Sunday, 29 November 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
I'm indecisive. It was hard enough choosing River Cottage Canteen among Bath's copius cafes. Thank goodness the menu was a little more straight forward.
The cream of the crop? The River Cottage Organic Farmhouse Breakfast (£8).
- A rasher of Sydling Brook bacon, a homemade sausage, an egg (cooked to order), homemade baked beans, bubble and squeak and bottomless tea or coffee and toast.
Then there's the rest for £5 each (a bit stiff for toast but not bad for the rest...)
- Home-made toasted bread with a choice of locally made organic preserves
- River Cottage granola and yoghurt with seasonal fruit compote and toasted organic oats
- Organic Sydling Brook Bacon sandwich
- Scrambled or poached organic Barrington eggs on toast with pan-fried mushrooms
It was buzzing, clattery, hearty, wholesome, tasty, fresh, warm, filling, and the smell of freshly cooked brownies gave you a big chocolately hug when you walked in.
Only thing that put me off was the location. It's the ground floor of Komedia, which sounds like one of those faceless Singapore gamers' malls, but is actually a groovy cabaret and music spot.
So, ignore the name, and pop in (p.s. after breakfast, the Roman Baths with Bill Bryson commentary is your next best bet and some shopping in the new SouthGate quarter).
Friday, 20 November 2009
lots of olde worldy wonky charm - low ceiling, log fire in winter, dapper waiters and fascinating modern art with some charcoal Oxford sketches thrown in.
Buffet: home-made granola was high on nuts and seeds with a sweet toasted crunch and there was an option to add extra walnuts and banana chips from the bowl next to it.
The highlight were the gorgeous berry and yoghurt pots, the former between fruit and compote stage with plenty of sweetness to compliment the creaminess of the delectable, rich yoghurt.
There was also a wholesome nutty bread that tasted just baked and a selection of cheeses, ham and smoked salmon. The croissants were fine, with good flakiness, but not buttery, indulgent or 'just baked' enough.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
My obsession with banana bread begun when I lived in Sydney for a year whilst travelling the world. The Australians are in love with the stuff and I quickly realised why. Within months I knew the best cafes to get the freshest banana bread from and indulged nearly every day.
It wasn’t long after I left Oz that I forgot all about BB, four months travelling home through south-east Asia led me to another breakfast addiction of Pad Tai (but that’s another story!) and I had yet to find anywhere in the UK that served banana bread to remind me of the happiness it used to bring.
Then one day, my husband bought me home the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook and low and behold, there was a recipe for banana bread – and it was simple! I set about making a batch and enjoyed the smell that filled the house as it slowly rose in the oven.
I was so eager to enjoy the bread that I couldn’t wait for it to cool down and devoured the end slice as soon as I was able to cut it. It was just as remembered, only better because I had baked it myself.
Since then I have perfected the art of the banana bread making, I now know that you mustn’t open the oven door too early as the cake will sink, that ripe bananas really do make for a richer cake and that it's fine to use a mixture of all sorts of sugars that you may have lying around in the cupboards. I also know that I have to give most of the bread away to friends and family or I would end up eating an entire loaf in one day, it’s that good.
Banana bread is beautiful to look at with its marbling of brown through each slice, and it feels healthy too (although it really isn’t with all that butter and sugar!).
This is the recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook:
270g soft light brown sugar
200g bananas mashed
280g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
140g unsalted butter
23 x 13cm loaf tin greased and dusted with flour
Preheat the oven to 170c Gas 3
Put the sugar and eggs in a bowl and beat until well incorporated (can use a whisk). Beat in the mashed bananas.
Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger to the sugar mixture. Mix it thoroughly until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the egg mixture. Pour in the melted butter and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed.
Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over with a palette knife. Bake in the preheated oven for 1hr or until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
Labelled: Nutty fruity slice
Instructions: Grease a 9" inch square tin. Melt the butter, honey, golden syrup, olive oil and brown sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat. Once melted add the remaining ingredients and coat thoroughly with the liquid mixture. Pour into the tin and press down firmly.
Results: the bars looked more appetising than the results of Granola bar recipe test no. 1 because they were lighter in colour, offering a better showcase of the ingredients. They did, however disintegrate easily when being cut up and eaten. This is probably because I reduced the amount of butter and sugar, which would have bonded the bars better, but made them more unhealthy.
The bars had a satisfying crunch of baked oats with the flavour of the toasted nuts and seeds coming through. There was a hint of sweetness from the dates and cranberries, which wasn't overruled by the honey and syrup.
Friday, 13 November 2009
The cheek of it!
Or so I thought - until I found out that Marengo's was Mildred's younger sister. All takeaway's and lunch-break bites to Mildred's drawn-out candlelit affairs.
The breakfast menu is delectable, despite the fact it's not exactly original.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
This recipe is just the ticket - it's Soreen on stimulants and there's hardly any bad stuff in it (no butter, just a bit of brown sugar).
I'd recommend eating it with slice banana and/or yoghurt, or if you're feeling devilish, with butter. It tastes great warm (a few minutes in the Aga toast rack, or pop it in the oven, or sit it on top of the toaster and press the lever down).
It lasts a week in a tin and will do nicely for afternoon tea if you get fed up with it at breakfast.
It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, but leave up to three hours soaking time for the fruit.
Low fat breakfast tea loaf (adapted from a Farmhouse Breakfast Week recipe)
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Choosing between the two breakfast offerings on Britain's only remaining sleeper train services is a bit like being asked whether you'd rather squirt lemon juice in your eye or drink sour milk... the best option is neither.
The offering on the ScotRail Caledonian Sleeper is a dead giveaway for its tartan-clad shortbread bar... hardly a breakfast staple, but at least it'll keep hunger at bay lest you fall for the not-so-pleasant charms of the 'breakfast panini', a crime against toasted sandwiches the world over.
For starters, the sorry sarnie is heated inside the plastic bag (god only knows when that was sealed) and secondly, the contents suffer from that rapid microwave temperature drop. Boiling hot Pop Tart lava is the first bite, then within seconds you're left with congealed goo to soothe your fresh mouth ulcers.
The yoghurt is passable, but too sugary, and as for milk in a plastic tube, well, need I say more?
The Night Riviera Sleeper to the West Country fares better - the biscuits will do for later and the croissant would appease someone who buys their breakfast at Greggs, but the banana is the real saving grace. I mean who likes Grannie Smith apples? So tart, so hard, so nasty-taste-in-the-mouth.
For all their culinary shortcomings, there's no better way to arrive than by train.
I challenge anyone not to be excited by the novelty of the sleeper - tucked into bed in one part of the country, only to wake up seven hours later, hundreds of miles away.
My advice - take the sleepr, but avoid the breakfast on the train. Drink in the scenery instead.
Sunday, 1 November 2009
Christmas has come early! My shipment of Gayle's Capitola Granola has arrived...