Tag Archives: Breakfast

Figs & waking

…gastronomical perfection can be reached in these combinations: one person dining alone, usually upon a couch or a hill side; two people, of no matter what sex or age, dining in a good restaurant; six people… dining in a good home.
~ M. F. K. Fisher

Is it ridiculous to admit that the only thing that got me out of bed this morning was the thought of the fresh figs in my kitchen?

Breakfast today was an impromptu plate composed of the following:

    sweet ripe figs
    careless cubes of buffalo mozzarella
    fragments of fresh basil
    salty shreds of prosciutto
    balsamic vinegar – a splash, and
    black pepper.

Recommended for days you need swift assistance with getting out of bed.

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Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona

I went travelling from 18 Nov – 18 Dec. I’m now blogging about some of the places I went to… posts are not written in chronological order.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking for this post. I went to this market with my family a few days ago, where we savoured everything around us with much delight. Loved the bustling atmosphere, vibrant colours, unfamiliar foods and – well, to put it bluntly, stopping myself from performing the unbecoming act of drooling.

Also, I tried my first pomegranate here! It was marvellous because it didn’t really taste like what I had always thought it would (mushy and sour… who knows where I got this idea from). The gently crunchy texture and mild sweetness of it was very refreshing in the morning.

And this was my breakfast – baby squid with crunchy vegetables artfully arranged :-) Very delicious; it tasted of Spring (nevermind that it’s Winter) – fresh, nicely flavoured and cooked to perfection. I finished it off with a cafe cortado, which became my staple in Spain – a shot of espresso with a dash of milk.

El Quim de la Boqueria – Mercat de la Boqueria, Pdas. 584-585-606 y 607 – Phone: +34 93 301 98 10

Porridge, fit for a Queen!

There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.
~ Author Unknown

I’ve just had a wonderful vacation in Christchurch – filled with belly laughs, real talk, yummy food, sunshine, rain – and best of all – time with a few of my Christchurch-based friends. It’s more than I can fit into one blog post, so I’ll make a start with Porridge. :-)

Ian and I went to Christchurch Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning – we didn’t get to stay very long unfortunately, as we wanted to drive to Lyttelton and to Sumner too (I wish one could lengthen weekend mornings. They are just so full of promise and potential)! Neither of us had been to the market before, but we knew without a doubt that we were at the right place when we got out of the car… and were met with some fabulous smells! Mmmmm! We followed our noses (and other similarly nose-led people) in towards Riccarton House.

For a split second, I was jealous of all these Christchurch folk who get to visit each Saturday (had to quickly remember we are hardly a sorry bunch in Wellington too!). Wow, what a great selection of stalls – I could hardly focus on anything, it all looked so good.

We headed in separate directions – Ian went on a search for bread and coffee, while I marched on in a purposeful search for Becs’s stall Posh Porridge, having read about it on her blog! I was very pleased to find it and meet the lovely Becs – even if briefly! It was fun to chat, and I couldn’t resist treating myself to some porridge too. It was pretty tough to pick just one out of five delicious-sounding options… but eventually I settled on porridge with rum-soaked raisins, granola and honey…

In short, I felt like a Queen eating this.

And not just because of the regal bowl it came in!

The porridge itself was something else – creamy, with great texture – and the toppings made it impossibly good. Though it was richer than my normal breakfast, I happily melted into the sweet rummy raisins, honey, custard, golden granola… ahhh. Together with some heady Espresso, this was the perfect start to Saturday!

We drove off with smiles on our faces. I don’t know how we fit in more food at Lyttelton, but we did… (more about that soon).

Christchurch Farmers’ Market – Riccarton House – Phone: 03 348 6190

PS. My crazy and much valued friend Paul surprised me with a camera for my birthday… notice the new and improved photos ;-)

Oven-baked French Toast (or pudding?)

I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.
~ Eartha Kitt

Someone I know through work recently emailed me this: “I have just recently come to understand the journey is just as important as the destination.” How I love that. We were discussing the mysteries of life, but I am so reminded of his wise words as I write this post now!

I decided to invite a few friends around for brunch in the weekend – so on Friday, I went to buy ingredients for Oven-Baked French Toast and spent a glorious half hour preparing it.

It was the most beautiful night. Honestly. Listening to the pitter-patter of rain falling outside while slicing bread, zesting an orange, sprinkling raisins and almonds, whisking milk with eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and a tiny amount of Baileys… It felt like a dream, and I was so looking forward to sharing perfect French Toast with my friends the next morning.

I arranged everything in the baking dish, glad-wrapped it and left the bread to soak in custard heaven while I slept…

Nothing could go wrong, right? Nothing. I awoke on Saturday morning with a smile on my face, and the French Toast still looked good as I slipped it into the oven. I even had time to toss 4 plates in the oven to warm them while the French Toast was baking. I had juice and coffee prepared. My friends arrived on time. Cutlery was on the table.

Within minutes, I smelled the awful smell none of us like at all – the odour of something burning. Gah, stupid raisins!! I really should’ve made a double-layered French Toast after all.

Worse still, in my haste to save the raisins, I put a layer of foil on the whole thing and baked it some more.

For Saturday brunch, we had soggy pudding with scorched raisins. My friends finished everything on their plates. A firm reminder of them being WONDERFUL people – and friends.

Well. This wasn’t so fun to eat, but it was a very fun journey (part of it anyway!) and the road to perfecting a delicious brunch continues…!

Things I can think of to make a more pleasurable oven-baked French Toast in future: try a different bread (a soft loaf, perhaps?) and form two layers of it with the raisins hidden in the middle. Aluminium foil should not be allowed to interfere with the cooking process either.

Does anyone have oven-baked French Toast tips to share? ;-)

Tartine Poireaux-Oeufs Brouillés

Food is, of course, a social thing, one of the most positive, primal ways of spending time with people, but eating alone is also an affirmation. It’s a way of enjoying me.
~ Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life

With half a leek, some eggs, two small fennel bulbs, and the house to myself this morning – I hopped on to one of my favourite blogs, Orangette

I cooked the fennel separately, following Molly’s recipe for braised fennel as closely as I could without using our awful chicken stock cubes at home. It was delicate and lovely, but I don’t want to write about that now… because the other thing I had for breakfast was wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I got distracted by the smell while it was cooking and forgot to add in the sour cream (my substitute for crème fraîche)…

And the best thing is, even sans crème fraîche, the Tartine Poireaux-Oeufs Brouillés (French-Style Open-Faced Sandwich with Leeks and Soft-Scrambled Eggs) was bloody good. The eggs were soft and comforting, like a hug from a trusted friend; the leeks were tender, fragrant and almost caramel-scented with the muscovado and salt. The toasted bread provided a lovely hearty base for all of this goodness. The only thing that could’ve made it better would probably be the addition of crème fraîche!

I’m going to post the recipe below, with my changes (mainly to do with leek amount, one substitution of olive oil for butter and my accidental omission of crème fraîche). Please visit Molly’s blog for the original recipe (link below) which, followed exactly, will likely yield results even more delicious than what I had today, if such a thing is possible!

    Ingredients:
    1/2 a big leek
    A nub of butter
    1 tsp muscovado sugar
    A pinch of salt
    Olive oil
    2 large eggs
    2 tsp water
    1/8 tsp salt
    A large slice of country-style crusty bread, toasted
    Salt
    Freshly ground pepper
    Method:
    Begin by preparing the leeks: trim the root end off each leek, and slice them across their width into roughly ¼-inch-thick coins. Use a salad spinner to wash them if you have one; I don’t, so I just washed them carefully and shook the excess water off them.
    In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, the sugar, and the salt, and stir to mix. Cover the skillet to allow the leeks to begin to sweat a bit, and, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary if they begin to cook too quickly, allow the leeks to cook for about 15 minutes, until they are fragrant, soft, and almost melting. [Here is where you add the crème fraîche if you aren’t distracted like me, and cook the leeks for another minute or so!] Set the skillet aside.
    In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, water and salt. In a small saucepan, heat a dribble of olive oil over low heat. Pour the egg mixture in and whisk constantly (I used a wooden fish slice). When the mixture begins to coagulate ever so slightly and form tiny oatmeal-like lumps, begin a little dance of removing the pot from the heat and replacing it so that the eggs don’t cook too quickly, and reach all over the corners and bottom of the pot with your whisk. The eggs are ready when they resemble loose oatmeal; the process should take between 5 and 9 minutes.
    Place the slice of toasted bread on a plate, and spoon the scrambled eggs on top of it. Top the eggs with a layer of leeks. Serve immediately, with salt and pepper as needed.
    Serves one, with leftover leek.

Mini crêpe bundles

Winter is nature’s way of saying, “Up yours.”
~ Robert Byrne

Inspired by La Tartine Gourmande – recipe adapted and modified (without much success where the crêpes are concerned, unfortunately) to lessen the quantity of batter produced and to suit what was in my kitchen cupboards. Dried coriander and parsley does work. Using only all-purpose flour and skipping the buckwheat flour, and scaling the amount of ingredients directly: not too good.

For the filling, I used broccoli, cauliflower, red capsicum, normal cheese, parmesan, dried tarragon, egg, salt and pepper.

Again, ramekins came to the rescue.

The morning is long when you can’t sit up or lie down without coughing. It makes me want to throw plates! Only half a day of work though to get through today, and then I fly up to Auckland tonight for the long weekend… Have a super Thursday!

Miles from Ya Kun Toast

Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.
~ Charles Dickens

Living in New Zealand, my breakfast on extravagant days = poached eggs with sides; french toast with bacon & banana; a cream cheese bagel… to name a few. Some days I have toast, a muffin, or nothing. We are fortunate in Wellington to have many splendid cafes, so I usually have coffee out a few times weekly with friends.

Yesterday, I thought I would try to make kaya toast for breakfast. Found Dad’s recipe for microwave kaya (a shortcut method for the jam of my childhood) and was dismayed that the New World I went to after work did not have pandan essence. No kaya, noooo!

I awoke abruptly this morning to my phone ringing, head confused from a busy dream and body tired from a busy week. ALL I could think about was kaya, soft-boiled eggs, Grandma.

Good heavens. I shall have to try to locate pandan essence elsewhere sometime later today.

Meanwhile though, I could at least (try to) make soft-boiled eggs. You’d think they were easy to make. Well, eggs are difficult to cook perfectly as it is, and soft-boiled eggs are the hardest of all to perfect in my opinion. The egg needs to be exactly midway between raw/inedible and hardboiled – soft runny yolk, runny (but not like mucus) white, etc. It’s one reason Singaporeans go to places like Ya Kun to have them made for them.

(This is my oops version – try Googling “kaya toast” for more accurate depictions):

Breakfast in Singapore, by the way, is a colourful affair. There are so many choices you could probably spend at least a month trying out all the different things you could have, like the aforementioned kaya toast, which is usually served with soft-boiled eggs and coffee or tea.

There are a few variations of commercial kaya now available on the market, ranging from avocado-green to pale brown in colour (Grandma’s homemade kaya is a crazy bright green, takes hours to make and tastes beautiful). It’s an egg jam, rich and unlike anything else you call jam, except you can spread it on bread too. Its main ingredients are coconut milk, pandan leaves and eggs. A Nonya/Malay (Straits Chinese) specialty, some sources say it was inspired by the Portuguese who had established major trading outposts in the Straits of Malacca during the peak of the spice trade.

Eggs. Supposedly, 3 (minutes) is the magic number when it comes to how long you should cook them to achieve perfect soft-boiled eggs. A problem when you live in a place with 4 seasons, I think – different room temperatures affect the temperature of the water on your stove, and though my Grandma heats the water to a rolling boil then turns it off while she cooks the eggs for 3 minutes in the hot water before cracking and slipping them quickly into a bowl… I leave the stove on very low heat in cold, late-Autumn New Zealand. There may be other factors besides this too, but it’s the main one I thought of today. It is not uncommon for Singaporeans to splash a little soy sauce and shake some white pepper on to the eggs.

As a side note, something I LOVE about having grown up in Asia is the way it truly opened my palate and senses to the sharp, piquant flavours of sweet, spicy, salty, sour – and the ability to appreciate combinations of what might seem like an appalling clash of opposites in NZ. :-)

Alright, last thing – coffee. Here, I love the sweet and robust espresso topped with creamy New Zealand milk steamed/frothed by exceptional baristas. In Singapore, you either drink Starbucks/Coffee Bean frappuccinos, or traditional kopi in coffee shops/food courts (the latter being the type you must have with kaya toast and eggs). Twists on kopi include having it black, with condensed milk, with evaporated milk or with sugar.

This morning, I had no kaya, no perfect eggs, no kopi-o. But I had butter, bread, yummy eggs, black coffee, a good imagination… and some day soon, hopefully, I will have some very delicious kaya (maybe from my kitchen?) to share.