Breakfast Club #5: Bread

Breakfast Club: Because breakfast should be more interesting than tea & toast or coffee & cereal.

This month it’s Helen’s turn to host Breakfast Club.

Breakfast Club is a food blogging event hosted by me and Helen from Fuss Free Flavour. We love breakfast and want everyone to enjoy better and more interesting breakfasts.

Each month one of us will choose a theme and then post the round up on the last Sunday of the month.

Last month I hosted and the theme was British. I will post the round up as soon as I have time!

And this month’s theme is…

Bread!

Toast is a standard breakfast for many people, this month we are encouraging to either make bread, make a topping for their bread or to use bread in an interesting way.

Here are some homemade bread ideas

Brioche
Whole Wheat Walnut Bread

Some toppings

Fig Jam
Crab Apple Jelly

Other ideas could include French toast, homemade baked beans on toast, homemade nut butter on bread. The possibilities are endless.

Please blog your ideas or e-mail me the recipe if you do not have a blog, the deadline will be Sunday 31st October, 5pm UK time.

To Recap:

Make breakfast inspired by the month’s theme, write about it (please include a link in your post to both hosts’ announcement or blog – Helen’s is here)

Mail the host for the month, (helen at fussfreeflavours dot com) with a link to your post, name of your blog and a photo (or link to your photo) by 5pm (UK time) on the 31st October.

If you do not have a blog send a recipe and photo to the month’s host who will include it in the round up.

Tell everyone – let’s inspire each other to make more interesting breakfasts!

More Ottolenghi – Chargrilled Broccoli with Chilli and Garlic

You haven’t heard me mention the O word in a while have you?

Well, this week I received three heads of calabrese broccoli in my veg box. There was the broccoli that was supposed to be in the box, plus extra broccoli to substitute for the lack of runner beans. Now, I’m not a huge fan of runner beans anyway, but three heads of broccoli? Broccoli used to be my favourite vegetable, but I’ve been a bit bored of it lately. What can you actually DO with broccoli? Perhaps the problem is I haven’t made many stir fries lately.

Anyway I was on the way home from school last Monday night, when I developed a sudden craving for fish. Perhaps it’s my brain cells telling me it needs some fish in order to keep up. Being a student again is challenging!

Only Sainsbury’s was open at this point, we’re talking the medium size Sainsbury’s, the one that’s not a full-size supermarket but that’s not a Sainsbury’s Local either. I forget what they call them. Anyway, the only MSC-certified fish I could see was a foil container of Cornish sardines with chilli, garlic and lemon. It wasn’t the most appetising looking thing on the shelf but I decided to try it.

Now, to the broccoli. I had recently invested in a griddle pan, so I was very keen to try Ottolenghi’s Chargrilled Broccoli with Chilli and Garlic from the first Ottolenghi book. While the fish cooked, I prepared the broccoli.

Well – I was really impressed by the sardines. They tasted really fresh and not too fishy, as sardines can get sometimes. I could definitely taste the chilli. The broccoli went with the fish perfectly, and was definitely tasty enough to banish my broccoli boredom. Now I need to go and buy some more chillis so I can use up the rest of my broccoli.

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Chargrilled Broccoli with Chilli and Garlic

serves 2-4

2 heads of broccoli
100ml olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 mild red chillies, thinly sliced
coarse sea salt
black pepper
lemon slices (optional)

Separate the broccoli into florets and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes – don’t be tempted to cook longer! Remove immediately to a bowl of ice water, then drain and leave to dry completely.

Once the broccoli is dry, toss with 40ml of the olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place a griddle pan on high heat and leave for 5 minutes until smoking hot. Grill the broccoli in batches on the hot pan, turning to get lovely char marks on all sides.

While the broccoli is cooking, place the remaining oil in a small saucepan together with the garlic and chillies and cook on a medium heat until the garlic begins to turn golden brown. Be careful not to let the garlic and chilli burn – they will continue cooking in the hot oil even when off heat.

Pour the garlic and chilli oil over the hot broccoli and toss well. Season to taste and serve immediately or at room temperature.

Ciabatta

You’ll recall that the crumpets I made the other day were made using a ciabatta dough. Well, there was no way I was going to make ciabatta dough without making a ciabatta, so I doubled the recipe.

This was my first time making ciabatta. The recipe makes two loaves. I followed Andrew Whitley‘s instructions as well as I could without having a thermometer to check on the water and dough temperatures.

And, well, I must admit I’m rather proud:

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Look at those bubbles! I think it’s the best bread I’ve ever made. I really must get hold of my own copy of Bread Matters.

Tea at Fortnum & Mason

Sometimes, you just have to do something really touristy. I’ve lived in London for well over three years now and I’d still not been anywhere really nice for tea. Well, actually I had been to Liberty, but Fortnum & Mason takes it up another notch.

Entering their tea room is like walking into another world. Comfortable armchairs and sofas, low tables, pastel colours everywhere and the most enormous floral arrangements I’ve ever seen.

We all opted for their High Tea menu, which for £36 includes a hot option, plain and fruit scones, madeleines, ginger cake, raspberry jam biscuits, and one cake from a selection they bring on a tray. If that sounds like a daunting amount, it’s ok because the portions are quite small. There is a very impressive range of teas to choose from, as you would expect. I chose a high-grown Darjeeling Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. I like my tea leaves whole, in fact I was very disappointed when I finally got to visit a tea plantation on my Sri Lanka trip and it turned out they were tea dust merchants for Lipton. That’s a little harsh, but their best tea was a BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe) that I found far too bitter.

Anyway, of course the tea was wonderful. If I was to criticise, it’s that we only had one jug of hot water between three of us, so kept having to ask for refills. With a good quality tea, you can infuse the leaves several times, and I think the second and third infusions tend to be the best.

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I had Welsh Rarebit as my hot option, as did Amy.

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I translated this to “posh cheese on toast” but in Amy’s American it was “a bit like an open faced grilled cheese sandwich”.

Louise had the muffin – how good does this look?

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The cakes were of course delicious.

For the first half hour or so we were entertained by a pianist. Apparently Fortnum & Mason is a good place to have your birthday party, because he played “Happy Birthday” at least twice.

So obviously it’s a very touristy thing to do, or a special occasion thing. But I think if I had guests who wanted to experience a proper afternoon tea, I wouldn’t hesitate to take them to Fortnum & Mason.

Restaurant Ramble

Last week I went on the Restaurant Ramble, organised by Kirsty of Ethical Eats at Sustain in conjunction with the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Full disclosure: as you probably know I work at Sustain on the Real Bread Campaign so I’m not even going to attempt to be impartial.

Basically, the idea of the night was to have a progressive dinner at four different members of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Kirsty’s already blogged the event so I’m just going to nick her description:

Ramblers met at the Duke of Cambridge Organic Pub, for an aperitif of crostini including Home Smoked Trout with Horseradish and Marinated Baked Ricotta with Mint and Tapenade accompanied by Organic Sloe Gin with Lemonade. Guests then followed the leader to walk 500 meters to The Charles Lamb. We enjoyed a starter of Chegworth Valley Apple Tarte-tatin with Black Pudding or Blue Cheese served with garden fresh leaves perfectly matched with Furrow Hill Somerset Cider.

We were then whisked away by London Pedicabs to The Clerkenwell Kitchen. We were presented with a “gorgeous” Fish Stew with Ailoi or Aubergine & Tarragon Gratin with Berkswell Cheese served with perky, peppery watercress and sour dough flutes all washed down with the delightful Chapel Down Flint white wine. Finally, a short stroll to Bistrot Bruno Loubet at The Zetter Hotel for an “amazing” Blackberry and Apple Charlotte followed by the Harvest Chase – a cocktail of Chase Marmalade Vodka, Fresh Pear & Lemon with Rose Hip Foam.

The Chapel Down was a revelation to me – I have slightly bad memories of Chapel Down that come from leading a tour group there during the Great Career Crisis of 2009. I didn’t like any of the wines except the English Rose bubbly, which in itself was surprising since I’m not a huge fan of bubbly. But the Flint Dry was delicious.

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Canapés at the Duke of Cambridge

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Tarte Tatin at the Charles Lamb. This is a wonderful old locals pub that’s been gentrified without losing its charm.

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Playing tourist on a rather hair-raising pedicab ride.

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Blackboard menu at the Clerkenwell Kitchen

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Watercress!

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Interesting lamps at Bruno Loubet

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The Charlotte really was tasty.

Thanks Kirsty and all the restaurants for a great evening, I’m already looking forward to the next one!

MyIce, and ethical chocolate

Sometimes I am approached to write product reviews for my blog. I like to be as impartial as possible, but on the other hand I like to keep it positive on my blog, so I only accept those offers that I am genuinely interested in and think I will be able to write about enthusiastically. I hope that explains my thinking somewhat, and also why there is a lack of harsh criticism on here.

Anyway, recently I was contacted about the launch of MyIce, which is an ethical loyalty rewards scheme based on the internet. Basically, you go to their website, log in, follow links to a variety of different ethical shops and collect points, known as Ice, as you shop. You can later spend that Ice on products from the same shops. What I like, which is better than other rewards programmes, is that you can use you Ice in part payment for products as well. There are an impressive number of businesses already signed up and more to come, so you can buy everything from big ticket furniture items from Eat Sleep Live to little foodie treats from Foodari or Green and Black’s. You can even get Ice points on your Eurostar tickets.

I was credited with enough points on my account to buy a Green & Black’s selection box, which I haven’t even opened yet but I don’t need to – I’m a big Green & Black’s fan.

Which brings me to my next point. The above statement about reviews notwithstanding, sometimes I get a little disappointed. Last week I was emailed by a PR about the new Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference range. I’m not a big supermarket shopper but Sainsbury’s is my local so I do pop in from time to time. Anyway, I was offered some of the new Taste The Difference single origin Fairtrade chocolate. I accepted, because as I told the PR, I only buy Fairtrade chocolate and I’m very into single origin choc.

However, the chocolate, when it arrived, was Swiss Milk Chocolate (not single origin), with no sign of a Fairtrade certification mark anywhere.

Update: The PR for Sainsbury’s sent me a replacement bar of the single origin Fairtrade chocolate. I have to admit it was pretty tasty. Very smooth texture and nice, complex flavour, not too bitter. I wish they would make all of their chocolate fair trade!

Mien Tay

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to the launch of the new wine list at Mien Tay Battersea. The wine list has been developed with Willie Lebus of Bibendum and will launch this month, as soon as their alcohol licence comes through.

The wine list is impressively affordable – there are definitely no big markups – and wines are available by the glass, carafe or bottle. There are just 14 wines on the list, along with fizz (Prosecco or Champagne) and sherry. Prices range from £2.50 to £4.50 per 125ml glass, and the most expensive bottle is £20.

We started off with a glass of prosecco, and morsels of Fried Crispy Sea Bass with Lemongrass, Garlic and Chilli, which happens to be my favourite thing on the menu.

I say there were just 14, but it turned out they expected us to try them all, and each came with two different food options – all of the wines have been matched to vegetarian options too. This was going to be quite a challenge. I’ll just mention my favourite wine and food matches.

I couldn’t believe how well our first course of Steamed Sea Bass with Ginger and Spring Onion went with the wine, Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio. The Sea Bass itself was incredible too. The next wine, a Picpoul de Pinet, went very well with the vegetarian spring rolls. The rolls came with a delicious peanut sauce and on my notes I’ve written “best spring rolls I’ve ever tasted!”

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Sea bass

The next wine was a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and despite my loyalty to Marlborough, my home turf (should that be home terroir?), I had to admit it was delicious. I ate fresh seafood rolls with this wine. The rolls were packed with mint but the wine stood up to this very well, with a real gooseberry punch. Salt, pepper and garlic squid was also crunchy and delicious. I love the amount of salt they put in the batter – it’s definitely not heart-healthy food.

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Fresh rolls

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Salt, Pepper and Garlic Squid

Then more rolls came out with an Alamos Mendoza Chardonnay and I’ve written that the wine was an even better match. Tofu with lemongrass and chilli was also a hit.

One more white wine was followed by a rose, a sherry and then we were into the reds. If you’re counting that makes about 7 or 8 glasses of wine so far, though by this stage I was making use of the spittoon. I’m afraid my notes get a little sketchy after this. The evening was clearly deteriorating.

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Helly will possibly kill me for posting this photo.

It was also getting late, and it was time to admit defeat. We abandoned the final courses, and I ended up on a night bus in Trafalgar Square clutching a beautiful tea set to my chest (thank you Mien Tay, it is the tea set of my dreams and I got it home in one piece), wearing a Vietnamese hat, and being pointed at by drunken teenagers. What a glamorous life I lead!

Although Battersea is a bit of a hike for me, I definitely want to go back after the wine list is launched. The fried sea bass haunts my dreams, and I haven’t yet tried their soft shell crab, which is meant to be one of their best dishes. There’s always their Shoreditch branch too though – which as I’m currently working in Hackney, is a definite possibility…

Complicated Crumpets

This is my entry for this month’s (well ok, last month’s) Breakfast Club. The theme was British, and I knew I wanted to make something bready to make up for last month’s failure to make the muffins I had planned.

I’ve always wanted to make crumpets, so I decided to give it a go. However, just for that extra bit of challenge factor, I decided I had to make Real Bread crumpets – no cheating by using bicarb here!

Not only that, I chose to make a rather complicated recipe indeed. It’s actually the ciabatta recipe from Andrew Whitley’s Bread Matters. I borrowed it from work and now I must have it!

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I doubled the recipe so I could make a couple of ciabatte as well. Basically, the recipe consists of a yeasted sponge, a rye sourdough, and contains three different types of flour. You make the sponge and refresh your sourdough the day before (18 hours according to the recipe, but I must admit I left it a bit late and only gave it about 12-14 hours. Luckily I had a really active sourdough). Then in the morning, you mix it all together, adding a bit more water to your crumpet mixture. Wait 1-2 hours, THEN you are finally ready to make your crumpets.

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The sponge

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A very active sourdough (who says I don’t take care of my starters!)

I used nonstick crumpet rings, which I started off buttering but soon found I didn’t need to. I started off putting far too much batter in the rings, which prevented bubbles forming. The batter also wasn’t spreading out enough in the rings. I ended up adding quite a bit more water.

Finally I ended up with something resembling a crumpet:

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I know it would have more holes if I had used bicarb, but I’m quite proud of them all the same. The recipe is far too complicated to write out here. If you are at all interested in baking bread then I strongly suggest you get Andrew Whitley’s book. Otherwise I suggest you follow Helen’s crumpet recipe here.

Kukkolaforsen

I finally have internet back, so I can tell you about my favourite day in Sweden. This is going to be an image-heavy post, but it was so beautiful I have to share it all.

After a long bus ride from Kiruna we arrived at Kattilakoski, on the Torne river. We had appetisers overlooking the river – salmon tartare with cucumber, and water from the river.

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The restaurant at Kattilakoski was beautiful too.

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As was the food:

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Mushrooms for me. Everyone else had reindeer. There had been rather a lot of reindeer by this point.

After a brief visit to a food factory, we then proceeded to Kukkolaforsen.

Kukkolaforsen (click the name for a Google map), is a place on the rapids of the Torne River. On the other side of the river you can see Finland; at least, when the morning mist rises you can.

At Kukkolaforsen they catch whitefish, still using the traditional methods. Every year a jetty is built out over the rapids, without using any nails or screws. The jetties have to be taken down and reassembled every year or they would wash away in the floods. The fish are caught off the end of the jetty in long-handled nets. The fishermen scoop them up from where they rest behind the rocks, on their slow progress up the rapids.

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The jetty in the misty morning…

The sun began to set as some of our group had a go at fishing. No one caught anything, but luckily there were still some fish from earlier in the day.

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Photo opportunity fish (here’s one I prepared earlier). Photo: Magnus Skoglöf/VisitSweden

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Me, a jetty, the river, and that’s Finland on the other side. (That hat I’m wearing? Pattern available now)

We were then ushered into a small wooden hut where they cook the whitefish. This was one of the oldest buildings in the settlement. The whitefish are speared onto pieces of wood and cooked above an open fire. They are then dunked in salt water and eaten with your fingers off the stick.

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One fish each – and this was just a snack. I picked the bones clean, it tasted so good. Never mind that dinner was still to come.

Later on we went to the VIP sauna. The main room contained a veritable feast – apparently a traditional Swedish sauna meal. This consisted of many different fish dishes – herring, whitefish, salmon, roe – prepared in various different ways – raw, cured, salad, pickled, etc. All absolutely delicious. And the sauna was lovely – there was a choice of a normal wood fired sauna or a Finnish smoke sauna, as well as a hot tub under the stars. And I did something I never thought I would do – I went from the sauna, then ran down into the icy cold river and back again. It was such an invigorating experience I did it twice!

I really hope I’ll do it again some day. Thank you to VisitSweden for such a lovely trip.