Christmas Breakfasts so Good the Presents can Wait till Later!

If you do as I do and cook your Christmas dinner the day before, this will free up both you and your kitchen to make a lovely festive breakfast. Here’s how and why to cook the turkey in advance and how to do your Christmas side dishes in advance.

Here are my Christmas Day Breakfast & Brunch Ideas …

Eggs Royale

This is a version of Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon. All the guidelines, recipes and ideas for Eggs Benedict you need are here. 

eggs royale, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and smoked salmon on a toasted bun

If this seems a bit too much work then serve with some other cooked egg dish  For how to make rich and creamy scrambled eggs, baked eggs, oeufs mollets, omelettes and more see here.

Salted Caramel Toast

This is one variation of several cinnamon toast variations I have tried, see here for Maple Sugar Toast, Cinnamon Toast & Other Delicious Variations

~   Toast slices of bread on both sides till golden.
~   Generously butter the toast right out to the edges.
~   Sprinkle reasonably generously with caster sugar.
~   Pop under a hot grill and watch carefully till the sugar has melted and is starting to caramelise.
~   Sprinkle with a little crunchy sea salt and serve.

salted caramel toast, cinnamon toast ideas and variations

Croissant French Toast

Croissants are perfect for making French Toast; the layers of the cut side go crunchy crisp so make sure to serve cut side up so that said layers trap all the gooey maple syrup and butter or what have you.  

Per person ...
1 croissant – stale is fine
1 egg
½ tbsp sugar
50ml milk or cream or a mixture
a few drips of vanilla extract
pinch salt

~   Cut the croissant in half lengthways.
~   Whisk together all the other ingredients.
~   Soak the croissant in the mixture for about 10 minutes till soggy but not falling apart.
~   Fry till crisp in a little butter.
~   Serve cut side up with butter and maple syrup or whatever else you fancy.

croissant french toast recipe, maple syrup

Of course you can do the same thing with a couple of slices of bread.  For a custardy middle cut the bread on the thick side and soak for a few minutes.  When I did this for brunch when working in the Caribbean, out of respect for their culture, I always added a little rum to the egg mixture - it was well received! 

Festive Pancakes with Warm Boozy Mincemeat Sauce

See here for how to make several types of pancakes (thick and fluffy American style, crepes, gluten free) and serve topped with this sauce ...

180g mincemeat
150g soft light brown sugar
juice and zest of one orange
60ml rum or brandy

~ Gently stir together all the ingredients over low heat till amalgamated and hot. That’s it!

This sauce is also good stirred into porridge and see here for more Delicious Ideas for Mincemeat.

Eggnog Bread Pudding 

- serves four

Croissants work well for this too, make sure the top layer has the cut side of the croissants uppermost for a crunchy finish.

100g-150g stale bread in small chunks
200ml milk
100ml double cream
2 eggs
80g sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
maybe, up to you, 1 tbsp rum or brandy

~ If the bread isn’t stale dice or tear into pieces and either leave it around the place for an hour or so or put it on a baking tray and pop in the oven for a few minutes.
~ Put the bread into a lightly greased ovenproof dish or divide between ramekins.
~ Whisk together all the other ingredients and pour over pushing the bread under the surface to soak it. Set aside for 30 minutes or more – even overnight will do, which is great for Christmas!
~ Preheat oven to 350˚F/180˚C/160˚C Fan/gas 4.
~ Sprinkle the pudding with the extra sugar and bake for about 30 minutes till risen, golden and slightly wobbly when nudged.
~ Serve hot, warm or cold but warm is best!

egg nog bread pudding, Christmas breakfast

Speaking of bread pudding here’s an easy idea I had but I don’t know what to call it – Stollen Surprise?!

Creamy Stollen Pots

~   Reheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5.  
~   Butter as many ramekins as you have diners.
~   Fill each ramekin with diced stollen.
~   Pour over enough double cream to cover.
~   Bake for about 15 minutes till hot and turning golden.

stollen baked in cream, leftover stollen, christmas breakfast

Drinks for Christmas Breakfast

Christmas Mimosa

glass of  cranberry juice orange juice mimosa, bucks fizzMimosa is how Americans pronouunce Buck’s Fizz!

chilled Champagne
cranberry juice
orange liqueur such as Cointreau

~   Half fill glasses with cranberry juice.
~   Add a splash of liqueur.
~   Top up with Champagne
~   Garnish with an orange slice.

Easy Peasy!

Quick and Easy Eggnog for 2

If you are worried about raw eggs, then I’m afraid this isn’t for you.
2 lovely fresh eggs
90 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract – the real stuff, of course
225 ml double cream
300 ml cold milk

~   Whisk together the eggs and the sugar till starting to thicken.
~   Whisk in the vanilla and the double cream till well combined.
~   Lastly whisk in the milk.
~   Chill till needed.
egg nog handy hint, leftover egg nog, egg nog storags
~   Add a tot of brandy, rum or whisky to the glass when serving. 

For storage I decanted mine into an empty Brandy bottle I had (where do they come from?) so that the aroma can infuse into my nog.  See, I even hate to waste smells!  Serve chilled with a tot of brandy, rum or bourbon in it and sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg.

See here for some more hot toddies and winter cocktails that you might like for breakfast! 

christmas greeting

How to "Season to Taste"

"to everyhting there is a season" - ecclesiastes 1

Only joking!

A common, almost obligatory, instruction in recipes is “season to taste” but this is quite a broad direction and I am often asked ...

What does season to taste mean?  

Well I looked it up on Merriam-Webster and according to them it means …

“to add as much salt or pepper or as much of a spice or herb
as one likes so something tastes good”

What a surprise – although I might add acid, sugar and a few more, see below, to this definition. Being able to season a dish properly is one of the most important skills of a chef so here's some guidance.

For most of my cooking life (quite a long while, actually) it has been generally accepted that there are 5 basic flavours that we can taste;

Salty * Sweet * Sour * Bitter * Umami

Recently, it has been suggested that we humans can identify other tastes; fat and pungent and/or astringent, but I am not going to deal with these here, probably soon though!

Seasoning with Salt

sea salt, kosher salt, crunchy saltSalt is amazing stuff, not only does it make food taste, umm … salty, it can also bring out the sweetness of a dish (think salted caramel – yum!) and it can even reduce bitterness, as in when you add a pinch of salt to coffee.  You do that don’t you? If not give it a try!

Which salt to use?

When I am salting potatoes for boiling, seasoning a sauce or adding a pinch to my coffee I use table salt.  When I am seasoning meat or adding a sprinkle to a finished dish, I normally use Maldon sea. In the US kosher salt, which is similarly flaky, is frequently used. 

Salty ingredients to balance a dish include ...

     ~  Olives
     ~  Capers
     ~  Anchovies
     ~  Prosciutto (prosciutto butter is a great way to add salt to a dish )
     ~  Salty cheese such as Feta
     ~  Soy sauce

Salt can be added at different times whilst preparing a dish ...

Salting Before Cooking

Adding salt at the start of cooking has a different effect than salting at the end; it infuses the whole dish. Two ways to add salt at the beginning are add salt to water when cooking vegetables, pasta, rice etc. and sprinkling salt onto something to be cooked over dry heat such as meat or fish. Although salt is known to draw juices out of meat (and anything else) salting immediately before cooking is nevertheless a good thing, it adds flavour and doesn't have time for any juice-drawing so salt before roasting, frying etc.

Interestingly enough, if you salt large pieces of meat long enough in advance the salt will indeed draw out some of the juices, but they will then be reabsorbed right into the centre of the meat thus seasoning the inside!! Rub a spoonful of sea salt into a joint of meat and leave for 4 or more hours before cooking. Smaller cuts of meat, duck breast for instance or steak, will benefit in the same way from salting say 20 minutes for the duck breast or 40 for a steak, before cooking. Wipe the meat surface before continuing so that you get a good sear and see here for how to make a delicious pan sauce from browned meat juices.  

Salting During Cooking

If you add something new to the dish such as cream, stock, or anything really, add a little more salt.

Salting After Cooking

Once cooked, whatever it is, season “to taste” thus ~  taste, add a little salt, taste, add another pinch of salt, taste again, repeat till it is delicious. You are not aiming for a saltier taste but a brighter one with the sweet and bitter elements balanced out by the salt. Repeat till the food tastes exactly how you like it!

Most people have salt and pepper on the table when serving so diners can also make small adjustments.
add something sweet or acidic to fix a salty dish

Seasoning with Sweetness

how to season food with sweet ingredients, sugar, honey, syrup
At first it might seem strange seasoning savoury foods with sweet ingredients, but a touch of sugar can give a real boost. Consider the many table sauces we use with savoury foods which contain high levels of sugar – mint sauce, tomato ketchup, sweet chilli sauce etc. Caramelised onions are gorgeous in many savoury dishes.

Adding just a little sugar makes salty things taste less salty and sour things taste less sour – a little brown sugar can be great in beef dishes see this recipe for Korean Bulgogi  and sugar or a sweet ingredient such as tomato ketchup makes a tomato based dish even lovelier.

Sugar is the obvious sweet ingredient here but choose appropriately; dark brown sugar goes well with beef and gives a caramel taste, light brown sugar is a bit butterscotchy, white sugar is probably the best all purpose taste. 

Sweet ingredients to balance a dish include ...

     ~  Sugar
     ~  Honey     
     ~  Maple syrup     
     ~  Jam     
     ~  Fruits - sweet ones, not citrus, cranberry or pineapple           ~  Dried fruits     
     ~  Caramelised onions
if food too sweet add sourness or bitternes, not salt
Oddly enough, if a meal is too sweet don’t try to balance it by adding salt – as I said above salt can make things taste sweeter. Instead add a squeeze of lemon or lime or a dash of vinegar as appropriate.

Seasoning with Sourness

squeezing lemon juice into a dish to balance out sweetness or spicynessA dash of citrus juice or vinegar can really brighten a dish, in fact if you are nervous about too much salt when tasting and seasoning try a squeeze of lemon. It will also balance out too much sweetness or spiciness.  

Sour ingredients to balance a dish include …

     ~  Lemon and lime juice
     ~  Canned tomatoes (fresh too but not so much)
     ~  Vinegar – lots to choose from so select one that goes with what you are cooking!
     ~  Sour cream and buttermilk
     ~  Tamarind paste
add cream, butter or something sweet to balance an acidic dish

Seasoning with Bitterness

dark chocolate can balance an over sweet dish

Bitter flavours can be used to balance rich or over-sweet dish for instance a dash of coffee in a sweet chocolate dessert. 

Bitter ingredients for balancing a dish include …

     ~  Coffee
     ~  Unsweetened cocoa and very dark chocolate
     ~  Citrus peels 
     ~  Olives
     ~  Grapefruit
     ~  Horseradish.

add something sweet to balance bitterness

Seasoning with Umami/Savourines

marmite is an umami rich ingredient, adds depth to food

Umami is apparently Japanese for savouriness or a pleasant savoury taste which was identified as a basic taste by Professor Kikunae Ikeda in 1908 but it seems to have been some while before we adopted the word. I was happy with savoury! I’m not going to go into details here, but it is something to do with glutamate

These savoury ingredients add depth to your food. 

Umami rich ingrediets include …

     ~  Marmite (apologies to American readers, didn't mean to frighten you!)
     ~  Soy sauce 
     ~  Parmesan cheese, Blue cheese & Cheddar cheese
     ~  Mushrooms generally and dried shiitake mushrooms in particular
     ~  Anchovies
     ~  Worcestershire Sauce - because it contains anchovies 
     ~  Dry-cured ham 
     ~  Tomatoes
     ~  Oyster sauce 
     ~  Miso
     ~  Beef broth

… and I think reading this list you can imagine the type of taste I am referring to. If you add one or more of these ingredients, as appropriate of course, to your cooking you will give it a real flavour boost.
add someting bland if meal is too overpowering, cream rice, bread

Important when Seasoning Cold Dishes

chilled foods must be highly seasoned

219 (and then some!) Brilliant Ideas for Leftovers

I have just updated the page on my book on leftovers, have a look here Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers

On the original page I had included several (or maybe even many!) links to posts on Sudden Lunch concerning leftovers and I don’t want to waste them, so I’m listing them here instead!

don't just reheat leftovers, make something new from them

Of all the foods in the world leftovers are my favourite ingredient and using them my favourite way to cook.  If I find myself with random bits and pieces to use up I am delighted and often inspired; I enjoy the challenge of making them into a good meal and then I enjoy eating it! 

This is a fun and economical way of discovering new ideas and dishes; sometimes the result of playing with leftovers is so pleasing that the end product becomes a regular dish.

I mention leftovers in many, many Sudden Lunch posts, here is a list of the main ones, in no particular order! 

     ~   Recycled Biscuit Cake

     ~    Cold Porridge ~Yum! (Seriously) 

     ~   You’ve Got to try this with Stollen!

     ~   7 Ways to Use Leftover Polenta 

     ~   What to do with Leftover Soup!  

     ~   Ideas for Leftover Pâté 

     ~   15 Ways to Use (Not) Leftover Honey 

     ~   10 Delicious Ideas for Leftover Asparagus 

     ~   How to Use Leftover Easter Eggs 

     ~   10 Interesting Ways to Use Pastry Scraps plus a Boring One

     ~   8 and a Bit Ways to Cope with an "Unwanted" Bottle of Port

     ~   How to Use Every Part of a Chicken

     ~   9 Ideas for Leftover Baked Potatoes plus Fartes de Batatas!

     ~   15 Ideas for Marzipan Trimmings 

     ~   Ideas for Leftover Haggis including a Few Sensible Ones! 

     ~   64 Ideas for Leftover Cheese plus a Joke!

     ~   7 (+) Interestingly Different Ideas for Leftover Bread

     ~   Got Leftover Hot Cross Buns Lurking about the Place?

     ~   There is No Excuse for Discarding One's Banana

     ~   50+ Brilliant Ideas for Christmas Leftovers 

     ~   Hamming Around with Prosciutto Scraps!

     ~   18 Ways to Use Up "Leftover Wine" ~ Deliciously! 🍷 Cheers!

I'll probably add more as I remember or write them so save this page and check back occasionally!

Simple Ways you can Make Soup Taste Even More Delicious!

I recently read this quote from the Telegraph and it certainly makes sense to me. We have just enjoyed a most fabulous hot and sunny summer when cool and refreshing fruit juices have been a Godsend. But, it is getting colder, have you noticed? 

ultimate soup cookbook, basic soup recipe with variations, soup hint, tips and guidelines, genius soup recipe
Read more here!

Time for soup!

I have written a great deal about soup, not only in my book 
Soup (Almost) The Only Recipe You'll Ever Need but, of course, also here on Sudden Lunch!

So today whilst my chicken and leek soup simmers on the

stove I am going to suggest lots of ways to make your soup, whether it be homemade (go on, it’s easy) or bought in, even more delicious.

Flavour Boosters

squeeze of lemon with brighten soups

If your soup is not quite as tasty as you had hoped, try these …

~ Worcestershire Sauce – this is a good addition to meaty and cheesy soups but be warned, it is Not Vegetarian as it contains anchovies although you can’t actually taste them!
~ Horseradish – this is also good in beef soups and also fish soups in general and smoked fish in particular, oh, and in beetroot soups too.
~ Hot sauce – when I lived in the West Indies hot sauce was added to most things and I can't actually think of a soup that wouldn't take well to a few drips of hot sauce.
~ Lemon juice – a squeeze of juice just before serving will brighten the flavour of seafood, poultry and vegetable soups.

Adjusting Soup Texture

adjust a soup's texture, puree, mash, chunky soup

A soup’s character can be varied by the way it is finished off ...

~   Do nothing and have a chunky soup – that is the easy one!
~   Mash the ingredients into the stock with a fork or potato masher for a rustic texture.
~   Use a food processor to produce a purée or a liquidiser for a very smooth and sophisticated finish.

You can do all this with bought in soups, too, if you like!

simmer leftover parmesan rind in sauces, stocks, soups

Add some dairy!

~ Cream – either stir cream into finished soup or add a drizzle as below.
~ Cheese on Soup! Grate Parmesan or other hard cheese over your soup second before taking to the table, or top with a cheese on toast croute as in French Onion Soup.
~ Another good idea is to simmer leftover Parmesan rind in tomato soup for a lovely flavour boost.
~ Butter – top your soup AT THE LAST MINUTE with a slice or dollop of suitably flavoured butter or, if you don’t want a rush when serving drizzle with melted flavoured butter. How about smoky chipotle butter on corn chowder or roasted garlic butter on pumpkin soup – see here for lots of tasty butter ideas.

Last minute additions 

~   Add fast cooking fresh or frozen vegetables and simmer for a few minutes just before serving – try frozen peas, shredded greens, finely cut green beans, tiny broccoli or cauliflower florets etc.

~   Cooked meats can also be added but do so at the last minute just enough to warm through, do not allow to boil.
recipes, ideas, handy hints, cook's treats, snacks for leftover food
~   The same goes for cooked fish.

The above 3 ideas are all great for leftovers, something on which I am somewhat of an expert, which is why I wrote Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers.

Drizzle something tasty and attractive on the soup

drizzle soup with complimentary sauce, oil, salsa, cream

You can do this with a teaspoon or a squeezy bottle. Make a pretty swirl, draw a picture or write something! Years ago when I cheffed at the Royal BVI Yacht Cub I knew most of the patrons so would often write their names or a friendly insult in their soup! 

Try ...

~   Good tasty extra virgin olive oil.
~   Truffle oil – drizzle or drip abstemiously (it’s strong) on mushroom soup in particular and also try it on beef or blue cheese soups.
~   Nut or seed oils such as sesame oil, pumpkin seed oil or walnut oil.
~   Roasted garlic oil
~   Salsa or red pepper coulis on corn chowder.
~   Cream, of course

~   Infused oils such as basil, chilli or delicious chorizo infused oil.

add a little spirit or wine to soup

Add alcohol to your soup!

Generally speaking the best way to do this is to put a spoonful in the bowl before adding the soup. 

~   The obvious one is brandy in French Onion Soup
~   Dry sherry in fish soups, bisques and chowders.
~   Vodka gives a boost to tomato soups.
~   Madeira is good in mushroom soup.
~   Try this delicious spicy pepper “wine” from the Caribbean in seafood soups (or anything you fancy, really!). In this case I normally just put a small bottle of the pepper wine on the table and let diners dose their own soup.

Crunchy Soup Toppings

~   Croutons – see here for my definitive post on making croutons.
~   Toasted Nuts and Seeds
~   Crisp shards of freshly cooked poppadoms on curried soups.
~   At a pinch, crisps will work too!
~   Frazzled things! – all sorts of foods can be crisply fired for a crunchy soup garnish.
~   Scatter crisp shards of bacon or chorizo or parma ham on, well, pretty well any soup! 

crunchy garnishes for soup, croutons, chorizo

Herbs & Spices


sprinkle soups with herbs, spices
Sprinkle your soup with spices or with appropriately flavoured fresh herbs.

~ Basil or oregano are good on tomato soups,
~ Try a little sage (frazzled or not) on turkey soup – remember that for just after Christmas!
~ Parsley is not just a pretty garnish it actually has a flavour that goes very well with chicken and fish soups.
~ A little freshly grated nutmeg is good on potato soups.
~ A simple grinding of black pepper is always a boon. 

See here for lots more information on sprinkles, drizzles and garnishes in general.

Give it a Rest!

As with many slow cooked dishes, the flavour of soup can somehow improve with an overnight rest in the fridge.

allow soups and stews to rest, flavour will improve