Schwarzwälder Schinken & Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict is, by far, my favourite breakfast dish but I am so often disappointed when I order it in a restaurant. Restaurants seem to specialise in making this most tasty of meals as sterile and as unattractive as possible. Traditionally the dish consists of an English Muffin (despite its name an essentially American concoction!) cut in two and each half is then topped with a round of ham, followed by a poached egg and finally a spoon or two of Hollandaise sauce. The result, while potentially tasty, is often bland and visually sterile – don’t believe me, do a Google image search, there are notable exceptions of course but the majority of the pictures can hardly be called appetizing!

So how to improve on this sorry state of affairs? First, ditch the muffin! A couple of slices of toasted Ciabatta make a far superior foundation for the dish while ensuring that there is enough bread to mop up the egg yolk and sauce without totally dominating it.

Next comes the ham and please, not slices of bland, watery processed ham, Iberian ham is perfect but expensive, back bacon works well but increasingly I find myself using smoked Black Forest ham (Lidl, for more details see the earlier post  https://brunchatgoodies.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/schwarzwalder-schinken-and-shopping-at-lidl/). This ham is amazingly versatile and after baking on a good quality (i.e. heavy and non-stick) metal tray together with a drizzle of olive oil at 190 oC for 8 -10 minutes or so you will have wonderfully thin crisp slices of intensely flavoured ham, (any spare slices should be kept in the fridge in a sealed box for several days until required).

Schwarzwälder Schinken

Slices of crisp oven baked ham make a perfect accompaniment for eggs benedict

 

 

Schwarzwälder Schinken

Slices of crisp oven baked ham make a perfect accompaniment for eggs benedict.

Tomatoes drizzled with a little olive oil are roasted in the oven, again at 190 oC, for around about 20 minutes; its worth preparing the tomatoes some 10 or so minutes before the eggs are ready to allow them to cool down, it is impossible to appreciate the flavour of a tomato no matter how good it is if it is scalding hot!

As for the eggs I have for long been a fan of both Burford Brown and Cotswold Legbar eggs from Clarence Court® (frustratingly these eggs are becoming increasingly hard to find in and around Glasgow and are no longer stocked at my local Morrisons, instead I have to trek right across the city to go to Waitrose or in the opposite direction to the Whole Food supermarket (who, for some as yet unfathomed reason sell Cotswold Legbar eggs lose). Both of these eggs have incredibly rich golden yolks and while the colour probably doesn’t add directly to the taste the difference between these eggs and so many others which are in comparison only pale imitations make me feel that these eggs do indeed taste better!

For the Hollandaise sauce I always “cheat” and buy mine ready-made from Maille which has the advantage of both convenience, being able to use just the amount you need while keeping the rest in the fridge for as long as 4 weeks. The Hollandaise is carefully warmed in a bowl over a pan of freshly boiled water which is then kept on a very low heat; be careful not to let the sauce get too hot or it will split.

Assemble the dish on a warm plate building up from the Ciabatta, followed by the Black Forest ham and Hollandaise sauce and roast tomatoes. Finish of with fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of oil from the bowl the tomatoes were cooked in.

Schwarzwälder Schinken

Schwarzwälder Schinken

Rich runny yolks are a must!

Schwarzwälder Schinken

Rich runny yolks are a must!

Enjoy!

A more detailed recipe can be found at: https://brunchatgoodies.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/eggs-benedict/

Copyright: All photographs and text in the blog “Brunch at Goodies” are subject to copyright. © Keith Gooderham 2011-2013 All rights reserved. Do NOT copy material without requesting permission to do so. If you would like permission simply contact me.

Schwarzwälder Schinken and Shopping at Lidl

The discount supermarket chains Lidl and Aldi are attracting increasing amounts of media attention and more importantly a rapidly growing share of the weekly food shop here in the UK. Fuelled by the recession we have all had to become increasingly “canny” shoppers, often sacrificing decades of brand loyalty for new and different sounding makes, only to discover that they taste surprisingly similar and all that has really changed is the price. That said I am probably far from typical in the way that I shop, not only do I do a weekly shop but there are daily forays and in extreme case several each day, to all of the surrounding supermarkets as I go in search of that vital something for the latest recipe and / or photo shoot. Apart from offering very competitive prices for a whole variety of things both Aldi and Lidl stock a small number of special and quite exotic items. Many of these special products appear around Christmas while others are available throughout the year and are simply very hard if not impossible to find anywhere else; for example which other British supermarket sells a whole Serrano ham; Lidl does (Jamon Serrano Reserva, 6.5-7.5 kg) and for only £39.99, mind you without some serious help you might be eating ham sandwiches every day for the next 2 to 3 months!. Apart from that the only problem with some of these promotions is that the stock can be quite limited and once it has gone there is no more to replace it until the next promotion. However, on a less grand scale Lidl routinely stock packs of sliced Black Forest Smoked ham (Schwarzwälder Schinken – protected geographical indication, sold in 200g packs (approximately 18 slices) costing £1.99). The ham can be eaten as is or it can be used in a variety of different recipes and it makes a wonderful and versatile addition to a large number of different dishes including the one described below.

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White Asparagus, Schwarzwälder Schinken and Boiled Potatoes with a Hollandaise and Chive Sauce

I have long considered white asparagus inferior to green asparagus with its vivid green colour and distinctively tangy taste. However, while I think that the green stuff has it by a short head I have become a convert to white asparagus and can only assume that my previous dislike of the vegetable was the result of too many business trips to Germany where every spring the restaurants would proudly serve white asparagus which had been boiled and then boiled some more and as a result had lost much of its taste and texture. White asparagus of course owes its colour or rather lack of it from being grown in the dark, as you drive through the asparagus growing regions you will see rows of earthed up asparagus beds the sides and tops of which are kept smooth with a plaster’s float trowel and as soon as an asparagus spear breaks through the walls of the bed the stem is harvested using a long screwdriver like tool – to get a better idea as to how asparagus is grown see the following link. Served together with black forest smoked ham, boiled potatoes and hollandaise sauce you have a simple but tasty dish with a variety of different flavours and textures which can be prepared in under 30 minutes.

White asparagus

This dish scarcely merits a recipe it is so simple all the more so because I use ready-made Hollandaise Sauce ( the one sold by Maille is my favourite and once open it keeps in the fridge for up to 6 weeks which, if you are cooking just for one or two people, is a great convenience and saving.

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1. Peel 2 or 3 medium-sized potatoes per person, cut in half if necessary, place in a pan of boiling water, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Using a “Y” handled vegetable scraper peel the spears so as to remove their rather tough and bitter outer layer. The individual spears tend to vary al lot in diameter depending upon the age of the plant that they came from but you are  likely to need around 6 to 8  spears per person. Once peeled cut-off the lower 2 cms  and discard. If the spears are dirty briefly rinse and then place in a saucepan of lightly salted boiling water and leave to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes (you can even get a special asparagus saucepan for the purpose but I find a regular pan quite good enough and my kitchen is already crowded enough!)

3. Carefully warm the Hollandaise sauce in a bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water, be careful not to let the sauce get too hot or it will split.

4. Wash some freshly cut chives and “slice into small rounds, set the table, pour the drinks and the dish should be ready to plate up: potatoes, then asparagus, sauce and a sprinkling of chives, followed by 3 or 4 slices of ham, finally season with some freshly ground black pepper (the ham is quite salty so your doctor at least would advise no further seasoning with salt!).

Enjoy!

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