I have a soft spot for jellies and make them more often than my husband would like. In fact, he only recently confessed that he was not so fond of this wibbly wobbly dessert. In his family, they often make fun of British desserts and I recall someone once receiving a packet of jelly crystals at Christmas as a joke. I didn’t get the joke, of course, and the jelly crystals looked far more enticing than the bar of soap I received that year.
Strangely, I have always associated blueberries with muffins. And pancakes. Of course, you can eat them just as they are, as nature intended, but I’m sure most of us are more acquainted with blueberries in cakes and bakes.
The end of summer has meant some frantic jam-making sessions in my kitchen, trying to preserve as much of summer as I can into little glass jars. I have made several batches of Peach & Raspberry Jam, as well as a simple apricot jam (using my recipe for Apricot & Vanilla Jam but omitting the vanilla this time), not to mention the Strawberry Jam which has been disappearing as fast as I make it.
And whilst oranges are not quite in season yet, I wanted to have orange marmalade with my toast at breakfast one day and the domestic goddess in me wouldn’t allow me to just simply buy a jar from the local supermarket. I had to make my own. Thanks to the year-round supply of oranges from Spain, I was able to make marmalade even though purists would probably tell me that I should have waited a few more months.
If I had to choose my favourite meal of the day, it might have to be breakfast. But having just said that, those close to me might sneer and jest, for the truth is, I often value sleep too much to be bothered with breakfast. When faced with a busy agenda at the office, I’m often frantically heading out of the door on an empty stomach, only able to face food once I have turned on the computer at work to see what fires I need to extinguish that day. Then it’s a quick dash to the work canteen for a comforting cup of coffee and either a croissant or muffin which I will inevitably finish on the walk back to my office. This is in contrast to my more sensible and calm husband who takes the time each morning to sit down to a large mug of tea, a generous portion of bread with jam or compote, followed by a piece of fruit, all the while (seemingly leisurely) reading the day’s newspaper.
Having recently taken a break from work, I have suddenly discovered how important breakfast is, not just in terms of preparing the body nutritionally for the long day ahead, but also psychologically; when I feel I have eaten well at breakfast, suddenly I am happier and am full of positive energy to face whatever the day brings. Breakfast, for me, was previously a meal which I only embraced on the weekends. But having now learnt the error of my ways, I now find myself planning for breakfast in much the same way as I plan for lunch or dinner. And perhaps what makes breakfast such a nice time of day to sit down and eat is that it seems to be a meal where one can sit down to something sweet and call it a breakfast if a cup of tea or coffee is nearby
I had a sudden inkling to make crumpets the other day, somewhat unusual because I was only ever a mild fan of these yeasted breads when I was a child. My memories of crumpets are of the shop-bought kind which were round, thick and spongy in texture. Once lightly toasted, a generous slather of butter was obligatory, as was a good dollop of runny honey or jam. As a child, perhaps the allure of crumpets was watching the butter and honey disappear into the many little holes (or, rather, air bubbles) on the surface, which would inevitably end up dribbling down your chin as you took a bite into the warm bread.
Perhaps it is because I’ve had more time to contemplate breakfast lately that crumpets came to mind, and coupled with my New Year’s resolution to bake more with yeast (which I haven’t ventured near since typing up those resolutions), that I committed myself to the task of making them at home.
Here is another fabulous recipe from Rachel Khoo with her take on the French classic, a Croque Madame. Most people would be familiar with a Croque Monsieur which is a toasted cheese and ham sandwich, commonly served in most French bistros for lunch or as a light snack. For a more decadent treat, the Croque Monsieur is also sometimes coated with a béchamel sauce and baked in the oven until the sauce is golden and bubbling.
A Croque Madame, on the other hand, has the addition of an egg.
Rachel Khoo’s version is to make them in a muffin tin, producing gorgeous little snack-sized savoury treats which would be perfect at breakfast, brunch or lunch.
Faced with some bits and pieces of cheese in the fridge, I thought I would try my hand at a savoury waffle for lunch today, and these waffles with Gruyère and fresh thyme were absolutely scrumptious! The cheese adds lovely savouriness to the waffles and pairs wonderfully with a simple green salad on the side, dressed lightly with a mustard vinaigrette.
I always look forward to seeing the vivid pink of the forced rhubarb at this time of the year, its season generally lasting from January to March in the northern hemisphere.
I love to have a jar or two of rhubarb compote in the fridge, which makes for a great accompaniment to have at breakfast with your toast or perhaps dolloped alongside a serve of natural or Greek yoghurt.
I had an inkling to make waffles for breakfast this morning, and upon waking to see the snow falling heavily outside, thus meaning a day of welcome indoor activity, I set about humming in the kitchen. But faced with a slight over-supply of bacon in the fridge, it was time to turn my usual waffles sprinkled with icing sugar into something more savoury at breakfast.
One of the best things about having a blog and sharing recipes with like-minded foodies is receiving all of the wonderful comments and emails from readers all over the world. So many of the emails I have received are so touching with kind compliments, and many with individual recounts of how something I have posted on my blog has triggered memories of an old family favourite or of simply how a recipe has turned out. Whether these messages are just a few words or longer narratives, I enjoy reading them all
A frequent question which has popped up a few times from my American readers is: what on earth is “cream of tartar” and where can it be purchased in the US? I have to admit that I also searched high and low for cream of tartar whenever I was working in the US and had no luck in finding it. I had a craving for honeycomb one day and as neither Crunchie bars nor Violet Crumbles are available in the US, I was motivated to try and make honeycomb at home using Nigella’s recipe from Nigella Express. Alas, there was no cream of tartar to be found (but a giant Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ultimately satisfied the sugar craving :-)).
It is often observed in the Vietnamese culture, and also amongst other Asian groups, that a typical greeting when you see someone is not “Hi, how are you?” but, rather, “Hi, have you eaten yet?”
Even when my mother calls me, if she’s not asking me first what the time is where I am (either because she’s never sure which country I am in or she’s just too lazy to look up the time difference), she will inevitably ask me if I have eaten yet. It is almost the equivalent of asking someone how they are but without the desire to actually know, although if you do respond with a “No”, you can expect an immediate invitation to actually go and eat, whatever the time of day. For my mum and I, it happens to be our way of keeping in touch. She often loses track of, or interest in, my activities, and rather than boring each other with details of our unremarkable days, she will often call me to see if I have eaten, offering suggestions for the week’s menu and reciting recipes over the telephone while I eagerly scribble everything down on the back of an envelope.
A Kugelhopf is an iconic cake of the Alsace. If you ever travel to this part of France, especially for the famous Christmas markets in the picturesque village of Strasbourg, you will find stores overflowing with the traditional and colourfully decorated Kugelhopf moulds. It’s tempting to purchase a few, either as a decorative souvenir or indeed as intended for use in the kitchen, but they are rather heavy and make juggling cups of Glühwein (mulled wine) amongst the crowd a bit difficult, especially if one hand is also holding onto a thick slice of Lebkuchen (gingerbread). I had a brief moment with the Kugelhopf moulds before sighing with resignation to join the rest of my friends who I understood had not travelled to Strasbourg to pay homage to a piece of kitchen equipment. Next time, there is a blue enamelled Kugelhopf mould with my name on it …
I first tried a Kugelhopf when I was at Sprüngli one day for their popular brunch. Sprüngli is a famous, long-standing confiserie in Zurich which, once upon a time, was part of Lindt & Sprüngli, the famous Swiss chocolate company. Their flagship store is at Paradeplatz, a busy tram interchange in the middle of Zurich city where most of the big Swiss banks are headquartered and where luxury stores like Louis Vuitton and Prada line the streets. On Sundays, they offer a lovely continental brunch buffet filled with their famous breads and cakes, a selection of seasonal bircher muesli, cold cuts, a variety of cheeses and – my staple – soft-boiled eggs.
I love eating yoghurt, especially at breakfast when a small tub of yoghurt and some fruit compote is enough to propel me into the day. And given the amount of yoghurt I can consume on my own, it only makes sense that I should try to make it at home.
For our wedding last year, one couple gave us a very generous gift of money which we spent on a yoghurt machine (yaoutière) and some yoghurt recipe books to go with. A yoghurt machine sounds like something destined to sit in the back of the cupboard with other long abandoned kitchen gadgets or collect dust in some forgotten corner. Even Nigella Lawson in her book Kitchen mentions that her yoghurt maker features in her “Kitchen Gadget Hall of Shame”, a freak purchase which she has never made use of.
Growing up in Australia, I loved eating pikelets for afternoon tea. My earliest memory of pikelets was when I was in primary school, perhaps about 8 years old, when our teacher made pikelets one afternoon and cooked them on an electric frying pan, with eager little bodies “helping” her with various tasks like measuring, stirring, flipping. Being young children, we were often always quite hungry and cooking classes like these were always met with much enthusiasm. As soon as the pikelets were cooked, we would spread them with butter and jam and eat them more quickly than they could be made.
Pikelets are essentially little pancakes. In some parts of the world, they are called “drop scones”.
Given the amount of jam which my husband and I go through (about 1 jar of Bonne Mamam per week), it’s rather surprising that I only recently got into jam-making. For a long time, I always thought that you needed a gluttony of fruit in order to make jam. And in Switzerland, a gluttony of fruit comes at an extortionate price.
I recently had some good friends from Germany come to stay with me at rather short notice. They had been hiking in the Swiss alps but were forced to abandon their trek due to bad weather. So they wound up at my place, thoughtfully bringing with them a box of apricots which they bought on the way down the mountain (and a bottle of sweet wine for hubby).
I have to admit that I haven’t really been into waffles until quite recently. As a child growing up in Australia, my memories of waffles were of those pre-made, pre-packaged ones sold in the bakery section of the supermarket. Not very enticing.
As I grew older and acquired more stamps in my passport, I recall visiting stands in Paris where they would make waffles fresh to order, your eyes looking on hungrily and your mouths salivating as you stand and take in the irresistible scent of the waffles cooking. In winter, you are likely to find similar stands in other European cities, including in Zurich, although I don’t think waffles are a big hit in Zurich compared to their grilled sausage stands.
Weekends in our home often starts with pancakes for breakfast, but that’s only if I can manage to drag my lazy backside out of bed at a decent hour in order for the meal to qualify as breakfast! Hubby is usually up long before me, often starving by the time I make it into the kitchen.
I am a long-time fan of Nigella Lawson. I have all of her cookbooks, not just in English but also in German; the latter bought with good intentions of improving my German vocabulary upon moving to Switzerland and which has been successful to the extent of surprisingly fluent conversations with the butcher but otherwise not very useful when I am trying to renew my work visa or attend to other important matters in life. Still, when moving to a new country with little knowledge of the local language, knowing how to buy and order food is a matter of survival so I have never regretted my decision to focus intensively on the “Where is the supermarket?” chapter of my language book.
Here is another fabulous recipe from Rachel Allen’s Home Cooking.
I made the American Buttermilk Pancakes more out of curiousity because I wanted to compare them with Nigella’s American Pancakes from Nigella Bites. Nigella’s recipe is what I use almost everytime because I love that they always turn out thick and fluffy.
Rachel Allen’s recipe turned out quite well. The pancakes rose a lot on cooking and they have a much more light and fluffy texture than Nigella’s; I think I would describe Nigella’s pancakes as more dense and fluffy (if that makes sense).