Sunday, 27 March 2011

Recipe: blood orange marmalade muffins

I’ve had a gorgeous jar of homemade blood orange marmalade looking at me from the fridge shelf for weeks now, courtesy of my brother-on-law, Ed. This week I finally figured out a worthy use for it (bar the occasional spoonful over a wedge of sourdough toast or fresh croissant).

I’ve adapted a recipe from the fail-safe Muffins cookbook, and it worked beautifully. My only warning is that the result is pretty sugary, while not overly sweet-tasting, the sugar content is high thanks to the marmalade and sugar combo. Consequently, you might want to serve the muffins with a good splodge of Greek yoghurt in the hope that the protein kick will temper that sugar high.


280g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
90g fine granulated sugar (brown or white)
1 egg
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
90ml pure orange juice
100ml milk, soya milk or water
120ml orange marmalade with chunky bits, warmed slightly in a pan
90ml vegetable oil or 85g butter, melted

Prepare muffin tins and preheat oven to 200 degrees C. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add the orange juice, rind, milk/water, marmalade, oil/butter. Stir well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined, until no dry flour is visible.

Spoon into the muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are lightly browned and spring back when pressed, and a knife should come out clean when inserted into one.
Serve with yoghurt.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Breakfast included: The Hoste Arms, Norfolk

Surroundings: The Hoste Arms is possibly North Norfolk’s most famous, or failing that, that written-about pub. For starters, it’s in the impossibly pretty Georgian village of Burnham Market, secondly it serves cracking food and ales, and thirdly it welcomes dogs.

The perfect pub facade of vintage cream with ivy drapery and sash windows is just the tip of the iceberg. Behind it are annexes of bedrooms, a restaurant across several rooms, a spa and a Moroccan-themed garden restaurant. The place is heaving at weekends, but breakfast is a calm-before-the-storm when you can spread the newspapers, or extensive choice of magazines, over a table and lounge over a hearty spread.

Buffet: The buffet offers an enticing choice of continental goodies, while the hot stuff is sensibly made to order. There’s huge bowls of cereals including a delightful, wholesome muesli, stewed fruit, fresh fruit salad, shots of banana and orange smoothie and a huge glass vat of freshly squeezed orange juice. The thick yoghurt was offset perfectly by sharp mango or raspberry coulis, and the croissants and pain au chocolat were flaky, fresh and irressistable.

Hot stuff: The porridge was a smooth, hot and creamy, which I followed with toast -n mercifully thick sliced, hot and delivered after the porridge as ordered. The pick-and-mix fry-up looked superb, with bacon cooked just right, local sausages nicely browned (both from Perfick Pork’s Great Ryburgh farm) and substantial mushrooms.

The scrambled egg was a rich dark yellow and came on a thick wedge of toast with locally smoked salmon from Paul Letzer. All top marks and perfect fodder for a day walking the nearby Norfolk Coast Path.

Details: The Hoste Arms, The Green, Burnham Market, Norfolk, PE31 8HD; tel.
01328 738 777;

Also in Norfolk: The Deepdale Cafe in Burnham Deepdale and Byfords in Holt

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Recipe: banana and raspberry ripple yoghurt toast

Ingredients (per person)

2 tbsp raspberries (can use frozen)
1 tbsp agave syrup
1 thick slice of sourdough or seeded loaf
½ banana
Peanut butter or honey (optional)
2 tbsp greek yoghurt
Fruit to serve (optional)

Put the raspberries in a small saucepan on a low heat, drizzle with agave and simmer for about 10 minutes (or if you have an Aga, place in a heatproof bowl on a low shelf in the baking oven for 10-15 minutes). Add a few drops of water if it’s drying out but do this a drop at a time – you don’t want it getting too watery. Slice the bread into as thick a wedge as the toaster will take and slice the banana evenly. Put the yoghurt into a bowl.

Once the raspberry has softened, mash it with a fork. You can strain this through a sieve if you want a fine puree. Next, toast the bread and spread with peanut butter if you like, or honey if you have a sweet tooth. Cover the toast or spread with a layer of sliced banana. Stir the raspberry mush into the yoghurt (I used lots of raspberry but if you want a thicker yoghurt and a ‘ripple’ effect, use less raspberry and don’t stir it too much).

Spoon over the toast and banana and serve with sliced fruit (I like mango and berries). If you’re feeling really sinful, dust with icing sugar.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Breakfast included: Four Seasons Hotel London

Surroundings: The Four Seasons on Park Lane has reopened after an epic (and much needed) refurb and is unrecognisable from its rather old-fashioned past. It's not exactly zany, but the new decor is sleek, sophisticated and characterful.

The concept downstairs (where breakfast is served) is to bring elements of Hyde Park, over the road, into the room - hence tree motifs, horse bronzes and tall ceilings with natural light through one huge window and a terrace at the far end.

The restaurant has a nice way of splitting up dinners so it feels intimate despite its size. There's also a communal table if you don't want to breakfast alone. The cutlery is heavy, bashed about silver and the service exceptional.

Buffet: Get up to get your food? Not here

Hot stuff: The menu offers a choice of set menus, including the Continental (£26), the English (£30), cooked with continental trimmings, and the 'Healthy', which I opted for (£32). I chose the exotic fruit platter from a choice of fruit platters (seasonal might have been a 'greener' option on reflection, or there was grapefruit segments with strawberries and fruit salad with yoghurt). My exotic fruit was delicious - fresh, ripe fruit with God knows how many carbon miles in its wake.

There was also a choice of juice or protein shake, and I had porridge instead of the cereals (with a dizzying array of milk choices from rice to soya, almond or skimmed). The porridge came with a pretty tray of accoutrements. There was also a yoghurt and blueberry parfait topped with a sprinkling of granola, and finally a tofu muffin. The latter was my first venture into this genre of muffin and had an all-round thumbs up, with chunks of warm tofu offering a nice surprise amid soft muffin dough.

Other choices included home-made pastries, pancakes, waffles, french toast, eggs any way and a choice of four hot chocolates with mint, hazelnut, classic or white - surely worth a taste to warm up after a wander around the park, but £6.50 a pop.

The only snag? The bill. My advice? Go when someone else is paying.

Details: Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane, Hamilton Place, W1J 7DR; tel. 020 7499 088;

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Best breakfasts: Made in Camden

The Roundhouse is a venue that I usually visit when it’s packed to the rafters, and finding a seat, let alone getting your paws round a drink, is something of a bun fight. So, visiting on a bright Sunday morning to the delicate tinkling of a soul and indie soundtrack, and being shown to a peachy window table was something of a treat.

The cafe has just been refurbished and features vintage gig posters, over-sized filament lightbulbs and friendly, knowledgeable staff.

Things got even better when a menu appeared. For starters, it is the only breakfast menu I’ve ever seen with the month written on the top (some staples remain but seasonal dishes come and go and the waitress told me some are made up that morning, depending on supplies). Secondly, it was mouth-wateringly tempting.

There’s Middle Eastern, American, Spanish and British influences and choosing just one dish is one hell of a dilemma (I suggest going with a gang of friends so you can share).

After two decadent smoothies of mixed berry and yoghurt, oats, banana and honey, I finally decided on the fried egg, sweet spiced chickpeas, labneh, pangrattato and coriander (£8.50). What arrived was a generously-portioned and colourful dish that invited me to dive in with wedges of toasted sourdough (branded with perfect toasted grill lines). The egg was perfectly cooked with a soft centre and crisped white edges, and the chickpeas had just enough bite and the perfect spice for the first meal of the day. The pangrattato cheese was either absent or too subtle, but I didn’t miss it.

We also ordered the scrambled eggs and toast with grilled chorizo, red onion and feta (£8.50). The egg was pale, but very tasty, and cooked just right with a chorizo halved long ways and a gorgeous-looking spiral of red onion. It was a savoury, spicy and salty feast.

We rounded it off with a shared plate of grilled banana and chocolate bread (£5) which came with a huge dollop of maple butter and another of banana jam. It was warm, not too sweet, and even a little wholesome tasting (less the butter).

Other attractive options include bircher muesli (£4.50), granola and Greek yoghurt (£4.50), American blueberry pancakes (£7) and brioche French toast (£8). I’d happily go back to work my way down the menu... then again, the eggs and chickpeas could become a firm favourite.

Details: Made in Camden,

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Best breakfasts, Gail's, St John's Wood

Gail’s has already won my admiration for its bran muffin, but now it’s got my undying love for its new breakfast menu. The divine dish that’s got me hooked is the roasted field mushrooms, baby spinach, melted taleggio cheese and a fried egg on toasted sourdough.

It is the most satisfying, delicious dish I’ve had in a while – just wilted spinach, fresh toasted bread with a crisp crust and soft boiled eggs, then indulgent melted cheese that’s got just the right hint of ripened sourness.

It is a good combination of iron from the spinach, protein from the egg and cheese (albeit with a bit of fat too), but this breakfast will keep you full for many hours and is the best savoury option on the menu.

A few days before I tried another Gail’s dish – the toasted traditional English muffin with bacon, egg and slow roasted tomato. I was tempted by the towering, pillowy muffins on the counter, and although delicious, the dish was sadly poorly prepared, with over-done eggs and underdone tomatoes. The accompanying cappuccino made up for it though, and the soya and honey raspberry muffin that I took home for later was another triumph – I didn’t miss the dairy or sugar one bit. Fruity, wholesome and delicious.

Also on the breakfast menu is Gail’s Granola, toasted in honey and served with organic yoghurt, seasonal fresh fruit salad and honey, brioche French toast served or freshly baked pastries.

Gail’s, 5 Circus Road, London, NW8 6NX; tel. 0207 722 0983. Open 7am-8pm Mon-Sat and 8am-8pm weekends. There are seven London branches of Gail’s. Details at:

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Recipe: bacon jam

Bacon jam… this is a recipe that stirs a Marmite reflex – either the light bulb moment look of wonderment or the gag reflux look of horror. It was printed out off the wonderful Not Quite Nigella blog, and wasn’t in my house two days before I came home to the aromas of stewing bacon on the hob.

There’s a fascinating addition of maple and coffee, which dominate the taste to start with, but boil off to leave a more subtle hint to the finished product, and take the edge off the saltiness.

It’s delicious with cheese, in a croissant, spread on toast, or if you’re really naughty, a sneaky spoonful straight from the jar. For more details and pictures, see the original Not Quite Nigella post, and some links to other imaginative bacon recipes.


500g smoked bacon
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium brown onion sliced
3 tblsp brown sugar
Tabasco sauce (according to taste)
1 cup coffee
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
Black pepper to taste
extra water

In a non-stick pan, fry the bacon in batches until lightly browned and beginning to crisp. Using a pair of scissors cut into 1 inch pieces. Fry the onion and garlic in the rendered bacon fat on medium heat until translucent.

After 5 minutes of cooking, transfer the bacon, onion and garlic into a heavy based cast iron pot and add the rest of the ingredients except for the water. Simmer for two hours adding 1/4 of a cup of water every 25-30 minutes or so and stirring.

After 2 hours of cooking, it should be ready. Cool for about 15-20 minutes and then place in a food processor. Pulse for 2-3 seconds so that you leave some texture to the “jam” or of course you could keep whizzing and make it a smoother and more paste like.