I would like a croissant please

Croissants

Without looking where do you think it costs more to buy a single croissant, Tesco or Marks and Spencers?

You know that by asking that very question that the answer has to be Marks and Spencers don’t you.

The other morning I was on my way into work when I stopped off to buy some skimmed milk for my coffee at work. I popped into the local Tesco Express (or are they called Tesco Metro) and picked up a two pint bottle. I looked at the date, it looked familiar and realised that the date was that day’s date. A quick check across the shelf, and all the other bottles had the same short date on them. So leaving the milk I decided to go somewhere else, I had been considering buying a croissant at 80 pence but thought not as I was in a bit of a hurry.

I walked down to Marks and Spencers to get my milk and was pleasantly surprised to see that their loose croissants were only 69 pence. They also looked a lot nicer and fresher than the ones from Tesco.

I was surprised as I wasn’t expecting Marks and Spencers to be cheaper, but was pleased that they were. Oh and before you ask the milk was the same price.

Morning Tea

Morning Tea

The last time I went to Betty’s Tearooms in York was in 1990, though since then I did visit their tearoom in Harrogate a couple of years ago and had a lovely pot of tea and cream scone.

Visiting York we decided to visit Betty’s in the blizzarding snow for a second breakfast. I was surprised by how busy it was at 10am in the morning, we had to queue!

We were given a lovely table next to the window from which we could watch people struggling in the wind and the snow.

It was early so alas the cake trolley wasn’t available and to be honest I don’t think I actually wanted a cake at that time of the morning, so went with the second breakfast.

We ordered the Breakfast Tea, and this is very nicely served with loose leaves, and so you have a tea strainer. I will say that I wasn’t a fan of the tea, though I finished the pot. I think the last time I had tea at Betty’s I had a different, much nicer tea. Personally it was a little too strong for me.

Alongside my tea I went with toasted pikelets, I don’t recall having them before, but the best way I can think of to describe them is they reminded me of a squashed crumpet, and they certainly tasted more of crumpet than pancake. In some areas of the world pikelets are more like pancakes, the ones from Yorkshire are more like crumpets.

Alongside the pikelets we had toast and crumpets. This was all served very posh like on cake stands.

It was a lovely second breakfast and with wonderful friendly service we all felt we had been really spoilt. Even though the place was really busy, we weren’t rushed and the whole affair was very relaxed. By the time we finished, the snow had gone and we were ready to continue with our day.

That is just wrong!

I am sorry but this is just so wrong, on so many levels…

Dunkin Donuts Breakfast Donut

It would appear (and I know they are not alone, nor are they the first) to put a savoury food within a glazed donut. Yes that’s bacon and eggs in a sweet donut complete with icing.

What is that all about then?

Breakfast, wasn’t much better…

I recently wrote about my dinner at the Holiday Inn Expressx and I wasn’t that impressed. You can imagine that my expectations about breakfast weren’t that high, but how badly can you cook a hotel breakfast. As it happens quite badly!

Even though I certainly don’t travel that much, I think you can tell a lot about the way a hotel cares about it’s guests by how it prepares and serves breakfast. When attending events and conferences I like to have a good breakfast so that I am set up for the day and it won’t matter so much if I miss lunch or dinner. To be honest it is also really quite nice when someone else cooks you breakfast.

Most hotels I have stayed at have the breakfast buffet model, you come down, queue, hand over your room number and help yourself. There are variations, in some places you get toast served to you at the table, at other hotels you can burn your own toast!

Once I was staying at the St David’s Hotel in Cardiff and having breakfast in your room didn’t cost anything extra! There was (at the time) no tray charge, usually hotels charge another £5 to bring you your breakfast. So I took advantage and it was a really nice breakfast, still warm too!

Attending meetings in London, I stayed at the Ambassadors hotel in Bloomsbury London a few times I was always impressed with their service and food. The first time I had breakfast, though there was an element of help yourself, if you wanted hot food, you placed your order with the waiting staff and they served you at your table. The breakfast was also very different to your typical full English breakfast.

Breakfast at Ambassadors hotel in Bloomsbury

Not so sure about the lettuce, but the rest of the breakfast was cooked to perfection and tasted delicious. They used “proper” sausages that had been grilled and not deep fried. Too often when eating breakfast the sausages have been cooked in a deep fat fryer! The breakfast I had at Bloomsbury was so very different and was delicious. This was so much more civilised than trying to fight with others around the buffet table.

One piece of advice I would give is don’t leave it too late in going to breakfast, there are two key reasons. Firstly the food is not only fresher and hasn’t spent ages under the heat lamp or in an oven. Secondly, there are usually a lot less people. The other piece of advice I would give about what time to go to breakfast is that people usually go on the hour or half-hour. Most people will say let’s have breakfast at 8:00 or 7:30, no one every says 7:48. Of course what this means is that there are large crowds, and so long queues, just after 8:00. Arriving twelve minutes before means that the 7:30 rush is over and you get not only much better service from the staff, but the experience doesn’t feel rushed and hectic.

One disappointment about the breakfast buffet are the eggs, they have usually been under a heat lamp or on a hot plate. As a result they can be dry and overcooked. I personally prefer my eggs to be freshly cooked, so nine times out of ten I ask for poached eggs, these are cooked to order, so though I have to wait, I get freshly cooked eggs.

As you might expect I am virtually always disappointed with the coffee at breakfast, so much so, that more often than not I will have tea instead!

So what about the breakfast at Holiday Inn Express in Burnley? When I arrived for breakfast, I could just walk in, no checking by staff. Probably because they were dealing with the smoke from the burning toast… I wasn’t that enamoured with the breakfast, the hot buffet was very limited, sausages, scrambled egg and baked beans; that was it, no other choices and certainly no possibility of a freshly cooked poached egg! You could also have fruit and yoghurt, as well as cereal. There were croissants and you could make your own toast. The coffee was from a machine (using instant) so I had tea.

However this isn’t the worse cooked breakfast I have had (it came close though), the worst was at a Travel Lodge in central London. So bad that on the second morning, I went out to get breakfast.

So a rather disappointing breakfast all in all.

Blueberry Pancakes

We often have blueberries in the house, but eating them raw I have never been that impressed, much prefer blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.

I make pancakes for breakfast on a regular basis, both the traditional flat ones and the American style small ones. This time I decided that I would have a go at making some blueberry pancakes and see if this would change my mind about blueberries.

I took my usual pancake mix, in a bowl add:

A cup of self-raising flour
½ tsp of baking powder
½ tsp of vanilla extract
1 egg
A cup of milk
1 tbsp of caster sugar

This I whisked into a batter. I then added a handful of blueberries (50g).

Using my non-stick pancake frying pan, which as is getting older, I brushed it with some sunflower oil, after heating it up on the hob. I then poured in a spoonful of pancake mixture. You don’t want it too hot, otherwise the inside of the slightly thicker pancakes won’t be cooked.

I left the pancakes to cook until air bubbles started to appear on the top, then turn them over.

I obviously didn’t use enough blueberries as not all the pancakes by the time I cooked the batter had blueberries in them, this in the end wasn’t so bad as the little people in the house didn’t want blueberries in their pancakes.

I served mine with some maple syrup and if you wanted to you could have added some uncooked blueberries too.

I was really pleased with the results, really tasty and I will certainly be cooking them again. I may even now have a go at cooking blueberry muffins.

Breakfast

A traditional English breakfast usually consists of bacon and eggs with sausages, beans, fried bread and maybe a portion of tinned tomatoes. Obviously there are other things you can add such as grilled kidneys, black pudding, mushrooms, hash browns.

Actually the more you think about it, a cooked breakfast can be quite diverse and much more than just bacon and eggs. Eat a little later and it turns into Brunch.

I quite like a cooked breakfast now and again, but very rarely go down the traditional route. This was the basis of a recent breakfast and consisted of grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and onions.

Cooked

I took some cherry tomatoes and halved them. If you halve them with the stalk point at the top then they will always look nice. If you slice them through the stalk point then they may (well usually) don’t look as nice. I splashed a little olive oil on them and some torn basil leaves.

Grilled Tomatoes with Basil about to go in the oven

For the mushrooms I trim the stalks and then spread a small knob of butter on them and some freshly ground black pepper.

For the onions I just again splashed a little olive oil and more black pepper.

These were all then roasted in a hot oven for about 10-15 minutes.

I served them with some toast and a poached egg.

Poached Eggs

This morning I had poached eggs for breakfast. I don’t use a egg poaching pan, simply a pan of simmering water.

Bring a pan of water to the boil, I then stir the boiling water into a “spin” and crack the egg into the spinning vortex. Turn down the heat to a simmer, put the bread into the toaster, when the toast pops up, usually the eggs are done, firm white and soft yolk.

A lot of books I have read (and seen on cookery programmes on the TV) say that you should add vinegar to the water to “stop the egg from breaking apart” as you cook it. Personally I don’t add vinegar as I find it has a minimal or negligible effect (in other words I have seen eggs break apart even with vinegar in the water) and it has to be said it adds a vinegar flavour to the egg. I certainly noticed this when I last had poached eggs in a hotel recently.

I find that actually the best thing is to use really fresh eggs, it is old eggs that fall apart when poaching and not the use of vinegar that keeps it together, as you can see in the picture of my eggs above, still nice and whole! Just some freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Breakfast Bread

It won’t surprise you, but most people who are happy to change what they have for lunch and dinner on a daily basis, are though more likely to have the same thing for breakfast everyday, with only the odd change.

Personally I do like having different breakfasts and will change what I have on a daily basis. Though I do find coffee and toast make more frequent appearances than other things.

I recently found these in my local supermarket and decided to give them a try.

It is Mission Deli Cranberry and Orange Breakfast Bread.

I do quite like fruit bread toasted for breakfast and have bought loaves of it in the past. I have also enjoyed the fruit toast available at Starbucks and as this seemed to be similar, even if not quite the same.

Probably the best way to describe them is as similar to naan bread with fruit. I popped them in the toaster and when they popped out put some butter on them.

So what are they like?

Well on the positive side, the bread is soft and is very nice when warm. However there wasn’t enough fruit in it for my liking and as someone who doesn’t actually like much fruit in his fruit bread, that’s saying something. I also found them quite salty, and I was using unsalted butter. My final point is that the bread was quite smooth on top and as a result buttering them was quite a challenge, basically the butter melted on the hot bread and slid off… So though I enjoyed the bread, it needed more fruit, less salt and I need to work out how to spread butter on them.

Breakfast for dinner

I don’t normally have breakfast for dinner, but with what I had in the fridge and having little time after getting back from work I wanted something quick to eat.

A couple of slices of black pudding were fried in a pan, I prefer it grilled, but time was of the essence, so fried they were. It is worth seeking out some good quality black pudding.

I also scrambled a couple of eggs. My technique is to put a knob of butter into a pan and then add the beaten eggs. Low heat and stirring a lot with a fork. Turn off the heat just before you think they’re done and let the residual heat cook the eggs off.

I took a ciabatta roll and sliced it in half and popped one half in the toaster.

To serve I took the toasted ciabatta, cut it into two, placed on it a slice of black pudding, topped it with the scrambled egg and freshly ground black pepper. The plate was finished off with half of a fresh tomato.

Yes this would also make a nice breakfast, but it makes a nice dinner too.