The Great British All Day Breakfast

There are only two tricks that I know to making the perfect breakfast.  The first is to use the best possible ingredients.  The second is not to get stressed.  It’s all about timing…and that is actually very easy!

Breakfast

It’s healthier and easier to cook as much as possible in the oven.  And with modern fan ovens that really doesn’t take too long.  It’s a good idea to heat the plates up in the top oven if you have one.

Here’s my own ‘basic’ for a breakfast.  I don’t like egg, so my own plate (above) is eggless…but I still cook them for my family!

The fried egg

Ingredients

1 or 2 sausages per person.  I use venison because they are lower in fat and cholesterol but still really meaty.

2 rashers of bacon per person.  My own preference is for smoked back bacon

1 tomato per person

1 large field mushroom per person

1 egg per person

Method

Set the oven to 180c

Half the tomatoes and cut out the core

Wipe the mushrooms with a piece of damp kitchen towel and trim the stalks

Put the sausages in a large roasting tray in the oven and pierce them a few times to stop them splitting and let the fat drain out  You shouldn’t need any extra fat or oil

Cook for 10 minutes then take out and turn.

Tilt the pan gently so all the sausage fat is spread out

Covering the mushrooms and tomatoes with bacon

Lay the mushroom and tomato out in the pan and season well with salt and pepper.  Lay the bacon over the mushroom and tomato

Put back in the oven for about 10 more minutes, once you think it’s nearly ready take the bacon off the mushrooms and tomato to crisp up a bit while you cook the egg.

Breakfast waiting to be served

A minute or so before everything is cooked, heat up a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and gently fry the eggs.  If you pierce the white with a fork, it will help cook it through quickly, as will spooning the oil over the white

Serve the eggs first, so they don’t overcook, then everything from the oven.

Some Variations

Add thick slices of black pudding at the same time as the sausages go in to be cooked.

Fry slices of bread ahead of frying the egg and keep warm in the oven.

Warm up some baked beans(!)

If you have any left over mashed potato, you can fry that up ahead of the egg and keep it warm in the oven.

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Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower Cheese

Now, maybe this is not for you.  But, part of the reason for posting it is to explain how to make your own cheese sauce.  I promise it tastes 100% better than the little packs you can buy.  And it’s really very easy.  If you prefer Macaroni Cheese then I’ll explain at the end how to use the same sauce to make that.  I like Cauliflower Cheese with a green salad.  And it works well as an accompaniment for roast beef too.

Cauliflower Cheese

Ingredients

1 cauliflower

3/4 pint milk

About 100g grated strong cheddar

A teaspoon of mild mustard (optional, it will add a tang to the sauce)

A tablespoon of flour

A tablespoon of butter

Pepper

Nutmeg (optional)

Method

Take the cauliflower, cut a deep cross into the stem and trim off all the green leaves.  Put on a steamer over a pan of boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes.

While it’s cooking make your cheese sauce.

This is a VERY simplified version of a proper roux (flour, butter and milk sauce) where you would use an onion and a bay leaf to flavour the milk first.  I don’t think it makes any difference if you are going to add cheese.

Melt the butter in a heavy based pan.

Stir the flour into the butter and cook it very very gently for about a minute, stirring the whole time.  It should go very sticky and a lovely golden caramel colour, but not dried out or darkening.

Now, start to add the milk into this mix.  Take the pan off the heat for a minute and add in just a little milk till you have a mixture about the consistency of double cream.  Heat through.

Keep adding in the milk, bit by bit, until it’s all in there.  As you get beyond the first quarter of a pint, you can add in larger quantities.  Stir the whole time and keep the pan on the heat.

Now let the whole mixture come to a gentle boil.  You should have a gloopy mixture, quite thick but not something that looks as if it might just solidify at any minute.  If it’s too thick add a bit more milk, stirring all the time.

Take the pan off the heat.

Add most of the cheese, reserving about 25g to top the cauliflower cheese.  Check the seasoning and add the mustard, pepper and if necessary a little salt.

Now, put the cauliflower into a casserole.  Pour the cheese sauce over the top of the cauliflower and then top with the remains of the grated cheese and a little grated nutmeg if you like it.

Put the casserole into a pre-heated oven at about 170c for 20 minutes or so until the cheese is nicely browned on top and the cauliflower is cooked through

You can jazz this up with a little bit of cooked bacon or ham added to the cheese sauce.  Or to make macaroni cheese, simply cook 150g of  dried macaroni or any other pasta according to the packet instructions, drain, then use the cheese sauce to cover and bake in the oven as above.

New Trends in Kitchen Design

An interview with Home Design Consultant Alexa Collins.

Alexa CollinsAlexa is a vibrant young home design consultant who has built her own home as well as providing a home design consultancy service in and around the Home Counties.

I spent some time talking to her about what she thought were the emerging trends in Kitchen Design.

New Trends in Kitchen Design

Q.  Alexa, could you just tell us a little about yourself?  I heard you got started in this by building your own house from scratch…is that true?

A. I’ve always been fascinated with adapting houses, the change in requirements with each era and the demands of modern living and for increasingly sophisticated lifestyles.  From buying my first flat I always loved transforming a property to my vision.  Around 10 years ago I took the plunge and began to develop property professionally, which was quite an eye-opener from only having done it for myself.  Through a series of events, I had the opportunity a few years ago to redevelop my family home, where I’d grown up.  The result was knocking it down and rebuilding from scratch, it was a very challenging project but the results far outstripped my expectations.  It’s a joy to live somewhere that’s been design especially for you and how you live.  At that point I decided to use my skills and all the experience of 20 years adapting properties to help other people adapt theirs.

Q.  So, in your work, what sort of trends have you spotted in the last year or so and how do you think that’s going to affect us all going forward?

A.  The trends that I’ve seen are that people are finally moving away from the more traditional classic designs and are not scared to go for something really modern in the kitchen. I see more mixing of materials, maybe most worktops in one style, and then a breakfast bar or island in woodblock or granite.  This can be a great way to use a smaller amount of an expensive material that then gives your kitchen a really great look for less money. And also the use of bold colours, not necessarily for the whole room as that could be a little overwhelming, but to use bright accent colours to really liven things up and show style and personality.

Alexa Colins Designs

Alexa Collins Designs Kitchen

Q.  What are the fundamentals that we need to remember?  I know some designers suggest you use a ‘triangle’ layout, but I don’t quite see how that would work in homes where the kitchen is open plan.  But then you are the designer not me!

A. The concept of the work triangle is important, you’re an excellent cook so I’m sure you know!  But as with all design, it needs to keep up with how we actually live.  Traditionally in kitchen design the sink would always be under the window, with space for one person washing and another drying… Oh please! In our busy lifestyles these days when does this scenario happen? Young couples are both out working, the chances are we’ll try and fit a dishwasher into the design.  As a result, there’s no reason why the sink might not fit better into a corner for example.  Or go onto an island.  It can go anywhere to facilitate a good design.  These days, whilst we might try to keep some fundamentals like the work triangle, we know that none of these rules are hard and fast.  If we’re creative and know who we’re designing for, we can bend or break the rules.

Q.  What advice would you give to someone who has bought a new home and wants an up to date look for their kitchen without breaking the bank?

A.  I think a great way to bring an up to date look to your kitchen is to add colour, a brightly coloured glass splashback for example.  There are loads of coloured products out there at the moment, pick your colour and follow it through with accents on lights, kitchen chairs, the kettle and toaster or more major appliances are now being manufactured in colour.

Dining Area with Colour

Q.  Where’s the best place to find information about kitchen appliances?  And what sort of things should we be looking for in terms of features in a cooker.  Some of them seem to have a lot of options, but what do we really need to cook simple healthy meals?

A. There’s a wealth of information on the internet about kitchen appliances but it’s also good to get your hands on a product to feel its quality.  Good department and electrical stores give you the ideal place to compare the feel of the products and then you can shop around online to get the best deals.  But it’s always worth talking to the retailer about the online deals as they may be able to match the price or give you a free delivery to balance the deal that you saw online.

Q.  How about energy efficiency.  I’m a bit confused.  A sounds good to me, but there’s now A+ and A++ – if I’m buying a new cooker or fridge is there a minimum I should be looking for in your opinion

A. People make choices based on different things.  If energy efficiency is the most important criteria to the buyer then they’ll go for the best rating.  But for most of us it’s a combination of things and yes, the rating is important as no-one wants an inefficient appliance which will cost a lot to run, but also we want a good quality appliance which will withstand the usage AND we want something that looks and complements our kitchen.

Q.  Integrated vs stand alone?  What are your thoughts?

A. This question is asked a lot and the answer depends on many things.  How long are you likely to stay in the property?  Are all the appliances visible? Would you ever consider renting the property out?  If you sell it and move on, would you want to take your appliances with you?  But would integrated appliances create a look that might help sell your property?

Typically, integrated appliances cost more than stand alone.  The integrated ones also tend to be a little smaller but the overall look of integrated appliances gives that high-end finish.

If I considered letting out a property it’s better to put stand alone appliances in as they are easier to swap out quickly if there were ever a problem with one.

If you’re making a significant investment in equipment that you’ll want to take with you when you move house, then again stand alone makes the most sense.  These days there are plenty of stand alone appliances that as well as providing the functionality you need, they look good and make a statement… a bright range cooker, a stainless steel fridge

Q.  British Manufacturers?  Are they worth considering?

A. Wherever I can, I try to buy British.  You know it’s good quality and it’s a good eco decision to buy goods manufactured locally.

New World Appliances Concept Kitchen

New World Appliances Concept Kitchen

Q.  Finally, what’s the most important thing to remember to get the most from your Kitchen?

A. For me, the kitchen is the heart of the home.  Cooking and eating are essential as well as social.  The kitchen needs to function perfectly and it needs to be somewhere warm, welcoming and create an environment where you enjoy your time.

The Heart of the Home

Life revolves around the kitchen. Even when not really ‘cooking’, I concoct with whatever food is around. I love cooking for friends and family, people I trust enough to experiment with. And, when I’m here alone, the smell of stock simmering on the stove or a daube cooking slowly in the oven is what makes this place my home rather than a place to sleep.

I’m sure my love-affair comes from childhood. I grew up in a small seaside town, where my dad was the local GP. Our kitchen, was always full of family and friends with mum cooking and preserving things (recipes always from Mrs Beeton or the Radiation New World Cook Book), and the rest of us talking, eating and socialising. To me, the kitchen really is the heart of the home.

This is the home and lifestyle section of this blog.  I’ll be adding more in here about home design, perhaps with a bit of a focus on the kitchen.  The Kitchen

Easy Recipes

I really like home made food.  It’s usually cheaper than buying ready meals and can be very very easy to do.  Of course it all depends on where you start!  My plan here is to show you my own simple to make dishes from round the world…and then defer to an expert!  I am not a chef – but I have been meeting some pretty fabulous food experts in the last few months.

So on the list to include are the following

  • British Food (We’ve got Brian to agree to help with this section)
  • Spanish Tapas (The delightful Omar will be showing us some really easy Tapas dishes
  • Indian Cookery (I’m thrilled we are going to be working with Cyrus Todiwala on this section)
  • Asian Dishes
  • Italian Food

I’m sure I will find some more!  For now that’s enough though.  What I want to do is demonstrate just how easy it is to make something yourself.