It’s that time of year when you’re feeling a bit exhausted from Christmas, but optimistic for the year ahead. But sadly the koffers are a bit empty from all the Yuletide excesses, so there’ll be no skiing on the pistes of Val-d’Isère for you this year. Fret you not, for you can still indulge in the Alpine experience from the comfort of your own home. Invite a few besties over, line up 50 Shades 1 & 2 on Netflix, and have an evening of Apres-Ski in the middle of Drumcondra. If you don’t have an IKEA Fondue Kit (seriously, you don’t?), just feck a couple of camembert rounds in the oven to bake, cut up a fresh baguette in large cubes, put them on skewers and you’re good to go! What about the drinks you say? Well, you could go the Jägermeister route, but we want to keep it classy, so time to whip up some Mulled Wine, or Glühwein if you want to get all authentic on it. ‘Tis easy peasy and it’ll keep you warm if you want to save on heating bills.
So On y va! as they say on the black pistes of Chamonix. Firstly, you’ll need some nice fruity wine – Shiraz or Merlot will do the trick. You’re going to be diluting and boiling the arse out of it, so you can put away that spendy Châteauneuf-du-Pape you picked up at Donnybrook Fair, Susan.
1 litre Red Wine
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Orange, first zested and then cut in thin slices
4 Star Anise
1 tsp. ground Cardamon
100g Demerera Sugar
Bring the wine with the water, spices, orange zest and slices, and sugar to the boil and leave to gently simmer for about 30 minutes. Pour through a sieve and serve in mugs (not in thin glasses for ‘elf n’ safety reasons.) Job done. Prost!
Whenever I go for brunch (now how poncy does that sound?), I muse for ages over whether to go for the Huevos Rancheros, the pancakes or the French toast, but come waitress-standing-in-front-of-me time, I almost always order Eggs Benedict. And every time I’m sorely disappointed, as either the muffins are too doughy, the ham is too dry, or the hollandaise sauce is just bland slop. So my resolution for 2016 is to stop this cycle of madness, and venture into new uncharted territories on the ‘ole menu, and stick to my Eggs Benedict at home. Because, quite frankly, none have come close to the beauties I concoct at home every now and again (no arrogance here). So that you lovelies can partake in some Sunday brunch delectation, here’s my recipe for this delicious classic:
INGREDIENTS: (per serving)
2 Slices of Brioche
Knob of Butter
4 slices of Parma/Serrano Ham
2 Large Egg Yolks
1-2 tsp. Lemon Juice
There are quite a lot of things going on at the same time (perfect for all you mult-taskers), so prepare everything first, as the eggs only take a few minutes.
- First, heat up a pot of water big enough to host the poached eggs.
- Heat the grill.
- Prepare the Hollandaise Sauce. Don’t be daunted by this, it is actually quite easy. Melt the butter in a small pan. Put the egg yolks into a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk with a teaspoon of the lemon juice. Whisk slowly but constantly to prevent the mixture splitting. Pour the now-melted butter into the egg mixture until it has combined. If the mixture is too thick, add a tiny splash of water to loosen. Season to taste. Based on your own preference, you may want to add more lemon juice, but I personally don’t like the lemon taste to be overpowering. When it’s ready, turn the heat off and keep warm over the pan of water and stir occasionally while you’re getting the rest ready.
(Now if you haven’t got time, or have a tendency to be a bit of a lazy Maisie (I’m not judging), then you might prefer to skip this whole stage, and buy some ready made stuff. Try to get the Hollandaise sauce that comes in a carton, rather than the packet variety, which just gives me the heebiejeebies)
- Heat a non-stick pan with a small (and I mean small) knob of butter and gently “toast” the brioche slices. Don’t use too much butter, you don’t want to turn it into fried bread! You may prefer to toast the brioche under the grill, but I find this makes the bread too dry.
- Put the slices of ham under the hot grill. As they are thin, they will only need about 3-4 minutes to crisp up.
- When the water has come to simmering point, add a pinch of salt, and lower the eggs into the water from a cup. The eggs only need 3 minutes to be nice and soft, so be ready with your slotted spoon to fish them out when they’re ready. Once out, put them on some kitchen paper to absorb the excess water.
- Now to the assembly. Place the softly poached eggs on top of the toasted brioche, smother with lashings of gorgeous Hollandaise sauce, and finish off with the beautifully crispy Parma ham. Sorted!