I never did love ketchup. I know everyone does. It is said to be the perfect combination of sweet, sour, salty and savoury, and tomatoes are one of my favourite ingredients, but I just find ketchup to be wanting, and something that is used to blanket other flavours not actually add to the dish. The flavour profile feels a bit two dimensional and dull to me, so I don’t have it in my pantry. Not out of snobbery, I love proper Asian instant noodles and all sorts of other things. I love good eating, and that comes in many forms, I am completely open when it comes to this.
Brunch! Boiled Eggs and Tabasco butter soldiers; Feta, Corn & Tabasco Cakes; Tabasco Crab Devilled Eggs; Louisiana Crab Cakes with Poached Eggs & Tabasco Hollandaise
Brunch is my thing. I have brunch everyday when I am at home. I am a sleepy morning creature and my body is not ready for anything except coffee for the first few hours. I have always been like this. My body likes evenings and night time, and while early morning is beautiful and, increasingly, I do wish I was a morning person, it is not when I am at my best.
I am great at brunch though. I love it. My body is awake and hungry and eager to eat. Often eggs. Almost always with some chilli. I love a brunch dish that packs some heat (as you will have seen regularly on my instagram). Eggs never cease to amaze me with the amount you can do with them. Fried, poached, boiled, gooey, oozy, spread on toast soldiers. Eggs are brilliant when you force fat into them, as you do when you make hollandaise or mayonnaise. Eggs also love Tabasco, so when Tabasco asked me to come up some recipes and host a brunch for my friends to showcase them, it had to be an eggy one.
Sunshine rice! Cheesy, isn’t it? But why is cheesy a bad thing when cheese is just so good? Shall we try and reclaim that? Like I was doing with Like a Girl when I decided to title this blog Eat Like a Girl . Which is now the subject of a viral advertising campaign, I notice, which is a very good thing. As Like a Girl is, and it is something to be proud of. Now, lets work on cheesy. Or, maybe we have other things to do? Like finish books and things. (Yes, nearly there with Project: BACON, and more on that soon!).
I looked at my breakfast this morning and thought, oh, that looks like a gorgeous perky sun, within another one peeking cheerfully from inside of it. And so, a sunshine breakfast was declared, and devoured.
The rice was leftover from my dinner the night before (pan fried mackerel with habanero, curry leaf & lime butter sat on top of it, that recipe soon, once I have tested it again). It is fairly speedy to put together though, and you should cheer your breakfast table with it so I will share the rice recipe here too.
I like to use short grain brown rice which is tense, fat and nutty, but really any rice would do here, so go with whatever you have in the cupboard. Turmeric gives it the underlying golden hue. I use turmeric because it is delicious (in small amounts though, and especially when using fresh turmeric), but also because it is so healthy. With anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, I hope that turmeric can somehow offset some of the more unsavoury habits of mine. Sweetcorn gives it further acute pops of yellow, spinach, finely shredded and added just as you turn the heat off, freshness and texture. I freshened it up by frying it in some extra virgin olive oil with some lovely diced ripe tomato and chilli. When hot and toasty, I cleared some holes, and fried some eggs in each. One egg per person is enough for me, but if you need more, go for it.
Singapore was great. My first visit, I was greeted by a vibrant and very friendly city that is obsessed with food. I ate what I could, but never enough. There are so many different dishes to try. I am heading back quite soon on a stopover to complete my list. Which is lost, but more on that in a minute.
As great (and brief) as the trip was, it didn’t end well. My phone, with so many of my photos, all my notes and recorded interviews was MIA. I left without it and have had no luck tracking it down. When I got home my flatmate asked if I had a cold and I realised, fark, I do! I had put it down to hay fever the previous days. I don’t like to moan – especially on here – but after a night of absolutely no sleep and a stonking head cold, with a missing phone, and falling behind with work as I can’t think straight, I feel like crap.
But, there is a solution. There always is. Cosy pjs and a cupboard raid rendered a lunch that I could actually taste, and one that is healthy too. My first thought was turmeric, I need to have it, it is so good for many things, being anti-inflammatory and great for all things intestinal like stomach pain and bloating. It is particularly good for colds too and one of the annoying things about a cold is not being able to taste anything, so I decided that a good, simple and bolshy homemade curry might sort me out. Or ease the torture for fifteen minutes, at least. My second thought was eggs. Eggs are brilliantly comforting and speedy too. They are also terrific in a curry.
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!
Do you like this? Huh? You do, don’t you? And it is a little confusing, isn’t it? Is that breakfast colliding with dinner? Just a bit, but as a flavour and texture combination, it is sensational.
Let me tell you how to spend a glorious weekend afternoon. Maybe one with the rain dragging outside, better again, a day with that horizontal rain that drives into your face and makes the outdoors utterly inhospitable. One of those days that is best approached in pyjamas and a big jumper, slippers and no desire to do anything but stay inside. A day, like this one, is a day for ragu.
Spending so much of the spring out of the country means that I have a lot of catching up to do, both with friends and with restaurants. Hello, London! Let us get reacquainted. I am BACK. I love the summer here and I love getting out and about and enjoying it.
This is mainly enormous fun, but it has some down sides. The occasional hangover and the need for something soothing sometimes wakes me like a siren. You know how it is, especially in London. Have a great night, miss the last tube, struggle to get home, and wake up feeling fragile, but hopefully still a little giddy from all of the fun.
I need some restorative food solutions for these situations, that I can balance out when feeling a little less frenetic later on (in the interest of feeling healthy and achieving my current aim, fitting into that favourite red vintage dress of mine). These fritters are one. This is not health food (of course not). At least not for the physical body. For the soul after a night of too much of a good time, these fritters are a rescue remedy.
The recipe is pretty flexible, but this time there was sweet and soothing fresh corn, slivers of intense yet delicate ham and the pop of a fruity tomato all nursed by a gentle batter spiked with a little chilli and eased out with some aromatic basil. If I have leftover pumpkin, I find it works brilliantly here (without the tomato) and courgette is brilliant too. If you have had a particularly big night, you might want to throw some great gooey cheese in there too.
These are deep fried, but you know, that is ok every now and then. I would suggest essential. You could shallow fry them but you wouldn’t get the great fluffy ball or texture. So, deep fry, drain well and leave on kitchen paper to get something life affirming to soothe your head. I really believe that an occasional blow out is essential, to clear out the cobwebs and put everything in perspective. So get on your dancing shoes and make sure that you have the ingredients for these for the morning after.
RECIPE: Corn, ham and tomato 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.
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.
RECIPE: Chef Baka’s Banana Fritters
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
2 tbsp brown sugar (optional)
Oil or butter (for frying)
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.
I had the weirdest day yesterday. In the middle of Balham, in broad daylight, a random stranger kicked me up the arse.
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
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
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.
January demands delicious comfort. More than any other time of the year. It is so grim. All your money is gone, you have just seen all of your friends and now everyone is hiding at home. A spring clean no doubt looms after the Christmas chaos. I hate spring cleaning.
It just sucks, doesn’t it?
So why then, would you deprive yourself of the only nice things available to you? Nice food and drink?
Well that is my theory anyway. January should be a fun month. A month to evade the low grey sky hanging so gloomily over our heads and brighten things up a bit. Red tights with black dresses, yellow umbrellas. Whatever you can do to add a bit of sparkle, just do it.
I have been kick starting my 2013 mornings with firey brunches. Chorizo has been my best friend, and I have been combining it with all sorts of things, always eggs, sometimes braised lettuce, often smoked garlic. This morning I loved my brunch so much, I thought that even though I just have a photo on my phone, I must share it.
Picture the scene. Slothful in the flat in a giant pink dressing gown (think a pink Bear in the Big Blue House, it is a BIG dressing gown). Almost out of coffee but there is just enough. There is chorizo, but I am out of normal eggs. But I have quail eggs.
They will do. In fact this is better as the ratio of yolk to white is higher and I get 4 delicious yolks to dip my chorizo in.
I finely slice a small red onion and fry it gently for maybe 10 minutes, until it starts to crisp. I then add the chorizo, 75g, sliced in half and then sliced small. Slowly cooked for about 5 minutes. 1 tsp of a firey Mexican smoked chilli paste which I have come to use lots, Gran Luchito, is added and stirred through.
The bass notes are sorted so to lift this, I add a sprig of fresh rosemary, pines removed from the branch and finely chopped, and a finely chopped clove of smoked garlic. Then while this is cooking slowly, I gently crack the shells of four quail eggs with a sharp knife, and slide each egg slowly into a ramekin. I don’t want to break those precious yolks.
I stir the chorizo mixture one last time and make a hole in the middle (I use a small frying pan which is best for my brunches for one). Then in with the eggs, and on with the lid. These cooking gently for 2 minutes or so until the white is set and the yolk still fluid.
Handsome and delicious. I loved this spiky colourful brunch.
By now, I expect that many of you will have spent a few days shovelling bacon jam down your gullets and are now anxiously clutching your hearts wondering, what if I have gone too far? I need more! What do I do? You little bacon addicts.
Here’s what you do. Make yourself a nice healthy breakfast. (Then more bacon jam)
This is simple and feels righteous. It tastes good too. Per person, spoon 2 tablespoons of greek yogurt into a bowl and add a tablespoon each of raspberries and blueberries. Toast a tablespoon of oats and pecans in a dry frying pan with a teaspoon of brown sugar, stirring as you do so they don’t burn, for a few minutes until the oats start to crisp. Serve on top of the fruit and yogurt.
Feel better? I know I do.
I’m all about the brunch at weekends, and at the moment as I am not working during the week, I am all about the brunch all the time. It’s got to stop, my waistline is not so forgiving of my brunch whims, but what’s one week of indulgence? 2 inches you say?
A recent trip to Brindisa means I have lots of their gorgeous cooking chorizo. I like the hot one, and this is the one I have today. A recent trip to Celia Brooks Brown‘s allotment affords me some really delicious and juicy tomatoes, which diced and fried with the chorizo, create the most wonderful sauce. I had a pot of home cooked cannelini beans, soaked overnight and boiled for just over an hour, scooping the white scum from the top as soon as it gets to the boil. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, home soaked and cooked beans are infinitely superior to tinned ones. They have a firmer texture and don’t have the oversweet flavour that most tinned beans have. A cupful of these with the tomatoes and chorizo, and this looks like a very robust and delicious brunch. It needs something else though. It’s tasty but needs something to blend with the strong flavours and give it a bit of a lift. I have fresh coriander, and it’s the missing jigsaw piece. The citrus notes pair perfectly with the juicy sweet tomato base.
I liked it so much I made it again for dinner. Easy-peasy. If you want to recreate, I used two chorizo sausages per person, one big and very good tomato, a handful of beans and a tablespoon of fresh coriander added at the end. Fry the chorizo in some oil for about 5 minutes, add the tomato and beans, and cook for a further 5 before adding the coriander at the end. Really great with some good bread to scoop up the sauce. 10 minutes, one delicious brunch.
I love a good brunch, nay, I adore it. Lazing and grazing are the key ingredients for my perfect weekend morning.
The local newsagent opens at 9am, and I am usually there shortly after, purchasing the paper and any other accoutrements required for a successful weekend brunch. I have to have good coffee, I get very upset if I run out. The last time this happened, I found myself rushing to Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden, buying an extremely large bag of ground coffee, for fear it should happen again. Good eggs are also important, and these my local shop does not stock, so I try to keep a surplus of Burford Browns for this pleasure. Often, I like to include the wonderful but humble potato.
Like much other things my weekend mornings are routine. The first step, following such an exertion as a trip outdoors early on a weekend morning, is to head back to bed with a cup of fresh coffee, black with a little sugar, and the paper. First stop, the food pages to read the recipes, reviews and wine pages. Bliss. Then the tummy starts to rumble, and I start to think about breakfast, but I am lazy, and absorbed in my paper, so it’s inevitably a brunch, a little later, washed down with a second strong coffee.
What is the brunch? I experiment frequently, but I do adore a good hash. Fried boiled potatoes, with something porky, bacon or chorizo in the main, some onion, some herbs, and a fried egg. A simple pleasure, but one that keeps me very happy.
Today’s was some Gubbeen salami, brought back from my recent trip home, some fried onions, slightly over-boiled potatoes with just enough extra moisture to make them squishy while still holding their shape. I squished them some more with a fork and roasted them with the fried onion and salami for 10 minutes, just long enough to crisp them. As they were crisping, I fried the egg, bright white with a perfect golden yolk. I dashed to the garden for some fresh chives, snipped them into the potato hash and served it with the glorious fried egg on top.
Diets? Who needs them?! Weekends? More please!
Well, make hay while the sun shines, as they say, and asparagus is in season right now, so I am eating a lot of it. I’m a big fan of the Sunday brunch. The lazing and grazing, the paper, the giant cafetiere of coffee, the pj’s… I love it all. Add asparagus to my list and that’s a near perfect weekend morning.
I’ve always had a taste for fried potatoes, leftover boiled ones that I store in the fridge, waiting patiently for the day that I fry ’em up! This particular brunch day, I also had an heirlom tomato, the size of a normal tomato but packed with flavour. I had a slice of rosemary pancetta, which I finely chopped and some flat leaf parsley. It needed no more. Fried pancetta and potatoes with some tomato glue, some greenery and a couple of spears of fried asparagus crowned with a fried egg. Glorious.
PS. Real recipes coming back soon – promise :)
It’s such a relief when the world starts to wake up again after Winter. Flowers bloom releasing their soft scents in the air, and fruit and vegetables become more lively and interesting. I love Winter vegetables, but they are few, and the bright and broad range offered by late Spring is very welcome.
Favourites for this time of year are varied, but asparagus has got to lead the pack. I love it fried and dipped in molten egg, whether that’s boiled, fried or poached is irrelevant, but that egg yolk has got to be soft. I like to fry the asparagus spears, sometimes wrapped in ham but most often on it’s own, so that I can savour the flavour.
This particular brunch, I wanted a poached egg, sometimes with a tender tum there is nothing better. It was my breakfast of choice on the morning of exams in University, when my stomach would be shredded by adrenaline and needed the comfort of something soft, comforting and delicate, that would also power me through the morning, as I desperately tried to kick start brain cells into action after very little sleep and way too much caffeine. Poached egg on toast it was. Now, as a wage earning member of society, I decadently accompany it with asparagus and savour every morsel.
Poaching eggs requires a little dedication, although not much. You need very fresh eggs, as fresh as you can get, or they won’t form that lovely oval shape when you drop them into the water. The water should not be boiling, it should be just before, when delicate bubbles rise to the surface, not unlike a glass of champagne. Add some vinegar to the water, about a tablespoon, white is best so you don’t discolour the egg. . Some salt for seasoning, and you’re good to go. Stir the water quite vigorously (without splashing yourself!) until you get a whirlpool effect. Drop your egg into the middle, it might be easier if you’ve cracked it already and have it in a glass or ramekin. The whirlpool will pull it together into a nice oval shape, the vinegar helps the egg white congeal quicker and take that perfect shape, and if it’s fresh enough, it will obediently follow, and form a perfect poached egg. It doesn’t take long to cook, I keep an eye on it, and when the white is set but the yolk still wobbly, I retrieve it, and add it to my plate.
Sounds very elegant doesn’t it? Brunch. Baked. Eggs. It evokes luxury and comfort, and yes, it had both of these. But, It had something else too.
I christened this dish Irish Huevos Rancheros when I made it last Sunday, but when writing this thought, as titles go, I might be going too left of field, and I don’t want to offend any Mexicans ;-) I did your dish proud, honest, but I gave it an irish potato-y twist.
Like most of my recent dishes, this doesn’t have strict measurements. In fact I didn’t measure anything. It’s very simple, and in truth, you can’t go wrong. Now, people don’t believe me when I say this, and believe me to have some inside culinary knowledge or secret power, but, this is not true. It’s easy.
I started by roasting some very sweet and delicious cherry tomatoes (about 3 handfuls) in olive oil with a finely chopped green chilli and some good extra virgin olive oil at 180 degrees. While these were roasting I parboiled some diced potatoes until tender, then roasted them for about 20 minutes until becoming crispy. At this point your tomatoes should be looking, and tasting, delicious, all mushy and full of flavour. Time to add some fresh coriander (a handful) to your tomatoes and season. Pour the tomatoes over the potatoes and crack in some eggs, 2 per person. Bake until the white is set and the yolk is runny, no more than 5 minutes. This is the only tricky bit, it’s very easy to overcook the eggs so keep an eye on them.
That’s it. Dish up and get back to your Sunday paper. Enjoy!
(I hope you’re still in pj’s – I was ;-)
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!
This morning called for a speedy brunch prior to the rest of what promises to be a hectic day. Something of sustenance that can be made from what resides in the fridge, I simply couldn’t face getting out of my pj’s and accepting that my Sunday morning was over. Healthy would be good too although not too much so, it’s my indulgent Sunday morning afterall.
I settled on a delicious Smoked Salmon, Watercress & Potato Hash using charlotte potatoes, boiled, sliced and fried in olive oil. To accompany this some gorgeous Frank Hederman smoked salmon and a handful of chopped farmer’s market watercress. I added the salmon and watercress off the heat so that it wouldn’t cook.
You could tart this up by first of all marinading the smoked salmon in some cream, or adding some cream cheese on the side, but for me, this morning, it was perfect.
Enjoy your Sunday!