Lee Rotbart

Posts Tagged ‘breakfast’

Omlettes and other eggsperiments

In Preparations in London on January 5, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Last night Danny and I had an omlette competition. Assuming it was quicker to make our own the way we wanted to, rather than arguing about the way we should make a joint one, we grabbed our separate pans and set about creating the perfect breakfast omlette (for dinner).

This would have been a great plan, unfortunately I was starving hungry and, unlike Danny who can sometimes ‘forget to eat’ and not really suffer, I absolutely cannot function without food. I get grumpy, I get snappy, and I lose every ounce of patience I had (which, let’s face it, isn’t that much). Consequently my omlette became about shoving eggs and other ingredients in a saucepan as quickly as humanly possible, while nibbling cheese from the huge block of Stilton that had been left out from Christmas.

While Danny was sauteing mushrooms I was trying to whisk un-melted butter in with cold eggs, all thoughts of herbs forgotten in a bid to get the food in the pan in under 2 minutes or less. Maybe it would have helped if we’d have been making our omlettes for each other, maybe I would have taken more care if I’d have known I was responsible for Danny’s dinner?

As it was, all that effort only got mine on its plate 2 minutes before Danny, who sat down next to me and proceeded to eat an omlette that looked like it could have been served at an organic gastropub. My omlette looked like a big pile of mashed potato hiding the odd mushroom / bacon bit / piece of pepper, complemented by, slightly too big, bits of Stilton.

Stubborn and competitive to the end I spent a lot of the meal sulking that I actually had to eat my omlette, blaming the fact that it looked pretty disgusting on the size of the pan, the number of eggs I’d used, and the way I’d sliced the mushrooms. I eventually had to concede that Danny had indeed won the competition, and while his response to winning was to suggest that I practice, mine was to suggest that he should be the designated ‘omlette cooker’ when relevant.

Not being a huge egg fan the last few days have been testing to say the least. After a relatively successful breakfast for 8 people last Sunday (marred only by the fact that my parents have an open plan kitchen and all our guests saw me throwing a tantrum when the egg poachers didn’t work the way I’d expected) I was forced to spend the afternoon experimenting with a variety of different egg poachers we’d procured (I suspect as a result of my blog on egg poaching) over Christmas.

Armed with a notepad, a pen, and a stopwatch Danny stood over me while we tested timings, levels of water, and boiling points for both silicone and plastic poachers. As each egg was upended onto a plate tasting became less and less enthusiastic.

Arriving home last night to be greeted by a grinning Danny armed with yet more eggs I groaned as I contemplated what impact eating all these eggs would have on my insides. Why couldn’t it be sausages we needed to practice, or even grilled mushrooms.

The staple ingredient for any cooked breakfast eggs are both flexible, cost-effective and tasty however, at this stage in the proceedings, the only thing preventing me from jumping on the non-dairy bandwagon is the promise of practicing American Pancakes, after all there are some forms of eggs that you can never get enough of.

De-briefing breakfast

In Preparations in London on December 6, 2010 at 1:51 pm

After seemingly endless discussions about how to do the best full English breakfast ever, Danny and I finally put our theories to the test and did brekkie for 4 unsuspecting guinea-pigs on Sunday.

Preparation involved an in-depth discussion, and internet search, on how to grill tomatoes and mushrooms (yes, I too was surprised to learn that there are actually recipes for grilling tomatoes); and a midnight shop at Tescos, where late-night shelf stackers must have been surprised to see a highly animated couple debate the merits of different types of tomatoes and mushrooms well into Saturday morning.

I might take this opportunity to add that never was there a better time to do this shop. Free of screaming kids and harassed parents, rushed singletons in the 5-a-day fruit and veg section, snogging couples hovering around the ice cream area, and trolleys piled high with the weekly shop, Tescos is a different place. Staff are friendly, or just pleased to have someone to talk to, queues are non-existent, no one tuts behind me as I slow down to check out the reduced items shelf, and Danny and I can pick up a million packets of bacon without getting shoved out the way by other shoppers. It was a joy and one of the best ideas we’ve had in a long time.

Sunday morning dawned and I was awake with the birds (birds sleep in on a Sunday) in anticipation of what was going to be the best breakfast ever made. I was basing this rather grand statement on the fact that the night before, during our dress rehearsal, I’d managed to poach an egg (a special thanks must go to Mr Hugo Woolley). Fresh from this monumental achievement I figured that everything else was just timing.

Hustling my parents out the door to walk the dog, ignoring beautifully sarcastic comments from my father about everything from food poisoning to his thoughts on the uselessness of a tomato at breakfast, Danny and I set to work. 4 slices of slightly burnt toast, a messy grill, 5 over-poached eggs, and some very crispy bacon later, breakfast was served.

On the plus side Danny and I were still talking to each other and, to date, no one has had food poisoning; the baked beans were a resounding success, as were the sausages, and it was unanimously agreed that the quantity of food and lack of grease was right on the money. On the downside we’re a bit concerned that the breakfast looks too healthy to appeal to punters looking for a ‘good ol’ fry up’ and we definitely need more practice at doing poached eggs ‘en masse’, while half were done beautifully the other half had most definitely seen better days.

It wasn’t this:

Nor was it this:

Overall however, it was not bad for our first attempt. We have 7 more trial runs to go, with increasingly larger numbers each time and while space might be more of an issue than we first imagined, all is bang on track.

As a post script I feel duty bound to add (for all interested parties) that my father, despite all the fuss, did actually eat his tomato. I consider this a small, but significant, victory.

My perfect guesthouse

In The beginning on July 19, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Everyone’s an expert! Or so it seems.

Everybody we speak to about this project knows exactly what they’d cook for breakfast, how the rooms would be decorated, what time they’d have breakfast, what they’d offer people in the way of extras, how they’d market, and whether they would be dog friendly or not.

My sister pointed out that it was like being pregnant and discussing names for the soon-to-be-born baby, everyone has an opinion about what you should call / not call your unborn child, and this isn’t that much different. In the end her and her husband just clammed up, and I suspect that’s what we might have to do.

The thing is, everyone LOVES a B&B and like the government campaign for teaching, everyone remembers a good one. Yet ask people what they remember and I can almost guarantee they won’t say:

“I was having a miserable time until I came down to breakfast, and there were two sausages, not the expected one, on my plate in the morning; after that, they could do not wrong”.

Very few people (in my humble, non-experienced opinion) will base their love of a place on one or two details: Yet I do believe they will remember the feel of a place when they walked in the door, they will remember if the proprietors were helpful and friendly, they will remember if they had a good night’s sleep, and they will remember if the view took their breath away when they looked out of the bedroom window.

I’m slowly realising, after the third heated debate about the breakfast menu, that the most important thing about this guesthouse is that it resembles us. The best possible version of ‘us’, but ‘us’ nonetheless. That way, while other people’s ideas are welcomed (really – they are), they are not going to inform what we do more than we will.

Differing opinions

If we choose not to be dog friendly then we will not attract dog owners, but we will attract those that don’t like dogs. If we choose to allow kids under 12 then we will attract families, while losing DINKYs, and so on.

Ultimately, the guests are the most important people in this equation and as we have no experience of them yet, we have to do what we would love, what we are proud to offer / cook / decorate… and then tweak as per guest feedback.

I have no doubt that we will get it wrong on occasion, but isn’t that part and parcel of a new venture? After all Edison invented hundreds of light bulbs that didn’t work before he found one that did, and wasn’t that process of elimination equally valuable?

Not that I’m saying we want thousands of guests to have a horrible experience until we come across the winning formula, we don’t. What I am saying, however, is that we will create our perfect guesthouse and while it might not be what you would do, or you, or even you… it will still be just right.