Tuesday, 22 November 2011

I Like Mine With Smoked Salmon... my answer to the age old breakfast conundrum.

A bit of a different post today looking at the most important meal of the day. However, I often find that when I give this meal the focus and attention it deserves, it inevitably turns into dinner anyway. I definitely sign up for the American way of stretching breakfast out for a good hour or so. Therefore, the past couple of times I've found myself in Liverpool early on; I have visited a wonderful little place called 'Moose Coffee' that I really want to recommend to you as a unique breakfast experience.

According to their website, Moose Coffee want to 'capture the American and Canadian attitude to the best meal of the day' with their short order menu consisting mostly of eggs cooked various ways with traditional American inspired accompaniments. Their equivalent to a 'big breakfast' is based around a delicious sounding potato hash with onion, garlic and dijon mustard. Then there's poached and scrambled eggs served classically and with innovative twists.

The decor feels as though you've wandered into a cult 70's film; beige leather, old fashioned till, dark wood furniture, high ceilings and a balcony with seats overlooking diners below. The steamed up windows, jangle of the till and the gentle hum of relaxed chatter make for a breakfast atmosphere ideal for sitting back and soaking up.

On my first visit I went for the 'Smoked Moose'. They generously scramble 4 eggs which are golden and creamy. The smoked salmon was served in thick and tasty, velvety strips, and the brown toast was of good quality. The ingrediants really taste worthy of a lot more than the reasonable prices they are sold at.

The next time I went I was hoping for the eggs florentine I'd seen on the specials board, but it had been replaced by an exciting sounding affair involing peppers and onions and suchlike. Regardless, it seemed like too much for me so I ordered the New Hampshire Moose. For my personal taste, the egg was poached just right. A little bit of runnyness but overall quite firm. It wasn't hard, by any stretch of the imagination, but for some it may have been considered a little overdone. The hollandaise was rich and perfectly portioned; finishing off a luxurious dish at excellent value. (For this meal, a couple of rounds of toast, and two drinks we spent £11.80)

I'm so glad this cafe is now in my life. It's so different to anything I'm used to and I enjoyed the whole attitude they have to breakfast. It's busy and bustling with people from all walks of life, but still manages a chilled out atmosphere. Nothing is too much trouble for the chirpy staff, and the food is great value for money. I can't wait to try a few more things on the menu, including the American style club sandwiches, and the sweeter desserty breakfasts they have on offer.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Random Recipes does No Croutons Required: Spiced Parsnip Soup

I've been following the

The basic idea is to choose a recipe book, turn to a page and random, and you MUST make this recipe. Not quite sure what the consequences are for cheaters, but I assume they are dire! I excitedly turned to my 'New Soup Bible' which I used in my first ever blog post over a year ago! Bless. I had my fingers crossed for a warming thick Autumnal soup when I flicked through and randomly opened it on page 62: Spiced Parsnip Soup with Naan Croutons. Jackpot! And I didn't even cheat!

I love parsnips and teaming them with my favourite herb, cumin, was really tempting! I'd probably make a parsnip soup on any old weekend without a fuss, but what a fantastic idea to also add the traditional sides and condiments of a curry. I had a lot of the ingredients to hand, so after a quick scurry to the shops for some parsnips and naan bread I was raring to go. Here's the recipe as it was in the cookbook.

Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 small green chilli, seeded and finely chopped 
1 tbsp grated ginger
5 large parsnips, diced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp mango chutney
1.2 litres water
juice of 1 lime
salt and ground black pepper
Natural yoghurt and mango chutney, to serve
Fresh coriander to serve
For the croutons:
Olive oil
1 large naan
Sesame seeds

1. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the onion has softened. Add the parsnips and cook for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds, coriander and turmeric and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
2. Add the chutney and the water. Season well and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until the parsnips are soft.
3. Cool the soup slightly, then blend until smooth. Stir in the lime juice. (This is where I had to add some extra boiling water as the soup was far too gloopy for my taste, as can be seen in the picture)
4. For the croutons dice the naan, heat the oil in a frying pan and cook until golden all over. Remove from the heat and drain off any excess oil. Add the sesame seeds and return to the heat for 30 seconds, until the seeds are golden.
5. Ladle the soup into bowls. Add a little yogurt and top with mango chutney and naan croutons.

I even presented it all pretty while I'm entering it into a challenge (dead proud ont sly!). I did have a couple of minor disasters throughout the cooking. It was ridiculously gloopy when I blended it, (hard to avoid with parsnip), so I had to add quite a lot of boiling water to loosen it up a bit. I also forgot to add the spices at the correct time! Only realising once the soup was blended and it wasn't the wonderful deep orange colour the book had promised =( I quickly added them in and continued cooking the soup; the colour did become a lot more pleasant but not quite the wonderful Autumn leafy hue I was after.

The soup itself wasn't overly exciting but hit the spot. I went a bit mad with the cumin which although complimented the parsnips really well, did mean the soup didn't really taste of much else. However, what really made this dish was the various toppings; what a revelation! The croutons were tasty little morsels of crunch, the yoghurt added a contrasting creamy taste to the deep earthy spice of the cumin, and the mango chutney really lifted the whole thing to a new level. I'm not usually a massive fan of the stuff and rarely choose it, but its tangy flavour went really well here and I found myself adding a couple more dollops when I ran out!

I really enjoyed this challenge; having the dilemma of recipe choosing taken away from me is something I'd like to do more often and will hopefully lead to some exciting new taste experiences that I wouldn't usually do. I think I've started off very safe here but the result was an enjoyable soup that I'd probably make myself, with some finishing touches that transformed it into a meal that I'd even consider swapping my weekly (bi-weekly? tri-weekly??) curry for!