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Leek and Reggiano Scromlette

 

This is a fusion between scrambled eggs, fried eggs and an omelette. Kept very slightly on the edge of underdone when removed from the pan you’ll encounter a creaminess and succulence that is more than enough to do away with the need for sauce.

Leek is a truly wonderful vegetable, providing a complex flavour that errs on the side of caution compared with its close relative the onion. Gently sautéed in a good French butter with a hint of sea salt and turn of coarse black pepper the kitchen becomes a shrine to all that is good about food and cooking.

One of the things that excites the palette is the surprise of a burst of flavour that was not present in the previous bite. On this accord ensuring that the Dijon mustard is swirled into the eggs rather than mixed to complete homogeneity ensures that the jewels of surprise will be abundant.

Although there are many forms, Parmesan (Parmigiano) truly comes in only one form, Reggiano, named after the district in Italy. It has a great acidic bite, a creamy under note and distinctive crystals of umami that ‘pop’ in the mouth to reveal a complete taste sensation. The eggs are therefore finished with Reggianio, finely grated and allowed to melt to the point of mild submission before being served.

The egg needs to look like marble – a mottled interweaving of white and yellow streaks. Any more and it is more like an omelette or scrambled eggs, any less it will be more like a fried egg.

 

Serves: 1 – best to make these individually
Preparation: 5 minutes
Cooking: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2  Free range eggs |
20g  Butter | Use a good butter
1  Leek | White to pale green part only – green to dark green is too tough.
1 tsp.  Dijon mustard |
A good grating  Parmesan | Add as per your taste. Remember Reggiano is best.

Sea salt and black pepper for seasoning

 

Method:

Put a small omelette pan (frying pan) over a medium heat and add the butter.

Prepare the leek by removing the root end and then removing the outer layer. Wash thoroughly, dry and finely chop the leek’s white part.

Once the butter is foaming add the leek and a little seasoning and cook gently over a low heat until soft. Now turn the heat up to high and add the eggs. Using a wooden spoon swirl them around in the pan until they create a marble effect. Now add and swirl around the dijon mustard and a little seasoning. Spread over the grated Parmesan. The scromlette is ready when it is only just under cooked on the surface. Serve immediately. Any residual heat will finish off the cooking. Serve with a tasty sourdough. Bon appetit!

Note:

  • When buying a leek look for one that has a significant white to pale green part – the green to dark green part tastes ok but has a tougher unpleasant texture. The discarded green parts can be retained and used in making stock (ensure that all dirt has been removed).

Poached Eggs with Sautéed Mushrooms, Jalapeño and Olives drizzled with Truffle oil

Introduction:

I am going to show you how you can put together a stunning breakfast in 10 minutes; 15 minutes if you want to take your time. This was not planned but a breakfast borne from gut instinct and using the method of produce, technique and harmony.

Sometimes it is necessary to remove the shackles of conservatism in the kitchen and just open yourself up to a challenge. Let that gut instinct take over once in a while – and start by seeing what’s in the fridge. It is fair to say that if all that it contains is ‘one dried potato’ (Faithless fans will get this reference) then there will be little for the gut to react to. But a few edible items can lead to some great possibilities. Remember, select the produce, choose a technique and then find some harmony.

This breakfast dish is a result of just that. The produce that inspired it were the Swiss brown mushrooms, Kalamata olives and the jalapeño pepper that was sat there on its lonesome looking up at me for a bit of ‘arriba, andale, andale, yiihah’. The technique chosen was a simple sautéing in a little butter and oil. The harmony came from the adding of onion to the sautéed mushrooms, pepper and olives; serving it on poached eggs and a slice of toasted framer’s rye cob; and the drizzle of truffle oil to bring it all together. And all done in 10 minutes.

 

Serves: 1   |   Preparation: 2-3 minutes   | Cooking time: 6-7 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2 litres Hot tap water | For poaching the eggs.
2 tsp. White vinegar| For poaching the eggs.
2 large  Free range eggs | The fresher the better and the less stringiness they will produce in the hot water.
1 tbsp. Olive oil |
15g Butter |
6 Swiss brown mushrooms |
1 Jalapeño pepper |
6 Kalamata olives | Freshly pitted. If they have been pitted for some time they tend to go a little limp.
½ Red onion |
A slice or 2 Good bread | I used a locally made farmers rye cob.
10g Butter | To finish off the mushrooms.
A drizzle Truffle oil |

 

Method:

First thing; put the grill on for the toast (unless using a toaster), put a pan of hot tap water with the vinegar on high heat (cover it to bring it to the boil quicker) and put a small sautéing pan on medium heat.

Add the olive oil and butter to the small sautéing pan. Wipe the mushrooms with damp kitchen roll to remove any erroneous dirt (washing removes flavour and nutrients, so best avoided). Slice the mushrooms, jalapeño pepper and onion and when the butter starts to foam add them to the pan and sauté for about a minute, tossing the pan frequently.

The water should now be boiling. Turn down to a rolling simmer, stir the water gently so that it swirls. Add each egg gently to the water and set a timer for 3½ minutes.

Put the bread under the hot grill to toast, keeping an eye on it. When done cut it and place it on the serving plate.

Put a lid on the sauté pan and over low heat cook the mushrooms for a further 3 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the heat to medium, add the olives and a little more butter, and toss and cook for a minute.

After 3½ minutes individually remove the eggs from the pan using a slotted spoon. Allow each egg to drain and then carefully place kitchen towel under the spoon to soak up any excess water. Place the eggs on the toast.

Remove the mushroom and olives from the heat and drizzle over some truffle oil (or a little olive oil if you don’t have truffle oil) and season with black pepper (there should be enough salt from the olives).

Gently place the mushroom mix over the poached eggs and eat immediately.

 

Notes:

  • For 2 or more serves just increase the ingredients proportionally.

Rainbow Trout on Asparagus topped with a Poached Egg and Hollandaise Sauce

Introduction:

I am going to keep this one short and sweet. Breakfasting in Melbourne is a Melbournians pastime. In fact I have heard that more people go out for breakfast in Melbourne than dinner. Chefs’ reputations now hang on perfect poached eggs and the ability to amalgamate a host of ingredients and still be able to call it breakfast. I’m a massive breakfast fan and on weekends my family and I indulge in breakfast either at a trendy little café or by creating something adventurous in the comfort of our humble abode.

This is my contribution from the weekend just gone; it’s inspiration came from the beautiful rainbow trout I procured the other day, the new asparagus season and my other half’s surreptitious predilection for Hollandaise  – then again who doesn’t have one?

 

Serves: 2   |   Preparation: 20 minutes   |   Cooking: 25 minutes

 

Ingredients:

For the trout:    
1 fillet from a 1 kg fish Rainbow trout | Scaled, filleted and pin-boned if you buy the fish whole, otherwise about a 250g fillet with skin on.
2 tbsp. Grapeseed oil | You can use groundnut oil or any oil that has a neutral flavour.
15g Butter | I use Lescure French butter, but any good butter is great.
To taste Sea salt |
To taste Freshly cracked black pepper |

For the asparagus:    
8 large stems Asparagus |

For the poached eggs:    
2 Very fresh large eggs | The fresher the eggs (free range) the less vinegar you will need in the pan. Sometimes I find chefs over ‘vinegar’ the water and the egg tastes acetic.
1-2 tbsp. / litre of water White vinegar | Depending on how fresh your eggs are.

For the Hollandaise:    
30ml Rice wine vinegar | Or white vinegar.
1 tsp. Sea salt |
A sprinkle Freshly cracked black pepper |
1 tsp. Cold water |
From 2 large eggs Egg yolks | Fresh of course. And free range.
150g Butter | Lescure French butter again.
To taste Salt and pepper |

 

 

How To:

Remove the tail from the trout and cut the fillet in to two equal rectangles. Season with sea salt.

For the poached eggs: the great thing about poached eggs is that they can be prepared in advance and then warmed up prior to serving. In to a wide deep pan add the vinegar and about 1-2 litres of water (I use 2 tbsp. of vinegar in 2 litres of water). The vinegar is used to help prevent the egg white from spreading (clouding). I am going to write a post about this soon, with a bit of science as well. But for now, bring the water and vinegar to just below simmering – I like to call it a murmur. Gently swirl the water. Put each egg in to a separate cup, making sure to keep the yolks intact. Carefully pour the first egg in to the pan, and then the second, ensuring that the whites encapsulate each yolk. The eggs will take 2-3 minutes to cook – ensure that the white is cooked and the yolk is soft. Carefully remove the eggs from the pan and then dip them in iced water to stop the cooking process. Put them aside for later.

In a pan large enough to hold the asparagus bring water to the boil and then reduce it to a simmer. Break away the woody ends from the bottom of the asparagus stems (they will have a natural snapping point) and then add the asparagus to the boiling water. Simmer until the asparagus is just starting to give way but still shows a little resistance when prodded with a sharp knife (about 5-7 minutes). Remove the asparagus from the water when cooked and place in a small baking dish or on a plate. Cover the asparagus with foil to keep them warm. Take the water off the heat but retain it – we will warm the poached eggs in it.

There are lots of recipes out there for Hollandaise sauce. My advice is to treat it with care and never leave its side and you’ll have a great result.

Start by adding 30ml of rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar) to a small pan with a teaspoon of sea salt and a sprinkle of freshly cracked pepper. Bring to the boil and reduce by half.

Prepare a bain marie or similar. I use a pan of water barely on the simmer and a metal bowl sitting over the pan (not touching the water otherwise the eggs will coagulate and be scrambled).

Add the reduced vinegar to the metal bowl; add the 1 tsp. of cold water and then the egg yolks. Whisk until smooth and then place the bowl over the pan of just simmering water. Now add a cube of butter. Whisk continuously until the butter has melted and repeat this process until all the butter has been added, at which point you will have a thick sauce. Add the lemon juice and stir until smooth and then season with salt and black pepper according to your taste. Remove the bowl containing the Hollandaise from the pan of simmering water and set aside. At the last moment you can put the bowl back on the pan, and whilst whisking you can warm up the Hollandaise before serving (only if you need to).

In a skillet or frying pan heat the oil and butter until bubbling. Place the trout skin-side down in the pan and then fry for a couple of minutes, turn and fry for a further minute . The key is keep watch and feel the texture of the fish until it is only just cooked – no longer. Remove the fish from the pan and drain on kitchen paper (skin-side down). Season the flesh side with cracked black pepper.

Working quickly, warm the poached eggs by gently placing them in the water that the asparagus was cooked in; the hot water will warm the eggs. After about 20 seconds lift the eggs out of the water, drain them and then serve immediately.

To construct the dish, line 4 stems of asparagus side by side on each plate. Place the rainbow trout on the asparagus, and then carefully place the poached egg on the trout. Finally, drizzle the Hollandaise sauce over the asparagus, trout and poached egg. Bon appétit.

Unctuous Scrambled Eggs

Introduction:

My grandma was an absolute card. A cheeky scallywag from Liverpool, she was a real bag of fun that would tell you how it was. I used to love going to the grocers with her where she would pick up a vegetable or piece of fruit push her thumb into it and then throw it back in disgust at the abhorrent lack of quality. Only when the item was right would she then carefully place it in her basket. Despite her complete practical approach to cooking she cared about what her grandchildren ate. Never was this more apparent than when she cooked scrambled eggs. I have vivid memories of delicate, light and airy eggs, perfectly seasoned and served steaming on crunchy toast. There was no technological whizz-bangery going on; just an electric hob, trusty old pan and a wooden spoon that had worn down to about half its original size. But as my childhood memories resurface I remember them being breakfast Utopia.

Over my life I have been served an almost infinite variety of scrambled eggs. From the seemingly ‘gourmet’ ‘sloppy’ variety, which seem to be the trend at the moment, to the overcooked microwaved variety; I never return to a café that has served microwaved scrambled eggs – the notion and the result is nothing short of culinary blasphemy. I have also had incredible scrambled eggs, where the chef has understood and accomplished the balance between being actual scrambled eggs and being light and tasty.

I have tried and tested different recipes over time and this is the one that I am really happy with. I am sure you’ll love this plate of indulgence; they sit on that fine line between being under and over cooked, and they have an unctuous manner about them. Get in your kitchen, crack open those eggs and go and treat yourself, or even somebody else.

 

Serves: 2   |   Preparation:  5 minutes   |   Cooking: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

25g Butter | French is great e.g. D’Isigny, Lescure or President.
4 Free range eggs | Organic free range give a great  taste.
40g Double cream | Single cream can be used – I just indulge this with double.
1 tsp. Dijon mustard |
50ml Full fat milk |
To taste Sea Salt |
To taste Black Pepper |

 

How To:

Add the butter to a pre-heated medium pan – continually whisk until the butter foams, defoams and then turns a nut brown. Pour in to a small heat proof container and set aside.

Cool the pan which will still have a film of the nutty brown butter. Once cool put on a low heat.

To a bowl add the eggs, cream and mustard. Whisk gently with a fork – there will probably still be large lumps of double cream in it. Add the milk and salt. Scrape any double cream from the fork and add to the egg, and then whisk the mixture. This will help everything to meld together. Don’t worry if there are still small lumps of double cream as these will deliciously melt once cooking starts.

Add the egg mixture to the pan and then continually, and gently,  stir whilst scraping the bottom of the pan with a soft spatula; scraping the bottom of the pan will ensure that the eggs do not overcook on  the pan’s surface. The secret to the lightness is to treat them with kid gloves – keeping a low heat and gently stirring and scraping continuously. When the eggs are looking more ‘solid’ yet still have liquid, add the nutty brown butter. Stir and then remove the eggs from the heat. Stir for another 30 seconds or so (the eggs will continue to cook once off the heat). Serve immediately.

I serve them on wholemeal toast, casa linga or sourdough (no butter required) with a sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper.

Notes:

  • To get the best results will take experimentation as there are so many variables in your kitchen that will be different to mine, but the key is gentle cooking and continual scraping and stirring.

Vietnam – In Sapa

We disembarked from the overnight train in Lao Cai, after a 9 hour overnight, truly Vietnamese, truly bumpy, truly noisy but truly exciting journey. It was nonetheless an incredible experience travelling through the North Vietnamese country in the dead of night. The children slept for 8 of the 9 hours. My wife and I sat mesmerised looking out of the window picking out silhouettes of shacks, hills, trees, rivers and small villages. Ever so often we would pass a tarpaulin propped up with sticks under which people would be sat around a fire at the side of the track. A far cry from downtown Melbourne.

It was 5.30am and wearily in the cold morning air we grabbed our backpacks and found our minibus amongst the hustle and bustle of the melting point of global travellers, hotel operators, taxi drivers, playing card sales ladies, hot chestnut purveyors, Lao Cai locals and government officials. The next part of the journey was a 35km passage to Sapa, along an ever climbing, curvaceous and undulating road, which involved being thrown left, right, up and down for over an hour. We hoped Sapa would be worth it.What seemed like a lifetime soon ended and we were driving through a built up and bustling town literally carved into the side of a mountain.

It is quite amazing to think that this hill station had been built by the French in 1922, but had been inhabited many, many years before by the tribes’ people of Northern Vietnam. Here we were in 2013 parked outside our hotel.

 

The Train to Lao Cai

The Train to Lao Cai

 

Was Sapa worth it? If I had travelled this journey only for one view of this earthly wonder then it would have been more than worth it. As we dumped our backpacks in our room and then stepped outside, the cold mist had lifted and we were presented with the most breathtaking panorama imaginable, which included on our doorstep mount Fansipan – the highest point in Vietnam.

 

Panorama of Mount Fansipan

Panorama of Mount Fansipan

 

From our vantage point we could also see the bustling market place only 200 metres away and of course for me the most important aspect of that was the array of fruit, green leaves, herbs, meat, fish and noodles I could see. I was itching just to be let loose in Sapa, to smell, see and consume.

Our hotel, Cat Cat View, overlooked a village, named Cat Cat, 3 km away. We had heard reports before arriving in Sapa that the weather was cold and very misty and therefore visibility was low. On our arrival the mist had lifted the sun had broken through and all of a sudden there was a mass of blue sky. This meant we could clearly see Cat Cat and the incredible giant steps that cascaded down the hill sides; the rice fields. You could also see banana plants, paddocks of lettuce, greens and herbs, and roaming animals such as ducks, roosters, wild pigs and buffalo – a truly self-sufficient environment.

 

The Rice Fields in Sapa near Cat Cat

The Rice Fields in Sapa near Cat Cat

 

By now it was about 7.30 and with a ravenous family in tow breakfast was beckoning, so we ate breakfast at the hotel with other travellers that were staying there. The first thing that struck me on the menu, which I am afraid to say was very un-Vietnamese, was a full English breakfast. After the journey we had just had I chose this over the Pho. The idea for the ‘English’ breakfast on the menu became apparent when we met an English chap in the restaurant. He was married to the Vietnamese hotel owner and had a great story of how he arrived in Vietnam.

He was a teacher, teaching in Southern England when he came out to Vietnam as a traveller and on arrival in Sapa did some volunteer teaching in the local school. It was here that he met his sweetheart, but after his visa expired he had to return to England. Realising that the long distance relationship could not work, and being tired of the same routine in England, he tried to find a way to move closer to Vietnam. He managed to secure a teaching post in Hong Kong, which although not ideal, meant he could be closer to his loved one. He spent some time commuting between Hong Kong and Sapa, which over time was draining. A decision had to be made as even though they loved each other very much the distance between Honk Kong and Sapa was still too much. His loved one was running the hotel in Sapa, and as it was (and still is) a family business, it was just not possible for her to move. As fortune would have it a teaching post opened up in Hanoi at an international school and so he was able to move to Vietnam, with the commute now an overnight process. And this is where they are right now. He manages to go to Sapa every month or two, which is still not ideal as he now has a young daughter in Sapa who misses him terribly when he’s not there, but I am sure in the very near future the family will all be together permanently.

Back to the breakfast – it was great. Imagine, it consisted of wild pork (bacon) grown and cured in Sapa, duck eggs, locally grown tomato and cucumber, freshly baked French bread, a frankfurter-like sausage which we have seen lots of around Hanoi, and fried potatoes. This was a full ‘Vietnamese’ not ‘English’.

 

American Style Pancakes with Red Berry Compote

Introduction:

Sometimes there’s nothing like a good feed, especially on Saturday or Sunday morning. Today was such a morning, and with hungry family in tow, the young ones decided it was time to progress dad’s training by providing a hand in the kitchen. Pancakes had been doing the rumour rounds all weekend, so as not to disappoint pancakes for breakfast it was. I am a fan of the English flat version, oozing with butter, lemon and white sugar. There’s something very comforting about them, probably associated with the memories of celebrating Shrove Tuesday as a child.

Today, however, was not going to be the traditional household pancakes, but those of the US of A. American pancakes are more cake like in their texture, and certainly pack more sustenance per serving. I do really like them though, especially accompanied with something that can soak in to them, like a berry compote.

The kids were very handy in the kitchen this morning and so in no time at all we were all sat down to beautifully risen pancakes topped with a red berry compote and vanilla yoghurt.

 

Serves: 4 hungry bods   |   Preparation:  20 minutes   |   Cooking: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

4 large Free range eggs | Large eggs are usually 58-59g each.
200ml Full cream milk |
300g Self-raising flour | Self-raising flour contains baking powder (approximately 1 tsp. per 150g). This is ideal for these pancakes.
4 tbsp. Caster sugar |
1 pinch Sea salt |
3 or 4 grams per pancake Butter | To cook the pancakes.

For the berry compote
6 large Strawberries | Each cut into 6 pieces.
About 20  Blueberries |
12 or so Cherries | Halved and pitted.
1 heaped tbsp. Vanilla sugar | Adds a warming vanilla nuance to the sweet and tart berries. Of course ordinary sugar can be used instead.
As an accompaniment Vanilla yoghurt | A few dollops of vanilla yoghurt finishes this off wonderfully.

 

 

How To:

There are two methods to make the pancake batter: the short and the long:

Short: Whisk the eggs and milk together in a kitchen mixer. Add the flour, sugar and salt and mix until blended. Easy.

Long: Whisk the eggs and milk in a bowl. In a separate bowl add the flour, sugar and salt and mix well. Make a well in the centre of the flour and then pour in the whisked eggs and milk. Gradually incorporate the flour into the eggs and milk and then beat until mixed.

For the compote add the red berries and sugar to a medium heavy based pan,cover, and put on a low heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, and the compote is finished. It should have a rich unctuous red sauce, and the berries should be soft but still intact.

To cook the pancakes put a small frying pan on a medium heat and when hot add a knob of butter. Let the butter melt and then add a spoon, ladle or serving spoon’s worth of batter – it all depends on how big or small you want the pancakes. The batter will start to rise. When the base has browned turn the pancake over and cook the other side. Serve immediately with the compote and a dollop of vanilla yoghurt.

 Notes:

  • If I am making a batch I stack them on a plate, each layer covered in foil. This keeps them nice and hot.