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.