Author Archives: gemmathomas7

Archive: Sweet Potato, Caramelised Onion and Chorizo Hash

Quite a few of the items I received in my Farmdrop box could be frozen, so I immediately popped them in the freezer to make breakfast with at a later date. These sweet potatoes were the last of the fresh ingredients and, probably, what I was looking forward to using the most. Sweet potatoes make their way into my breakfast dishes often, but there are few better ways to show them off than in a hash. This one combined with chorizo and caramelised onions and was the base for some baked eggs. A little avocado on the side and a drizzle of hot sauce made it just perfect.

Sweet Potato, Chorizo and Caramelised Onion Hash with Baked Eggs

Olive oil
2 large onions, halved and finely sliced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
250g cooking chorizo, chopped
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
8 eggs

Cook the onions in a large frying pan, or chef’s pan, over a medium-low heat, with the salt sugar, until dark and caramelised. This should take about an hour. Set aside. Add a little more oil to the same pan and cook the chorizo over a high heat until crisp. Set this aside also.

Preheat the oven to 220ºc.  Toss the sweet potato in a bowl with some olive oil, salt, smoked paprika and rosemary and spread out on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan.  Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until the sweet potato is tender.

In a very large frying pan, or chef’s pan, combine the sweet potato, chorizo and caramelised onion and make eight wells in the mixture with a spoon.  Crack an egg into each of the wells and place the pan in the oven to cook the eggs.  This should take about 10 minutes for soft yolks.

Serves four. Adapted from a recipe by Serious Eats.

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Archive: Banana, Rum and Coconut Bread

There are few things I love more than buying fresh bananas and leaving them on the kitchen side to go black; for everybody knows that over-ripe bananas make the best banana bread. In these summer months, the blackening process is far quicker than in the winter, and only a couple of days went by before I noticed that my kitchen was swiftly turning into fruit fly central.

This is my absolute favourite banana bread, and I have made it about 50 times.

Banana, Rum and Coconut Bread

250g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½  tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch salt
115g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
Drop of white distilled vinegar
2 tbsp dark rum (I use Morgan’s Spiced)
3 over ripe bananas
30g desiccated coconut
Demerera sugar, for the crust

Preheat the oven to 175ºc and prepare a medium loaf tin with cake release spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda,  ground nutmeg and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vinegar and dark rum.

Mash the bananas to a purée and add a third of this to the mixture, followed by a third of the flour mixture, and repeat until all of the ingredients have been incorporated. Stir in the desiccated coconut.  Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle liberally with demerera sugar. Bake in the centre of the oven for an hour, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Adapted from a recipe by Orangette.

Archive: Egg Salad with Capers and Dill

Has anybody else noticed that it’s starting to get dark much earlier and the evenings are getting chillier? It seems summer is definitely having its swansong, which makes it all the more sweet that I am off on holiday soon. Sadly, for me, impending holiday also means killing myself in the gym for a couple of weeks beforehand. Wish me luck with that.

This morning’s gruelling session left me ravenous, so I turned to eggs for a bit of recovery fuel. I have been considering Sweet Amandine‘s egg salad with dill and capers for breakfast for some time. I deliberately waited for a day when I could have a mid-morning brunch, rather than an early breakfast, to cook it as I wasn’t sure how well I could tolerate mustard and capers first thing. It’s basically an egg mayo, but not as we know it. Best served on a piece of wholemeal or granary toast, but would also make a splendid sandwich.

Egg Salad with Capers and Dill

4 eggs
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp chopped dill
2 tsp capers, drained
Black pepper

Hard boil the eggs. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Once the eggs are cooked and cooled a little, peel and roughly chop them. Using a silicon spatula, fold them into the mayonnaise and mustard mixture along with the dill,  capers and a good grind of black pepper. Taste and add salt if you wish, but there will probably be enough salt from the capers.

Serves two. Adapted from a recipe by Sweet Amandine.

Archive: Vanilla and Cinnamon Poached Plums

In London, summer always ends as abruptly as it begins. Although not so long ago, we were in the grip of a heatwave; September has brought with it chillier weather, the first few golden leaves, and the need to put our duvets back on the bed and dig out our raincoats.

Autumn is my favourite season, and it’s arrival always brings the urge to cook. I could live on squashes and stone fruits all year round, but somehow I resist, thinking that the reward will be so much better for having abstained. Today I picked up my first punnet of autumn plums and, with some excitement, took them home to make breakfast.

Vanilla and Cinnamon Poached Plums

225g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cinnamon sticks
500g plums, stones removed and cut into quarters

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon sticks, along with 250ml water. Place the saucepan over a medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the plums, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the plums are soft. Leave to cool and store in the fridge. Serve with yoghurt.

Adapted from a recipe by BBC Good Food.

Archive: Spinach Burek

You will notice that this isn’t (really) a breakfast recipe. I’m branching out.

In recent weeks, my life and blogging have become somewhat incompatible with each other, much in the way that studying for my finals and nights of heavy drinking did all those years ago. Consequently I’ve been a bit absent from here for a while. It’s nothing sinister, far from it, in fact: I went on holiday to Croatia and came home to a new job. Now I’m in a place where I have enjoyed, and mourned the end of, the former and figured out the latter, so can start writing again. This is not the end for breakfast, but there will be some other things popping up here from time to time too.

Spinach burek was my holiday romance during the said trip to Croatia: loved to the point of obsession whilst away, and then a little trickier to recreate at home. I was hooked almost as soon as my Croatian friend thrust one into my hand outside of a bakery in Pula, telling me that they were the taste of his childhood. I couldn’t even wait until I had swallowed the first mouthful before telling everybody just how amazing they were, bits of flaky pastry flying rather inelegantly from my mouth.

Burek, or borek, byrek or boregi, can be found in many countries across the Balkans, southern Europe and the middle east, hence the variations in spelling. It is a twisted savoury pastry filled with a mixture of spinach and local cheese, similar to the Greek spanakopita.

Many of the recipes I found online advocated the use of homemade pastry for an authentic burek, which I agreed with, however said busy life meant that I had to relinquish a little authenticity to save time, so I used shop-bought filo. The result wasn’t bad, in fact I rather liked it as an alternative.

Spinach Burek

700g fresh spinach
200g feta
Olive oil
½ an onion, finely chopped
½ tsp nigella seeds
Pinch nutmeg
Sea salt and black pepper
12 sheets filo pastry
1 egg, beaten
Sesame seeds, a mixture of black and white

Wilt the spinach and allow to cool. Using your hands, squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. Chop the spinach finely and transfer to a large bowl. Crumble the feta as small as you can and stir into the spinach – I like to use the wooden spoon to smash the feta up a little bit more.

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion for five minutes until soft and translucent, but not browned. Stir in the nigella seeds for the last couple of minutes of cooking. Stir this into the spinach and feta mixture with a pinch of nutmeg and some seasoning. You may not need a lot of salt, depending on the saltiness of the feta.

Lay out one sheet of filo pastry with the long edge facing you and brush with olive oil; lay another sheet on top and brush with olive oil, followed by a third. Cut the filo vertically into three pieces, each measuring about four inches across. Take one twelfth of the filo mixture and make a sausage shape along the middle of the filo strip – it doesn’t need to reach the top and bottom of the strip and should be about five-six inches long. Roll the filo into a cigar shape and twist into a spiral, trimming the edges of the filo and tucking them in underneath. It should be more like a knot shape than a flat spiral. Do the same with the other two strips, and then repeat the whole process three times until you have 12 burek.

Preheat the oven to 200ºc and lay the burek out on a lightly greased baking tray. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake in the oven for about half an hour until the filo is brown and crisp.

Archive: American-Style Pancakes

Years ago, during a visit to Niagara Falls, I went for brunch at one of those American diner chains, I forget which, but needless to say it had extremely friendly waitresses and bottomless acrid filter coffee. I was very likely hungover.

With few gourmet or healthy options to tempt us, we decided to go for broke and order the American equivalent of a fry-up: bacon, sausage, eggs, home fries, etc. Having already travelled in America a bit, we weren’t surprised by anything that turned up on our plate, nor the sheer size of the portions, which I will leave to your imagination. We did, however, raise our eyebrows and exchange looks when our waitress came back with a side of pancakes, stacked high with a pat of butter on top, EACH.

Serving pancakes on the side of a fry-up did little to dispel the dreadful ‘fat American’ stereotype that still pervades despite the growing healthy eating movement on that side of the Atlantic. Far from being appalled at their traditional approach to excess, we Brits have positively embraced it, from the gargantuan burgers on offer across the city, to the Man vs. Food-style eating challenges that have become de rigeur at stag parties – the modern equivalent of necking twelve shots of sambuca, if you will.

We have become such yankophiles these days that these stacked American-style pancakes have replaced the old British pancakes on breakfast menus across the city. It seems we want them vertiginous and pillowy, rather than rolled up with lemon and sugar as in Shrove Tuesdays of old. I confess that I like both equally, but make the American style pancakes more often, at about a ratio of three to one.

I’ve scoured the internet for recipes, testing them and adapting them until I created the perfect pancake. I wanted a plain pancake that I could add fruit and other ingredients to, but keep the base recipe the same. It’s taken about a year, but I’ve finally got it to the point where it is good enough to share. This recipe makes about twelve pancakes, so I often halve the quantities if I am making breakfast for just the two of us. It does keep well in the fridge overnight, if you can bear to have pancakes two days in a row.

I read somewhere that beating in stiff egg whites would make fluffier pancakes, and was skeptical at first, but it does work. I urge you to try it.

American-Style Pancakes

200ml buttermilk
250ml milk
3 eggs, separated
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt

In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, milk and egg yolks until smooth. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and whisk until you have a smooth batter.

In the bowl of a freestanding mixer with a whisk, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whisked egg white into the batter, being careful not to knock out the air as you do so.

Place a large frying pan or skillet over a high heat and melt a knob of butter. Add a ladleful of pancake batter and cook and cook until the edges start to firm and bubbles appear on the surface. Flip the pancake on to the other side and cook until browned. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Archive: Chicken and Dumplings

Last week I came down with a cold. Before this, I had some friends over for drinks and three of them, my husband included, had a sniffle, and by mid-week it felled me too. Without meaning to sound too much like a water-cooler conversation, it seems to be the time of year. In fact, whenever I look through old blogs, posts and diaries, I can always find something written around the end of September or the beginning of October where I complain about how ill I am.

Sapped of energy and the desire to do anything beyond watch daytime television and sleep, cooking is often the last thing on my mind. Not only because the process involves so much standing up, but also that I just cannot face the dishes afterwards. That being said, there are only so many sandwiches I can eat, and I know that there is always one dish that makes me feel so much better.

My nan would always make us chicken and dumplings when we were ill as children and, now, as an adult, I cannot decide if it’s the dish itself or the association that revives me so much. The memory of being wrapped in a blanket in her living room, close to the fire, watching her big old television and eating this hearty stew from a bowl is certainly restorative, but I do think there is something in the dish itself.

As with all of  her cooking, that I loved so much, she never wrote down any recipes, and subsequently they were lost when she died nearly four years ago. To be honest, I’m sure there was actually no recipe to follow, she just threw in things that she happened to have around the house, as with many of the dishes she made. I’ve tried to recreate it as best I can, cobbling together ideas that I’ve found online and a rather good recipe in Gwyneth Paltrow’s Notes from My Kitchen Table, which uses suet-free dumplings that I much prefer.

It is, perhaps, not the easiest dish to make when you’re under the weather, after all, it involves jointing a whole chicken, but it is worth the effort. If you’re ill, it is best enjoyed with a bottle of Lucozade (another throwback from my childhood), if you aren’t, I suppose a glass of white wine will do.

Chicken and Dumplings

1 whole chicken, jointed into two legs, two thighs and four breast pieces
Sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
2 rashers back bacon, cut into 2cm pieces
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dried thyme
150ml dry white wine
500ml chicken stock

For the dumplings
125g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
150ml single cream

Preheat the oven to 200c and season the chicken pieces.

Heat some oil in a large frying pan (with a lid) or chef’s pan over a medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces on both sides, about 5-6 minutes per side, and remove to a plate.  Add the celery, carrot, leek, bacon, bay leaf and thyme to the pan and cook for 10 minutes over a medium-low heat until the vegetables are soft and translucent but not browned.

Return the chicken to the pan and add the white wine, letting it bubble up and evaporate a little, for two minutes. Add the stock, with a little more seasoning, and bring to the boil.  Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a circle of greaseproof paper, then the lid, and transfer to the oven.  Cook in the oven for 1 ½ hours. Check periodically and if the sauce looks like it is reducing too much, add some water.

Meanwhile, combine the dumplings ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until a shaggy dough is formed. Take the pan out of the oven, discard the paper and lid and scoop large spoonfuls of the dumpling mixture on top of the chicken. Put the pan back into the oven for 10 minutes until the dumplings are golden.