Sunday, 30 January 2011

Best breakfasts: Bill's Produce Store, London

This Brighton export is like a Jamie Oliver antipasti board (colourful and rustic) meets Carluccio's (tins stacked high to the ceiling with appealing store cupboard goodies) meets Leon (uncomplicated, wholesome food).

The bright decor, jangling soundtrack and friendly staff meant that even a quiet Wednesday morning felt buzzy in this new Covent Garden restaurant. And what a plum spot - right in the heart of the nice bit of Soho in the smart new St Martin's Courtyard.

The breakfast menu is beautifully written, in that it is simple and inviting.

There's the essentials for this kind of brunch joint: a fry-up (£7.95), granola (£4.50) and buttermilk pancakes with syrup (£4.95), plus smoothies, teas and coffees.

I went for the more intriguing option of the Bill`s vegetarian breakfast (£7.95), with not a veggie sausage in sight. It was a bright and attractively arranged plate of thick-cut toast, topped with hummus and tomato one one side, guacamole and mushroom on the other, and finished with two perfectly cooked poached eggs and drizzled with sweet chilli sauce.

Despite my dislike of the ubiquitous and somewhat unctuous sweet chilli sauce, I loved it. A filling but not overwhelming portion with plenty of protein, no grease and a rainbow of colour.

My friend had one of the egg/hollandaise concoctions - the classic eggs Benedict (£6.95). Well, classic bar the sprinkled seeds on top. "Adds a good crunch", he said, and the rather pale hollandaise, which he assured me was no less tasty for the pallor.

The only disappointments were the slightly sharp orange, carrot and ginger juice that lacked the sweetness of the former and the spice of the latter, and the coffee. The flat whites were not foamy enough throughout. Delicious, but basically cappuccinos.

This place has "chain" written all over it - which sounds like a criticism, but isn't. They've simply stumbled on a good formula of tasty grub and jolly surroundings. I expect to see more popping up in a London street near you, or Bristol, Bath, Manchester perhaps... watch this space.

Details: Bill's Cafe, Restaurant & Produce Store, St Martin's Courtyard, off Long Acre, London, WC2E 9AB; tel. 0207 240 8183;

Open Mon-Weds 8am-11pm; Thurs & Fri 8am-11.30pm; Sat 9am-11.30pm; Sun 9am-10.30pm

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Recipe: Bran Flake breakfast pancakes

It's Farmhouse Breakfast Week, and what better way to celebrate than a) eating breakfast, and b) ditching your usual slab of toast for something new. This recipe, for Bran Flake pancakes, is a good starter. It uses store cupboard ingredients and is low fat, quick and tasty.

Makes 8 (takes about 11 minutes to prep and cook)

150g self raising flour
1 medium egg
2 tbsp clear honey
150ml semi skimmed milk
25g sultanas
50g bran flake breakfast cereal

Place the flour in a large bowl and whisk in the egg. Gradually add the honey and then milk and whisk to form a batter.

Stir in the sultanas and bran flakes.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and spoon 4 tablespoons of the mixture into the pan. Cook gently for 1-2 minutes, turn over and cook for 1 minute until golden. Repeat to make 4 more pancakes.

Serve drizzled with honey and a scattering of fresh fruit.

Cook’s tip: try using chopped dried apricots instead of the sultanas.

Many thanks to Farmhouse Breakfast Week for permission to use this recipe. For more quick and easy recipes visit

Monday, 24 January 2011

15 reasons to eat breakfast

In honour of Farmhouse Breakfast Week, here's 15 reasons to convince any of you non-breakfasters to take up bowl and spoon, and for those already converted, some cause for smugness over your morning porridge/toast/bacon sarnie.

1. Breakfast helps to stabilise your blood sugar levels so you should not feel the need to snack mid-morning.

2. Eating bread and cereals for breakfast provides carbohydrate for energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre.

3. Having a piece of fruit, a good source of vitamins A and C, starts you on your way to 5-a-day.

4. Beans, eggs, low fat bacon and kippers all provide added protein and can add a bit of variety to breakfast.

5. Wholegrain cereals and wholemeal bread contain fibre and nutrients to provide a slow release of energy throughout the morning.

6. Some breakfast cereals are fortified with nutrients such as vitamin B, vitamin D and iron. A glass of fruit juice boost this further because the vitamin C from the juice will help iron absorption from the cereal or bread.

7. Women skip breakfast more than men – three in ten men versus five in ten women, but skipping breakfast leads to overeating later in the day and lowered concentration in the morning.

8. Research shows that our healthiest food choices are made at breakfast

9. Oats, the cereal used in porridge, are well-known for their excellent nutritional composition. They contain 14% protein, 64% carbohydrate, 9% fat plus Vitamins B and E.

10. Eating breakfast is a good way to buy British. Many breakfast cereals use UK-grown produce, milk is a huge industry in Britain, and approx 42% of the UK cereal crop is used to feed animals including pigs, chickens and cows, which helps put bacon, sausages, eggs and milk on the nation's breakfast tables.

11. One serving of milk on your cereal in the morning can provide half of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium which is essential to keep your bones and teeth strong and healthy.

12. Eggs are packed with great nutrition including protein, essential vitamins A, D, E, and B group as well as minerals, including iron, phosphorus and zinc. They are relatively low in saturated fat, making them a healthy fast food for all the family and they are low in calories with only 78kcals per medium egg - so they won't even spoil your diet.

13. Breakfast will kick start your metabolism which can assist weight control.

14. Eating breakfast is especially important for those who lead an active lifestyle because it helps restore carbohydrates that have been lost overnight. A breakfast that is full of carbohydrate will ensure that you have plenty of energy for the day.

15. Breakfast is an excellent occasion to eat together with the family or friends. Eating a nutritious breakfast develops good eating habits that will last a lifetime.

Thanks to Farmhouse Breakfast Week for the above info. For more breakfast facts and inspiration, go to

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Recipe: Marc Grossman's banana muffins

I spotted these in a newspaper supplement a couple of weeks ago and the combination of yoghurt, oats, coconut milk and 2 dessert spoons of cinnamon had me very intrigued... I also love recipes that are a chance to use up over-ripe bananas.

The recipe comes from the wonderfully entitled "Scrumptious Muffins" by Marc Grossman, owner of Bob's Juice Bar in Paris, a cafe that is most definitely in my top ten breakfast cafe wish list (especially after tasting these).

The list of ingredients may sound daunting but this is a really simple recipe and the results are a wholesome, dense-but-not-heavy muffin with a delicate banana taste, just enough nuttiness and the virtuous claim of containing no butter (albeit the sunflower oil may more than compensate).

Serve warm for breakfast with a dollop of yoghurt, fruit compote, stewed winter fruits or just solo with a cup of green tea.


75g dried dates (including stones)
240g plain flour
75g rolled oats
3 tsp baking powder
40g pecan nuts, chopped
2 dessert spoons of cinnamon
1 tsp salt
55g brown sugar
190g Greek yoghurt
115ml sunflower oil
75ml coconut milk
60g runny honey
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g peeled bananas

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Soak the dates in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Mix all the dry ingredients together, setting aside a little brown sugar to decorate the muffins once they're out of the oven. Mix all the wet ingredients together except the bananas.

Drain the dates, remove the stones and chop finely. Add the bananas and dates to the wet ingredients. Mix together the dry and wet indredients without overworking. Spoon mixture into a muffin tray or 12 muffin cases. You can fill them to the top.

Cook the muffins for 20-25 minutes until they are firm and golden. Check they are cooked through with a skewer; if it comes out clean, they are done.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Recipe: apple snow

Pining for the Alps? This is a very distant second to the real stuff, but this snow is delicious, low fat and a filling breakfast.

The egg white and yoghurt provide protein and the apple adds vitamin C and sweetness. You can make it the night before and refrigerate if you're too sleepy in the morning to whisk...

Ingredients (2 generous portions)

2 apples
2 egg whites
2 tbspn plain yoghurt

Peel and slice the apples, chop into chunks and place in a saucepan with half a cup of water. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes or until soft. Blend to a puree and leave to one side.

Whisk the egg whites until forming soft peaks. Next, in a separate bowl, mix the apple with the yoghurt, fresh from the fridge. Finally, stir the egg whites into the apple and yoghurt mixture.

Serve with a sprinkle of sugar if you've got a sweet tooth.

Monday, 17 January 2011

London's foodie street signs

Don't you just love 'em? Got any more food and breakfast-related street signs? I'd love to receive them at

Thanks to @claramarama for her Bacon Street suggestion... there's a picture of it on the http://www.sixdegreesofbacon/ Flickr site.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Breakfast included: The Grove, Hertfordshire

Surroundings: The Grove is a favourite Hertfordshire haunt of celebrities, footballers and actors shooting movies in the nearby Leavesden Studios, but don’t let that put you off… It’s a gorgeous, swish country house hotel and you get there in about 30 minutes from Euston Station – shorter than the average London commute and almost breakfast meeting doable in my book…

There are two breakfast restaurants - the one I’m writing about here is the Glasshouse, which looks like an attractive, airy, luxury-buffet style restaurant with wall to ceiling windows on one side, but is actually a torture chamber, where your will power is sorely tested by such evil devices as acres of freshly baked bread and four kinds of sausage.

Buffet: a world-beating spread that actually deserves the ‘smorgasbord’ cliché for a change. Loaves, bagels, brioche and muffins are piled high on the bread counter, then there’s the continental counter of ham, cheese, and salmon and cream cheese for a New York classic. But first, surely, the rainbow of fruit salad – sliced and peeled kiwi, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mango, pineapple… carbon mile counters look away now.

MuesliLover rated the bircher muesli, a stodgy and moreish concoction of oats, dried fruit and nuts. There were also dinky glasses of smoothies in two flavours, yoghurt, and juices… the cereals barely got a look in.

Hot stuff: There’s no menu, you have to take to your feet to fetch a Full English, but unlike the normal hot buffet food, this stuff lacks the crusty/dry affliction of many a long-heated tray of scrambled egg. Instead, it’s constantly refreshed by the chefs in the open/show kitchen behind. And if you give them a nice smile, they will even do a fresh fried egg for you.

The scrambled egg was moist, but a little pallid, but otherwise the hot stuff was exceptional. Those four sausage varieties: pork, pork and herb, beef and vegetarian, plus streaky or back bacon, black pudding that was succulent and fine-textured, beans, huge freshly sautéed mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. Then, just as the button pops off your trousers, you notice the fresh waffles with maple syrup…

Details: The Grove, Chandler's Cross, Hertfordshire, WD3 4TG; tel. 01923 807807;

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Detoxing? Splendid superfood breakfast recipes


This powerful little superberry contains antioxidants by the bucketload, like many of the foods featured below. We all know antioxidants are good for you… but what do they actually do? Well, they can help the body guard against cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's and other late-onset neurological diseases. They also contain Vitamin C, to fight cold infections, plus fibre and pterostilbene, thought to lower cholesterol.

As for getting them into breakfast? Easy – sprinkle on cereal or porridge, whizz up with banana, oats, milk or juice and spices for my world-beating smoothie, eat with homemade yoghurt or bake my gorgeous blueberry and granola breakfast muffin.


There’s an excellent Guardian article on what makes oats so great, but quickly, they contain protein, essential fats and minerals, B vitamins and soluble fibre.

Another easy breakfast fix – straight porridge, or check out some zany topping ideas here. Otherwise I refer to my world-beating fruit and oat breakfast smoothie, which will convert even the most ardent breakfast-hater. Or if you’re feeling really brave, whizz up an avocado, berry and oat smoothie – seriously, it tastes so good.


The old “go to work on an egg” is back in vogue. In fact, a nutritionist recently told me to eat at least two eggs a day. Why? They are a truly filling breakfast and source of protein, plus they contain iodine, which helps to regulate metabolism. Have them any which way – poached, boiled and scrambled is best.

If you have a bit of time, and some leftovers in the fridge, how about a superfood scramble with spinach, seeds, chilli and feta or Mexican-style tortilla - the perfect brunch recipe.

Green tea

The infamous antioxidant, and also raiser of metabolism. Drink hot with breakfast, or make the night before and chill in the fridge overnight. Add lemon, rosewater or honey to flavour your refreshing cooler.

Salmon and seeds

Both are a great source of omega-rich oils that help keep hair, skin and nails healthy, as well as maintaining a healthy heart. Eat smoked salmon with scrambled eggs (and sprinkle seeds on top), or use up leftover poached salmon in a tortilla for a filling brunch. Otherwise, keep a pot of mixed seeds at home to add to porridge, yoghurt or even on top of toast and honey. Seeds taste even better if they've been gently toasted in a dry pan.