Time for a German Breakfast

I was staying in Berlin for a few days attending a conference. The last time I had been to Germany was in 1985 staying for a couple of days in Munich on the way back from a camp in Yugoslavia. This was my first visit to Berlin and the first visit to a unified Germany. I was staying at the NH Collection Mitte ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ in the heart of what was East Berlin.

I had breakfast in the hotel and I did find it interesting what was on offer and what I could have. I had never had breakfast before at a German hotel.

So once I got my coffee and a (disappointing) orange juice, I headed to the service area to choose something for breakfast.

There was a kitchen that cooked omelettes and fried eggs to order. On the hot plates were Nuremberg sausage or Nürnberger Rostbratwurst. These were small grilled sausages with a distinctive flavour. There was also scrambled egg, which was nothing to shout about. I quite liked the cheese covered grilled tomato, the cheese certainly enhanced that tomato. The streaky bacon was overcooked for my liking. I guess if you like crispy bacon then you would enjoy this streaky bacon, personally I prefer my bacon cooked, but still soft. Though initially a little apprehensive, I did quite enjoy the mushrooms in a cream sauce. 

There was a wide range of breakfast items available. I did expect to see cheeses and cold meats, but was a little surprised to see fresh salad alongside. That felt a lot more like lunch than breakfast. Next to the salad was a lovely selection of fresh fruit. Elsewhere there was yoghurts and cereal.

I really loved the bread selection, as well as a range of bread rolls, there was a great range of loaves which you could cut slices from. There was white bread, seeded bread and wholemeal bread. Along with the bread was pastries and croissant.

There was also a pancake machine, which you could use to make your own pancakes, to which you could add maple syrup.

This was a splendid selection of breakfast items and I really enjoyed eating breakfast at the hotel. 

Heritage Beetroot Salad

I was staying at the Doubletree Hilton in Ealing and was eating in the hotel restaurant.

I decided to go for a salad for dinner. I chose the heritage beetroot salad with caramelised walnuts, lime juice honey dressing, rocket and grilled halloumi.

I have to say that this was an excellent salad. I liked the thin slices of beetroot and the lime juice honey dressing added sweetness and sharpness. The caramelised walnuts were probably a little over caramelised for my liking, but added crunch and sweetness. The grilled halloumi wasn’t great and I have had better halloumi in other salads. Having said that the overall combination of the salty halloumi, sweet walnuts and dressing and beetroot was really tasty. The different slices of heritage beetroot were great, the candy tripe beetroot having a different flavour to the traditional purple beetroot. The only thing I would say was that for a main course salad it was smaller that I expected. I would probably have added more mixed leaves to bulk it out.

Alongside I had some freshly oven baked bread.

I expected to get a couple of rolls, but was impressed with the quantity and variety of breads in the basket. It was supposed to come with some olive oil and balsamic glaze, but all I got was the butter. I didn’t managed to ask about this, but I was happy with the butter. Most of the bread was tasty.

I did enjoy this meal, salad and bread are two things I really like.  

Time for Valerie’s Welsh Rarebit

We were up at Cribbs Causeway doing some shopping and we stopped at Patisserie Valerie for a coffee and a snack. There are quite a few places you can have a coffee at Cribbs, but what I like about Patisserie Valerie is that it is table service. So we sat at our table and looked over the menu. The place was busy, but the service was excellent, and we didn’t have to wait long to order.

Whilst my son went with the traditional breakfast, my first choice was an apricot danish, however they had run out. So I went with my second choice, which wasn’t a pastry, but Valerie’s Welsh Rarebit. Our food arrived promptly, which was nice, especially as the place was quite full of diners. Valerie’s Welsh Rarebit was toasted bloomer bread topped with a poached egg, tomato chutney, cheddar, mustard & served with a side salad.

I don’t think I have ever had Rarebit before, so I was interested to see what it was going to be like. This was a nice cheesy toast dish, the mustard was subtle and added warmth. The poached egg was perfectly cooked. I liked the tomato chutney, which was on the side, I did think it was a little too sweet for me. Overall it was a really nice light meal.

I think one of the reasons I hadn’t ordered or had this dish before, was that usually I am looking for cake, or a full meal. Valerie’s Welsh Rarebit for me is more of a snack, or a light meal.

Alongside I had a flat white, not the best flat white in the world, but it was a good coffee.

Made myself a grilled cheese sandwich

grilled cheese sandwich

As a child I would often eat cheese on toast, these days not so much. Back then we even had a Breville sandwich toaster, which was a bit of a fad in the 1980s, but you can still buy them today.

I remember when a panini was something you would only find in Italy, then they were available everywhere.

These days I will avoid having sandwiches for lunch, and I can’t remember the last time I had a panini. One thing I have had a few times are toasted sandwiches, usually cheese and mushroom.

The other day we were up at the Mall and I needed a break to rest, so we decided to get some coffee and a quick snack. We eventually decided on the Soho Coffee Company, not one of my first choices for coffee, but it wasn’t too crowded. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat, I didn’t really want a cake, nor did I want a sandwich, so in the end I chose the mushroom & swiss cheese sourdough toastie. This was described as roasted mushrooms with garlic & black pepper. Swiss cheese & SOHO toastie sauce. Topped with even more Swiss cheese for extra ooziness! Though when it arrived I think the topping of Swiss cheese had been missed off. Still it was rather nice, crunchy bread, melted cheese and nice mushrooms.

So at home and wanting some lunch, I did think about what I wanted and I thought to myself I might create my own grilled cheese toastie. 

I had some M&S San Francisco sourdough bread, which I added some butter to the inside, a slice of Gouda (I had no Swiss cheese), some grated cheddar cheese and a slice of Serrano ham. 

In a frying pan I added some olive oil and some butter and once the butter was melted I added the (what was then) sourdough sandwich. I put a lid on the frying pan, so that the heat would be retained and melt the cheese. I then removed the lid so that the final part of cooking would crisp up the bread.

This was then put on a plate and served. The bread was lovely and crunchy on the outside, but still soft on the inside. The cheese had melted and was oozing out of the sandwich and the ham added an element of saltiness.

It was really nice, so much so I did think about making myself another one, but I resisted temptation.

Gluten Free Dough Balls

Gluten Free Dough Balls

I have had a few attempts in the past at making gluten free dough balls. I have made a bread dough using gluten free bread flour, however these were rather heavy and heavy. Not quite the Italian dough ball experience I was looking for.

I then tried an experiment using a Davina Steel Gluten Free Focaccia Bread Mix.

I had used this mix in the past to bake focaccia bread with some success. However I have found that it works well for dough balls as well.

I follow the instructions on the back of the pack, however I don’t use the dried garlic or rosemary. I added 7g of fast acting yeast to the dry mix and then add 300ml of warm water and 30ml of olive oil. Mix until smooth. Leave for two minutes and then mix again vigorously for a further minute.

The end result is a smooth batter.

Then onto baking trays lined with baking parchment add separate desert sized spoonfuls of batter onto the trays.

If possible leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to rise, but I’ve not always needed to do this (sometimes didn’t have the time).

I baked the dough balls in a hot oven, 220°C (200°C fan assisted) for about 15-20 minutes. They should be light, crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

Remove from the baking tray and serve hot with garlic butter or olive oil or other dips.

Farina Pugliese for breakfast

One of the things I find continually disappointing about the bakery at my local Waitrose is how little freshly baked bread they have in stock. I initially thought this was because I went at the end of the day, but despite going at different times of day I find the shelves empty of bread. It’s not like that all the time, but I would say 90% of the time I visit, there is virtually no fresh bread.

On my most recent visit I wasn’t expecting to find any fresh bread, I hoped I would, but no there was only a few rolls. Well ni surprise there then. However I needed some bread for breakfast so off to the pre-packed stuff.

Looking over the selection I found Farina Pugliese toasting bread.

Farina Pugliese for breakfast

This Italian bread is made from durum wheat, giving it thick crust and a golden crumb.

The packaging says that the bread is for toasting and it does need toasting, otherwise it can be a bit dry.

Delicious toasted with butter.

Tasty Bread

So I mentioned a couple of days ago that I had never been to Hart’s Bakery. I had heard of Harts Bakery in Bristol, but assumed it was in the middle of nowhere (i.e. Clifton or Gloucester Road) so challenging to get to when working in the centre of Bristol. So was surprised to find out that it’s underneath the arches (at Bristol Temple Meads).

I bought a malted and sunflower seed sourdough loaf, which looked great. The bread itself was delicious, nice firm crust, soft fluffy bread, and full of flavour. You could taste the malt and the sunflower seeds added both flavour and a nice seeded crunch.

Hart's Bakery Malted and Sunflower Sourdough

Nice with just some butter, just as nice toasted with butter. So definitely will be going again, and will see what else they do.

Hart’s Bakery

Only found out about Hart’s Bakery last week. I had heard of Harts Bakery in Bristol, but assumed it was in the middle of nowhere (i.e. Clifton or Gloucester Road) so challenging to get to when working in the centre of Bristol. So was surprised to find out that it’s underneath the arches (at Bristol Temple Meads). Today, third time lucky, it was open and I managed to buy a really nice looking malted and sunflower seed sourdough. Looks tasty and not bad value for artisan bread at £2.

Hart's Bakery Malted and Sunflower Sourdough

It felt and looked really nice. Not tasted the bread yet…

Why third time lucky? First time I went, it was just after work (having missed a train) and I went to find it, but the opening hours are 7am to 3pm, so a place to go first thing in the morning (or at lunchtime). Second time I went was yesterday, and found that it was only open from Tuesday to Saturday (should have noted that the first time I found it). So third time, today, it was open and busy. As well as selling bread, they also do coffee and cake.

Piada’ing to nostalgia

One memory of my trips to Italy in the 1990s was of the different kinds of sandwiches that were sold in bars and cafes. These weren’t the pianinis (or wraps)_ that you find all over the place here, but usually some kind of flat bread filled with mozzarella, salami or prosciutto and fresh salad leaves. What triggered this trip down memory lane was finding these Italian flatbreads in my local supermarket, so in a fit of nostalgia, I bought some.

Piada

These are thicker than the sandwich wraps that you find, the ones made by Mission for example. They are certainly not as thick as naan or pitta breads.

I followed the instructions and heated mine up in a dry frying pan, before adding some Milano salami, mixed lettuce leaves, sliced tomato and cucumber. The entire bread is then folded in half and served.

The bread is nice with a nice taste of olive oil, soft and warm and a nice contrast to the crunch and freshness of the salad.

I do think that they were slightly expensive at £1.75 for four, so might consider making my own.

Olive Focaccia

Olive Focaccia

This was the first time I have made Focaccia.

Taking 500gram strong white bread flour, I added a pack of quick acting years. I then added two spoons of olive oil and 350ml of water.

This was mixed into a dough which I then kneaded for ten minutes. I placed this in an bowl, greased with olive oil, this was covered in cling film and I placed it in a warm place for forty minutes.

After letting it rise I put it into a rectangular floured tin, pushed it into a square shape, and then poked it with holes, placed some olives in the bread, some slivers of garlic and a light scatter of dried Italian herbs. I would have liked to use some fresh rosemary, chopped, however I didn’t have any. If you want extra saltiness (or don’t use the olives) you can add some sea salt.

The bread was then left to prove for another thirty minutes. After that I brushed it with some olive oil and it was then baked in a hot oven 220ºC for twenty minutes or until browned.

Serve and tear apart on the table.