Around this time last year, every weekend when we woke up to a bleak pea-soup fog, with nothing demanding our attention outdoors, Ted would go to the window of our little bedroom eyrie by Lake
Wānaka, look out into the dreary icy fug and pretend he was in Paris looking out on to the gorgeous Rue du Bac. When I am working in Paris, this pretty little street in Saint Germaine has always been our favourite place to hang out. "Ahh", he would exclaim, relaying a pantomime of the news of the day from his viewpoint, "the Rue du Bac is looking splendid today … Madame Souzeney is watering the geraniums outside her shop," followed by, "Monsieur Dubois is wiping the tables at the cafe, he seems to have a new little dog, ah yes he's seen me, he's picked up the dog and is waving … He waved back. 'Hello Monsieur Dubois.'" Then, turning to me, "Well darling, it must be time for breakfast."
This little charade would be repeated with a range of different characters and situations for as many weekends as the sun failed to penetrate the arctic wad of cotton wool fog that hung like a dead weight over us. It set our spirits into a certain reverie and we would don dressing gowns and go downstairs and make a splendid breakfast, lavishly set the table, put on some French jazz and pretend we were somewhere that wasn't freezing, foggy and bleak.
Turning breakfast into a multi-course affair and setting the table accordingly makes it feel like a proper treat. You may be at home but with just a little effort you can easily feel like you are at a fancy bed-and-breakfast.
A bowl of sliced fresh fruit – kiwifruit, citrus, perhaps some pineapple or a ripe, fragrant mango drizzled with honey and, if you have it to hand, a tiny splash of orange blossom water or rose water makes a welcome start. Just-ripe pears, peeled, cored and gently simmered in a fragrant syrup (1 part sugar to 2-3 parts water plus a vanilla pod and a few cloves or 2-3 whole star anise), chilled overnight or longer in the fridge and served with their syrup are another worthy contender for a special weekend breakfast. And, of course, freshly pressed citrus juice - orange or grapefruit, as preferred.
Keep a stash of ready-to-bake croissants or other French pastries at hand in the freezer, ready to fill the kitchen with their welcoming aromas as they bake. Raid the pantry for a selection of different jams and set these out in little bowls along with a generous pat of butter on a plate. Last but not least, prepare something hot and just a little bit special.
A mid-winter escape awaits at the breakfast table.
Vietnamese prawn omelette
This recipe is tailored to serve two, but each omelette needs to be cooked separately. Have the prawns cooked and it's really quick to cook each omelette, fill, fold and serve.
Ready in 15 mins
10-12 medium prawn tails, peeled
Zest of 1 lime, finely grated
1 generous pinch of salt
1 pinch of fine white pepper
1 pinch of chilli flakes
2 Tbsp neutral oil
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp lime juice
Greens of 1 spring onion, finely shredded
1 handful of coriander leaves and or Vietnamese mint
Combine prawns, lime zest, salt, white pepper, chilli flakes and 1 Tbsp of the oil in a bowl and toss to coat. Heat a heavy-based frying pan and stir-fry prawns until cooked through (2-3 minutes). Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Wipe out the pan.
Whisk together eggs and black pepper in a bowl. Heat half of the remaining oil in the frying pan and tip in half the egg mixture, tilting pan to spread egg evenly. Shake the pan a couple of times or loosen under the egg with a knife or spatula at the start of cooking to allow raw egg to run to the base of the pan. Once egg is almost fully set, arrange the prawns over one half of the omelette and fold the other half over on top. Slide on to a plate.
Repeat, using the rest of the oil to heat the pan, to cook the second omelette. Drizzle omelettes with lime juice, squiggle with lines of hoisin and mayo and scatter with spring onion and herbs.
Slow–roasted breakfast mushrooms
Flat, fleshy, dark-gilled portobello mushrooms are so much more flavoursome than their button counterparts.
Ready in just over an hour
12 flat portobello or large field mushrooms
50g butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, finely crushed
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp water
TO SERVE (optional)
Crispy cooked bacon rashers
Poached or scrambled eggs
Preheat oven to 160C. Wipe mushroom caps with a damp cloth and arrange stem side up in a shallow roasting dish. Mix melted butter with garlic, thyme and lemon juice and spoon evenly over the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle the 2 Tbsp of water into the dish around the mushrooms, cover and bake for 1 hour.
Serve, if desired, with toast, bacon and/or eggs.
Chocolate and apple croissant pudding
Who says you can't eat dessert for breakfast? This fab recipe doubles as weekend brunch or a hearty winter dessert. The croissants don't need to be fresh, I often freeze any leftover croissants for this. You can assemble this the night before ready to bake in the morning.
Ready in 1 hour + standing
2 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
4 croissants or 4 thick slices white bread
2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
2 cups milk
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp good-quality cocoa
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Icing sugar, to dust
Hot custard and/or icecream or Greek-style yoghurt, to serve
Grease a shallow 6-cup capacity casserole dish with a little of the butter. Cut croissants in half lengthwise, then butter the cut sides, or trim the crusts from the bread, then butter each slice and cut each into 3 strips. Arrange croissant or bread pieces in overlapping layers in the prepared dish, alternating with apple slices and chocolate chips, if using.
In a jug, beat together eggs, milk, sugar, cocoa, vanilla and cinnamon and pour over the pudding. Allow to stand in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours before cooking.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 160C fan bake. Bake until puffed and golden (about 40 minutes).
Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar and accompanied by hot custard and/or yoghurt or icecream.
Match these with
by Yvonne Lorkin
(Vietnamese prawn omelettes)
Grant Burge Prosecco NV ($25
I always thought my husband made the best prawn omelettes on the planet, but this recipe has me questioning my eggy monogamy. Yet sipping-wise, I'm a one-wine-woman with this recipe. With its apple blossom and lemon-scented nose and its taut, peach and citrus flavours, it's a whipcrack-crisp sparkler that sings with the Asian spices and the tender prawns. Brand new to New Zealand, juicy, fresh and delicate enough for the most important meal of the day – it's an eggcellent option.
Te Kano Estate Central Otago Pinot Noir 2019 ($49)
I'll be honest. There are some weeks when I'm literally just a slow-baked mushroom away from performing seppuku on myself over the state of things. Yet what soothes my synaptic connections even further is a silky glass of Central Otago pinot noir and this new release from Te Kano is all kinds of excellent. Crafted from fruit sourced from their Northburn and Bannockburn vineyards, this cherry-soaked style is laced with tobacco, dried thyme, tamarillo, smoked cocoa and truffle characters. So it's magical with these mushies.
(Chocolate and apple croissant pudding)
Eradus Sticky Mickey Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($16)
You can't utter my two favourite "C" words (chocolate and croissant) and not expect me to get extremely excited. Add in the words "apple" and "pudding" and you'll see me hurtling down the shops to find something deliciously sweet and luxurious like the Sticky Mickey to sip with every spoonful. Bursting with candied citrus, honey-baked peaches and a toffee finish. You'll soon see why it's received so many awards Eradus had to put an extra shelf in the trophy cabinet. Great value too!