I’m not a huge breakfast person during the week – I usually prefer some rooibos tea with home-baked rusks when I’m on the go. But give me a lazy late-morning brunch over a weekend and I’m in heaven!
Brunch is not something that you can rush. It should be approached with no regard for time. Take your time to lay the table beautifully, or if you are going to eat in bed, make sure you are going to be extra comfortable with a tray on your lap or a side table. I usually love having baskets full of muffins, scones and croissants for my guests to choose from, with various jams and cheeses and farm butter. For the warm course of the feast, I like to serve really soft scrambled eggs with parmesan shavings and a very small drizzle of truffle oil. I also like extra crispy fried streaky bacon, and sometimes some pan-fried tomatoes.
But for the really special occasions, I love to serve eggs benedict – my favourite breakfast of all time. This is my “royale” twist on the classic eggs benedict: I serve the softly poached eggs on a sliced croissant instead of an English muffin, with loads of smoked Hickory ham, topped with smoked mozzarella. I then grill the lot before I add the poached eggs and warm hollandaise sauce. This is quite a rich breakfast or brunch meal, but the flavour combinations are superb! Serve individually plated servings to a small group of 1-4 guests, not a huge crowd – you need to time your eggs and grilled cheese to be ready at the same time. Your guests will feel really special to be served such a treat!
PS: For the Hollandaise sauce, I take a shortcut and whizz it up in a blender, using warm melted butter. No need to whisk anything on the stove over a double boiler. It makes you want to eat eggs benedict everyday. :)
Eggs Benedict Royale
Ingredients for 2 portions:
- 2 croissants, sliced open lengthways
- 4 slices of smoked Hickory ham (or a smoked ham of your choice)
- 100-150 g smoked mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 4 free range eggs, as fresh as possible
- 30-45 ml white vinegar, for poaching
- some chopped fresh parsley for serving (optional)
Ingredients for Hollandaise sauce:
- 2 egg yolks
- 15 ml water
- 15 ml lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- 125 ml butter, freshly melted and very warm
- For the sauce: in a small blender, blend/process/whizz the egg yolks, water, lemon juice and pinch of salt for a minute. With the motor running, add the warm melted butter in a very thin, steady stream. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Sauce will thicken on standing – add a teaspoon of warm water and whizz again just before serving, if necessary (I always make this just before serving, it is really best served when freshly made!)
- Pre-heat grill of oven and set baking tray 2/3 to the top. Arrange sliced croissants on another baking tray, then top each with 2 slices of ham and enough smoked mozzarella. Grill
- While grill is heating up, heat some water (about 5 cm deep) in a small sauce pan on the stove top. Add vinegar and bring to a very slow simmer. With a spoon, stir the simmering water for a few seconds to create a slow whirlpool. Gently break the eggs in the middle of the whirl, only 2 at a time. Simmer very slowly for 3-4 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and briefly blot the spoon with the egg on a piece of kitchen paper to remove excess water before arranging on top of the grilled croissant. Top generously with hollandaise sauce.
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