Archives for category: Breakfast

In my last post I suggested that a batch of rosehip syrup might prove handy with the Christmas gift season approaching. Today I have another homemade present idea, and this one has already been tried and tested on last year’s recipients. They almost all said it was too sweet, so I’ve tweaked the sugar content this year to make it as bitter as any true marmalade lover could wish. The one person who truly loved it last year, Tom’s brother-in-law, sent me a forlon facebook message the day his jar ran out, so apologies to him in advance if he now finds his favourite marmalade unpalatably sharp. Sorry Don.

The genius of this marmalade is the grapefruit and lemon, which contribute the sour element which you get in a traditional marmalade from Seville oranges. Since Seville oranges aren’t available until January and don’t last long, this means your marmalade-making season is extended, theoretically year round. I think of this as a winter thing, though, because of the citrus which are around in the colder months, and slightly more obtusely, because I associate homemade marmalade and grapefruit for breakfast with my family and Christmas time. My mum also introduced me to Campari and grapefruit, which is the drink equivalent of this: clean and reviving and bittersweet.

I plan to post some more recipes in the run up to Christmas for the edible presents I make – there are a few things that always seem well received (there have also been plenty that didn’t work out as I hoped…but I tend to think that chucking a substandard biscuit in the compost is less effort than transporting an unwanted gift set to Oxfam). Some of them are honestly less effort than rosehip syrup or marmalade, although I do like doing that kind of lengthy kitchen work at this time of year. Something about pottering around with the central heating on and laying in stores of things in jars is immensely satisfying.

Orange, grapefruit and lemon marmalade

Makes about 4.5kg (around 12 jars)

2 oranges and 2 grapefruit, weighing 1.3kg (I used 2 1/2 grapefruit to make up the amount)
4 unwaxed lemons
3.6 litres water
2.2 kg sugar

You will also need a huge saucepan, or to be prepared to split the ingredients between two big pans.

Wash the fruit (remember you’ll be eating the peel!) and cut in half. Squeeze out all the juice. Remove the membrane – a bit of determined scraping with a teaspoon should do the job. Cut the peel into quarters and slice the rind widthways into thin slivers. Put the rind in a bowl with the juice and water.

Put the membrane, including pips, in a muslin bag/clean tights/other thin porous material and add to the bowl. Leave this overnight.

The next day, simmer the fruits, with the bag of membrane, in your huge saucepan for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the peel is edibly soft (it must be really soft before the sugar is added, otherwise it will become irredeemably hardened). Make a note of the volume when you start – marking it on a wooden spoon is handy – so you know how much it has reduced by later. Cover the pan for the first half an hour, then uncover and allow the liquid to reduce, eventually to between a third and a half of its original volume.

While the liquid is reducing, warm the sugar in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes and sterilise your jars.

Remove and discard the muslin bag from the pan. Add the warmed sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook until it reaches setting point, which should take around 10 minutes*. Pour the marmalade into the sterilised jars and cover while still hot.

*To check setting point, put a saucer in the fridge until cold. Put a teaspoonful of marmalade onto the cold saucer and put it back in the fridge for a couple of minutes (turn off the marmalade while you do this to prevent it setting too hard). If the marmalade forms a wrinkle when you push it with your finger then it’s ready.
Adapted from Darina Allen’s ‘Ballymaloe Cookery Course’

When I was little, my favourite cereal came in the form of big clusters of satisfyingly hard, sweetened oats with raisins in. We called it ‘crunchy’. It was made by Jordans. Nowadays crunchy seems to have been replaced by its US cousin, granola; and OK, it has a proper cereal name and not just an adjective, but I nevertheless stand by the fact that granola should be crunchy (in texture) and it should come in clusters. I’m always disappointed by cereals that purport to be granola but are actually nothing more than toasted muesli. I’ve made a few uninspiring batches myself, the problem being, I think, that in order to get enough of a sticking, hardening quality you need to use quite a lot of oil and/or syrup and therefore the less healthy and the closer to a flapjack your breakfast becomes. Well, this recipe produces the perfect (for me) consistency and uses only a bit of oil and OK, quite a lot of maple syrup, but at least it comes from a tree. I like to put it on top of fruit and yoghurt for extra virtuousness.

I first had granola with garam masala in it from a little stall at a farmers’ market in Ireland and I loved it. Not everyone loved it, because we ended up with another pot of it in our house that someone else had relinquished in disgust. That one had lime juice and jaggery and goji berries in it as well; I know, because I kept the tub so I could look at the ingredients list. My version adds in some of the things I most like to put in granola: nutmeg and coconut. If you don’t like them, or anything else, leave them out or substitute for something you do – as long as you keep the ratio of dry to wet roughly the same, you will end up with crunchy.

Indian-spiced granola

Makes about 450g

10og oats
50g barley flakes
50g rye flakes
75g almonds
4 tbsp sunflower seeds
4 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
50g dessicated coconut
175ml maple/agave syrup, or a mixture
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
75g chewy banana chips

Preheat the oven to 180c.

Mix all the dried ingredients together (except the dried fruit). Mix the syrup and oil and pour over, stirring well to combine. Tip the whole lot onto an oiled baking tray or two and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until the granola is golden brown. Leave it to cool before breaking it into small chunks and mixing in the banana chips. Store in an airtight container.

…and whiskers on kittens…

I recently bought myself a new bike, a beautiful sky blue Pashley Poppy. Every time I look at her I sing ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ in my head. Poppy fills the most ordinary bike ride to the pub with delight; there’s something uplifting about the spring-like colour and the way you have to sit very upright, like you’re extremely proud of owning her. And this sort of quiet joy, I think, is key to surviving February. Because February is the kind of month where every time you leave the house, you’re disappointed anew by the coating drizzle, seeping into your clothing like the realisation that summer is many long, grey months away. With this sort of challenge to the spirits, it helps to make the ordinary more celebratory. And why not start with breakfast?

Since entering this business that is catering, Tom and I rarely get to have breakfast together anymore (except for the odd hasty Sunday bowl of porridge). But then I’m often stumbling around, crease-faced and dressing-gown-swathed, long after most people have departed for the office, so don’t feel too sorry for me.  I’m also a little slow in the mornings, which is perhaps why it took me so many unthrilling breakfasts of muesli or toast and marmalade which, nice as they were, passed unremarkably, until one day a couple of weeks ago some synapses connected in my pre-caffeinated brain and said, loudly, ‘pancakes!’ (I’m not a neurological expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s how my brain works). So I sprang into action, relatively speaking – one of the glorious things about pancakes is that even in a poorly stocked household you’ll have all the ingredients already – and I haven’t looked back. Cooking pancakes for yourself alone is, for me, just on the right side of self-indulgent – it’s not really necessary, but it feels in some way fortifying. It’s sufficiently more effort than pressing down the toaster button that you feel like you’re doing something nice for yourself, but it’s not so difficult that it can’t be managed while the coffee brews.

I have my favourite pancakes, which are an undeniably heavy (though I prefer to think of it as sustaining) banana and buckwheat combination. These are quite different, sort of wholesome and light. The recipe is one I cut out from Waitrose Food Illustrated, before its much more rubbish incarnation as Waitrose Kitchen, and which, I believe, originated with Miss Sophie Dahl. Apparently her TV programme was infuriating, but I never saw it, so I can enjoy her pancakes with impunity. I had a half tub of ricotta in the fridge which worked perfectly with the halved recipe (and if you feel like making your own ricotta, see my earlier post).

Spelt and ricotta pancakes

Makes 4 pancakes to serve 2, or 1 very hungry person

125g ricotta
2 tbsp milk
1 egg, separated
40g spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon zest, optional (I wasn’t organised enough to have lemons, so I left it out)
1/2 tbsp maple syrup, plus extra to serve
oil or butter, for the pan

Combine the ricotta, milk and egg yolk in a large bowl. Stir in the flour and baking powder.

Whisk the egg white to stiff peaks in a separate bowl, and fold into the first bowl. Add the lemon zest, if using, and maple syrup, and stir in.

Heat a little oil or butter in a frying pan and drop in dollops of batter, about one large tablespoon per pancake. Cook for a couple of minutes per side.

Serve with more maple syrup and whatever suitable fruit you have on hand. Banana is always my first choice.

Any remaining batter is fine kept in the fridge overnight and used the next day – it separates a bit, but will come together again with a quick stir.