“Lazy Sunday Pastries” from “Midnight Chicken”

Sure, they look wonky. Do I care? I do not. The important thing is they tasted delicious.

We have had a flurry of houseguests this summer. This is hardly news, because having lived in London for more than 20 years, we typically have at least a dozen different guests every  year who come to visit. (A post for a later date: How to be the Perfect Houseguest. I have *thoughts*.) Needless to say, I’ve got weekend hosting duties down to a science: make sure we’ve got plenty of coffee and orange juice, make a fresh pastry run in the morning, and some bonus fruit is always welcome too.

But this idea intrigued me for the house guest we had this past weekend. It was a very easy way to have warm pastries on hand first thing in the morning, but crucially, it looked as though it didn’t require two-cups-of-coffee effort. House guests are stressful enough, I don’t need to add to it by making something very elaborate first thing on Sunday morning that requires more than my usual amount of coffee.

In Ella’s version, you roll chocolate into the puff pastry, though she also encourages you to try variations, like jam or nutella. Emboldened by the encouragement, I made a cinnamon bun filling (brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter), and put that in the middle instead. To be fair, it’s a variation on the savoury puffs that I made out of Sirocco, though those are delicious and highly recommended too.

While they ended up a bit wonky, it didn’t matter. The house smelled utterly delicious with a minimal amount of effort. The family and our guest hoovered the lot in less than 10 minutes. We’ve got a different house guest arriving on Friday for a six-day stay. Do you think I’ll be making these again? You’d better believe that I will.

“Lazy Sunday Pastries” from “Midnight Chicken”

“Pomegranate Muesli”


Anna: We are Bircher muesli converts. On a weekly basis, on a day of his choosing, Peter constructs his Bircher and the next morning, like a little surprise, there’s a bowl of oaty, chia-seedy goodness waiting for me to take to work. So I had to try Nigella’s take for comparison, it would have been remiss of me not to. Cobbling together the ingredients was painless. Pomegranate seeds in a tub, and scissor-snipped dried apricots helped. You can always rely on Nigella for shortcuts. The verdict? A bit milky, but good. It filled me up. I’ll take that. Peter’s verdict? Incredulous despair at the seemingly small portion. He required a marmalade and toast chaser. Next time I’ll double the recipe.

“Pomegranate Muesli”

“Cinnamon French Toast” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a dark and stormy night Saturday morning, so I decided to cheer things up a bit by making Smitten Kitchen’s Cinnamon French Toast.

When I push the boat out for breakfast around here I tend to make either American pancakes (I can’t deny my roots) or waffles (using the waffle maker kindly given to me by my best friend when I was craving waffles when pregnant with Nicholas). My mother was a big fan of french toast, though, so this is a dish that I know and love well.

The good thing about this recipe is that it is a breakfast casserole, so it is designed to made ahead. So if you happen to be hosting a brunch, this might be something to try.

I reduced the recipe by half because it served eight, and there were only four of us on that Saturday morning. Consequently, the bread isn’t layered as much as it is in her own pictures. But given that we didn’t think there was enough custard in there anyway — compared to the breakfast casseroles we’ve enjoyed made by Tim’s mother– maybe it was a good thing there was only half the amount of bread in it.

What was the final verdict? It was good, but not good enough for us to give up our waffles or pancakes. If nothing else, though, it did cheer up what otherwise would have been a very dreary Saturday morning.

If you would like to give Cinnamon French Toast a go, click through on this sentence to find Smitten Kitchen’s post on it. (Hot tip: The recipe can be found at the very bottom on the long post.)

“Cinnamon French Toast” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

“Italian Breakfast Banana Bread” and “Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake” from “Nigellissma”

If you’d like to make the cheesecake– and I recommend you do– click on this sentence to find the recipe.

If you’d like to make the banana bread, and it is an excellent use of brown bananas– click on this sentence to find the recipe.

First things first. You should know that since the beginning of the month, I’ve made both of these treats twice. That’s how good they are.

I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with banana bread. I find that the only way I can force myself to eat it is if there is chocolate and/or nuts in there somewhere. I keep on making it, though, because I hate to waste food and I know the black bananas in the fruit bowl that are mocking me can be used in a banana bread. So I persevered.

But now I think I’ve found the perfect banana bread recipe (with one alteration on my part). Nigella very cleverly has you add a few teaspoons of instant espresso to the mix. Not only does this mask the banana flavour, it also makes it more sophisticated version of this breakfast treat.

The one alteration on my part was to add 100 grams of chocolate chips to the mix. This addition works great with the espresso flavour and also manages to mask the banana flavour even more. Frankly, there’s nothing better than biting into an unexpected chip of chocolate, is there?

This cheesecake is a wonder. As this is the non-baked variety, all you need to engage in is a little forward planning in order to have a delicious dessert. Both times I made this I was short on time, so I slotted in assembly of the ingredients the day before I needed the cake, and BANG, I was done 10 minutes later. I’m sure Nigella would agree that this is not cooking, but assembly, and we were all the richer for it.

The cheesecake isn’t going to work for anyone who doesn’t like Nutella, chocolate or hazelnuts, since that’s pretty much the extent of the ingredients. It is also very rich. There’s probably about a million calories in every slice, so you should slice small ones.

Will I make these treats again? You bet. Anytime I have some black bananas mocking me, they will find a new lease on life in this banana bread. The cheesecake isn’t going to win any awards on the “Great British Bake Off”, but it’s good and people love it.

Win. Win.

“Italian Breakfast Banana Bread” and “Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake” from “Nigellissma”

“Chorizo, Spinach and Ricotta Frittata” from “Fast, Fresh, Simple”

Sorry, I don’t have any dialogue for you today as I made this for my lunch and I tend to eat alone. Not for any Greta Garbo sort of way, but just because that’s where I found myself that day. In fact, she never said, “I want to be alone” and instead said, “I want to be left alone.” Garbo later said, “There is all the difference.” Indeed.

But I digress. I can tell you that I enjoyed this dish so much that I have now eaten it for lunch twice. It is a whole lot of good eating in one little skillet. For the record, I never added the sage leaves it called for– I had them, I just kept fogetting to add them– but I don’t think that oversight left the dish wanting. Also, I didn’t have any single cream to hand, so I used milk, which also worked. I imagine the cream would make it an even richer dish, but it seems pretty good as it is, so I don’t know if its use is entirely necessary.

I didn’t think it would work to cook the spinach with the chorizo, as I usually cook down spinach with water. It did work, though, and it worked a treat. I will remember this trick when I make other dishes with spinach in the future.

Again, because I was eating alone, I cut the quantities down to make it for one person. It could very easily be scaled up, in which case you’d need to share the whole skillet of goodness, which might be difficult for some people.

I would definitely make this again, especially for a weekend breakfast or brunch, though lunch on my own was equally nice. I’m pleased to say that all the timings worked for this recipe.

“Chorizo, Spinach and Ricotta Frittata” from “Fast, Fresh, Simple”

“Blueberry and Buttermilk American Pancakes” from “Easy”

Peter: I see you’ve presented me with a large cookie.

Anna: It does rather look that way, doesn’t it?

Peter: It tastes sweet and salty at the same time.  Surely you would like this?

Anna: That saltiness comes from the fact that I made it in the same frying pan that I’d fried the bacon in.  Tom Aitkens can have that tip for free.  But really, this recipe is a bit of a nonsense I’m sorry to say.

Peter: This looks like a bit of a cake, and it took you roughly three times as long to make as your usual pancakes. So I’m not sure I would say this is an improvement.

Anna: The photo in the book makes it look like you are making one large pancake. The recipe calls for you to add spoonfuls to a greased frying pan before putting in the oven. Implying individual pancakes. But because the frying pan isn’t pre-heated the individual spoonfuls blend into one slightly deformed large cake. Perhaps that’s the point.

Peter: It actually tasted a bit like cake, rather than pancake.

Anna: Weirdly the recipe called for lots of sugar. And vanilla extract and almond extract. Which gave it a different type of flavour but you’re right, not really very pancake-y, American or otherwise.  And the baking thing was a total red herring. As usual they took longer than the recipe called for and it took longer than doing them on the stove. Worst of all they didn’t have that lovely golden brown colour only griddling/frying can give.  Very disappointing!

“Blueberry and Buttermilk American Pancakes” from “Easy”