Huevos Rancheros

huevos racheros

This, my friends, is my new breakfast obsession.  Simple, refreshing, apparently very good for a hangover, and an absolute doddle to make.

However…

Before anyone starts jumping on my case blithering on about how this is not a traditional recipe and really you should be using blah blah blah cheese etc. etc. etc. as they have done with Jamie Oliver, may I remind you of two things.

Thing 1.  All the recipes I share are an eclectic mix of stuff I have read and snippets of useful bits and bobs I have managed to retain from watching others, embellished with a slight dash of my own je ne sais quoi.

Thing 2.  I am not a professional Essex Boy and therefore should be exempt from all slatings.

Right, moving on.

So, I hear you ask, what is in this wunderkind of breakfast what not?

Well, it is the simplest of things.  Collect a couple of red peppers, a few green chilli, a large bunch of fresh tomatoes and blend together in a food processor.  If you no longer have one of these because you’ve given yours to your favourite eldest daughter-in-law, chop all ingredients finely together using a large knife or mezzaluna.

Put a splash of olive oil into a frying pan and warm through before adding the tomato mix and cooking slowly.  Add a little salt.

Meanwhile, put another pan over the heat and place a corn tortilla in it. Warm through one side and turn over.  Place on a plate.

When the tomato mix is cooked, crack open an egg and put on top.  Cook.  You may need to just cover the pan for a wee while so that the tomato base doesn’t burn, although to be honest there should be enough liquid in it from the fresh fruit to stay moist, providing you haven’t used a tiny bit of mixture and a ginormous pan.  Don’t laugh, I’ve done it myself…

Once the egg is almost cooked, grate some of your favourite hard cheese over the egg.  I use cheddar as we always have it in, but I’m sure it would work well with any type of hard cheese.  Allow it to melt slightly before placing the whole tomato, egg and cheese affair on top of the toasted tortilla.

Gloriously more-ish.

Just a word of advice.  I have been using the thin green chilli as I like to feel the heat on my tongue without it leaving a slightly sizzling numbness.  You will need to experiment with this but I suggest you start with a ratio of two chilli to four or five tomatoes and one red pepper.

If you are cooking for more than one, just increase the amounts of fruits etc. proportionately but still cook within the same pan as the eggs just sit on top of the tomato base.  If you are cooking for one, make sure you have all the ingredients in to remake it.

 

Advertisements

Croque Madame

croque madame

There is something quite strange about working in the summer holidays when everyone else is at home.  Today, for example, I returned home from work to the sound of the hoover.

I’ll give you all a moment to mentally digest that information.

Not only that, but the dirty dishes by the sink had most definitely been dipped and wiped in a bowl of very bubbly water and then taken out and stacked on the other side.

Once again, a moment is needed, I believe.

On the end of the hoover stood the wee boy, who had been merrily hoovering the first three stairs in the hall for a good ten minutes (apparently), and proceeded to do that glorious thing of talking over the sound, to let me know how comfortable I could now be, as there wouldn’t be any more bits on the floor, whilst son #1 gave me a blow by blow account of how the washing up had been accomplished.

Of course the other thing that happens during the holidays is that time, warps, as very slowly, the usual routine is no longer adhered to and a different pattern emerges.  Similarly with food, the usual pattern begins to morph into a very different experience, as holiday food ideas start to make an appearance.

As part of our honeymoon, himself and I spent some time in Paris.   Every morning we would go to a cafe round the corner from the hotel, for brunch.  It was nothing special in terms of decor, lay out or typical French-ness, in fact it had the feel of a greasy spoon, or how the French may interpret that phenomenon.   There were a couple of slot machines, bright overhead lights, a long serving counter and a very laissez faire serving staff who were extremely polite but you just knew that disagreeing with them on anything culinary would not be worth it.  Which is perhaps what gave the place it’s charm.  That, and the people who went in.

There were obvious regulars who went in for something specific every day.  There were those who just popped in for a coffee, and those who stayed to drink their coffee.  And then there were people like us.  People who were easing themselves into the day, who went, not only for the food, but to just sit and watch the world go by.

It was a glorious place and one which makes both himself and I smile from the inside out when we recall those days. And always, alongside that memory, is the delight of discovering Croque Madame.

This is the most delicious of foods, and will set you up for the day.  Moreover, it is the easiest thing in the world to make, as long as you have mastered the art of the poached egg.

Firstly, toast a good doorstop sized slice of white bread on one side, turn over and add a good slice of ham and some mature cheddar cheese.  Toast on a low heat. Turn your attention to the egg.

I have to admit that it has taken me a great deal of time to feel confident about poaching an egg in just a pan of water, having so often used an egg poaching pan. In fact it has taken many, many failed poachings to get this right, and I am still working on the presentation, however, I believe the key to a good poaching is to put the egg into a small bowl or ladle before placing in the pan of boiling water.  It’s worth mastering this method as I promise you the egg taste so much more delicious than the preprepared egg poacher method.

So, put a pan of water on to boil and add a sprinkling of vinegar.  Once the water has begun to boil add the egg and wait for the water to boil again.  Turn off the heat and leave for about a minute then dive in with a slatted spoon, removing any floating egg white that may have found it’s way to the top of the water.  Beneath that is the perfect poached egg.

Place the egg on top of the now bubbling cheese and serve.

It will, without a doubt, leave you wanting more.

Brownies

Brownies

There are many cakes that I will probably, through lack of knowledge of their existence, never bake.  But a brownie is not one of them.  Although to be fair, it has only been in the last couple of years that I have even considered making them at home and not just buying them to eat when meeting friends at the coffee shop.

Brownies have recently become synonymous with morning coffee, perhaps in part due to their American origins, although I have a sneaking suspicion that it is more likely because they compliment a hot drink wonderfully, so they, like so many other cakes, have naturally veered towards the morning or afternoon ‘nibble’ slot.   Although according to thenibble.com brownies are actually a bar cookie as opposed to a cake because,

“…brownies are finger food, like cookies, and cake is eaten with a fork”

I don’t know about you, but I can eat cake very nicely without a fork, thank-you. Moreover, I always presumed the classification process was more about how the item was baked and it’s consistency.  But who am I to argue?  Although there is another issue, on our little island, regarding whether it should be taxed or not, based on the classification of whether the food is a biscuit or cake.  And for those of you who are the slightest bit interested, may I guide you to the ‘Jaffa Cake Fiasco’ for more, vitally important and gripping details.   *Ahem*

Meanwhile, the brownie recipe I follow is a gloriously simple one, promoted by the one and only Nigella Lawson, who, for any of you that didn’t see it, read out with wonderful precision, the Eurovision results for our little island this year.  A show dedicated to all things gloriously ironic and ever so slightly camp.  Perfect for our sense of humour.

And now let me shimmy, seamlessly, to the ingredients.  You will need 375g butter, 375g good dark chocolate.  Melt together, leave to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, mix together 225g plain flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 300g chopped nuts (usually walnuts, but yesterday I did a mixture of walnuts, pecans and almonds simply because I didn’t have enough walnuts) into a bowl.   Then add six large eggs, 500g castor sugar and 1 tablespoonful of vanilla extract into another bowl and whisk together.

When the melted chocolate mix has cooled slightly, add the whisked egg mixture and then the flour nut combo.  Pour into a greased and lined rectangular dish, depending on the size of brownie you would like.

Cook at gas mark 4 for around 25 minutes.  As soon as the mixture stops wobbling, and the top has cracked and turned a lighter brown, whip them out of the oven and leave to cool before cutting.

Make a coffee (or tea) and sit down, brownie in one hand, drink in the other, for five minutes – or 30 seconds in my case –  of absolute pleasure.

Harissa and Cheese Omelette

Harissa and Cheese Omelette

Well, well, well, would you look at that.  After years of mismanaging eggs which miraculously transform themselves from omelettes to scrambled in the blink of an eye, I jolly well think I’ve cracked it.  (Pardon the pun).  So much so, that I have begun branching out from the no nonsense plain omelette.

*grins*

Today’s experiment is one that I will most definitely be trying again.  It was absolutely delicious.  All I did was add half a teaspoon of harissa paste to a couple of seasoned and gently whisked eggs.  Then, I pulled it about with a fork in a medium hot buttered pan before adding cheese, throwing one half of the omelette over the other and then turning.  And for those of you who have never had harissa, may I suggest you give it a go?

Harissa, according to wikipedia, is a Tunisian hot chilli pepper paste, the main ingredients of which are: roasted red peppers, serrano peppers, hot chilli peppers, spices, herbs such as garlic paste and coriander or caraway seed, as well as some vegetable or olive oil for preservation.  For me, it is a wonderful paste to add to anything where you would like it to have a little kick without being too chilli hot. Perfect, it turns out, for an omelette.

Meanwhile we are just starting the second May bank holiday weekend, which hasn’t come a moment too soon.  I’m unsure as to whether I may have an inherent lazy gene, but I really look forward to the weekends where we have very little planned thus allowing us, over a long drawn out period of time, to potter.  I have already started having a jolly good think about what I might accomplish and have mentally drawn up a ‘to do’ list.

Obviously these things take time, so today I may just do a little more contemplating. After all, there’s no rush…

Poached Egg on Toast

image

I absolutely love eggs.  Their taste, coupled with versatility is, in my book, a perfect combination.  But of all the various ways an egg can be cooked, poached eggs hit the spot for me every time.

We actually have an egg poaching pan.  You know the ones? They have four semi circular metal cups with little metal loops for handles that get extremely hot very quickly whilst showing absolutely no discernible difference on the outside.  These are slotted into a metal circle which is suspended over a pan of water.  And yes, it is easy to poach an egg in these style pans, but, aside from invariably burning your fingers, they just don’t taste right.

The only way to really do a poached egg, for me, is in a pan of boiling water which has a splash of vinegar added to it before being swirled.  Clockwise.

By the way, did you know that water goes down plug holes in different directions depending on which side of the world you live?  I love this type of information, and although I have spent time finding out why, have not retained the reasoning.  I much prefer the wonder.

Back to the poached eggs.  I have recently taken to cracking the egg into a ladle before placing it into the boiling water, although I suspect I’m making a little bit of a mountain out of a molehill and actually, there’s an easier way.  I just haven’t, as yet, found it.

Moreover I have often glimpsed television chefs doing something with poached or boiled eggs that involves putting them in iced water, but, once again this method eludes me.

To be fair, I am partial to wearing metaphorical rose tinted glasses.

Meanwhile the weekend is upon us once more which, hopefully, will give me a little time to get my teeth stuck into my list of ‘to do’s’.  Or at least time to telephone people and talk about it.

It’s no good rushing into these things…

Frittata

Frittata

Time seems to be flying by much quicker than I had planned, recently.  May was supposed to be a while away yet, but here it is, rolling round the corner with it’s two bank holidays and plethora of activities, already on the doorstep.

I always find, when life is busy, that cooking meals becomes a little more of a task than a pleasure, and it is times like this that frittatas and the like, come to the fore.

The word frittata is Italian and translates to ‘fried’, but unlike an omelette, my bete noir, you simply pour the egg over whatever you’ve decided to put into the frying pan and let it cook.  But for me, the beauty of this dish is two fold.  Firstly, it is an opportunity to use up any left over bits and pieces such as potato, peas, asparagus, meats or cheeses, and secondly it is absolutely delicious hot or cold.

I tend to cook the frittata on the hob and finish it off under the grill.  And magically, it takes just minutes to make.

Of course the other wonder of a frittata is that it is a meal that can be eaten at any time of the day.  Perfect for those ‘so much to do, so little time’ moments in life.

Poached Egg in Avocado

avocado and egg

We have a friend, a very dear friend, who is, at the moment, very poorly indeed. Despite this there is not a conversation we have where there isn’t laughter at some point.  I know of very few people who have such a positive attitude to life.  This has always been one of her many endearing qualities.  My admiration and love for our girl only continues to grow.

Alongside all the usual unpleasantness, my wee pal, who is a lover of food, has become afflicted with the most awful reaction to almost all foods that were her usual ‘go to’ ingredients.  And as a consequence has had to exist on what she describes as the most bland of foodstuffs, just so that she can keep something down.  Most of it revolving around mashed potato.

Anyway, I saw the combination of avocado and poached egg a few days ago and immediately sent the lovely one a message, thinking this may be delicious, and, moreover, something she may be able to keep down.

Now the thing about recommending something is that really, you need to have given it a go yourself, if only to point out any pitfalls or tweeks that may need to happen.  So today, being mindful of my own advice, I gave it a go.

Firstly, unless you are using a ginormous avocado or a very tiny egg, you will need to ditch quite a bit of the egg white and  secondly, I presumed you would need to bake in the oven, and as we all know, avocado’s are wobbly things, so it needs something to sit on.  I plumped for a bun tray and consequently most of the egg white drained out of the avocado into the tray, so perhaps a mound of gravel or rice would work better.  This all became irrelevant after tasting though, as it was bloody awful.

So after quickly texting my gorgeous girl, asking her to hold fire on the avocado until I’ve experimented a little more, I have given the whole thing some thought.

Sometime in the ’70’s my mum went through a phase of making oeufs en cocotte for almost every guest that came for dinner.  Obviously we were too young to stay up for the meal, but they always looked delicious, and the yolks, especially, were always rich and runny looking, unlike the shrivelled stone affair that greeted me. And this is when I remembered that she would always cook them in a bain-marie, (a hot water bath) which tempers the heat of the oven whilst gently cooking the eggs allowing the white to cook, whilst the yolk remains runny.

I have also been thinking about another method of cooking avocado which I was taught many years ago.   It’s the most simple but effective starter imaginable.  Halve the avocado, take out the stone, cover in a beautiful blue or goats cheese and place under the grill until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.  It is divine.  And what makes this so successful?  The ripeness of the avocado.

And that is where the beauty of learning lies.  Mistakes are always going to be made, but it is when we learn from them that we begin to truly succeed.  So, I am going to try this again using a ripe avocado and putting the whole lot in a bain-marie.

I’ll let you know how I get on.