Since our last post on healthy breakfast ideas was so popular (especially in Sweden for some reason) I decided to write a second post. Breakfast is definitely one of my most important meals: usually I have to either stock up for several hours in a library where it is forbidden to eat, or prepare for a five hour shift with no eating breaks. This means my breakfasts have to be good (how else am I gonna motivate myself to do either of those two things…) and filling… and they also have to comply with beach prep strategy (although I can be flexible on that… a lot of hollandaise would definitely make me forget this strategy). Here are some suggestions, all egg based:
Egg crepes with asparagus
This ‘recipe’ came from the idea of thin egg omelettes used in some Vietnamese recipes. I decided to adapt it and use it as breakfast pancakes or crepes. All you need is: eggs, a splash of milk, a handful of finely chopped parsley, some butter or olive oil to fry and cooked asparagus or your choice of cooked vegetables or meats. Start by whisking the eggs, the milk, and the parsley together. Heat up a frying pan with some olive oil or butter. When the pan is quite hot ladle a small amount of the mixture while rotating the pan (as if you were making crepes) to evenly and thinly spread out the mixture. Cook for a few seconds, add your vegetables and fold over. Serve two or three for a filling breakfast.
Crustless quiche with tuna and watercress
Unfortunately I have no photo for this dish but it’s really easy to make. For a big round oven dish (enough for 4 people) mix 6 eggs, a big splash of milk or creme fraiche, a tin of tuna in olive oil (drained), some watercress (or rocket), salt and pepper. Put in the oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes and voila – easy, effortless and healthy breakfast.
This is definitely one of my favourites! It’s a pretty flexible ‘recipe’, all you need really are tortillas (corn tortillas are the best), eggs and tomato salsa. I usually add whatever I have in the fridge: sharp cheddar, home-made refried beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, asparagus, etc… This is a really filling breakfast and a good way to use up your Mexican leftovers.
Despite the chorizo this dish remains healthy by using it sparingly, simply to flavour the tortilla. You will need:
- 1/4 of a Spanish or Portuguese chorizo, chopped in small cubes.
- 4 medium eggs
- 1 large potato, preferably maris piper.
- Half an onion, sliced finely.
- Two handfuls of parsley, chopped.
- Salt and Pepper.
This dish takes longer than the other ones and so might be better done in advance – as it can be eaten both hot or cold. Start by peeling and slicing your potato. Drop it in salted boiling water and cook for five minutes. While the potato is cooking fry chorizo in a little bit of olive oil to render the fat. After a few minutes add the onions and cook until soft. Reserve the onion and chorizo and keep the pan hot. Now mix the eggs together and incorporate the rest of the ingredients. In the same pan where you fried the onion and chorizo (on a medium-high heat) drop the mixture and cook, slowly, until the top of the tortilla is almost cooked. At this point you will need to get ready for some flipping skills: put a large plate on top of the frying pan, turn it around (dropping the tortilla in the plate) and return the tortilla to the pan to finish cooking the other side (2 minutes). Serve straight away or keep in the fridge to eat cold.
Soft-boiled eggs with asparagus soldiers
This is obviously very simple. All you need to do is to soft-boil your eggs (this hilarious website can help) and to cook the asparagus. I like to cook them in butter for 5 minutes until they are slightly burnt to get a nutty flavour. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy.
Obviously these are also great cures for Euro 2012-induced hangovers.
Crabstick is one of those ingredients I’ve always been a bit sceptical to, but still eaten in great amounts. I don’t really want to think much about what goes in them, so I won’t elaborate more on it here. What is clear is that they are a cheap, easy and tasty way of getting a bit of omega 3 in your diet, and I quite like their sweet, mild flavour. Since they are cooked they are also safe for sandwiches. What’s more, when they are mixed into a wrap together with a dollop of creme fraiche, some wasabi, peanuts, avocado, coriander and cucumber, topped off with crispy lettuce, they become like a hybrid sushi/Skagen sandwich, and are delicious. Also very healthy. So for my latest lunchbox revelation, you’ll need:
- Crabstick (around 8 should suffice)
- 1 dollop Creme fraiche
- Fresh, chopped coriander
- Cucumber, cut into long strips
- Avocado, sliced
- Wasabi paste (to taste)
- Lemon or lime juice
- Salt and pepper
Being the eastern outpost for the London part of the blog, I happily remain easterly when visiting Berlin (although it’s sort of all down to my friend Tim living in Prenzlauer berg…). Berlin is my most favourite city perhaps ever, because it has everything you could have wanted from East London but is bite-sized, lively but not intense, feels strangely Scandinavian yet wears its history like scabby scars. And if you’re into history or are just a little bit emo, that has a strange appeal as well. The eastern parts of town have an abundance of amazing food and nice places to drink, and is cheaper than the majority of the European capitals. So, here are the meatball’s favourite haunts if you want to go exploring.
Eating. My favourite restaurant in Berlin is actually Russian, and is called Gorki Park. The interior looks a bit like the cover of Regina Spektor’s Soviet Kitch record, with tacky decorations and loads of old family photos framed on the walls. Settle down here after a tiring day out on town with Russian strawberry drinks or cold Moscow drafts, and order in blinis, stroganoff with potato cakes and the mixed dumpling selection (wareniki) with sour cream. Their blinis (pictured above) are large like pancakes and come with fat red caviar roe. It is delish.
If you want something more German, Cafe Hilde serves a lovely Flammkuchen with smoked salmon, lemon bits and spring onion. It’s cheap and cheerful, in a lovely café that looks like your grandmother’s living room. Lots of things in east Berlin do. When I was at Hilde they were playing The Whitest Boy Alive, so they possibly also have very good music taste. Update: (10th August 2012) neo-German restaurant Oderquelle by Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg serves absolutely superb authentic, new takes on german food without robbing you – a good option for a nice evening out – more about that place here.
The Vietnamese scene is apparently strong in Berlin and I have been told there are plenty of good places to recommend. I was particularly treated at Si An, who impressed with their cheap and excellent cocktails (just check out the beauty below), a strong yellow curry and particularly nice summer rolls with a Tamarind-y sauce (not sure if that was in them but it tasted along those lines.
Lots in Berlin is about chilling, and people seem very good at it. If you need somewhere with decent coffee and a plug so you can do work, then Oberholtz is a good place to go – my friend Elke goes all the time instead of going to uni to study. Really wish there was a place like that in London. A general nice thing about Berlin café culture is that you don’t have much pressure to earn your keep by continously buying more cakes and more coffee – everyone just sits about, reading or working.
There is also beautiful French Café Fleury (although beware of the French/bitchy service), which is just next to Gorki Park mentioned above. If the weather is sunny and you just want to enjoy something soothing on a bench/pavement around Kreuzberg, I would recommend the hazelnut ice cream from local ice producers Eismanufaktur. They have a friendly bar in Kreuzberg. Eating their ice cream makes you this happy:
Going towards the evening, there are ridiculously many bars and clubs to explore for drinking and dancing. Since Berlin is so friendly going ahead and exploring can be a lot less painful than in other places (although places like Berghain remain rather selective in their admissions policy…). Fitcher’s Vogel, with its own little facebook page, put on good night AND show football. The ambience is lovely, bar staff is very friendly and the bar is, Berlin style, decorated with a mix of tit for tat furniture and odd bits. This includes miniature buddhas in the walls, religious drawings and Gramophones in the windows.
For some old school dancing, there is always Clärchen’s Ballhaus, the oldest ball room in Berlin (since before World War one). They have a gipsy-restaurant (sadly didn’t get the chance to eat there) and you can dance all sorts of dances in the evening. Old school as in really, actually old school, not Hammer Time. Finally, if German is the word then Tomsky is a cheap, gay-friendly, smoky and loud neighbourhood bar to enjoy.
Since summer is here (and as opposed to London, it really HAS come to Berlin) then picnics with a bicycle might be the best way to enjoy the city whilst eating. German supermarkets have excellent bakery, cured meats, cheeses and quark fillings to go mental with. Not to speak of all those cakes and sweet pastries with a sweet German white wine… and there are bike rental places all over the place. Berlin is small, so with a bike you can quickly make your way to the the deserted-airport-made-public-park Tempelhof, or go listen to people embarrassing themselves at public karaoke in Mauerpark. If you fancy going a bit into the wild you can also take your bike with you on the S-bahn and head to Teufelsberg, the CIA’s now abandoned listening station in the forest outside Berlin (since it was all about listening to and intercepting what people in East Berlin were up to before the wall came down, it’s being allowed it’s entry here. It is also where Tim is standing at the top of this entry). Spooky and eerie but with beautiful views over the city, and health and safety gone out of the broken windows, it might be one of the coolest places in Berlin.
Two days ago I stopped all my revision plans to go and watch the Portugal-Denmark game. As a good expat (I have lived most of my life outside Portugal) I had to go watch the game in a proper Portuguese café in the local Portuguese neighbourhood. Here in London that’s Stockwell. I watched Portugal win (despite some very dubious moments courtesy of our dear Cristiano Ronaldo) drinking Sagres, eating tremoços and swearing in my mother tongue in the very friendly Bar Estrela.
The well-deserved win after a very stressful game definitely called for celebration and in my book that means food! On the way home I decided to buy some Portuguese ingredients in order to finally present you with a Portuguese dish and recipe, of salted cod no less. So get yourself to Stockwell, stock on some salted cod and enjoy this beauty.
For 4-person dish of salted cod and spinach gratin you will need:
- A 400 gm box of salted cod, already flaked (see photo above)
- 4-5 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut in thin slices
- 2 medium onions, sliced finely.
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped finely.
- 500 gms of fresh spinach
- Milk, butter and flour to make bechamel
- Salt and Pepper
1. Start by de-salting the salted cod by putting it in a bowl and covering it with water for a few hours. You should change the water every two hours, or just leave it to de-salt for a whole day. Reserve some of the water for later, if needed for the sauce.
2. Now you need to cook the potatoes. Typically this would involve some deep-frying but my student house is not equipped with a deep fat fryer (YET….) so I simply coated the sliced potatoes in olive oil and baked them in the oven on a single layer – it worked out fine.
3. Now heat up a big pan with a generous glug of olive oil and throw in the onions and the garlic. Fry for a little bit on medium heat and then add the salted cod, completely drained. Leave to cook for a bit on low heat.
4. While this is cooking prepare the bechamel. Very simple: all you have to do is make a roux (butter and flour) and then slowly add the milk on a very low heat. Make sure there is enough bechamel for the spinach, salted cod mixture, and the top. I usually use half a pint of milk, but you can make the sauce as you go.
5. In a pan combine 1/4 of the bechamel with the spinach, just enough to coat it well. Add another 2/4 of the sauce to the pan with the salted cod, adding a bit of salted water if the mixture is too thick.
6. Now start layering an oven-proof dish: first a layer of spinach, then a layer of salted cod, then a layer of potatoes. Repeat until the mixture is finished and top with the remaining bechamel sauce, breadcrumbs and cheese (if using). You can also skip the breadcrumbs and cheese if you prefer.
7. Now put it in the oven under the grill for a few minutes until it is bubbling and becomes golden at the top.
This recipe comes from a Guardian fashion+food piece, optimistically announcing the time for picnics in British parks. Current gale winds and rainy temperatures sadly suggest otherwise. But this recipe looked amazing, so I made these little beauties inside, in the cold. Completely agreeing with Nigella, I think salted caramel is about the best thing to have come out of chocolate invention… basically, ever. The saltyness and the rich, creamy caramel added with sweet chocolate is just bliss. Even if you think you don’t like mixing sweet and salty, I bet you will enjoy this. And whenever picnic time actually comes along, they will be on top of the list together with sweet white wine, blankets and good books. Just be very, very careful not to overdo the salt, because that will definitely spoil them.
For the caramel, you’ll need:
- 90 g caster sugar (original recipe says golden caster sugar but that would have involved me buying three different kinds of sugar for this recipe so I just went with normal caster. I think it will taste nuttier and more flavoursome with golden, so go for that if you want to do it proper. But normal caster seemed to work just fine)
- 60 ml double cream
- 1/4 tsp sea salt flakes
- 60g unsalted butter, in cubes
For the brownie mix:
- 200g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
- 250 g unsalted butter
- 4 eggs
- 175g caster sugar
- 150 light brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 120 g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
- 20 g cocoa powder
Start by making the caramel by melting the caster sugar in two tablespoons of water. Stir until it dissolves, but then be careful to let it bubble away and make a sirup completely undisturbed, moving the pan in swirly moves rather than stirring. Do this until it has bubbled together to a thick, golden brown and reduced a bit. Then add the butter, and let melt, then stir in the cream and butter. Let cool at the side.
Prepare for the brownies by lining a tin with butter and baking paper, and put the oven to 190 degrees. Melt the chocolate and butter. I did this in the microwave, together, but letting it in for 20 second stints and then stirring before continuing. Towards the end the butter is so hot that it melts the last of the chocolate outside of the microwave, and you are therefore safe from burning it by mistake. Then beat together the eggs, vanilla and sugars until they’ve turned fluffy. You can do this by hand (as I did) but it is best done by a electric whisk. It is quite tough on your arms by hand.
When this is done, sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa, add the salt, and then fold in the melted chocolate and butter. Pour half of the mixture into the tin, and dot it with spoonfuls of salted caramel. Then add the second half of the mix, and top off with more sated caramel. You can stir through the whole thing with a spon or something to make sure the caramel swirl reaches all round the cake. But be very careful not to mix too much, of course, for the joy lies in the contrast.
Put this into the oven, and, depending on how deep or wide your dish is let it stay in there for 40 mins to 1 hour. Mine took an hour because it’s a deep dish, but I also think I left it in a little bit too long. It should be only almost firm in the middle when you take it out, so don’t worry if it looks a little wobbly.
Once you’ve let it rest and cool down, cut it into about 18 brownie-sized bits. If you feel like being overly lush, and of course you do, serve with some whipped cream (for what else are you going to do with the rest of the double cream you used to make them…?)
Exploring London this weekend? Have a look at the Meatball and Salted Cod map of cheap cafés, restaurant reviews, food markets and other gems. The places we have reviewed are sorted by meatball score in the left hand side, and clicking on them on the map will give you a short description and link to the review.
The other pins may have been mentioned in blog posts (like markets or shops), or are simply places we love but have not had a chance to write about yet. From now on, you’ll find the map in the sidebar to the blog, where we pin our newest reviews and finds! (however it sits a bit awkwardly in such a small sidebar so for now you might want to click “view larger map” to find it useful…)