Life Recipes

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Eat, Brunch, Love: Rachel Allen on how to wow your love with brunch this Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day, whether it's for your lover or to treat yourself, Rachel Allen has some recipes to start the day with a bit of hearty luxury.

Rachel Allen
Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen. Photography by Tony Gavin.

Next Saturday is Valentine's Day, and I think a luxurious breakfast is the best meal to eat on this most romantic of days, especially if it falls on a Saturday. This meal of poached eggs and muffins is one that you can happily make for your loved one and they will be suitably impressed. Yet, if you don't have anyone to make a meal for on Valentine's Day, or you don't think anyone will be making you one, I would urge you to make this and give yourself a luxurious Saturday breakfast - you deserve it!

Eggs Florentine is a classic breakfast dish. It takes the simple beauty of eggs Benedict - a poached egg on an English muffin, with hollandaise sauce - and adds sauteed spinach for a wonderfully earthy contrast. This eggs 'Floredict' recipe, opposite, is similar to eggs Florentine, but instead of spinach I've used the wintry alternative of kale. It's a more hearty breakfast, that is perfect for a wet and windy Valentine's Day.

The secret of poaching eggs is to use the freshest, highest-quality eggs you can find. The older eggs are, the more separate the yolk will be from the white. Fresh eggs have a yolk that is nicely contained within the white, so they make a much better poached egg.

English muffins are so-called thanks to an English baker who emigrated to New York around 1880, taking the recipe with him and introducing them to America. They are the traditional base to eggs Benedict, but you can, of course, use a nice, thick sourdough, as I have done here. English muffins though, are perfectly squishy - just the right texture to perch your poached eggs on as they absorb all that glorious hollandaise. You can buy good English muffins in bakeries, but if you'd like to go all out this Valentine's Day, you can easily make your own. They're fabulous toasted the next day, so you can make the muffins the day before, and have them ready for breakfast!

Eggs Floredict

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Eggs Floredict

Eggs Floredict. Serves 2.

You will need:

200g (7oz) kale, cut in to wide ribbons

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs

1 English muffin, sliced in half, or 2 thick slices of sourdough bread

25g (1oz) butter

4 streaky rashers, grilled

75ml (2fl oz) hollandaise sauce (see recipe below)

Fill a saucepan with well-seasoned water, then bring it to the boil on a high heat. Add the ribbons of kale, return the water to the boil and cook for a few minutes just the kale is until tender, then drain it and set it aside.

Refill the saucepan with water, add a pinch of salt and bring the water to a gentle simmer. Crack an egg into a small cup, then slide it into the water. Repeat with the other egg. The water should not boil, but remain bubbling gently. Cook the eggs for 2-3 minutes, or until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny. Lift the eggs out carefully with a slotted spoon and drain them well on kitchen paper.

As the eggs cook, lightly toast the muffin halves or the sourdough bread, whichever you're using, in a toaster or under a preheated grill. Butter the cut side of the muffins or just one side of the bread.

Put the buttered muffin halves or the sourdough toast, whichever you're using, on plates and put half of the kale on top of each. Place two grilled streaky rashers on each plate, on top of the kale, then add a poached egg to top off both plates. Spoon over the hollandaise sauce.

Grind some black pepper over the top and serve immediately.

Hollandaise sauce

Makes about 75ml (2½oz).

You will need:

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon cold water

50g (2oz) butter, diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Squeeze of lemon juice

Add the egg yolk and one tablespoon of cold water to a saucepan, whisk together and place on a low heat. Gradually add the diced butter, bit by bit, ensuring that each addition has melted and emulsified as it is whisked in, before adding the next one. Be careful not to get the pan too hot or the eggs will scramble.

Once all the butter has been added, cook for a few minutes more, stirring regularly, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Taste and season with the salt, the freshly ground black pepper and the lemon juice.

Remove from the heat, and keep warm if necessary, by covering with cling film and leaving to sit over a bowl of warm water, until you're ready to serve.

Breakfast (English) Muffins

Makes 10.

You will need:

500g (1lb 2oz) strong white flour

1 teaspoon salt

350ml (12fl oz) milk

2 teaspoons caster sugar

1½ teaspoons dried yeast or 1 x 7g (¼oz) sachet fast-acting yeast

Ground rice, for dusting

First, sift the strong white flour and the salt into a large bowl.

Heat the milk in a saucepan until it is warm, then stir in the caster sugar and the dried or fresh yeast, whichever you're using. Allow the mixture to stand for five minutes.

Pour most of the milk, caster sugar and yeast mixture into the flour and salt mixture, and mix it to a soft but not wet dough. Knead for about 6-8 minutes by hand, or in an electric food mixer with the dough hook attached, until the dough is smooth and slightly springy.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it and leave it in a warm place for approximately one hour or until it has doubled in size.

Knock back the risen dough and knead it again for 2-3 minutes, then cover it again (I usually leave it on the work surface, dusted with ground rice and covered with an upturned bowl or a tea towel). Leave for a further 30 minutes. Dust a baking tray with ground rice.

Put the dough on a work surface dusted with the ground rice, and roll it into a log about 20cm (8in) long. Cut the log into 10 slices, each approximately 2cm (¾in) thick and place each slice, cut side down, on the prepared baking tray. Dust the top of the slices with ground rice then, using the palm of your hand, flatten them slightly so they are just about 1.5cm (½in) high. Cover them again and leave to rise for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a heavy cast-iron grill pan (if you have one) or a frying pan over a medium heat to heat up. When the pan is moderately hot, reduce the heat to very low and cook the muffins (using no oil or butter) about four at a time, for approximately 10 minutes on each side. When they are cooked, they will be golden brown on both sides and will sound hollow when they are tapped.

Lift the muffins from the pan and wrap them in a clean tea towel while you are cooking the remaining muffins - this way, they will not get too crusty.

Hot Chocolate

Serves 2.

You will need:

400ml (14fl oz) milk

100g (3½ oz) good-quality dark, milk or white chocolate, chopped, see my Tip, above left

Splash of cream

2-4 teaspoons caster sugar (optional)

Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the chopped dark, milk or white chocolate, whichever you are using, and the cream. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring continuously, and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the chocolate is melted and completely smooth.

Check for taste and stir in a little caster sugar if necessary. Divide between two cups or mugs to serve.

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