-is-more when things are delicious so there is a lot of rhubarb and pistachio here. For extra luxury, add a little cream.

Update: if using normal rhubarb, use more honey as it is a lot more sour. It will still be lovely though.

Recipe: Rhubarb, Rose & Pistachio Porridge

Feeds: one hungry person / two normal not so hungry people

Ingredients

50g steel cut oats (I used Flahavan’s)
300ml full fat milk
150g rhubarb, cut into inch pieces – forced rhubarb if you can get it
25g pistachios, shelled and chopped
3 drops or so of rose extract – to taste (or 1 tbsp rosewater)
2 tbsp honey – to taste

Method

Poach half of the rhubarb with 1 tbsp of the honey in just enough water to cover it. It will take only a few minutes. Take off the heat when soft, and before it surrenders and collapses.

Put the oats, milk, rosewater, the rest of the rhubarb and the other tbsp of honey in a pot over a low heat and allow to cook gently for about 10 minutes until the oats are tender and the rhubarb soft. Adjust the honey and rose to taste.

Serve immediately with poached rhubarb and pistachios on top. The poaching water is gorgeous – fragrant, delicious and bright pink, so I add some of this too.

Enjoy!

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Chanterelles on Toast

chanterelles on toast

I love a decadent Sunday morning, that’s no secret. Lazy & grazy with big pot of coffee, the Sunday paper and a gorgeous brunch. Today I had lots of chanterelles to play with, courtesy of my lovely Italian grocer in king’s Cross. He has a friend who forages for them and kept some aside for me so that I could indulge this weekend.

This is really quick, easy and super tasty. For one person, all you need is a couple of slices of good bread, toasted. Serve atop a couple of handfuls of golden chanterelles, fried in a knob of butter for a few minutes until cooked, add a tablespoon of cream and a couple of tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley. Yum!

chanterelles on toast

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Greek Yoghurt with rhubarb, mango and pomegranate

I wondered if this warranted a blog post, it hardly requires a recipe, but, it is pretty and a delicious and healthy start to the day. All part of a new breakfast regime I am trying to implement!

I am on a rhubarb kick, you may have noticed, so I stewed a batch of rhubarb by chopping the rhubarb into inch pieces and stewing with a little sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water for 15 minutes or so until it is like a compote. It keeps in the fridge for a few days so doesn’t required this level of work in the mornings and makes it a speedy breakfast. To complement I pureed a fresh mango and stirred a couple of tablespoons of each into greek yoghurt (the real deal, no cows milk, just sheep and goats) and then sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. Delish.