Brunch for two

My late Friday night plans to make a late Saturday morning brunch were rudely disrupted when upstairs’ builders started work at 8 this morning. I’d intended to go to bed late, wake late, lie in late and cook late. After a week of back-to-back meetings in every corner of London, whilst trying to organise visas for next week’s holiday to the Middle East, I felt excited at the prospect of a semi-decent lie in and a semi-greasy breakfast with papers. Not so. Clanging, hammering and plain old bludgeoning was my dawn chorus. Typically of course (now that the whole building is awake), they’re working quietly, which at least gives me space to write this.

Saturday mornings in my flat are for poached eggs, fresh coffee and orange juice. We rarely swerve from the norm, which happens so naturally we don’t even notice what we’re doing. Tom goes off for eggs and papers, I brew the coffee and gravitate to the hob, where the art of poaching becomes easier the more I practice. For such a simple dish, there are a variety of argument-inducing methods, most of which we’re finding need some trial and error and a couple of overdone yolks to persuade you to keep your eyes peeled. Vinegar helps, as does shallow water, and turning off the heat and covering the pan with a lid once you’ve got it up to boil and dropped the eggs in. Whichever way gets you to the perfect poach, stick with it! And please post your tips below – I’m definitely still learning on this one. As Saturday’s the only legitimate day of the week to indulge in a cooked breakfast, I decided late last night that today’s needed some elaboration:

Potato and cheese pancakes with sweet and spicy bacon and a poached egg. Serves 2.

Everything will start happening at the same time with this breakfast, so it’s a good idea to prepare a little before turning on any hobs. Start by peeling and grating 2 medium potatoes onto a clean tea towel. Bring the corners together in a bundle and squeeze out the waters into the sink. Set aside. Whisk together two eggs in a bowl, adding 25g of plain white flour to form a smooth batter. Thin with a glug of milk, season well and add the grated potato (fresh spinach and grated courgette would make for good additions and colourful greenery), along with a small handful of grated mature cheddar. Combine well.

Turn the grill to medium heat. Lay a sheet of tin foil on a grilling rack, and lay out 4 rashers of smoked bacon on top. Combine a couple of teaspoons of light brown sugar with one or two teaspooons of cayenne pepper and spoon over the bacon.

Fill a saucepan with a couple of inches of water and a slug of malt vinegar. Fit with a lid and turn the heat high to bring to the boil. Crack 2 eggs into 2 small teacups and set aside. Now we’re ready.

Slide the bacon under the grill, being careful to keep an eye on it. The sugar means it will catch quickly, and will need turning at halfway point, after a few minutes. In a shallow frying pan, heat a glug of sunflower oil. Test the temperature with a drop of batter – if it sizzles immediately on entry you’re ready to go. Pour in the batter mixture and flatten down with the back of a spatula into a large pancake. Allow to cook on one side for a few minutes until brown and crisped, then carefully flip it over with a spatula (or toss if you’re feeling confident) to cook the other side. When your water’s boiling, stir vigorously with a spoon, pour in both eggs and cover the pan with a lid. Turn the heat off and let them poach for 3 or 4 minutes – how you decide is up to you.

When everything’s ready, divide the pancake into slices and transfer them to a plate, top with a couple of rashers of bacon, a poached egg lifted from the water with a slotted spoon and a few drops of the sweet cayenne oil from the bacon. Drain a strong coffee, wash down with an orange juice and get on with the papers.


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6 Responses to Brunch for two

  1. pip says:

    That sounds heavenly! For poaching an egg I drop into boiling water taken off heat. After a couple of minutes I fish it out and wobble slightly to see if the white is set… if not put back in for a little longer.

  2. roswensian says:

    Your blogpost came when I was starting to think about cooking brunch, you inspired me to have a go at yours.

    I think my idea of a medium potato is slightly different to yours – I had too much, which made the pancake too thick and it didn’t quite cook through – flipping it was chore but with the swift use of a plate I managed it. I added spinach and a dollop of wholegrain mustard. Was delicious.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

  3. amd43 says:

    Hello, just discovered your blog and like it immensely.

    I poached an egg for the first time recently, following the instructions for a dish in Ottolenghi’s Plenty, and have repeated several times with success since. Bring shallow pot of water to rolling boil with a tbsp vinegar added, break egg into a cup, gently tip into water, remove from boil and leave for 4 mins. Absolutely perfect every time. If you need to do more than one egg you can keep a bowl of warm water to the side and add the eggs to it while you do the rest to stop them from going cold.

  4. AnnabelVita says:

    I have discovered the best way to poach eggs is with aplomb. There’s so many do-thos do-that guides out there (all the vinegar, swirling etc) that people think it’s complicated and fret about it and somehow that ruins the eggs. If you don’t care about shape, it’s the easiest thing ever, (crack straight into a pan of boiling water). If you care about shape, use a frying pan of water not a saucepan. Leave them in for the amount of time your toast takes (or approx three minutes) then take out with a slotted spoon.
    We, too, have a standard breakfast routine we do without thinking – eggs and spinach on muffins, with bacon if we’re feeling fancy.

  5. akismet-4111f221a34ef006692e77ce597b9bf9 says:

    Enjoying the blog and congratulations on your Best UK Food Blog award!

    Was in Brixton early Sunday morning on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and thought of you

    All the best

    Nick Froome

  6. Lidia Jung says:

    Thanks for your blog- it’s lovely! Ah, it took me a long time to get my poached eggs right… I do agree that vinegar and shallow water helps0 I tend to get my water only just bubbling slightly when I drop the egg in. I think the biggest factor is the freshness of the eggs though-The fresher they are, the better they hold together in my opinion….

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