Monday, 27 June 2016

Breakfast en cama...

There is just something about a lazy morning spent breakfasting in bed, when you pile your plate as high as a tray unconvincingly balanced on a duvet will manage and lick ketchup off your fingers before staining your crisp white bedsheets, which just screams luxury. Don’t save it for your Mother or your Valentine on their respective days of pampering, whatever the time of year, whether the scorching July sun is streaming through your curtained windows, or the early winter drizzle is making ‘tucked up in bed’ the most appropriate place to be (at all times); it simply cannot be beaten.

And, with the days getting longer, sunshine yellow daffs standing proudly in gardens all over the county, just asking to be plucked and added to a breakfast tray, there is no greater time, in my opinion, to indulge in a little bit of sleepy noshing than Spring.

In my mind, which may or  may not be conveniently deluded to allow me to indulge in this tastiest of treats all the way until summer; there is nothing to make me feel guilty about crumbs on the bedsheets at this time of year. Not the threat of missing the hottest day of the year or the queues to the beach, not Christmas shopping induced panic, no bulbs to be planted, no winter chutney to be made. 

Whatever the excuse, and regardless of whether there is (almost always) something more useful you could be doing than eating your body weight in bacon in bed, the fact that it is still too cold to indulge in breako al fresco without a woolly hat, and the revelation that Dusty Springfield herself sang a song about it, are both good enough reasons to rename Spring the season of bedside brunch for me.

Now, let’s be honest, breakfast in bed is never a virtuous affair. The clue’s in the name to be frank. Yes, this is a treat that demands bacon. Toasted muffins dripping in butter. Eggs with yolks that run like liquid gold. Sticky, roasted vine tomatoes. Smashed avocados. And maybe a large glass of Bucks Fizz. My favourite breakfast involves all of these things. Topped off with a smattering of salty feta cheese and a sprinkling of artfully torn coriander leaves and fiery red chillies, it is a truly sunny take on the classic full English, and guaranteed to put a spring in your step after you finally emerge from your duvet lined cave.

Even better, leave this super easy recipe stuck on the fridge or open on the coffee table, and cross your fingers that someone else will make it for you. Breakfast in bed is always better when you haven’t actually had to leave it…

Mexican Breakfast en Cama, serves 2

2 English muffins, toasted and smeared with butter just before serving
4 rashers of smoked bacon
2 vines of cherry tomatoes
2 eggs, poached or fried
2 avocadoes
½ red chilli
½ lemon
Olive oil
Small bunch of coriander
50g feta cheese 
Preheat to oven to 185oc

In a small roasting tray, drizzle the cherry tomatoes with oil, before seasoning well with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven, for around 20 minutes, or until sticky

In a small bowl, mash the avocadoes (leaving some quite chunky) with the lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and chopped chilli to taste, before seasoning well.

In a frying pan, fry the bacon in a little oil until crispy

Now to assemble! Transfer the toasted muffins to a plate and perch the poached eggs on top. Add a large spoonful of the avocado mixture, the bacon and roasted tomatoes on the vine. Sprinkle with feta, the coriander leaves and a few slices of the chilli if desired.

And it is as easy as that! Now get back in to bed…

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Eastern Promise...

Sweet, spicy and insanely tasty; meatballs are one of my absolute favourite speedy dinners. Ripe for slurping, for staining lips with post-box red tomato sauce and for artfully splashing your favourite white shirt with Pollock inspired embellishment; they may not be top of the list for first date noshing, but there is absolutely no doubting their yum-inducing credentials. Go one step further and add a dash of Morrocan inspired spices, a crumble of milky, slightly sour feta cheese, a scattering of fragrant fresh mint leaves and a flourish of ruby red pomegranate jewels and you have a midweek dinner that will blow your mind. Get rid of the problematic, messy pasta in place of heavenly lemony couscous and, quashing your silk blouse fears, they might even be your new date night favourite...

With juicy, cumin spiked meatballs nestling in a rich, sticky around the edges tomato and red pepper sauce, fragrant with cinnamon and fresh mint this dish is guaranteed to mean you will never look at Spag Bol in quite the same way again. Prepare the meatballs in advance and you can just tumble them into the sauce just before you are ready to dig your fork into the delicious mound of full on Middle Eastern flavour. Add a swirl of creamy, fresh Greek yoghurt, a wedge of lemon and scatter over the gorgeously fresh, totally instagramable jewels of pomegranate and torn mint leaves and your new favourite dinner is as easy as that.

YUM, try it...

Morrocan Meatballs with Lemony Couscous, Serves 4

For the meatballs

500g lamb mince
12 cream crackers, crushed or blended to a fine crumb
1 egg yolk
1 clove garlic crushed
1 red onion, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sweet paprika
Small bunch fresh mint, chopped
Zest 1/2 lemon
1 tsp dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce

Olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped (or to taste)
1 red pepper sliced
2 tins cherry tomatoes
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp sugar
A squeeze tomato puree
Juice and zest 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

For the Couscous
250g couscous
Boiling water to cover
juice and zest 1 lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper

To serve

Pomegranate kernels
Fresh mint, torn
Feta cheese, crumbled
Lemon wedges
Greek yoghurt

To make the meatballs, fry the onion in a little olive oil until softened. Add the garlic and spices and saute for a few more minutes, until the spices have released their gorgeous aroma and the garlic is just cooked. Leave to cool.

In a large bowl, use your hands to scrunch together all of the ingredients for the meatballs, including the cooled onions and spices, until fully combined. Season well.

Roll the meatball mixture into balls and fry in a large frying pan in a little olive oil, until golden brown.

To make the sauce- Fry the onion in a little olive oil until translucent. Add the pepper, spices and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, or until the pepper is just cooked. 

Add the tinned cherry tomatoes, the sugar, a splash of boiling water and the tomato puree and cook until reduced to a thick sauce. Add the lemon juice and zest, and season to taste

Carefully stir in the browned meatballs into the sauce and leave to simmer until the meatballs are cooked through.

Meanwhile, make the cous cous. In a large bowl, cover the couscous with the boiling water add a splash of olive oil, the lemon juice and zest and a good twist of salt and pepper. Cover with clingfilm and leave to absorb before fluffing with a fork.

To serve, spoon the meatballs onto the couscous, scatter with the feta, mint and pomegranate, adding lemon wedges and yoghurt if you wish.