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Category Archives: Breakfast

How Do Ya Like Your Eggs In The Morning?

It’s been a while hasn’t it? So much has happened since we last spoke; monarchs have been born, rogue spies have hidden in Russian airports, pensioners have headlined Glastonbury and England has finally had a summer. And in more interesting news, I have done naff all in the kitchen. Naff. All. I’ve had what you might call a cooking ‘funk’. Cookbooks have gone unopened and chillies have gone un-bought. A serious case of funkery if ever there was one (it’s my blog and I’ll make words up if I want to). Could it be the heat? The fact that while The Boyfriends back for three weeks only I haven’t wanted to spend all my free time in the kitchen when instead we could watch New Girl over and over? Have I finally let my laziness get the better of me? Maybe, all I know is I went to bed the other night whining that I was in a cooking funk and upon hearing my dulcet, whining tones The Boyfriend eloquently came back with “well just do some bloody cooking then”. Not just a hat rack my friends, he was absolutely right. All that time I’d spent bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t up for cooking I could have spent cooking and getting back into the habit. No more oven pizzas/stir in sauces/fish fingers for us two, oh no. I’m back on it, ready to try the new and forgo the same old same old. This eureka moment has timed itself perfectly as his next work trip which was starting this Sunday has now been put back a month, so my favourite guinea pig has unwittingly walked himself right into a month free from chilli con carne and roast pork. Sorry dear.

So I started as I meant to go on, by cooking a breakfast that I knew he’d grumble at. While I agree with him that nothing is better on a Sunday morning than a bacon sandwich, I don’t agree that I should eat that every Sunday morning. Mix things up, and have an emergency packet of bacon in the fridge just in case. After falling in love with huevos rancheros earlier on in the year in Liverpool, I knew the time would come that I’d want to make it myself and try it out on The Boyfriend. Step forward Gizzi Erskine and the Weekend Feast section of her most recent cookbook. Huevos rancheros is a traditional Mexican breakfast which combines corn tortillas, tomato sauce, re-fried beans and fries eggs. And cheese, coriander and sour cream. You’re right, it doesn’t sound like breakfast, or at least it doesn’t sound like a breakfast a Brit would have. If every country had a full English as their traditional breakfast then travel would get very boring, very quickly.

Anyway, while cooking this I was fully prepared for The Boyfriend to soon be putting the grill on for that emergency bacon sarnie. Looking at the re-fried beans heating up in their gloop (refried beans are not pretty), I knew just what his reaction would be on seeing these on his plate. Hence why I sandwiched the beans in between the two corn tortillas in the hope he would tuck in with gusto while blissfully ignorant of the legumes hidden under their corn blankets. This is the more exotic version of hiding cauliflower under a river of cheddar sauce for a fussy five year old. Unfortunately, like I said earlier, his head is not just a hat rack so as soon as I handed him his plate he peered between the tortillas to find the stowaway beans. Busted. On the flip side, he’s of the opinion that you should always try something before announcing you don’t like it, which is how we discovered the one pastry item he loves (empanadas, which again he frowned upon before trying and now loves) and that he really can’t stand celeriac. To my amazement, he actually enjoyed the Mexican eggs and ate the whole plate of food, refried beans and all. In his concise summary (at which he is very good at) he stated that “they were good but it’s not a breakfast”. Fair do’s, next Sunday we’ll have a good, old fashioned bacon sarnie where no dispute is needed over its suitability for breakfast.

In summary, just because something doesn’t look to your liking or a meal contains an ingredient you’re unsure of doesn’t mean you should completely write it off. I know and love plenty of people who limit the types of food they eat and don’t really experiment with meals, and that’s fair enough, you can only do what’s right for you and if you’re happy with what you’re eating that’s fine also, it doesn’t affect me one bit. However, I just feel that by doing this people are missing out on so much. If you try it and then find you don’t like it, I respect that, but to announce you don’t like something before you’ve even tried it? What are you basing that on? There is literally a whole world of food out there just waiting to be eaten. Open your mind, but more importantly, open your mouth.

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Skinny Saturday

Every time The Boyfriend goes away I make a decision that at the time feels like a brilliant idea but in the end turns out to be a completely idiotic one. And the decision is always the same one, every time he goes. I know, I’m an idiot. You’d think I would have learnt by now, after all The Boyfriend is regularly working away and has been for two years now. Yet still I think that by spending my first weekend sans Boyfriend all by myself doing solely what I want to do and being completely selfish is the best idea since sliced bread. It isn’t. Oh, it’s all good up until about 7pm on the Saturday, when a quick glance at Facebook reminds me of all the happy couples spending their evening together, or groups of friends getting ready for a night out and makes me go “huh, I probably should have made plans for this weekend”. Obviously, being apart from the person you’re crazy about isn’t tough in the way that cancer is tough, or your house being burnt down is tough, but it still has its challenges that at times make me feel pretty sorry for myself despite the fact that one of the things I dislike most on this Earth are people who feel sorry for themselves. If he’s only back for three weeks like he was very recently, we have an absolute whale of a time. We cram in trips to the cinema, meals out, our favourite foods, catch up with all the friends and family he hasn’t seen for months, have a ridiculous row that we always laugh at a few hours later (the last one of these was fuelled by me drinking a tad too much gin and turning into a huge drama queen), work on the house, plan holidays and spend a lot of time in fits of giggles. In short, it’s awesome. So obviously when he goes away its a pretty spectacular comedown and I think my reasoning behind spending time by myself is that while he’s home I haven’t had any time at all to bake, read, blog, watch Disney films or Sex and the City and I crave some downtime. Maybe next time I’ll just give myself a day of no plans.

My self inflicted misery however has done wonders for this blog though. Every cloud! Not content with just one recipe to try out yesterday, I decided to really test Gizzi’s Skinny Weeks and try three of them: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m aware I should be using more neglected cookbooks and believe me this week I will be using them, but I wanted to have a virtuous Saturday without denying myself that vital component, flavour, and I knew that Gizzi could deliver. Breakfast consisted of what Gizzi likes to call Elvis toasts, which is a far more heart friendly version of The Kings 2000 calorie mammoth fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Gizzi’s come in at a much more reasonable 284 calories, although as it was Saturday I used normal white sliced bread instead of sourdough rye, and a whole banana instead of half so that must bump up the calories a little. Still, for a healthy breakfast it’s scrumptious and comes with the added bonus of half a square of dark chocolate grated over the banana. Half a square may not seem like a lot but it really does go a long way. Who can argue with a chocolate fix at 9am?

Lunch, which came along pretty late after a Primarni binge, was pancetta, farro and bean soup and like most recipes in this book, was completely delicious. I couldn’t find farro in Sainsburys so had to substitute it with farfalline, which are tiny pasta shapes designed to be added to soups. You might look at the pancetta and think this soup shouldn’t be billed as healthy, but in addition to the pancetta the soup also contains onion, carrot, celery, garlic, tomatoes and cannellini beans so you’re getting a considerate amount of goodness from the hefty amount of veg and beans. I didn’t add quite enough stock so my version turned out more like a stew than a soup but tasted no less divine for it. Pancetta is the star flavour shining through, but you also get the sweetness of the tomatoes and plenty of crunch from the mirepoix. To make this soup even better, you’re allowed to sprinkle a small amount of Parmesan over your bowl of soup and you don’t need me to tell you that this takes the soup to diet perfection. I’m very please that I have three portions to take to work with me for lunch this week.

Last but by absolute no means least, for dinner I went with yoghurt chicken curry bowl. Well, it’s just not the weekend in my book (which this sort of is) unless a curry is included somewhere. Looking at the ingredient list it’s impossible to find an ingredient that’s bad for you (normally an ominous sign in a recipe) and yet this curry was one of the best I’ve ever made. You make a paste out of spices, chillies, onion, ginger and garlic, mix it with fat free yoghurt then marinade the chicken in the spicy yoghurt before baking in the oven. Paired with some brown rice and topped with a zingy mango salsa, this was the perfect dish to lift me out of my lonely blues (self inflicted, I must add). The curry on its own packed in lots of flavour and would have been perfectly acceptable without the salsa, but boy is the salsa immense. Don’t make this curry without it! The pairing of sweet yet sharp mango with mint, alongside onion (I should have used red but only had white), tomato and lime juice is phenomenal and made my tongue do a little jig in my mouth. Gorgeous. I want to put it on everything.

The real strength of these recipes is that regardless of trying to lose weight or not, I would cook them all again. And not just for myself either, I see no reason why these dishes couldn’t be served to guests, they are that good. Healthy food has long had a reputation for being dull, uninspiring and bland but Gizzi has completely turned that upside down and filled a cookbook with mouthwatering food that just so happens to be good for you. I’ve barely ventured into the naughty side of the book, and for a woman who likes a good pig out, that’s no small feat.

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Not On My Watch, Gwyneth

At first I thought that I didn’t like Gwyneth Paltrow. Its an easy conclusion to arrive at, after all she did sob all the way through her Oscar acceptance speech, is married to the most boring man in pop, has perfect hair/skin/figure and bleets on about her wonderful lifestyle on Goop.com. Spare me. But then two things struck me. One is that this woman is good friends with Beyonce and Jay Z. Jealous though I may be, anyone good enough for Miss Single Ladies is good enough for me. I can forgive the boring taste in men when I consider her wonderful taste in friends, especially as I know deep down that one day Beyonce and I will be best friends (humour me, ok?). The second was that I recalled seeing Gwyneth on The Graham Norton Show a couple of years ago where she did a pretty fine job of rapping her way through an NWA track. Best friends with Beyonce and a dab hand at rapping? Why, Gwyneth and I are cut from the very same cloth! How can I hold any sort of grudge against her for her perfect skin when in actual fact we are one and the same. It would be like hating myself and I’m all about self acceptance.

So when my lovely Aunty brought me a housewarming gift of two cookbooks, one being Gwyneth’s ‘Notes From My Kitchen Table’, I was intrigued to see what she could offer me in the way of discovering new dishes and tasty treats. Warning: if you don’t like name dropping then you’d do well to skip the acknowledgments page which reads like a who’s who of A-listers, including my future BFF’s The Carters. If you didn’t already know Gwynnie was well connected, this page would set you straight. One thing that really struck me about her attitude towards food from this book is that she seems slightly scared of it. I’m all for living a healthy lifestyle and an everything in moderation type attitude towards food, but I firmly believe food is to be enjoyed and that too much of a good thing can be bloody wonderful. Life’s too short to make a brownie healthy, which unfortunately Gwyneth seems to have had the time to do. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to eat a brownie or three I want it with side orders of guilt and sugar highs. Gwyneth gives a recipe for brownies that she says are as healthy as possible without sacrificing any of the flavour. When did it become socially acceptable to put agave syrup, soy milk and grain sweetened choc chips (that’s right, not sugar sweetened, grain sweetened) into the mighty brownie? I’ll tell you when: never. A brownie recipe with no sugar or butter is an abomination. If I didn’t want sugar or butter in my diet then well, I’d probably be hugely depressed and locked in a padded cell for my own safety, but that’s beside the point, I’d eat only quinoa and vegetables, not faff about with the brownie. It’s safe to say that I will not be making the brownies from this book. They offend me.

Aside from interfering with brownies, the cookbooks actually pretty good. The majority of recipes are fresh, nutritious and light so if you’re looking for low fat meals this wouldn’t be a bad investment. Crammed full of salads, soups, sandwiches and dinner options you’re bound to find something healthy to eat. To be fair to the author, her father died of cancer and she states in the book that she believes his diet had a part to play in him suffering from the disease so I can understand her caution and attitude towards food. While there aren’t really any properly unhealthy recipes in the book, naturally I gravitated towards the ‘worst’ one. Quellé surprise! This would be French toast made with brioche, that heavenly, buttery, soft, sweet bread which soaked up the egg and vanilla batter exceptionally well. Fried in butter and sprinkled with what Gwyneth states should be a tiny amount of sugar, instructions which I took the liberty of ignoring, the slices of brioche crisped up beautifully. I topped the vanilla absorbed slices with chopped banana, icing sugar and a good drizzle of maple syrup, and tucked right in. The toast itself is crisp on the outside, gooey and moist within and you don’t need me to tell you that the banana and syrup were perfect partners. As Sunday morning breakfasts go, it was up there with the best that bacon can offer. Gwyneth, you’re cookbook passes muster with me, just don’t mess with any other sweet baked goods again.

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Breakfast: The Most Delicious Meal Of The Day

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me or has had to suffer a conversation about food with me that any meal is regarded as a treat in my eyes. Whether its a toasted cheese sandwich at lunch, a gorgeous plate of pasta for dinner or a mid morning snack of fresh mango, good food is always cause for celebration. But after a weekend away in Liverpool, I’ve come to the conclusion that as delicious as other meals are, nothing beats a truly great breakfast. Forget your bowl of cornflakes or sorry looking banana eaten in the weekday morning rush, I’m talking breakfasts that you can really take your time over and savour. Bacon sandwiches, eggs Benedict, kedgeree, hot crumpets, homemade granola, fry ups, pancakes, boiled eggs; they all have sheer deliciousness in common and to me herald the start of the weekend and all the joys that it brings. It may be the simplest breakfast going but its not really a holiday unless I have hot, thick, white toast smothered in butter at the airport before my flight. Breakfast rocks, and after not eating for such a long stretch while we catch up on our beauty sleep we deserve a little decadence to break the fast.

This is where Moose Coffee, Liverpool comes in. Found entirely by chance, the 4 of us knew we’d found an absolute jewel of a cafe on seeing the words ‘American and Canadian breakfasts’. I’m not ashamed to say that my heart fluttered a little on reading this (probably in anticipation of the calories about to be consumed), what with my love for all things American. Walking in you’re faced with large portraits of iconic figures such as Neil Armstrong replaced with moose heads, antlers and plush couches running along the back of the cafe, and the enticing smell of fresh coffee and good food. My kind of place, then. What can I say about breakfast? It was unbelievably good. Three of us had the special that morning, which was the Grande Bouche topped with two poached eggs. I have never understood before the American tendency to pair ludicrously sweet dishes like pancakes with bacon, but after the Grande Bouche experience I am a complete convert. French toast made with brioche soaked in an egg and vanilla batter, topped with bacon, eggs and maple syrup. My head knew it shouldn’t work, my curiosity knew I had to give it a go regardless, and my tongue just knew it was delighted to have been allowed to give it a go. Gorgeous. You may grimace at the idea, but a week ago so would I and look at how wrong I was. All three of us loved it and agreed that sometimes you’ve just got to admit defeat and say the Americans know exactly what they’re doing.

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Basically, breakfast was so good that we had to go back a couple of days later before catching the tran back home. Not feeling the sweet stuff this time I decided to go down a completely different tangent and had the manolito which is the Moose’s take on the Mexican breakfast classic huevos rancheros. My idol Nigella has raved about huevos rancheros on Twitter and I’ve been desperate to try it for ages so seeing this on the menu my mind was made up straight away. Spicy food may not be everyone’s cup of tea first thing in the morning but once again breakfast was stunning and right up my street: two flour tortillas topped with salsa, fried eggs, sour cream, refried beans and cheese. Heaven. The salsa had a really deep flavour with a good spicy kick that totally woke me up and the melted cheese was the perfect strength to stand up to the strong flavours of the salsa. I’m now addicted to it and need to make huevos rancheros for myself very very soon.

None of us had a single complaint about the food and everyone was full and contented by the end of breakfast. The coffee here was also delicious and if you leave Moose without having the Moose macchiato then you have really missed out, as it was delicious. Coffee that dreams are made of. I urge you to check Moose Coffee out if you’re ever in Liverpool, it really was the best breakfast I’ve ever had and has served as a timely reminder of how great the first meal of the day can be, just a few days before our oven finally arrives. Now that’s definitely a cause to celebrate!

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Posted by on May 7, 2013 in American, Breakfast, Cooking, Food

 

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A Load Of Rhubarb

Todays cooking endeavours started out so miserably that I was almost tempted to give up by 10am. My attempt to make a rhubarb compote without a recipe to hand didn’t end up as I expected – with me pulling it off perfectly and then feeling like a domestic goddess with no need for cookbooks ever again – but with a burnt tray of rhubarb and black sugar that, needless to say did not make it to my breakfast of banana and Greek yoghurt. Safe to say it was a very boring breakfast without that sweet – sour tang of rhubarb, and the cookbooks are staying. That’s what happens when you ignore the smell of burning wafting in from the kitchen! Luckily for my tummy (and for the blog) I picked myself back up and carried on undeterred with my planned cooking, as once The Boyfriend is back my weekends will be spent DIY-ing, moving and doing a whole lot of cleaning, so lets cook while we can!
While I’m not on a diet (because I hate them, don’t believe they are sustainable and don’t want to spend January starving) I am eating a lot more healthily and downsizing my portions in a slow burn attempt to drop a dress size by the end of April. I’ll never be able to stick to any eating plan that denies me chocolate and cake, so lets just be healthier. Bearing this in mind, for my lunch I blended up a soup from Nigella Christmas, sweet potato and butternut squash. It may not be Christmas anymore but there are plenty of winter friendly recipes and this one happens to be full of goodness, plus the golden orange colour peps up an icy day. The Boyfriend is not a fan of either sweet potato or squash which I find pure madness as I love them and they are exceptionally good for you to boot. It’s a really simple soup to make and tastes ridiculously good. There is a warming edge to it from the nutmeg and cinnamon, and the unusual addition of Marsala wine cranks the flavour up a notch. It’s sweet like you’d expect from a sweet potato soup but while the Marsala adds sweetness, the taste of alcohol stops it from being too much. If you cook a lot then a bottle of Marsala is an essential, you can use it in desserts like tiramisu and trifles, stews, soups, chicken dishes…. It’s indispensable and because its a fortified wine it lasts ages in the store cupboard. Get some now! In the cookbook, Nigella also recommends making a blue cheese sauce to swirl over the soup but this would turn lunch from healthy to indulgent. It helps my weight loss that its the week before payday too, otherwise that blue cheese may well have just accidentally found its way into my trolley.

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As I’m sure you all remember, Sunday used to be my baking day but with The Boyfriend being back for three months that got shelved. Well, its back for one day only! Thankfully I hadn’t burnt all of my rhubarb this morning and still had plenty of stalks left to bake a cake. Trawling through my Delicious magazines I found the recipe for rhubarb, vanilla and sour cream crumb cake in the March 2011 edition and knew I just had to make it. Rhubarb deserves more than crumbles, delicious though they are. It may come as a surprise to those of you who I haven’t been out drinking with, but I’m a big fan of hip hop and my preferred choice of music to bake to is always rap. I’m terrible at rapping myself although give me a few mojitos and I soon forget that, but what can I say, in the privacy of my own kitchen (and car, shower, bedroom….) I pretend I’m Azealia Banks or Lil Kim. This is how I found myself chanting “I guess that cake getting eaten” while spooning the cake and rhubarb mix into the tin (for those of you with a sensitive disposition, sticking with my cake lyrics to 212 is probably for the best). The cake itself is supremely yummy, but how could a cake with a vanilla sponge, tangy yet sweet rhubarb and a crunchy topping made of sugar and butter ever not be? I kept my portion to a small slice and resisted having any custard with it, but that would be a heavenly combination. The rest will hopefully be dished up tomorrow when friends are over for dinner, although I am now wondering if they are all as fond of rhubarb as I am? It’s so beautiful and pink though, how could anyone dislike it? Anyway, the cake is moist, sweet, sour with a tasty crunch from the topping, and in my eyes is the perfect cake to chow down on on a cold Sunday afternoon. In the words of Azealia (well, sort of) “Imma ruin you, cake”.

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Last but by no means least, for my dinner I made Malaysian satay chicken from Gizzi Erskines Kitchen Magic, which is one of my favourite cookbooks. I marinated the chicken in some Asian ingredients, left it all day then cooked and served with rice. The chicken was really tasty, with sharp, almost Thai tastes and kept me going back for more even when the rice was starting to fill me up. It was probably a mistake to serve with rice as although the marinade seemed plentiful when I started cooking, by the time the chicken was cooked through it had evaporated massively with just enough clinging to the chicken but not enough to stop the rice being dry. In spite of this though it was delicious and will be a tasty cold lunch tomorrow too. Another success from Kitchen Magic, which I can’t recommend enough as everything I’ve ever cooked from it has been a total success. You really should buy it.

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Lip Smacking Ribs

This Sunday has felt very much like I’ve been in an episode of Man vs Food. For those who haven’t seen Man vs Food, have you been living under a rock for the last few years? Get yourself in front of the telly and find it (it’s on practically every day), then be amazed as the presenter Adam Richman eats enormous amounts of food in food challenges across America and explores regional specialities in the many restaurants/diners he encounters. It’s totes amazing and if you love American food then prepare to love the show. Watching him attempt these challenges gives me a virtual heart attack but at the same time I can’t watch it without wanting to book the next flight across the pond. America no longer needs a tourist board, just Adam Richman. While I haven’t eaten copious amounts of food today, the food I have eaten has been distinctly American. First up, brunch. The Boyfriend and I got in this morning after staying out overnight for a friends birthday and while I was thoughtfully making the bed, he ate the last of the Crunchy Nut Clusters (best cereal ever by the way). Undeterred by the lack of cereal and the stale bread, I raided the cupboards and realised I had all the ingredients needed to rustle up some pancakes. Crunchy Nut who? Using the only pancake recipe anyone ever needs (from Nigellas HTBADG, naturally), adding some ground cinnamon for that extra reminder of holidays in Florida and some slices of banana to fool myself into thinking brunch was healthy, I felt quite smug looking down at The Boyfriends empty cereal bowl. While not quite as cinnamon-ey as I’d like, the bananas were sticky and caramelised, the pancakes fluffy and drowning in maple syrup. Not too shabby for a breakfast that came about from rummaging through the kitchen cupboards.

For dinner I took inspiration from the Jamie’s America cookbook which I highly recommend you buy. Unlike the lies and deception contained in the pages of his 30 Minute Meals book, this cookbook is much more realistic in its approach to food and is one of my favourite books to just flick through for the fun of it. Yep, I read cookbooks in just the same way I would a fiction book and I’m not ashamed! My only condition is that there’s a bit of waffle from the author, I like knowing where recipes come from, who or what inspired a dish and the like. Nigella is the Queen of this, but Jamie does a good job of telling the story behind a dish too. I made his 5 Star Pork Ribs, with a side dish also from the book called Best Baked Beans, and some homemade fries. It’s safe to say I was being a touch ambitious cooking all of this, and while easy to make everything individually, it took a lot of time, a lot of washing up and a lot of effort to do all of them together. Not that I’m one to give up easily when it comes to satisfying my hunger and greed, they’re motivators that never fail. For the ribs, I had to make a rub, a BBQ sauce, steam the ribs in the oven with apple juice then glaze them in the sauce, all while prepping the beans and making a crumbly topping for them. In short (or more accurately, long) the whole meal took 4 hours to make and needed constant babysitting. Not that I am one to complain because it totally paid off. After slow cooking at a low temperature and basting in glaze, the ribs were stunning. The meat came away from the bone with no effort whatsoever, and the glaze was sweet, sticky, spicy and utterly gorgeous, tasting a little like hoi sin sauce which is never a bad thing. Our cheeks and fingers were covered in the BBQ glaze, a sure sign of deliciousness and there were happy faces all round. The beans were a different story. Smoky from the chipotle chilli and with a crunchy topping made up of breadcrumbs, cheddar and streaky bacon, I really liked them but The Boyfriend was less than impressed. We’ve come to the conclusion that unless beans come in a blue Heinz tin, The Boyfriend ain’t interested, whereas chuck in some smoky heat and cheesy breadcrumbs and I’m interested. There’s no accounting for taste I guess! Looking back, I’ve had this cookbook a few years and whatever I’ve cooked from it has been a success. Favourites include meatballs stuffed with cheese, potato and mackerel latkes, peach ice cream, gumbo and chocolate tart. Regardless of your feelings on Jamie and his slightly irritating cheeky chappy persona, his food is always packed with flavour, easy to recreate and satisfying. You can’t say that about every celebrity chef, and as someone with one or two cookbooks, I feel perfectly entitled to say so. We’ll end today on The Boyfriends concise and simple review of dinner: “great ribs, shit beans”. Goodnight!

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Been around the world and I, I, I….

Italy, Thailand, America, it’s like a round the world plane ticket in miniature, all in my kitchen. But not to worry that I (I, I, I) can’t find ‘my baby’ as he’s back next Saturday, nice and early first thing in the morning on my birthday. What more could I want as a present? I would just like to assure you all that I would never really call The Boyfriend ‘my baby’, I do have some standards when it comes to nick names, but when a song title fits, it fits! So to make the most of what free time I had this weekend, I got my ass in the kitchen and made the most of my last solo weekend for a while. Believe me, I can’t wait for him to be back and am desperate to not wake up alone every morning, but I do enjoy the ability to potter about in the kitchen all day and cook what ever my heart desires on a Sunday. It’s making the best out of a bad situation. So to celebrate my last lonely Sunday morning for a while I took some inspiration from Jamie’s America to knock up breakfast. I’ve said it before about the Americans and how they have the knack for breakfast and I would say it again but I don’t like repeating myself. So I went with the New York section as surely New Yorkers are the Kings Of Breakfast (I’m not sure why I’ve come to this conclusion but it just seems right to me), and made myself Omelette Gordon Bennett, which is a twist on the classic Arnold Bennett omelette which was apparently created by a very fussy customer in a top NY hotel. The twist being that Jamie replaces smoked haddock with smoked mackerel. As twists go, it’s not exactly up there with the polar bear in Lost but its Sunday morning, i’ll let it go. It’s a very simple dish to make and easy enough to halve (recipe gives enough for two, but 5 eggs even for me is a bit much), the only tricky bit is making sure the bottom doesn’t burn while you make sure the egg on top of the omelette is fully cooked. Because of the chunks of fish it’s not advisable to flip the omelette as the weight would collapse it, so you need to keep a close eye on the omelette and adjust the heat accordingly. Incredibly I managed to cook it perfectly and it tasted pretty wonderful. I love smoked mackerel and being advised to top the whole thing off with grated Parmesan at 9 in the morning makes this a winner for a filling breakfast. You probably won’t even need lunch. If you’re a fan of American food then Jamie’s book is great, he covers several different states and a huge variety of food, including Native American recipes. The best sections though are definitely Louisiana and Georgia, with some good old fashioned Southern recipes. Delicious.

On to Italy, and before you ask, no this recipe did not come out of Nigellas new book. Or any book at all actually. I made some focaccia using a recipe given to me by a chef at a cookery course I attended. The course happened to be about French food, but this did not stop us making Italian bread and for that I am very glad. This focaccia recipe is bread perfection and totally and utterly foolproof. As long as you’re prepared to do ten minutes of kneading then this is really easy and after all that kneading all you need is patience while the dough proves. If the kneading sounds like too much work for you, wait until someone has really pissed you off to make it, and then 10 minutes of pretending the dough is that persons face won’t seem long enough. Violence against flour is fine, less so against people. My favourite part of making bread (after eating it of course) is poking the bread once its ready to go in the oven as the feel of it is bouncy, pillowy and lighter than air. Do this once and you’ll completely understand my wish to one day sleep on a bed made entirely of dough. Heaven. When the bread is ready to go in the oven, poke some dimples in the bread and push some ingredients in said dimples. I went for chillies today, but feel free to go with rosemary, olives, sun dried tomatoes…. Whatever takes your fancy really. When this comes out of the oven it will be all but impossible to dive right in as the smell is amazing and it looks so inviting. It says something about the quality of this bread that I can eat it solely on its own without even a smudge of butter on it. (Bread and butter is one of my favourite things to eat. Good bread though). The crust is crunchy with sprinkles of sea salt and the middle is soft, bouncy and utterly divine. It does go stale really quickly, which shows just how many chemicals must be pumped into supermarket bread to keep it fresh as long as it does, but slice it up and pop in the freezer if you won’t use it all up straight away. I’ll post the recipe for this later as any budding bakers should give it a go, and its not a copyrighted recipe so I’m free to share the goods!

I’ve also been cooking some Thai food after the success earlier in the week with Rick Steins book Far Eastern Odyssey, so tried yellow stir fry curry with prawns from the same book. This version is a bit different from the other Thai curries I’ve had as it contains no coconut milk and uses stock instead. It is ferociously hot and this was without the dried Kashmiri chilli that I could not find in the shops, so I was actually quite relieved I only included some regular red chillies in the paste. I’m not entirely sure I would make it again as while spicy which I like, it didn’t have anything else much going for it. I’m not one of those people who eats spicy food purely for the sake of it, spicy food has to have more flavours to it than just pure hot chilli heat. Not that it isn’t funny watching someone sweat when they order the hottest curry on the menu in front of their mates, because it really is. Still, despite being blindingly hot, I managed to finish it without an audience so I suppose I’m no better than the show offs, sweating without the congratulatory pats on the back from the men on the table.

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