Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Full English Breakfast – On a Stick!

OK, they might sound a tad unconventional at first, but I’m sharing one of my best kept secrets here, and after their first appearance I guarantee that you’ll be asked to make them again [and again…]

A tray full of Full English Breakfast canapes

My “full English breakfast on a stick” was invented over a dozen years ago when I was asked to help cater the 30th birthday party of an old friend. His then partner (now wife) didn’t share his fondness for baked beans and I was tasked with devising a comestible Trojan horse to sneak them into the feast. Deciding that a canapé can cover a multitude of sins I set about hatching my egg and beans plot, and now it’s become my drinks party must have. Besides, if a full English breakfast is such a good hangover cure, surely there must be some preventative benefit to be gained by eating one with your cocktails?

This canapé essentially consists of a ‘fried bread’ crouton with a layer of baked beans, a slice of sausage, a dollop of ketchup and a boiled quails egg. Allow 2 or 3 per guest – once over the initial shock they’ll be back for more.

You will need

  • Sliced white bread [this can be as cheap as you like, but everything else should be the best you can buy]
  • Good pork sausages
  • Olive oil
  • Baked beans [would you use anything other than Heinz?]
  • Tomato ketchup [see above]
  • Quail’s eggs

First grill the sausages and allow to cool. Each will probably yield about 7 or 8 slices around the thickness of a £1 coin. Simmer the baked beans for a few minutes, all the better if a few break up, and allow these to cool too. This thickens the sauce and makes it much easier to perch a few beans on each crouton.

Cut small circles from slices of the bread with a pastry cutter or liqueur glass and slather them with olive oil. You will get between 6 and 9 croutons from each slice depending on the size of the loaf. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and cook in a 180˚C oven for about 10 minutes until golden and crunchy, but do keep an eye on them – one minute they’re golden brown and the next they’re charcoal! Drain on kitchen paper and allow to cool.

For years I cooked my own quails eggs and laboriously shelled them, which is easier if you roll the egg between your palm and a hard surface to crack the shell, and then peel under a running tap. Now I buy them ready cooked and peeled and suggest you do the same. It saves hours.

Pour some tomato ketchup into a small bowl, arm yourself with a couple of teaspoons and some cocktail sticks, and you’re ready to assemble. First top each crouton with a few beans using a teaspoon. Then balance a sausage slice on each. Next use the other teaspoon to dab on a blob of ketchup. Skewer an egg with a cocktail stick and push the bottom of the stick through the middle of the canapé, squishing the egg into its ketchupy cushion.

And voila, full English breakfast on a stick! Even if it looks slightly daunting at first the whole thing should be taken in one mouthful to be best appreciated. Recently a four year old guest of mine managed it [several times!] so I’m sure you can.

As with most canapés the best way to present these is in repeating rows – they look particularly good on a black slate.

The Shopkeeper has always been egg-averse, which somewhat lessens his enjoyment of this otherwise remarkable morsel. If you find yourself with similarly afflicted guests then a quarter of a mushroom sautéed with garlic and rosemary can stand in for the egg.

Full English Breakfast with Mushroom

Pot Thai

Chicken in a pot with a selection of Thai spices

Perhaps it’s the unseasonably warm and sunny weather we’ve been enjoying of late, or maybe it’s got something to do with my having done two whole weeks of full-time work [I know, poor me!], but I’m yearning to get on a plane and head for distant shores. And with my own planned odyssey to explore the food of Indochina currently on indefinite hold it doesn’t help that you can’t turn on the TV at the moment without seeing a certain bum-chinned, potty-mouthed chef trampling all over South East Asia and its peoples and cuisines. Ah well, if departure lounges must remain a distant dream for now there’s nothing to stop me rustling up a mini-break from the comfort of my own kitchen.

Last July I wrote about the versatility of a simple chicken pot roast and this is yet another variation on the theme, though this time conceived with thoughts of a cold Tiger beer on a Thai beach at the forefront of my mind.

Follow the same basic method as before [you can substitute water for the wine if you think it feels more ‘authentic’, but I didn’t] but this time add the following:

  • A couple of bruised lemon grass stalks and the stems of a handful of basil [reserve the leaves for later] these to be inserted into the cavity, the rest strewn about the chicken in the liquor…
  • Two small shallots, finely chopped
  • A thumb of ginger, peeled and grated
  • Two or three red chillies, chopped
  • Strips of the peel of half a lime
  • Three or four crushed cloves of garlic
  • Half a teaspoon of ground turmeric

Season well and cook as before. Once the chicken is done allow it to rest and strain the juices into another pan. Reduce by a third. Add a tin of coconut milk, simmer for a few minutes more, and check the seasoning. Add some previously steamed and refreshed green veg to the sauce and warm through. I used new season asparagus and some pak choi, but green beans, peas, spinach, pea aubergines, etc. would all be fine.

Finish the sauce with a squeeze of lime, a splash of fish sauce, the reserved basil leaves, and a few further strips of freshly sliced chilli if you fancy. Serve chunks of the chicken in bowls on a bed of warm noodles and with plenty of the sauce.

Now then, where did I put my postcards…?